• The Italian connection This summer we went to Lucca, Italy, and you probably know that our ancestor, Carlo Morganti, who was Grandpa's grandpa (his mother's father) came from a neighbouring village, Bagni di Lucca (above picture). Auntie Bee went there some years ago, and met some cousins who still remembered him, and even resented the fact that he hadn't come back to Italy after having emigrated to England in mid nineteenth century. There are still a number of Morganti people in Bagni di Lucca, as you can see if you hit the link.

    I thought it would be fun to tell you more about this Italian in our family, so here are the few facts which I have gathered. Carlo was born in 1843 in Bagni di Lucca, and left his country young, because in 1861 the census locates him in Clerkenwell, in the house of a fellow countryman, Giovanni di Franchi, and the document below indicates he's then 19.

    the 1861 census

    As you can see, he is listed as an "electro-typist" apprentice, to become a silver-smith, and was still unmarried then. AB (thanks a lot for her help!) tells me this job "could be interpreted as electo-plating of silver plating on base metal. Of course he would be taught engraving and type-setting of emblems etc." She adds that "he was apprenticed to a silver smith in Clerkenwell where they had many shops - and still do - specializing in clocks and silverware and sent from the family firm in Lucca who owned a very large business (from a pin to an elephant as Auntie Olive would quote) there." She also explains that he "was to return to the family business who had a huge business in Italy. He left the apprenticeship and of course must have been reluctant to return home and tried his hand at Opera singing. But nervousness militated against his ever doing well. He met and married his Irish wife (from Cork), Jane Mooney, in 1867. She had come over to London to find work. They had 10 children, among which our grandmother and great-grandmother Erminia Olivia, who was born in 1880 in Westminster. [Here, there are a few of the other children's possible names: Giuletta Carlotta (married to Charles Evelyn Johnson), Renaldo Terrance (married to Minnie Eva Parks), Carlo Luigi...] Most of those children went into the music business. But business reversals with a partner who ran off with the money left Carlo in debt. This must had led him into the demon drink! He just up and left. That was the disgrace."

    So anyway, all these children means that there are certainly many members of the family out there who can claim the same Italian ancestry as us! Carlo died in 1917 (at 74)... But the National Archives hold a record of his divorce from Jane Morganti in 1886: link. Is it the right couple? Because the 1891 census indicates he was still living with his wife at Tremlett Grove, Islington as a "vocalist". The children indicated to be living with him are Giuseppina, aged 17 (so born in 1874), Carlo, aged 14, Erminia aged 12 and Renaldo aged 9. As per the 1901 census, the Morgantis lived at Camden Town, and it's nice to see that the census-taker notes that Percy Hughes and Erminia are "visitors" in the house: since they were 24 and 21, perhaps they were living with Erminia's parents at the time? Percy is indicated to be a teacher (does someone what he taught?). He will later live in 13 Conway Villas, Conway Road, Palmers Green.

    So here's the family tree with Carlo in it (click on the picture to enlarge):

    The Italian connection

    As soon as I have more data, I'll post it: you can help too!


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  • In the Hughes' gardens, there weren't many additions of the kind you now often see, fancy gazebos, or ponds with a fountain, or a separation in the hedge leading to another part. It was very much a no-nonsense garden. Very small, relatively, anyway. Still, here's a post devoted to what used to be there. First the sandpit:

    Garden "furniture"

    This creation was no doubt Grandpa's contribution to the arrival of the third generation. It was built in very hard brick and flintstone and the sand inside was kept clean thanks to a great wooden tar-covered lid which was lowered on it at night to stop the rain out, but also cats from using it as their own territory. In the pictures with the first batch of cousins above, we can't see this addition, but below is a picture where on can see it, and how wide the sandpit used to be:

    Garden "furniture"

    I remember the lid was lifted for us to use the pit and was stood at the back, against the fence. In the sand, there used to be the usual seaside spades and forks, along with other interlocking scoops and small shapes which could reproduce sand turtles or sand towers. The sand was regularly sieved and checked for dead leaves and other impurities. Later other toys were brought inside, and I'm sure a number of Dinky cars were left to rust inside the sand! Later still, when I suppose fewer children came to play, the sandpit started to have its sand mixed with soil, even though it probably got changed over the years. Here's a late pic of grandma and AB's family sitting on the sandpit:

    Garden "furniture"

    Next in the garden, was a tall container whose function other more knowledgeable people will certainly tell us about, but which myself I can't explain. It's in the corner behind Jo and Tini and it seems to have hinges on the lower side:

    Garden "furniture"

    Could this big black box have been a sort of compost box? or tool box? I'm pretty sure it wasn't there any more later on.

