The wheelwright’s daughter and lost in a Malaysian jungle

I’m really enjoying my family history writing group, a lovely bunch of people and with very interesting and varied stories to share. We talked today about family celebrations and how much they have changed in our lifetimes, let alone from the former ages of our ancestors. This is the suggested topic for next time – our November meeting which will be our last this year – so mince pies on the menu I think!

We shared our stories and talked about the life of a young girl in a Shropshire village at the turn of the last century., hardly more than a child, and disabled, but looking after three young brothers. We had a story for Halloween about an extraordinary true experience of a man dangerously ill in hospital. We also had some plans for a story told from a different point of view – we’ve already had two brothers, miners, setting of to volunteer for the Great War – this next story will be about those they left behind. Another story about those left behind was of a young woman whose brother was away in the second World War; she had to look after her mother and several elderly and very sick relatives, while holding down a boring job to bring some money into the household.

Then we had the mysterious tale of the Somerset wheelwright. This is the ancestor of one of the group, who lived over two hundred years ago. He was just an ordinary working man in a small village and somehow his daughter managed to meet and marry a rich solicitor in London. Sadly her husband died but she married again and lived in a very posh house in a very posh area of the city. She was widowed again and married for the third time, another rich gentleman. The mystery of this story is how did such a humble young woman move into the upper echelons of London society? Was it a story of true love? Was the young girl the secret daughter of someone in a position of wealth and influence? Was she able to educate and present herself as what was then thought a ‘suitable’ bride for a London solicitor? The hope is that genealogical investigation will find the truth – if not, it’s a great subject for a story!

The last story which was shared today – at present notes ready to be written up, was a life of travel; aged sixteen, a young man (now a grown up member of our group) went to Malta and lived there with his family for several years. From there he went a land of deserts and sand and had many adventures, visiting small oasis villages, and going for a picnic in a place near Riyadh where the sand was pillar box red. He later visited Singapore and went on a road-trip; on the way up to Kuala Lumpur they stopped and he wandered into the jungle…this was a mistake… He’s an absent-minded fellow anyway, but entranced by what he saw, the sounds, the smell, he didn’t notice where he was going, and I guess one part of a jungle looks very much like another… This could have ended in disaster, except that he had been a keen reader as a boy and he remembered the stories of tracking and noticing broken twigs, damaged leaves, marks on the ground, he found his way back to the road and the truck… Lucky indeed!

So that’s the round-up of this month’s family history writing group!

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