Popular Posts

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beware the Wrath to Come - Salford in the 1880s (YouTube Clip from the film Hobson's Choice)

Sir John Mills 'Hobson's Choice'

Harry Shorrocks' Choices

My Shorrocks' family's Brush Manufacturing business in Salford in the 19th Century puts me in mind of the British film 'Hobson's Choice'.

I suspect that some of the family feuding, bullying and class conflict that it portrays lies at the heart of my grandfather Harry's decision to throw off his Shorrocks surname and start a new life in London around 1905.


Hobson's Choice is a 1954 film directed by David Lean, based on the play of the same name by Harold Brighouse. It stars Charles Laughton in the title role of Victorian bootmaker Henry Hobson, Brenda De Banzie as his eldest daughter Maggie and John Mills as a timid employee. The film also features Prunella Scales, in one of her first roles, as daughter Vicky Hobson.

Hobson's Choice won the British Academy Film Award for Best British Film 1954. Willie Mossop (John Mills) is a gifted, but unappreciated shoemaker employed by the tyrannical Henry Horatio Hobson (Charles Laughton) in his moderately upscale shop in 1880s Salford. Widower Hobson has three daughters.

Maggie (Brenda De Banzie) and her younger sisters Alice (Daphne Anderson) and Vicky (Prunella Scales) have worked in their father's establishment without wages and are eager to be married and free of the shop. Alice has been seeing Albert Prosser (Richard Wattis), a young up-and-coming solicitor, while Vicky prefers Freddy Beenstock (Derek Blomfield), the son of a respectable corn merchant.

Hobson doesn't object to losing Alice and Vickey, but Maggie is far too useful to part with. To his friends, he mocks her as a spinster "a bit on the ripe side" at 30 years of age. Her pride injured, she bullies the contented, unambitious Will Mossop into an engagement.

When Hobson objects to her choice of husband and refuses to start paying her, Maggie decides that she and Willie will set up in a shop of their own. For capital, they turn to a very satisfied customer for a loan. With money in hand, they get married and, between her business sense and his shoemaking genius, the enterprise is very successful.

Within a year, they have taken away nearly all of Hobson's clientele. Finally, at Maggie's urging, Mossop goes into partnership with Hobson, now an almost-bankrupt alcoholic, on condition that Hobson take no further part in the business.

Hobson's Choice (1954 film) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In wrath and ill-feeling they parted, Not knowing when they'd meet again

by Marriott Edgar (1932)

I'll tell you an old-fashioned story
That Grandfather used to relate,
Of a joiner and building contractor;
'Is name, it were Sam Oglethwaite.

In a shop on the banks of the Irwell,
Old Sam used to follow 'is trade,
In a place you'll have 'eard of, called Bury;
You know, where black puddings is made.

One day, Sam were filling a knot 'ole
Wi' putty, when in thro' the door
Came an old feller fair wreathed i' whiskers;
T'ould chap said 'Good morning, I'm Noah.'

Sam asked Noah what was 'is business,
And t'ould chap went on to remark,
That not liking the look of the weather,
'E were thinking of building an Ark.

'E'd gotten the wood for the bulwarks,
And all t'other shipbuilding junk,
And wanted some nice Bird's Eye Maple
To panel the side of 'is bunk.

Now Maple were Sam's Mon-o-po-ly;
That means it were all 'is to cut,
And nobody else 'adn't got none;
So 'e asked Noah three ha'pence a foot.

'A ha'pence too much,' replied Noah,
'Penny a foot's more the mark;
A penny a foot, and when rain comes,
I'll give you a ride in me Ark.'

But neither would budge in the bargain;
The whole daft thing were kind of a jam,
So Sam put 'is tongue out at Noah,
And Noah made 'long Bacon' at Sam.

In wrath and ill-feeling they parted,
Not knowing when they'd meet again,
And Sam had forgot all about it,
'Til one day it started to rain.

It rained and it rained for a fortni't,
And flooded the 'ole countryside.
It rained and it kep' on raining,
'Til the Irwell were fifty miles wide.

The 'ouses were soon under water,
And folks to the roof 'ad to climb.
They said 'twas the rottonest summer
That Bury 'ad 'ad for some time.

The rain showed no sign of abating,
And water rose hour by hour,
'Til the only dry land were at Blackpool,
And that were on top of the Tower.

