Tuesday 25 November 2014


Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that my maiden name is Nelson. The same can be said for readers of my novel IT HAD TO BE YOU as that nugget of information gets a mention at the back of the book in connection with my tracing my ancestry.

It was the latter that led to a reader emailing me, wondering if we could possibly be related in some way as his name was Rodney Nelson and he had traced his Nelson ancestry to the Scottish and English border country. Just like my Nelson great grandfather, Martin, some of his ancestors were mariners and Rodney’s father had gone to sea for a while, having set sail from Liverpool.

I haven’t been able to get far with my Nelson ancestry as the only information I have found is that on my great-grandfather’s marriage certificate in 1865 and children’s baptismal records. On the marriage certificate I discovered that Martin’s father’s name was Hance Nelson. I had long known that there was Scandinavian blood in the family and have found that there was quite a number of Nelsons who had settled in the Toxteth area in Victorian times. But alas I haven’t been able to link them positively with my great-grandfather, due to my great-grandmother Mary Nelson being widowed within a few years of their wedding. She remarried in 1874 and so the trail went cold on me.

Having received more information about Rodney’s Nelson ancestry it seems unlikely that we’re closely related because while he has managed to trace his Nelsons to Scotland in the time of Robert the Bruce and discovered that the original Nelson, or son of Neill, had come from Scandinavia, I like to think that somewhere in the distant past all us Nelsons are linked.

As far as I know Rodney’s mariner Nelsons have achieved more fame than I can claim to for mine. One of his has had a book written about him called MASTER OF CAPE HORN, the story of a Square-rigger Captain and his world, name of W.A. Nelson, 1839-1929. The author is Hugh Falkus who was a wartime Spitfire pilot, with a love of sailing and an acquaintance with the Nelsons. His book was published in 1982 and although it is now out of print I have managed to purchase a second hand copy.

Interestingly Rodney Nelson was brought up in Carlisle in the English border country. As I was due to go on a week’s holiday to Keswick in the northern Lake District just after we got in touch, I mentioned to him that on a previous November holiday, I had visited my maternal Milburn roots in Culgaith and the hamlet of Milburn up that way. He knew the area well and of course, recognised the Milburn name. The Milburns were one of those Border Reivers families who raided over the border into Scotland way back in the Middle Ages. These days the most famous Milburn I know is known for his skill on the football field and that is all I know.

I enjoyed my visit up in the beautiful Lake District and the weather was kind to us with scarcely any rain. Whilst there we visited Grasmere, famous not only because the poet William Wordsworth lived there for a while but because of its special kind of gingerbread. The recipe of which is the same as that made by - wait for it - a Sarah Nelson in Victorian times. Her maiden name was Kemp and she married a Wilfrid Nelson after a whirlwind romance.

 Perhaps we’re related somewhere along the line because I had an uncle Wilfrid, who was born during the Great War!

On a different note when I arrived back from holiday it was to discover an email from my editor who had sent me a copy of the cover for my next book LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND that will be out in hardback at the end of March 2015. But before then I have a paperback out in February, a reissue of KITTY AND HER BOYS called A MOTHER’S DUTY. More about these books when I blog in the New Year but before then I’ll hopefully be blogging in December.





Wednesday 5 November 2014


The other afternoon I was watching a heated argument on the telly about Health and Safety in connection with Bonfire Night. Apparently some bright spark wants children banned from having sparklers. The words Nanny State were bandied around and I had to agree with those who said it’s about time the government accepted that most parents had some commonsense when it came to overseeing younger children and knew to teach their older children to abide by certain safety rules.

While both views on the subject continued to be voiced, my mind drifted back to the cold dark autumn days of my youth and the build up to Guy Fawkes Night. Not for us children growing up in the late forties and fifties organised firework displays, the great thing was collecting wood for the Bommie on which to burn an effigy of the man in charge of the gunpowder intended to blow up King James and his Parliament.

We had to find somewhere safe from the thieving hands of kids from neighbouring streets who were hell-bent on having a bigger bonfire than us. It was a time when even a decrepit backyard door could be nicked or even part of your wooden fence. The gift of any old furniture when someone was buying new was met with effusive thanksgiving.

Then there was the Guy to make and I remember one particular year that my dad drew and painted us a brilliant mask depicting a man of the appropriate historical period (1605). It was attached to a drumhead cabbage head which was fixed to a body made from stuffed with paper men’s clothes.

Our parents could not afford money to burn so we only ever had about two or three fireworks, such as Golden Showers or Roman Candle and a Catherine Wheel, as well as a packet of sparklers each. Any extra fireworks involved lugging our Guy to the nearest shops and hanging around outside, pleading A PENNY FOR THE GUY, PLEASE! Us girls didn’t do none too badly. Of course, times have changed and the notion of burning an effigy of poor ol’ Guy Fawkes these days wouldn’t go down well. Besides he suffered a completely nasty fate altogether. 

In my early teens I remember sitting on an old sofa intended for the bonfire with some other girls, gazing dreamily into the flames, little suspecting that any minute the lads would toss several bangers beneath the sofa in an attempt to frighten the life out of us.

Naturally us girls ran, screaming when the bangers went off but we had seen them coming. The only time I ever did get hurt on Bonfire Night was when I was sixteen and walking with my boyfriend to have a look at the various street bonfires to see which was the best. A wandering spark found its way inside my school scarf and burn my neck slightly.

There were always adults present to keep an eye on things. Besides living in the backstreets of Liverpool where houses were heated mainly by a single fire in the kitchen, there was something mesmerising about those bonfires. And towards the end of the evening one could guarantee finding a baked potato in the dying embers of the fire. The spuds might have been blackened but that didn’t stop us enjoying them with a bit of salt and a knob of melting butter on them and none of us suffered upset tummies.

I, like many another from that era, accepted there was risk involved where there was fire and fireworks working their magic. Some people do act stupid and so there will always be accidents but as long as the majority show commonsense and stick to certain general rules, then is there really any need for laws to be passed as if we’re all idiots?