Thursday, July 26, 2012

Two Orphan Snaps from France

OK, so I already did my holiday flypast, but I really have to pick the brains of my readers: What do you do with a fish like this? How do you cook it? More to the point: What is it? This one was in the market in Nimes.

It made me think of Marje - The Trash Heap in Fraggle Rock.
And then I really do have to share a picture of the pile of books that Andreas and I hauled with us from Vancouver, then on to London and then on to Beauvoisin and finally home again. Whew!

Time for electronic reading devices for The Schroeder & The Moi.
Actually, we thought we were quite smart choosing books that both of us would enjoy reading. OK, I knew before we left that he wouldn't be up for The Hongkong Bank in Late Imperial China 1864-1902. Fair enough. It was my second read of it, and I really wanted to reread it all before stopping in at the HSBC archives in London, and I did. On the other hand, I do have to confess that I did not read Farrell's how i got to be this hip nor John Irving's latest. Maybe I should have.

The point is, The Schroeder and The Moi are clearly at what Malcolm Gladwell would call The Tipping Point. In fact, if our pile of books were any higher, we would be at a literal, not merely a figurative tipping point.If we had any doubts, the fact that the left wheel on our luggage bit the dust on Day One of our trip made it excruciatingly clear. The way that you walk when you haul luggage with a gibbled wheel makes people take pity on you. They think you have probably had a stroke. It is a little uncomfortable to have to explain to kind onlookers that it is only the damned books.

That being said, it was a damned good pile of books, and made for a helluva good time with some excellent conversation. Thanks to Anne Enright, Julian Barnes, Muriel Barbery, Barry Farrel, John Irving, David Bergen, Patti Smith, Hilary Mantel, Eric Enno Tamm, and finally, Frank H.H. King - my hero when it comes to crafting readable arcane economic history. You made our holiday even better. All of you.

Research bits on Handsome James Jackson

This piece includes some of the research bits relating to the previous piece on my blog that described Handsome James Jackson. There is more about his ancestry – the Jacksons of Drogheda on my website. SEE: Jacksons of Drogheda.  I have recently updated this page, so I won’t repeat myself here (or at least not too much).

The earliest known ancestor of handsome James Jackson was Richard Jackson of Drogheda (carpenter, sheriff and merchant) a man who seems to have been quite successful. His son, another Richard Jackson, became an Alderman of Drogheda and was also a successful merchant, although a number of pension requests in 1713-1715 lead me to wonder how well he was doing near the end of his life.

One of these two Richard Jacksons, probably Richard sr. had coins made to use in his business which included trade in both Ireland and England. It carried the image of an angel. One of them can be seen in the British Museum, not that I have seen it yet.  One of his coins, or tokens, featured a praying angel, and was sold by Christies auctions for £345 in 2000. That is out of my price range. Too bad. I’d love to see what it looks like.

The second Richard, Alderman Richard Jackson, not only was father to the handsome James, but also had a son George Jackson who was clearly down on his luck. Dunton’s book, The Dublin Scuffle, published in 1699, does not mention that James had a brother. What we do know is that by 1727, this luckless George was frequently pleading for money in order to place his two sons as apprentices. It is possible that one of these sons could have been my ancestor, the George Jackson (1718-1782) who was punted off to be a schoolmaster in Creggan Parish.

Looking sideways for clues in a scattershot manner to track down more about this James Jackson, there isn’t much to see so far. There are some deeds to a James Jackson, Gent, of Dublin in 1710 who may or may not have been Handsome James Jackson. I suspect that he might have been the same JACKSON who leased lands in Oxmanowne in 1711 & 1722 and also land at Stephens Green in 1716. I would have to order the deeds and compare the signatures in order to find out. Curiously, in the same time frame there was also a James Jackson, Gent, of Dublin who leased some land in Londonderry in 1716 and as well there was also a James Jackson, merchant of Bandon, Co. Cork in 1720. Either there are a slew of James Jacksons in the same social class, or else there was one who really made the rounds. It may be a mix of both.