So Sam started swimming to Blackpool;
It took 'im best part of a week.
'Is clothes were wet through when 'e got there,
And 'is boots were beginning to leak.

'E stood to 'is watch-chain in water,
On Tower top, just before dark,
When who should come sailing towards 'im
But old Noah, steering 'is Ark.

They stared at each other in silence,
'Til Ark were alongside, all but,
Then Noah said: 'What price yer Maple?'
Sam answered: 'Three ha'pence a foot.'

Noah said 'Nay; I'll make thee an offer,
The same as I did t'other day.
A penny a foot and a free ride.
Now, come on, lad, what does tha' say?'

'Three ha'pence a foot,' came the answer.
So Noah 'is sail 'ad to hoist,
And sailed off again in a dudgeon,
While Sam stood determined, but moist.

Noah cruised around, flying 'is pigeons,
'Til fortieth day of the wet,
And on 'is way back, passing Blackpool,
'E saw old Sam standing there yet.

'Is chin just stuck out of the water;
A comical figure 'e cut.
Noah said: 'Now what's the price of yer Maple?'
Sam answered: 'Three ha'pence a foot.'

Said Noah: 'Ye'd best take my offer;
It's last time I'll be hereabout;
And if water comes half an inch higher,
I'll happen get Maple for nowt.'

'Three ha'pence a foot it'll cost yer,
And as fer me,' Sam said, 'don't fret.
The sky's took a turn since this morning;
I think it'll brighten up yet.'


Well, I am finally in touch with the descendants of my grandfather's brother. The bad news though is that while they have been puzzled by Harry Shorrocks (i.e. Johnson’s) presence in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses, there is no oral history that explains his disappearance from 28 Nadine Street, Salford around 1905 - or the lack of any subsequent contacts with the family of his brother Robert Mallinson Shorrocks.

We have then to take the charitable view that, as with Sam Oglethwaite the joiner and building contractor whose saga is recounted above, sheer Northern cussedness or ‘okkardness’ may have played no small part in the family rupture.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Thousand Mile Bike-Ride

Well, actually a whole lot more than 1,000 miles!

In 1960, when we were sixteen, I biked with six friends from Cheshire ‘around the North Sea’. The photo shows us just about to start the journey from the house of one of the party, Pat Cross, in Rowton near Chester. The members of the party are (from left) Tony Male, Chris Sumner, Roger Wilkinson, Bruce Colenso, Keith Johnson, and Pat Cross.

The trip took us about 4 weeks. Somewhere in Schleswig Holstein, I smeared my fingers in oil from my bike chain (or in Cheshire dialect 'bletch') and wrote '1,000 miles to Chester' on an otherwise immaculately clean German distance marker.

We travelled between 80 and 120 miles per day, staying in youth hostels that we had pre-booked. The journey took us through the Welsh Borders and then across to Dover. Landing in Ostend, we happily cycled unknowingly down the Ostend to Bruges motorway (such things were a mystery to us and we confused the horn-tooting for encouragement rather than irritation).

Then on through the Netherlands and Northern Germany and up into Denmark. Thence we took the ferry across from Fredrikshavn to Goteborg and on to Oslo. And back home from Newcastle through the Yorkshire Dales.

On my visit to England in October 2009, I caught up with Chris Sumner at a dinner hosted by Bruce Colenso, and Chris still retains his Youth Hostels Association card with all the various hostel stamps.

My overriding memories are of quiet, relatively flat roads, pine forests and occasional road houses serving fried potatoes and wurst. The hostels that still come to mind are those of Vught, Werden Aller and Aabenraa. At the first of these, the warden woke the dormitories in the early morning by playing his guitar and singing Dutch folk songs.

In Aabenraa, we were at first mistaken for Germans being much more noisy and self-involved than the locals but the Danes brought us apples and sweets when they found out that we were English – shades of WWII. Denmark was also the scene of an unfortunate reaction of my young stomach to a Danish pastry and a Carlsberg beer – wow, how about that for exotic back in 1960!

I owe the photo to Bruce Colenso who has made three successive summer visits to Wellington with his wife Shirley – and whom we hosted for a meal a week or so ago. The second photo shows me with Bruce in Island Bay in 2009 – we haven’t changed a bit!

