Tag Archives: Elizabeth Fry

Eliza, Elizabeth, Betsy and Bess

Riddle on the name Elizabeth

in Iona and Peter Opie, The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book (1955)

I’m struggling with naming conventions at the moment – both the conventions of the late 18th / early 19th century when the characters in my book were alive, and the conventions I should use myself as a historian writing about them now.

The main character in my book is Walter Stevenson Davidson, whom I’ve discussed before (see tag). Walter was named after his mother’s brother, Walter (later Sir Walter) Farquhar, who was his godfather. Sir Walter’s wife Anne had the maiden name of Stevenson, so I’m assuming she was WSD’s godmother. I’ve come across this convention before, where godmothers’ godsons are given the woman’s surname as a middle name. So for instance Sir Walter’s daughter Eliza Farquhar was godmother to her cousin’s son, who was named George Farquhar Leslie.

Anne was a widow when she married Walter Farquhar in 1771, with 2 children, John and Elizabeth Harvie. John died young, but Elizabeth grew up and married Simon Halliday in 1787. As Elizabeth Halliday she features regularly in family correspondence and her husband went into partnership with one of Sir Walter’s sons. They were clearly well integrated into the Farquhar network.

So here’s the puzzle: Anne Farquhar went on to have 7 more children with her second husband, 3 boys and 4 girls, and the youngest girl, born in 1783, was named Eliza. I know that families used to recycle particular names, often reusing the baptismal name of a dead baby to ensure that a name survived if it had particular significance. And every genealogist knows, to their frustration, that a small set of first names are repeated endlessly within the family circle. But surely have 2 living daughters named Elizabeth and Eliza would be a touch confusing? Continue reading

Quilts and their stories

The Queensland Art Gallery has a new exhibition, Quilts 1700-1945, which runs from 15 June to 22 September 2013. Most of the quilts come from the Victoria and Albert Museum, with a few from the Imperial War Museum, and the exhibition is billed as ‘200 years of British quiltmaking’, but there is also one important Australian quilt, the Rajah Quilt from the National Gallery of Australia.

The quilts show a mixture of decorative patchwork, embroidery, and collage.  The earliest quilt dates from the 1690s; the last from the Second World War.  I’d recommend the exhibition to anyone interested in textile history or women’s work or domestic decoration – though I confess that I’m always at a bit of a loss when it comes to deciding just where to draw the boundary between Art and Craft.  For me, these pieces, lovely as they are, definitely fall on the ‘Craft’ side of that line.

My overwhelming feeling, coming out after a couple of hours, was sheer relief that I have never had to spend my time doing all that work! By hand! By candlelight!  Yet I know people who love quilting, will happily spend time hand sewing patches, and take delight in the finished product.  I’m afraid I’m just not one of those people.

For me, the pleasure of the show lay rather in the stories that lie behind many of these quilts.  Continue reading