Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Life And Ministry Of Harold Griffiths Part 5

If this is the first post you are reading about Harold Griffiths, or if you want to remind yourself about his life and ministry up to and through World War 2, then please take the time to read these older blogs. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

In 1946 Harold's church in Milton celebrated 15 years since Harold began his ministry there in the Stoke on Trent area. (1)

I wish I had pictures to go along with this, but unlike later celebrations, there are none with this particular article. The Y.P mentioned here simply stands for young people. It seems that rather than just use the Sunday morning service, they added events to the usual ministry. Visiting missionaries, such as Mrs Boyd and special presentations from the young people rounded out the events.

These services were held in February. I don't know whether this means that Harold's ministry began in the beginning of 1931, or whether this was just the month chosen to honour him. If I find this out from any family member then I will edit this blog to reflect the discovery.

The following year, 1947, Harold is presented as part of the NorthWest Midlands District Council for the Assemblies of God.

The scan quality of this image is not the best since it was taken from an old magazine. Harold is sat on the front left. The picture is taken in Crewe. I've included a link to a pdf version in case it allows for better viewing. (2)

A couple of other events happened later in 1947.

Firstly, a note in the Sept edition of the Redemption Tidings magazine has Harold Griffiths playing piano at the Pentecostal Fellowship Camp. " his own inimitable way, Bro. H. Griffiths guided the meetings into blessing and liberty by his skilful use of the piano." 

It's another reference to Harold's musical ability. One that I love to read about because so many in the family are musically inclined. Even in my own immediate family, Dad sings, so does my younger brother, while my older brother also plays the guitar. (3) 

Finally, in the same month (3) there's a report publishing in Redemption Tidings about what's happening with the ministry in Milton.

"The Lord has been gracious in pouring out his blessings within the past few months. A good number of precious souls have found Jesus as their saviour. God also has been gracious in filling quite a few with His Holy Spirit. (4) Others have been faithful unto God by following him through the waters of baptism. Approximately six young men and six young ladies obeyed God by this act. 
On June 29th was the children's anniversary where again everyone present was blessed, both by the Gospel in word which was given by Rhys Griffiths (S.Wales) and in song which was given by the children.
On July 15th a farewell service was held on behalf of our dear Bro. I. Davis (son-in-law to our pastor H. E. Griffiths) who sailed for South Africa."

There are a few things worth noting in this small article. Firstly, Rhys Griffiths is Harold's brother. He was pastor of a church in Blackwood, South Wales. At some point I will post a few blogs about him and the small amounts I have gleaned about the ministry in Blackwood.

Secondly, I am not 100% sure what is meant by June 29th being the children's anniversary, except that we already know 1946 was the anniversary of Harold's ministry in Milton. Perhaps then, this event in 1947 is referencing the beginning of a children's ministry in Milton.

Thirdly, and most importantly to me personally, Brother. I. Davis is actually "Brother I. Davies", my grandfather Idris Davies, who left for South Africa in 1947. You can read elsewhere on my blog about his adventures. 

Next, we'll explore the events of 1950 and the grand opening of a new church building in Milton.

(1) Redemption Tidings magazine VOL 22, April 1946.
(2) Redemption Tidings Magazine VOL 23, July 1947.
(3) Redemption Tidings Magazine VOL 23, Sept 1947.
(4) Pentecostals differ to many other Christian denominations by believing that Christians, though already saved, can receive a separate 'baptism of the Holy Spirit' which enables the believer to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in both the book of Acts and the epistles of the New Testament. It's where Pentecostals get their name from - Pentecost - the moment in Acts when the disciples and followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages.  

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Grandfather I Never Knew Part 10

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9 

-- Part 10 was added to on October 21st. It now includes some small corrections and a large part of Norma Davies' recollections, which she has recorded in 'nuggets' and posted to Facebook in the past. -- 

Idris passed away on May 6th, 1984. He had gone into hospital for treatment regarding his Prostrate A nurse made a mistake while he was in the hospital and this ultimately led to his death. (1) Merthyn received a phone call from Tobias - the house cook and servant, a long time friend of Idris - right before he was due to be preaching. He finished his sermon and then began to deal with the emotional aspects of his father dying. 

