Happiest Day of My Life? It REALLY Was!

‘I just want to say that it the happiest day of my life, it really was. And everybody said it would be and it was.’

With an arm firmly around the waist of her adoring husband and as she gazes up at his handsome face; Nicole talks about the ‘happiest day of my life’ to the videographer on the eve of her wedding day and perhaps if history had taken her and her spouse along a different path; February 2 2019 could have been the 34th year of her union to one Orenthal James Simpson.

Alas, their union as man and wife lasted a mere seven years and all that remains to us of that fateful day in 1985 are the poignant images of the happy couple and that unanswered question; ‘How could it have all gone so terribly wrong?’

It’s probably a question that the poet Lord Byron was also asking himself on this very day in 1816 as his union of 54 weeks to the former Annabella Milbanke was beginning to unravel in a spectacular fashion and although the popular newspapers had a field day with the tales of the poet’s acrimonious separation which hinted at incest, sodomy and murder precipitating Byron’s exile to Europe and which is still  discussed and argued about some 202 years later!

My 3 x Great Grandparents also married on this day in the coastal town of Scarboro in 1868 and as they are buried together in the local cemetery after a long union which produced nine off-spring; I am quietly confident that no skeletons will come tumbling out of the family closet in the very near future – but please don’t hold me to it.

Come to think of it, the month of February remains a strong favourite for a family betrothal as my history journals chronicle several more who journeyed into wedlock during this month; myself included; however and in the words of one Judge Lance Ito let’s return to the Simpson matter!

Having shamelessly neglected my Facebook page in memory of Nicole for several week, today I shared a few edited images of her as a bride and although most have been well received, I had to delete some of the abusive comments posted by one visitor to the site who was furious with me for including the name of ‘Simpson’ as if the man she married had no place in the history of her life.

Now, what’s in a name I hear you ask?

The lady herself is known the world over as Nicole Brown Simpson; a name her family still  use and which remained her legal name until her death and let’s not forget that in those 911 calls recorded in October 1993 when asked her name; she replied that she was called ‘Nicole Simpson’ even though she had been divorced for over a year and despite the fact that Simpson was still  causing her emotional trouble.

However tempting it is to scribble over those unpleasant tales in the narrative of our history and to air-brush those we dislike from our family tree or to simply deny the existence of others who demean our sense of who we belong to; I have always believed that our duty to the truth is to let our history stand; no matter how imperfect or offensive we may later find it.

And as history records that on this day, Nicole believed that she had married the man of her dreams, her ‘one true love’ and that February 2 1985 was for her at least the ‘best day’ of her life.

Those Gnarled Branches and Fallen Leaves…

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

So said William Wilberforce, a Yorkshire lad and THE leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.

If you are like me and love to go in search of elusive ancestors throughout the vale and dale of the County of Yorkshire; this blog could be just what you are looking for as I follow in the footsteps of my North Riding family, and as there are plenty of them, I have many miles to travel!

Taking a Stroll Along Filey Beach in North Yorkshire…

Although I have been properly researching the history of my family since 2004, my interest in the gnarled twigs and broken branches of my family tree began in the early teenage years and having always been a diligent hoarder of the scraps of family keepsakes that have come my way; the process of moving abode as I did some years ago to return to my hometown of York was undoubtedly made all the more arduous by those numerous large boxes of papers, books, photographs and other assorted genealogical matter that I had to shift down and up several sets of stairs.

King George VI once stated that “the history of York is the history of England’ and this ancient city is not only the place of my birth but also for many of those Dalby and Benson ancestors to whom I have since laid claim – although some of whom certainly add more than a little colour to those gnarled twigs and broken branches.

And even though there’s plenty to occupy this history sleuth within the walls of this chocolate box city – I have also been very busy elsewhere!

For during the course of last year and having discovered the identity of another ancestor William Lamb of Whitby who having perished in WW1 never lived to see his 21st birthday – I have also been adding to my research into the life of Tuesday’s Child, the elusive Clarice Tibbett from Hull and as my interest has been piqued as of late by the other female ‘greats’ within my clan that I have now discovered, several Yorkshire lasses who have now made a welcome reappearance.

For now with the death of both my maternal grandmother and paternal grandmother, a father and with my mother’s ailing health, my feelings of nostalgia have been triggered once more and the floors of my den are now littered with the fruits of my genealogical findings.

And having decided that I would also go in search of this female line of my family; it would be rather nice to share my musings, mishaps and occasional mastery on this blog under the aptly titled category of The Female of the Species!

