Facts of Life – DNA please press….
Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly in the Bush by Sidney Nolan

In Australia the outlaw NED KELLY became a folk hero against the British Colonial administration. The standard bog-Irish prejudice transferred to the Colonies. Sometimes you don’t even realise you are prejudiced until something switches the neuron lights on.

For Fifty Years my husband had linked his paternal lineage to the Hero ROB ROY. Quite logical for a young boy called ROY, with a surname McNEILL…..Our grandson runs around with his superhero cape on, his grandfather Roy, when a Yorkshire lad in the 1950’s collected comics and patiently waited for  the T.V. series.Poster_of_the_movie_Rob_Roy,_the_Highland_Rogue

Roy’s parents would have been encouraged he spent his pocket-money at Leeds markets, investing in the second-hand colour magazines, KNOWLEDGE of 1962 which grows into an encyclopaedia(and he hasn’t thrown them out yet)…

Being  a MOD at 14years, Roy fancied himself as a lover of  THE ENLIGHTENMENT which he learned from the Time-Life Books of 1966. The “Great Ages of Man” accompanied the Collier’s Encyclopaedia’s sold by a door-to-door salesman in his new landscape of Highett in suburban Melbourne.

When I met Roy and became a McNeill one habit I learned to love was listening to the ABCScience show at midday every Saturday(and for the next 32 years!)

With the advent of the DNA science it was a chance to confirm what he had always imagined. When he got the results from a sample of his Y-DNA it was not the Scottish hero ROB ROY MacGREGOR who was his direct ancestor but the Irish War-Lord Niall of the Nine Hostages!

 whats in a name

McNeill emblem

Link to UI NIALL  The legendary Great Grand Daddy of Celtic lore.Spreading the seed story!

If it wasn’t enough to know you received a Y chromosome from the pagan High King Niall who kidnapped St. Patrick as a boy thus triggering the motivation to convert the Irish to Christianity, the story has leaped into my imagination with a Spanish migratory path.

“Galicia, northern Spain, ‘the land of a thousand rivers’, is famous for the ‘city of glass’, La Coruna, the treacherous shipwrecked coast Costa de la Muerte (the Coast of Death) and its unmistakably Celtic roots.

Due to centuries of shared fishing traditions and cross-emigration, Galicia has developed a unique culture, but one that is profoundly influenced and inspired by Ireland.

The region boasts a folk music tradition with tin whistles, fiddles and bagpipes, a form of traditional dancing and a similarly rich literary and folkloric history. In return Galicia has provided Ireland with one of its most potent symbols.

Five hundred years before the birth of Christ the Galician King of Spain Milesius sent his three sons, Ir, Heber and Heremon, to invade and conquer Ireland – promising the island to the first of the siblings to touch its soil.

As the legend goes, each of the parties raced towards the shore and one of the sons cut off his own hand with a sword and throwing it onto dry land so that he could lay claim to the country. The soil was Ulster, and the Red Hand has persisted ever since.

Due to the Irish oral tradition of storytelling, there are many variations of this tale. In some accounts the invaders are Vikings, returning Irish mercenaries or Scottish clansmen. One even attributes the symbol to battle-wounds received when two giants brutally fought each other across the mountains and valleys of the North.

Debate around its precise origins must be tempered by the recognition that the tale is likely apocryphal and of little factual historical basis. The Red Hand symbol is older than, and as universal as, civilisation itself, continually recurring in aboriginal art, Native American engravings right back to the cave paintings of Cro-Magnon humans”.



Archaeodeath at Bede’s World, Jarrow

outdoor open air

Bede’s World – Anglo-Saxon learning at Jarrow UK

For locals and international visitors, Bede’s World, was an educational highlight for tourists to the North of England(like myself).

I’m sure the school children would grow up with pride at how their town was home to the Venerable monk and scholar in Europe.

A.D.735.  Jarrow was the source of shining enlightenment of human history, literature, science and creativity and is now CLOSED. My husband and I were visiting in 2010 from Australia, having family history links there. To learn of the funding cuts reinforces the damnable policies of austerity for the poorest.

Jake Campbell’s poem about Govt. funding cuts.

Bedes-World-059  A Museum Closes in the North

Soon an insolvency firm will arrive

with clip boards and check boxes,

begin listing assets. Next door

to the gallery whose worlds

will not be viewed by those with jobs

to do, tapestries by Geordie

ex-blasters on part-time craft courses

will peel to the floor like the memory

of Palmer’s and Red Ellen.

Pigs and chickens gone, the farm

out back will be measured to straw

and sinew. The market value of pork

timesed by square hectares of site.

A fortnight ago, when we hung

the exhibition, took spirit levels

and pencils, hammer and nail,

we did so thinking of our selves.

Now, as our poems and paintings

become potential resources

to shore against liquidation,

we think of the school trips,

the broke and the breaking.

Because if a museum isn’t just

a repository; if it means more

than a funnel we attach

to people’s heads

expecting history to go in,

coins to come out,

then let the North rise

and hear it sing before another part

of our past fades to a phantom limb.

.              monasteryBede_(History_of_the_English)

IS KNOWLEDGE only for the ELITES, who can trace their pedigree to the Norman invasion? Remove Educational opportunity and inspiration to higher education, and you are likely to perpetuate poverty of  living and spirit. Parliaments of yore never wanted ordinary folk to vote, wanted them to feel alienated from power.


My husband’s father Archibald McNeill was a Geordie of Jarrow in 1918.

His parents were both Jarrow born too: McNeill – Kelman families.

Jarrow Mon

St Paul’s Church and Monastery home to the boy monk Bede who gave us footnotes and Anno Domini dating system.

