Aug 152014

St Peter Port, Guernsey was our next stop and again we were  being tendered to shore. I have always had an interest in Guernsey  as it was the only part of the British Isles to be occupied during World War Two and it was a regular holiday haunt for some of my English cousins and I found out just before I went away was my boss’ wife ancestral place!

For a while I was not sure i would be going ashore as the sea had a bit of a swell and when you are not very tall, not very agile and the side of the tender boat suddenly drops three feet just as you are about to step on it gives you pause for second (and third!) thoughts. Shame there wasn’t a camera around as my face must have been a picture!

The sea, boat and I got in tune finally and I was safely on the boat.

The Guernsey sea front was quite colourful. The guide told us they had reclaimed some of the shore front and that the sea used to sea lot closer in.
We were doing a tour of the island by coach.  Guernsey is a tax haven and is business home to 70 or so international banks. This has also meant that home prices are extreme, costing million plus pounds for some fairly ordinary places with many places costing more than London prices which seemed horrific enough to us.

There were, of course, quite a number of mansions on Guernsey as you would expect for the home of more than 70 international trading banks and heavens knows how many companies head offices. I’ll never be the sort of person who has a mansion that needs a gatepost topper like this unicorn on my gate post. 

Although maybe I could make an exception and a  dragon could adorn my gate post of my humble abode as I love dragons and have collected them for years.

No maybe not.

This is the Little Chapel. It was built by Brother Déodat who started work in March 1914. His plan was to create a miniature version of the famous grotto and basilica at Lourdes in France. Apparently this was his second model as it is said the first model was taken by his bishop back to France. 

It is decorated with seashells, pebbles and colourful pieces of broken china as once the Brother had built the chapel it was of a grey brown material and didn’t look that nice so he started putting on decorations. A reporter from a London paper came to Guernsey on holiday and heard of the chapel and asked him what could he do to help and then wrote a piece in the paper about the need for broken crockery to cover the chapel and surrounds. Bags and parcels of china started coming from all over England but it was still slow going. Then the Brother received a letter from the very well-known Wedgewood factory asking how much china he needed and they sent a large skip of broken china. You can see the Wedgewood patterns and there were some comments from the tourists, ‘oh I have that pattern at home!’

You can’t come to Guernsey and not at least look at the cows that along with the Jersey cow are the progenitors of so many dairy herds around the world.

Guernsey was the only part of Britain that was occupied during World War Two. Evidence remains around the island of bunkers, gun emplacements and the memories are long of the difficult times that were endured.

On the coach tour were a couple of people who had been evacuated as children and I had a nice chat with them about a book I had bought about the evacuation, living in England with strangers then coming back after a number of years to family that had almost become strangers.

Guernsey was a lovely place and one day hopefully I’ll go back for a longer visit.

There had been a number of people who had missed my Timelines talk as they had attended the other presentation in the same time-slot. I had agreed to present it again during the Research Help Zone session today so headed back to get ready for that.

Then there was the Eileen O Duill and “Dublin, 30 June 1922: did everything blow up?” and of course the answer is no, not everything was lost. Yes there was a tragic loss of some records and no, the censuses that don’t exist today were not all burnt then as some had already been destroyed by the Government previously.

We are seeing many more Irish records being digitised and available outside the Irish archives and this is wonderful. Ireland is definitely one of the places where you have to know the history, politics and legislations in plae to know what records are likely tohave been created and what could be available today. The opposing session was Marie Dougan talking on Scotlands People. I had already had my great win using Scotlands People back at Inverness where i was able to acquire so many records for my fifteen pound investment.

Then Alan Phillips gave an update on the planned future cruises and you can find out more about them and download the new cruise brochure here. As a teaser there is the Sydney cruise in October this year, the Western Australian one in January 2015 to commemorate where our boys left from to go to Gallipoli 100 years ago, the Baltic cruise cruise in the middle of 2015 and then the Transatlantic one in late 2015 and a number of others after that including the New Zealand one where the eminent lecturer the legal Genealogist Judy Russell will be the lead presenter in early 2016.

Then it was time to have dinner and chat in the lounge where there were comfortable chairs, power-points (an essential item!) and genies talking family history.

Some of the genies had been spending a bit of time at night collaboratively doing a jigsaw puzzle and they had completed it. The topic was quite appropriate in timeframe.

There was a very creative Chef aboard the Marco Polo, who had had training as a wood carver. he created some very interesting fruit/vegetable animals and displays.


Aug 032014
Colourful Buildings of Tobermory

This was the day we were going to Tobermory, Isle of Mull and from there an excursion to Iona.

Again the weather was lovely (really! I am not sure who had the inside line to the weather gods but we had brilliant weather, just look at that sky). 

Tobermory was a pretty harbour with its coloured houses.

Church on the hill at Tobermory

Lots of trees here which was a stark contrast to the islands we have visited in the last few days.

As Rosemary and I had booked on the tour to Iona we went straight onto the coach so didn’t have time to meander around Tobermory. Those that did said it was lovely and there were great places to eat lovely seafood.

