Uncle Walt’s “Record Off Journeys”

auntyethelangoras
Walt and Ethel, pre 1920 This is the earliest known photo of angoras, in the UK.

 

 

Sometimes, even very official looking historical sources get it wrong.

This slightly limb-challenged gentleman is my ‘Uncle Walt’, the miller at South Duffield; born the son of a miller in Braithwaite, Yorkshire.  I have this very photo but don’t appear to have scanned my version, so will link to it, here. Do click on the link. He is a very memorable looking gent!  And I will scan my copy when I can find it.

You can find him in all his glory, (rather bizarrely) on Historic England‘s site. I also own a copy of this image. I have no idea who took the photo or why. Historic England have this moving little whimsy going on:

 

No details about Mr Ledger are available, but judging by his age he may have been a veteran of the First World War.

 

They are wrong. Walter Ledger was not a worker as they appear to believe but the miller, (reserved occupation?). He lost both limbs courtesy of the windmill behind him in the picture (or the mill at South Milford, or one of the others he owned, at various dates). You’d think the whacking great windmill behind him and his artful use of a flour sack as a prosthetic limb might give them a clue as to the nature of the accident that led to his lack of limbs.  As you can see, the picture (they claim taken in 1943) shows that these slight inconveniences didn’t put him off his work.

walt
Walt has a steam engine!

 

Walt was born around 1873, according to various Censuses.  Which would make him too old to fight in WW1. Historic England may have the date of the photo wrong or maybe that’s an accession date for a collection, they’re confusing with the date the photo was taken.  Either way – this shows the need for caution when using sources like Historic England’s database of images,  to research.

Walter married my great grandmother’s sister, Kate Hemingway. Walt and Kate had one child; Ethel.   Ethel (my grandma’s cousin) was a pretty girl who never married because – it was said – Walt chased off any suitor with a shotgun.  Quite impressive for a one-armed man!  I seem to recall Ethel saying her dad lost his leg in one accident, and his arm in another. Which seems careless.

By the 1911 Census; Walter, Kate and 7 year old Ethel were living at Low Mill, South Milford. Walt is down as “Farmer & Miller”. I have photos dating from this time, including an aerial shot or two, of South Milford. I am guessing when the next Census is finally published, I will find them, in 1921, in South Duffield.

When I was a kid in the late 60s/early 70s, ‘Auntie Ethel’ was like a sort of grandma figure to me – as both my grandmas died before I was born so my great aunts and parents and grandparents’ cousins were the much loved old ladies in my life.

She was a lovely elderly lady. She eventually sold South Duffield mill and bought a bungalow in a nearby village. I stayed with her a couple of times and have fond memories of going with her to her friend’s garden to get quinces for her quince jelly. She had a cat and when she moved, dad asked her if the cat would be OK going from being a ‘farm cat’ with full run of the mill, the outhouses, and a few acres, to being an indoors cat. Ethel reassured Dad:

“He’ll get enough fresh air through the letter-box.”

southduffiedlmill
This photo belonged to Ethel Ledger

 

My parents were very fond of Ethel, largely for my late grandma’s sake – the two cousins had been very close as young women in the 1920s.  When Ethel’s parents died, the mill became derelict but Ethel scraped by, living in the lovely house and growing veg and raising poultry. She had a massive outbuilding, that was sort of partially underground and you’d go in to be greeted by a load of turkeys.  She also had what you’d now call ‘free range’ hens.

 

Of course, the desolate mill was fascinating to us kids. The sails were long gone, and the roof (later it was converted into a house), and I don’t recall any steps or stairs to the higher levels. But we’d go and play in there. It was creepy and rather wonderful.

Somewhere I have all Ethel’s recipe books, and a Staffordshire figure that no-one else wanted – ironically, because it has a limb missing…   When she died I also was given all the Ledger family photos as I was the only one interested in family history (I was about 14 when she went).  If you are related to the Ledgers of Chapel Haddlesey/South Milford/South Duffield – do get in touch as I can scan the photos I have. It’s frightening when you think how ready people were in the recent past, to throw out ‘old’ photos – my mother in law destroyed a stack of all photos and certificates, “because they were dog-eared”!

 

IMAG1602A couple of years back I went to an event at Hemingbrough church, and met a lady there who, it turned out, grew up in South Duff. I told her my Aunty was the miller’s daughter and she said:

“Oh, I knew her! I used to be sent to the mill every week to buy the eggs, and we were told we had to address her as ‘Miss Ledger'”.

Somehow, I found that deference as very touching.

I found the same deference in Walt’s own ‘Record Off Journeys’ (sic).  Walt, like many millers, was rather well off and an early owner of a car. I wish I’d scanned the photo of him in it, but it appears I haven’t yet! He reminded me of Toad of Toad Hall in that picture…

In amongst Ethel’s recipe books, was a diary from 1910 – Walt frugally amended to ‘1917’.  Over decades, well into the era of Biros, and with increasingly shaky handwriting,  Ethel scrawled odd recipes in her father’s old diary.  Their frugality is the only reason I have it.

family022
Cousin Lillie. This is a copy of the photo Ethel kept.

 

That deferential ‘Miss Boothman’ he went to fetch from the station in August 1917,  was Walt’s niece, my grandma, Lillie Boothman.

lillie
Lillie, around the time she visited the mill

On this trip to the mill, Lillie would have been 13 years old.  Her brother was in he trenches and would die in a few months.

Interesting how the politesse reverberated down the ages when the lady in Hemingbrough church told me about ‘Miss Ledger’…  and here is Walt writing about ‘Miss Boothman’.

To her dying day, in her living room Ethel had one family photo – a signed 1920’s shot of my grandma. Or rather, “Miss Boothman”!

 

 

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