Alan Birtwhistle: onBirtwistle, Birtwhistle, Birtwisle, Bertwistle and Birdwhistell family trees

I am still plugging along keeping up with our family tree which you can have access to if you want. Just let me know. I may have to give you permission to access.  I just need your email address. The tree is quite large since the tree also includes both my and my wife Martha’s ancestries. Martha’s ancestry also goes back quite a ways in England, in fact, further than ours. (I can also supply you with your direct line back to Ralph, our so far earliest ancestor, to make it easier to follow your line and correct me for any mistakes or provide me with better information.) You will be given credit as the source of such data.

Continue reading


Photos of Walker Ancestors


Kathryn Neville has very kindly sent me some photos from the album of John Vincent Walker of my Walker ancestors. The note attached to the one above says, ‘Mother (Eliza Walker) and Aunt Polly with Great Grandfather and housekeeper at Brownedge’. We think that the Aunt Polly in the photo is my maternal great grandmother Mary Agnes “Polly” Walker of Avenham Towers. Eliza Walker (née Holden) was the wife of Charles Aloysius Walker (Polly’s brother) who lived at Brownedge House, Bamber Bridge, near Preston. We are guessing that the Great Grandfather in the photo is Charles and Polly’s father James Walker of Avenham Tower.

Continue reading

A toffee pig for Christmas – Chapter Six

This is the sixth and last installment of my mother’s memories of her childhood in Lancashire. You can read the other chapters here:

Now we can start the long, delicious, shivery  countdown to Christmas . In the kitchen, tables are scrubbed and heavy with fat-bottomed, cream-glazed bowls of cake or pudding mixtures; curds of sugared, brandied butter and eggs by the dozen, all beaten within an inch of their lives till smooth and pale. These mixtures are thickened with dried fruit: with raisins, sultanas, currents, candied peel, angelica and cherries.  Suet, grated carrots and bread crumbs are added to the pudding mixes, flour and spice is folded into the cake bowls.  We take it in turn to stir, to make wishes, to fill the cake tins and pudding bowls, to scrape them out and lick the spoons, the raw mixtures being so infinitely more delicious to us than they will be after their long metamorphoses. Pudding bowls are wrapped up in butter muslin and steamed for seven hours then hung in the larder to await a further hour’s steaming on Christmas Day.  The largest, deepest cake-tins, lined and covered with greaseproof paper, are slipped  into the middle ovens of the Eagle range; Molly, the young cook, hovers over them until, after three hours or so, they are taken out and pierced with a  skewer … if it comes out clean, the cakes are done and can be left on wire racks to cool before being covered with a thick layer of marzipan then coated and piped with a hard, tooth-cracking shell of royal icing. When finished, they are stored in sealed tins, to  await Christmas Eve  and the final trimmings of snowmen and esquimaux,  of robins, logs, polar bears, miniature Christmas trees, gold and silvered-paper frills, scarlet ribbons.

Continue reading

A toffee pig for Christmas – Chapter Five

This is the fifth installment of my mother’s memories of her childhood in Lancashire. You can read the other chapters here:

Our year is noticeably cyclical; passing seasons are marked by changes in the natural and domestic landscape, by the altering minutiae of household routines, by religious observations and by the food we eat.

Autumn is often glorious, bringing high blue skies and a sharp bite in the air; fruits ripen, leaves flame and become bronze.  We gather blackberries and rowan-berries, the hedgerows drip with scarlet, sealing-wax hips and the crimson beads of haws. The purple bramble mounds crouch like brooding animals amongst the swirling trails of mist. Up on Duxon Hill, there is a smudge of mauve heather.

Continue reading

A toffee pig for Christmas – Chapter Four

This is the fourth installment of my mother’s memories of her childhood in Lancashire. You can read the other chapters here:

By my third birthday, the memories begin to thicken, to gain some structure and sequence, although these are not always reliable. The night before it, my sisters lean over my bed to  hear my prayers ….’Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray to God my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray to god my soul to take’, awesome thoughts for an about-to-be-three-year-old.  In return, they chant the ritual promise for  the night-before -Christmas, or Easter or birthdays …  ‘the sooner you go to sleep, the sooner tomorrow will come …’   but I cannot go to sleep, no matter how hard I try. For what seems like hours I watch the faces that come and go in the flowered wallpaper and the shifting patterns on the nursery ceiling. Yet sleep I must at last, for suddenly I am awake and struggling up to awareness of sun streaming in at the window, the Atco  stuttering over the lawns, the smell of oil and mown grass, to the dogs barking at the postman, the weight of parcels on my bed…. I remember only one of my presents (it still hangs by my bed) a holy-water stoop, topped by a sweet-faced, blue-robed, star-spangled virgin holding out her arms.

Continue reading

A toffee pig for Christmas – Chapter Three

This is the third installment of my mother’s memories of her childhood in Lancashire. You can read the other chapters here:

The wind rises to a high-pitched scream, changes direction and now seems to attacks the house on all sides. It claws at the doors and forces its way through the window-frames. The oil-lamp above my bed oscillates, the white glass shade tilts and rattles in its brass frame, small flecks of plaster flutter down over the bedspread. I think of the pear tree in the next-door garden; it was here before these late-Victorian houses were built … if the wind turns west and the tree falls, it will crash through my roof. The chimneys begin to shake; with a great roar, the roof lifts off the house some six inches and hovers for a second or two before falling  back into place. I think there has been a bomb.  When the landmines fell near our home, the roof rose like this.  A thick flurry of soot swirls down the chimney and fills the room with its dry, acrid smell.  I lie rigid, trembling; my teeth chatter, the wind dies away, there is a great silence …the telephone rings  …

Your mother is not at all well, she’s had a great fright … trees fell round us  all night long … the door is blocked,  …  Babs, my mother’s housekeeper is on the line … ‘we  haven’t slept, can’t get out…  I think you should come and get her …  she’s asking for you.…’

Continue reading

IM Birtwistle Obituary: The Guardian

IM Birtwistle was my aunt. We knew her as Lilla, but she had been christened Iris and apparently hated the name. She preferred to be known instead as IM Birtwistle or simply IMB. I’ve included the following biography by Peter Stanford from The Guardian on Friday 23rd June, 2006. She also had obituaries in The Times and The Independent, although not The Telegraph which would probably have been her preference.

IM Birtwistle

Perceptive and demanding poet and gallery owner whose aesthetic gave her a cult status in the British art world

The gallery owner and lyric poet IM Birtwistle, who has died aged 88, was never that keen on you delving into her past. Names would occasionally crop up in conversation – dancing with Clark Gable (who apparently had bad breath), holidaying with Robert Graves on Majorca, debating religion with Muriel Spark – but just when you wanted more detail, she would sidestep your questions. “The box is so much more interesting than the contents,” she would say with a laugh, and return to the present and the future.

Continue reading