#100daysofbfotc Day 23: Dr Crew

Dr Crew

Unattributed newspaper cutting

Much of the incidental information about Dr Crew, that appears in Barefoot on the Cobbles, is based on fact. He really was the local scout master and he was indeed fascinated by chicken genetics. He breezes into the lives of the novel’s main characters when they are in crisis and there is only scope to portray the brief essence of a fascinating man, who spent just a short time in Devon.

Dr Francis Albert Eley Crew was born in 1886 in Tipton, Staffordshire, the son of a grocer. Frank was the only surviving child of five siblings. He was educated at King Edward VI School in Edgbaston and his interest in breeding and showing poultry began at an early age. His father changed careers and became the manager of a brick works; the family lived in Stourbridge at this time.

Frank went to Edinburgh University to study medicine, graduating in 1912. He married fellow student, Helen Campbell Dykes and together they set up a practice in Hartland and Clovelly. Quite what the inhabitants of rural North Devon felt about the ministrations of a female doctor is unrecorded.

A keen member of the territorial army, Dr Crew also ran the local scout troop. This allowed me to make a brief reference to a recently founded, yet significant, institution, which helped to evoke an essence of the era. The Bank Holiday camp in East Devon, to which Dr Crew alludes, is reported in the local press. Dr Crew was also an honorary member of the Mariners’ Union, along with Mr Caird, Clovelly Estate’s Land Agent. When the First World War broke out, Frank was attached to the 6th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. He gained the rank of major, serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps in France and India. The Crews had two children.

Dr Crew did not return to Devon after the war; instead, he went back to teach at Edinburgh University, becoming a leading authority on animal genetics, particularly chickens. During the Second World War he was in charge of the military hospital at Edinburgh Castle and was inspired by the many Polish prisoners of war to set up a Polish School of Medicine in Edinburgh. He gained the rank of brigadier and became the director of Medical Research at the War Office. After the war, he abandoned genetics in favour of concentrating on the development of nursing training. He made several overseas trips in connection with the World Health Organisation, including visits to Egypt, Canada and India. He worked for several years in Burma and India before retiring to Sussex.

In 1972, the year before his death, Frank remarried to Margaret Ogilvie Withof-Keus, with whom he had worked in the Army Medical Corps. More information about Dr Crews can be found here.

‘The doctor looked at Bertie appraisingly.

‘Hello young man,’ he said. ‘You look just the age for my Scout Patrol. Have you heard of the Boy Scouts? I am sure you would enjoy the jolly times we have. We are off to camp in a week or two. What do you think of that?’ ’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

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#100daysofbfotc Day 22: Mrs Gilley

 

Capture

Torbay Express and South Devon Echo 12 August 1939

Although we first meet Mrs Gilley in the gardens of Clovelly Court, she is more at home in her home town of Torquay, where she is a lynchpin of the town’s genteel elite. It is through her character, amongst others, that Barefoot on the Cobbles can explore the intricacies and constraints of the early twentieth century social class system. We are allowed through the doors of her home to glimpse an opulence that is alien to most of the others who inhabit the novel’s pages.

Born Mary Elizabeth Angel in 1859, the future Mrs Gilley grew up in the comforts of an upper middle class household in Torquay. She and her sisters were educated at home by a governess. In 1882, at which time her family were living in Castle Grove, Torquay, Mary Elizabeth Angel married the widower, Tom Henry Gilley. Their early married life was spent at Kenwyn, Wellington Road, before they moved to Aylwood in Newton Road, Torquay. Mr Gilley established a flourishing railway cartage business and they associated with the cream of Torquay society. The Gilleys had eight children, two of whom died in infancy. Mary Gilley died in Paignton in 1939 and is buried in Torquay cemetery.

 ‘Mary Gilley was small and solidly built. Despite her greying hair and a slight stoop, she was impeccably and fashionably dressed; her speech underlining that she was a woman of some refinement.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 21: Leonard

Leonard Braund c 1916Leonard’s story forms a sub-plot in Barefoot on the Cobbles. We follow his adolescent romance with the girl in the local tea-shop; one of the lighter moments in the story. As the First World War tightens its grip, Leonard has important decisions to make regarding his future. The dangers of his life in the merchant service create another concern to be heaped on the burden carried by his mother. A local fishing tragedy unfolds through Leonard’s eyes.

After the novel finishes, Leonard returned to the merchant service. He followed generations of his forebears fishing in local waters and was to man the safety boat during lengthy repairs to Bideford Bridge. He married and had four children, two of whom died in infancy, succumbing to the same condition that took his young brother. He spent his married life in Bideford and passed his love of the sea on to future generations.