Archaeodeath at Bede’s World, Jarrow this link explains more on the Venerable Bede’s legacy of dating Before Christ and In the Year of our Lord( BC/A.D)

How many millennia did it take to “Educate Rita” – It wasn’t until 1900 A.D. our working-class ancestors finished school, not write their name with an X.

Parliament only opened the Treasury when the business owners requested an up-skilling, literate work-force. Governments only cared for the health of it’s people when they needed an army with resilience. 

Jarrow was infamous for it’s shocking housing and living conditions. The Jarrow Town Hall were highly resistant to improving them, even when the child and mother mortality was highest in the country, but they had to provide a basic education by Act of Parliament.


The government and the armed forces had been shocked by the physical health of the young men of Britain when they were trying to recruit for the Boer War (1899-1902). They had found that many of the young men were too small or under-nourished to join up. As a result of this, a ‘Committee on Physical Deterioration’ was set up(Ulterior Motives Archives). The McNeill boys of my father-in-laws generation would be the recipient of free milk and school dinners introduced by the Liberal Government.

gordon baby

1925 oldest son Archie with baby Gordon


The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. “Stop the Madness,” interview with Economist John Galbraith.

grange rdThe neglect and prejudice by the British Government is expressed at this link: North-South Divide – Lord Melvyn Bragg, the Labour Peer, from a working-class background is incensed by the closure of BEDE’S WORLD and other educational museums and groups North of London is a sign that Westminster never learns and doesn’t care. st bedes east jarrow

My husband’ Australian long service leave, and we went to the UK including  our Jarrow crusade, with cousin Phil and his wife.cookson

My husband’s family had emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1964. It was 2010 when we visited the town where the cousins father’s Archibald and Gordon were born – JARROW, by the River Tyne.

Gran Kelmans Collingwood 13

Collingwood St. Jarrow where Grandma McNeill grew up as Kelman 1901, daughter of a Scotsman/painter & decorator.









Western democracies exalt the ideal of social equality, but our economic system arguably emerged from 16th-century Calvinism, a Protestant religion whose members believed that God showed favor by bestowing wealth and other forms of success on what they called ‘the chosen.’ Martha Beck



My husband’s family left Jarrow Durham in 1933 to find work in Leeds, Yorkshire. The last cry for the working families was the 1936 JARROW CRUSADE.

The hungry shipbuilders walked to London with a petition asking for the steel and iron industry to be rescued and revived by investing in the steel works and shipbuilding industry.

The 26-day trek, ended in heroic failure when Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, head of the Conservative government, said he was too busy to meet the bedraggled marchers.jarrow_old

shipyard labourer

Engineworks at Palmer’s shipyard where the first Archibald worked as a labourer in 1851.

Of the Hunger March Archie & Isabella McNeill Grandparent’s  view from their new home in Leeds, Yorkshire, was Their comrades effort would be a waste of time – they still had horrifying memories of when Winston CHURCHILL set the British troops on the Welsh coal-miners strikers, in the Tonypandy Riots of 1910.


Greenock Scot, Great-Grandfather Archibald(1841-1907), was part of the big migrant wave to Palmer’s shipyard when at peak productivity in the 1850’s. The population of Jarrow grew but hardly enough building of new or older houses for the families who came down from Scotland, across from Ireland and elsewhere was of affordable rent and standard.

Western democracies exalt the ideal of social equality, but our economic system arguably emerged from 16th-century Calvinism, a religion whose members believed that God showed favor by bestowing wealth and other forms of success on what they called ‘the chosen.’ Martha Beck


1st Archibald MCNEILL was born in Greenock , Scotland, and had been a labourer on the Glasgow dockyards.

There is some family rumour he was on the run for his Union activity but I have no proof for that, yet.

Maybe he had word the wages were higher at Palmers Shipyard at Jarrow. By 1875  Archibald had a wife Anne Laird, nee Johnston from Carlisle, who had been widowed 3 years earlier. The youngest LAIRD step-son was three years old, and 4 more siblings.

1881 Arch&Ann (1)

1881 Census McNeills/Lairds of 89 Ellison St. Jarrow

Tragically his wife Anne died from an infection of childbirth. She was 45years when she died. They had two daughters together though one daughter died aged 2yrs. JARROW had the highest mortality rate for women and children in England. (a reduction of the causes were not on the agenda at the Jarrow Town Hall).

It is only recently that the Church of England prayer book removed the service for the ‘churching of women who had recently given birth’ which starts by giving thanks to God for:

‘The safe deliverance and preservation from the great dangers of childbirth.’

 Archibald must have had something going for him because 3 years later he married 20 years young, Margaret Slaughter Hunter from Westoe. Four children later, in 1907, Archibald died of a stroke at 66yrs.

christ church jarrow

Jarrow Christ Church – Roy & Phil walk by Jarrow Grange Christ Church where Archibald McNeill 34yrs & Ann Johnston wed 1875.

1901 Scots born McNeill

1901 Scots born McNeill a Plumber & Ships Labourer. Grandad Archibald is 9 years old.

Isabella Kelman 1894

17 Frederick St Jarrow; Grandma McNeill nee Isabella Kelman born 1894 to a Scots father like future husband Archibald McNeill.

Isabella was 13yrs when her Mother Mary Blake Kelman age 37yrs died in childbirth 1907, which meant she would leave school to become the older sister, “mother”.


1911 census – Isabella is house-keeper for Dad.

When Isabella met Archibald he had finished his apprenticeship and worked as an Iron ship Rivetter. She learned his father died of a stroke in 1907 when he was 15yrs. His mother had re-married so he had a step-father so his mother was now Margaret Leadbetter.

holidays grandparents

Archie & Isabella

On my father-in-law’s Archibald’s birth certificate Grannie Margaret Leadbetter is witness to his birth on October 16th 1918 at 101 Back of Western Rd.

