Amongst a donation last week was a book which is called ‘The Place Names of Warwickshire’. The spine has that printed on it and ‘English Place Names Society XIII’ and the crest for Cambridge Press.
I put it to one side as it seemed arcane enough to be worth checking out and – as my frequent reader will know – arcane often equals value one way or another.
A couple of days later it was in a small pile of books I needed to check out and so I opened it to get the publications date etc etc.
Imagine my surprise when I found there was no printed book but the hand-written life story of Edith Chadwick Holmes. At least I think that is what her name is, as the handwriting is hard to decipher.
The first entry is January 6th 1941 and she says she is writing it ‘Just because I have nine grandchildren who like most children just xxx for true stories and are ever curious to hear past histories & habits of their grown up relatives. I am daring enough to write about myself on this, my seventieth birthday, it seems a big age written down & quite startling (?) Now then, the big question is, shall I think backwards into the past or start right from the beginning. I suppose it is right and proper to start once upon a time a baby girl was born on the Epiphany 1871.’
And the last entry is January 30th 1956 which starts, ‘Here I am now age 85 & am wondering if it is worthwhile adding to this account of my simple life, but I hate to leave anything unfinished. It is too wet and cold for gardening so xxx where I left off.’
The final words in the book are ‘and then on to my dear Chad’s death in 1921.’
In the back of the book there is a sort of fixed envelope which would I think, should, if the book had been really printed, have had a map for the place names of Warwickshire.
In it I found some small pages of a notebook written by Edith and starting to tell of her sailing to Durban.
There are also some notes in a different hand, titled Mother’s Story and starting ‘Dad died 27th March 1921’ and I presume is more of the story, retold to Edith’s son or daughter.
If I had the time, I would work my way through the book and notes and transcribe them but I think that is a job for someone researching the family history.
So, I have been looking to find some trace of Edith Chadwick Holmes and I started with the Mormon site – free and very good in the past.
Her parents were Frank and Jane Sophia Fagg of Canterbury, but I cannot find them either.
I presume her beloved Chad was a nickname based on Chadwick Holmes, but I am not sure.
I am not sure either,from glancing though the book, that Edith’s life was extraordinary but I love the sound of her voice and would like very much to have someone cherish it.
But who, and where, and how? Again, I am not sure I will do the work and it maybe that Edith sits on a shelf in Oxfam until someone picks her up and has the interest and determination to tell her story.
I will have another go at looking for her in the records – not just now though because I have to make supper.
(Just in case you are interested, I am told that sometimes publishers would print and bind a book with blank pages and send to the prospective author and ask him (usually) to fill in the pages. It was an inducement to get the book done. And the book was written and it was published.)