The re­sources re­vealed, plus un­seen sto­ries

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - Claire Vaughan

There are a lot of in­ter­est­ing an­ces­tors in the Reid his­tory!” ac­tress Anne Reid tells me as we’re chat­ting about her Who Do You Think You Are? ex­pe­ri­ence. She leaves me with no doubt that her fas­ci­nat­ing episode merely scratched the sur­face of what the Reid fam­ily tree has to of­fer – they re­ally could have ded­i­cated a whole se­ries to her. Here she re­veals what the episode couldn’t in­clude – from spies to Amer­i­can pi­o­neers – and talks about her ex­pe­ri­ences of get­ting to know her con­vict an­ces­tor…

“There were sev­eral start­ing points for Anne’s episode – there was plenty of story and some great char­ac­ters,” Mary Crisp the di­rec­tor tells me. At the cen­tre was the tale of John Reid, Anne’s great great grand­fa­ther, and it be­gan with a juicy mys­tery.

Anne had al­ways won­dered why her great grand­fa­ther Thomas Reid (born in 1837 in Fife), his brother David and sis­ter Is­abella had been brought up by their grand­par­ents David and Is­abella Hus­band. Ang­harad Scott, who re­searched Anne’s episode, ex­plains: “The Reid chil­dren’s par­ents don’t fea­ture on the census re­turns, and that straight away raised ques­tions.”

“Once I knew it was go­ing to be about my great great grand­fa­ther I thought ‘Oh he’ll be quite bor­ing be­cause my father al­ways said that they were min­is­ters of the Kirk of Scot­land’, hav­ing no idea where it was go­ing of course,” Anne says.

Burial records for Lo­gie, where Thomas’s fam­ily had lived, showed that Mar­garet, his mother, died in 1839, while Pres­bytery ses­sion min­utes re­vealed that his father John, a school teacher, had been any­thing but a pil­lar of the com­mu­nity. “I re­ally liked the Pres­bytery ses­sion min­utes,” says Ang­harad, “the way they list John’s of­fences, they’re so won­der­fully petty, but later there are some re­ally se­ri­ous crimes. They give you a real in­sight into the life he must have been lead­ing.”

Anne also found his mis­de­meanours very amus­ing. “That was one of my favourite parts of the film,” says Mary. “There were whole bits that we had to cut out where she was in stitches and couldn’t speak.” Anne says: “I couldn’t stop laugh­ing – the crew had to put their hands over their mouths be­cause they were laugh­ing as well. I thought it was hi­lar­i­ous.”

It turned out that John had built up sig­nif­i­cant debts, and in or­der to pay th­ese off had faked his father-in-law’s sig­na­ture on a Bill of Ex­change. He was tried for forgery at the Supreme Court in Ed­in­burgh and found guilty. Anne was hor­ri­fied to dis­cover he had been sen­tenced to trans­porta­tion for seven years. “I didn’t ex­pect her to re­act quite so strongly to John’s sen­tenc­ing,” says Mary. “You see it all on her face – all the emo­tions, there’s shock and anger and fear for him – she was very clearly there in his shoes.”

Anne agrees: “Oh yes, I was hor­ri­fied – I just felt very an­gry with the peo­ple be­cause nowa­days, what would you get for forg­ing a sig­na­ture to get money? You’d prob­a­bly get six months or some­thing – it was bar­baric. I said a lot of very rude things about the judge who sen­tenced him, but they didn’t put it in the pro­gramme.”

John had built up debts and faked his father-in-law’s sig­na­ture to pay them off

She was shown the forged Bill of Ex­change: “It was rather a sad lit­tle piece of pa­per – he’d put three sig­na­tures on it, tried to fake them, but ac­tu­ally, to see his writ­ing was amaz­ing.”

From here, Anne traced John’s jour­ney to what was then known as Van Die­man’s Land. “It was only about 20 days be­fore Christ­mas, and I sud­denly dis­cov­ered that we were go­ing to Tas­ma­nia. I hadn’t done any Christ­mas shop­ping and I’d never been to Aus­tralia, so it was a big ad­ven­ture.”

Fol­low­ing sev­eral months on a prison hulk moored in Lon­don, John sailed out to Tas­ma­nia on the Earl Grey in the au­tumn of 1842. “He was ap­pointed the school teacher on the ship and he taught ev­ery­one to read – but they still treated him ap­pallingly when he got there,” says Anne. Ang­harad man­aged to track down a book about the Earl Grey. “It was an amaz­ing find – a real eureka mo­ment – and it has John’s ac­tual words in it. You can get a gen­eral un­der­stand­ing of what it was like on th­ese ships, but to have it de­tailed by an an­ces­tor was so pow­er­ful.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ang­harad, the con­vict records in Tas­ma­nia are a fan­tas­tic re­source. “There’s a ser­vice called LINC, through the Tas­ma­nian Ar­chives, and you can find out so much in­for­ma­tion: the de­scrip­tion of the con­vict, their con­duct records, where they were based.” But once John was a free man, the re­search be­came more tricky. As Ang­harad ex­plains: “We had no idea what hap­pened to him – we didn’t even know when he died.”

