Hi to all my readers, welcome to the year 2019!
Today is the first anniversary of To Jamaica and Beyond. I began this blogging journey exactly a year ago today. The year has come and gone so quickly, that I’m only just catching my breath.
Including todays, there has been 33 blogs posted onto the site so far, and during that time, it has been very enjoyable telling my family story.
There have been less blogs posted than originally intended, however the story still moves on and new posts will continue to added as often as possible. Trying to make each post as accurate as possible has been my goal, and it’s a challenge that I am enjoying. A lot of careful research has needed to be conducted, so with this in mind, it has been more important for me to take my time rather than rush the blogs out too quickly. It’s all about quality, not quantity. Also, not only do I write, but I also research too and am actively involved in finding more information about the family week by week.
Moving forward though, there now remains about seven more blogs to be posted before we reach the exciting landmark of my visit to Southfield in 2004. At that point we will then make an abrupt change of direction, taking us back to the very beginning – The medieval period. It is at this stage that I will then begin to tell the interesting story of How We Became The Southfield Hodgson’s. I look forward to taking you along with me on that journey….
I hope you had a nice christmas and wish you all a very prosperous new year.
Thanks for reading To Jamaica and Beyond!
Now to the first installment of 2019. The previous blog Back Home covered predominantly being back home at Southfield. Todays blog, Marriages, Deaths, Retirements heralds in a new decade dealing with events that occurred in the towns and cities of West Bromwich, New York and Southfield between the years 1970 to 1980. A lengthy blog has been needed to cover the events and happenings of this long decade.
The main focus of this blog today centres on family, touching upon four deaths and two marriages, moving through to Cecil and Mae’s retirements. Look out also for a short article about someone with ‘Southfield roots’ who ends up at the White House! There will also be some nostalgia and technology advancements too, showing how the modern world was now upon us. Oh yes, and look out for the bizarre incident of a barrel that would haunt me for many years to come….
The events begin at Southfield….
SOUTHFIELD: The story of the 1970’s starts with the death of Mabel and Dorcas’s brother, Frank Bent. Frank was an uncle of the Southfield Hodgson’s. After being ill for just three days, he died of Status Epilepticus, on the 1st March 1970. He was 83 years old and unmarried.
Status Epilepticus is when a seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or when seizures occur close together and the person doesn’t recover between seizures. Source: Epilepsy Foundation.
He was buried at Bamboo next to my dad’s father Aubrey Hodgson and near to his mother Grace McIntosh. The death was registered at Southfield by Frank’s son Stafford Bent.
WEST BROMWICH: The next event in the family calendar was the marriage of Shirley Calvert Hodgson & Nuronessa V Ali. The late Shirley Hodgson was the youngest son of Leslie & Phyllis, owners of Southfield Pen. (See Hodgson of Southfield Family Branches)
Twenty nine-year old, Shirley & Nuronessa V Ali married at Saint Phillip’s church, West Bromwich. This was the venue where his uncle Cecil had operated as a voluntary churchwarden for about the last 15 years.
BACK TO SOUTHFIELD: Another uncle of the Southfield Hodgson’s died this year. The highly respected Reginald William O’Neil Speid, a retired education officer, was a widower of Mabel Hodgson’s sister, Dorcas. Known as ‘Inspector Speid’ Reginald was a diabetic with high blood pressure (Hypertension) He suffered a stroke in the July of 1971 and died just 7 days later on the 28th July.
The 87-year-old was buried with his wife Dorcas at Saint Mark’s church, Mayfield, Southfield. Dorcas & Mr Speid’s nephew Stafford Bent signed the certificate and would now take over the Speid residence, Waldnsdor. Many years later, I would meet this nice man, Stafford when I stayed at his home on my visit to Southfield.
Reginald Speid at my aunt, Cissy’s wedding in 1964.
NEW YORK: The only son of Ida Mae Burkley née Hodgson, died. Orville Redverse Burkley was tragically killed in a military head on vehicle crash. He was just 38 years of age.