.Western Rd

holiday c

Our 3 sons-McNeill family c.1933

Source:read all about it at  Archaeodeath at Bede’s World, Jarrow

Bede's world

Summer 2010 The McNeill cousins wait for a train at JARROW STATION to take them for an Indian curry at NEWCASTLE. We checked with a local lad of about 18yrs dressed for a night out. Were we heading in the right direction?

“Yer not from here then?”  “What yer doin’ comin’ to Jarrow for?” he said incredulously when we described ourselves as tourists! The McNeill cousins said their fathers were born there……

By the time young Archie  was 14yrs he had earned a scholarship to continue his education, but the advice of the Head Master was bleak – there was no future in Jarrow for them. He should get out of Jarrow.

The industry had died. Archibald had arrived in Jarrow 1850, and the last Archie leave 1933. 


Battlecruiser built by Palmers at Jarrow, HMS Queen Mary completed for Royal Navy 1913 and sunk 1916 Battle of Jutland 1266 men died. 20 men survived.

How did Archie McNeill feel after helping to create a state of the art battle ship

then hear it was destroyed by the Germans with a grave loss of those on board?

Human beings, from the time they can walk love to build things and then destroy them. It’s a Game. How do people invest in a building to house and educate about their unique place in English/European history, then dismantle it?




revised text 12 July 2016 (c) copyright all rights reserved by Julie McNeill as author of blog





THAT MAN OF BLOOD WIK_Charles-I_by-Daniel-Mytens_1631 KING OF ENGLAND


devil's tavern

It’s no easy task to write A CHAPTER in the imagined life of your 12 x removed Great Grandparents! Yet it is my exquisite obsession, my job to tell this story to my grand-children, students, and general readers.

The English Civil War (1642-49) was not something I learned in my English education between 5 to 14 yrs or 1967-77 in Birmingham. My husband didn’t learn about it during the 1950’s in Leeds.

Was Westminster afraid we would turn against the Status Quo, become rebel rousers?No our History lessons were like a scratched, repeating record of the War of the Roses and Henry’s Tudor wives.


So I’ve been learning at home via the wifi internet  of this amazing period which was the beginnings of the British Commonwealth Parliament, the cornerstone of our system of Government today.

By this generosity of shared knowledge in the global village I can see and hear my New Model Army lovers who bear witness to the King’s head being chopped off by Parliament,  and M.P. Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector of the British Isles.

In fact they were the first REDCOATS, the initiative of Cromwell and Fairfax to create a professional national Army. I aim to bring my cross-dressing Tom-boy Gran out of the closet of obscurity. Somehow they survived the onslaught of Cromwell leading them to victory in Ireland, Scotland and finally the battle of Worcester where my Mother lives!

To flesh out my 17th century ancestral characters I trawl through the academic research, go back to virtual Sunday School to read their favoured Geneva Bible, imagine so many Pub-crawls and Church pilgrimages of East London in a constant background of Wars.

Like an Olympian I needed a Coach…  It was opportune to see on facebook, the James Patterson Masterclass for Writers for an affordable $90.00. The number one author said I needed an OUTLINE – but first a plot in 2-3 sentences:

12 Generations ago, close to 400 years my Great Grandparents Clark had an intriguing entry in a London Baptism register for July 1655. The new parents were “Souldiers” in Cromwell’s New Model Army. 

It wasn’t long before a ballad was sung about the wife who cross-dressed to be a man and be revealed as the “Famous Woman Drummer”. How did this happen? Wasn’t it a hanging offence? 

My Great Grandmother 12 generations past.

THOU SHALT NOT KILL said the God of Abraham, but DEATH and DYING, AND BRUTAL MURDER WAS ALL AROUND. EVERYWHERE THE CHILD WALKED WITH OR WITHOUT HER MOTHER there was usually heads of traitors atop pikes at the different Gates around the city of London walls, and Bridge.

The twin girls’ mother, would introduce herself to strangers as Goody Thomasine Cannaday , wife of a Wapping Mariner, going on to explain how clever he was with his hands. It had only taken a morning to build the twins a push-cart so they could all get out of the house, see the sights of London.

Dutifully she would never fail to inform her three year old twin daughters under the gruesome faces of men, this is what happens to you if you’re caught murdering and pillaging and raping and spying, and rebelling.

If you stay out of trouble from God and King life wouldn’t be so bad living in the best city and country of the world. It was a bit alarming when she saw how her borough was changing day by day.

The Tower Hamlets was semi-rural, so the family could walk around the corner and find a milk dairy, and horses being shoed, fishing boats traffic and the increasing wonder of sailing ships bringing in cargo from foreign and newly discovered countries.

Blessed to be born, Praise the Lord! and they would all laugh, and she would shed a tear. Thomasine had it on good authority – her Father, Thomas Bond a Victualler of Gracechurch Street would send a message when their Royal Majesties Charles 1  and retinue had planned to Parade the regular route between the White Tower and Whitehall.

Crowds of thousands would witness pomp and tragedy along the way to the Tower gates.

Roaming animals were part of the throng of daily Life on a diet of unwanted scraps of butchered flesh and gristle. There was no waste left when dogs cleaned up body bits and pieces of  an unforgivable noble whose head was severed by the axe man at Tower Hill.

Thomasine senior was doing her motherly duty showing the raw facts of Life in it’s Judgemental element. The girl’s mother would counteract this dark side with the experience of watching the magnificence of a Royal entourage. It was always a spectacle, from the glorious white horses with shiny reins to the splendid military uniforms flash with feathers.

Even her mother’s delight failed to quell the moans about her  husband, HUGH when he was off sailing the ocean, fearful of him finding somebody he liked to fuck better than she.