Glyn, Idris' eldest son, was in South Africa at the time. His wife Norma recalls:

"The year was 1984 and it was early May. We had accepted a post to be missionary educators running a Bible College in Durban South Africa. Glyn’s parents had remained in Rhodesia, living in Bulawayo. Glyn’s mother passed away in May 0f 1982, while we were in the States on furlough. After her death Dad moved to Sinoia where he was the senior Pastor of a congregation, coinciding with the time we were in South Africa. Then the call came saying that Dad had passed away from complications after surgery. Sadly we loaded our car, took the children out of school and set out for the long journey from Durban, South Africa to Harare, Zimbabwe (known to us as Salisbury, Zimbabwe). The deeper we drove in Zimbabwe the more shocked we were at how the country we remembered had changed. Signs of poverty seemed to be the norm; gone were the maize fields, in their place farmland lay desolate and uncared for. Farms that during our day raised large herds of cattle now lay in ruins with no signs of livestock of any kind. We were shaken and saddened by what we saw.

After the funeral service and burial at the Warren Hills Cemetery, we lingered saying our earthly farewell. You see in that sacred place not only was it the final resting place of Glyn's father but also of our infant son, who was laid to rest there in 1974. We did not sorrow though, as those without hope, as we drew comfort in the knowledge that in God’s eternal time we would be reunited in heaven."

Roland Pletts, a friend of the families' and a man baptised in the font that Idris built in his garden, was with Idris just a couple of days before he passed away. Roland recalls.

"He was admitted to St Anne's Catholic Hospital in Salisbury/Harare. This was a private hospital run by the nuns and people and doctors had access to its facilities. It was spacious, clean, and housed in a substantial colonial type building surrounded by beautiful gardens.

The day I called to see him he was resting peacefully near to the time of his departure.

Someone else was there who prayed that the Lord should raise him up because he still had a great work to do.

Knowing all the accomplishments and faithful service he had fulfilled over many years I knew Idris had already accomplished a substantial amount and from what he had conveyed to us I realised that he was not wanting to be raised up but was ready to depart and be with the Lord and to hear those sacred words "Well done good and faithful servant....enter into the joy of your Lord."

He passed away in peace a day or two later, a great Man of God who had faithfully lived for Jesus and impacted innumerable people mine included." (2)

At the time the family thought Idris had been alone in those last few days. It gave everyone great joy when they found out years later that it was not so. Indeed, Roland was led to being a Christian, by Idris himself.

Only Glyn was able to make it back to Africa for the funeral. He found it very strange, for there was only one floral arrangement, flowers that he and Norma had bought as a tribute from Wendy, he and Merthyn.

The funeral service was officiated by A.B, Roberson, the pastor of the A.O.G. church at McClery Ave. Harare.

Glyn also received a letter from one of Idris' cousins., Mostyn Cole. It read:

"You have the consolation of knowing that your father was truly a man of God, whose entire life was devoted to spreading the Word. What pride you must have felt in him and his achievements.  My memories go back to the days when Idris was a dashing devil-may-care teenager, or so it appeared to me. He came to work in my father's iron monger shop at the time that my father was slowly and painfully travelling the road to his own death. Idris, to me, was a tonic (I was about 13 or 14 at the time). He was unfailingly cheerful and conscientious and his exploits climbing the cliffs at Morlais Castle (3) in Merthyr filled me with awe. They still do when I recall them. Idris seemed to have nerves of steel." (4)

There will be future blog posts about Mostyn and his family now that I have discovered them.

Glyn also observed that in Africa the way a funeral is done, you go to the church, then to the grave site, the casket is lowered, you throw dirt on the casket. When Iris died you threw rose petals on the casket. It was just an open grave.

In my first version of this post, I had mentioned that Idris was buried in Warren Hills Cemetery, Harare, next to Iris. (5)
I have since discovered that Iris was buried in Bulawayo, and so Idris was not laid to rest next to his wife.

Besides the obvious loss felt by Idris' death it was difficult for other reasons. Zimbabwe was ruled by the dictator Mugabe by this time and it became very difficult to take anything worth any value out of the country. They managed to smuggle Idris' bible out only due to a close family friend who arranged it.

Later, there was another family heirloom that made it to America by way of South Africa, but many of the family pictures, furniture and the bronze backed paintings had to remain. There was little they could take with them. Norma has again supplied plenty of information and clarity about this.

Following the funeral we met with the government official who was assigned to the Death Estate department, to make arrangements for all the legal paperwork, including the disposal of the contents of Dad’s home.

What a shock awaited us when we sat down with the official, who turned out to be a close friend of ours from our teenage years in Rhodesia. His stunning news was only compounded by the history of our friendship.