The Co. Cork connection may turn out to be significant because of another family story:

... eldest son David [of George 1718-1782], married Margaret Bradford, a violent tempered red- haired woman, who, disgusted at the money being spent to get back the Mt. Leinster property, burnt all the Title Deeds

The Leinster property was in County Carlow and had been granted to some long-dead JACKSON ancestor in Elizabethan times. A particularly galling part of this story is that apparently, the deeds that Margaret burnt turned out to be only part of the jigsaw, but a significant part. One month after Margaret fed them to the fire, a man from Cork showed up with the other half of the deeds. I haven’t a clue who he was, but the family story is that taken together, the cumulative documentation would have won the case for David.  The family would have regained the lands at Mt. Leinster.

So the next question is: Was the man from Cork related to handsome James Jackson?

Handsome James JACKSON of Drogheda

You can blame my great-great-grandmother Eliza Jackson (1827-1903) for why I suspect that Handsome James JACKSON of Drogheda might provide a clue when it comes to nailing down bits of the ancestral story of Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915) of HSBC fame. After all, she was the one who said that our Jackson ancestors were all clever, tall, good-looking people with beautiful hands. She also claimed: We have often been called mad, but never stupid.

Her son, Sir Thomas Jackson, went one step further on this topic, at least according to his daughter, Amy. Apparently, his 2nd great-grandfather and my g-g-g-great-grandfather, old George Jackson (1718-1782), was not only known for his wonderful skin, but also his extra-marital fondness for women. Whenever any girl living within a stone’s throw of Creggan Parish had a particularly good complexion, the neighbours would comment, Ah. She must be one of George Jackson's.

The legacy of these stories made me sit up and pay attention when I stumbled upon a description of John Jackson, son of Alderman Jackson of Drogheda in The Dublin Scuffle. It was printed in 1699, and written by John Dunton, an eccentric bookseller and even more eccentric writer.

 The Dublin Scuffleis a self-published gem. Dunton’s delight in describing himself and his adventures knows no bounds. It is a self aggrandizing polemic with no apologies for excess. It also offers up hundreds of vignettes of the times that make for compelling reading. The title page itself comes across like a verbal jazz riff, while the jumble of typefaces makes it looks as if the compositor had been reduced to scooping up and using whatever bits of type were near at hand.

There are hundreds of snappy and brief portraits in this book, James Jackson, being merely one of them. Before I share Dunton’s description in this blog piece, let me back up a bit. In any detective work, it helps to line up the known facts before plunging on.

This James, who was described so memorably by Dunton, was a son of Alderman Richard Jackson, and also a grandson of an earlier Richard Jackson who also served the Corporation of Drogheda. In fact, to keep us on our toes, it seems as if the elected service of his father and grandfather may have overlapped. The first Richard was mentioned in the Council Book of the Corporation of Drogheda in 1657. He most likely settled there on the heels of the Cromwellian victory in 1649 having gained title to some lands as an “adventurer” rather than a soldier. “Adventurers” were men who had fronted loans to the English Parliament to fund the war. They were then repaid in land that had been seized from the residents and previous owners.
Where James’ grandfather came from, goodness knows, but he was first described as a carpenter. This does not mean that he himself went around with hammer and nails at the ready. In all likelihood, he employed carpenters. My reason for supposing this is that by 1658, he is described both as a sheriff and a mason and is no longer referred to as “Mr.” but as: “Esq.”. He was doing well enough to have a home with seven hearths in The Garr Warde. To give some sense of where he stood in the economic pecking order of the day, only five people in Drogheda had more hearths than he did – and they only had one or two more. I suspect his house was on Lawrence Street.
So, back to Dunton’s description of his grandson, James:

Mr. Wilde told me what a courteous person Mr. Jackson was; and when I came to his father's house, he received me in such an obliging manner, that his favors did transcend report, as much as they exceeded my dessert. Mdm., this gentleman resolves to live a bachelor, which I could not but wonder at; for doubtless Nature meant him a conqueror over all hearts, when she gave him such sense, and such beauty (for he's a very handsome man). His wit sparkles as well as eyes; and his discourse charms as well as his beauty; and I found by a little talking with him, that his mind is none of those narrow ones, who know one thing, and are ignorant of a thousand; but on the contrary, it is so very large, that although it cannot be said Jackson knew everything equally well, it is most certain, he can give an excellent account of all things; but though his soul is enriched with every virtue, yet I thought the most remarkable thing in him was his great humility and readiness to serve a stranger (for I might pass as such, never having seen him, but a minute or two in London). p218

