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Effie's Commonplace

A glimpse into two worlds

A comfortable British life before World War I...
  ... and experiences of a nurse during it.

Christmas, 1904, "Pater" (a British term for "Father") gave an album of mostly blank pages to "Effie". I have no "proof", but I will presume Effie was a daughter. It is hard to be sure of her age. If you will take a chance on quite a few longshots, she might be the Effie Long born in Mangotsfield, near Bristol. There's an entry for an Effie Long on the 1901 census of England and Wales. If that's our Effie, and the name, happily isn't common, then she would have been ten years old. (Of course, maybe she wasn't recorded in the census, or maybe recorded under a different name. (I'm told by helpful friends who would know that Effie is sometimes an abbreviation for Elizabeth or Euphemia, so if you can find me a good candidate by either of those names...!) But the easy hit seems possible, as we shall see. Though part of me hopes she was, perhaps, a little older. There was a nurse, Miss E M Long, working for Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service who was mentioned in dispatches, I believe on 1 Jan 1916... I mention this, as it gives me hope that Effie didn't marry, at least before 1916, so isn't "lost" to things like census records to a different surname.


One hundred and ten years and seven weeks later, to the day, the album came into my care, when I was successful in a provincial auction. It is 205mm high, 20mm thick, including the padding which you may have seen in, say, a "guest book" (of the pre-internet type!)

Stop Press!... and about two year's later, I acquired another of her commonplaces the same way! (Same auction house.) Entries dated 1906-1908 seen in quick scan.

Again, it is full of small contributions from friends. The young people of that era, at least in her circle, seem remarkably accomplished artistically.

There were particularly nice drawings, painting, etc from...

Gladys Mason, Alfred Francis Hall, "NRK" (A six panel cartoon about a puppy. The style reminded me of something that might have been in Punch), TEP (watercolour), "LD", F.A.Mason, NF Hughes (pen/ink ;amp;colour wash).

There were two entries relating to "Pension Monney, Avenches". A number of entries that appear to have been made by foreign acquaintances... did she visit Leipzig, etc, or did they visit her?

Age remains a mystery. A few portraits suggest a circle of 18-22 year old, well to do young ladies... Perhaps this commonplace was being filled in parallel with the first one I purchased (see below). Unlike the other, this one doesn't seem to have any of entries from after 1913. (End, "Stop Press", notes about her other commonplace found.))

If pages could speak, what tales these pages could tell. They tell pretty amazing things even without speech.

This page is only just getting started. There are three sorts of thing in the commonplace...

The paintings

Who was T Long? Perhaps Effie's father? Perhaps the paintings were already in the book when he gave it to Effie? Or maybe her mother? The 1901 census record for the Effie I'm guessing is "my" Effie gives her father's name as Isaac, and her mother's name is probably "Rose", but there is a tantalizing bit of bad handwriting that could make the first letter "T", but almost all the rest is "ose", so what could that be but Rose?


Most of the paintings are of a consistent style and condition, and entries in the book range from 1904 to at least 1907... which facts support my thought that maybe they were in the book early on.

But even though I picked the one on the left "at random" when this page was in an early state, already a further mystery crops up if you accept my guess that the paintings were part of the original gift: Did T. Long do the paintings just before Christmas '04, and then the inscription you see nearly 4 years later? Or were some of the paintings part of the gift, and added to later?

Do you see how collecting old books can be fascinating? And this is a glimpse into lives that have left little mark in the internet archives.

The pre-war entries

The left hand side of the painting above is typical of one of the pre-war double paged spreads, apart from the fact that most of them are inscribed by people who only appear once in the book.


If the one on the left is by "T.L.", it is, I think, the only unsigned one. The legend is "Inchkeith/ 1910".

The inscription on the right is dated August 27th, 1906. It is by Marguerite Evelyn Wolf, The Elms, Parkfield Road, Bradford"


The two passages on the right appeared on facing pages, the top one on the left.

I've presented them this large, because I think there are clues to Who Was Effie, or at least leads to follow in them... but haven't had time yet. If anyone out there in internet-land wants to take up the challenge, I would be delighted. (How to share any successful detective work is provided at the bottom of the page.)