‘There would be no fishing again today, thought Leonard. The sea, its vagaries, its beauty and its menace was the counterpoint to his life; an all pervading rhythm to which his body and his soul must respond.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 20: Eli

Stan Flo and Stella, children of Eli and Maggie

Elis children

Eli has a role in Barefoot on the Cobbles as Clovelly’s carrier, primarily taking goods and passengers from Clovelly to the main town of Bideford. He is still using his horse and cart, in the face of competition from motorised alternatives. Born in 1871, Eli grew up in a Bucks Mills’ fishing family but moved to Upper Clovelly in his teens, to become a carpenter. In 1899, he married the daughter of the family with whom he lodged. They moved to Independent Street, in the village of Clovelly and later to The Bow. Eli’s father became a fish merchant in his later years, taking fish from Bucks Mills to market and perhaps this motivated Eli to become a carrier. As the twentieth century progressed, Eli moved with the times and worked as an attendant at the visitors’ car park in Clovelly. He died In 1955.

‘It was New Year’s Eve when Captain Jenn sent word for Eli to bring out his cart and collect the Clovelly crew members from the train.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

 

#100daysofbfotc Day 19: Clovelly Quay

10393817_343879402427231_2897722245522442543_nThe quayside at Clovelly is the lifeblood of the village and it is a location that forms an integral thread in the fabric of Barefoot on the Cobbles. Here, the fisherman put out to sea, risking their lives for an uncertain harvest. When the weather is inclement, they mend their nets or weave lobster pots on the quayside, eager to get back in the tiny wooden boats and seek the shoals that are their livelihood. Holidaymakers alight here to exclaim over the village’s quaintness and to swell the coffers of the inhabitants. Anxious watchers line the quay scanning the waves for the returning lifeboat.

In the time of the novel, it was a bustling, working quay, with a fishing fleet unloading its daily catch and men now too old for the rigors of the sea, watchfully reliving their youth. Thus the quay is the social hub of the village, a focus for gossip and the comfort of old friends. Barefoot on the Cobbles is set at a time when the tourism was just beginning to compete with fishing as the lynch pin of the village economy.

‘For years he had sat on the quayside, listening to the old men yarning about their younger days. He had envied their memories, stories of travel and exploits that became more far-fetched with every telling but which awed the small boys whose lives had yet to unfold.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 18: Mr C S Carnegie

Scales_Of_Justice.svg

Image from Wikimedia – used under creative commons

Claud Cathcart Strachan Carnegie is the magistrate presiding over Bideford County Sessions Court in Barefoot on the Cobbles. He was born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire in 1849, to a Scottish family of some repute. His wife, Mary Breakenridge, was Canadian and their two children were born in Scotland. Carnegie held the rank of major in the 5th Brigade, Scottish Division of the Royal Artillery and was a JP for both Forfarshire in Scotland and Devon. He lived in the twenty four roomed mansion, Clevelands, in Northam, which has now been demolished and replaced by a housing estate. The census returns show that he habitually employed eight live-in servants. He was renowned for his good works and was a patron of the local hospital. He died in 1930.

There could not have been a greater contrast between Carnegie, a member of the gentry and those who were on trial in his court room. He was articulate, well-connected and rich, with a life-style that was far removed from the fisherman and his wife who stand before him in the final chapter of the novel.

‘Then Carnegie had announced, ‘There are some twenty witnesses to be called. We are not ready to go on with the case today and the defendants will, I understand, be legally represented. It is only fair that they should have time to prepare their case.’ ’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

 

#100daysofbfotc Day 17: Vera Wentworth

Vera wentworh 2

Wikimedia used under creative commons

Vera Wentworth makes a dramatic appearance in Chapter 5 of Barefoot on the Cobbles. Born Jessie Alice Spink, in 1890, Vera was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the militant arm of the woman’s suffrage movement. She came from a middle-class family; her father was a London chemist. At the time she appears in the novel, although still in her teens, Vera had already spent several spells in Holloway Prison for her beliefs. She was based in the south west and together with Elsie Howey and Jessie Kenney, made the Prime Minister, a particular target. Her militancy was such that she alienated other members of the movement.

Her 1911 census entry shows that she attempted to avoid being enumerated but the entry was later ‘Inserted by instruction of the Registrar General’. After the incident that is narrated in the novel, Vera attended St Andrews University. She continued to campaign actively and went to America to aid the cause there. During the First World War, when the suffragettes agreed to suspend their activities, Vera is reported to have worked as a VAD nurse but she does not appear on the Red Cross database.

In 1939 Vera was living in Argyle Street, St Pancras with her life partner, Daisy Carden and Vera described herself as an authoress. She died in 1957.

‘Now Daisy had a better view of the women, she could see that the speaker was not much older than she was, perhaps still in her teens. Her nose was rather too prominent for her to be considered a beauty but her straight dark brows and striking eyes drew attention.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.