Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pirates of Execution Dock: Lost Valley of London

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Katy Fagan and the Curragh Of Kildare

My Inbox held a special treat - news of the new album by a special Voice in my life - Kevin Rowland. I've been listening to the Dexy's marvellous music for years until an interlude with cassette tapes of Play School and Peter Coombe became the dominant art.

Perfect Music therapy. I'm revived, as K.R.'s vocal instrument gets me into gear with writing scenes about my young Roundhead/Red-coated lovers - working title, "Love in an English Republic". NEW MODEL ARMY - THE FIRST REDCOATS

My male muse provides aural passion as high and pure as the Puritans were aiming for with Biblical Scripture. So glad Kev survived the drug abuse didn't lose his blessed biological asset!

"Take Me Home Again Kathleen" is Mum's favourite because of her name, but after finally hearing all the lyrics I hope she won't get too maudlin - Kevin's version doesn't stray from the sentimental.

My mother-in-law Nancy's favourite song was 'Smoke gets in your Eyes" but she died before getting to hear Kevin sing it. It's a perfect c.d. for Happy Hour in the nursing homes!


Co-incidental with my ancestral research, the "Curragh of Kildare" has given me a deeper picture to my family tree; Mitochondrial DNA goes from mother to daughter eggs. 

Mum's mother Kathleen was born to Dubliner Christina Ross, daughter of a Seaforth Highlander, sent to curb the Irish rebels. Common for many Irish lasses she marries a London soldier who was sent to suppress the Republicans instead of the Somme...

Great Great Grandmother of mine was Catherine or "Katy" Fegan, daughter of James Fegan or Fagan who was stationed at the Curragh of Kildare, where British Army regiments trained until the Irish Republic in 1922.

Merging past with present knowledge, Kevin Rowland's lives and makes music in East London, which is the setting for my Great Grandparents x 12 - the Tower Hamlets of the English Civil War. Anti- Catholic prejudice is rife and so is the desire of Parliament to put down the Irish rebels.The crisis is not watching the King's head chopped off, but learning her beloved father Hugh
Cannaday is Irish!!!Everything she'd been taught to believe about the sub-human Papists tore at her heart. What a Fool not to have known. Did her Mother Thomasine know she had been tricked by the Papist Devil?

12th April 1870 Baptism at Saint Conleth's RC
Naas Rd. Newbridge, baby girl Catherine Fegan is baptised in the Roman Catholic tradition.
Great Great Grandmother Catherine Fegan  daughter to James Fagan
Margaret Healy.

The Curragh of Kildare had always been picked for the training of warriors and horses.

Naas has had a long and colourful history. In annals and records the name appears in three forms, namely, An Nas meaning ” the Place of Assembly” Nas Laighean meaning “Place of assembly of the Leinster Men, and Nas na Riogh meaning “Place of Assembly of the Kings”. The latter is the Irish form of the name now used.
Naas was founded, according to Bardic tradition, by Lewy of the Long Hand, and from the earliest times was an important centre. It was for almost seven centuries the seat of the Kings of Leinster. The last King to reside here was Cearbhall who died in AD904, St Patrick visited Naas in AD448 and baptised King Dunling’s children at the well at Oldtown, near the town.(Kildare Local History)
The Curragh racecourse

Apparently this traditional folk song called The Curragh of Kildare is sang every year just before the Irish Derby is run. Punters on the course do it, punters in Irish pubs around the world do it. Now the Dexy's are doing it! 

Catherine's father James was a Royal Irish Fusilier.  To join up meant earning a regular wage and food for his growing family - after growing up through the Famine years. Her mother may well have considered this Red Coat, a catch!
Grand Father x 3, James Fegan may have felt sympathetic to this song thinking of his wife MARGARET HEALY, when fighting for the Second Afghanistan campaign in 1878...

Royal Irish Fusiliers  
trad/arr: Christy Moore
"I gleaned this song from The P.W. Joyce collection in 1964.Donal Lunny and I arranged this song into its present shape.The original was written by Scotlands poet laureate Robbie Burns.It tells the story of a young Scottish woman whose lover is away soldiering for the Queen in the Curragh of Kildare.She decides to present herself for recruitment disguised as a young fellow.We never get to hear the outcome. Certainly a good case for a sequel. " Christy Moore


The winter it has passed

And the summer's come at last
The small birds are singing in the trees
And their little hearts are glad
Ah, but mine is very sad
Since my true love is far away from me.

