25 May 1900
Private James HILL wrote to the Reporter from the Boar War. "We have no tents here so we are obliged to sleep in the open air with one blanket and an overcoat for covering. Food is very scarce here, but one of our volunteers stole a sheep yesterday and we had a jolly meal, I can tell you. All the Stalybridge lads are doing well, but some of them feel a bit put out because they can get no beer. They swear they will have a good blow-out when they get back."

There was a fine example of reverse dietetics this week 100 years ago when a milk dealer was fined 15 shillings for serving his customers skimmed milk. Joseph BONSALL from the Back o’ the Hill Farm appeared at Police Court charged with selling milk that had ’12 per cent of its fat taken out’. Clearly a retailer ahead of his time!
After low fat milk, a pioneer of low-alcohol drinks. Police put out a warning to publicans after John MIRFIN, landlord of the Woodman Inn, George Street, Stalybridge, was caught selling whisky 45 per cent below proof. He claimed that the ‘heat of the house’ had caused the spirit to expand which had led to evaporation taking place. He was fined two shillings. I thought that was a hanging offence in these parts!
25 May 1950
James COCKER of 98 Beatrick Street, Ashton admitted stealing lead worth 12 from a garage. "That’s right. I took it and weighed it in about two weeks since" he told magistrates. He claimed he had troubles at home and was desperate for money, but was now looking for a permanent job. COCKER was fined 2 10 shillings and ordered to repay the 12

The great England and Lancashire opening batsman, Cyril WASHBROOK was at Ashton Boys Club with advice on how to spot a googly. "Watch the back of the hand," he told them. "When a googly is bowled, the back of the hand is shown and the ball is thrown from the back of the hand. A batter should make up his mind what to do when the ball leaves the bowler’s hand and not be caught in two minds.
Marriet DAVIDSON of 41 Astley Street, Dukinfield, asked magistrates for an order of separation from her husband because he was lazy and would not work. They had been married for just eight months but had lived at six different addresses in that time. Her husband had lost eight different jobs due to the fact that he would not work. The case was adjourned for three months and the husband ordered to pay 40 shillings a week maintenance.
And finally… Old Chapel Sunday School is looking for former scholars to help celebrate its 200th birthday. The school on Chapel Hill, Dukinfield is holding its bi-centenary party on the weekend of 23 September. If you want to take part, contact Dawn Buckle on 01457 763721.

A history mystery solved
The Way We Were this week devoted a full page to the work of fellow family historian, Colin Brannigan (who may even be reading this?) He has been researching his family who originated in Ireland and settled in Stalybridge. I only intend summarising some of the main points, but you can contact Colin by email if it is of interest.

Colin’s great grandparents, Thomas BRANNIGAN and Sarah MASON had seven children, all born in Stalybridge and living at 16 Back Castle Street in the 1881 Census. Neighbours included LYNHAM and MAHON who would be later related by marriage.

The youngest of the seven children, Mary, proved to be Colin’s toughest challenge and I would imagine the most rewarding to crack. He was fortunate to have letters written by Mary to her family from a boarding school on an Indian reservation in Canada. He had no idea what she was doing there, or of what circumstances lead her to leave Stalybridge, or to explain why she spoke and wrote mainly in French.

It transpired that Mary was one of over 100,000 children sent to Canada from Great Britain between 1869 and the early 1930s. During the child immigration movement, they were often orphans, as Mary was at the age of 13.

She sailed from Liverpool on the SS Numidian on 24 September 1891 and arrived in Quebec on 7 October. Mary was in the care of the Catholic Children’s Rescue Society and was adopted by a Catholic family in Canada. Mr and Mrs Luger-Joseph BELCOURT already had ten children. At the age of 19 became a nun, taking the name Sister Marguerite in honour of her adoptive mother.

Mary Brannigan
Mary Brannigan

A member of the Grey Sisters of Nicolet, she taught at a boarding school on the Piegan Indian Reserve in Alberta and it was through the Order that Colin was able to obtain a six-page biography of his relative. Mary also wrote a letter to Colin’s grandmother that makes for touching reading:

"I have something which I would like to tell you, but it is only for yourself. Now as you are alone (following her husband’s death) I will ask you never to part with your children and if anything did happen to you and that they might be left orphans, let your will be known that they must never be sent to Canada. I tell you this as I would tell my own sister.

"Now I must tell you the reason. Some are lucky but others are very badly treated, they are more like slaves. Now all that is for yourself that you may never consent to let your children be sent to Canada."

Colin is keen to link with other researchers. He would love to hear from anyone who knew his father, Frank BRANNIGAN, a butcher like his father or his mother, Bertha Anne who was a sister at the Lakes hospital. Mary’s sister married William BOOTH of Ashton in 1887.

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