Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chasing my tail . . .again

There are times, usually just after I've finished one book and before I'm totally launched on ahother, that I wonder how I find the time to write at all. That's because I'm catching up (or trying to) with all the things that have been pushed to one side and left there while I was absorbed in the story I was writing. This is what happened while I was wrestling with Ricardo. Now he's gone to delight (I hope) my editor I'm busy clearing the decks ready for the next period of concentration, probably on revisions, or maybe the next story.

And there's plenty to catch up with. Add into the mix the visitors over the past couple of weeks - Anne McAllister is now back home in America and MIL's back in her home too - and there's not been much time to spare.

And of course there are extras. The workshop in Guildford for example. I have to prepare for that and print the handouts etc. If you're one of the group who have already booked - I'll look forward to meeting you on Friday. If you are still thinking about it, then there are a few places left but not too many so if you want to be sure of a place, get your booking in now.

But I did promise to talk about a historical mystery that had intrigued me and that I've been investigating since Anne McAllister and I visited Michelle Reid in her home in Cumbria.

If you missed my mention of this in my Pink Heart Society Blog, then here's what I said there:

Because Anne had never been in that part of the country before, we visited Cartmel and wandered round the beautiful Priory there. To Michelle, this was familiar territory, and I’d been there once or twice before.

One of the things that had always intrigued me – and sparked off my novelist’s curiosity – was a particular memorial set on the church wall. A sad, poignant memorial that brought tears to my eyes in the same moment as it made my writer's curiosity itch to find out more.

The inscription reads:

‘In memory of Charles the only and beloved child of James and Sarah Goring whose opening life of bright promise was suddenly closed by a most lamentable occurrence on 11th May 1843 in the 9th year of his age.’

It can’t stop there, I’ve always thought. A most lamentable occurrence – What? How? I’ve been intrigued by this for so long – but this time Anne showed me a ways to discover more about it. Her fascination with genealogy gives her knowledge of census records, death certificates etc. So before I knew it we were investigating what the records of the past showed us, and learning more. I don’t yet know what happened to poor little Charles – I’m waiting for his death certificate to find out that. But I learned so much more about him – where he lived, who with . . . a whole new dimension to this intriguing story.

With Anne's help, I found the census for 1841 and in that Charles Goring (then aged 7) is shown as living in Cartmel with Eleanor Gardener who is 70 and Mary and another Eleanor (presumably her daughters). I'm not quite sure where his mother and father were on census night. James is described as a 'gentleman' of Grange in Cartmel'.

A bit more investigation meant that I could get hold of a copy of poor little Charles' death certificate. And this explains that 'most lamentable occurence'. The cause of death is given as :

'Accidental overturning of a Car on the Queen's common highway in the township of Haverthwaite of which he languished about 45 minutes and then died.'

It's heartbreaking to think of a little boy of 9 'languishing' for those 45 minutes and then dying. I'm assuming that the 'car' would have been some sort of carriage that he was travelling in.

My next step will be to hunt down the coroner's court records - and possibly the local papers to see if I can find further reports of this. But that will probably have to wait. My novelist's curiosity had been aroused but I have so many other things to do that I'll probably need to wait for another gap between books before I can investigate further.


Anonymous said...

Dear Kate,

what a fascinating quest! Please let us know when you find out more about this poor little boy's demise--a tragic story by the looks of it.

Fizzing with excitement about Guildford--see you there!


Anonymous said...

carolc said...

Hi Kate,

How tragic. It's always sad to see a child pass, but the circumstances are terrible.

Funnily enough your PHS post inspired me to do a little digging into my own genealogy which is complicated and I've now decided to leave well enough alone.

Looking forward to you keeping us updated on your little boys story.

Anonymous said...


I saw exactly the same memorial and was saddened and intrigued. I guessed it might involve a cart given the wheel/cart in the memorial itself. I took a photo of the memorial with my phone to look it up when I got home, which is how I came by your post. I'm a criminal barrister by trade, so it's interesting perhaps how we both saw the same thing and began digging. I did reflect on how many other children of that time met similarly tragic deaths, and in fact could still and did receive the death penalty for theft, but there was nothing left to mourn them.

The Priory I thought very gothic. I have a number of photos of memorials featuring skull and crossbones, or winged skulls with missing teeth. I loved it.

Kate Walker said...

Dear Anonymous - I'm a bit late replying to your post but I just wanted to say thank you for dropping by - and I'm glad I was able to help you find out a little bit more about Charles Goring. I haven't had time to take it any further, sadly - but I was glad to find out that little bit at least. Maybe you as a barrister can trace the coroner's court records? Like you love the Priory and have visited it several times.


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