What’s in a name?


One of the first things you see when you come to our house is a plaque next to the door bearing the name Wilfred. It has sadly lost some of the letters so that only the Wilf bit is still visible. It’s intrigued me since we moved in and people often ask us why it’s there and we have to admit we have no idea!

Then today a lady knocked on our door and handed us a file full of documents. Apparently her mother-in-law used to own the house and she had come across the file when she was sorting out her belongings after she passed away. The file contained documents covering all of the sales of the property since the whole estate was sold in 1890 before any houses were even built.


There are some very old documents, some of which look like originals. One even has the original wax seals attached.

Sadly at first glance there doesn’t seem to be any answer to the question “who is Wilfred” but I did find something close!


I shall look forward to having a good look through the documents at some point soon.

Family History

This is my maternal Grandmother (or Nana as we called her) Beatrice Ainslie (nee Scott) She was born in 1898 and died in December 1990. She lived most of her life in and around Sunderland but she did live briefly in London when she entered service in a shop in Edgware Road.  She married my Grandfather Christopher and they had 5 children – 4 girls and one boy. My mother was the youngest born in 1938 when my Grandmother was 40. She outlived all but 2 of her children and had many grandchildren and great gandchildren.

The other day I was looking through a bag of things that my father had given me and I found a battered small brown box. When I picked it up a medal fell out of it and my first thought was that it must have belonged to one of my Grandfather’s who both saw action during the wars. However when I turned it over I found it was addressed to my Nana.

The medal in question was awarded to men and women who were service personnel or in one of many civilian organisations for three years service in non operational areas subjected to air attack or closely threatened. I presume my nana was awarded the medal for her work during the war in munitions factories. The area around Sunderland was heavily bombed during the Second World War due to the shipyards and other industries – there were still bombsites around when I was a youngster in the 1960’s.

Along with the medal in the box was a note with the official crest on it from the Home Secretary saying that the medal was awarded for service during the war of 1939-45.

My Nana was a tough old boot – she had to be she lived through both World Wars and much more besides. My Grandfather had joined the army in the first World War after lying about his age to sign up. he joined the Cavalry and my Nana still had the spurs he wore during the war. They also lived through the great depression in the 1930’s when times were tough and jobs were few. My Grandfather was, by all accounts, like Norman Tebbit’s father who went out to look for work and din’t give up till he found some. He would later tell my mum that if she went for an interview and was asked if she could do something to say yes and worry about learning how to do it later! here he is with his family in about 1912 – a couple of years before he joined up. he is at the front on the left.

My Nana had also been a member of a ladies football team in her youth, at a time when women didn’t really do that thing. I have somewhere a picture of her holding a football when the Sunderland Echo did a feature about her when she was in her 80’s. I will have to try and dig it out sometime but in the meantime here is her medal.

This is now part of BBC Radio 4’s History of the World Project

A Picture that touched the world

This picture taken during the Vietnam war was seen all over the world. I seem to remember seeing it on the news at the time in 1972 – it shows a family running from a napalm attack. the girl at the centre was running naked because the 1200° C heat caused by the napalm burnt the clothes from her back.

Today on Radio 4 there was an interview with the girl, Kim Phuc, who now lives in Canada. She was interviewed by former ITN reporter Christopher Wain who was there with a film crew on that day and who along with Nick Ut, the photographer who took the iconic picture, helped to save her life that day and in the days that followed. She was taken to a Vietnamese hospital but she wasn’t expected to live and the men from the international press who witnessed the event organised getting her transferred to a better hospital.

Missing Sounds

I was thinking about sounds from my childhood that were a regular part of the soundscape but that  you don’t hear anymore.

The first one was the air raid siren. Even though I was only born in 1961 the government still maintained it’s network of sirens from World War 2 and these were regularly tested. You would just suddenly hear the eery sound starting up in the way you’ve heard it on the war movies. It must have been quite scary for anyone who had lived through the blitz. The centre of Sunderland was quite heavily bombed during the war and I can remember the “bomb sites” when I was young before the town centre was redeveloped. I don’t know when they stopped testing them but the sound faded from the landscape.

The other sound was the shipyard whistle which would be sounded to signal the start and end of each day. It would also sound the lunch break. There were lots of shipyards when I was young – I remember when we went across the Quenn Alexander Bridge you would see a sea of cranes on either side but, like the shipyards they slowly disappeared one by one until they were all gone. The other thing I remember was one day when I was at infant school there was a series of loud bangs coming from the yards. I was convinced that there was a giant heading for the school.

The final sound I remembered probably hasn’t disappeared but it is such a strong memory that I thought I’d include it. I remember lying awake on Christmas eve at my Grans house in Boldon Colliery and I would hear women walking down the wet street in high heals which would clip clip clop past the window, the sound increasing and diminishing as they passed and the echo as the sound bounced off the walls of the houses in the street. I guess that the heals were more likely to have steel ends in those days and now that they are mostly rubber the sound isn’t the same. Not sure why this is such a strong memory but I often remember those nights at my gran’s house.

Remember Remember

Lighting the Cross

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holla boys, holla boys, God save the King!