Thinking Strange Thoughts - Falling Out Of The Family Tree
In 1581, Sir Walter Raleigh the great British explorer, observed Queen Elizabeth the 1st walking towards him. He noticed that there was a small puddle of water in her way, he immediately took off his cloak and threw it over the puddle, thereby ensuring that the royal socks did not get wet. Now, this story tells us two things about Sir Walt , firstly he was one of the biggest crawlers in history and secondly he was not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer, or else he could have saved money on the cloak dry cleaning, by just shouting “ move over, there’s a puddle in your way”. Now the only reason I mention all this, is because although many of you will have heard the story of Sir Walter, not many will know that it was my Great, Great, Great x 10 Uncle Ned who was the plumber who accidentally burst the water pipe that caused the puddle in the first place.
Your probably wondering how I know this, and it’s because I have spent the last few years researching my ancestors and trying to build a family tree. Now like anyone I was hoping to find someone really famous lurking in my families past, and although I did not find someone who actually made history, its amazing how often an ancestor was close by when an historic event occurred.
The furthest I managed to trace back was to about 2000BC, there I found a distant relative on my mother’s side called Oswald, he was the town planner for the Salisbury council and was also known as Oswald of the Long Lunch. One day he got wind that the Druids were building an unauthorized structure at Stonehenge, he immediately rode out to the site and began having stern words with the Head Druid, evidently the horse and cart parking facilities were completely inadequate and there was no disabled toilets. The Head Druid explained that he had tried many times to get in touch with Oswald to discuss the plans, but was always informed that Oswald was at a meeting or at lunch. Anyway, my old ancestor was having none of this and he explained that all the plans must be engraved on to a large slab of marble, in triplicate and be on his desk by first thing next morning. The Head Druid then replied with a few words which roughly translate to “You know where you can stick your large marble slabs”
The Druid Builder’s Union, which was very powerful at the time and at the forefront of the push for the 140 hour week, immediately downed tools and walked off the site never to return. So what you actually see at Stonehenge now, is just the scaffolding which was left behind.
Moving on a few thousand years, most people have heard the tale of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot, what they probably do not realize though, is why the plot to blow up the House of Parliament failed. I think it is easily explained when I tell you that Henry Gusset, another ancestor of mine, who had Alzheimer’s before it became fashionable, was put in charge of remembering to bring along the box of matches.
I think you can probably see a pattern emerging here, one of my more unfortunate finds was Great, Great, Uncle Horace. I discovered that he met his demise in the 1800’s at Custer’s Last Stand. He was not actually involved in the fighting, but being a man always on the lookout to make a dollar, on hearing that there was a battle looming he raced out to the site and opened up a hotdog, buffalo burger and souvenir tomahawk stand, unfortunately, just as he was on the verge of making a tidy profit, a stray arrow hit him straight between the eyes. Evidently, his final words were, “mommy there’s an antelope in my bed” but no one knows if this was some sort of profound insight or just the result of having an arrow between his eyes.
Last but not least, I must give a mention to my Great Aunt Mildred, she spent her final few hours propping up the cocktail lounge bar on the Titanic and seconds before the magnificent ship ploughed into the giant iceberg, she was seen to hold up her glass of gin and shout across the bar “any chance of a bit more ice’
Stephen Ainley.. Continuing the great tradition