Anne hoped that John had been re­united with his chil­dren, but the trail even­tu­ally led to Bar­illa Bay. “Even­tu­ally we found his death cer­tifi­cate. It told us that he died alone on that beach on the other side of the world. I think that’s quite sad,” says Ang­harad.

“John kept him­self to­gether and made the best of the sit­u­a­tion, and I think that’s what I would do,” con­cludes Anne.

Jour­nal­ists and cy­clists

There were sev­eral other gems on Anne’s fam­ily tree that there just wasn’t time in her episode to do jus­tice to, in­clud­ing a jour­nal­is­tic her­itage: “One brother was on the Daily Mail, I had two other brothers in news­pa­pers in Canada, my un­cle was on the Manch­ester

Evening News and my Grand­dad, TD Reid, was on the Bolton Evening News.”

Thomas David Reid was a pro­fes­sional cy­clist in an era be­fore the sport had re­ally taken off, and wrote a col­umn for the pa­per un­der the pen name Pathfinder. “He wrote about cy­cling at the turn of the cen­tury when it was very fash­ion­able – peo­ple didn’t have cars so they had bi­cy­cles, and they were very ex­pen­sive ap­par­ently,” Anne says. “We filmed a scene where Anne spoke to a cy­cling ex­pert

who ex­plained to Anne what an elite sport cy­cling was at the time – it was the equiv­a­lent of For­mula One to­day,” says Mary. “Thomas would have spent an aw­ful lot of money on bi­cy­cles and do­ing th­ese long tours, and in the end we sadly con­cluded that he prob­a­bly blew all his money on that – liv­ing the high life.”

Se­cond World War spy

But per­haps more ex­cit­ing is the story of Anne’s father Colin Reid. He was a for­eign correspondent for the Daily Tele­graph, re­port­ing on the Middle East.

WDYTYA?? took Anne to Lin­coln Col­lege, Ox­ford, where an ex­pert re­vealed that Colin had been in the SOE (Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Ex­ec­u­tive) dur­ing the Se­cond World War. “The ex­pert said he’d run a very ac­tive spy ring, get­ting spies out of Greece dur­ing the war,” says Anne. “Well, I knew noth­ing about that, but of course once you’ve signed the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act it was a crim­i­nal of­fence to dis­cuss it with any­body, so he would never have told us any­way.”

Ang­harad did a lot of the re­search into Colin’s story. “He had an amaz­ing First World War ca­reer,” she says. “He was out in Pales­tine and he got taken up by the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices fol­low­ing the war. Their role was es­sen­tially to en­cour­age re­sis­tance and sab­o­tage in Europe dur­ing the Se­cond World War in places like France and Greece. He did a lot of work in Greece, it was re­ally messy at the time. We have the SOE records for him, which are re­ally ex­cit­ing. You can see where he was posted and what he did. The SOE was quite pres­ti­gious. He was an in­cred­i­ble man.”

Anne is keen to carry on ex­plor­ing her tree: “I’d like to em­ploy ev­ery­body at WDYTYA? to re­search my other branch. My grand­mother, my mother’s mother, was born in Lack­awanna, Penn­syl­va­nia. I think she might have been born in a cov­ered wagon – I love that idea – be­cause my great grand­fa­ther worked on the rail­ways when they were open­ing up Amer­ica, when they built the rail­ways across to Cal­i­for­nia. My other grand­mother’s mother was born at Chol­monde­ley Cas­tle in Cheshire. The peo­ple at the cas­tle are go­ing to take me to Ch­ester Records Of­fice when I get a minute to help me find out about that branch.”

Per­haps Anne’s urge to con­tinue un­cov­er­ing the facts re­flects the jour­nal­ism gene in the Reid fam­ily tree or maybe it’s down to a trait she shares with John Reid. “They said he had per­se­ver­ance,” she says, “and that’s what I have, touch wood, I don’t give up on things.”

The Bill of Ex­change that con­tains the sig­na­ture forged by John Reid, which­which waswas used as ev­i­dence against himhim atat his trial in Ed­in­burgh

A young Anne Reid with her fam­ily, in­clud­ing her father Colin who was in the SOE

Anne found her WDYTYA? episode hi­lar­i­ous

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