Uncle William comes into focus

It has been rather a long summer break for this blog – time to get back down to the writing.

The only possible subject for this week is making contact with a genuine descendant of my great great grandmother Harriet Cutlock and her husband William Bishop Cullum (see Cutlock/Cullum page). Muriel’s daughter happened to stumble on this website as she was checking out the Cullum name and noticed that Muriel’s name was mentioned. We have been exchanging emails since Sunday 11th, and got as far as a Skype conversation by the Tuesday. This completes the wish list for the year three months early {1}!

Muriel Shephard, nee Cullum, is a (half) second cousin of my Dad and has great memories of visiting 12 Waller Road, his childhood home, and playing with Dad’s toy fort. She is now living in Canada. See her comment under Great photo sham about the documentation for more, including other current family.

It has been wonderful to learn of, and speak to, new living relatives. And having the “elderly uncle known for his care over money” being brought to virtual life has been a great pleasure too. I had speculated greatly how William John Cullum, one of the sons of Harriet and William, had moved from being a lowly Ledger Clerk age 23 living in Lowestoft at the 1891 census to a ‘fruit grower’ in Sussex 1933, while appearing in Catford, south east London as a clerk/cashier in 1901/1911. This is now much clearer (and I have amended the Cutlock/Cullum page accordingly).

Sharon, the Cullum relative still living in this country, and a (half) third cousin of mine, is sure that William made his money with Maconochies. The Maconochie Brothers company is probably best known in recent times as the makers of Pan Yan Pickle, which was first produced in 1907. Production had ended in about 2002 (having become a part of Premier Foods), but the pickle became the focus of a campaign to find the original recipe in 2008 after featuring on the Chris Evans radio show. Ignoring misleading information on Wikipedia, the Grace’s Guide website indicates that the firm was set up in Lowestoft, Suffolk in 1873.

It hardly takes a great leap of imagination, on discovering that Maconochie’s Millwall factory (Isle of Dogs, the Pan Yan Pickle source) was established in about 1896 {2}, to say that William moved with the firm.  The birth and death dates and places for William’s first unfortunate two children narrows the move down further – William Robert was born in the Mutford district, which includes Lowestoft, September 1893 and Henry Arthur arrives and departs in Greenwich district, October 1894 (dates from Sharon, places from FreeBMD).

Maconochies also had an office at 131 Leadenhall Street in the City by 1900, which may well be where William worked. The 1911 census, filled in by him, gives his work as ‘Cashier to Presd Provn Mnfr’. Here, a cashier would be the person in charge of the company’s cash, rather than a counter clerk – and the abbreviation is presumably for Preserved Provision Manufacturer. He could easily also be the Company Secretary, as Sharon suggests, and seeing significant financial reward (from shares?) as the company expanded.

At 1914, according to Grace’s Guide, Maconochies were “Manufacturers of pickles and sauces. Specialities: pickles, sauces, jams, marmalade, jellies, potted meats; preservers of fish, meat, vegetables etc”. They supplied rations to the troops in the Boer Wars and World War One. From Trench Food (Spartacus Educational): Food was often supplied in cans. Maconochie contained sliced turnips and carrots in a thin soup. As one soldier said: “Warmed in the tin, Maconochie was edible; cold it was a mankiller.”

William’s eldest son, Arthur, appears to have done his war service at home, quite possibly as an accounts clerk. So perhaps he didn’t have to endure the rations made by his father’s business. It is sobering to think, though, that part of our family did rather well out of the horrors of WW1. Uncle William, as Dad knew him, undoubtedly had a large influence, for instance almost certainly on where his half nephew Sydney (my grandfather) set up in London. And also helping Arthur Cullum set up a fruit farm in Newick, Sussex.

Sydney Howes rear left, William John Cullum front right. Fred and Dora in the centre. (Photo courtesy of Muriel Shephard)

The Cullum/Howes connection is most vividly seen in the photos from Fred and Dora’s wedding in 1926, as in the snap above. Also see Great photo, shame about the documentation for an action shot of Sydney throwing confetti over Dora. Who was the official photographer?

Many thanks to the ever helpful folk on the Ancestry.co.uk page on Facebook for their assistance on cracking Maconochie Brothers. And of course thank you to Muriel, Sharon and also Rachel. Hope to see you some time!

Note 1

See A Progress Check.

Note 2

See British History Online for more on Maconochie’s Wharf, Westferry Road.

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