Yes, I've already spotted the "Effie Long" in the poem. It is the prime basis of my belief that "Effie" of the gift inscription was Effie Long.

It is also an example by contrast:

Almost everything in the book is done in commendable handwriting... calligraphy, almost. And the people then weren't working with the nice writing implements we have today. These two passages are written more clearly than I generally write, but they are "badly" written, compared to most of what is in the book.

  - - - -

One bit of the poem (written in 1910, remember) in the upper image is poignant in light of Effie's subsequent life...

"May peace and plenty be her yoke,
   nae' grief too stricken."


Soldiers' entries

In this section, for most of the pages presented, I will transcribe elements of the critical bits of text. You will have to consult the image for the exact text, and the full text. I will also expand abbreviations from time to time... please do get in touch if you spot mistakes!


Quite understated, if this is, as I believe, written by a convalescent, out of the trenches of WW1.

Note that it places the commonplace book at Gifford House in December 1915.

For the sake of search engines: Inscription by "N.262 Spr W.R. Walker/ 3rd Field Company/ Australian Engineers". If I've got the "Spr" right, that would be "Sapper", equivalent to "private", or "gunner" (lowest ranks) in other regiments... my thanks to a friend for that information. Contributions welcome! (Contact details at bottom.)

On the internet found a Gifford House which was in south London...

Online source says...

In 1915 Gifford House was lent by Mr and Mrs John
Douglas Charrington (of the brewery family) for use as
an auxiliary hospital for convalescent servicemen.
The house, located in 'Millionaire's Row', stood
in its own grounds with a bowling green at the back -
all surrounded by cypress trees.


Several things worthy of note in the page shown to the right...

Private Perkins had a sense of humor, anyway. Do you think he was thinking of Effie's father as a neighbor, perhaps?

The paper really was pink. The book had various papers bound into it... some for writing on, some for painting on.

For the search engines: "Bugler Chas. H. Perkins/ Reg. No 1101 18th Battalion/ 5th Inf. Brigade/ Australian Imperial Forces."

"Wounded on Hill 971 at the/ "Dardanelles" August 22nd 1915/"(Shrapnel in the Stomach")

At the bottom, he gives an address...

"Ormskirk/ Park Road/ New Barnet"

I researched that address, and found no mention of Bugler Perkins, wounded August 1915... but I did find records which indicate that Mr and Mrs Robert Glass lived there, and lost two sons: Cecil Robert (19th April 1917. Age 24) and David William (18th September 1916. Age 25).


As it says, the entry to the right is indeed on the last page in the book.

Selected text...

Private H Middleton, (army number) 11271

1st South Wales Borderers

Wounded at... what do you think?.. Hulluch? Sept 26th, 1915. If he was at Hulluch, he was "lucky"... in April 1916, British soldiers were exposed to a concentration of a mixture of phosgene and chlorine so strong that it overcame the gas masks they had.

Pvt. Middleton goes on to say that his wounding took place... "after 10 months of Hardships and trials".

He thanks the sisters and nurses of "Giffon House".

I found mention of "Gifford" in other entries, and would guess this is just a different spelling.



There is so much to say about this one, that it gets a separate webpage to itself.

But, before you go there, let me set the scene with my circumstances when I first encountered it...

Of course, as soon as I turned the page, it made an impact... as a rather nice, bold, pen and ink.

At the time, I was in the midst of an intensive search within the commonplace any names, places, etc, which might help to put the book "in the world", to "connect" it to a broader context. It wouldn't have grieved me, for instance, if one of the poems inscribed by a war casualty was signed, say, "S. Sassoon". But mostly I was just hoping to have the fun of finding a connection from the commonplace to some person who "appears" in the internet record.

By the way... do you remember the name of the man who did the wonderful pen and inks in Milne's "Pooh" books? And many other fine publications of the period? Of course Milne's words were important, but if someone says "Pooh" to you, and you were spared Disney's rather inferior images, do you remember the words, or the pictures? Do you remember his first name initials? They were "E.H."

So! Now that you know the context, go visit the separate webpage about this page of the commonplace.

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