The Old Bodkins


'The Bodkins of Galway, and the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, were descended from the same common ancestor, Maurice FitzGerald, Lord of Windsor, and one of the first invaders of Ireland, under Strongbow.

His son, Thomas FitzMaurice, acquired ample possessions in Munster, where his descendants became Earls of Desmond. Richard, the son of Thomas, about the year 1242, held considerable properties in Connaught, under Richard de Burgo and Thomas, his son, was the ancestor of the Bodkin family.

This family name originated, according to tradition, from a victory gained by their great progenitor, Thomas FitzRichard (about the year 1300) over a valiant Irish knight, whom he encountered in single combat, and having in the conflict, made use of a short spear or weapon, in Irish called a Baudekin, he was from the circumstances surnamed Buaidh Baudekin (of the victory of the Bodkin) – which name was afterwards retained by his descendants.

Whatever doubt may attend this tradition, none can exist as to the origin and descent of the family, which are fully ascertained by the testimony of the Geraldines, whose arms the Bodkin family bore for many generations, and whose motto, Crom aboo, they retain to this day.

Henry Bodkin, the son of Thomas, was Clericus ville of Galway in the reign of Ricjard II, at which time, there was a street in the city called Baudekyn’s Lane. They were possessed of large properties in and about the town, particularly at Newcastle, near the river, and at Athenry, Toberskehine, Ballynamceatagh, Kilcornan and Parek. At present the principal families of the name are those of Annagh, Carrowbeg, Casteltown, Kilcloony, and Thomastown'.

Arms: Ermine on a saltire, gules (red), a leopard’s face, or (gold). Crest: a leopard’s face, or.

From: the History of the Town and County of Galway form the earliest period to the present time by James Hardiman, Dublin, 1820 (Google Books)


The motto of the Fitzgerald family is "Crom-a-boo", the ancient Irish war cry of the clan Fitzgerald. Crom (i.e. Croom, near Limerick) being the name of their castle, the cry may be translated 'Crom forever!'"

Apparrently, there is an Irish word, Abú, which means "forever, long life," etc. Éire abú means "Ireland Forever"!!! (A kind of victory toast if you like.)

An alternative explanation of the phrase "Crom a boo!" is that it is the Irish (Gaelic) term a buadh, meaning "to victory!" Buadh, pronounced 'boo-a', is the Irish word for victory (i.e. it was a warcry, not a toast to the health of the clan).


'Rising from the annals of every great city is a story of such singular eminence that it serves to define the very character of the town. For Galway the story is that of the fourteen tribes that led the city to a golden age of prosperity and international recognition.

Indeed, Galway is known to this day as The City of the Tribes, though it has been more than three hundred and fifty years since the control of those illustrious merchant families was irrecoverably smashed by the armies of Cromwell.

The story of the Tribes begins in earnest with the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland during the late 12th century. Among the invaders were those of the powerful de Burgo family. The de Burgos took a keen interest in the province of Connaught (Connacht), and with the consent of Henry II of England they wrestled the land from the natives.

On the wings of the de Burgo's claim, many families of Norman descent swept into the area. In a short time, fourteen of these families distinguished themselves as merchants. As recorded in Hardiman's History of Galway, those families bore the following surnames: Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'Arcy, Deane, Ffont, Ffrench, Joyes, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerrett.

Profiting from one of the best seaports in Western Europe, the families accumulated such immense wealth and fame that they claimed complete control over civic affairs. In 1484, Richard III granted the families a charter to rule without the interference of the de-Burgos, who were prone to frequent revolts against the crown. The treaty also gave the families control over the ecclesiastic affairs of the city. Thus, the merchants had supreme and unfaltering control of Galway for nearly the next two hundred years.

The Tribes were a highly distinctive group. They thought of themselves as English nobility and were intensely loyal to the crown. This would later prove problematic because of their allegiance to the Catholic Church! Furthermore, their claims to nobility led them into utter exclusivity, and they refused to marry outside of their tight-knit group.

Despite their closely woven and independent nature, visitors were often in awe of the remarkable character of Galway's inhabitants. As recounted in Hardiman's History, visitors described the Galwegians to be kind to strangers, hospitable and of a great public spirit – this, in addition to their uncommonly refined manner of living.

