A Kiwi in search of her Irish, English & Scottish tribes

Month: August 2011

National Coal Mining Museum, Yorkshire ~ Follow Friday

My 3 x great grandfather, Henry Nunns, was a coal miner, and his father and brothers worked in the mines as well. One of the highlights of my recent Yorkshire trip was visiting the National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield, to find out what Henry’s working life might have been like.  If your ancestors had any connection with coal mining, this is a fantastic place to visit.  What’s more, it’s free!

I’d recently watched a documentary on child labour, The Children Who Built Victorian Britain, so I had a small idea of what coal mining was about, but I really wanted to find out more – and especially, to go down a coal mine.

Get kitted out with your miner’s helmet and battery lamp then step into the cage and descend 140m underground to discover the amazing sotry of mining through the ages.  Led by ex-miners, these hugely popular tours will give you a vivid insight into the dangers and hardships faced by the men, women and children who toiled deep below the ground.
– National Coal Mining Museum brochure

Now, I’m quite claustrophobic, and I was very nervous about going underground, so I managed to convince my seven year old son to go with me.  (I bribed him with the carrot of getting an awesome ‘Extreme Reading’ photo opportunity for a school competition when we were down in the mine.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised that cameras and phones were banned.  Ummm, sorry kid!)  I checked beforehand to see if there were any parts of the tour that involved crawling and the like, and I was assured that any crawling bits were optional and “for the kids”.   In any event, I was fine, and the tour was fantastic!  We were first shown an area of the pit from the 1820s, and then were slowly taken down all manner of tunnels and ‘roadways’.  Our guide, an ex-miner, gave an illuminating picture of what life was like for miners over the last two centuries.

The tour takes 90 minutes, and thankfully there was enough above ground to keep my hubby and the two younger kids amused while #1 son and I took the tour.  (Children under five aren’t permitted on the tour.)  It’s a good idea to wear decent walking shoes, and a jacket or jumper, as it gets a little chilly underground.

Young miner, extreme reader

Young miner, not so extreme reader

Unfortunately I didn’t get much time to check out everything above ground, but there are historic colliery buildings, collections detailing mining history, displays of mining memorabilia, a library, nature trail, retired pit ponies, plus a shop, small children’s indoor playroom, cafe and picnic area.

I did get to buy a book which our guide had recommended, and to which I also give a big thumbs up – Victoria’s Children of the Dark by Alan Gallop.  It tells the story of the children who worked in the mines in the early 19th century, and recreates the events surrounding the 1838 Husker Pit disaster at Silkstone, Yorkshire.  Definitely a fascinating read after being down a mine and seeing the actual working conditions.

National Coal Mining Museum for England
Caphouse Colliery, New Road, Overton
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF4 4RH
tel: +44 1924 848806
www: www.ncm.org.uk

Follow Friday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire ~ Wordless Wednesday

Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire, August 2011

Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire, August 2011

Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire, August 2011

Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire, August 2011

Graveyard, Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire, August 2011

Graveyard, Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire, August 2011

Graveyard, Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire, August 2011

Graveyard, Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Yorkshire, August 2011

Wordless Wednesday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

West Yorkshire research trip Part 1

I have spent the last four days in West Yorkshire, visiting places that are connected with my great grandmother, Elsie Nunns. She was born in 1896, in Rothwell, which is where I began my search.

At this point in the post, I was hoping to wax lyrical about the marvellous folk at the Rothwell Arts and Heritage Centre, of how helpful and friendly they were. In fact, they may well be all those things – I just didnt meet them. I had found the Centres details via Google, carefully noting down the address and opening hours from the website. When I arrived in Rothwell on Monday morning, I tried plugging in the Centres address into my satnav, but it couldnt find it. Well, not in Rothwell, West Yorkshire. But if I fancied a two hour drive, I would find it in Rothwell, Kettering.

Not the best start to my trip! Luckily I found the local library, with some very helpful staff members, and I managed to get photocopies of some old Ordnance Survey maps of the area, which I needed in order to find some of the addresses my ancestors had lived at. With my three research assistants tagging along, I had little time to sit and pore over old maps, so it was a quick copy job and I was out of there. I had enough information to get by with for the next few days.

