The Grampian Association of Storytellers met last night with a theme of “Family HiSTORIES” – so this could be any family stories that have been passed down or perhaps anything that you’ve discovered whilst researching your family tree. We had some great stories and good attendance.
I started researching my family tree ohhhh I don’t know – way back! Probably around the same time I started showing interest in being a storyteller. Luckily my grandfather, Andrew Middleton, and father, George Cordiner, both lived into their 90s so I was able to ask them lots of questions – and both were nae bad at tellin a tale!
However, I went for something I’d uncovered in the British Newspaper Archives.
I found out that my great-great grandmother, Isabella Jemima Smith, of Aberdeen had been married before – to a local celebrity “The well known pedestrian Joseph “Joe” Leith.”
This had me confused. Famous for walking? Well, yes. It was a well attended sport in the Victorian times. In 1879 Joe came second in a 48 hour walking match held in the Music Hall. There were 4000 spectators over the course of the match, with 2000 there at the grand finish!
We then followed Joe’s various mentions in the local press. Some were humorous (giving evidence in court that the Blind Society Band had played “Affa Coorse”) but ultimately they followed his decline in the public eye from being a good sport and well liked to making yet another appearance in court for drunken and violent behaviour. Ultimately his story ended in murder. No, not someone else’s but his own at the hands of a slaughterman, William Erskine who had suffered 2 hours of haranguing from a drunken Joseph.
His widow married Adam Rettie, a drover. Joseph had also been a drover and I wonder if they had been friends. Adam was my great-great-grandfather and I’m lucky enough to have recently found a photo of him and Isabella online.