Partly because of their genuine loyalty to the crown, and partly due to England's distraction with the Wars of the Roses, Galway experienced many years of near autonomy – recalling the splendour of the ancient Greek city-states. Flourishing trade with Spain and the West Indies resulted in Galway being recognised as one of the finest cities in the West.

Indeed, it is said that a traveler, in the time of Galway's finest hour, once asked a native where in Galway Ireland might preside! Nevertheless, all ages must pass, and the rise and fall of the Stuarts in England would signal Galway's fall from grace.

Because of their royalist tendencies, the Tribes of Galway opposed the removal of Charles I from the throne. The Tribes proclivity to take the opposing side in these matters eventually led to Cromwell taking the city. Caught in a difficult situation, the merchant families would neither defend the city from Cromwell, nor would they join the onslaught, this led to Cromwell's forces famously assigning them the derogatory name 'Tribes of Galway', which was later adopted by the merchants in defiance.

After the city's fall the merchants were deprived of their property and their right to govern. With the Restoration they briefly regained hope of retrieving their lost glory, only to meet a sour disappointment with William and Mary ascending the throne shortly after.

While the Tribes of Galway never regained the grandeur they once had, they went onward, having influence in the city as late as the 19th century. But what remains so utterly remarkable, is that Galway is still 'The City of the Tribes' in many ways. It would not be as it is, if it were not for them.

The 14 merchant families of Galway forged the city as we know it. And though we may be unable to peer into the celebrated Galway as it appeared at the merchant’s height of power, we can be sure that their story will forever be delivered to us from the chasms of history, and their contribution will not be forgotten'.

Jeremy M. Usher
November 2000

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Bodkins of Monte Christo, Clyde, Central Otago

As told by Jane's father Bill Bodkin:

‘My father Arthur Charles Bodkin was the only one of the New Zealand Bodkins to have male descendants. It s remarkable that from all of James Bodkin’s and Eleanor Black’s children, ten in number, there were only four surviving grandchildren. So it was my brother and myself that carry on the line. [Keith’s sons Sam & Theo have both been given the surname Bodkin to ensure that the name continues in New Zealand for another generation].

My father Arthur attended the Clyde primary school and like the others, left from Standard VI to work on the farm. This was in 1902 – Jack and Jim were there, as were the five girls, but Willie had gone off to school in Christchurch.

The Monte Christo farm was predominantly dairy orientated in those days, although there was an orchard as well. It is not difficult to picture the boys bringing in the cows for hand-milking in the byre at the east end of the old stone building (see photo above). Milk was set in flat open-topped pans in the dairy for skimming by the girls – the cream being churned into butter for sale.

My father also tried his hand at selling milk to the townsfolk of Clyde, because I remember him telling me of a run-in that he had with a dog at a customer’s house. The next day he took a handy lump of wood that he called a ‘waddy’ to assist him should the argument recur. However, he met the owner and they reached an agreement about where the dog would be, when and if milk was to be delivered.

My father Arthur has been described as quiet and unassuming. Certainly he did not have any apparent ambitions other than to work quietly on the family farm. Though, not even in my most extravagant of moods, could I describe my father as a progressive farmer. While he worked steadily and often long hours, his outlook was very conservative.

When he met and married Ivy May Kloogh in 1926, at 36 years of age, Monte Christo was divided to give him a farm of his own. A house was built for the newly-weds at the top of the rise overlooking the original homestead. This residence is the only one of the three houses of Monte Christo still in existence as I write in 1998.

Ivy had been helping her brother Albert on a neighbouring orchard when she and Arthur met. My grandfather Nils Peter Kloogh was a native of Sweden – and after emigrating to New Zealand, he became the master of several gold dredges on the Clutha River flats. Ivy was the youngest of the 8 children of Nils and his wife Tamar (nee Kitto).

My mother was always an outdoor girl, preferring to help with the milking or some other outdoor chore rather than doing housework. Her house was constantly untidy, but fortunately she was a competent cook – so we didn’t starve.

Relations between the various Bodkins at Monte Christo in the 1930s and 1940s were continually finely balanced. I think that living so close together was party of the cause but I am sure that my five maiden aunts resented my father marrying my mother. By the time he had reached the age of 36, they probably thought that he would not marry and deprive them of a male in their household. My mother’s lack of concern for the state of her house did not improve matters.

The Bodkins of Monte Christo may have presented a calm picture to the outside world, but within the extended family, they were quite fiery!

