Sunday, 12 August 2012

A Strange Little Tale


A couple of months ago I received an email from a chap called Andrew Moore.He had contacted the clerk of our community council for some advice, and the clerk, knowing of my interest in Trelawnyd History had passed my name to him.
Andrew told me that two volumes of an old personal diary had come into his possession. The diary had been originally bought in 1970 at a car boot sale in Nottingham, and told of the adventures of a mysterious chap with the initials JHD as he joined the SS Manipur at Birkenhead on a return voyage to Calcutta a hundred years ago. 
Andrew through some very detailed research which could have put the sleuthing of Miss Marple to shame, eventually found that the Captain of the SS Manipur had an executor with the initials JHD, and through more obsessive digging he eventually found out that the author of the exotic and fascinating far eastern diaries he had been reading for so long was indeed a chap called John Hilton Davies.
John Davies  and his life seems to have captured the imagination of Andrew Moore, who eventually found out that he lived in a village called Newmarket just before his death in 1956. Newmarket became Trelawnyd in 1954.and his email to me, was a sort of last ditched effort to put some flesh on the bones of this unknown Liverpudlian, who had spent his early days in the India of the Raj.
All I had to go on was a name (Davies is, as you can appreciate a bloody common name in Wales) and a house name of "John's" which I thought, seemed somewhat odd.
I immediately went to see Auntie Glad, who instantly recognised the house name...."Uncle John" used to live there, she said without hesitation, " It was a name of a cottage just underneath the Gop"
Seven of the older residents of the village also remembered John well. All referred to him as  "Uncle John" a "kindly old guy who would give you anything if you needed it" One lady recalled him lending  her a bowler hat for a play at the memorial hall when another remembered him always "with a open bottle of wine ready for visitors"....
It was lovely for me to be able to put , just a hint of flesh on the bones of this larger than life character who had become somewhat of an obsession of a guy who had found some dusty old diaries that no one had wanted.
Small world eh?

John Hilton Davies....ready to shoot elephants and Tigers!
I wonder if anyone will "find" my blog diaries as fascinating long after I am dead and gone......?

31 comments:

  1. Journal entry Aug 12/12 .... JG, ready to go scrape chicken shit. Hmmm...doesn't have quite the same ring as "ready to shoot lions and tigers" does it lol.

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  2. What a fabulous story. I think you should publish a book of your blog entries John, it would be a best seller.
    Jo xx

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  3. delores
    oh sooo true

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  4. What a cool story!! xo

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  5. Small world indeed John. I have said it before and I will say it again, this time much LOUDER - you really should put all your blog posts together, fill it out a bit and publish it as a book - "Tales from Trelawnyd" or some such name. It would be a best-seller.

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  6. Great story ... and love the old pic, though I can't imagine anyone would dress like that today to go 'shoot lions and tigers'.

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  7. eLIZABETH
    Tom Stephenson would!

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  8. John, Does the owner of the diary have any plans to publish it, either on-line or in book form?

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  9. I might dress like that, and I might (and sometimes do) cradle a gun, but I would use it to shoot lions and tigers! I love stories like these. It's nice to tie up some loose ends.

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  10. NOT use it to... I meant, of course.

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  11. archguy
    I will email Andrew to ask him

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  12. How fascinating to find such diaries . I wonder if there is any more history in the archives of the website Ancestry.com ,it would be interesting for this guy to find out more of this persons roots and who his relatives all are today ! Wonderful post and photo ! Have a good day !

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  13. They will LOVE your blog entries.
    And how wonderful that you were able to give Andrew some more information and a picture, too!

    Hope you're having a wonderful Sunday, John. :o)

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  14. For certain your blog entries will be a 'hit' some day in the future, John. What you are giving here on a daily basis is your account of life in a small village in Wales in the early part of the 21st century. What could be more important than that? Nothing.

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  15. For a moment I thought Tom was about to order a Safari suit.

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  16. Amazing how people get the bit between their teeth and are determined to track down some elusive character they have only a few skimpy details of. And Auntie Glad came up trumps!

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  17. How very interesting! I'd like to find something like that... would be a great foundation for a book!

    Have you started yours yet? Could become a classic like The Egg and I!

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  18. Thats fascinating. It would make a great book.x

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  19. That is so cool, I just love stuff like that. I found an old letter in a book one time, a book from the 1920's. I couldn't make out the name signed at the bottom but it was a sweet letter to someone lost in time and I always wondered about the person who wrote it and wondered if it ever made it to the recipient (whom I only knew as "Jane").

    I love that there was a connection you were able to establish. That's very neat!!

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  20. Dear John / All
    Thank you for sharing the story in this way. As regards relatives, the only one left is the nephew of Uncle John’s son’s wife. I have spoken to him and he tells me son Harold and his wife Mary are buried at Williston. I have an appointment in ten days’ time with Uncle John and Minnie at the crypt at Anfield crematorium (they took some finding). I intend to ask them where they have hidden the first volume! The books are a window into times now gone. The return cargo of tea taken on board at Ceylon had a duty payable of £280000, this in 1914. Anyway look out for a strange bald man in the street in Trelawnyd (phonetic please). It might be me. Regards to all, Andrew

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  21. Thank you for commenting Andrew
    it feels a little like the circle has closed somewhat
    I think YOU should write a book about your quest or at least a BLOG... it sounds like a good read

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  22. Yes. In the autumn I must sit down and write it all down. In the meantime it seems the pressure is on you! How about the phonetic for Trelawnyd. Cheers

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  23. simon
    see my video below
    It tells you how to say TRELAWNYD

    http://disasterfilm.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/trelawnyd-word.html

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  24. It is lovely to find some of the colour from the past.
    I suppose it was the village was probably named "New" Market in about 1200?

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  25. al 1710 it was renamed !!

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  26. Well they are often fascinating now !
    Cheers

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  27. Not so much strange as fascinating John. I agree with just about everyone that you should compile a collection of your best posts and have them published as a diary of life in rural Wales. It too would become a snapshot of the times.

    I do dress like that, not to shoot elephant or tiger but the odd bush buck. Right down to leather gaiters, plenty of snakes around here don't you know...

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  28. I too find them fascinating now. Does that count?

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  29. Even though it sounds banal, i think it is precisely the day-to-day things that can make an interesting read a hundred years hence. No matter the technological advances or how the world's geography is carved up by cartographers, there's that sense of humanity that links. The busy lives, the interactions with different people, the worries and cares of an adventurer or livestock carer.

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  30. I, too, became pretty obsessed with some old letters I found among my grandmother's things after she died. They were correspondence between great great great members of the family long gone now and their words brought them to life for me.
    There's something about establishing a link with people who actually knew Uncle John that bring a flesh and blood element into the whole thing. Great story.
    I sometimes wonder about so much of our current literature and correspondence only existing in the digital world. It seems vulnerable to me. Do you have any hard copy back ups for your blog John?

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