Friday, June 7, 2013

Researching Idris

In the course of interviewing people for the blog series I am writing on "The Grandfather I Never Knew," I have ended up with many pages of interview notes. One person I queried was my second cousin Roy. He was able to answer a few questions but then asked me if I knew any of the details about Idris traveling to Africa. The totality of this information will be forthcoming in the next blog I  write in the series but I told Roy I would take a look at my interview notes. I discovered that my Uncle Glyn had remembered the names of the cruise ships which his family have traveled upon.

I sent the information to Roy; lo and behold he was able to find the following on the website findmypast.co.uk:



The pertinent information reads:

Name of Ship: Carnarvon Castle
Date of Departure: 22/7/47
Port of Departure: Southampton
Port at which passengers have contracted to land: Capetown
Name of Passenger: I. Davies
Age: 32
Last Address: 318 Longton Road, Stoke on Trent
Country of intended permanent residence: S.Rhodesia
Occupation: Mech Ex

Roy had been looking for my grandfathers information before but he had never known the exact date or the name of the ship. Thanks to Uncle Glyn we were able to discover this. I was also able to let Roy know he traveled alone since the rest of the family departed at a later date so Idris could set up home for them.


The "Castle" line of ships were all former war ships in the British Navy which were decommissioned and became cruise ships after WW2. The last known address mentioned here is the home of Harold and Anne Griffiths where my Great Aunt Ruth lived until she was married. Idris moved his family in with them during the months of his departure.

As for Idris occupation.  This is still somewhat of a mystery. We think he wrote "Mech Ex" though it may have been "Mech En".  This might stand for Mechanical Engineer or perhaps Mechanical Experience? We're not too sure. He definitely did not have a degree although he was quite mechanical minded. In some of the interview notes with my Aunt Wendy she mentioned that at some point she believed Idris to have worked mechanically on airplanes during WW2. We also know he was a munitions inspector.

When he arrived in Southern Rhodesia, Wendy is sure that he worked on farm machines for a while, perhaps he put this down as his occupation because mechanical skills were something he felt confident with.

Iris, Wendy and Glyn all traveled on the Warwick Castle. The relevant pages that have been scanned onto the findmypast.co.uk site are all black and obviously were not scanned correctly. Roy has requested for this information to be updated but it may take several months.

In the mean time I now have this information to add to the story of "The Grandfather I Never Knew."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hymns Of My Fathers: "Tell It Again."

One hymn which my Grandfather Idris would sing is "Tell It Again."  It was also known as the "Gypsy boy" song which might not be entirely politically correct in today's world but that is what it was called.

The song was written by Mary Bridges Canedy Slade, the wife of a Pastor. She also wrote numerous others. These songs, as with so many old hymns, were often inspired by an experience of the composer or one which they had heard about.

Mary always said the song was based on a true story. A missionary in England walked into a gypsy camp to visit a dying boy. The minister recited the famous verse John 3:16 to him. "For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." The boy responded faintly, "Nobody ever told me."

Heart wrenching stuff for a Christian to hear and I can only imagine how it stirred the heart of a missionary, church elder and preacher like my Grandfather Idris Davies. He may have heard it first in the revival meetings he used to attend as my Great Grandfather Price Davies preached. Below is the sheet music which contains the brief annotation of this story at the bottom.


Fittingly the first stanza is: "Into a tent where a gypsy boy lay, dying alone at the close of the day, news of salvation we carried: said he: "Nobody ever has told it to me."[1]

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[1] The following website was very helpful in discovering the history of this song: http://wordwisehymns.com/2010/01/18/today-in-1826-mary-slade-born/