Life’s Challenges

John Oakden SWIFT was the second child born to Thomas Swift and Dinah SAMPSON, about a year after his sister Mary Alice died in Filey in June 1858.

He followed his father into the legal profession and for a while was a successful solicitor in St Helens, as his father had been before him. He did not, however, reach the heights of his half-brother, Sir Rigby Philip Watson Swift.

In early January 1885, John married Mary Adelaide OLDROYD in Dewsbury and Hilda Mary was born towards the end of the year in Prescot, Lancashire. The birth of an unnamed male child was registered in 1888 and Mary Adelaide died aged 28 two years later.

I have been unable to find what became of the motherless children but their father married again in the spring of 1897. The bride, Ruth Cecilia SIMPSON, was about ten years younger than John, born in Norwich, where her father was the City Treasurer. In the next six years they brought four children into the world, their births recorded in four different districts – Mutford, Wirral, Kingston on Thames (sic) and Wandsworth. Clearly, the family was unsettled.

As the twentieth century got under way the London Gazette carried notifications of the dissolution of two business partnerships. John first parted company with Edwin Pierce and, a year later, with his full brother, Ernest William (the fellow who consulted Louis Pasteur about a dog bite). And shortly afterwards –

John and Ruth’s marriage survived these setbacks, but not for long. On 21 April 1909 John died in Telford Avenue, Streatham Hill, London. Ruth Cecilia followed him to the grave a week later.

Two years later, three orphaned Swift girls are with their Uncle Joseph Francis PHILO, Aunt Julia and maternal grandmother Louisa Watling SIMPSON at 11 Tombland, Norwich. I don’t know where their brother Thomas Frederick was on census night 1911 but he died in that city in 1976, aged 77.

Find John Oakden Swift on the Shared Tree.

Sand 37 · Message

Muston Sands (maybe)

A Bigger Challenge

Set by the World Freedom Alliance (at Seemorerocks).


In late 1868, Edmund JENKINSON and Jane, his second wife, registered their first child together as Tom Robert. He was christened at the Primitive Methodist chapel in Filey on November the 22nd. When they registered his death four years later he was Thomas Robert.

In February 1869, Mary Elizabeth SAYERS was with child when she married Richard Cammish JENKINSON in St Oswald’s church. They named their first-born Tom Robert and that’s the name on his headstone. For much of his life though, he was ‘Old Naz’.

Meanwhile, in the deep south (Wandsworth), William JENKINSON and Susan FREEMAN had a boy child they called Thomas Robert.

In the alternative world that is the FamilySearch Shared Tree, you can find him unmarried with a daughter, but the son of Filey fisherman Richard Cammish Jenkinson (‘Dick Sled’) and Mary Elizabeth Sayers.


This is not as bad as it looks. There is a Wandsworth Thomas Robert with a different ID and the correct lineage (at first glance). This will make it easier to rescue Old Naz from his captors.

Old Naz, Benny Hoy and Dicky Hoy, courtesy Ben Jenkinson

Dicky Hoy is Richard Cammish Jenkinson Jnr in the fragment of pedigree above, (brother of Old Naz).

On Friday 6th August 1909 the Scarborough Mercury reported: –

Yesterday two Filey fishermen named Tom Robert Jenkinson and Tom Cammish, were salmon fishing from the boat Daybreak, near to the wreck of the Laura at Speeton, when their nets became fastened to a brass cannon, a relic of [HMS] Nautilus, a [sloop-of-war] which was wrecked about 1800. They had just got the cannon weighed up when the net gave way, the last-named being covered with verdigris from the cannon. About 60 years ago the late Mr. Sellers, of Speeton, had hold of the mouth of one of these cannons with which the Nautilus was equipped. He was crabbing at the time, and a very low tide enabled him to reach the mouth of the cannon, but not having anything with which to buoy the gun it is supposed that it has been allowed to [rest] in the sea ever since.

There was a third Filey Tom/Thomas Robert Jenkinson, born in 1876, so it isn’t certain that it was Old Naz who had the encounter with the Nautilus cannon. He would have been thirty years old at the time.

Old Naz married Elizabeth Towse SHEPHERD in 1890. I will put a photograph of their headstone on FST as a memory when I have brought the kidnapped fisherman home.


