Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

Mary Elizabeth Murdock April 10, 2017

bennett-mr               IMG_0013   My paternal grandfather Major Charles Dana Miller – this is the man my grandmother Mary Elizabeth Murdock married in 1882.  He fought in the Civil War – Mary Elizabeth Murdock was born in 1863.  So the man who was to be my grandfather was a soldier fighting in the Civil War when my grandmother was born.

Mary married a man many years her senior.  How did this come about?  Family rumor has it that she went West in 1880 from Crown Point New York to Mt. Vernon Ohio to look after Charles’s young children after their mother died.

IMG_0014  Mary Elizabeth Murdock, 1882 (?)

Charles was born in 1836.  So he was 27 years older than Mary.  He was a widower with 2 children.  They married in Chicago in November 1882.

Questions – how did this sequence of events happen?

Well, Mary went West shortly after her own mother died and also her younger sister.  A time of sorrow and upset.  Mary had recently graduated from Albany Normal School (State Teachers College) – so she was a qualified teacher.

But my research in ancestry.com reveals that when Charles’ wife died the children were young teens, age 14 and 13, not infants needing a carer.  So if she went West to be a carer she would have been more of a housekeeper than a nanny, and possibly a tutor for the children.

And furthermore, there were Murdocks who had previously migrated from Crown Point New York to Mt Vernon Ohio.


Famous Pioneering Women December 1, 2015

Beryl Markham – aviator, horse trainer, writer

97803 circling the sun


A marvelous book.  I have read so much about Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen. Elspeth Huxley, Beryl Matkham and others who made Kenya their home and played a special part in the history of this country.  I lived in Kenya for 2 years in the 1960’s.  This was well within the lifetime of Beryl Markham – but alas I never met her.

However I brushed history when I had tea at Karen Blixen’s home near the Ngong Hills.  This was long after Karen had sold her farm and left Kenya.  Her former home was temporarily being occupied by a Danish couple whom I knew through the University.  Little did I realize the role that house had played in the lives of the early settlers.

But when I lived in Kenya again in the early 1990’s, I did appreciate the history of the golf course I played on – Karen Country Club had once been Karen Blixen’s coffee plantation.




What Has Been the Highlight ….. April 22, 2011

Filed under: Biography,Book stores,Books,Knitting magazines — Janet @ 7:32 pm

What has been the highlight of our visit so far?…….this was a favourite question posed for family discussion on our recent trip to Scottsdale Arizona.  So I’m going to tell just one highlight.  A trip to Barnes & Noble! 

  Barnes & Noble in Scottsdale Arizona

It’s not as if I can’t go to Barnes & Noble here in Seattle, or in Glastonbury Connecticut, or lots of other places.  But I needed a book to read at that point in time, having nearly finished the two I had brought with me.  And son David needed to find a printed book which he could read and avoid the glare in trying to read the books on his electronic devices.  I liked the approach to this B & N – quite impressive – but inside it was pretty much like any other B & N I have been to.  I suspect this is deliberate – like Starbucks.  Nevermind, I immediately found 2 knitting magazines of interest, my grandaughter found her American Girl magazine, my daughter-in-law spotted an interesting book to order for her Nook, and I eventually found a biography which I am enjoying immensely.  Savage Beauty, The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, by Nancy Milford.  Edna St. Vincent Millay – a familiar name, I knew she was a poet, and in the dim and distant past we studied her in school.  It wasn’t a book I would have deliberately set out to look for – no, I just happened to spot it as I was browsing.

                                                                                                                 Savage Beauty, The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, by Nancy Milford

Now I am about half way through the book.  I hadn’t realized, or remembered, that she grew up in Maine and went to Vassar.  And she is very much of the era of my parents and grandparents.  I am just savouring the New England setting and the social history which form the background for her life.  When one is on vacation and well away from the everyday demands at home, one of the luxuries is to to just sit and read at any hour of the day or night without feeling guilty about the ironing, for example.  Now that I am home I just want to carry on reading and with this book I can justify neglecting the chores because it is fuel for my research into the lives of my parents and grandparents – which is probably why I chose it in the first place.  Hooray for Barnes & Noble with such a wide range of books to choose from.

                                                                                                            a kiddies fountain just in front of B & N

  the two books I brought with me.  I quite liked the John Grisham stories.  I had not read anything by him before, popular author that he is.  The other book, A Marked Man by Barbara Hamilton, turned out to be about Boston in the days and months following the Boston Tea Party in 1773, three years before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.  The book is classified as a historical mystery.  One thing that was bothering me about the book was a reference early on to a church on Brattle Street in Boston.  All the other historical detail seemed very accurate but the only Brattle Street I knew was in Cambridge.  Somehow while we were there in Scottsdale we didn’t look it up on the I-Pad but now at home I find that sure enough there was a Brattle Street Church in Boston and it was attended by many of those familiar names – Abigail Adams for one.  (Abigail Adams is the amateur sleuth in this book – sort of like the Miss Marple of her day.)


