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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

More about the Hattle Family

I separated this from the earlier post, Thousands of Miles by Taxi, a Trip by Thomas Hattle, who emigrated from Berwick to South Africa in 1901 so as to have one post about Thomas Hattle and his family.

From Alan Hattle:
The 1829 will of Thomas Hettle/Hattle (my great-great-great grandfather, of Windmill Hole in the Borough of Berwick), mentions a son, Jess, "who is at present in America". I have not established whether this Jess(e) stayed in America and/or had any children. I did have some data on another distant Hattle cousin who moved to Massachusetts in the 1800s, but my files were lost in a fire and I need to explore that line again. There were at least two other Hattles (one a female married to a Robertson) who made it to South Africa at some stage, but those are also lines I wish to explore more.

While most of my ancestors and their families remained in the Berwick/Berwickshire/Borders area, a few ventured further afield in Scotland.

A first cousin, 4 times removed (Thomas Hattle, born 1832, son of Young Hattle and Isabella Lyal(l)) emigrated to Canada, and there is a growing branch of the Hattle family in Ontario.

I would be thrilled to hear from locals in Berwick who have links to my family.

If you would like to contact Alan, please comment below with your email address (the email address won't be published).

Monday, 29 June 2015

Thousands of Miles by Taxi, a Trip by Thomas Hattle, who emigrated from Berwick to South Africa in 1901

From Alan Hattle:

Thomas Hattle
My paternal grandfather, Thomas Hattle, was one of ten children of John Hattle and Isabella Elspeth Burgon(e), and apparently the only one to emigrate.

A brother, James Burgon Hattle died in 1915 in an accident aboard the HMS Macedonia while in the Falklands on service during World War I, and is buried in the cemetery at Port Stanley.

Thomas had six children (all born in South Africa) and 19 grandchildren, most of whom stayed in southern Africa, although some descendants have since emigrated to New Zealand and Australia, and one has spent many years teaching in China. He was born on 19 February 1876 in Berwick, worked in the Telegraph Department of the North British Railway Company from 1890 until 1901 when he secured a job in the post and telegraph offices of the Cape of Good Hope, based in Port Elizabeth.

Thomas Hattle must have been an interesting and determined gentleman (unfortunately he died when I was a small child so I never really got to know him).  He made a taxi trip covering some 4,714 miles, which appears to have been (at that time at least) a world record.

Berwick Advertiser, 24 August 1939
Newcastle Weekly Chronicle 2 September 1939
An article in the Port Elizabeth Advertiser, 18 March 1947 said:
"Thousands of Miles by Taxi
P.E. Man Recalls an Adventure

A recent report emanating from Cape Town to the effect that a Mr. R. Oliver, a businessman from India on holiday in the Union, had employed a taxi to carry him from Cape Town to Mombasa – a distance of nearly 6,000 miles – has prompted a Port Elizabeth man, Mr. Thomas Hattle, to relate his story concerning what he regards as the longest taxi trip ever undertaken by a South African.

In fact, two overseas newspapers, the Berwick Advertiser and the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, published accounts of Mr. Hattle’s long taxi ride of just under 5,000 miles driven all the way by a Port Elizabeth taxi-driver, Mr. S. Blom. The feat took place in 1937 and both overseas papers printed the story in 1939 when Mr. J. H. Curle, noted English traveller and author, set out on a 2,500-mile taxi trip which the American Press claimed as a world record.

Mr. Hattle’s trip of 4,714 miles occupied a full month and embraced travelling over some of the country’s worst roads and frequently over mere footpaths, over steep passes and through swirling rivers. His task was concerned with telephone development study in the vast Transkeian territories as far north as Port St Johns.

An interesting feature of this trip was the meeting of Mr Hattle and Chief David Dalindyelo of Moekezweni. The Chief acted as interpreter to His Majesty the King when the Royal Family visited Umtata a week or two ago, and in 1937 he took great pride in signing his autograph in Mr. Hattle’s notebook, which is still in the latter’s possession.

Since Mr R Oliver is not expected to reach Mombasa until April 1, it is possible that the achievement of Mr Hattle and his driver, Mr Blom, in covering 4,714 miles in a single taxi trip in the same car, stands at the moment as a record for this country and possibly a world record."