Her daughter  also named Thomasine  reminded her of how she complained when there was no ship and he took on jobs as a Roper, and they saw each other every day she was not entirely happy. Thomasine the younger had worked out why she was unhappy with most things – it was her baby’s dying. Her mother’s desire to bear sons, and the loss of her favourite daughter, Tabitha, twin to Thomasine, her beautiful, graceful sister who should have lived instead of her.

God had visited the plague on their house, taken the most important thing a woman could give her husband, a son. And she did, but then the Lord took them away? Why would HE do this to her?  It was hard to suppress her tears.

Mummy can be a cry-baby, he had said one day when she was taking a piss outside. The Rector at St. Dunstans suggested prayers but Thomasine had a better idea. She would be healed by the King.


They met in a different Tavern each week, sometimes twice, bring the kids to share stories, sing ballads and support each others grievances and oft times, grief.

Bills of Mortality

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL was the next COMMANDMENT, but at the Stepney Parish Sunday school Thomasine and her twin sister Tabitha said they knew Godly people who stole stuff all the time.

My ancestors are recorded in the registers of St. Dunstan Stepney East in the 1600’s. Puritan Preacher William Greenhill was the preacher aswell as active with the Independent Meeting House, non-conformist and attracted people like Oliver Cromwell.

Stepney Meeting House was an independent church in Stepney, East London, founded in 1644 by Henry Barton and his wife, William Parker, John Odinsell, William Greenhill, and John Pococke, in the presence …Wikipedia

It was true said Rev. Burroughs, but if they were not caught, hung by the Law, or transported as white slaves to the NEW WORLD, there was no escaping the real torment of HELL.

God of course in the body of Jesus Christ our Saviour on the Cross would see into the SOUL of the person and forgive them for what they did.



THOMASINE Cannaday is TWELVE, yet her father allows her to dons the clothes of her dead brother to dig the fortifications commissioned by Parliament to protect the Tower Hamlets against the King.

On 7th March 1643 the people of Stepney Parish pray to God to protect them against the crazy, stubborn, selfish, Stuart King, Charles 1st who is threatening his subjects a bloody attack by his Cavalliers coming from the Royal base at Oxford.

During this great anxiety and shock, Thomasine is made aware of her destiny. John Clark appears by her side and their souls fate become intertwined. God is Love.

Forts 1642

My journey writing is a long journey, with many diversions, like today  I’ve been cleaning out the pantry because a mouse died in it…pong, leaving its shit everywhere..I think about the filthy hovels and slum tenements which my ancestors survive, and those who don’t.

I clean and disinfect then find a wonderful article about early modern vermin! It’s not the mouse shit the people are so concerned about, but the competition for their scarce food! The Details are important. It is the real truth revealed, physical, political, spiritual.

My 17th century Tom-boy is part of my inner-life, has been for at least 3 years now. I see her like in a movie at the end of Gun Alley opposite Wapping Wall with her Mother, Thomasine (popular Christian name in East London).

I’m hooked in to imagining and re-creating their working-class drama because it has all the topics I love and my Nan didn’t – Religion and Politics!

When she was a child Tom would go down to EXECUTION DOCK to see the Pirate hanging over the river. If the tide was out she’d sit under the body, thinking.

The neighbourhood was always out in force, for the Parade – cheering as the High Court Admiralty Marshall approached on a beautiful, majestic horse along the narrow street front of the River Thames. He held a tall silver oar, symbol of the Sea where crimes were committed by the prisoner – a pirate – made to stand aboard a cart.

There were hisses, and boos, and mad cheers.  Old rubbish was flung at him for a laugh. Dogs barked. Tom studied it all; to from the hooves to the tail to the Pirate standing proud as he can before he is hung by a short rope.

Mongrel dogs take part, wagging tails, sniffing bystanders, scrounging for edible scraps. Vermin rats and mice were part of the scenery, and they were hard to catch too.

Wappinglink to all about Fortifying London
Wapping Warehouses, 17th century view.



during 2015, grand-parenting boy dogs, boy grand-sons and more on the way.

I haven’t had much success being employed by mainstream employers in my life, but the foundation of a Love of Learning was provided to me, which empowered me and be pro-active in parenting.

Such a joy to be a Grand-mother now and conscious of passing on what tools of Love and Knowledge to them to fulfil their potential and contribute to the wider society.

The Gonski Report on a way to meet the Education reforms for the present and future so all children have a fair go at finding opportunities – A consensus emerged before the last election that this was the best path forward, the best investment a country could make.

The Liberal-National Party lied to get into power. They don’t want to spend so much money on a decent education on kids with disabilities, from low to middle incomes….their kids will be all right, so like the selfish, despicable wilful ignorance of Climate Change policy, Australia has devolved; Commonwealth coffers of money prop carbon polluters, and people like them who will luxuriate in a Super-retirement class.

The evidence, the analysis, the history of political evasion can be gained from independent and other sources. I read and listen widely thanks to the gifts of Science and the publicly funded CSIRO, ABC, WWW.

Conclusion: A positive, 21st century enlightened education must be hoped for, must be campaigned for and voted on by the majority.

Peace on Earth, Good will to all boys and girls and may we all be productive with respect for Mother Nature. Merry be 2016.



A NANA’S WISH: It’s a wonderful world for you if we piss off Tony Abbott Govt. flat earthers and have policies more likely to give you a decent future.





IT WAS THE DAY PATRICK DIED – and no doubt went straight to Heaven to be with the One God which became the Bishop’s Feast Day. The pagan folk may have seen him as another kind of Druid. Patrick had an understanding of the customs and language of the Irish people because he had been kidnapped as a boy by Niall of the Nine Hostages.