During my time with them, my parents milked 35-40 cows, separated the cream and sent it in cans to the Taieri & Peninsula Dairy Factory by train. To augment the rather skimpy income thus obtained, they kept pigs (which consumed the skim milk and reject fruit), and grew a variety of cash crops that included marrows and pumpkins, peas and strawberries, as well as walnuts and almonds.

It was a happy and simple life, as I remember it – in the best traditions of neighbours helping each other with seasonal work like hay-making. We had few luxuries and our needs were basic. These were hard times during the Depression in the 1930s. We had no car or electricity and cooking was on the old black coal range.

We travelled to ‘town’ (Clyde) by bicycle or horse and gig for the few supplies we required, and seldom ventured further. It was years before I realised that you could buy new nails – all the nails that I had ever seen had been reclaimed and straightened!

Maybe once a year, in the winter, when the cows were all dry, we would go to Dunedin, staying at Abbotsford with my mother’s mother and sister. On a rare occasion, my father might go to the Dunedin Winter Show. If my mother went also in school term, my brother and I were boarded out in the aunts’ house. A mixed blessing!

Our house had but a single bedroom, so my brother and I at first slept in the ‘sitting room’ – a kind of front room or lounge which probably was intended to be where guests were entertained. Later a small veranda was closed in and we slept there, often with the door to the porch open. On the many frosty nights, I usually slept with my head completely under the blankets. If I did have my head in the open air, in the morning the covers around my head would be decorated with ice from my breathing vapours.

Lighting in the big kitchen was by kerosene lamp – an ‘Aladdin’ which used a fragile incandescent mantle to distribute light. The dark wooden panels around the room did nothing to enhance visibility. Heating was from the black stove, where my mother had pride of place for keeping warm, with her feet in the oven.

My mother and father were a devoted couple and I never heard any cross words between them – if any altercations did occur, they did not happen in front of the children. However, we were not a demonstrative family and, as we grew older, there were few displays of public affection. I do recall though that my mother and I competed for the ‘first kiss’ after my father had shaved, which he did about three times a week.

While the Bodkins tended to be a serious lot, my mother’s side of the family were possessed of a more highly developed sense of humour. This was most evident in my mother and her brother Albert. Even when she was well into her nineties and living alone in a small cottage in Clyde, Ivy retained her impish nature.'

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sir William Bodkin ('Uncle Willie')

From New Zealand Dictionary of Biography

Bodkin, William Alexander 1883 - 1964
Lawyer, local promoter, politician

William Alexander Bodkin was born in Queenstown on 28 April 1883, the son of Irish immigrants James Bodkin, a watchmaker, and his wife, Eleanor (Ellen) Black. In 1889 his father purchased the Monte Christo farm near Clyde, where Frenchman Jean Desire Feraud had experimented with grape growing and irrigation.

William spent most of his childhood here, where his father grew fruit, raised dairy cattle and continued Feraud’s experiments with irrigation.

William left school at 12 or 13 to work on his father’s farm but earned enough money from rabbit shooting and investments in a local gold-dredging operation to fund his secondary education from the relatively advanced age of 18. He attended Wilson’s School in Christchurch and matriculated in 1904. He then proceeded to the University of Otago to study law and won admission to the Bar in 1909.

He immediately purchased the practice of J. R. Bartholomew in Alexandra; about 1930 it became Bodkin and Sunderland. Bodkin specialised in mining and irrigation law and in 1909 adopted the role of local booster by setting up a group to promote irrigation in Central Otago. He married Elizabeth Lillias McCorkindale, a schoolteacher, at Manuka Creek, South Otago, on 1 September 1920; they were to have one daughter.

Politically, Bodkin supported mainstream liberalism with its emphasis on development, self-help and closer land settlement. He first ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1914, standing as a Liberal against the Reform Party MP Robert Scott. Bodkin then turned his attention back to developing irrigation and revitalising mining. He acted as Alexandra’s borough solicitor and served one term on the borough council.

In 1928 he won the Central Otago parliamentary seat for the United Party led by the ageing Sir Joseph Ward. He was a vigorous supporter of Ward’s unsuccessful attempt to revive John McKenzie’s closer settlement policies of the 1890s. Despite this disappointment he proved an able parliamentarian and a good speaker, and served as chairman of committees in 1930–31.