    Then later, exactly when I can't say, came the water collectors which can be seen on the left of the picture below, next to the metallic bins at least one of which used to contain ashes from the fire:

    Garden "furniture"

    We can see the water collector behind Jean's armchair on this other picture:

    Garden "furniture"

    BTW, he's playing with a fake plastic pair of glasses cum big nose which we bought somewhere IN PG (WH Smith at the Triangle perhaps, but I'm not sure). 

    In Auntie Olive's garden, not far from the one step down from MP's garden (and the post where he had placed a handle I believe for his mother to hold on to when she was coming in to n°9), there was the only shed of the two gardens:

    Garden "furniture"

    Now I don't know when exactly it was bought and placed there, but I'd say in the 1970s because I don't remember it from the early times. It's already been spoken about on this blog, some people remembering its strong creosote smell and how it used to contain tennis balls and other playthings on top of the gardening tools and the mower which was in regular use (see picture further up and here)

    What is a pity is that I don't have a photo of the lawn roller which used to be left in the corner of Auntie Olive's back yard and slowly rusted there. I believe she used it occasionally, but it didn't look like it was very much in use in the older days. I think it looked like this one:

    Garden "furniture"

    Do you remember being told off because you were playing with the thing? I think I do...


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  • Palmers Green train station

    I knew I'd have to do this one sooner or later... Today the train station has acquired a number of features it didn't use to have when I was a boy in PG (above, the 1970s). Compare with below:

    Palmers Green train station

    For me the story of this little train station starts as we were taken by Auntie Olive down Aldermans Hill to Hazelwood Lane school, and when, crossing over the bridge, I had to be lifted up to see beyond the parapet to the Southern part of the railway vanishing far away in the distance:

    Palmers Green train station

    And there was a special thrill when an invisible train was heard rumbling below: I had to rush and see it, and when I became older to peep above the wall, I remember feeling the victory of the thing! Now you probably know that this station is an old one, dating back to 1870, as testifies this indication on the iron girder of the bridge, visible from the platforms:

    Palmers Green train station

    Palmers Green Railway station

    The author Stevie Smith speaks about the station in "Syler's Green", a lightly fictionalised account of her early life in Palmer's Green: "The railway station at Syler's Green bears the date of the Franco-Prussian war - 1870, and has the endearing style of its period, the wood lace frill to the canopy over the platform, the Swiss Chalet appearance of the very sooty-brick station.' (check here)

    Here are some older pictures, dating back to the beginning of the XXth century:

    Palmers Green train station

    It's nice because you can see the horse-drawn bus waiting for the travellers! Originally this station was called Palmers Green & Southgate:

    Palmers Green train station

    Above, one can see how far the platform extended, much further than it does today. Here's another view with an old steam engine waiting for departure:

    Palmers Green train station

    Here are a couple of tickets salvaged from somewhere on the net:

    Palmers Green train station

    Palmers Green train station

    I'm not sure, but I'd say rather yes, whether such tickets would have been like those I had to have to go with Mark to Enfield Chase, that year when we took the train in the morning to go to St Iggs (check here). Unfortunately, we didn't take a pic of our trips. So Here's Hélène instead (1978, the year she spent in England at Grandma's)!

    Palmers Green train station

    Oh, and while looking for pictures I stumbled upon this one: what exactly do you think he was doing up there? Perhaps he wanted to jump on top of the next train, as in James Bond movies...

    Palmers Green train station

    Here's a recently found map of the tracks layout in the 1930s (curtesy here)

    Palmers Green Railway station

    Some more pictures to complete the impression:

    Palmers Green Railway station

    Palmers Green Railway station

    And a close-up:

    Palmers Green Railway station

    Palmers Green Railway station

    You can see the semaphore on this picture (above, on the bridge) and below, its remains:

    Palmers Green Railway station

    Then there's this indication of The Air Raid Precaution Staff Shelter, still visible on the London-bound platform:

