“Did you hear that dog barking, Danny?” Harry asked, as his companion continued to work through the certificates. Danny paused, and listened, but heard nothing.
He shook his head, a slight look of bewilderment on his face. Harry stared back at him. “There was no dog, Danny. The point is, in this game we’ve got to start looking at the information that isn’t here, as much as the information that is. Take our Laurel McFry. A woman of independent means, doesn’t have to work, inherited a bundle when her dad died. Smell anything odd?”
Danny pondered again. “Not really … what are you driving at?” he asked.
“Laurel McFry’s father was a company manager when he married Colleen Blyth. Within four years, according to
“I thought it all rang pretty true, what she said, Harry,” Danny said.
“Maybe. But then again, McFry and Sons was already a hugely successful undertaking before the war. I’d like you to check out a list of the company directors in 1974, sometime - when we’ve finished up with these certificates.”
“OK, Harry,” Danny said, jotting a note down on a pad on the desk. Harry savoured the moment: it was a change for him not to have to clog up his mind with those curled-up post-it notes he kept writing himself, a pleasure to have someone he could delegate a job to. He could get used to the idea.
“Now – where were we? We missed something from Philip McFry’s marriage cert,” he said.
Danny hadn’t a clue what Harry was getting at. “What do you mean?” he asked.
Harry paused, for effect, before responding: “The witnesses.”
Danny picked up the marriage certificate again, and stared at it. Just a little sheepishly, he read out the names: “Margaret Lawrence and James McNaughton. Mean anything to you, Harry?”
“Could be friends. Could be relatives of either Philip or Colleen. But Philip’s mother was a
“Moving on – what have we got next?”
“How about Lillian Blyth’s birth cert? Lillian Susannah Blyth, born 1 August 1904 at Low Mills, Ripon, registered 12 August 1904. Father, Leonard Blyth, joiner. Mother, Christiana Blyth, maiden name Garbutt, born Ripon. Harry paused from keying in the details.
“You know, Danny… we could really do with seeing this Lillian McFry of ours. But it’s going to be delicate.”
Danny considered what Harry was saying. Lillian McFry was technically ‘his’ client, not ‘ours’. She might not take kindly to knowing he’d discussed her medals with someone else. “We’ll have to take it carefully, Harry,” Danny said. “Remember, she doesn’t know we’re looking into
“That’s what I meant by it being ‘delicate’. Maybe we could just approach her from the angle of the medals – see what else she has to say?” Harry watched as Danny thought this over.
“I’m due to ring her later. I’ll see what she says,” Danny replied. It wasn’t out of the question that she should be told they thought someone else was after her medals, and Danny felt sure he could work up some excuse or other for Harry being around.
“What’s bugging me, Harry, is we never found a marriage reference for Lillian Blyth. At least not between 1940 and 1970, when Thomas McFry died.
Too many parts of this family just don’t seem to be there!”
Danny was right, Harry thought. The
“What have we got for Thomas?” he asked, turning back to his PC. 'Better press on,' he was thinking – those gaps would have to wait until later.
“Thomas McFry. Born 15 September 1911, Howgrave,
Harry nodded. “What about Stuart?” he asked.
“Stuart Allaister McFry. Born 12 July 1908, Howgrave,
“Don’t you find it only slightly reassuring, Danny,” Harry said, leaning back in his chair, “that in all of this mess of people missing from the census, at least we know that these people actually existed?” He was smiling, and Danny, he noticed, was smiling, too.
Ah, but lives are so … complicated.
Jonathan Harcourt might never have known what happened to Lillian Blyth after they got split up in
His English wasn’t good, but the two strangers had a little French, and between them all they managed to make themselves understood well enough. He let them know that they, and their young baby, could stay at his house until they were ready to leave. He lived in a small cottage in the centre of St Jean de Luz, not far from the Spanish border, his widowed mother his only companion. As they walked from the harbour up towards the cottage, he learned more about the couple’s ordeal.
The two strangers, the petite woman and her younger, sandy-haired companion, told how they had been with the International Brigades, in Viscaya, one of the four
Philippe Bergerac - a patriotic Basque from the south of
When they had settled themselves in front of the fire in the downstairs room of the cottage, and Philippe’s mother had fed them with dishes of the robust fish stew the Bergerac’s seemed to subsist on, Lillian Blyth began to tell him more of her story. How she had come to enlist in the International Brigades, and had fought at Jamara, the river crossing to the east of
After Jamara, she had been posted to the north, as part of a small group of International Brigaders that eventually found its base, fatefully, in
Now, the young man took over, telling his host how Lillian had worked ceaselessly to help the casualties, not just of the bombing, but of the constant skirmishes between the republican and Francoist troops. “She should have a medal for what she did there. We lost count of the lives she saved,” he had told Philippe, shaking his head slowly, from side to side, as he spoke. It was at the moment he heard those words, Philippe would later recall, that he had determined that the endeavours of the Englishwoman should be remembered, that her contribution to his ‘country’ should be properly, and appropriately, acknowledged.