Tilly and the Tree Rats

I met Tilly on my afternoon walk today. She was keen to get at the Glen Gardens squirrels. This photo is for her, snapped this morning in Church Ravine. Yum yum.


Another Beach Photographer

Searching British Newspapers earlier this week I chanced upon Thomas Smith Percy ELSOM, “a photographer, obtaining a living on the seashore”. How many WDYTYA subjects begin their quest hoping to meet forebears with similar skills, occupations or obsessions to their own?

I make not a penny from sandscapes and guess Thomas speculatively pictured holidaymakers, hoping they would buy his snaps.

The first news report to hand was this, from The Stamford Mercury, 24 November 1905.

The Cleethorpes Elopement

As the result of a communication from the King, Thomas Smith Percy Elsom and Agnes Emily Wallis, of Cleethorpes, were both released from Lincoln Gaol on Friday morning. These two prisoners were charged at the Lindsey Quarter Sessions on October 20th  with stealing several articles, the property of the latter’s husband, at Cleethorpes, and were sentenced to four and three months respectively. Both prisoners at the time protested their innocence, and repudiated vigorously any intent to rob. Elsom was a photographer, obtaining a living at the time of the sentence on the seashore, and Wallis was the wife of the prosecutor, a blind man, who also gained a livelihood on the sands with a phonograph. The man was stated to have lodged with Mr. and Mrs. Wallis, and one evening the two prisoners went away together, taking the articles with them. When released from prison they had served a month of their sentence.

Wondering why the King would take an interest in this affair, and how much people would pay to listen to a phonograph on the beach, I went in search of Thomas – rather hoping we were related. I failed to find any evidence of his existence – and a second newspaper report explained why. He was an ELSON and therefore, to be blunt, not someone with whom we ELSOMs would care to associate. My sympathies shifted easily to the blind, betrayed husband and his two children.

With more detail from the second news item, I was able to put some flesh on the reported bare bones.

Thomas ELSON was the son of Joseph, an Appraiser and Broker, and Alice SMITH. He was born in Ramsgate, Kent in 1869. In 1901, aged 32 and single, he was enumerated in Covent Garden, London, occupation “Clerk”.

Richard Ernest WALLIS was born in Wragby, Lincolnshire, in 1870, the son of Thomas Harper, a builder, and Mary née HARE. In none of the four censuses to 1901 was his blindness noted in the returns. In 1891 he was working as a Butcher’s Assistant in Wandsworth, London and ten years later as a butcher’s shop manager in Paddington. He married Agnes Emily GRAVETT in Wandsworth in 1894 and they had two children in 1901, Ivy aged 3 and Leonard Ernest, 1. Their first child, Phyllis Agnes had died in 1895 and they would lose their fourth, Norman Edward, born in late 1904 and dead before spring the following year.

Agnes GRAVETT was a London girl, her birth registered in Greenwich in December 1872. I suppose it is possible that her path crossed that of Thomas in London but who knows why either of the Cleethorpes Elopers forsook the capital for the banks of the River Humber. It seems clear, however, that a landlady/lodger relationship developed into a plan to set up home together. The Nottingham Journal, reporting the sentencing of Agnes and Thomas on 21 October 1905, listed the stolen property:-

one smoker’s companion, a traveling rug, two tin boxes, five gold studs, one basket, six fish knives, six forks, and a quantity of household linen.

The absconding couple took one Wallis child with them and left the other at the house.

What happened to the prisoners when they were released? What lay ahead for the children?

The death of Richard Ernest was registered in Croydon in June Quarter 1906. He was 36 years old. In 1911 his daughter Ivy was enumerated at a boarding school in St George’s Road, Southwark, but I couldn’t find young Leonard that year. I haven’t attempted to trace the children after that census.

An Agnes E WALLIS married William G WALKER  in Thanet in 1921 but there are two death records, in 1951 and 1952, that would fit an octogenarian Agnes who didn’t remarry. She shares an eight generation pedigree on FST with Richard.

Thomas Smith Percy ELSON died aged 58 in Wandsworth in 1927.  He has a toehold on FST.

I was taken to Cleethorpes once as a child but the only clear memories remaining are of the paddle steamer crossing of the river on Lincoln Castle.