Reading my own ramblings recently I was drawn to a section relaying the events of research into my family tree and several co-incidences that this involved. I recognised similarities or co-incidences were occurring fairly frequently and wondered why and this realization was the seed that began this work?
Coincidence is a strong word to use at the outset of this particular theme, but at least it sets the scene or basic agenda to work with, and it was sparked by reminiscing over my early years traveling half way around the world, then return to discover a whole series of parallels I could draw upon with my life and that of my ancestors.
My journey had taken me to a far off continent as a ten pound Pom for three years in Australia. What an interesting coincidence I thought, that an ancestor of mine Mark Jeffery, had been sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude and transported for burglary to the colonies, Australia in the late 18th century. He had been incarcerated on the hulk ship Warrior in Woolwich (the former man of war to the ironclad that is permanently docked in Portsmouth now) and whilst suffering transportation through the harbour at Portsmouth, he got into a fight with a second mate, and had his sentence extended to life.
The erstwhile Mark, after a horrendous sea journey under sail to Australia, killed a man called James Hunt in a pub brawl - and was transported to Port Arthur, a Penal Colony in Tasmania. That site now a strong tourist attraction bears a plaque to his infamy and the souvenir shop sells a book covering this colourful characters history. Incidentally a certain Jack Hunt became a long term partner with my oldest daughter. Although English born he had resided in Perth Western Australia before returning to the UK, then, following the break up the partnership he returned to OZ but sadly was killed in a car crash.
Whilst my daughter and he visited my family another coincidence revealed itself one quiet night as we sat outside the Bell and Crown public house in Canterbury and I discovered that many years earlier, Jack had lived just outside Northolt and remembered an incident which involved my Air Training Corps Squadron in the mid sixties. My squadron had arrived to embark upon a flight in a Britannia to Scotland. Excited, then abjectly disappointed, we saw the aircraft land and taxi. Then, in its route to collect its passengers - us, it inadvertently cut across a corner of the taxi way, clipping the grass where the wheel promptly sank completely blocking the runway for hours; our excursion had to be cancelled. Incidently my f daughters boyfriend was called Jack Hunt.
This was forty years earlier and my daughtersâ€™ partner had been a passive witness to it. Plus of course, it was only a minor co-incidence and the link to Australia was only tenuous in such a large continent, after all, my family moved several times, but all of them within a modest area of the South Australian coastline, whereas Jack lived thousands of miles distant over to the west.
Following our return to the UK we lived for a short time in south London and then moved northward to Enfield in Middlesex and lived there for about five years. During that time I began Karate lessons under a Sensei called John Weenan, and whilst my study of martial arts was to spread over many years, meeting this gentleman revealed one worldly mystery that was to return yet again some years later.
The first coincidence was uncanny! Just prior to taking up residence in the UK six months earlier, he had returned from Australia. Whilst there he lived on the southern coastline at Glenelg, in *** Military Road; I had lived at 361 Military Road. The distance between our houses may have been several hundred yards, but to be located in the same road in a land of some 7.6 million square metres, is perhaps a little strange. Now, once again, we lived in the same proximity.
Both our lives moved on in accepting the likelihood of such coincidence was at best, remote, but then fifteen years passed, I moved home twice and ended up moving to Luton, Bedfordshire for a job and lo and behold, there was John once again; still teaching Karate he had moved to the same town and county as I, but what neither of us could figure out, was why, what purpose was there behind these quirky coincidences?
In between those chance meetings my family had moved to Cambridgeshire in an attempt to create a better environment for our growing family. We had taken up residence in a village with a population of just twelve hundred souls and, having established our new home, we spent many hours exploring the surrounding countryside.
Not too much time had passed before my wife discovered my family Bible and recognized the modest list of names in the inside cover of the book that contained the locations where past generations had lived. The last entrant in my genealogical trail was in a village just six miles from where we now lived and located at the other end of ancient earthworks that joined both villages like an umbilical chord.
I also found it quite a coincidence that taking up residence so close to the location where my ancestors had lived I also discovered that just down the road was a hill known as â€˜Jefferyâ€™s Hill. Another interesting twist was that I had become involved in battle re-enactment and started a local branch in my new village. Here, one of the first new members was courting a young lady just out of school who was later to become his wife and life partner. As time moved on it transpired that during my quest to locate my family tree, Linda Jeffery was a distant relative and she resided just down the road from Jefferyâ€™s hill.