He told us that the Zimbabwean government required him to “seal” the house from ANY family members and only he was allowed to enter the house and take inventory of all of its contents.
Once he completed his inventory, then government officials would hold a public auction and sell off the entire contents of the home, keeping the money in the government’s coffers! Not one penny would be given to family members listed in Dad’s Will! 

None of this made any sense to us, as the house was filled with many family keepsakes that would mean nothing to a stranger; such as family pictures etc. Added to that there were legal documents, birth certificates, marriage certificate etc. that Glyn really needed as the surviving eldest son.
Exhaustion and grief had already invaded our emotions and now it seemed the hand of a cruel corrupt government was dealing us the final blow. 

Our friend told us to wipe our tears as he had made “certain arrangements” with a farmer in Sinoia that was an elder in Dad’s church. He instructed us that he would “turn his back for three days” to enable us to go into Dad’s home and retrieve documents and a few items that would fit in the truck of our car. He warned us to be cautious what we took though, to prevent causing suspicion by the Zimbabwe officials at the Beit Bridge border, when we crossed back into South Africa.

We picked up our two children from a friend’s home and headed to Sinoia and the farm of the church elder. When we arrived, Boet, (name changed for the family’s protection), and his wife greeted us with open arms, just as though we were longtime friends. 

Boet suggested we leave the two children on the farm so they would not have to witness the heart-wrenching experience that Glyn and I were about to embark on. He and his wife were the epitome of compassion doing everything they could think of to ease our pain. 

Arriving at Dad’s home, stepping into the silent living room literally sucked the air out of me. I sat on the sofa that had a crocheted afghan lying over the back. I had crocheted it as a gift for my mother-in-law several years earlier. Everywhere we looked were poignant memories of precious happy times we had spent together as a family. By now Glyn and I could not staunch the flow of tears at the great loss we were dealing with. 

Boet comforted us with his presence and then helped us re-focus on the task at hand. Glyn went into Dad’s office and began to collect all the legal documents, like birth and marriage certificates along with family Bibles, including Dad’s personal Bible with sermon notes between the pages. This was a treasure not to be lost!

Boet walked with me from room to room to see if there were any personal items that we could carry in the limited space in our car. I was not aware that in my numbed emotional state, I kept walking back to the dining room and running my hand over a tea wagon that had been handmade in England and given to my In-laws as a wedding present. So it actually was an antique that held many memories.

Another item I kept going back to was a Rhodesian Oak Dining Room dresser that had belonged to my parents and then was given to Glyn’s parents, so it had been in both families’ history.
I kept saying over and over as tears flowed unabated, that I could not believe we were losing these family “treasurers”.

The whole time Boet was a stalwart of compassion and help. Taking care of what to do with the two dogs and the faithful African couple who had been caring for Dad since Mom had passed away. Once we had finished all we could do, was to head back to the farm. Boet suggested that we rest while his wife was preparing supper, which we welcomed as our exhaustion was now more than we could bear.

While we were resting Boet quickly rounded up a group of his farm workers and big farm truck and returned to the house. They loaded the tea wagon and the dining room dresser, along with a large wooden crate filled with tools that Glyn had given his Dad and secretly brought them back to the farm, unbeknown to us. The out-pouring of love that Boet and his wife showered on us was a balm to our shattered emotions. After resting on the farm for one more day, we headed back to South Africa to resume our missionary duties; closing the door on that chapter of our lives and never hearing again what happened to the contents of Dad’s home.

Several months later we received a phone call from Swift Transport Company informing us they had a delivery to make. We had absolutely no idea what it was, so we waited impatiently for the truck to arrive.  Imagine our stunned amazement when we discovered the delivery was the dining room dresser, the heirloom tea wagon and crate of tools! (6)

Hardly able to contain our excitement, we carefully removed the packing from around these tangible family treasures.

Yet we kept asking ourselves, how could this be? We saw on the shipping label the items had come from an unknown person living near Johannesburg. Glyn quickly put in a phone call to try and unravel the mystery. The gentleman that answered explained that he and his wife had been members of the congregation that Dad Davies served and they had just emigrated from Rhodesia to South Africa.

They had to get permission from the Zimbabwean government for every item of furniture they took with them and they were not allowed DUPLICATES.

When Boet knew they were leaving, he asked if they had any of the items that he had taken from Dad’s house. They didn’t; so Boet asked them to transport these items with their furniture and then gave them the money to ship them to us in Durban! So all was not lost; like Ruth of old, God in His mercy had given us some “handfuls on purpose”!"

Norma has done so well remembering the sorrow of the time that there is little left for me to say. I will finish with this picture I have of one of Idris' favourite quotes. It is in his own handwriting and reads,

"A shining face radiant with the love of God is worth more than a ton of logic, rhetoric, and elocution."