Dunton could almost be suspected of having a crush on James, or at very least some ulterior motive best served by flattery.  If all I had to go on was my great-great grandmother’s description of previous generations of Jackson men, I would read Dunton’s description and think no more about it - but there is one more thing which does suggest a link between our Jacksons of south Armagh to those Jacksons of Drogheda:

I have been told that the Corporation of Drogheda placed the Jackson coat of arms over the town hall, in gratitude for the munificent gift old George gave them (I wish he had been sleeping when he did it) but I never had time when passing through, to see if it was the one. A letter from Eliza Jackson to her son Thomas in 1874

Several questions arise from my great-great-grandmother’s letter:

Was George Jackson ((1718-1782) the donor of the crest or was it his lawyer son George, born mid-1700s and died after 1820, or was it another unknown to me George?
Why was the money donated?
What did the crest look like?

Dunton’s description also raises more questions:

Was handsome James Jackson related to George of Urker, near Crossmaglen in Co. Armagh?
Did he ever marry? If so, are there any known descendants?

In the post that follows this, I will assemble some of my research bits and links to more research that may further this line of enquiry. They will be guaranteed to be boring to the casual readers of my blog, but absolutely riveting to those who enjoy this kind of search.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Dozen Snaps of France

I have winnowed the usual indecent pile of holiday snaps down to a dozen. I am hoping that it will be sort of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears -  not too much (aka hot), and not too little aka cold).

Our first dinner after we arrived in Beauvoisin - thank you Kevin & Colleen.
This is where I spent countless hours watching little lizards. They are masters of go-go-stop-look and then stop some more-look-look-look. I still have much to learn from them.
Michel & Mirielle run an amazing B&B, and you can meet them in more detail on Colleen’s blog. L-R: Michel and then Dave (a long-time friend of the four of us who joined us with wife, Cheryl), Colleen & Andreas. Here, we are enjoying appies on Michel & Mirielle's patio.
A great deal of our out and about time was spent shopping for food and wine. This was what was left in the Chantilly bowl at the market in Nimes after Andreas bought just a bit  to go with our fresh strawberries. The bowl is huge. Trust me.
Cheese selection at the Nimes indoor market.  Nuff said.

Spices at a stall at the weekend market in Arles. This outdoor market stretches for at least the equivalent of three city blocks and is at least four aisles wide. Mind blowing.

Salade Lyonnais is also worth a mention. If you want to make it with panache, here is the New York Times recipe: The Secret to a Great Salade Lyonnaise 
My version, photographed above, is more in keeping with the style that was served at a casual outdoor lunch we enjoyed in Avignon.The essentials are to make a kick ass green salad, dress it, and then toss it with hot lardons (aka bits of fried bacon), and then to top it with a soft-yolked egg. Easy-peasy.
 Occasionally, we combined history with, well, the usual. Eating. In the last decade of the first century AD, the amphitheatre in Arles was built on the north side of the hill, and was carved right into the rock. You can look up the rest of the history if you are curious. Kevin and Andreas are understandably more focused on the food at hand in this particular moment:

And then there was the Pont de Gare. It is one thing to see and to read about the Roman aqueducts in history books, but it is quite another thing to see them in the flesh, so to speak.
Andreas and Colleen just taking it all in. Of course, only the aqueducts that worked are still standing. Even the Romans sometimes got it wrong. Human error and human excellence are both constants.

I could not resist running my hand over this inscription made by a long-ago mason. A way of touching.

Ah, yes, the Abbaye Notre-Dame de S̩nanque. Lavender is grown by the monks as a cash crop (tourists being another cash crop Рand fair enough).

On the less than holy side is the tradition of bull fighting in the south of France. Colleen did a great video The photo beneath was taken by Andreas when he and Kevin took in a bull fight. At these events, the bulls do not get stabbed or anything like that. Here the horses are escorting the bull along the road. Even though the bull cannot be seen, trust me, he is in the midst of it all. This is no bull.

Finally, what does it all come down to? Good times. Fine friends. Thank you Kevin & Colleen.
Photo credit - Colleen Friesen.