Dec 172014

Many years ago, in a land not so far, far from here, I was a GCSE student. Yes, I am young enough not to have done ‘O-levels’ … however, I am also young enough to have endured the ludicrous Key Stage 3 National Pilot in 1992 (which lasted for donkeys years), as well as other cognitive ability tests.

Growing up in Dorset, I went through a first, middle and secondary school system, changing schools at age 9 and 13. Throughout my middle school years (aged 9 to 13), I did either Richmond Tests of Basic Skills or Cognitive Abilities Tests (CAT) every year, being scored on a scale of 1 to 9, with the results proving whether I was average, above average or below the National average in England. Having located my CAT scores in Year 7 (when I was 11 or 12), it would appear that I was – surprisingly – considered to be in the top 4% of the National sample. The Richmond Test scores make more interesting reading with NINES across the board (from punctuation, use of capital letters, use of language and more) apart from reading comprehension which deteriorated from a SIX at aged 9 to a FIVE at aged 13. English was never going to be my strongest subject and clearly, the tests did not serve to highlight this and provide more support where it was needed!

DickensWhen it came to English Literature, I found an unusual friend in Charles Dickens. He seemed to speak the same language as me, whereas poetry made no sense and trying to read what William Golding actually meant when he wrote certain things in Lord of the Flies was beyond me. I remember asking over and over again for new essay titles from my English teacher in an attempt to improve my grade and oh, how I begged to be allowed to use Great Expectations or David Copperfield for my exam text and not Macbeth and Lord of the Flies. Sadly, it was not possible and I blathered on about some darned thing in the exam, wondering how I was ever going to achieve the grade I wanted in English Literature. Hard work paid off and I achieved an A grade which, quite frankly, I still can’t quite believe is right to this day!

On many occasions, I have considered contacting my secondary school English teacher, Paul Benham, but I haven’t to date. I am sure he would be stunned to know that I am a published author – he probably would want proof as he would scarcely be able to comprehend that it was possible! Maybe I will in 2015….

Over the years and over the festive seasons, Charles and I have remained on good terms though I have less time to spend with him these days than I would like. I am grateful to him for his friendship though and his full set of novels – including my favourites Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol – are sitting in pride of place in the bookcase in the living room/lounge/sitting room, constantly smiling at me and tempting me to take one from the shelf. Soon, Uncle Pumblechook …. you are ahead of Mr Fezziwig!

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

Dec 162014

Events across the globe are certainly making unpleasant listening/reading over the last 48 hours. Sydney, Pennsylvania and now Pakistan…. Why can we not all live together, without weapons, and just agree that we have different beliefs, different opinions, different cultures etc. and just get on with it in harmony, so long as we aren’t harming anyone…. is that such a ridiculous concept?


132 people, mostly children, turned up at school this morning in Peshawar and are now in coffins. Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister and mother-of-two who worked in Sydney’s central business district and Tori Johnson, a 34-year-old café manager, were killed in their attempts to protect others in Martin Place, Sydney. Six people have been shot dead and at least one other wounded in three locations near Philadelphia….What kind of world do we live in for this to be a regular feature on our news bulletins? How can we – the general public – change society to ensure that this doesn’t keep happening?

Sadly, I don’t have an answer. Even if I did, I don’t think that one person could change the world. You only live once and whatever positive difference you can make, at whatever level, is enormously valuable to the world at large. I could list hundreds of thousands of ways to make a positive difference and I would still miss hundreds of thousands more. If you think back on 2014, how have you made a difference? What could you do in 2015?

Let’s not forget our own personal dreams either…. What have you always wanted to do in your life? Well, don’t leave it any longer – plan it! Do it! As one of my friends said in a Christmas card, ‘we must get together in 2015 – let’s not leave it too late!’ This year, I have said goodbye to far too many friends and family members with several currently struggling with illness.

You only live once…. As Mae West said, ‘ You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.’ Whatever doing it right looks like, I’m certainly going to give a damn good try.

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

Dec 152014

Tomorrow, I’ll think of some other way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)

Did you know that on 15 December 1939, the première of Gone with the Wind took place at Loew’s Grand Theater (sorry, it’s in America and they spell Theatre in their own way) in Atlanta, Georgia. The best-selling novel by Atlanta-born Margaret Mitchell was adapted by screenwriter Sidney Howard and was an epic drama set against the backdrop of the American Civil War (and its aftermath). The film starred Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, who loves and leaves Scarlet with the immortal line, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ Sidney Howard added in ‘frankly’ …. it was not in Margaret’s original novel.

Trivialpursuit_TokenBreaking records at the Academy Awards as well as at the box office, Gone with the Wind won Oscars for Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Best Director (Victor Fleming) and Best Supporting Actress (Hattie Daniel) amongst others…. Hattie made history as the first African-American to win an Academy Award.

