A Message to Dada

With Phyllis and Muriel’s love and kisses.

Anxious to see Dada and What he may have for them.

No time for letter today.

Glad of yours.

This postcard is addressed to Mr Albany George Finch ℅ Mr Albert Finch at 98 Kings Cross Road, London.

‘Cousin Albert’ Finch and his wife Susan ran the post office at 98 Kings Cross Road. Susan was born Finch too, sister to Albany George. The postcard was posted in Sticklepath, probably at the end of the day, franked 6pm and then travelled to Okehampton where it was franked again at 7.30pm on 16 August 1906. Muriel wasn’t quite two and Phyllis was not yet four years old. It is almost certainly written by their mother, Georgina (nee Ching), wife to Albany, who seems in a rush!

When we think of our ancestors, do we think of them at their age of death? Or perhaps at a particular time associated with a life event or story? Or do we consider all their roles across their lifetime, son, father, friend and so on? In her 80’s Muriel always referred to Albany as ‘my father’ in a rather formal way. I had never before pictured Albany as ‘Dada’.

It feels intrusive to read this intensely personal note, and that sense is not diminished by the 115 years that have passed since it was written.

Then there is that brief message. The children are ‘Anxious to see Dada and What he may have for them’. Do you think this is a veiled instruction reminding him to bring a little something home for his daughters? Or perhaps he often brought something from his travels? As the ‘sales rep’, so to speak, for Finch Bros. Edgetool Makers of Sticklepath he travelled quite extensively in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

The postcard tells us that on 16 August 1906 Albany was visiting relatives in the big city. Quite a journey, and for several days it seems. I wonder why he was there? His hosts Albert and Susan were at this address in both the 1901 and 1911 census records, so it was not to assist with a house move. Perhaps Susan was ill or needed his help for another reason? Could it have been a business trip? Perhaps a family matter that Albany preferred to disclose or discuss in person? Or could it have been his faith, his role as a local preacher within the Methodist Church, perhaps a conference that called him to London?

It seems likely he would have travelled by train from Okehampton or possibly Sampford Courtenay station via Exeter to London. Even if he were delivering belongings or collecting tools he would almost certainly have transported them by train.

As usual a small piece of evidence adds to his story but leaves us with more questions than answers! Do please share any other suggestions for his trip.

July 1924 Snap taken when Albany took his two daughters to London, well after both Albert and Susan had died. It will be interesting to see who lived there on the 1921 census when it is released next year.

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