The War Lord and High King from Ulster had a big litter – resulting in half of Dublin being direct descendents of, and according to Y-DNA my husband is not from the seed of Rob Roy…He’d always thought he was Scottish, but the science proves his great grandaddy had many roots in Ireland.McNeill emblem

Patrick eventually escaped guided by Godly visions. My Grandmother gave my mother a very Irish name as the Birmingham Blitz of bombs fell from the Nazgull. JRR Tolkien went to the Oratory Church in Ladywood where new-born Kathleen Patricia was taken to be baptised.

Patrick had established the early Celtic Church in Ireland, though I don’t think the leprachauns and fairy folk were allowed in, and there would have been some who resisted.

luck of the Irish

If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.” -Saint Patrick


4000BC – the sacred site of the ancient rulers of Ireland was the Hill of Tara.

THE PAGAN PHALLIC STONE OF DESTINY  is said to have been touched by the 100

High Kings of Ireland (before the revels), guided by Druids.

Procreation of Celtic genes

Hill of Tara, County Meath, Ireland

Adjacent to this hill-top on the hill of Thane in 433AD Patrick lit an Easter fire to challenge the power of the old religion.

Challenging the pagan status quo, Patrick lit an Easter fire (Pascal). 433 AD

Challenging the pagan status quo, Patrick lit an Easter fire (Pascal). 433 AD

1970’s Birmingham UK. What do the Irish mean to me? During my Brummy childhood most of my neighbours were Irish Catholics who migrated in the early 1950’s. Mum’s Avon Lady would turn up with talcum powders and little bottles of holy water from her trips to Lourdes.

‘I’m not Catholic, ‘said my mother. ‘I’m not Irish, my mother was Scottish, ‘she said. Well now we know she is both Scots and Irish = Celtic

I knew my friends went to a different school and learned Latin, were proud of their communion dresses and accessories, plus I walked to St. Edward’s RC Church on Raddlebarn Rd as she had to confess to the priest every week. The kind of things she said, like not eating chocolate at Lent didn’t sound like a sin to me. It was alien to me.

I also accompanied my friend Pauline from across the road to Irish dancing class and taking down the numbers for a lottery fund-raiser at St Edward’s hall. Like my Mum’s mum who married a Polish post-war Catholic, Pauline’s mother Mary met and married a Polish Catholic man too…but mine married a Brummy Protestant which is why I was christened at St Wulstan’s Church of England conveniently on the corner of Exeter Rd.

I don’t remember any St. Patrick’s day parades or celebrations – probably because there was a lot of I.R.A. activity. For more info link to:

My Mum, Kathleen enjoyed any time with  an Irish whiskey and a sing-song somewhere in a Birmingham club or pub! Always she would sing her sentimental favourite:

On her second wedding night at the ex-servicemans club, Selly Oak, Birmingham

On her second wedding night at the ex-servicemans club, Selly Oak, Birmingham

BUT SHE WASN’T IRISH, even though she had red hair and was dragged up by Nuns…and then recently she met Patrick her adopted brother who had been kept secret. He was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1944 in Ladywood or what the locals called “Little Rome”.

read more @

Family history


As society is transformed by our wire-less technological advancements it is important to not forget the foundations forged by our ancestors.

The Pub's still standing

The Bournheath pub – ancient refreshment tavern for Nailers.


Hannah Southall/Higgins/Prime – the’Black Country’ folks:

Southall, English (chiefly West Midlands): habitational name, from Old English suð ‘south’ + halh ‘nook’, ‘recess’.

Louise Rayner visiting Dudley

Artist Louise Rayner visiting Dudley 1870



Reports of the housing and living conditions of the mass of poor folk were abysmal, with little running, clean water and sewerage facilities. The Southall and Martin families seemed to have built up a resistance to killer bacteria over generations.

Compared to the official mortality rates for infants and adults the Census picture I have is survival against the odds.



 MY 4TH GREAT GRANDPARENTS; in the 1851 Census RICHARD SOUTHALL was a retired Iron Master on King Street, Dudley, with his wife ELIZABETH (born WHITEHOUSE ). 

Richard died age 75years and Elizabeth age 81years.

Mystery burial ground with Southall grave stone in it. further info at

Mystery burial ground with Southall grave stone in it. further info at

THE TERM IRON MASTER SUGGESTS HE WAS A ‘MIDDLE MAN’ TRADING BETWEEN NAILERS AND IRON SUPPLIERS. I’m guessing he was a fair business man and not unjustly exploitative as the reputations of many were. Why?

They were Quakers, members at the Dudley Meeting of Religious Society of Friends. Were they buried at the mysterious burial ground, now overgrown?

I have Quaker kin on my Londoners branch, they too being ‘the Middling sort’ or what we today call the ‘aspirational’ classes.George Fox, the founder appealed to their independent Spirit. 

5th Great Grandparents RICHARD SOUTHALL & MARY GRANGER of Netherton, Dudley were Nail Ironmongers.

Iron Monger of Netherton
Iron Monger of Netherton
Horse Nail makers SOUTHALLS OF DUDLEY 1600-1900
Horse Nail makers

Home of the Southalls

JWTurner painted watercolours on his visit to Dudley (Castle ruins on hill.

IN THE THE EARLDOM OF DUDLEY My Grt Great Joseph William Southall and Agnes Martin lived and worked: ‘Josh’ was 5years old in

1861 Salop Street, Eve Hill, Dudley.

St. James Terrace, Dudley Nailmakers
St. James Terrace, Dudley
Nailmakers – 3rd Grt Grandparents Richard and Elizabeth Southall(neeChambers) 2nd GF Joseph age 5yrs

“Nailmaking was described as the most God forsaken trade in the country and nailmakers lived in abject poverty. Throughout the 19th century there were strikes as the nailmakers tried to obtain a living wage whilst the employers constantly looked to reduce wages.

