Sunday, 29 July 2007

Chapter 129

Shaking the tree: taking a look at all the information they’d managed to gather so far, and seeing if, between them, they couldn’t make sense of it all. That was Harry’s plan.

Once Danny had returned from the kitchen and refilled the filter machine, Harry pulled a marker pen from a drawer and moved across to the flip-chart. He felt the chill, February night infiltrating its way through the half-open window, heard the traffic passing by the building on the rain-wet street, below. The sooner that coffee was made, the better.

“So,” he said, as Danny took up his station, “let’s see what we’ve got. And I mean everything!”

He started at the top of the tree, with James McFry and Anne Lawrence. Harry stood back a second, as if contemplating the names, then added the number ‘1’ in a circle, beside them.

“What’s that mean?” Danny asked.

Harry looked at him, seeing genuine intrigue etched on his face.

“It’s the lowest score available: we still haven’t seen any documentation for this marriage and, apart from their mention on their children’s birth certificates, we only have Laurel’s word for it.”

Beneath the two names, he drew lines down to their three children, Stuart, Thomas and Philip McFry, which he added to the paper. Checking his notes on the desk, he flicked through a few pages before moving back to the easel, where he wrote in their years of birth and death.

Danny noticed that Harry wrote quickly, but precisely. 1908, 1911 and 1924. The three McFry brothers, the two older ones possibly much closer to each other when they lived, Danny thought, and then Philip, a late after-thought for James and Anne. Thirteen years was a long gap between having children – if his own father and mother had followed a similar pattern, he might have had a six year old brother by now. He wondered what contact Philip had ever had with his older brothers.

“We can give Stuart a ‘2’ and Thomas a ‘3’,” Harry said, “because we’ve seen certificates for both their births, and for Thomas’ death.” He circled the numbers, and added ‘4’ next to Philip. “And we’ve got Philip’s marriage certificate, and can be pretty sure the information we got from Laurel about his death is accurate.”

Next, he added in Colleen Blyth as the marriage partner of Philip McFry. “Nothing much apart from the marriage cert here, so we better keep this low,” he said. “How about a ‘2’?”

Danny nodded. He was getting the hang of this, but still wasn’t sure what the system was designed to do. He asked Harry to explain.

“It’s just a way of showing up gaps in our information. We might be able to plug them tomorrow. Anything under a two is suspect, until such time as we can find additional detail. Triangulation, Danny – we’re lost, without it.”

Harry moved across to re-fill his mug. En route, he pulled at the cigarette packet in his pocket, but caught sight of a grimace developing on Danny’s face, and pushed it back. Working as a duo had it’s plus side, he thought, ruefully – but this wasn’t one of them.


Over the course of the next half hour, Harry continued to add to the flip-chart. Laurel McFry would have been pleased to note that she got herself scored as a ‘4’, largely on the basis that she was still alive, so they could take it as read her birth details were correct. Lillian Blyth / McFry was more problematic. They had her birth certificate, and she, too, was still alive, but there was no evidence she’d never married. Their earlier search for a marriage record had drawn a blank. After a brief debate, they gave her a ‘2’.

“So how come she adopted the McFry name, Harry?” Danny asked.

It had been the root of a lot of confusion, for a lot of people, and Harry had given the matter some thought over the previous week.

“It’s my guess that it was her part of the deal with Thomas McFry. He never wanted to marry her – for reasons I think could be connected to Stuart, his brother. If I was Lillian, though, I’d want some cloak of respectability, living in a place like Telford.”

Danny considered a moment. “So, she just assumed the McFry name?”

“That’s right. When the Spanish authorities tried to trace her about the Bond, they couldn’t find her, because they never found a marriage for a Lillian Blyth.”

Danny was thinking some more. “What I don’t get is, how come Dacre Lawrence made the link between the Lillian McFry who Galloway went to see, and the Lillian Blyth who had been issued with the medals?”

Harry smiled. “It’s the one piece of information that wouldn’t be available to any genealogist, no matter how hard they looked. Her medical record.”

A light was going on somewhere in Danny’s mind, but it was one of those new-fangled low-wattage ones, and hadn’t quite warmed up yet.

“So…” was all he said, before Harry jumped back into explaining his theory.

“Lillian Blyth never changed her name by deed poll, nor could she produce a marriage certificate to formally change her name. So, on her medical records – which, remember, date back to the advent of the NHS in 1948 – she was always Lillian Blyth. My guess is that she may also have mentioned the fact that she had a daughter once. It’s the kind of information you might expect a patient to tell her doctor, in confidence, isn’t it?”

Danny nodded. “And… Galloway had her address. Lawrence could have searched the national records based on that, and discovered her as Lillian Blyth, even though Galloway knew her as McFry…”

“So far, so good. But there’s the little matter of the letter to Laurel to consider,” Harry said, like he was sounding a note of warning. “How do you think that fits in?”

“Hmmm … I see what you mean, Harry. Lawrence told Laurel he was a relation. And we know that’s true, because of the DNA results. But how did he work it out?”

Harry was sitting behind the desk again, his elbows parked on it whilst he rubbed his chin with his hand.

“But he wasn’t the relation he thought he was, Danny. He knew all about Thomas McFry – I think he assumed Thomas and Lillian were married. He knew about his own connection to the McFry’s and if there was a reference to Colleen in Lillian’s records, it was just a short step for him to locate Laurel…”

The light had warmed up a little. “Brilliant, Harry!” Danny exclaimed.

“Not so fast, Danny. It’s only a theory. Only two people can really confirm it, one way or the other. One of them is over in Thirsk. The other, thankfully, we’ll be seeing tomorrow. Now - I think we need to move onto our friend Dacre, don’t you?” And, as he asked the question, Harry grabbed the marker pen and took up position next to the flip chart again, pulling off the sheets he’d already completed, and writing the name Dacre Lawrence at the bottom of the fresh page.

Danny was starting to enjoy himself. So was Harry.


70steen said...

Oh well done Tom!! Your brain must be almost be at 'melt down'by now ???

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thank you, 70steen. Time to pack now, though!

Thanks for your support throughout the telling of Harry's tale!