Friday, 30 October 2015

Top of my mystery list

While I'm deeply immersed in mysteries of the fictional kind, as I beaver away writing the next Esme Quentin novel, I'm stacking up a few real mysteries of a family history nature which I plan to investigate once this first draft is in the bag.

I'm sure this young woman has a tale to tell. I can see by the initials on her epaulettes that she was a member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in World War I. I know her name is Nora from the signature in the corner but there after it gets tricky.

The notes accompanying the photo say she was the daughter of Hilary and Alice Griffiths but according to the records I have, their daughter was called Edna and was born in 1910, making her only 8 years old when this photo was taken. So, some significant detective work required there before I even start!

Another mystery on my long term hit list is that of my great aunt, Mary Ann Diggory or Annie, as she was called.

Annie walked out of the family home in 1904 when she was only 16 (shortly after the photograph on the right was taken).

No one heard from her again. Until, in her 90s, shortly before she died, she contacted her younger sister Edith, my grandmother.

I know Annie became a nurse and that she trained at Redhill hospital in Surrey before returning closer to home and living in Shrewsbury. But what was she up to in the intervening years?

The flamboyant Herbert Henry Coules Colley, my grandfather, born in 1871, known by his stage name as Ken Barton, has always been something of an enigma.

According to family lore, he joined Robson's Theatrical Company and travelled to South Africa. The story goes that he became ill and had to stay behind in Johannesburg when the company went on tour. He ended up, as naturally you might if you were a theatrical artiste and performer, as... an officer in a private mounted police force! Really? Now that's something I must get to the bottom of!

image courtesy of
And finally, having written about the Purle family (see Purles of Wisdom, Part 1) and their association with toxophily (i.e. archery), I was contacted by a present day manufacturer of archery equipment who, as an admirer of Harry Purle, the subject of my second post on the Purles (see Searching for Harry), had engaged a genealogist to research the family.

It seems that the name Purle may well be derived from the Purlewents, a well-to-do Somerset family prominent in the 17th century.

A quick check on Somerset's County Records catalogue threw up some interesting hits, so a trip to Taunton for a dig around in the archives looks to be the next stage of that particular journey.

But all that's for another time. For now, I must get back to my fictional secrets and writing the next Esme mystery!