Bodkin’s political influence diminished during the years of the coalition government (1931–35). His calls for greater help for farmers and the revitalisation of goldmining added to his local popularity, however, and he strengthened his hold on the seat by continuing to promote irrigation schemes and tourism. His attempts to revive gold dredging proved less successful.

Despite his managing to secure the passage of a special bill in 1936 to shore up the Molyneux Gold Dredging Company, this ill-fated venture failed to pay a dividend. Other dredging efforts proved only slightly more successful and the long-promised boom never eventuated. Bodkin decided thereafter that the expansion of tourism and fruit growing based on adequate irrigation held the keys to a more certain economic future for the arid region of Central Otago.

Following the coalition government’s defeat in 1935, he played a very active part in building the more broadly based conservative New Zealand National Party, which was established in 1936. Bodkin was rewarded for this and his effectiveness as an opposition speaker by being made minister of civil defence within the short-lived bi-partisan War Administration in 1942.

When National won the treasury benches in 1949, he served as minister of internal affairs and minister of social security and, from 1951, minister in charge of tourist and health resorts. Bodkin proved an able administrator and earned a reputation as an expert in parliamentary procedure, but he failed to make any outstanding contributions to his portfolios.

It seemed that his particular talents were best suited to the role of local advocate and opposition critic. Walter Nash hinted at this when, in 1954, he praised the retiring minister for his conscientious administration, generosity to his constituents and fine speeches made when in opposition.

The other major reason for Bodkin’s enormous local popularity was the prominent role played by his wife in community affairs. Elizabeth Bodkin established the Central Otago branch of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Health of Women and Children in 1915. She served as president of the branch from 1933 to 1949, as a dominion councillor between 1932 and 1960 and as dominion president from 1950 to 1957.

This involved much travel around New Zealand and earned her a reputation as an able advocate for the cause of improved child-rearing practices. She also found time to be a supportive wife to a busy local MP who had to travel widely among his scattered constituents.

Bodkin was knighted in 1954. After his retirement he focused his energies on local history and founded the Alexandra District Historical Association and a local museum. He died at Alexandra on 15 June 1964, survived by his wife and daughter. The new museum built in Alexandra in 1967 was named the Sir William Bodkin Museum in his honour.


Obit. Central Otago News. 16 June 1964

Obit. Otago Daily Times. 16 June 1964: 1

Ramage, G. Alexandra: a place in the sun. Alexandra, 1990

Bodkin Family - Early Settlers in Central Otago, New Zealand

My wife Jane's family in New Zealand descend from the Bodkins of Armagh, Northern Ireland. Jane's great, great, great grandparents were James & Esther Bodkin (nee Esther Charles) who married in Armagh in 1837. Esther died in 1888 aged 67 and James was therefore probably born around 1815-1818. [lower photo]

Jane descends from their son James who was born in 1845 in Dennygard, County Derry. He came to New Zealand in 1864. He married Eleanor Black (born 1854 in Cookstown, Ireland) in 1872 in Queenstown, New Zealand. [upper photos]

We have an invoice for 15s [top photo] from James' business. He describes himself as a 'Practical Watch & Clockmaker, Jeweller etc.' A very useful trade on the Otago Goldfields.

James had an elder brother John, whose death is recorded on gravestones in the family plot in Desertmartin and also in the Wakatipu Mail of 24 August 1888:

'BODKIN - On 23rd May at sea, on board the SS City of Sydney, on the homeward bound voyage (from China), John Charles Bodkin, MD Surgeon, HIM Customs and Navy, Chefoo, China, brother of James Bodkin of Queenstown.

Apparently the New Zealand family featured a picture of J.C. Bodkin on the wall of their house for many years.


Chefoo (as Yantai was then officially known) played a role in the second Opium War (1856-1860). This conflict between the Western powers and China was concluded by the Treaty of Tianjin, under whose terms nearby Dengzhou (Penglai) was opened to foreign trade and investment as a ‘Treaty Port’.

The first British consulate, Morrison, finding Dengzhou's port too small and shallow, recommended the lease title be shifted to Chefoo, which has a large, sheltered bay (there is still a street in town named after him). Other consuls followed Morrison in setting up their establishments on Yantai Hill.