Forty years on, Trivial Pursuit was invented by Canadians Chris Haney, a photo editor for Montreal’s The Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports editor for The Canadian Press. Apparently, they had pieces missing from their Scrabble game and so decided to create their own game (as you do!). With the help of John Haney and Ed Werner, they completed the development of the game in two years and it was released in 1982.

And today, no premières and no inventions that I can see from the news as it is sadly filled with unpleasant news from Down Under. Thoughts are with the families of those who have been lost today, those injured and those who have been scarred by their experience in Lindt Cafe, Sydney. I am not one to ‘get on my high horse’ about these issues but seriously folks, this has to stop. ‘Frankly, my dear ….’, we do give a damn. Too many lives have been lost this year under the name of certain groups/religions. Enough is enough.

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

Dec 142014

Richard Sillifant was born in 1875, the fifth of eight known children of Isaac and Ann (née Heard) Sillifant. In 1881, Isaac and his family lived at Bassetts Cottage, Ashwater (Source: RG11/2267/6/6):


Isaac worked as a wood ranger in 1881 though in his latter years, he turned his hand to farming with his son, Richard, working as a farm servant in 1891 when the Sillifants farmed 1 Higher Prestacott, Ashwater.

Richard married Ada Lavinia Tamlyn on 22 October 1900 at the Register Office in Okehampton:

M1900 D SILLIFANT Richard TAMLYN Ada Lavinia

On 28 March 1901, Gwendoline Victoria was born and Gladys Lavinia followed on 14 September 1902. In 1903, Richard appeared in the North Tawton Petty Sessions with (presumably) his younger brother, Isaac (as reported by Western Times on 6 November 1903):


The newspaper did not report the precise offence but Isaac and Richard were charged with ‘an offence under the Ground Game Act’. Isaac pleaded guilty and, when they were both found guilty, was fined 1 shilling less than Richard, presumably for his confession!

Richard and Ada had a further seven known children, though two died in infancy (as can be seen in the 1911 census below from Ancestry): Vera Alberta (1904), Edgar Isaac (1906-1908), Doris (1908-1910), Alfred Richard (1910), Albena M. (1914), Thomas (1916) and Walter Henry (1919).


Lob Hill, Lew Down, Devon


Most members of the family remained in the Holsworthy/Okehampton area throughout their lives marrying Barriball, Cole, Skinner, and Spry amongst others. However, Richard and Ada’s youngest son, Walter Henry, married in Louth Registration District in 1946 and died in Coventry in 2012.

Richard died aged 69 towards the end of World War II (March quarter 1945), though Ada outlived him and died September quarter 1955 aged 80.

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

Dec 132014

Goodness me, 2014 has thrown up a fair number of challenges but the saying is true – you can derive some benefit from every ‘bad’ thing that happens to you. 

Sometimes, I read other people’s blogs – no, that’s not quite accurate – I often read other people’s blogs. Though sometimes I read them and think, ‘Where on earth did that come from?’ or ‘What were you thinking when you wrote that?’ There are a whole lot of people out here in the blogging world. Some are fabulous writers who entertain, educate and inform the wider population, whether that be in a genealogical or historical sense, or whatever else …. and  I have recently found some very humorous efforts based on the life and times of the writer!

silverliningI have questioned before whether some people think before they write emails and/or post online. This issue was raised again on Facebook this week by someone who I hold in high regard (Ms X) …. highlighting a rather ‘odd’ post on a blog (by Mr Y) about the difference between primary and secondary information. As Ms X said, ‘The terms primary and secondary information have had quite concrete meanings in our field for at least two decades now.’ This made me think…. When we write, our followers believe what we say, but what happens if what we say is a complete load of ****! The world is full of different opinions and that is healthy but when we are stating facts which aren’t facts, or our readers take our opinions as facts…. then we are in deep water.

Something else which has bugged me on a number of occasions this year is what I like to call ‘overly frank’ blog posts which are open for the world to read, and I question: When should you offer up your own personal opinion online? Is it sensible to ‘have a dig’ at someone in this medium? Would it be advisable to express your negative opinions about a ‘product or service’ on your blog? Will you advance your ‘professional career’ (whatever you do) if you act in this way?

I think the answers are quite clear: No and don’t. If you did this in a professional/business setting, you would be hung, drawn and quartered. So, why do people think it is OK to do it online? Be the bigger person. Take your cloudy feelings offline and deal with them offline. Every experience – both positive and negative – you can learn from (if you are prepared to)…. Take the silver linings and leave the clouds behind in 2015. 

[Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the course of December for the hidden message in the titles of FWL blogs…. When you think you know, email us so as not to spoil it for others!]

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