I like to believe that as well as the preaching and baptisms, Idris also had one of those radiant faces.


(1) I believe Idris had previously had issues with his bowels and the nurse was unaware of this or had forgotten the fact. The doctor had asked that no one give him an enema, but the nurse did so. He died just a day or so later.

(2) This conversation was over Facebook and I have saved it, along with several other observations that Roland Plett had about my grandfather Idris.

(3) Morlais Castle. A 13th century castle, above the Taff Gorge near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

(4) I was unsure who Mostyn Cole was or how he was related to Idris. (Except the obvious statement that he was a cousin.) After speaking to Roy (Idris's nephew.) I discovered that he was the son of Annie Griffiths' younger sister, Mary Jane Cole (nee Griffiths). This Annie Griffiths was Idris' mother, not to be confused with his mother in law, also named Annie Griffiths (nee Simpkins).

(5) I don't have a picture of Idris' grave. With the current unrest that still exists in Zimbabwe, I am unsure if I ever will, but I am definitely trying to push open doors and see what is possible.

(6) I have personally seen these tools and the heirlooms, as Glyn and Norma still have them at their home in the United States.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Life And Ministry Of Harold Emanuel Griffiths. Part 4 Ministry During The War

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

As previously noted, Harold and the Griffiths family did move house during world war 2. I think they also moved the church a few times as well.

In his book, "The City of Stoke-on-Trent: Protestant Nonconformity" J.G. Jenkins lists "A Bethel mission hall in a room under the Archway, 2A Leek Road was registered by the Assemblies of God in 1941. The meeting may have lapsed or moved in 1944 when the rear of 4 Leek Road was registered as Bethel Hall. In 1950 the group moved to the rear of 2 Leek Road. (1)

What makes me sure that this Assemblies of God church is that which Harold started? Well, firstly he personally planted the Bethel Churches when working with Edward Jeffreys. Secondly, it became an Assemblies of God church and I can easily imagine the name Bethel and A.O.G. churches being interchanged by pastors. Today many churches are of the A.O.G. denomination in England and America but go by a specific name. Thirdly, 1950 is when Harold and the family finished work on their new Bethel Hall building.

I will cover the new building in much more detail in one of the next two blog posts. It is, fortunately, one of the things I know much about with regards to Harold's involvement and life.

Redemption Tidings continues to give a little insight into Harold's ministry during the World War and afterwards.

This is taken from an article in 1940 that listed different campaigns and religious events that were taking place. Here we find H.E.Griffiths of Milton ministering as a guest speaker at the Ball Green "Bring Another" campaign.(2) With this particular name, I can imagine the event revolved around encouraging church members to bring another individual to the church or event with them.

Later, in 1942, there's another campaign occurring in Woodfieldside, Blackwood. Blackwood is where Harold's parents and some of his extended family lived. It is mentioned several times in the Redemption Tidings magazines. For this event, which began on July 11th, 1942, he took his son David(3) with him.

Right below the event in Blackwood we see that Harold's church in Milton had an earlier event on June 27th, where young people from the church and surrounding area went together to Badderley Edge. There was tea, followed by singing and listening to what appear to be missionaries. It's interesting to note that there is also mention of a 12 year anniversary of the birth of the church, which would place Harold as church planting in Milton right around 1930.

In 1943 (4) we find him back on Stoke On Trent (S.O.T.) in Leigh, conducting a camp meeting with fellow minister W.C. Bentley. This short snippet lets us know that the camps contained bible readings and evening talks given by pastors in the local area.

The last bit of news we find out about Harold's ministry during World War 2.

This is a list of church events happening across the A.O.G. It was published May 19th 1944. (5) Harold can be seen speaking at the Whitsun event in Gloucester Assemblies of God. The event took place on a Saturday, Sunday and Monday. His son David joined him once more, this time as a gospel singer. I believe the address of the place is 121 Barton Street, though that is difficult to make out due to the print and scan quality of the image. 

That brings us to the end of what I know about Harold's ministry during World War 2. 


(1) The city of Stoke-on-Trent: Protestant Nonconformity', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8, ed. J G Jenkins (London, 1963), pp. 276-307. British History Online.

(2) Taken from Redemption Tidings November 1940. Ball Green is in Gloucestershire. 

