Reading Branch meeting 27th June 2019

Speaker: Members 

Four members talked about their ancestors and artefacts.

Peter Caton continued a theme connected to Walter Hildyard the circus performer. This time the subject was his grandfather Charles Hildyard Todd of Islington. A check on the censuses found him in 1861 & 1871 with his parents. In 1881 with his wife and daughter and 1901 with all the family but in 1911 Charles was missing. Further investigations traced him to a workhouse in 1910 and Army Service records where his next of kin was listed as a mysterious Octavia Ketera.

Angie Catt gave a very detailed account of the tragic and heroic deeds of her grandfather James Augustus Gibbons. In 1882 he was charged with theft of pigeons and received a sentence of 6 weeks hard labour aged just 16. He married Florence Amelia Slingo and had five children. In 1906 whilst employed at a utilities company he saw a boy fall into the flooded River Avon and together with a work colleague jumped into the fast-flowing river in an attempt to save the boy. Sadly, both James and the boy were drowned. Details of the inquest and subsequent unveiling of a plaque were described by Angie.

John Whitehead also spoke of his grandfather who he had never met and brought a death penny issued upon the soldier’s demise in WW1. Walter Henry Whitehead was born 1st July 1885 in London and had a good singing voice. In 1905 he started work at the National Bank and joined the Royal Artillery Company on outbreak of War and served on the Western Front until trench fever struck him down. He returned home for three months returning to France in 1917 and was transferred to Italy with the rank of Lance Corporal. He received a bullet wound from a “dum-dum” bullet and died on 23rd September 1919 aged 31.

Julia Cox continued the grandfather theme introducing us to James Taylor, born in Mortimer in 1859 and lived in Queens Road, Caversham. He worked for Thames Conservancy repairing locks and Julia brought along several tools used, and probably made, by him. She also had reference books which contained pictures of him at work.

This was an excellent evening.

Picture of Vicki