NEW YORK: Ida Mae had her own land at Southfield, and was a regular traveller to and from Jamaica over the years. She now had Parkinson’s disease, and wanted to move permanently to her homeland to see out the what remained of her retirement.
At her New York home, she gathered her belongings and packed them all away in shipping barrels which were then going to be sent ahead of her to Jamaica. Also carefully placed in one of these barrels was a framed photograph of her late brother, Edward Aubrey Hodgson (my dad’s father) that she used to keep prominently lit up in her hall.
She packed the barrels off to Jamaica. In the photo, your grandfather Aubrey was standing alone. It was kept in a prominent place in the house. (Gairre Henry, granddaughter of Mae)
SOUTHFIELD: On her arrival at Jamaica, Mae was devastated to discover that the shipping barrels – including the photograph of my dad’s father Aubrey – had never arrived. They had gone missing.
Plot of Land
Had things turned out as planned, Mae would have been moving into her own house at Southfield Pen. Her late father, Mass Teddy had given all his children plots of land in the hope that they would ‘seek their fortunes abroad’ then have houses built on their individual pieces of land to retire back to Southfield. That was the plan.
In 1932, Mae went to Jamaica and hired builders to erect a house on her Southfield plot of land. This was going to be her Jamaican residence. The incompetent builders chose to use poor materials resulting in the building not being completed. There were problems and disputes meaning the house was never finished. It had now remained in that condition for the last 40 years.
With Mae’s house uninhabitable, she moved into the old Southfield Pen Great House with her brother Les and his wife Phyllis. In the drawing-room at Southfield Great House, Mae hung up on the wall a large framed photograph of her late son, Orville, she also kept other family photographs on a circular antique oak table.
I spoke many times to Mae’s American granddaughter Gairre Henry in the 2000’s. Born 1955 in New York, Gaire told me;
My grandmother took me to Southfield many times. The first time was when I was just 5 years old (1960) That was the first time I met Leslie & Phyllis. She then took me again three more times; when I was 7, 11, and for the last time when I was a 16-year-old teenager ( 1971) she called me her ‘little travelling companion’
One of the times that we were there, she walked me over to the graves of her parents Mass Teddy & Mabel. At the their graveside, she ‘spoke to them’ and introduced me to them. It was so sad.
About the shipping barrel going missing;
My grandmother moved permanently to Southfield sometime in the 1970’s. She lived in the old house and had Parkinson’s disease, and they just took advantage of a sick old lady. Telephone conversations about 2004 with Gairre Henry of New York (granddaughter of Ida Mae Burkley née Hodgson)
MANDEVILLE, MANCHESTER, JAMAICA: Mae, who suffered with diabetes, was living at Southfield Pen Great House when she became ill. On the 8th June, 1976, just 5 years after her son’s death, she died at Hargreaves Memorial Hospital in Mandeville. The cause of death being diabetes, attributed to Myocardial Degeneration (see article)
Mae’s family in America brought her back to New York, where she was buried in the Bronx, New York City.
She is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx, New York City. It is a nice place. She is in a casket in a mausoleum surrounded by stained glass windows, a marble floor and quiet music. Telephone conversation about 2005 with Gaire Henry.
WEST BROMWICH: Cecil had been an employee at the Albion Bottle Company, Langley since moving to Bloxcidge Street in the early 1950’s. He had been at the factory for about 23 years. He was due to retire in a few years but was considering retiring early and cashing in on his pension. He spoke to my dad Renford, asking his opinion. Dad suggested to his uncle that he should take the early retirement, which he did. Cecil then retired a few years early.
This turned out to be a good decision because not long after he left the company, it went bankrupt and closed down. Cecil had been fortunate, whereby he received a good pension.
In the late 1970’s, I would sometimes see uncle Cecil around the town of West Bromwich waiting in his blue car to pick aunt Helen up from shopping. I would always respectfully walk over to him or both and chat for a while. He would always ask how my parents were. Good memories. Loved those days.