(3) Taken from Redemption Tidings August 1942 Vol 18. David, his son, was not a Christian in the early part of Harold's ministry but came back from a revival meeting one day and told his sister Ruth that he 'got saved.' He was then sent to a bible college and entered full time ministry himself. His ministry would eventually take him to Rhodesia where he would connect with his sister Iris again, and then to America before he returned once more to the United Kingdom in the 1990s. 

(4) Taken from Redemption Tidings August 1943 Vol 19. 

(5) Taken from Redemption Tidings May 1944, Vol 20. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Grandfather I Never Knew Part 9: Towards the end

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

Idris' youngest son, Merthyn, was married to his wife Christine in the late 70's. Idris and Iris were both able to attend, and it made the newspaper as an international affair. (1)

Recently, Iris' younger sister Ruth was able to share the video below with me. It's the family spending some time together at Ruth's home. There were in fact, several visits back to the motherland during their time in Africa. The eldest man is Idris, the elder woman is Iris, and the younger man is my Dad, Merthyn. 


Iris and Idris may have had many more years together, but both suffered from problematic health issues. Iris passed away in May 1982. After an operation to remove stomach ulcers, an infection set in and Iris eventually died of Septicemia. (More of her story can be read here.)

Idris loved Iris greatly and the engraving on this headstone reads:

In dearest memory. My beloved wife and companion went to be with the LORD on the 8th May 1982. Always remembered by her loving husband, Idris, Children Wendy, Glyn and Merthyn. Called to higher service. We will meet you over there." 

Idris became an official lay minister of the A.O.G. in 1983, shortly before he died, although he had been very active in every church he had ever been a part of, ministering to the congregation in song and deed.

Roland Plett, one of those baptised in Idris' garden font, recalls:

"Perhaps the fondest memories I have of Idris was the way he led the worship. In those days this was mostly the Elim Choruses and Hymns. His rich Welsh voice was strong and he was not shy in using it. Best of all was when he would break into Welsh and sing to the Lord. The whole place was moved. This was often followed by a moving prayer.

He enriched us all with his vibrant personality and strong faith and stamped upon us all something of the great Welsh Revival days. We were truly blessed to have such committed people to lead us." (2)

These ministerial credentials were reassessed on a yearly basis, but it was definitely one highlight of Idris' life. 

While working for the A.O.G. he was given a loose-leaf bible. These were created in such a fashion that sermon and study notes could be inserted into them. This allowed Idris and other preachers to deliver sermons with just their bible on a lectern or in their hands. 

This is a picture of Idris' bible and is currently in the possession of Glyn, his eldest son. It contains quite a few sermon notes, and I will transcribe these at a later date so that this generation can enjoy his insights, thoughts and inspirations.

I find it incredibly joyful that Idris was immersed in what he loved most, the work of God, when it came to his last few years on this earth. In the final post of this series, I will look at his last moments. Afterwards, there will still be space to blog about his favourite songs, his sermons and other facts I have found out since writing the earlier chronological postings. 

(1) The newspaper article is taken from the Grimsby Evening Telegraph. 
(2) Taken from a transcript of a short interview conducted over Facebook with Roland Plett in 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Life And Ministry Of Harold Emanuel Griffiths. Part 3

Annie Griffiths (Simpkins) on the left with Naiomi on her knee. Iris Griffiths(Davies) behind. David, Jack (Harold) Then Annie, and Ruth, Harold Griffiths.
The above photograph was taken in the early 1930's.

Part 1 can be read here.
Part 2 can be read here.

In the late 1930's Harold and his family were well established in what is called "The Potteries", which is an area surrounding Stoke on Trent, in England. It received it's name from the pottery industry that it became famous for.

His name shows up in the Redemption Tidings magazine, published by the Assemblies of God.

Firstly he is received into service as an official Assemblies of God minister. (2)

You can see his name, clearly highlighted in blue to the right. His congregations meets in Milton, Stoke-on-Trent. His daughter, Ruth, confirmed the location of the church, and he built his own church building there in the 1950's. At this point, I presume, he is using an older building, one potentially with dual use.

It is worth noting that in part 2 of this series I mentioned Harold worked with renowned evangelist, Edward Jeffreys. Despite Edward's older brothers helping to found the A.O.G. there came to exist some doctrinal differences between the younger Jeffrey's teachings and the older Jeffrey's brothers. Many of the churches founded during Edward Jeffrey's campaigns were named Bethel. As his teachings began to shift from that of his older brothers there was some fall out and many of the Bethel churches left and eventually joined either Elim or the Assemblies of God.  A summary of the doctrinal issues as well as the life and ministry of Edward Jeffreys can be found here. 