How successful the employers were can be demonstrated by the fact that by 1887 weekly wages had fallen from a peak of around 30s (£1.50) to between 9s (45p) and 13s (65p). It was reported that hobnail makers could not earn more than 6s (30p)per week.

One of the later most damaging strikes was in 1893. Dudley nailmakers went on strike around May 1893 when some masters again tried to reduce wages. By December the nailmakers were still on strike. The strikers had been supported by the Midland Counties Trades Federation but by December the Federation had come to the conclusion that the strikers were not going to be able to achieve their aims and that the only way they were going to achieve a living wage was through legislation. The strike payments were having an adverse impact on other parts of the Federation and they believed that the strike money would be better spent on trying to influence legislation. They therefore voted to discontinue strike payments. Therefore after seven months on strike the nailmakers had achieved nothing. By this time many nailmakers had either left the area or taken up other employment (many nailmakers became chainmakers). “(Thanks Paul, WDYTYAforum)

Baptisms, Marriages and Burials here.

Baptisms, Marriages and Burials here at ST JAMES CHURCH, EVE HILL, DUDLEY NR HOME ON SALOP ST.

 Down the direct line 8th Great Grandfather Thomas Southall a “NAYLOR”, was born during the English Republic, baptised on July 28th 1655, married Anne Hancox Sept.1685 and buried on 4th January 1708 at ST.THOMAS,’TOP’ CHURCH, DUDLEY. 

1841 census for Josh’s parents and my 3rd Great Grandparents at Shavers End.

Dudley Nailers

Dudley Nailers

Brave Dudley Boys

In the days of good queen Bess
Yah boys, ho
In the days of good queen Bess
Yah boys, ho
In the days of good queen Bess
Coventry out done their best
Yah boys, ho boys, oh the brave Dudley boys

But in the times a be,
We’ve outdone Coventry

Tipp’n lads, they did us join
And we fought the strong combine

We marched into town
Resolved to burn the ‘ousen down

Times, they was mighty queer
Vittles, they was powerful dear

So we fought to make corn cheap
We burned them all, of a heap

But the work was scarce begun
When the soldiers came and spoilt the fun

We all run down our pits
Scared almost out of our wits

God bless Lord Dudley Ward
He knowed the times been hard

He called back the sodgermen,
Ya, boys, O!
He called back the sodgermen,
Ya, boys, O!
He called back the sodgermen,
And we’ll never riot again.

Na boys, no boys, no the brave Dudley boys!

This song is said to have come from William Ryland of West Bromwich in the 1840’s. It originated in the Corn Laws and the Reform Bill of the early 18th century, though other researchers believe it is later.
Good Queen Bess: Elizabeth I of England (1533 – 1603).
Dudley is a town between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, part of the Black Country. Its boundaries are now indistinguishable from the other parts of the West Midlands conurbation.
sodgers = soldiers
Lord Dudley Ward: Ward is the family name of Lord Dudley. The then Lord Dudley was able to calm the rioters and prevent the soldiers from firing on them.
Roy Palmer, Songs of the Midlands (1972)

(Part One: The ‘Bread And Butter Riots’ of 1766)
by David Cox…
Pre-industrialised England is often represented as a golden age of prosperity and plenty, with well-fed peasants happy with their lot in life, knowing their place in a benevolent and paternalistic society. Reality, as is so often the case, was somewhat different from the myth. This is the first of two articles looking at civil unrest in the Black Country during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

With half of a man’s wage and no vote, women laboured long and hard at the hearth and having babies, grieving regularly.

Among the nailers and their children – The Guardian archive 4 Jan 1865

Hales Owen, says J. E. White, reporting to the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children and Young Persons the evidence collected by him, as assistant commissioner, on the metal manufactures of the Birmingham district – “Hales Owen is the only town on the direct road from Birmingham to Stourbridge.
“The principal employment of the place is the wrought-nail manufacture, carried on in small forges adjoining the homes of the greater part of the cottagers, and to a great extent by women and children.

“While I was in a cottage where I found a boy with a bare foot bandaged up, lamed by a burn, a sound of many voices singing swelled gradually near.

“The boy, limping on his stick to the door, cried, ‘Oh, mother! there’s the nailers coming.’ And there passed by a crowd of several hundred men, women, and children.

“They were coming from the villages near Dudley to hold a meeting in Hales Owen, to see if they could get out the nailers who were working against them there, their strike having already lasted eleven weeks.

” ‘It’s heartbreaking work,’ said the woman. Among the many children in the crowd were two little boys, apparently six years old or not much more, dragged along by the hand by a woman, probably their mother, footsore and lame from their march.

“A nailer at Hales Owen said to me, ‘The parents carry them on into the night as long as their strength lasts when the work is wanted quick; it’s no use beyond, but, as far as they can, they are partly obligated to work.

” ‘I should not like my little boy there, now five, to begin before nine, and he shan’t if I can help it, but if I am any ways obligated he must. He is but a little mossel [sic], and if I were to get that little creature to work I should have to get a scaffold for him to stand on to reach, and with that it would be like murder-work, as you may say.

” ‘It don’t agree with children at first, the work being always hot. In summer the little ones, being afore the fire all the time, sweat so till it runs down their faces like anything. Then the young ones often burn themselves. My boy got two wounds big as a crown piece.

” ‘My son, now 14, has to work hard from six am to eight pm to make 8½ to 9d. It’s many hours to be stiving up [stewing] in a hot shop’.

“The son can read. His sister, aged 17, who works as a nailer, can read but little.