WEST BROMWICH: Another wedding. Devert Ainsley Hodgson, the son of Leslie & Phyllis Hodgson of Southfield Pen, married Linda Blamey at West Bromwich Registry Office, Bratt Street. Cecil & Helen were present and can be seen in the photograph on the left. I didn’t really know Ainsley & Lyn that well, so it’s hard to believe that they would take me to see Southfield 27 years after this photograph was taken. Their two grown-up daughters came too!
SOUTHFIELD: Ida Mae Burkley had been deceased now for a year. The nearest church to the Hodgson property was situated down the hill at Saint Mark’s Anglican Church at Mayfield, Southfield. This church celebrated the 75th anniversary of it’s consecration and had a commemorative brochure printed to celebrate the special occasion.
The history of the opening of the church 75 years ago was reported in it, mentioning the founding families that attended the first church service when the newly consecrated church officially opened it’s doors to the public in 1903.
Amongst the founding families of the church who were there in 1903 was the Hodgson’s of Southfield who at that time consisted of Mass Teddy, who had married here, his aunt, his parents, his new wife Mabel and their three young children, Mae, Maurice and John.
Before we move on, I just want to give you an interesting piece of information. In the second photograph above, there is an advert that mentions Top Hill in Southfield, Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica. My dad and his brother Colin were raised in this area, but so were the parents of a very successful man. But who was this man?
The mystery mans father, Luther Powell was from Top Hill, Southfield and his mother Maud from the next parish, Manchester. After emigrating to America, they met and married. Their American born son, Colin Powell – have you guessed yet – rose through the ranks in the American Army, eventually attaining the high rank of a general before later being appointed secretary of state in 2001 under the administration of American president George H. Bush (who recently died) Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice became the most upper ranking African American’s ever to work at the White House (before President Obama of course)
This lovely photo was taken some years before he became Secretary of State. Colin had African & Scottish ancestry and never forgot his Southfield roots. A Southfield descendant at the White House, how could this happen you might think? This should be an example to everyone and anyone that absolutely anything is possible in life with hard work, dedication and sometimes a bit of luck. Also Barack Obama – not of Southfield or Jamaican descent – is another perfect example of an African-American who managed to rise to the very top.
There has been an a lot of information to absorb during this blog so let’s now take a break from the story and look at some 1970’s nostalgia and technology. The 1970’s was a sure sign that the ‘modern world’ had truly arrived with a bang. I have picked out a few events and defining iconic images that took place during my teenage years.
In 1973 Great Britain and Ireland joined the EEC (Known today as the EU) A topical and still very controversial subject as I type.
Mobile phones. That same year 1973, is also noted for the first ever call from a mobile phone prototype. Ten years later in 1983, the Motorola DynaTac 8000X became the first ever commercially produced mobile phone.
Look at the size of that mobile phone! Would it ever catch on?
Computers. In 1976, The first ever ‘Apple Computer’ was founded by American’s Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak. It was known as the Apple – 1, and cost $666.66.
I’m typing this sentence right now on an Apple Ipad?
At the end of this decade 1979, Mrs Margaret Thatcher became the first ever female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Maggie Thatcher, a strong female leader in a mans world!
Finally, a bit of my own nostalgia & technology history to finish….
WEST BROMWICH: I was a teenager now and had met my future wife, Kath, the previous year in 1978. I had taken up a keen interest in photography, going around taking photos and slides of just about everything and anything that moved. I have a massive collection of my own personal photos from 1978 to the 1990’s.
I started off in 1978 with a Halina camera. I dont think I brought this camera, but somehow it came into my hands. I honestly can’t remember where it came from, maybe it was off our elderly next door neighbour, who knows?
In those days you would buy a 35mm film, push it into the back of the camera then snap away. You would buy a roll of 12, 24 or 36 film that you could afford, then you would shoot that amount of photos. It would then be wound back into the film cartridge, then be taken out of the back of the camera (without letting the film be exposed to any stray light otherwise it would be ruined) then you would send it off and pay for it to be developed and printed at a processing lab. It was expensive. You would have to pay for the film, the printing and also buy a photograph album to store the photographs in. It is so much easier today! I bet some of you dont understand all this gibberish I’m speaking. Well anyway, that’s what you had to do in those days.