He must have indeed been a very fit man, as I recall seeing a report in which it was noted that he never took a sick day off in his long career. Of interest is the attached note confirming that 10 years before his retirement (1936, at age 60), he had accumulated 644 days of leave credit. Sadly he was only paid out for 180 days!
644 days of leave credit
During my grandfather's boat trip to South Africa in 1901, and his first months in South Africa, he wrote a long detailed account of his adventures and impressions (including an account of his train journey from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth), and this journal was published sometime in late 1901 / possibly early 1902 in several long instalments in the Berwick Advertiser (possibly headed 'Diary of a Berwick Man').

Thomas Hattle's son, John Burgon Hattle (my father) was a meteorologist, and had the distinction, as a wartime Major in the South African army, of opening the meteorological station on the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha, and operating it for many months during the World War II years. As a child, before the destructive Tristan volcano, I remember him frequently receiving letters from the many friends he made among the island community.

I would be thrilled to hear from locals in Berwick who have links to my family.

If you would like to contact Alan, please comment below with your email address (the email address won't be published).

Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 2

This is a continuation of Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 1.
It was performed as a "radio play" in Berwick Guildhall on 25 April 2015 at Discover Berwick’s First World War Story. Researched and written by Julie Gibbs.

Now ladies, if by late October, you are still unclear as to how you can help, ‘Border Woman’ will put you straight.  You no doubt read her regular ‘Women’s Work and Interest’ column in the (Berwick) Journal.

Border Woman    (22 October 1914)

Good Afternoon,
‘Women of Berwickshire', let us put our shoulders to the wheel and see what we can do, now, immediately, to help our friends and allies, the Belgians. Just imagine how it must feel to leave everything behind and then be plunged into a country in which you cannot make yourself understood by your neighbours – in which it is extremely difficult to glean news even of what has happened in your own land since you left it.
 I implore you not to say, “There is so little that I can do. I have had so many calls on my purse lately” – every one of us can do something, and every one of us must do all that lies in her power; and please, when you are asked to help, do not say “Yes, yes, but they’ll have to find some work to do.” Find some work to do! You cannot imagine how anxious they are to find work, nor how difficult it is to find it. Those who have a home in a farm cottage will probably be given odd day’s work by the farmer, but as winter comes on, and the odd day’s work is more and more difficult to find, we must help and help and help again.

To begin with, all who have “summer cottages,” or unoccupied furnished homes, can offer to lend them free of rent and taxes. The War Refugee Committee promises to put only responsible people of the educated classes into such houses - people who will understand how to take care of them. While few of us possess such a house, all however, can help with the Belgians of the working class, by finding every suitable empty cottage in the country, and buying, begging or borrowing furniture and then asking all one’s friends to guarantee a regular weekly contribution towards helping that family through the winter – 3d (1p) to 2s 6d (12½p) a week – whatever they are able to promise regularly in money or kind.

If you cannot help in this way, there are already 59 Belgians in the Ancroft, Lowick, Haggerston, and Cheswick districts. In the two former, the organisation is under Mr Riddell and Mr Middlemass, South Berrington; Mrs Crossman, of Cheswick House, and Mrs Leyland, of Haggerston Castle, are responsible for between 20 and 30. The Belgians who have come are extremely thrifty, industrious, and intelligent- indeed it is wonderful how well they have been able to make themselves understood, although three weeks ago they did not know a word of English. The families are in need of furniture, clothing, boots, food, and money. And if your children have toys or picture books that they could put into the parcels for all the poor mites, I think it would be very nice.

 Let it be quite clear that no portion of the Belgian Relief Fund has yet been used for this work; all that has been expended so far, has been sent to Belgium. The cottage people themselves are helping up to the limit of their capacity, but help from outside is really much needed.

(Border Woman  sits down.)

Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 1

Researched and written by Julie Gibbs.

[This production, performed as a "radio play" in Berwick Guildhall on 25 April 2015 at Discover Berwick’s First World War Story and is a shorter version of that presented by the Lowick Heritage Group in December 2014, with a cast of five: Richard Black, Sarah Burn, John Daniels, Rev Victor Dickinson, Amanda Worlock.]