On the road

Here I am, wrapped up in a duvet in front of a gas fire, glass of Kiwi sauvignon blanc in hand, listening to the rain beating down on the caravan roof… yes, its the great British summer holiday.

Im typing this post on my shiny brand new birthday present – a portable Bluetooth keyboard for my iPhone. Loving it!! (Its a US style keyboard, so hopefully I wont ever have to type a pound sign while travelling.)

Just as we were leaving for our holiday, the postman arrived with a probate file Id requested from Archives New Zealand. Naturally I had to bring it with me, and its made fascinating reading.

Ive a stack of books that Ive brought with me to read – hopefully Ill get a chance to read most, if not all, of them. Currently on the go is Michael Fosters A Comedy of Errors or The Marriage Records of England and Wales 1837 – 1899.

If the weather is kind tomorrow, were off to Conwy Castle. In the meantime, Im hoping the iPhone WordPress app lets me post this

ETA: it seems all my apostrophes have disappeared… arrrrgh!!

My Nanna and me ~ Wordless Wednesday

Jean (McGonnell) Wright and me, Auckland, NZ

Jean (McGonnell) Wright and me, Auckland, NZ

Today is my birthday – the first one without my Nanna.

Wordless Wednesday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

Deserted, pardoned, enlisted ~ Military Monday

Following up from yesterday’s post,  where I was wondering how and when Alex Wright (my great grandfather) came out to New Zealand, I do know that he arrived before the outbreak of World War I, because he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) on 23 August 1914 at Awapuni.1

War had been declared just 19 days earlier, and the army had set up a training camp on the grounds of the Awapuni Racecourse, Palmerston North.



The military camp at Awapunu is the largest in New Zealand, and it is understood it will be continued for some time.  General Godley expressed himself yesterday as highly delighted with the arrangements and suitability of the site for military training.

The Manawatu Racing Club has been warmly thanked for placing their grounds at the disposal of the military authorities.  Fresh troops are expected to arrive shortly for training purposes.

The parade state to-day showed the following men in camp at Awapuni: Infantry, 31 officers and 1165 men; mounted rifles, 21 and 640; artillery, 4 and 203, ammunition column, 5 and 230; field troop engineers, 3 and 80; divisional signal company, 4 and 116; mounted signal troop, 1 and 26; field ambulance, 2 and 43, army service corps, 1 and 86; reservists, 71; total 75 and 2662.2

At the time of enlistment, Alex was single,  working as a labourer with the Public Works Department in Gisborne, and living at 53 Bright Street.  In his attestation, he declared that he was a deserter from the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers.  He gave his mother, Mary Jane Carroll, of 180 Evelyn Street, Deptford, England, as his next-of-kin.

His medical examination describes him being 5 foot 9 inches tall, weighing 11 – 4lb and having a dark complexion, brown eyes, and dark brown hair.  His religious profession was Roman Catholic.  Distinctive marks:  Tattoo, Clasped hands Left, Clasped hands Right, H. Cavender on Right arm.  He was assessed fit and he joined the Wellington Infantry Battalion as a Private with the regimental number of 10/800.

A couple of unidentified newspaper clippings that the family had kept were an interesting find:

"Pardon For Deserters", from unidentified publication, Aug 1914

"Pardon For Deserters", from unidentified publication, Aug 1914


WELLINGTON, this day.

The Defence Department has requested the Press Association to distribute the following cable: “London, Aug. 7.   Give the widest publicity to the following army orders:  War Office, August 7th, 1914.  Pardon for deserters.  The King has been graciously pleased to sanction pardon being granted to soldiers who were in a state of desertion.3

Clipping from unidentified publication, 1914

Clipping from unidentified publication, 1914

As showing the fighting spirit of the true Britisher, it may be mentioned that two reservists, who were deserters from their regiments, have offered their services to proceed to the front.3

Military Monday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

  1. Archives NZ, “WRIGHT, Alexander – WW1 10/800 – Army”; digital image, Archway (http://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ViewFullItem.do?code=22022458 : accessed 26 Nov 2010)
  2. “AWAPUNI CAMP”, Hawera & Normanby Star, 25 August 1914, page 7; digital image, National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 01 Aug 2011).
  3. “PARDON FOR DESERTERS” and Untitled clipping, clippings from unidentified publications, dated August 1914; photocopy, original held by [NAME AND ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], grandson of Alexander Wright.

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