This picture could be Great Great Gran Agnes at the “Oliver” so called because it was tough and hard like Cromwell! It was an ideal mate who could be useful in the nailing business and delivering babies and keep them alive in perilous, starving times.

Named after Oliver Cromwell for being tough and hard.

Named after Oliver Cromwell for being tough and hard.


Bristol Rd 1910

High St. Selly Oak – Grandad Higgins born at 104 then brother Harold. Their father died of TB age 27. Always say, we were going down the village.

Exeter Rd 2010

On the street where we lived. Exeter Rd.1900-1978

The new century arrived. It must have seemed like luxury in their new terrace house in Exeter Road. It only took 9 miles migrating south to Selly Oak to have their lives transformed! Did they keep in touch with the Cradley chain makers industrial campaign in 1910? Send money to support the women ‘sweat’ workers in solidarity?

The cause of the Cradley Heath chain makers was championed by the influential George Cadbury(who also owned a newspaper), and prominent feminist women like Mary MacArthur, a Union activist who worked to attract funds so the women chain-makers could keep up the strike for a living wage. 

Mary Macarthur
13 August 1880 – 1 January 1921

British trade unionist and feminist.

Women are badly paid and badly treated because they are not organised and they are not organised because they are badly paid and badly treated.



A different and more learned Higgins had become a hero in the new Federation of former colony: Melbourne, Australia, 1907 High Court. Judge Higgins made a famous judgement. The case involved one of Australia’s largest employers, Hugh McKay, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery.

Higgins ruled that McKay was obliged to pay his employees a wage that guaranteed them a standard of living that was reasonable for “a human being in a civilised community,” regardless of his capacity to pay. This gave rise to the legal requirement for a basic wage, which dominated Australian economic life for the next 80 years.

DAWLISH RD SELLY OAK 1910 Part of the Developer/Builder, Dibble’s Estate.


Grandad Albert Higgins and Nan Elsie moved around the corner to Dawlish Rd in 1965, from Exeter Rd. when they sold it to my parents.

 NO MORE NAIL MAKING! The turn of the  20th century. I wonder if when they settled into their new terraced houses in Selly Oak, they wished they had left sooner?

Links to further Nailing information:

The Industrial suburb was a model of progress.

Exeter Rd - Beautiful Bricks, Co-operative

Exeter Rd – Beautiful Bricks, Co-operative

Dirty, heavy labour was what they had been born and bred for…but at least families could now make themselves clean at the Public Baths.

Ariel Cycle Co Dale Rd Selly Oak c 1899

Ariel Cycle Co
Dale Rd Selly Oak c 1899

Fortune and Municipal responsibility smiled on Selly Oak labourers and their children. The Southall’s would have witnessed the opening of many a community investment, like  learn to swim, learn to read and write, and of course go to Church on Sundays(expected but not compulsory anymore).

George Cadbury provided free passes to the Tiverton pool to local children – so they could work off the chocolate!

“These baths were erected by the Kings Norton and Northfield District Council and opened on the 29th September 1906. It contained two swimming baths, one with a gallery for spectators and one designed for the use of children.
Taken over by the Baths Committee on 3rd June 1911 following Royal Assent when Handsworth, Aston Manor, Erdington, Yardley, Moseley, Kings Heath and Selly Oak became part of Greater Birmingham.”

opened 1906

opened 1906

There were jobs for all the family and regular wages at the Ariel Cycles factory a walk away from home in Exeter Rd. Then there was a wider pool of eligible spinsters and bachelors! This is how I imagine the Southall-Higgins alliance came about:


Dale Rd Selly Oak

In the 1901 Census Joseph and Agnes rented 76 Exeter Rd. and were employed at the Ariel Cycles Works as labourers and saddle spring makers. It didn’t take long for daughter Hannah to meet Albert Edward Higgins who lived around the corner in Hubert Road with his brother Ernest’s family.

I suggest they made eye contact at the corner shop on the way to work…

1901 Census

1901 Census – 76 Exeter Rd Southall family from Dudley, now University student housing.

ON HIS DEATH CERTIFICATE Great Grandfather Albert Edward Higgins worked as a bicycle sand blaster.

ALBERT & HANNAH married at the Church of England, St.Mary’s Church in 1901 (St.Wulstan’s on Exeter Rd wasn’t quite finished).

In common with his wife Hannah was the fact both of their parents had been Nailers from Worcestershire and had to migrate due to the death of the ancient industry to machinery and loss of overseas markets.

Cnr Hubert Rd-Exeter Rd

Corner shop – for all your home needs, cnr Hubert and Exeter Rd Selly Oak. Grt x 2 Grand folks live 33 Exeter Rd in 1901. Most likely Hannah and Albert made eyes at each other on the morning walk to Ariel….

Albert’s family had migrated from Belbroughton in the district of Bromsgrove, first stopping at Harborne where the death of his mother Fanny, from childbirth gave impetus to travel further down the Bristol Rd to Selly Oak thriving with manufacturing and bricky’s labouring. 

Visiting Holy Trinity ancient grounds where generations of Davenport and Waldron et al were baptised, wed and buried.

Visiting Holy Trinity ancient grounds where generations of Davenport and Waldron et al were baptised, wed and buried.

Home of the nailmaking Davenports/Waldrons. Belbroughton, Chaddesley Corbett, Bell Heath on Farley Lane, Bourneheath, Catshill.

Home of the nailmaking
Belbroughton, Chaddesley Corbett, Bell Heath on Farley Lane, Bourneheath, Catshill.