    Palmers Green Railway station


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  • Hi all, and a happy new year. During the holidays, I took up this book from a shelf (I knew it came from Auntie Olive, or perhaps Monsieur Père), and decided to re-read it - I remembered nothing apart from the title! But I must have read it in the early 1970s (in fact I finished it on Nov 14, 1973, just found the entry in the diary of that year!), and I think it must have been extremely difficult for me at the beginning, vocabulary wise. I no longer have the wonderful spooky cover at present (this is an internet pic), don't know where it went, what a pity! The scene described is on page 96 when the three heroes are caught running away from the searchlight coming from the enemy spaceship which has just landed on (lost) planet Hesikos in search for a telepathic instrument called "the Electronome", with a bad guy called Otto Shenk leading them. They are being shot at, but manage to get into their jeep unharmed. Nevertheless, the enemies also have jeeps, and race them. They catch up, because their engines are newer and more powerful. Fireshot resumes, closer and more and more dangerous. They can only hope for a miracle... and it happens! I'll stop there to avoid spoiling the story which no doubt the scores of readers of this blog will rush to read!!

    Angus McVicar was the son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister, and his books contain what the wikipedia page (or another) calls unobtrusive religious references, such as a poetic little flower called charity. I now understand why such an author might have been suggested to us! But in truth, it isn't bad at all, as far as children's fiction goes. The story unfolds easily, the pace is fast, the story for an adult's point of view is pretty transparent, but certainly a child would've jumped happily into all the tricks and suspense. What was fun was to realize that this 1955 book was still full of WW2 allusions: the crew stack the rocket with "rations", there are jeeps roving the planet, and the baddy's name, Otto Shenk, is strongly reminiscent of the recent warlike context (the previous books in the series had Russian baddies)...

    Indeed the book belonged to a series, with "The lost planet" as n°1, then "Return to the lost planet". "Secret of the lost planet" was n°3. As I was reading, the allusions to the previous episodes kept reminding me that I was reading a sequel, but this doesn't take away the pleasure. The fun comes from the sci-fi suspense atmosphere, where clear-cut characters are immediately recognizable and the optimistic vision is paramount. Apparently the series was very popular! There were 8 books in it.

    The novel belongs to its 1950 context, when the Cold war was a threat, especially through its allusion to "atomic" things: an atomic motor to power the spacecraft, atomically charged water as fuel (I suppose Angus McVicar was confident that children would never check what was behind this bogus science), and most of all, the "atomic gun" which is used to penetrate the underground city!

    Secret of the lost planet

    I wonder if and how much of the book (or series) has been used in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, because there are a good number of elements which are similar. On IMDb, they say the screenplay was written by a Cyril Hume. Anyway, what striking is the mention of a ancient civilization on a distant planet, an underground city guarded by a sliding door with airshafts, a mysterious Power source based on electricity and telepathy, a father and his daughter on the planet and in the spacecraft some men with a funny cook. Who knows?

    Have you seen it? Or read the book?


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  • Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    The writing on the wall

    Hello! Noël hasn't just been given the two albums which were the subject of the two previous posts, but a wad of notes which Grandpa had been writing day after day as a diary (he calls them that) every day during their trip. These notes presumably served as a source for the two albums, which appear in retrospect to be much better penned and organized, but also they're more aloof, whereas the notes contain a much closer appreciation, of a much more direct and intimate nature. They are therefore more interesting in that they are closer to the events and perhaps meant only for the chronicler, who doesn't let himself go as freely concerning what he writes in the albums, even if the latter weren't of course destined to a very wide audience. Jo told me not very long ago that she, for one, had never set her eyes on them.

    Now of course they aren't much more than a series of written pages, numbered from 36 to 100, and even if a few drawings occur here and there, it's mostly text. But, I thought, fascinating to read! They are really an insight into Grandpa's character, and they witness to his talent as a writer and his quick and complex personality. I've decided to select some pages for you (double click to enlarge)!

    First the pages which concern the missed departure, the description of which is much more developed here, and contain some reflections on the events:

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Then some thoughts on Kathleen and an article she was writing:

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    The next bit contains an amusing insight into Monsieur Père's relationships with Auntie Grandma:

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    The next page is his first day in Jerusalem:

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    In the next section, he speaks of some "tripe" he's writing (!) which refers to the suit described in the albums as a "tropical drill suit".

    You'll note the remark: "ordinarily, I look, well, ordinary"!

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Our last section for this post deals with Grandpa's dealing with the Temple merchants:

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes

    Holy Land (3) - the preparatory notes


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