We call in at the GOONS conference to help on the front desk; even though we aren’t officially here until tomorrow. It is good to see old friends again at what looks to be a very good venue – Copthorne Hotel, Cardiff. There does seem to be a tad of an issue when two sets of people appear to have been allocated the same room but this is soon sorted. There is complimentary fruit, tea and coffee on tap, free wi-fi and a very helpful staff. I download the 100 emails that have arrived in the last 48 hours. This brings the news that we are to transcribe the Clovelly gravestones, in the same way as we have for Buckland Brewer – now all I need is the volunteers.
We take part in the evening quiz. This sort of thing brings out my competitive side. We are fortunate in our team mates, do surprisingly well on ‘politics and power’ but as ever, are let down by our lack of knowledge of sport and popular culture. We misunderstand the Sat Nav on the way home so a one mile journey becomes eight.
After a late night, we wake to a frozen world. The freeze includes our caravan waste pipe, so nothing will go down our plug holes. We de-ice the car – yes it is still April – and set off back to the conference. I am sure I have forgotten something. I have forgotten something – washing things. Will we have to find time to go back to the van or can I manage without. Just how masculine smelling is Chris’ deodorant? As we arrive at the hotel someone is being unpleasantly and noisily unwell in the bushes. Is this the fall out from overindulgence at last night’s quiz? Or one of the smoking brigade reaping the consequences of a life time of Woodbines? On the contrary, it is a super fit Lycra clad cyclist.
Chris spent yesterday chatting up the reception staff and thus we are able to get in to our room straight away. In order to facilitate this our upgraded room has been further upgraded to a suite. This is almost as big as my house. The only downside is that the TV is in the living room part and we won’t be able to watch it in bed.
After the AGM, lectures begin. Andrew Millard talks about disappearing London ancestors as part of the England aspect of our UK ‘tour’ in store this weekend. We learn various interesting facts – e.g. 20% of all Scots in England in 1881 were in London – depending of course on which of the many definitions of London one uses! Next comes Gareth Davies, a very entertaining speaker from Companies House. Less direct genealogical relevance here (although we can search to see if our ancestors have been company directors since 1864) more than made up for by the delivery though.
A very good lunch is followed by the Ireland lectures. An erudite presentation about Medieval Irish genealogies from Nollaig O Muraile – a pronunciation nightmare for the chairman that one. We learn that hereditary surnames, the majority of which are patronymics, appear about a century earlier in Ireland than they do in England. Contrary to popular opinion the prefix ‘O’ in an Irish surname is not ‘son of’ but ‘GRANDson’ of. Son of is ‘Mac’ – more usually associated with Scotland but equally prominent in Ireland. In the C17th there were over 6000 different Irish personal names. When the Irish wanted to insult the Cromwellian soldiers they called them men of no genealogy. This was followed by John Hamrock’s session on the origins of Irish surnames.
Time then to gather our thoughts before the banquet. A convivial session in good company and hopefully my Eau de Right Guard isn’t too overpowering. Bizarrely the waitress unfolds Chris’ napkin and puts it on his lap. Does he look more likely than the rest of us to wear his dinner? She does at least restrain herself from tucking it under his beard. The evening includes the apple tart challenge. I am not much of connoisseur of fine dining but if ever a dessert required a fork to aid its consumption this was it. It was to our credit that none of us ended with it on our laps – even Chris who was of course prepared!
We wake rather later than intended the following morning. Very good session by Debbie Kennett on the power of social networking. One seventh of the world’s population is on Facebook. Bearing in mind that Facebook is banned in China, this is quite a feat and our genealogical Facebook presence is justified. Not that I’m deluding myself that all of the 618 million people who use Facebook on a daily basis are going to visit my pages. Debbie says ‘You can’t do a One Name Study without Facebook’ and I’m not going to argue.
Scottish lectures next. It seems Sasines is pronounced Say-zines, rather than Sass-ines, as I’ve always pronounced it. We also learn the origin of Treasure Island’s ‘yo ho ho 15 men on a dead man’s chest’. As part of the Retours of Service of Heirs 15 men would meet to open the dead man’s chest to sort out his paperwork. Next a well presented session by Dee Williams from Scotland’s People. Some of the oddly named people that Dee had come across included Equator Thunderbolt and the great 1704 baptism entry for Something George Something, son of what do you call it. Interestingly, as there was no Scottish Registrar General until 1855, the 1841 and 1851 Scottish censuses were administered in England and the records were initially held there.
Time to depart and plan to meet again next year in Ashford. We return to the van and try to recoup our energies for the remainder of a very busy April.