I recently came back from a family reunion in Orlando; the first time my father’s family have been in the same place since I was around 11 or 12. When I came home I was telling someone about it when they asked me if any of my family had also chosen ecology or conservation as a career.
Sadly, the answer is no, but the opportunity to reconnect with my long lost relatives has given me a deeper understanding of the parts of my ancestors that have gone a long way to shaping who I am. Those of you who have met me might be surpised to know that I’m a Black Country girl (ignore the mid-atlantic twang!). My mother’s family have, in part, been in Walsall since at least 1540. I’m lucky enough to have been able to trace one of my mother’s family lines to John Turner, a farmer from Walsall, whose father was also John Turner, who was my 13th great grandfather. He would, like me, have looked up at a church on the hill in Walsall every day. When I drive down the Sutton Road towards Walsall town centre, I invariably gaze at St Matthews Church and feel a sense of completeness knowing that he would have had a similar feature in the landscape of his daily life.
Sadly, very little information exists about my mother’s family, but my dad’s family is a different story. My beloved Uncle Steve shares with me a love of family history, and has been passing the torch to me to carry forward. The Hughes are Tiptonians (Tiptonites? – sounds like a mineral!), a long line of foundry workers and metallurgists with the odd coal miner thrown in. A few sciencey types in the ranks, to be sure, but no naturalists.
My great-grandad Stephen was a coal miner who had a leg amputated in a coal mining accident with no anasthetic (apparently was given brandy) and the first thing he said when the operation was complete was “if you had taken a bit longer I could have finished the bottle!” (or so the story goes)…
But whilst pouring over piles of old photographs, I come across this:
And it all comes flooding back how Hugheses, like Hobbits “share a love for things that grow”. So your friendly neighbourhood countryside ranger (and occasional moonlighting allotmenteer) probably has her grandad to thank. Oh, plus he taught me to swear:
“I ran a bug around a tree; I’ll have his blood. He knows I will.” (say it 3 times fast, you’ll get it. 😉
So I thought that a fitting start to a blog would be to remind you that I’m one of you. A Black Country Girl who talks a bit funny, but I’m home, all the same…