During this performance you will hear from some of the local characters who chivvied, reported and helped in both personal and official capacities and from a refugee herself.

The German invasion of Belgium on 4th August 1914 resulted in approximately 250,000 Belgian Refugees seeking refuge in Britain.

With little time to prepare, central and local government agencies worked alongside the voluntary War Refugees’ Committee and the several thousand local committees, to provide food, shelter, clothing, employment, education and medical care.

Newspapers played a vital role in emphasizing the fate of ‘poor little Belgium’; the needs of the brave Belgian refugees and our duty to help.  From August onwards, appeals appeared on behalf of the Belgian Relief Fund, set up to help those still in Belgium; and for hospitality in Britain, for those forced to leave their homes.

The thousands that came from Ostend and Flushing, through the ports of Folkestone and Tilbury were received by the Government in London and provided with accommodation until they could be allocated places in the country.

The Aliens Restriction Act, 1914, prohibited aliens from living in an area running inland for a distance of 10 miles and upwards, for almost a continuous chain on the east coast of England and Scotland, to prevent German spies from impersonating Belgian refugees. Northumberland to comply, established ‘colonies’ in Allendale and Hexham and other nearby towns. Any aliens already living in a restricted area could remain but had to register with the local Police. The Northumberland, Newcastle and Tyneside Belgian Refugees’ Committee complained in December, that they had many more offers of hospitality than refugees. They expected five hundred to be in the county by the end of that month but could accommodate more.

Berwick and the surrounding villages were quick to offer assistance. In September, the Mayor started a Borough Subscription List for the Relief Fund for the Belgian Nation; while the Sheriff asked for offers of hospitality in Berwick-upon-Tweed and its neighbourhood.

Mrs McCreath, of Ord Villa, collected a large amount of clothing for the refugees, which she forwarded in two wooden boxes, to London, for which she received grateful thanks.

The Berwick Journal dated 24th September 1914, offered the following advice-

Where it is not possible to offer hospitality to a mother and children, one lady might pay the rent for two or three empty cottages in a Berwickshire village. Others could then provide furniture or a regular supply of food, such as bread, milk, and eggs; while others again could make or buy clothing for the refugees. With a little organisation a scheme of this sort, might be started in every village in the county, and I am quite sure many willing helpers would at once come forward. All that is needed is one energetic lady in each village to get the scheme started.

Collections were taken at every gathering, religious or social.  The Berwick Cycling Club held a Smoking Concert in September, to raise money for the Belgian Relief Fund. It was attended by Mr Jacques Jobe, a mining student at Liege University, who happened to be staying in Berwick with his uncle, Mr Simmen, Confectioner Maker and Caterer. Mr Simmen from Switzerland and his wife from Belgium had both become naturalised citizens in 1902. Mr Jobe, who played the Belgian National Anthem at the concert, will feature later. Over £5 was raised.

A correspondent writing for the Berwick Advertiser 9th October 1914 will take up the tale.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen

Within the past week, forty Belgian refugees have arrived at Haggerston Castle from Beal Station. They have been quartered on the estate, at Lowick, and the farm of South Berrington, occupied by Mr Middlemas. Among those on the estate is a woman with a family of six children, three little girls and three little boys. There is also a boy of fifteen from Malines working with the gardeners on the estate. He seemed to be quite happy and pleased to be working with two Englishmen. Asked why he had left Belgium he merely replied he had to fly because the Germans were coming. The boy could speak French fluently, but the majority of the refugees in the district mainly spoke Flemish. Mr Jobe paid a visit to the estate and conversed to the best of his ability with the mother of the six children. They are staying in a cottage and before the door, the Belgian flag was flying. She said her husband was working at the Central Station Antwerp. While Mr Jobe was cycling down the drive, his handkerchief, which has the colours of the Belgian flag on it, was fluttering from his pocket, and five little boys – belonging to another family – who were sitting on the grass at the roadside stood up and raised their hats. Mr Jobe asked them where they had come from but as they spoke Flemish he could not get a direct answer, but they managed to explain that they had come from a house in the country, probably a farm. At South Berrington there is one family consisting of a husband and wife and two boys aged 15 and 17.  Mr Demant, a Technical Translator, brought them from Newcastle and interpreted between them and the farmer. The husband and the two sons were cabinetmakers. Mr Middlemas was in Belgium recently, but left when war was declared.