And straight I will repair
To the Curragh of Kildare
For it's there I'll finds tidings of my dear
The rose upon the briar
By the water's running clear
Brings joy to the linnet and the bee
And their little hearts are blessed
But mine can know no rest
Since my true love is far away from me.

A livery I'll wear
And I'll comb back my hair
And in velvet so green I will appear
And straight I will repair
To the Curragh of Kildare
For it's there I'll find tidings of my dear.

Aye and cannot it remove
I pity the pain that you endure
For experience lets me know
That your hearts are filled with woe
It's a woe that no mortal can cure.
For Millennia the flat grasslands have attracted Celtic warriors, Soldiers, and Horses. St. Brigid aquired a gift of land for a monastery from the King of Leinster

The Other Women on the Curragh:
 "The soldiers called them ‘wrens’ because their homes looked like nests. There were ten nests in total, each one stitched into a dense strip of gorse just a few hundred metres from the entrance to the army camp. They measured no more than nine foot long and seven foot broad. The roof, if you could call it that, stood just 4½ foot high. There was no window, no chimney. But the walls were impressive, 20 foot thick in places, a closely compacted mesh of bog earth and gorse branches. "A Curragh Wren story

link to 

Monday, December 21, 2015


T'IS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY - especially in the Winter of the Northern Hemisphere - To stop from freezing, families re-unite, cousins kiss under the mistletoe, and neighbours go back and forth from each others hearths full of feasting and funny stories from the 2015 year!

For migrants to Australia like my Leeds born husband and I Brummy bred, the old ways of our ancestors are recovered from the internet and recorded on a Soundcloud! 

It's hot and muggy now and the McNeill-Higgins tribe is expanding and thriving -
we acknowledge the First Peoples who arrived on this Continent approx. 60,000 years ago. 
Our shortest day of the year is 21st June, so every year we celebrate the anniversary when hubby and I met at a winter solstice feast in Fitzroy, Melbourne many moons ago.

Then there's that glitch in revolutionary England when Christmas was legislated into another ordinary, business as usual day:

Our mistletoe on the wattle

link to MISTLETOE - As Australian as the-gum-tree


WASSAIL all over the Small Island where we came from - Branches in Middlesex, Cheshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Yorkshire, Aberdeenshire, Renfrewshire, & last but not forgotten the Island of Ireland.
In Dublin 2010 cheers to Irish ancestors with a Jameson's whiskey and a tale tell to tell from Gaelic heritage.

My music selection as I do a bit of old pagan ancestor worship of DNA present, past and future is BLUR - because the Season is a blend of cultural traditions from the Lords and Ladies of Misrule from the Roman Occupation & Saturnalia, Old Norse and Saxon Wais/hail - Good Health - Cheers and hang-over cures....

So gratifying to discover this You-Tube contribution - When Blur were boys/lads/cheeky brats exploring theirmusical and multi-cultural heritage, 

The Wassailing Song
Wassail, wassail all over the town
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

THOMAS & THOMASINE are favourite names for the CLARK/Bond/Cannaday kin in 17th century LONDON. Many of the Christmas festivities began on Dec. 21st St Thomas Day, and end on 12th night or Epiphany on January 6th (12th day is old Christmas Day).
Completely ignorant of the Thomasin' tradition of going to the better off houses in the neighbourhood, I went carol singing hoping for a cash bonus. 
You didn't have to sing - it was Church sanctioned begging or a redistribution of the wealth...basically asking for goods to get you through winter.

By the seventeenth century, wassailing parties were performing an additional service for apple farmers, especially in the southern and south-western parts of England. There was no set date for this sort of wassailing, although it always took place at some point during the Christmas season. 

After offering the occupants of the house a drink from the wassail bowl and serenading them, the wassailers would go into the orchards and bless the trees. They did this in a variety of ways, from drinking a glass of cider in honour of the trees, to placing food (often bread soaked in cider) around a tree’s roots or in its branches, to unleashing a volley of gunfire (which may have been intended to frighten away any evil spirits lurking in the orchard).

                              For your Pagan information 

Friday, February 27, 2015


Born in America 1907, W.H. Auden grew up in Solihull, Birmingham, son of a Doctor.

Harold, born Dec.1904 Selly Oak

Born on High St. Selly Oak,1902, Albert Higgins, son of a Sand-blaster at Ariel Cycle Works who died of T.B.(28yrs), when his sons were 3 and 1year old.

