Old Days

1983 Coalbrookdale


I’m afraid of something. Afraid of ordering my days to give a chance to some small achievement. The old fear. The last entry could have the interpretation that I resent Ruth messing up my Sundays. Not a bit. Each minute spent with her is precious. Waiting for her words, her smiles – experiencing her words and smiles, her tugs at my beard, her dribbles, stretching her right leg and staring at the foot at the end of it. I did resent the eating away of my Saturday last week – going for my wages, taking the bike to have a spoke replaced and the rear wheel trued. And guess – another spoke went on Friday and I had to take the bike in again yesterday. Not as grouchy as I might have been. A card from the Library came as I painted Ruth’s cot, telling me they had Portrait: Theory in (at last) so I had to go to Madeley anyway. So up to Dawley, borrowed the shopman’s wife’s bike to go to Stafford Park. Sheila gave me coffee and moaned about being stabbed in the back. On the way to Madeley, the rear tyre blew. Such a loud bang from a thin tyre. Couldn’t believe it. Luckily had my spare tube with me – the 1½ inch slit was irreparable. Picked up the photo book and Al Alvarez Life After Marriage. Picked up my bike.

After lunch, the sun still shone so I went into the Dingle. And Ruth has just begun to cry so…

[Ruth was four months old. I looked after her on Sunday’s while her mother worked. I worked five days a week in Dudley, cycling the Rabbit Run – 22 miles there and 22 back.]

2017 Filey


Worked mostly on the Cortis family as it was the last day of FMP’s free access to World databases. I realised early on that I had been mistaken in falling hungrily on Edward as being the champion cyclist’s son. Quite by chance happened upon Herbert Bruce and the name rang a bell! Sure I “found” him two or three years ago. Bruce his mother’s maiden name rather than the Oz jokey handle. The top find though was William Smithson’s Last Will with a couple of codicils. He named his grandchildren as Herbert, Edward, Percy, Alan,  Edith and Esther. I wonder if any of these were Jane Maria’s children. Or even Alice Weddell! That young lady niggled me. She was 19 when last seen in the 1871 census. Varying my search terms I found a plea on a Google group for help in finding Alice and her sister – beneficiaries in some geezer’s will. Several people offered good English info but none made the Oz connection so, although it was five years ago I emailed the enquirer asking if he had tracked Alice down. Blow me, only a few minutes after I sent it I found that Alice had married an Oliver J Hobbs in Australia. I think she was approaching 40 by this time but I was pleased she had survived to maturity.

Another find brought a burst of spontaneous tears. A 1931 article by Sir Max Pemberton printed in the Hull Daily Mail title Sport I Have Seen in 50 Years contained this remark: –

Herbert Cortis, a young doctor, was the hero of those days and, in my view, indisputably the greatest racing bicyclist that ever lived. I have often seen him at Stamford Bridge mow down a whole field in the straight after being a hundred yards behind at the beginning of the last lap. His sporting powers were terrific and nobody of his day could live against them. He was the first bicyclist to ride twenty miles within the hour. Once, at a county meeting, an old friend of mine, George Jeffery, an international rugby footballer, nearly beat Cortis by an unexpected rush in the straight and the doctor’s surprise was amusing to see. “Who the devil are you?” he asked cheerfully when the race was over.

At the rate I’m going I’ll be lucky to put up one churchyard post a week when the blog gets going. But then families like the Cortises are, perhaps thankfully, rare. I may find very little information in no time at all for most of the people who lie beneath.

[Herbert Liddell Cortis on the Shared Tree.]

The Funny Thing about Fascism

Beach 107 · Filey Sands


No lockdown.

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