The town never achieved the success of other treaty ports to the South, such as Shanghai, but brought some modest prosperity to the Shandong coast. The boarding school for the children of Western missionaries was sited in Chefoo because of its favourable climate. The treaty which ended the Sino-Japanese war of 1895 was signed in the Chefoo Club

The Chefoo School also known as the Protestant Collegiate School or China Inland Mission School was a Christian boarding school established by the China Inland Mission - under James Hudson Taylor- at Chefoo (Yantai), in Shandong province in northern China, in 1880. Its purpose was to provide an education for the children of foreign missionaries and the foreign business and diplomatic communities in China.

The curriculum was based on the British education system, heavily emphasizing classical courses designed to prepare students for entrance to British universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. Mr W L Elliston began to teach the first three pupils in 1881.

By 1886, the number of pupils grew to over 100, and there were three departments - the Boys', Girls' and Preparatory School. In 1886 the Boys and Girls schools were separated. The children of China Inland Mission workers alone numbered over 200 children by 1894.

Yantai is now a prosperous city of 3m people, dwarfing the town of Penglai, the original treaty port site.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Family History: Internet Sleuthing - don't forget Facebook

For those readers who like genealogical / family history detective stories, I will splice in a taster here of a possible unravelling of a knot.

My grandfather Harry Johnson was it seems a breezy, blousy, overweight and heavy drinking Northerner. He settled in South London, working as a Stockbroker’s Clerk in the City of London. In the 1911 UK Census, he admits to having been born in Salford, Lancashire in 1879. In both of his marriage certificates, he cites his father as ‘Robert Edwin Johnson, Brush Manufacturer’.

Male-line YDNA has confirmed the circumstantial evidence available in the birth, marriages and deaths records that Harry was in fact born Harry Shorrocks, son of Robert Edwin Shorrocks, Brush Manufacturer, of Salford, and that he changed his name to Harry Johnson when he ‘did a runner’ around 1903-05 to escape the past or evade the law. None of his descendants had been previously aware of the change of name.

In the light of the discovery, I have been trying for some years to re-establish contacts with Harry’s father’s family and in particular with the descendants of Harry’s younger brother Robert Mallinson Shorrocks (born 1887).

Just yesterday, I became aware that Nigel Giles had posted new information about relatives of his wife on his GenesReunited Family Tree. His wife’s link is to the Tittle family, one of whom married a Robert Shorrocks (who was born in 1926) - he is one of the sons of Robert Mallinson Shorrocks. The Tree also notes the three children of Robert Shorrocks and Marny Tittle, namely Robert (born 1955), Marjorie (born 1954) and Norma (born 1952), and gives as well the names of the seven grandchildren.

I then paid about UK 7 pounds to obtain online access to the UK Edited Voters’ Rolls through LocateGB.com.

A few hours’ work helped me to narrow down the whereabouts of the families of Norma, Marjorie and Robert.

But the Internet - and modern online networking offers more.

The grandchildren then came into play. They are devotees of Facebook - and I was able to identify them there. I have posted their pictures above. So – even if my attempts to link directly to the families (and pursue the issue of Harry’s disappearance) fail - I now have some great photos of my young rellies!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Deconstructing the film Avatar: Jake Sully & Liu Xiaobo

I recently took my boys to see the film ‘Avatar’ at our local Island Bay cinema, the ‘Empire’. Sam who is seven years old became very excited at the end and danced around under the screen when the film ended firing imaginary arrows. My younger son Theo was a little more circumspect and had spells hiding behind the seats in front.

When we came out, I talked briefly to the young girl who was behind ticket counter. ‘Wasn’t it great?’ she said. ‘I found myself shouting “Die Humans - Die”.

My personal take was that it was, a la Kevin Costner and the Sioux, a kind of ‘Dances with Viperwolves’, in which a young warrior from the US Cavalry / US Marines gets marooned with some brightly painted indigenous people, eventually turning against his fellow troopers in the belief that they are destroying a noble way of life lived in a dramatic and ancient landscape.

As the ‘Movie Scrapbook’ explains:

‘A lot of things on Pandora look scary until you get to know them better and see just how amazing and beautiful they are ... Few animals embody this idea more than the viperwolf. They look scary but they are fiercely intelligent animals. They hunt in packs. Their heads are shaped like a snake’s – with rows of very sharp, transparent fangs that look like dirty icicles. Viperwolves talk but not in a language you can understand’.

