The Anonymous Widower

The Purfleet Ro-Ro Terminal

This article on the BBC is entitled Essex Lorry Deaths: 39 Found Dead Were Chinese Nationals.

The tragedy has got me wondering, where did the lorry enter the UK.

So I drew this Google Map of Purfleet.

Note.

  1. The c2c rail line between Fenchurch Street and Southend via Grays, that runs West-East across the top of the map.
  2. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link runs diagonally across the corner of the map.
  3. The approach roads to the Dartford Crossing running North-South at the East of the map.

The Purfleet Ro-Ro Terminal lies to the South-west of these railways and road, with piers for the ships strewtching out into the River Thames.

If you enlarge the map by clickjing on it, you’ll see rows of trailers parked ready to cross the Channel or having just arrived.

You canm also see it from Eurostar and other high speed trains or when going South on the Dartford Bridge.

Immigration

Illegal or legal, there is always a lot of strong views about immgration.

  • In Did The Tailor Of Bexley Come From Koningsberg?, I discuss how my paternal great-great-great-grandfather came to the UK from Konigsberg in Germany, which is now Kaliningrad in Russia!!
  • On my mother’s side my family were French Huguenot and probably came over some decades earlier.

So I tend to have a variety of views about immigration depending on the point being discussed.

  • For instance, is it right to deny those who were persecuted like my ancestors for religious reasons, the right to come to the UK. I’d be a hypocrite.
  • On the other hand, those who want t come for criminal reasons should be turned away.

The Chinese, a number of whom perished in the Purfleet trgedy are a difficult group to think about. China is a place, where I would not want to live and if I had the money to get out, I would want to leave, as many have over the years. Twenty years ago, I met a Chinese lady of my age, who’d escaped by swimming into Hog Kong.

Darwin talked of natural selection and in some way immigration is natural selection at work.

The intelligent, ambitious and resourceful ones, are the immigrants who tend to get to their preferred destination. The ones who lack these character traits either stay put or don’t make it.

I often think of my Jewish great-great-grandfather, who at eighteen had just qualified as a tailor after serving his apprenticeship. The law in the City was that if you were a Jewish male of eighteen and not one of the privileged families you had to leave.

So he jumped on a ship and ended up Bexley. No doubt, being a tailor, he was able to find a small space for his tools.

I certainly, think I inherited some of his good genes along with those for coeliac disease.

But was my ancestor any different to the skilled Iraqis, Brazilians or Ethiopians today?

 

 

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

England In Kaliningrad

There is a good chance, that my great-great-great-grandfather; Robert Muller, came from East Prussia, the capital of which was Konigsberg East Prussia was annexed by the Soviet Union after the Second World |War and Konigsberg was renamed Kaliningrad.

My father was about fourteen, when his grandfather died and my father once told me, that his grandfather had told him, about meeting Robert, who would have been his grandfather’s grandfather.

Apparently, the elderly man didn’t speak any English and only spoke German. Knowing that my male line is Jewish, I wonder if it wasn’t German but Yiddish.

Konigsberg was an important city and the Prussian

Wikipedia has a section about the Jews in Konigsberg, where this is said.

The Jewish population of Königsberg in the 18th century was fairly low, although this changed as restrictions became relaxed over the course of the 19th century. In 1756 there were 29 families of “protected Jews” in Königsberg, which increased to 57 by 1789. The total number of Jewish inhabitants was less than 500 in the middle of the 18th century, and around 800 by the end of it, out of a total population of almost 60,000 people.

Speaking to someone at the German History Museum, a lot of Jewish men had to leave East Prussia, when they became adults, unless they were protected.

As Robert would have been a young adult,, when he turned up in Bexley, I suspect that soon after he qualified as a tailor, he left the area.

This keeping out of the way of trouble, is very much a family trait.

Konigsberg was at that time a port city and there was quite a lot of trade with London. So I suspect getting to London was not that great a problem.

I very much regret not asking my father for more details.

Like me my father was an atheist, although with a Jewish philosophy of life. He was also very much against fascists, communists and dictators of both the left and right. He was proud to have been at the Battle of Cable Street, when the East End of London stopped Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts.