My involvement in photography has, maybe given me a soft spot for photographs. Having discovered Cecil’s photo albums at Southfield, probably inspired and influenced me not only to write the Hodgson story but also to show it in a pictorial sense too.
My 1960/70’s Halina camera and the Kodak colour film that I would use when not shooting in black & white. I would wait impatiently, sometimes for weeks on end, for my colour prints to arrive from the ‘Bonusprint’ lab in the post, it was a frustratingly slow process. Someone took this nice photo with my Halina.
By May 1980, I had brought a second-hand Zenit E, a Russian single lens reflex camera (SLR)
In May 1980, dad’s brother, Colin, who had left West Bromwich to go to Canada in 1966, came to England and visited us at West Bromwich. While he was sitting on our sofa I took this snap of him with my newish Zenit camera. Uncle Colin had left before the prints arrived back from the bonusprint lab. No instant photography in those days unless you used a much less inferior polaroid camera. He never saw this picture.
A few months later, July 1980, my mom had brought me a brand new modern camera, the Canon AV-1. It cost about £120. Wow, that camera was amazing compared to the old second-hand ones that I had used over the last few years.
Fixing that brand new camera to my shiny new tripod, I took the photo below using the cameras self timer. It was on a countdown! The red light on the camera would flash intermittently ten times, giving me just 10 secs to run, quickly hop onto the memorial stone, compose myself and smile without looking out of breath. This is how a ‘selfie’ was done in the 1970’s, long before the invention of the smartphone!
We soon moved into a high-rise flat on the 11th floor, where I tried my hand at wedding photography, developing & printing the black & white photographs in a makeshift processing lab in the bathroom!
I was now hooked on photography and keen to work in that profession. I found myself a position working as a trainee for six months in a processing lab at a local photographic agency, developing and printing their black & white photographs.
Sorry to bore you with all that tech, but the world was changing, the modern era was arriving….
Frank Bent. The older generation members of our family were fading away. We had already lost, Mass Teddy, Mabel, and her sister Dorcas. Their brother Frank was now gone. Other than his death details and photographing his grave, I didn’t know much about him.
Shirley Hodgson. I didn’t really know Shirley either. I can’t remember seeing much of him over the years but many years later – about 2004/5 – my dad told me that Kim Hodgson, one of his adult daughters had moved into a house nearby. Up until then, I didn’t even know that this family branch existed.
Shirley had been deceased by this time, but I soon made contact with Kim when I made a visit to her house in West Bromwich. She knew little about the Southfield Hodgson’s. Along with her then boyfriend, I also met her sister Lisa and mom, Nuronessa. Cecil, an avid collector of family photos of everybody, also had photos of them in his fantastic collection.
Over the coming weeks/months I will be uploading all of his photographic collection onto the blog.
I was later invited to Kim’s wedding in Birmingham but unfortunately could not make it and lost contact with them. That was about 14 years ago. However, since starting this blog last January, she contacted me by Email on the 29th January 2018;
I hope you are well, its been a while since we have been in contact but I just wanted to say thank you for putting this blog together, it gives us hodgsons a chance to go through our family tree….Thanks kim
Reginald Speid. Another member of the older branch had gone. The article in the church anniversary brochure tells you everything you need to know about the stature of this man. Genealogy or family history is all about being a detective. You have to think like the police and try to leave no stone unturned, unless you encounter a scorpion that is? Read on to find out what I mean by this!
I found that excellent piece of ‘documentary evidence’ about Mr Speid at Cecil’s Southfield Home. It really dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s about his life.
Mae Burkley. Although she lived in New York, Mae was always travelling and often went to Southfield. It looks to me that she never wanted to be away from her homeland. Her granddaughter Gairre once told me “She was always a Jamaican” That it so true. How sad though that she only survived for about four years after moving back to Southfield.