It's possible that it took a few years for Harold's church to be accepted into the A.O.G. He was heavily involved in the Jeffrey's missions of the early 1930's as has been discussed in part 2. (3)

Secondly, in May 1938 we read about his Easter Monday message as part of an Easter convention in the Potteries.

"The Potteries Convention, held in the Queen's Hall, Burslem, on Easter Monday, was attended by a great measure of blessing. In the afternoon, Bro. Dawson Perry, of Belfast, ministered an inspiring word from Joshua 1. "Go forward" was the key note. An ecellent tea was provided on the premises and many sat down. A good open air witness was held on the Market Square before the evening meeting. Brother H. Griffiths, of Milton, ministered at the evening session, from Isaiah 6, followed by Dawson perry, who expounded the "Glory of God" from Ex 33:18."  

For those unfamiliar with the text of Isaiah 6, it is about the time that the prophet Isaiah was given his commission by God and has the famous refrain, "Here I am, send me." 

In July 1938 it is mentioned that H. Griffiths aided a Christian Campaign/Convention that occurred in June.

Since the text is small, the pertinent section reads,  "Bro. H. Griffiths of Milton, and Bro W.T. Guest of Burslem gave much help in the house visitation, assisted by Bro. and Sister P. Currie, and Bro F. Baker of Stoke. Everyone worked with willing hands."(1)

Harold did a lot of door to door work, even during World War 2, which we will look at shortly.

By late 1938 Harold had moved to Birmingham. I am not sure about why this happened, but his daughter Ruth explained that they were always moving about. At first I thought it may have been to help out another minister, or be due in part to moving where there was work. In an interview in 2012 with Harold's daughter, Ruth, she recalled that they had moved to Birmingham and that she did not believe it was connected to a church because while in Birmingham, Harold would still commute to the Stoke for the weekend so he could lead his church.

I know that by Christmas 1938 his daughter Iris was married in Bethel Gospel Temple, Wardend Road, Birmingham, England. Ruth also recalls that she and her parents moved back to Stoke around 1940 to 1941. They took Wendy with them because the roof was blown off their house during the war. Idris and Iris stayed in Birmingham while the Griffiths looked after Wendy.

During the war Harold would always be out at nights during the bombings, praying with people. In the interview from 2012 Ruth recalled, "My Dad never came in the shelter either he was out there praying with people that were dying." (4)

Just because there was a war on didn't mean that Harold stopped any of the ministry he was involved in. Instead, he saw it as a good time to connect with people and minister to them.

(1) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 14, July, 1938
(2) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 14, March 1938
(3) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 14, May 1938
(4) I have the full interview and transcript these memories were taken from. It was conducted over Facebook Messages with Ruth on June 18th 2012. The context of the interview was about Ruth and Iris' family life growing up.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reunions and Discoveries in Britain:

I just returned from a nearly two week trip to Wales and England. I went for my brothers wedding, but it also turned into an opportunity to do a little family history. I already knew we'd spend a couple of days with my Uncle Michael who has done a lot of research on his side of the family. I went armed with questions and a camera.

The first pleasant surprise is that my Dad carved time into one of our trips through Wales to look for the grave of his grand father and grand mother.

Now, my dad's cousin had previously sent us a picture of the grave. 

When we visited we saw that it was definitely in some disrepair, which we had figured out from Roy's earlier pictures.

Wendy Thomas (nee Davies), Me, Dad (Merthyn Davies.)

Wendy is my Dad's sister, and she had actually helped at Price and Annie's house when Annie passed away, but in Wales tradition said that women were not to go to the grave site for the funeral. It's a tradition still held to in some parts of Wales today. So Wendy had never seen the grave, I am glad we could take her with us. 

While there we raised one of the side stones which had collapsed and we discovered one other thing. There was one line missing from the inscription Roy sent me. This is because it was carved on the tail end of the grave and not on the headstone.

In Welsh it simply reads:
"Gwyn eu byd y rhai addfwyn."

Translated it reads as:
"Blessed are the meek."

On my last full day in England we also visited my grandparents and great grandparents graves on my mothers side.

Mum (Christine Davies), Kathleen Hobbs (Nana's cousin who grew up with her), me.

Christine Davies (nee Hilton), me, Dad (Merthyn Davies.)
A sapling has grown up between my grandparents grave and the one behind. We didn't want to remove it in case it had been planted purposefully, or in case it disturbed the earth around the two graves. This made it a little difficult to take a photograph. We took Auntie Kathleen with us, who was my Nana's cousin.