Though he had no Union ticket...Auntie said 
Grandad was no ordinary worker, some kind of
Mechanical Engineer, grateful to Herbert Austin's
Drive, energy and inventiveness.

Edwardian progress presented scholarship 
For smart working-class boys but
Grammar school was a long way on the bus,
Didn't suit...

Best bet, an Apprenticeship at a Factory
For gifted sons good at running numbers in their
Heads, in note-books, brothers in tandem 
Betting shops and an active membership
Of the Conservative PartySelly Oak branch.

Can't tell what he believed, because 
Of Parkinson's Disease; short shuffles, shakes,
Tremor and Tea spilling into his saucer, 
But that didn't prevent him teaching us 
Grandkids draughts.

Than todays, so he shuffled around the house and played
Draughts with us Grandchildren, supping his tea spills from
The saucer.

Once he was hardly home, said Nan, collected
Gold and Silver cups then walked the pavements,
For Darts, Snooker and Cribbage at the
Working-mens, Ex-Servicemen's, Conservative clubs,
Whilst running a Boxing ring at The Bournbrook.

The unassuming Higgins brothers, left no legacy
Of cruelty only kindness and a distant memory of
The kids to run swiftly with bets for their Dad,
And an extra bob.

Regular house-keeping to keep the Mrs... Happy, beer
And Bingo money was a Prize from Albert and
Harold, both good with numbers, and avoiding the clink.

Unlike the Peaky Blinders they had nothing to prove except
A secure home, wife and progeny who would keep out of
Trouble. His community service was keeping the sons of
Selly Oak on the straight and Narrow by teaching them
To keep fighting fit by Boxing at the Bournbrook Hotel
In a room he rented, a legacy of a Boys Grammar
Scholarship for smart working-class kids.

Some idea of the Longbridge war effort can be gained by the fact that over 8,000,000 shells were made along with 650 guns, 2,000 aeroplanes, 2,500 aero engines, 2,000 trucks and a host of other items.

The factory that produced them teemed with new developments. Research and metallurgical laboratories were added, new heat-treatment plants installed and the manufacture of gauges and measuring equipment to extremely high standards of accuracy became almost routine procedure.

On the personnel side a labour department was established and a hostel for seventy-five boys was opened with the object of giving practical and technical engineering training to suitable youths. This development later blossomed into the Austin Apprenticeship Scheme which has since supplied many leading executives both for the Company and its distributors throughout the world, as well as for other leading engineering concerns.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


John Donne Quotes Check out Pete's review of Daniel Handler's Adverbs here:
Rector of St Benet Gracechurch and later
St. Paul's Cathedral (favoured by King James 1)
MY MATERNAL CLARK FAMILY TREE IS FIRMLY ROOTED IN ANCIENT LONDON - 10th GG William Clark b.1655 in Whitechapel to Commonwealth soldiers
John and Thomasine Clark has family in Bishopsgate - his Grandmother a Thomasine Bond, daughter of THOMAS BOND b 1583.his Great Grandfather.

ST.THOMAS seems to be a favourite Saint, the 'doubting' Apostle.

Queen Elizabeth 1 makes a Knight of her gallant navigator
Walter Raleigh after he circumnavigates the world,
names an English colony, Virginia for her.

1580: Earthquake in London. The Puritans and members of the Common Council of London blame the emerging theater scene in London, which they saw as the work of the Devil, as the divine cause of the earthquake.

The Neighbourhood of Bishopsgate attracted many of the cultural icons we appreciate to this day, their ideas and thoughts truly expressed, resonate still.

Metaphysical POET  John Donne is also Rector of St Benet Gracechurch and records the marriage of my lucky 13th Grandparents! His handwriting makes it hard to read what Thomas Bond's occupation is so please let me know if you can decipher it!


This day Marriage of Grt Grandparents x 13 St Benet Gracechurch 1606, officiated by Rector John Donne.

1609   THIS 10th day of September was christened Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Bond .......He was writing Divine poems 1607 link 

Guy Fawkes and Catholic conspirators executed Jan.1606 for High Treason against King James 1.

Ben Johnson - Playwright and Poet
Playwright Aphra Behn

Thomas Bond age 23 - 26th February 1606 gives allegation(affidavit) to marry Elizabeth Swaine age 26yrs of St. Ethelbury parish. Marry here 2nd March 1606.
1609: Is this the famous John Donne recording Grt Grand Aunt Elizabeth Bond at St Benet Gracechurch St.?
1st Nov 1612 christening of Thomas sonne of Thomas Bond
This 1st day of November 1612 was christened Thomas sonne of Thomas Bond

Rector John Donne, Poet 

Grand Uncle Thomas b.1612

Before his promotion as Royal Chaplain to King James 1st in which he finally converted from his family faith of Catholicism the Rector was living precariously on the charity of friends.
     Sometimes reduced to great distress, as may be seen by the following extrańát from a letter to a friend dated from this place.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013



The living environment of kith and kin.