In some ways, I regret not being at the match tonight. But then I was advised that there would be trouble.

I have been to the Polish border with the Russian enclave. I wrote about it in At Poland’s Border With Russia.

June 28, 2018 Posted by | Sport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Did The Tailor Of Bexley Come From Koningsberg?

My paternal great-great-great grandfather; Robert, was a tailor from Bexley, who I wrote about in The Tailor Of Bexley. I said this in that post.

My father once told me, that his grandfather, who must have been William, once told him, of a first hand account of Robert the tailor of Bexley, who was his grandfather.

He said that he was German and that he didn’t speak any English. Because of my coeliac disease, which is quite common in East European Jews and his profession, we can probably assume that Robert; the tailor of Bexley was Jewish. My father also told me that the family name was Müller, which had been Anglicised.

 

I know little more of him and his place of birth is not known to me. All I know is that he had a son; Edward in 1816, so that would put his birth in the late eighteenth century.

My trip to North-East Poland got me thinking, as I saw the branches of the Prussian Eastern Railway and discussed the history of the area with Piotr; our excellent Polish guide from Gdansk.

I also searched the Internet for Koningsberg and learned more details of its history in the late eighteenth century, with the Napoleonic Wars and the various partitions of Poland. I also read how Koningsberg was a large and cultured city. Wikipedia says this.

A university city, home of the Albertina University (founded in 1544), Königsberg developed into an important German intellectual and cultural centre, being the residence of Simon Dach, Immanuel Kant, Käthe Kollwitz, E. T. A. Hoffmann, David Hilbert, Agnes Miegel, Hannah Arendt, Michael Wieck and others.

But with the Second World War, the elimination of Jews from the city by the Nazis and the eventual takeover of the area by the Russians, the recent history has been less than a happy one.

Knowing myself, it sounds like the sort of city that I like, as my three favourite cities are Hong Kong, Liverpool and of course London.

Hence the question that is the title of this post!

My family is very ambitious and opportunistic and as Koningsberg was a major port, exporting goods from the area all over Northern Europe, I can imagine Robert deciding in his twenties to get out of the city to avoid yet another war or partition and taking a ship to London to find fame and fortune. He might even just have finished his apprenticeship as a tailor.

From arriving in the London Docks, he didn’t need to go far to end up in Bexley. A few years later he moved to Shoreditch, just a mile or so from where I live now!

I think Robert could have given me two characteristics, other than the ambition and the coeliac disease.

  • His Jewish religion, but not its philosophy and values, seems to have been abandoned. I am very much a confirmed atheist with what I think, are fairly sound moral values, shared with most mainstream religions.
  • He also endowed me with genes that enable me to endure the cold.

It may not be a correct tale, but even so, isn’t it a reflection down the centuries of today’s streams of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and other places.

Nothing changes!

Except the religion!

January 29, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Tailor Of Bexley

When I had my family traced, the earliest ancestor of mine that could be found was Robert Miller, who was a tailor in Bexley in 1837.

He was found to have had one son; Edward, who was born about 1816 in Bexley, Kent and died in 1871 at Shoreditch.

Linking backwards from the modern day.

My father was Wilfred Ewart born in 1904

My paternal grandfather was Herbert born in 1878 and died in 1929

My paternal great-grandfather was William born in 1853 and died in 1911.

My paternal great-great-grandfather was Edward born in 1816 and died in 1871.

So the tailor of Bexley was my paternal great-great-great grandfather.

My father once told me, that his grandfather, who must have been William, once told him, of a first hand account of Robert the tailor of Bexley, who was his grandfather.

He said that he was German and that he didn’t speak any English. Because of my coeliac disease, which is quite common in East European Jews and his profession, we can probably assume that Robert; the tailor of Bexley was Jewish. My father also told me that the family name was Müller, which had been Anglicised.

Robert Winder in his excellent book; Bloody Foreigners, talks about how many poor Germans came over to London in the early days of the nineteenth  century and lived in terrible conditions in the East End of London.

So was Robert one of those poor Germans?

When you dig into your family history, you find professions that are no longer PC. Some of my ancestors were ivory turners and skin dressers in the fur trade.

 

October 12, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | 3 Comments