A Memorable Evening October 5, 2010

The Snow Leopard Trust, headquartered here in Seattle, had its annual fund raising dinner on Saturday night.  Thanks to my cousin Kaysea and her husband Gordon, who came north from from San Francisco for the occasion, we were invited to this gala evening, held at the Woodland Park Zoo.  And what an evening it was!  The theme was a Spirit of India.   It was all so well organized – like the big book sale we went to the previous weekend. ( I have been very impressed by the massive number of volunteers appearing seamlessly to assist in the smooth running of 2 obviously very big events) 

When we arrived at the Zoo we were greeted by our hosts who proceeded to introduce us to various members of the Trust and guide us to the appropriate ports of call – i.e. registration and then the bar.  Numerous supporters were in attendence and everywhere one turned one was greeted by a friendly sari wearer or a man dressed according to custom in various parts of the Indian Sub-Continent.  Accordingly, we got out tika marks on our foreheads.  Drinks in hand, then we went on our “trek”.   A simulated trek at 16,000 feet in the Spiti Valley in Himalchal Pradesh in the high Himalayas in Northern India.  We were the Green Group, Group 2.  We started out with an examination of scat and we tried to determine whether it was deposited there by a snow leopard or some other animal.  Alas, it turned out to be scat from a wolf.  We moved on to another site to view a power point demonstration of some of the animals which have been caught on one of the Trust’s cameras positioned  at that elevation.  It was amazing.   Hares, deer, yak, snow leopard (of course), and others.  Our trek continued to a council meeting where several villagers were discussing an application for reimbursement according to an  insurance programme for owners of animals which had been killed by snow leopards.  Then our final stop, a time to meditate and learn more about the eco-camps for children aged 10-14.

Then came the silent auction – write your bid number on a list provided and then wander back later to see if anyone has topped it.  Each item was tempting but I only bid on one, a needlefelted snowleopard.  When I returned to see how my bid was doing, I found that it had been far surpassed.  So much for my paltry $35.  I think the bidding for that item went well over $150.  That was one of the smaller items in the silent auction. 

As well as the silent auction and the henna tattooing we listened to hypnotic Indian music – a tabla and an outsize sitar and had a show of Indian dancing from 2 young girls and their teacher.  Come 8 o’clock we enjoyed a festive dinner and then the live auction.  Again we were to wave our numbers if we wanted to bid.  Ian wanted to sit on my bidding card to be sure I didn’t get carried away with enthusiasm for our wonderful evening.  Here was the BIG chance to make a donation to the cause.  And believe me, the bids were BIG.  And good fun.   I got my chance though at the close of the evening when they announced that the lovely centerpieces at each of the round tables were available for $50.  I came home with a colorful ceramic bejeweled elephant plant holder and the plant is a live orchid.  I am delighted with my treasure. 

 My only regret about the evening  was that I hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity to wear some of my Indian or Nepalese or  Bhutanese clothing items which I have accummulated over the years and never seem to have the right occasion for wearing any of them.  Oh well, at least I have saved those items and another occasion might arise now that we are here in Seattle.

Curiously though, I had just finished reading a book about living in Tibet for 5 years.  Running a Hotel on the Roof of the World by Alec Le Sueur.  It was a great read for me, so reminiscent of our years in Bhutan.

Here are a few photos to give a bit of the flavour of the evening.

  artist at work – the official live wildlife artist at Woodland Park Zoo.  The artist worked on the painting all through the evening and then it was auctioned near the end.

  getting my snow leopard henna tattoo – I was wearing my Lance Armstrong jacket for warmth – by that point in the evening, it was getting cold.  Also it was chilly on our trek to the Spiti Valley.

  Indian dancers – 2 girls age about 8 and 12, I think

  one of the henna artists – there was a choice of patterns as you can see on the sheet on the table

  Kaysea getting her tattoo

  one of the items at the silent auction

  just a general view of the hall – note the ceramic elephant plant holder in the foreground

  another print in the silent auction – I quite liked this one but the bidding was way beyond me

  tabla and sitar musicians

  Kaysea with one of our guides in the Spiti Valley

  my ceramic elephant

  Running a Hotel on the Roof of the World


Muriel Gahan, Pioneer June 13, 2010

Filed under: Biography,Country Markets,Craftwork,Ireland,Irish History,Weaving — Janet @ 11:36 am

Pioneer might not be quite the right word in writing about Muriel Gahan but she certainly did yeomanlike work in resurrecting and preserving the crafts traditional to Ireland, particularly weaving.   What caught my eye in yesterday’s Irish Times was this picture of a painting which once hung in Muriel Gahan’s office at the well-loved Country Shop in Dublin.  Muriel and the Country Shop are no longer with us.  Muriel was born in 1897 and died in 1995.  The Country Shop, a Dublin institution, was founded in 1930.  It ceased operations in 1978.

  painting which hung in the office of the late Muriel Gahan at the Country Shop in St. Stephen’s Green.  It is a large untitled abstract by Evie Hone (1894-1955).  Evie Hone is well known to us here in Dundrum.  Several of her stained glass windows are in St. Naithi’s Church.  She had a studion in nearby Rathfarnham.  The estimated price range for the abstract painting to be auctioned at de Vere’s is Euro 25,000-35,000.

Quite by chance yesterday I also found a copy of the biography written about Muriel Gahan.  Deeds Not Words, The Life and Work of Muriel Gahan, Champion of rural women and craftworkers, by Geraldine Mitchell.  Geraldine Mitchell is a journalist, poet, and biographer.  And incidentally, Geraldine is the niece of Lillias Mitchell who was a pioneer in her own right.  Lillias, among other distinctions, was a pioneer in the setting up of the Irish Guild of Weavers Spinners & Dyers in 1975.  My memory of Muriel Gahan is of her opening one of the Exhibitions held by the Guild back in its early days.  The Guild had a large Exhibition in the Bank of Ireland on Leeson Street and that year it was held in conjunction with the Woodturners.  A biography of Lillias Mitchell would be a good sequel to the volume on Muriel Gahan.  Lillias was a close friend to many of us in the Guild – she passed away in the year 2000 at the age of 85.