Friday, 15 April 2011

Ancestors brought to life.

It is now 11 years since my journey into researching my family history began, and when I started I had no idea just how addicting it would become. I started off with a few names and dates jotted down, from family members, and now 11 years on those few names have turned into nearly 3000!

It wasn't long before I realised that the most important part of my journey, was not the names and dates, the who married who etc, but finding out about "who they were", what their occupations entailed, their living conditions and the gathering of as much information as possible to get a glimpse into what their lives were really like.

One example of this is when a lovely man, called Terry, got in touch with me via a message board, asking if I was Tommy Flucker's grandaughter. Tommy (Thomas), was my grandfather, born in 1904, in a fishing village called Newhaven, which is now part of Edinburgh. He was a joiner in Henry Robb Shipyards in Leith and had met my grandmother while working for a short while in the Vickers shipyards in Barrow-in-Furness, before moving back home with his new wife and having a family of his own.
Newhaven Harbour today

I don't have many memories of him as he died when I was 7. He suffered a brain haemorrhage at work and never regained consciousness. I remember him as a very quiet man and can
still picture him sitting in his chair, wearing one of the many jumpers my gran used to knit for him.

After confirming I was indeed Tommy's granddaughter he sent me a lovely email, which brought my grandfather to life and am so grateful for him taking the time to do this.

Here is part of the email:

Thanks for your prompt reply, I'm delighted to hear that you are indeed
the grandaughter of Tommy, and you've confirmed and awakened many
youthful memories.
As I said, I worked as an apprentice joiner in Robb's from 1948 to 1955,
then, like everyone else was called up for National Service in the
army.  I returned to Robb's for a short while after serving three years
with the Royal Engineers, then my life took a different turn, and I
moved on.
I was a rather " Favoured" apprentice, and worked on the top floor of
the joiner's shop, I was on the bench next to Tommy.  His job at that
time was to "Break out" all the wooden mouldings for the ships under
construction, and prepare them for the French polishers.  Tommy was very
precise in everything he did, and was always on top of his job.  He was
much respected as a tradesman in a shop of over 200 joiners, who, in my
opinion, were the best tradesmen in the country.  He was known as a man
of great general knowledge, and I suspect, thought of as slightly
eccentric.  He had a very fiery temper, and could be "Wound up," if
people voiced opinions contrary to his firmly held views on everything,
particularly on the subject of his beloved Hearts.  I was on of the
"Infidels," being a Hibs supporter, but Tommy obviously made allowances
for this aberration, and took me under his wing.  At lunch times, having
our "pieces" together, and our drum (old jam tins) of Tea, Tommy would
teach me many things beyond the everyday world of a daft young laddie.
As I've said he taught me Chess, which I've enjoyed ever since.  He
could, you know, "Talk" a game of Chess, and did so with his brother in
law, (I think) without a board or pieces,, and they'd both continue the
game entirely in their heads !  He knew all about steam locomotives,
politics, and a wide range of subjects, that filled out my then empty
head.  Cycling was of course one of his great loves, touring mainly, not
racing, and it was very popular at that time, everyone had bikes and
enjoyed it.  He was so kind to me, that once he offered to cycle with me
to Ibrox in Glasgow to see Hibs play Rangers in a League decider, we
went on his Tandem, I had to bring my own saddle he said, otherwise I'd
have a sore bum ! I can remember that day vividly, Hibs won !

As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, Tommy would work mainly
on time transits of the stars, at the old Royal Observatory on the
Calton hill.  I remember him making a "Black box" to measure these
transits, and claiming that the time accuracy was six hundredths of a
Tommy was very proud of his "Bow Tow," heritage, claiming that the
Fluckers came over with the Huguenots to escape persecution, and was
very well versed in history generally.  He was a good man, very handsome
in a clean cut way, and proud and protective of his daughters.  I lived
then in Newhaven Road, but my cousins the Jeffrey's, lived in 10
Hawthornvale, my uncle Peter Jeffrey was a riveter in Robbs, so as a lad
I was down the Vale regularly.
In those days (the 50's) the workers in the Yard were very highly
politicised, rationing was still in force, but we'd made advancements in
obtaining a free health service, we then got a weeks holiday in the
Summer, with pay, the working week was to be reduced from 48 hours, and
it looked to Socialists as if the workers were going to influence
politics for the good.  We were all Socialists (at least) many of us
Communists, and we sympathised with the experiments in Socialism started
in Russia and China. Tommy actually taught me the words of "The Red
Flag," the old Old Independent Labour Party anthem, including the bawdy
parody ! Relations with the shipyard management were never good, indeed
constantly fraught with tension, and fear of losing jobs, they all
remembered the Depression years vividly.  We weren't even allowed
teabreaks, (but we had them illegally!) you could be dismissed for
drinking tea, other than at dinner time, the tea urns were kept
padlocked until the hooter sounded.  Even going to the toilet was under
surveillance, you had to drop your works check at a turnstile at the
entrance to a very smelly and basic lavatory, and if you were over 7
minutes there, you were docked a quarter of an hour of pay. As an
apprentice, your time record was kept for the five years, and any late
time or absences were made up at the end of the five years, at
apprentice's pay, not Tradesman's pay.
Something else has just come to mind, I think Tommy was one of the First
of the Fluckers NOT to have gone to sea and the fishing, that must have
been a big decision in Newhaven in those days.

After reading this email, I remembered seeing a whole shelf of log books at my grandmothers, where Tommy had logged every single one of his bike rides with meticulous care. I couldn't believe my luck when my aunt told me she still had these and sent me a scan of the page with the entry for the bike ride that is mentioned in the email.If you click on the picture below you can see it full size. 

Cycle ride 1950
I am in awe of how he could play a game of chess in his head! Would love to know more about his time as a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, so if anyone has any ideas how to go about this please let me know.


  1. What a fabulous way to learn more about your grandfather and how a fellow worker perceived him.

    Carol H.

  2. Good for you! ;-)

    Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  3. Thanks everyone for the comments, I feel very lucky to have got the letter.
    Thanks for the welcome Dr Bill, look foward to reading everyone else's blogs and learning more.

  4. Welcome to Geneabloggers Susan. I was captivated by the letter, what a wealth of information. Looking forward to following your journey. Lynn