#52 ancestors : Fortune

Week 11 and still going strong, though I confess week 10 is still on its way! Over a fifth of the way through the year, so quite an achievement. This week’s post was inspired by a presentation for #OnePlaceWomen at the #OnePlaceStudies Society Webinar, by Janet Barrie, who looked at two philanthropists in her place.

That set me thinking – what philanthropic deeds have my ancestors performed? Indeed what have #Sticklepath people left behind as their ‘legacy’? Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. This implies wealth such that you have spare cash ‘lying around’ to donate to worthy causes.

Unfortunately there have been few Sticklepath residents in the ‘has a fortune’ category. (There is also the question of where that money came from. I have not yet established any link between Sticklepath and Slavery other than the chapel sending a petition to parliament to support abolition). Indeed when money was raised by the village to pipe water down the street to stand pipes they held many fund raising events and mention is made that they appealed to philanthropists outside the village, as there was not an extremely wealthy land owner in the village, no Lord of the Manor to turn to.

Thomas Pearse, woollen merchant, generously bought and donated the burying ground to the village. His daughter Ellen gave the land on which the village hall was built. Donations were given to build the chapel and certainly Mr Cook the butcher contributed to the church building. Many chapel and I suspect church members gave generously in their wills as well as regular giving during their lifetime. Others gave similarly to ‘the poor of Sticklepath’, no doubt during life but also in their wills.

How else might we measure not just a desire but action to promote the welfare of others? I would argue that time is at least as valuable commodity and often ‘costs’ the giver more, with little thanks or kudos. My own relatives are among the School Governors, and certainly, whilst head of governors, Mr Cook gave a shilling to each child who had attended school regularly throughout the year and not missed a day – quite an incentive to do well! Others gave apples or milk to the school children, or provided extra lessons. Many folk looked after neighbours who were ill or in need. Others cared for the long-term sick and disabled. Bert Stead visited widely and did what he could for many. Douglas and Ruth St Leger Gordon promoted Dartmoor, including Sticklepath, in their writings, helping those in tourism as well as promoting the great outdoors which we now know is healthy. Dick, Bob and Marjorie Barron made the Finch Foundry Museum into what it is today. It is tempting to think of doctors, the clergy, policemen and magistrates who gave above and beyond the call of duty, but equally each person has the opportunity to give that extra bit for the community, Nellie Harris as school caretaker or Geraldine Marks who kept both school and chapel spotless, or earlier Ann Mallett, who my grandmother recalled would be seen daily walking up to the school with her own broom. I understand Mrs Tucker was awarded an MBE for her work in the war, but do not yet have any details.

All this of course begs another question – what do we as individuals do to benefit others outside our paid roles? Does researching and recording our history provide some sort of lasting legacy? A good question! I hope to finish a #OnePlaceWednesday blog about someone, a resident of #Sticklepath, who volunteered during World War 1 shortly… watch this space. (Also for #OnePlaceWomen).

Please do respond, or nominate others who gave for the benefit of others in whatever way. I am keen to hear of other examples and views.

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