Great excitement prevailed in the village of Lowick last Thursday evening, when the Belgian family of refugees, comprising husband and wife, husband’s mother, and five children arrived. Their presence in this quiet little village has made the effects of this Great War clearer than ever before. Deepest sympathy is extended to them in their sad plight, because evidently they had to leave their home that would be very dear to them, with just what they were wearing. They came from close to Antwerp, and if anyone had an interview with them who could speak Flemish, they would probably have a story of the great sufferings they endured before arriving at a haven of safety.

It is to be hoped that their sojourn in Lowick (be it long or short) will be happy and pleasant, because without a doubt our safety in a great measure is due to the Belgians staying the initial advance of the Germans at a great loss of life. They kept the door shut so to speak until the Allies were better prepared. So let that sacrifice be repaid by one and all of us giving what we can to help them in their time of need.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Get Help with your Family History at Berwick Guildhall, This Weekend, 27 and 28 June

The next event in the Berwick 900 Festival is Berwick’s Garrison Through The Ages, which is on at the weekend, 27 and 28 June.

There'll be an exhibition in the Guildhall about soldiers and their lives, as well as a stand for family history enquiries.

So if you're wondering how to start your family history, need some help with the records, you've hit a brick wall, come along between 1pm and 3pm and let us help you.

If you;d like to share your family stories on our blog or need help with researching them, come and see us.

Don't ignore what's happening outside; the Armed Forces Day Parade starts at 12 noon on Saturday 27 June and includes a pipe band, cadets, and former servicemen and women.
Just a few minutes walk away are Berwick’s historic ramparts and this weekend there’ll be authentic period soldiers’ encampments beside the ramparts.

More details on the Our Garrison Story & Armed Forces Day Parade programme.

The Guildhall is in Marygate, Berwick-upon-Tweed. Map.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Tell Us Your Fishy Stories at Spittal

Another chance to join Newcastle University's project engaging residents of the Berwick area in a process of recording their untold stories and multi-sensory knowledge of salmon fishing on the Tweed (past, present and future) through a series of 'pop-up' events including Poetry Booth™ use for several days at the Town Hall and Watchtower Gallery in July/August. 

•Do you have fishing family connections or stories that you would like to share?
•Do you feel inspired when you see pictures of net and coble fishing? If so, how?
•What is it about the fishing heritage and river landscape that you cherish most?
•What are the qualities that distinguish Berwick salmon?

A selection of stories and artefacts representing ‘lost fishing futures’ will be included in a souvenir publication.

They would like you to share your experience with their community-based project at their second event on
Wednesday 17th June, 6pm to 8pm, Spittal Residents Association Jubilee Social & Community Centre Highcliffe, Spittal, TD15 2JL. Map.

If that's not convenient, please phone Helen Jarvis on 0191 208 6959 or email her at

Monday, 15 June 2015

Berwick-upon-Tweed - A World War I Military Service Tribunal

In this video, Maltings Youth Theatre present a World War I military service tribunal in the setting of Berwick-upon-Tweed jail hearing 2 applications for exemption from conscription into the British Army, based on research by the Berwick 900 Our Families project.

Dr Philip MacLagan is presiding.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Salmon fishing on the Tweed – now coming to Spittal !

From Helen Jarvis:
A recent public event celebrating local impressions of salmon fishing and the river Tweed caused quite a stir in the function room of The Pilot Inn, Low Greens. 

The event attracted a dozen or so local residents, many bringing with them faded news cuttings and documents recording historic family connections to the netting industry.  Several former Berwick residents travelled in from as far away as South Tyneside to share childhood memories of growing up in a fishing family.  Adding to the lively mix were contributions from those who were enjoying a quiet pint at the bar who came in to browse the displays out of curiosity.  Each came with their own motivation to view rare film clips, photographs and quoted anecdotes and to share their passion for the river, the fish and the fishing. 