Within this den of iniquities were a community of shopkeeper/traders who were converted to the Religious Society of Friends, (founded by Lancashire non-conformist, George Fox). 

It was a risky business becoming a Quaker. 

Quakers believe everyone has what they call 'that of God' within them and that each of us has direct access to God. There is, therefore, no need of clergy or only receiving Divine Truth from the Bible alone!
The Parish of Stepney was a haven of Dissenters in the 17th century, and my ancestors are recorded at the Redcliffe Meeting house and the Bunhill Cemetry on Broad Street/Schoolhouse Lane.

Home of the Akers, Best and Clark families.

My maternal 6th Great Grandfather HENRY CLARK, a Mariner from Limehouse married MARY AKERS at St. Botolph without Bishopsgate by License 6th Aug 1788, an ordinary Anglican marriage, but she was born to Quaker parents.
george fox quotes | George Fox quote ~ Forest Hill meeting house | Good Quotes/Rules to L ...Being a Dissenter means arbitary persecution so to keep the Faith is a revolutionary act.
George Fox Quote

7th Great Grandfather Abraham Aker's birth was recorded at the Meeting House at Ratcliff in 1740.  
He and wife Ann(Fern) were Grocers of Broad St, Ratcliff Cross.
The rate records show they went from renting their premises to owning it.

The faith of George Fox and beliefs of the early Quakers were very attractive to London's abundance of small business people - 'the middling sort'. They didn't have to doff their hats to anyone...except God!

8th Grt. ABRAHAM AKERS 1715-1743 was a Tallow Chandler at Ratcliffe Cross (Candle maker. He would have been a member of the Guild who set the standards and measurements of the business).

                                           Warehouses at Limehouse - one used by the Akers?

Imports/Exports of London Port 17th century.

The Religious Society of Friends were excellent record keepers! Thankyou brave spirited ancestors!
They were very concientious in recording marriages as many Parishioners from St Dunstans Cof E
considered Quaker couples to be living in Sin because they didn't have a Priest to officiate.

9th Grt Grandparents

Transcribed as: And Anne Best daughter of John Best of Limehouse aforesaid Cordwainer having publickly declared their intention of taking each other in Marriage before several Meetings of the People of God called Quakers in London, according to the Good Order used among them, whose proceeding therein after enquiry and deliberate consideration thereof  with regard 
to the Righteous Law of God was allowed by the said Meetings; they appearing before? all Akers and having also the consent of parents and relations ?

NOW, those are to certify all whom it may ?   That for the accomplishing of their said marriage, this ninth day of the sixth month called August in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixteen, they the said Abraham Akers and Anne Best by this hand ?
openly ?
In the fear of the Lord and in the presence of this assembly(whom I desire to being witnesses) I take this my dear Friend Anne Best to be my Wife(promising through the Lord's assistance) to be to her a true and faithfull husband, until it shall please the Lord by death to Separate us. And then and thou in said Assembly, the said Ann Best did in like manner ? like Friends.In the Fear of the Lord and in presence of this Assembly(whom I desire to be my witnesses) I take this my friend Abraham Akers to be my Husband: Promising(through the Lord's assistance) to be to Him a loving and faithfull wife, till it shall please the Lord by death to separate us.
And the said Abraham Akers and Ann Best as a further Confirmation thereof and in testimony thereunto ?       set their hands. ?                  among Officers
at the solemising of 
We  whose names hereunto are subscribed being present among Officers, at the solemising of this  aforesaid Marriage and Subscription, in manner aforesaid, as Witnesses thereunto, have also to those presents Subscribers our names, the day and year above written.

George and his Friends didn't believe in monuments or gravestones but enough later Quakers thought it was important to mark the place where the founder of their Religious creed was buried.
Quakers were similar to the Levellers in an active pursuit of the principle of egalitarian respect.