ALBERT HIGGINS would have a shortened life too, dying of TB (tuberculosis), aged 28yrs. Hannah was  widowed with 2 sons under 5years so moved back home to her parents now at 33 Exeter Rd…

33 Exeter Rd - the home of Joseph and Agnes Southall from 1910.

33 Exeter Rd – the home of Joseph and Agnes Southall from 1910.

The Edwardian generation was my Grandad’s, who received a decent secular primary education for the first time. Nobody seemed concerned to educate the plebeians before then, but when the factory owners realised they would need a more literate workforce their lobbying made the dictum ‘knowledge is power’ bear fruit and became Tiverton Rd Primary school’s motto – tres revolutionary!

Being a man in a man’s world of boxing, snooker, horse racing  and beeret suited Grandad’s style and skill. He worked a tram ride away for the visionary Herbert Austin at Longbridge factory.

Somehow this distilled itself  into him becoming a paid up, active member of the Conservative Party in the Selly Oak electoral ward.

Winning a scholarship to King Edward Grammar may have distorted his political sense! Either way brothers Albert and Harold Southall/Higgins were the first to sign birth, marriage, and death certificates with their name and not an X

Equality of the sexes was part of the creed of the Quakers from the 1600’s… but British women had to really push the limits before they would be given an equal vote to men. Thanks to the Suffragette’s, inch by inch and a few smashed windows and imprisonment later Hannah age 43yr could vote next to her sons.

The first begrudging concession was to allow women the vote if they were over 30, and owners of property! Thus Hannah and her mother Agnes age 70, were the first women to vote.

All women over 21yrs could vote in 1927. As the Tories feared, the electorate trebled, bringing in the first government under the Labour party to represent the views of the working class.

1920 Electoral register – Hannah & Agnes



1920 Kings Norton division in Selly Oak ward Exeter Rd.

1920 Kings Norton division in Selly Oak ward
Exeter Rd.

Consistent philanthropy of the Quaker Cadbury’s with their principles of  social justice, supported progressive early childhood learning in Selly Oak.

Tiverton Rd. the first kindergarten in Birmingham thanks to the efforts of the Cadbury family.

Tiverton Rd. the first kindergarten in Birmingham thanks to the efforts of the Cadbury family.



On the road to social mobility: Knowledge is Power

On the road to social mobility:
Knowledge is Power – the motto for our public school on Tiverton Rd.

 Hannah remarried Thomas Prime a metal worker at Brass Casting. The newly built Church of St. Wulstan was on the street corner. Albert and Harold Higgins would gain two half-sisters.

As first home owners in the family, Hannah and Thomas Prime of no.26 must have felt satisfied with their lot and labours in life and leaving an Inheritance – unheard of!                                 

Great Nan Hannah was a widow for the second time in 1928.  Oldest son Albert married Elsie Brothwood in 1935. It seems there was an agreement for Hannah and her daughters to buy a house somewhere else and Harold moved to 18 Exeter Rd – giving room for the newly weds to start a new family of Higgins. CALL THE MIDWIFE!

My return trip to childhood home 2010 - the front room bedroom where Higgins babies came into the world.

My return trip to childhood home 2010 – the front room bedroom where Higgins babies came into the world, with or without the local Midwife on her bike!

DNA of the Black Death at East Smithfield, London

I am achieving potential thanks to internet technology.

My self-learning of British history and herstory  show knowledge is power – like the motto on my primary school building. I’ve been born to mature into a time where the democratisation of knowledge is easier.  It has become common knowledge the genes we carry can protect us long enough to survive and procreate, but they also give us a pre-disposition to other diseases including mental well-being.

Deaths by disease on individuals have devastating impact on families affecting the next generation. Joining the British Army to feed and clothe yourself can be catastrophic on the woman you marry as Syphillus like my Grandparents in 19th and 20th century Scotland and Ireland.

T.B. killed leaving widows and young children in a time when the woman was evicted for being without a bread-winning husband….no wonder there was such resistance for women getting the vote.

If a woman could survive childbirth without an infection, she was lucky. Medical discoveries like antibiotics have relieved us from suffering and stopped us from dying.

Open minds and willingness to follow scientific leads – will lead us further in insight. Investment in scientific research may help us defeat the bacteria and viruses evolve resistance to our old potions and give us Hell on earth – obliterate our existence.

Australia has a Conservative Prime Minister who has devalued Science – no tax on pollution to fund greenhouse reduction,  an ignorance of the necessity of Science as a key threat to the economy by not interested in conserving ecologies, or even bothering to have a  Minister for Science. 

Science is everywhere not God Prime Minister – exploiting knowledge for money’s sake can also be our down-fall, our misery, our extinction. It depresses me. 

Now, I escape, time-travel the generations and enjoy the ride to the destintion. I have  arrived in East London 1600! A Mariner, called Hugh Cannaday marries Thomasin Lloyd in 1631. I can find documents of 5 children, but only 1, my Great Grandmother x 11 – Why? Was she the only one to survive – a new fact of life and death and grief emerges.

Sailors, Prostitutes and Puritans!

More bodies for the Thames.

Bills of Mortality


It seems as though every couple of months a new paper is published reporting Yersinia pestis DNA from ancient remains. This week brought the latest installment from London’s East Smithfield Black Death cemetery. This cemetery holds a special place in the scientific investigations of the Black Death because it is so well documented as being specifically for the first wave of plague in 1348-1350 and the  recovery of so many well-preserved skeletons. This cemetery has been the subject of several bioaracheological studies, primarily by former plague skeptic Sharon DeWitte, making this one of the best characterized set of Black Death victims yet to be discovered. DeWitte is also one of the co-authors of this study.

Using a new method of ‘targeted enrichment’  and high through-put sequencing an international group led by Hendrik Poinar was able to clone and sequence relatively long stretches of Yersinia pestis DNA from recovered remains. They…

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