Not that I believe that my female ancestors were actually deadlier than their male counterparts…

Earlier this week I watched Who Do You Think You Are featuring the fabulous actress Amanda Redman who I adored in the BBC drama of New Tricks and I listened with interest as she talked about her need to understand why she had always reacted in a particular way and of the ‘inherited behavioural patterns’ she believes that we all possess to some degree or other.

And yes, this resonated with me for as the eldest child of five siblings; my mother having flouted the National Average UK Birth Rate; I have always pondered the reasons for my love of the sea and feeling ‘at home’ in the coastal town of Scarborough; my pleasure in reading, the urge to create my ‘Small Worlds’, a knack for floral design and a passion for history and as the Graveyard Squirrel; I love nothing more than a wander among the tombstones here in York!

An Autumn Wander Among the Tombstones in York Cemetery…

As I have always been quite unlike anyone else within my family, as a child I often mischievously wondered if I had been switched at birth and a distant family member once described me as a ‘throwback’, albeit in a kindly manner!

I admit that it used to bother me as I was growing up but now I glory in being different from the rest of my clan and if in these times of difficulty I can find solace in the company of my ancestors from generations past; who’s to judge?

Welcome along…

AND if you should discover that we have ancestors in common – please drop me a comment as I’d love to to hear from you!

Happy Ever After? That’s a Privilege Denied to Many!

Yesterday against my better judgement I found myself wasting several hours of my life that I will never get back again watching the spectacle that was the Royal Wedding!

I really hadn’t intended to but before I knew it, there I was perched in front of the television watching a masterpiece of a public relations exercise in all things H.R.H and I’ve been regretting it ever since.

But it was only a wedding I hear you say!

And yes, it was only a wedding but when I think back to that July day in 1981 as a young teenager and naive monarchist watching another fairy tale wedding and later when we heard the chatter about mistresses, dubious telephone calls, obsessive behaviour and emotional turmoil with the realisation that this fairy tale could never have had a ‘happily ever after’ – I felt duped by the House of Windsor and my cynicism only increases every passing year with yet another promise of a ‘perfect’ Royal event.

The cynic in me also knows that we are subjected to these ostentatious shows of pomp and pageantry from a family who live in an absurd cocoon of wealth and privilege in order to keep the interest level high enough to keep their subjects pliant.

But I also believe that the monarchy will eventually stumble to the finish line what with the apathy of the younger generation, the rise of the ‘self-made’ and for those who long for a more democratic and inclusive country – I only wish that I’d got out of that chair yesterday and turned the damn television off!

Alas! I did not…

However, yesterday was also Nicole’s birthday and if she were still with us – she would have been celebrating her 59th year…

And having shared a lovely image of her on the Facebook page, I lit a candle in her memory and enjoyed a rather large slice of this delicious cake!

Ever heard of the ‘Hatched, Matched and Dispatched’ quip?

Although May 19 was also the day that an ancestor of mine was dispatched as she tumbled down a cliff to her death in the picturesque seaside village of Staithes, famous for it’s connection to the great explorer Captain Cook and delicious fish and chips – the story of which is one for this family history blog; I have a different kind of ‘dispatch’ in mind.

Earlier this month I pulled out a May 1995 copy of Vogue and having shared some of the long and informative article from Marie Brenner on Blogger and WordPress; I was struck by Brenner’s interview with Nicole’s older sister Denise during the course of the murder trial.

I don’t want to spend my time thinking about what-ifs, what-ifs. Nicole never told us she was battered! She would say, ‘He threw me against the wine cabinet, and then we went out to lunch’…

“What good would that do?… I want to help other women now. This foundation is my crusade for life. Now I am a happy person. I have a mission and a cause.

In the winter of 1994 and several months after the brutal murder of Nicole and that of her friend Ron Goldman; a foundation was established in her name by her family and although initially known as the ‘Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation’, this was later changed to the ‘Nicole Brown Foundation’.

In the aftermath of her murder and as the world became privy to the abuse that she endured during her marriage to O.J. Simpson; the campaign against domestic violence was to enjoy something of a renaissance with increased calls from women in search of help, the implementation of vital legislation and the creation of several educational programmes.

Headed by Denise, the foundation pledged to raise awareness about domestic violence through “awareness, education and inspiration”.

What initially began as a poignant tribute to the loss of a loved one and an admirable desire to continue to raise the profile of domestic violence awareness; Nicole’s foundation enjoyed a controversial history from the very beginning:

Nicole Simpson Foundation Management is Questioned

Tax Records Paint a Troubling Picture of Nicole Brown Charity

Charity in Honor of Nicole Brown Simpson Claims Only $66 Left in Assets

20 Years After the Murders, the Nicole Brown Simpson Foundation is Gone

Nor did the Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice – the charity established by father Fred and sister Kim which promised to offer practical and inspired resources for the organisations supporting victims of crime fair any better if a report from the journalist Brian Heiss is to be believed.