All of this can of course be put down to chance, but I felt deep down that having traveled some 16,000 miles to and from Australia, having been born in south London, the odds of moving to a village some seventy miles north of the city to find it at the centre of my ancestral, family home, was also a little odd. Twelve pleasant years of travel, study and research revealed that my family could be traced in that direct area, as far back as 1367 and fifteen generations had resided in the close proximity, and, by pure chance, I had returned to the land of my fathers.
Meanwhile I am aware I have leapt through time and not relayed evidence chronologically, and I have done this in an attempt to draw the comparison together in what I hope is presented in a more simple manner.
But - to return briefly to the beginning, my place of birth; St Alpheges hospital Greenwich. Whilst the Victorian hospital has since been reconstructed it remains no less an interesting comparison to discover that twenty five years after my birth, my sons wife was brought into the world in the modernized building, then a few years later, she gave birth to my first grandson on a date that concurred with a date I was supposed to have died in a former life some fifty years earlier.
So, at last I was back to where I started, or I started where I came back to, or?
Regarding the coincidence of my grandsonâ€™s birthday, another incident occurred that might fit the same category as coincidence and started with an innocent teenage incursion into the world of the Ouija board. This is covered in the writing titled 'Visiting Uncle'.
In 1999 we moved to an ancient cul de sac in the centre of Canterbury city and rented a fourteenth century building that had weavers shed put on the top in the seventeenth century. Just around the corner, literally, was a coffee shop that was the location where the Mayflower compact was written and secured for the trip to the New World, America. Whilst checking, my family tree I discovered an ancestor had embarked upon the Speedwell that set off in advance of the Mayflower but had to return due to unforeseen circumstances. The passengers then embarked upon the vessel â€˜Mayflowerâ€™. Perhaps they logged passage in the same location in Palace Street, Canterbury and now our family home was just around the corner.
Furthermore, is it not possible that as we move through our lives we are drawn to certain skills, aspects or people due to past life, genetic or ancestral memory?
In pursuit of genealogical information it was quite natural I refer to Military Rolls of Honour. Very quickly it became evident in and around the area where my ancestors dwelled, I discovered numerous casualties and that included predominant families that inter married and contributed to the ongoing Jeffery surname.
This revealed my ancestors had joined the second oldest Regiment in service to the Crown, The Buffs. I discovered an ancestor Lance Corporal G/13095 6th Battalion KIA aged 23 3/5/1917 commemorated Arras Memorial. Which was an interesting twist as I was now a resident of Canterbury which was the home base of the Buffs for centuries.
End of coincidences thus far.
In my sixty year life I have had the very good fortune to enjoy a select group of close friends, one such person was Bryan Stone, eighteen year unbeaten longbow champion of the UK. He had a skill with archery I can only liken to the application of Zen. It is casual, instinctive, and all but automatic when plucking Frisbees out of the air with live arrows. A highly skilled and practical man, he has a life story worth many more of these pages than I dare dedicate. Suffice it to say, he and many other hundreds of servicemen were seen to be guinea pigs during â€˜Aâ€™ bomb testing in Australia and Christmas Island and is one of the very few survivors who witnessed the awesome power of atomic and nuclear destruction at close hand.
Bryan quite clearly claims his continuing good health remains due to his use of homeopathic medicine, in sheer spite of the totally irresponsible risk his government put him to in the early nineteen fifties.
One time, when casually passing a few hours in a pub, we discussed our lives and the time in which we met some thirty six years previous. During this conversation it struck me as odd that a small body of people from that period have remained very close, in friendship with lives often intertwining and supplementing each other as time moved by.
We touched upon the fact that many of us are highly artistic, we have weapon handling skills that seem inherent and well outside the needs of twentieth century man. Above all, there appears a bonding that is intense and deep beyond normal understanding.
Amongst our friends we include ex-Foreign Legion, Royal Marine, Policemen, Firemen, Armourer to the National Army Museum, Consultant on all matters explosive, