Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Captain Thomas Sydney Horn, OBE, Master of the Sydney Star 5 May 1899 – June 1971

Thomas Horn as a young man

 I have recently returned from a writing retreat at Anam Cara in Ireland, where I had the chance to share some of the poems from Convoy. 

I came back to find an email from Thomas Horn's grand daughter, Moya. She had read the Convoy blog posts about the men who inspired the poems. One of these was Captain Thomas Horn, master of the Sydney Star. It must have taken sheer determination on his part with the support of key members of his crew, including his chief engineer George Haig and Chief Officer James Mackie, to get the Sydney Star to Malta in the summer of 1941 after she’d been torpedoed and almost sunk.

I had a clear idea of what Thomas Horn's character was like; gleaned from various maritime histories but I had been unable to find a photograph of him, despite trawling through the various archives. This was rather surprising as he received the OBE in December 1941. 

His grand daughter and god daughter have kindly provided me with photographs and permission to share them. So here he is

Thomas Horn on right

Receiving  the OBE?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Percy's brothers and sisters

Percy Honeybill 20th May 1887 - 2nd September 1918

Percy grew up in a family of boys. His parents, William and Harriet, had eleven children of whom only two, Evelyn (born 1880) and Edith May (born 1894) were girls.

Percy had four older brothers, Albert, Evelyn's twin (born 1880), Alfred (born 1882) , William A (born 1883) and Frederick (born 1885) and four younger brothers, John (born 1888) the year after Percy, Granville (born 1890), George (born 1892) and Edward (born 1896). Two or more of his brothers died in childhood, baby Granville died in 1890 his birth year and Frederick died five years later in 1985 having only lived for ten years. It is possible that his oldest brother, Albert, Evelyn's twin also died as a baby as there is no mention of him in the 1881 census which simply records William and Harriet and Evelyn as living at The Lodge, Brighton Grove, Rusholme so we can assume that Percy will never have known Albert.

In 1891 the family were living at Portland Grove, Withington with his thirty eight year old father William still working as a Coachman and domestic servant. By then there were six children, Evelyn aged 10, Alfred aged 9, William A aged 7, Frederick aged 6, Percy aged 3 and the toddler John aged 2.

By the time of the 1901 census they had moved to what was then called 1 Lancaster Road, South Manchester and the three older children were working; twenty year old Evelyn as a dressmaker, nineteen year old Alfred and seventeen year old William A were both Joiners (Journeyman). Percy was aged thirteen and with his younger siblings,John, George, Edith May and Edward, will have been at school. Percy attended the Manchester Dulcie Avenue School from 1892 until 1901.

By 1911 Percy was the oldest child still living at home aged twenty three and working as a bookkeeper. John aged twenty two was a plumber and George was a joiner apprentice. Even the fourteen year old Edward was working as an office boy and the sixteen year old Edith May's occupation is described as 'at home'. 

Percy got married in 1914 to Dorothy Mabel Lummis and presumably left home that year. In the National Probate  calendar just four years later on 1st November 1918 their address is recorded as 15 Wilton Road,Cholton-cum-Hardy.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Lance Sergeant Percy Honeybill 1917

Percy Honeybill with Sergeant's stripes - taken in 1917
 Thanks to Percy's grandson, Peter I am now able to share a photograph which was taken on him in his uniform. Please note the three white chevrons denoting his rank as Lance serrgeant.

Peter also sent me the copy of a page from a diary of the time in which someone, mostly likely Percy has written a summary of his military service from 1916 to the end of 1917. I am still deciphering the handwriting but what it tells us is

Joined up Dec 1st 1916

The second military service Act of May 1916 had extended conscription to married men so Percy will have had to leave his wife and three young daughters.

Reported Ashton Dec 2nd 1916
Sent to P?? Dec 11th 1916

I'm assuming that he will have spent much of 1917 in training and he also became an NCO gaining the rank of Lance Sergeant on 30th June 1917. 

On 13th Dec 1917 the notes indicate he transferred to KO (RLR) - King's Own Royal Lancaster regiment. I don't know which regiment he was with during 1917 as neither his notes nor his medal card tell us. Having been transferred his notes then say

reverted to unpaid LCpl (Lance Corporal) Dec 20 1917

An internet search has revealed that Lance appointments could be paid or unpaid and were under the control of the commanding officer (CO) and these appointments could be removed at will by the CO.  

Now it's back to the war diaries to find out where he might have been with the KO (RLR) during 1917 and 1918.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Ouse Muse at Bedford

Thanks to the irrepresible Ian McEwen, Bedford has become one of the places to go to for poetry in this part of the world. He has a great line up for current Ouse Muse season; including Claire Crowther, Jon Stone and Hannah Lowe.

Last Thursday I and Vanessa Gebbie were the invited poets, reading to an appreciative audience in St Peter's chapter house in Bedford, which is not their usual venue but a lovely space in which to read. 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Percy Honeybill 20th May 1887 - 2nd September 1918

Back in 2012 when I first visited the Vis en Artois memorial where Percy Honeybill  is remembered I applied for a copy of his birth certificate. If you look online you will find the year of his birth given in various places as 1888 or 1887. The message I received then was that no record could be found.

My new year resolution was to try again with success this time. Here is his birth certificate which arrived in the post this morning.

By eerie concidence he was born on the twentieth of May which is the same day as my mother's birthday although they were born forty six years apart.  My mother was someone to whom family were important so I'm not surprised that I thought of her when I was at Thiepval and decided to look for a Honeybill.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy

This is another retrospective post about the good things of 2014. Amongst these was the 'Sensing Spaces'  exhibition at the Royal Academy, which I will remember long after the rest of the year has been forgotten.

The gallery let architects loose on the gallery spaces to see what they could come up with. What they produced was very different to the usual exhibitions of paintings. This was art for all the senses, a wooden staircase to climb until you were eye to eye with gilded angels; black velvet curtains through which you could pass to find a room lit by pin pricks of light and circled with slender bamboo poles and smelling of damp wood; a maze with a white floor leading to a mirrored room with a shingle beach; a dimly lit room which seemed full of smoke or was it light drifting down from the ceiling and a do-it-yourself artwork of hundreds of long bendy plastic straws in bright primary colours and a cave in which to hang them.

The spaces kept drawing me back and the hazelwood maze became my favourite of all the rooms, with a different aspect every time I went. The Royal Academy had asked a group of poets - Patricia Debney, Sasha Dugdale, Ian Duhig, Martin Figura, Vanessa Gebbie, Emer Gillespie, Helen Ivory, Maureen Jivani, Edward Mackay, Abegail Morley, Robert Peake Catherine Smith, Tamar Yoseloff - to write poems inspired bythe architects' work and selected poems by myself and Julie Maclean. This turned what could have been a solitary experience into a shared response to all those spaces, rather like bats sending out signals and waiting the clicks to come back.

Shuffle forwards, rely on sonar
like a bat. Reach out and press blind, palm
to palm, against smooth glass.                                Martin Figura 

I still think about the exhibition and how it is long gone from the galleries so you cannot climb up to be with the angels on the ceiling but those spaces still exist in the words of the poems. So all I have to do is to take out the anthology to read or you can catch glimpses on youtube of the poets and musicians in the exhibition. 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

More postcards

With a rush of blood to the head just before Christmas I signed up for the postcard exchange being organised by Amy Souza. She runs the Spark project which pairs writers and artists and gives each party a chance to be inspired by the other's work.

Her plan for January 2015 is to put together groups of six people to create and send each other postcards during the month. Briliant idea...

But wait – that means I have to make the cards – collage was mentioned in the introductory email and other art-related stuff. To misquote the lyrics of The Specials Rat Race
I don't have one Art O level.

In fact I was hopeless at art at school. Whatever came over me! Writing the poems to go on the back of the card will be fine but what about the Artwork....

I scared myself even more by looking for DIY art postcards and similar on the internet. There is some serious art with a capital A out there.

But I have been thinking very hard and may have some ideas.

My five companions in this adventure are from the USA and are scattered all over the states. I've been learning more about US geography, courtesy of google maps. If you start in New York, go via the New Jersey Turnpike to Arlington VA, then Poplarville MS, then Minneapolis and finally Beaverton, OR (OR = Oregon I think) you will have covered 4,150 miles taking 60 hours or about 60 days on foot but more importantly you will have visited the towns and cities of my fellow postcard creators.

Now I have not one but two ideas for cardsand the post office in Wing sells blank postcards in paxks of 25 so I have scope for some experiments.