We had a nice guide (although she managed to confuse herself a bit with Australian history) 

Highland Cattle

Lachlan MacQuarie was born on the island of Ulva in 1762 just off the coast off Mull and is buried on Mull. He was the fifth Governor of the colony of New South Wales being appointed in 1809 and officially in residence ass Governor from 1 January 1810 to 1822. He died in 1824 not being as long-lived as his father who reportedly lived to be 103.

We did see Highland cattle although we did have to wonder if the guide had an arrangement with the farmer to have the cattle in a certain paddock as she no sooner started talking about them than we rounded the corner and there they were!

The drive to the ferry terminal for Iona was round two hours and then we and the other couple of coaches arrived. The ferry was also for the general public and the cargo transport to Iona which is just across the way but is a 25 minute ferry round trip. The ferry needed to transport a truck which had some sort of cargo which had a requirement for not many people to be on board so we had to wait a trip or so.

Weather vane

I saw this weather vane while I was waiting and thought it very cute. Looks like the dog got his dinner and the fellow misses out.

The sky and water was very blue and there were a number of people paddling on the beach both this side and the other.

Iona is about two kilometres off the coast of Mull and the main settlement, located at St. Ronan’s Bay on the eastern side of the island. A nice village with hotels, shops and the ruins of the Nunnery. I often wonder why the Nunnery is a distance from the church while the monastery is usually right near it. I know the monks went to Mass between midnight and dawn so I assume the nuns did too?

Ruins of the Nunnery

Anyway St Columba came ashore on Iona and Iona became established as a religious area. It is believed the Book of Kells was written (written is such an anemic word for the artistry of this book) here in the 800s. The Abbey was sacked by the Norse on a number of occasions.

It used to have around 25 Celtic crosses but now only a couple of original ones are left including the one below which is Crois Mhicilleathain (Maclean’s Cross).

Crois Mhicilleathain (Maclean’s Cross)

Then we came to the Parish Church where we spent some time wandering the cemetery (we are family historians! Of course we were going to wander the cemetery!)

Rosemary Kopittke at the Parish Church

And saw a number of very interesting headstones but I’ll save that for another post but also saw a number of headstones of unknown sailors generally merchant marine who had washed ashore during the Second World War. Sad when you think none of their families know where their sons,fathers,uncles lie in rest.


Then onto the Abbey.

The small building just behind the Celtic Cross is St Columba’s church. The Abbey has a long, long history and is what it is today due to being restored.

It is a peaceful church inside and worshippers still come and retreats are often held on the island.

Inside the church there were the ornamental tombs of George Douglas the Duke of Argyll and his wife.

George Douglas Duke of Argyll and his wife

We had to be back at the terminus so left in plenty of time to wander down. On the way we stopped for an ice-cream at the Low House. It had a sign warning people to duck their head as it was a very low doorway. Yes I fitted perfectly! Rosemary has a picture which I’ll have to get off her.

Back at the terminus there was  again a wait for the ferry and we didn’t get on the first or second one and there was some concern as we were running a bit later than planned.

Jackie Depelle who was one of the first speakers in the afternoon session had a paddle and we all enjoyed the sunshine as there was nothing we could do. The joys of 150 extra people arriving in an area on a beautiful summers day.

Bright blue sky and sea

We eventually got back over the straight and onto the coaches knowing we would be arriving back after the time we were told the Marco Polo would be sailing!

We knew they would not sail without us as we were on a ship organised excursion  but we were concerned as we knew Jackie Depelle was in the coach and we would be back after the start of her talk.

Marco Polo waiting for us

So we got back and there were some sighs of relief from others when they saw the ship.

Back onboard 20 minutes into the first session which meant I did not get to hear Geraldine O’Reilly’s talk on Portrait of a Parish: with a focus on place names. Jackie’s talk was postponed.

I sat down in the Captain’s Lounge, our hangout for this cruise (it had power points, comfortable chairs, friendly waitstaff who would bring coffees, what more could one ask (except internet but that is another story!) and started helping some people with some research queries. 

This meant I missed Sean Ó Dúill talking on Country cures from Irish folklore which was a session open to all the ship’s passengers and also Lesly Silvester talking on What were the Quarter Sessions?

Then time for the scheduled Research Help Zone before it was time for me to give my next presentation ‘Timelines as a research tool’. At the same time as mine was scheduled ‘Family History sources before 1837’ by Jackie Depelle and we had a number of unhappy people who had wanted to hear both presentations. this can be a difficulty sometimes when a dual program is being run. I was able to alleviate their distress by promising to do the timelines talk again a few days later which I did and had nearly the same number in the audience.

I even had Lisa Louise Cooke in the audience and I am very much looking forward to seeing her creative timelines. I am a good researcher and scientist  but don’t have a creative bone in my body so I really admire creative people!

I then started my next talk which was on ‘Understanding the context: why social history is important in your research’, showing examples of how knowing the cultural, political, social, environmental aspects of your ancestors lives can make such a difference to your research. 

This meant I missed Mike Murray’s  talk on ‘Highland Clearances: where did they go?’ which was a shame after seeing some of Scotland and seeing the conditions and understanding a little better (even though I have no research in these areas) about what occurred.

Then it was time for dinner. The ship has started during the early sessions on its way to Dublin our next stop.