Maybe James Cameron weighed up the possibility of Jake Sully forming a relationship with an ageing, rogue viperwolf but eventually decided that a tantalizingly half-nude female Na’vi named Nevtiri would ultimately be better cinema.

In any event, I had not anticipated the whirlwind of interpretations of the film’s ethics and intentions.

As Dave Itzkoff noted in the New York Times:

‘If you thought that “Avatar” was just a high-tech movie about a big-hearted tough guy saving the beguiling natives of a distant moon, you might want to check the prescription on your 3-D glasses.

Since its release in December, James Cameron’s science-fiction epic has broken box office records and grabbed two Golden Globe awards for best director and best dramatic motion picture. But it has also found itself under fire from a growing list of interest groups, schools of thought and entire nations that have protested its message (as they see it), its morals (as they interpret them) and its philosophy (assuming it has one).

Over the last month, it has been criticized by social and political conservatives who bristle at its depictions of religion and the use of military force; feminists who feel that the male avatar bodies are stronger and more muscular than their female counterparts; antismoking advocates who object to a character who lights up cigarettes; not to mention fans of Soviet-era Russian science fiction; the Chinese; and the Vatican. This week the authorities in China announced that the 2-D version of the film would be pulled from most theatres there to make way for a biography of Confucius’.

I can easily add to the list.

Here in New Zealand a Maori academic Rawiri Taonui of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch has denounced the negative stereotypes that Avatar portrays in the Na’vi, claiming that the ‘rhythmic body swaying’ of the indigenous people during a ceremony only appears in B-grade movies and ‘just doesn’t happen in real life’(sic).

Rawiri was also upset that ‘The white guys and the neo-liberals save the people rather than the indigenous people saving themselves’. However, he was encouraged that the film gave recognition to the ‘negative impact of colonisation on indigenous people from a historical point of view’.

Even stranger is Carl Mortishead’s article apparently directed to American readers (but published in The Times) with the title‘: Yet again, big business plays the bad guy’. This claims that ‘’beneath the popcorn layer, Avatar has a curious message. The film tells us that big business is sinister and in league with a malevolent state’.

‘It is Hollywood fare and that is the point. Scores of recent Tinseltown dramas tells us that big business is up to no good in league with if not in control of government and the guiding mind in a military industrial complex that will destroy the world’ ... ‘In the dream factory, the enemy is no longer Nazis or Commies, organized crime or bug-eyed monsters. It is big business’.

Mortishead mixes his message with some doubtful observations about differences in the characterisation of American and British heroism, the influence of lawyers in the Old West, affirmative action and the changing racial composition of the USA. But what he really seems to be seeking is a Hollywood lead who, fleeing persecution, embraces capitalism and Americanism, finds true love and sings soulful and grateful songs to the stars for his good fortune.

This is certainly the promise of ‘An American Tail’, in which a young Russian mouse gets separated from his family and must find them while trying to survive in his new country. The trouble is that corn that works for a cartoon mouse is not likely to rise above melodrama in most human story lines.

And, for the record, Mortishead may have forgotten that most ordinary people do not distinguish between industrial Exxon and financial Lehman Brothers, with there being at least $120 billion outstanding from recent related dramas in which big business has been proven to be up to no good, - and, to the dismay of people at large in such cases, the government appears to act tortuously in introducing penalties and regulatory constraints.

Anyhow, moving along, I got to thinking about why the Chinese Government has reacted so strongly against Avatar, with it being keen to promote its substitution with a state-backed biography of Confucius in Beijing.

As those of us who followed the addictive TV series ‘The Water Margin’ will know:

‘The ancient Chinese sages said "do not despise the snake for having no horns, for who is to say it will not become a dragon?"

‘So may one just man become an army’!

Set nearly a thousand years ago in ancient China, at the time of the Sung dynasty, the Water Margin series documents the inexorable rise of an effective opposition to an authoritarian, cruel and corrupt government, starting with individuals who stand out and stand up to tyranny.

This it appears has been a longstanding and recurring theme in Chinese politics – the heroic Long March of a few who eventually mobilise an army from among the neglected and dispossessed.

Perhaps the Chinese Government has a much more prescient understanding of the message behind Avatar than any of its rainbow of special interest critics in the West.