This was the first in a series of ‘pop-up’ citizen-led story-telling events organised by a team from Newcastle University (funded by the Institute of Social Renewal) accompanied by local history experts representing Our Families (a Berwick Record Office, Heritage Lottery funded project for Berwick 900).  

Advertised attractions included several rare film-clips (credited to the North East Film Archive, Berwick Record Office and local film-makers). These were playing on a continuous loop on computers with head-phones available for anyone who wanted to listen in to the likes of Richard Dimbleby, 1950, and Fyfe Robertson, 1959, talking to people in Berwick and Seahouses about Salmon Fishing. 

A rich variety of narrative and visual media and a large-scale map of the Tweed prompted enthusiastic conversations and reminiscing. We heard about the hard working conditions of the netsmen “standing in the middle of the river in February- four hours twice a day and always shifting according to the tides” and the great flood of 1948.  One contributor brought along a pewter tankard presented by the Berwick Salmon Fisheries Company to commemorate the presentation of a Tweed Salmon to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 7th July 1956. 

We also heard touching personal reflections of a childhood in which the salmon fishing “was part of our play-time- legs dangling over the side of the pier and always the oohs and ahhs when the fish were brought in”.  Some of the stories would benefit from additional local knowledge: does anyone recall, for instance, bringing salmon home for feast week in a purpose-made bag of women palm leaves? We have scope over this series of events to gather a more detailed picture of salmon fishing in the past together with opinions about how to sustain this local knowledge and expertise for the future.

The next event is at the Spittal Residents’ Association Jubilee Social and Community Centre in Highcliffe on Wednesday 17th June.  The session will be open between 6pm and 8pm. It will again feature the films and display materials.  Anyone who feels connected to fishing community traditions and the river is invited to come along to browse- or to bring along stories, anecdotes, images, opinions and artefacts. 

Please come along to this event: everyone is welcome!
For more information on this and other events associated with the Salmon Fishing on the Tweed project, please contact Helen Jarvis, Newcastle University, email or telephone 0191 208 6959.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Thomas Emond Tait, World War I Soldier

Robina Burgon writes:
My grandfather, Thomas Emond Tait, originally from Selkirk, was in World War I, serving in Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine and the Western Front.

He re-enlisted with the 4th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) stationed at Berwick Barracks on 24 June 1919 aged 21. On his enlistment registration his next of kin was stated as Catherine Story, 16 Allars Crescent, Hawick.

His daughter's birth is listed in the Borders Chronicles, a newspaper that was specifically published for the barracks. These are held in the library at the barracks.

He was discharged on 1 October 1936 under section 383 Kings Regulations and became a constable for the War Department based in Irvine, Ayrshire.

He is buried in Berwick Cemetery.

Alexander Burgon, Lighthouse Keeper, Berwick-Upon-Tweed and his Courageous Daughter, Robina

Alexander Burgon with his grandson, also Alexander
From Robina Burgon about her grandmother, Robina Burgon:
She manned the lighthouse at  in the 1920s while her father, the lighthouse keeper, was dying of cancer. She was the only woman to man the lighthouse and the last person to man it before it went automatic.

From the Berwick Advertiser:
Death of former Berwick lighthouse keeper
The death has taken place at his home in Woolmarket, Berwick, of Mr Alexander
Burgon who for a number of years acted as lighthouse keeper.
Mr Burgon's death followed an illness of several weeks duration and took place early on Wednesday morning (14th May 1930).
At an early age, Mr Burgon answered the call of the sea and as a young man,
along with his brothers followed the herring fishing at Ireland and the West
Coast of Scotland. It was following a long career at sea that Mr Burgon took
over the duties of the lighthouse keeper  about nine years ago. During that
period he had often to battle with nature's elements to gain the lighthouse
and there put into operation the light that has warned others to give wide
berth. Not only in this capacity did he render yeoman service to his fellow
seamen, as for a long period of years he was a member of Berwick Lifeboat
crew and here as in everything with which he was connected he was always
ready to answer duty's call.