The inscription for this and my great grandparents grave can be found here.

Dad and Mum (Merthyn and Christine Davies.)
I'm glad that we visited.

Now, in between the grave visits we stayed with my Uncle. As a result of that trip I now have:

1. 14 more photographs of Nana and Grandad together.

Just one of the photographs - Grandad receiving a gift from the British
Post Office upon his retirement. Nana caught the camera and smiled.

2. 1 more photograph of grandad alone, he is playing the accordion. 

Incidentally, this means I now know we had accordion players on both sides of the family tree.

3. Pictures of Grandad's war medals. ( I will go into more details about the medals in a future post.)

4. Memorial from Grandad's funeral.

5. 4 Letters written to Nana when her eldest was born. (Since he is still alive I may not blog these transcriptions in their entirety for a while.)

6. A photograph from Victory in Japan Day.

Grandad is front row second from the right, in uniform.

7. Great Grandad Wright's National  ID card and 3 medals from WW1 and 3 from WW2

8. A newspaper article on John Hobbs (My Auntie Kathleen's father.)

9. A newspaper article on Herbert Wright. (My Great grandfather's brother.)

10. Potentially a gedcom file with all my Uncle's research. (Depends if he can figure out how to send it to me.)

11. A photograph of my great great grandmother Hannah Elizabeth Westerman.

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12. Some information about Sarah Sharratt (My 2x Great Gradmother.)

13. Some information on George Hilton (My 4x Great Grandfather.)

Of course, this is a lot of information, and considering I've hardly started blogging about all the research I discovered from my Dad's side of the family, it may be a while before you read it all here. So stay tuned, there's a long road ahead!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Remembering David John Davies

Earlier in the year I put in a request on the website Find a Grave. It was for anyone who could photograph the grave of my great grandfather's brother, David John Davies. For more on what I know about his life you can read the following:

David John Davies: Following the trail. 

David John Davies: Cause of death. 

I had forgotten about the request I made, but this morning I received a surprise email from Find A Grave letting me know that a David Wilson-Pinkney had discovered the grave and photographed it. Thank you!

Some of the letters are missing but I was able to piece together the wording. The inscription reads as follows:

In affectionate remembrance of David John, 
beloved husband of Edith Davies, 
who departed this life Feb 4 1931, Aged 52 years. 
Home at last, thy labour done.

There is no gravestone of his wife, Julia Edith Davies because she married some years later and emigrated to the United States. I write about her little adventure here. I have yet to find her gravestone but it is somewhere in Pennsylvania. 

I feel a sense of completion having now transcribed his gravestone as well as knowing the cause of death.

The only thing left to say is that he is buried in Penrhys Cemetery, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Wales at plot number D20, and burial number 434. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Rhodesia Hot Springs - Family Vacation Spot

In the last post I left about my grandfather, Idris, I finished by mentioning one of the families favourite vacation spots, Hot Springs. My aunt Norma, (Aunt through marriage to my Dad's older brother, Glyn) leaves daily devotional thoughts and 'nuggets' on Facebook. Today she left one that revolved around this vacation spot. I asked her permission to share it on this blog and she agreed.

I hope you'll agree with me that it's quite a vivid recollection of the historical events which swirled around my families upbringing, and of a location I may never be able to see. I'm happy she shared it.

Picture was taken by Norma Davies: Rhodesian Air Force Alouette Helicopters – September 1976

NORMA’S NUGGET FOR 8/8/2017 (African Memory)

Hot Springs Resort……… I am sure for most Rhodesians, this is a place of many sweet memories! Camping under the stars, or in tents, or in caravans (campers) or if you had the money to spend, staying in the Hotel Chalets. No matter what your accommodations were, one thing you could count on; the mosquitoes were as big as horseflies and as hungry as vampire bats, the searing low veld heat was relentless, evening meals cooked over the open fire tasted better than anything you could buy at a 5 star restaurant. But the most delightful memory was soaking in the hot sulfur water in the pool until your legs turned to rubber, then wobbling your way back to camp and sleeping like a baby. So much laughter, new friends made, sunburned limbs and noses, all created in a rural rustic get-away hidden in the middle of the Rhodesian low veld! As a child, my family visited Hot Springs, as a holiday place of choice. Glyn and I spend an idyllic honeymoon staying in the Hotel accommodations and then we returned on several occasions, for camping trips, with our children.