Now, I don’t know very much about the law governing charitable foundations in the US but to have your status revoked by the IRS sounds pretty bad to me!

Although Nicole’s foundation still has a Facebook page, the website domain now belongs to a dubious looking ‘Health & ‘Lifestyle site and Ron’s foundation website has been hijacked by an ambulance chaser BUT when I think of the continuing success of other high profile foundations including the Suzy Lamplugh Trust –  it saddens me that Nicole and Ron’s legacies supported by much public goodwill have been dispatched in this way.

Now, I need to console myself with some more cake…

A Portrait in Flowers…

Dear Diary…

Although the doors to my little flower shop have been closed as of late – my floral endeavours have been continuing albeit in more of a fantastical way as the Crooked Hen and I’ve been busy creating some plants which would struggle to find a definition in any botanical guide!

However, I have also continued to indulge in some more floral design for our ‘real’ world with the flowers for the wedding of my niece and her dashing groom and another design tinged with sadness.

For on the early morning of Sunday April 19, my wonderful Grandmother died and although it was a privilege to deliver a eulogy before her loved ones during her memorial service in York – I also created a tribute to her with flowers.

Calling up her gentle nature and graceful poise, as well as a nod to her favourite colour of blue, I gathered up armfuls of the palest Sea Holly, cheerful daisy Chrysanthemums symbolizing joy and added stems of elegant miniature spray carnations which I finished with lush fern and speckles of spicy grey eucalyptus.

After arranging these flowers in a rustic basket and inspired by my Grandmother’s ethereal nature, I then added several wisps of Bear Grass as a finishing touch and as I thought about this ‘Portrait of Grandma in Flowers’ the words of Brian Jacques came to mind:

Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.

Blood Sweeps the Land in November for a Fallen Soldier…

As November 11 is Armistice Day, I thought I’d share the story of just one soldier of the 11 million other military personnel who perished in the First World War.

For it was on a cold and very rainy day that I found myself in the shadow of the magnificent Tower of London, for although I had been determined to see the display of the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red in the tower moat since it had begun – my visit as the Friday after Armistice Day and although many of the ceramic poppies had been removed; the sight that remained was still a very humbling experience.

As I watched the volunteers plucking the ceramic poppies from the muddy ground and then placing them in their cardboard nest, I recalled my feelings of disappointment that I had been unable to buy one of the poppies.

Many moments passed in the chill of the November air looking at this sea of poppies and as I thought about what a glorious sight 888,246 of them must have looked like; I knew that one of these ceramic tributes had been created in honour of Wilfred Jowitt who gave his ‘Today’ 100 years ago on November 29 1917 at the tender age of 21 while on active service in France.

When you go home, tell them of us and say

For their tomorrow, we gave our today…

My interest in Wilf began many years ago with the gift of the ‘Loving Cards’ that he had sent to my great-grandmother Ellen Edeson during the war which she had secretly cherished until her death over fifty years later and I’ve been researching the life of this young man since.

Went the day well?

We died and never knew.

But, well or ill,

Freedom, we died for you.

John Maxwell Edmonds

Born in Warmfield-cum-Heath, West Yorkshire in 1896, he was the eldest child and only son of Ernest Jowitt, a coal miner and his childhood was spent in a little house in Frobisher Row which has long since disappeared.

He was introduced to Ellen through his sister Dorothy while working at Rowntrees, the famous chocolate factory in York and their courtship began in earnest; however at the onset the war in 1914, Wilf enlisted as Private 242067 in the Prince of Wales North Staffordshire Regiment and was stationed at Normanton.

He returned home from his first tour of duty in 1916, safe from harm and delighted to be reunited with his beloved Ellen and before his second tour of duty began in early 1917 he begged Ellen for her hand in marriage and having refused him, her lasting memory was of Wilf was of him “crying like a baby” as he prepared for a return to the front line.

While stationed in France, he was to pen several ‘Loving Cards’ to Ellen with his honest sentiments expressed in his neatest handwriting that always included lots of kisses.

His final ‘Loving Card’ was dated September 1917.

Wilf died on Thursday November 29 1917 as a casualty of war and although he has no known grave, he is remembered with honour at the Cambrai Memorial in Louverval and his name appears on the War Memorial of Warmfield-cum-Heath in Wakefield.

His ‘Loving cards’ are all that now remain of a young life cut tragically short and after Ellen’s death they were discovered by my grandmother who kept them until they were gifted to me some thirty years later.

It would have been wonderful to have received the poppy that had been lovingly created in memory of Wilf as a lasting tribute to the sacrifice he had freely borne at such a tender age; alas it was not to be…