When I first saw her property ‘Mae’s Villa’ and found out that it hadn’t been finished since 1932, I was flabbergasted. She must have lost a lot of money too, how sad. Also her belongings going missing in the barrels, she was certainly cruelly taken advantage of. The eldest child of Mass Teddy & Mabel had now expired. I believe the family took the correct decision to bring her back to New York.
Ainsley’s marriage. Ainsley got married at the same venue where I married five years later. Cecil was held in so much high esteem by the family that he appears to have been at every official family event. I heard somewhere that Ainsley was a favourite nephew of Cecil. (and a great cricketer too!)
Saint Mark’s Church Anniversary 1978. Not only did I find this 75th anniversary celebration, but I also found the 100th anniversary brochure too, which also contained information about our family. This will be posted in a future blog. I wonder what happened to the earlier ones, I was disappointed not to find them, the 25th & 50th anniversary brochures.
Colin Powell. I found his story very interesting. It’s good to see that a man with a Southfield ancestry could make it to the top in America. Maybe this opened the way up for Barack Obama to reach up to the very highest level!
The shipping barrels. My quest, to bring our ancestors back to life, fills me with passion, energy and great pride, but it also comes sometimes with big disappointments. I was so devastated to hear this story when it was first recalled to me by Mae’s grandaughter, Gairre Henry.
Although it would have been extremely traumatic, for Mae and her family, losing the barrels, why would it affect me so much you might ask? Well you may or may not be aware, but if you look at Family Branches Hodgson of Southfield Pen, you will notice that I have in my collection, photographs of all the children of Mass Teddy & Mabel that survived into adulthood. That is everybody, except for one. My dads father Edward Aubrey Hodgson.
None of us know what our grandfather Aubrey looked like, we have never seen a photograph of him, although, Mae’s daughters believed that one apparently exists, amongst some of their moms belongings in the cellar at her former home in New York. Her daughter Lorrelle now lives there.
My 83 yer old dad never really knew his father, Aubrey and can’t remember what he looked like. As a very young child at the time of his premature death, dad recalled once opening a draw at Southfield Pen Great House and seeing a photo of him. At this time – about 1942 – Mae, who was very fond of Aubrey, was living in New York, but It is believed she took it to New York during one of her regular visits to Southfield. There may also have been another photo of him too.
Over the last 19 years, dad asked me many times to try to find a photograph of his father, saying he hopes one day to be able to see what he looked like. The barrel event has haunted me for nearly two decades. I have asked every Southfield born relative if they have a copy of my grandfathers photo, without any luck.
If Mae’s shipping barrels had successfully arrived at Jamaica in the 1970’s, I would almost certainly have found it at Southfield and happily passed it over to my dad. I spoke many times to Mae’s daughters, Lorrelle and, Glenna (no longer with us) about this elusive photograph. I really hope it turns up one day for him.
Back to the barrel of the 1970’s. Although I had suffered bad luck not being able to put my hands on Aubrey’s lost photo, thirty years later, I would find myself at Cecil’s Southfield home, head first, upside down, in a barrel, with legs dangling out of the top, searching for any family memorabilia that may have been there.
Like a bloodhound, my hands – or should that be paws? – sifted frantically through all the clothing and other stuff, trying to reach all around and get to the very bottom of the barrel. In fact, one of ‘Cecil’s barrels’ was precisely where I found the 1978 Saint Mark’s Church anniversary brochure, posted on this blog.
If I had kept searching, I’m sure there could have been other interesting items in there but I didn’t get the chance to complete the task, after being told by one of the locals in charge of the house “watch you don’t get stung by a scorpion”. I didn’t need to be told twice! I instantly abandoned the search and quickly jumped up and out as quick as a flash. And do you know what, I didn’t go back in it!
Over the years, I often wondered if I missed anything that would have been worth getting stung for….
Robert Roy Hodgson
“PRESERVING OUR HERITAGE”
NEW REVISED PLANS
THE NEXT 5 BLOGS WILL BE: 1982 to 1986 – The Last Branch
1988 – Maundy Thursday
1989 to 1992 – Bricks & Mortar
1993 – End of a Gentleman
1994 to 1997 – The Last Uncle