Mr. Burgon had rather a serious breakdown in health in 1927 during which
period his daughter, Miss R Burgon (Robina Graham Law Burgon), took
over the duties of lighthouse keeper. Miss Burgon possessed the
characteristic courageousness of the family, and throughout long dreary
winter nights she kept lonely vigil. Neither the pounding of the huge
breakers against the lighthouse nor the eerie sound which often 'whistles'
around such places, disturbed her. So interesting did Miss Burgon find the
duties that when her father had a further breakdown in health last year, she
again took charge of the lighthouse. In recognition of her services Miss
Burgon received a letter of congratulation, together with a slight
acknowledgement, from Berwick Harbour Commissioners.

Of a cheery disposition, Mr Burgon was a kenspeckle figure in the town and
was always ready to narrate any of his experiences of which he had vivid
recollection. One of is brothers, Mr Robert Burgon who was coxswain of
Berwick Lifeboat was drowned in March 1927 on Berwick bar when the yawl
'Lerwick' was swamped.

Mr Burgon is survived by his wife, Isabella (maiden surname Buglas), two sons, and four daughters. The funeral takes place on Sunday.
Isabella Burgon, daughter, Robina and Thomas Emond Tait

Saturday, 6 June 2015

More on the Brigham Family of Tweedmouth

There's more information on The Brigham Family of Tweedmouth.

Gail Petrov writes:
I thought we would share our Tweedmouth family photos. 

William Brigham and Mary Hudson Brigham about mid 1890s, who died in 1904 and 1911, respectively.  

It was shortly after his mother (Mary Hudson Brigham)’s death that James emigrated.

James and Mary Brigham with children, James and Mary

The Brigham brothers, Charles and William standing, Hudson and Ernest sitting
Prior to leaving England for a new life in Canada, James and wife Mary, with children James and Mary sat for one portrait, the other four sons Charles, William, Hudson and Ernest sat for another.   These photos were to help them adjust to not being together for a year.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Brigham Family of Tweedmouth

Gail Petrov and Beverly Brigham from Canada write:
Our Brigham roots stem from East Yorkshire, to Holy Island, on to Fenwick
(Kyloe Parish) then to Tweedmouth.
In 1911, our great grandfather, James Brigham, emigrated to Canada.

William Brigham, born 1833 in Fenwick (Kyloe Parish), married to Mary
Hudson, was part of a family joinery business.  The joinery was started in
1782 by his grandfather, John Brigham, in Fenwick.
William eventually took over the Joinery with his sons, John and James.
By 1889, they were in Tweedmouth residing and operating the joinery workshop
on Main Road, Tweedmouth. 
William Brigham & sons, Joiners and Contractors
After William's death in 1904,

the sons took over the business but in April 1911, dissolved the partnership.   John continued to reside in Tweedmouth and operate the business until it closed in the mid-1940s.  James emigrated with his family in May 1911 to Canada.

On 11 May 1911, James with wife, Mary Lightly Brigham, daughter Mary and youngest son James left Glasgow, Scotland, on the ship Saturnia.  They arrived in Quebec, Canada on 14 May 1911.

James is listed 19 May 1911 in the Britain, Trade Union membership registers, union branch Winnipeg, which shows he continued his joinery trade.

Their other 4 sons remained in Tweedmouth with their grandmother, Agnes
Rutherford.   On 27 April 1912, the boys and their grandmother left Glasgow, Scotland on the ship Hesperian, arriving in Quebec, Canada, on 6 May 1912.

It was a short family reunion as James died on 2 December 1912 in Winnipeg.

During World War I, James' eldest son, William, enlisted 11 January 1916 and was sent overseas.  He was seriously wounded on 16 September 1916 at the Battle of The Somme, at Courcelette, losing his right eye and later having his right foot
Berwickshire News, 17 Oct 1916

Another son, Charles, enlisted 17 April 1918 and also served overseas in
World War I.

Two more sons, Hudson and James, enlisted to do their service for Canada in
World War II.  Both were sent overseas and had contact with family members in
England.The Canadian Brighams still have contact with family members in the UK.