Subject: Letters from a Faraway Laddie – from the Nidd to the Nile’
Speaker: Sue McGeever
The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 3rd May. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed guest speaker for the evening Sue McGeever who presented her illustrated talk ‘Letters from a Faraway Laddie – from the Nidd to the Nile’.
The subject of Sue’s talk concerned her grandfather Harry Gill born Summerbridge 1858. Harry came from a family of rope and twine makers and was a lay preacher. In early 1899 he embarked upon an educational cruise aboard the steam yacht Argonaut, organised by Henry Lunn, for the princely sum of £21. Whilst he was away he wrote a series of letters to his fiancée Maggie Morton who lived with her family on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. These letters are still in the possession of the family together with a collection of rare holiday snaps most probably taken by Harry on an early folding pocket Kodak camera. Harry addressed his letters to his Lassie and signed them from a Faraway Laddie and they provide a wonderful description of his travels, taking in many locations associated with the Bible.
After travelling to Marseilles he boarded the ship to Naples then on to Katakola in Greece from where the party visited Olympia then went overland by train to Piraeus, calling at Mycenae and Corinth along the way. The party spent time in Athens before reboarding the ship which took them to the island of Patmos and then to Jaffa (Tel Aviv). They stayed in Jerusalem visiting many Holy sites including the River Jordan where Harry experienced a full immersion baptism. He also brought home a phial of river water in anticipation of his own future children’s baptisms. The group then travelled to Alexandria, staying in Cairo and enjoying the Pyramids and the Nile. Harry was delighted by Egypt as he was by most of the places he visited with the exception of Jerusalem which he thought rather spoilt.
Departing Egypt for Malta Harry was by this time rather unwell which he blamed on sea-sickness but he was also missing home. He purchased some beautiful Maltese lace which he brought home for Maggie, who he married later that year. The couple settled in Summerbridge and had 6 children together. Harry’s letters express his delight in his journey including cold water sea baths and cricket on board ship but towards the end of his one month trip he was missing simple home cooked food.
Lynda Balmforth gave a vote of thanks and following refreshments a short AGM was held during which the existing team of committee members were re-elected for the coming year. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 7 June at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when well known historian Peter Higginbotham will present his talk, No Place like Home. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.