Monday, 13 October 2014

A Hawick Man's Brush with History

Winnie and Bob at home in Hawick
All of our ancestors played a part in history. No matter what they did, where they lived or who else remembers them we want to find out more about them, and the mark they made on their community or the wider world. Sometimes, though, there are certain discoveries that make you stop dead in your tracks.

This happened to me a few days ago. I was researching the Grieve family of Branxholm Braes, near Hawick. If you follow us on Flickr or Facebook you will have seen a lot of photos, postcards and even letters which belonged to this family. I have been going through the family archive and in the process I have come across three identical postcards (see front below) sent by Robert Grieve to his young wife Winnie in 1908. We’ll have to presume that the hotel only had one postcard on offer, either that or our Bob wasn’t very imaginative!

These precious postcards are dated January and February 1908 and posted from Celerina (Schlarigna) in Switzerland. Bob writes about curling matches in which he had taken part. On a postcard dated 15 February 1908, he writes ‘We have had a great victory to-day’. This made me curious, what competition was going on?

I headed to the British Newspaper Archive to search their large collection of newspapers. It didn’t take long to locate a reference to the championship. I found in an article in the Dundee Courier of 6 February 1908 (page 3) that our very own R. Grieve was playing in the International Bonspiel. 

There were several other results so I continued my search. Again an article in the Dundee Courier caught my eye, this time it was dated 4 February 1908 (page 6). Entitled ‘Scottish Curlers in Switzerland, Bonspiel at Celerina, Opening Day’s Play’, it begins:

“The great International bonspiel commenced this morning at ten o’clock. His Imperial Highness the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir-apparent to the Austrian throne, threw the first stone amidst the enthusiastic cheering of the curlers. The ice was in excellent condition.”

Another search revealed an article from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer dated 4 February 1908 (page 8):

“The fourth annual international curling bonspiel commenced on the Cresta rink here to-day. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, who is staying the the same hotel with the curlers, consented to throw the first stone, which he did with great accuracy and speed amid cheers from Scotchmen and Engandiners (sic).”

Today of course we are all too familiar with who the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was and the influence his death would have on the world.  Did ‘our’ Bob see him, did he meet him? We may never know, but this simple research shows that by reading family letters and postcards carefully and comparing these to other sources, such as the newspaper, you can build up a far more exciting picture of your family tree. 

He didn’t win by the way!

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