 George Fox was confident that Baptism wasn't necessary, nor a woman being Churched when a baby was born, where the emphasis is cleansing of Original Sin. All makes sense to me in Australia of the 21st century! BUT there are still those who believe in the God of Abraham adhering to the Bible and the rules of the Patriarchs.
Unlike most of Westminster Parliament, Calvinist doctrine of Pre-destination was far away from the minds of Quakers. God did not discriminate in His Love for us - we are born as a being of Love not full of sin, not born destined to go to the Puritans believed, only the Elect go to Heaven.

BEST - Quakers and Shoemakers of Limehouse 

This little baby ancestor  ANN BEST may not be pre-destined to find her marriage mate - but growing up in the same Stepney Parish there's a high probability they will meet and find a lot in common!

The Quakers made much improvement on recording births, marriages and deaths in their registers. While Geneologists are grateful to Henry Tudor for requiring registers(for purposes of taxation), this birth record of my 9th Great Grandmother shows a recognition for the Midwife and female supporters.

Transcribed as: Ann, daughter of John & Thomzin BEST - Shoemaker was born ? fourth day of eighth month 1689 in Limehouse in ye Parish of Stepney witnessed by Sarah Robinson - Midwife (and 5 other women). Like the Levellers before them, there was an instinct and rationale for equality in any Christian community. This opened the way for abuse and satire but it enabled the voice and participation of females from the earliest days of the movement.

There is an informative web site about this
"Quakerism before the Restoration(1660) was a political, social and religious movement with some different social and religious views from the modern Society of Friends. In some ways they employed some of the same aspects of the contemporary sects of the Levellers and the Surrey Diggers, rejected the privileged structure of English society. They envisioned a new Society based on their own religious views of all godly men possessing the same internal Light or Spirit of Christ."

Non-conformity in speech 'Thee and Thou', dress style and etiquette like not doffing their hats to 'superiors' would be like the 1960's rebellion of men growing their hair long and being civilly disobedient. I was a young punk in 1980 - I would have been enticed to this progressive and distinctive sect as a teenager, but I wouldn't fear possible imprisonment or execution.

My early modern East London ancestors, the Akers and Best small business families show an Independent spirit in choosing to follow a Quaker life, and a courageous one.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Long Live the King! (not really)


Baby boy JOHN CLARK Grt Grandfather x 11) was baptised St John of Wapping on 5th April 1629.
Baby boy George Clark was baptised at St. John's on 6th March 1632.


THE KING'S WIFE WAS A CATHOLIC. One of the biggest participatory events in London was Guy Fawkes night to commemorate the terrorist gun-powder plot of Catholic nobles against James I and Parliament which was thwarted in the nick of time. It served to reinforce the distrust of what Cromwell called the Heathen, Heretic Catholic Irish when Parliament would commission him to wage a final oppression and conquering of Ireland in 1649.

As kids in Birmingham the annual Guy Fawkes bonfire night on 5th November was an Autumn week of fun and creativity. Gathering newspaper and pantihose to make an effigy of Guy was not really understood in a context of historical Protestant propaganda and zealous anti-popery.
We sat on the corner with our Guy and shouted, Penny for the Guy!
My street corner was great because we caught the workers getting off the bus... Here is an informative link to when this ritual really took hold. Remember, Remember the 5th of November...

Having access to the geneology of my ancestors has enabled a deeper learning of the territorial conflicts of my UK heritage. Growing up in Birmingham in the 1970's this 400 year history between Westminster and her Gaelic cousins was in the daily news.
The conflict got closer to home one day when I answered the phone to a strange man who said he was going to throw a bomb through our window us I.R.A. murderers.
Mum found out at the factory our house was published in the 'Evening Mail' as an armed I.R.A. house. Police had arrested a man age 26 Exeter Rd. Selly Oak. With no comma after 26, our home was a target of  one lone Protester.

The Birmingham Pub bombings meant mum came home early from her date with an ambulance officer who was needed on that tragic night of death and mayhem. As often happens in this drawn out generational war the miscarriage of justice against innocently jailed Irish accused did not warm me to my own governments side.

Even an 11 year old appreciative BBC viewer I reacted against the political censorship of the voice of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. I was learning to be cynical, and question authority. I had sympathy for my Celtic cousins cause. The anomaly is the rebel streak is mostly uncommon amongst my Commoners clan.

The British Army has provided bread and butter to the Clark families including against their own Catholic kin of the Home Rule effort in the 19th century and World War one in Dublin. What has triggered an appetite for military history though is the discovery of Great Grandparents x 11 John and Thomasin Clark who were the first professional soldiers in an English Republic which lasted 10 years. Their first expedition was to Ireland.