In September 1976 we headed for Hot Springs after an exhausting annual Conference that was held at Rufaro Mission. Shortly before this we had bought a second-hand Gypsy caravan. It was very basic – just a table, sleeping bunks and a few storage cupboards, but it kept us off the ground and it was dry in the heavy downpours. We had a canopy that we attached where I set up my “kitchen” with a table and a two burner Coleman gas stove, plus we would “braai” our meat over an open fire.

On this particular visit our son was five years old and our daughter was just five months old. While shopping at O.K. Bazaars I had found an adorable yellow polka dot two piece swimming suit that was perfect for the baby. She still had “peach fuzz” for hair, so I concluded that putting her in a little two piece swimming suit would show she was a baby girl. One morning before it became too hot to be out in the baking sun, I was standing in the shallow end of the pool with the baby in my arms, just bouncing her little legs in the warm steamy water. A lady made her way across the pool to me and commented on what a “beautiful baby BOY” I had! REALLY lady, are you serious?
I chuckled and told her that actually the baby was a girl; thus the reason for the “itsy bitsy yellow polka dot bikini”! Unfortunately my attempt at not so subtle humor was lost on the lady!

Each day melted into the next as we enjoyed making memories with our children. One afternoon while we were seeking a good spot in the shade to escape the rays of the burning sun, a different sound intruded on the siesta hour of the campground. It was the distinct sound of the propellers of helicopters that became louder and louder until we realized that three Rhodesian Air Force Alouette helicopters were landing in an open space right in the campground.
This caused quite a stir amongst the campers; after all it is not every day that three helicopters with loaded gun turrets, land in your back yard! Naturally in a matter of minutes our brave soldiers in their bush camouflage were greeted by curious campers. Our son was in his glory as he was able to get up close to the machines of his dreams, while the soldiers showed friendly appreciation to their gawking admirers’.
The leader of the group explained that they had received a tip that a group of terrorists were hiding somewhere in the bush very close to Hot Springs, so they felt their presence would be a deterrent for an ambush on the campers and guests in the Hotel.
I assure you we ALL were very grateful for our “protecting angels” who dropped out of the sky, especially as darkness began to creep in. The terrorist war was ramping up and Hot Springs would be such an easy “soft target” because of its fairly remote location in the bush.
The next day the helicopters took off and we later heard on the news that contact had been made and they had successfully routed the group of terrorists from their hiding place and captured them. We were so thankful to these brave young men who fought long and hard to protect the citizens of Rhodesia, both black and white! Many of them made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives while loyally serving their country.

So many times during our years in Rhodesia we experienced God’s protection. Sometimes it was through human intervention, as was the case at Hot Springs, other times we could only believe that God miraculously intervened.
I wonder how many times you and I have avoided a catastrophic event without ever knowing it because God stepped in behind the scenes? I believe firmly that God has been and will continue to be involved in the events of our lives even when we don’t recognize His Presence.
This should give us a calm reassurance in these turbulent times. If fear of what the future holds is stalking your every hour then take heart, God has promised His Presence and protection.

Draw strength my friends from the promises in Psalm 121 – allow the words of this Psalm to permeate your very being and throw your trust upon the One who has the power, to deliver each one of us.

Psalm 121:1-8 (NKJV) “I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in;
From this time forth, and even forevermore.”


I consider myself fortunate to have an Aunt and Uncle who still vividly recollect these events and times. I thank them both not just for this piece, but the many memories they've shared with me on the journey I've taken to discover my grandparents and their live in Africa. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Family History Ancestor Questions

There are plenty of templates out there for asking questions to existing family members about their ancestors. 

In the past, I mentioned one site that helped me put together some key questions to research Idris and Iris Davies, my paternal grandparents.

A couple of months ago I put together a simpler template of questions that I sent out to all the family members who knew Ernest Frederick Hilton, my maternal grandfather. 

I've received a couple of these back but there are some family members who are holding out on me! So in an effort to jog their memory and share my own approach I figured I would post the questions here.

General Information

Name of person answering:

Relation to ancestor:

Name of Ancestor:

Name of ancestors parents and siblings:

General Facts

Birth Date:


Date of death:

Physical appearance


Hair colour:

Eye colour:

Anything else distinctive?


What was their favourite food?

What was their favourite pastime? (Do you remember anything significant about this.)

What did they like to read (If anything)?

What is your favourite memory of them, when did it happen?

What are some things you did together and when?

Can you share one funny story?

Can you share one serious story?

What was your favourite thing about them?


Do you have any photographs of them or memorabilia you can send back?

**** I've been pleasantly surprised with some of the details remembered, and with the photographs and other records family members have rediscovered. I'll be sharing those in future blogs.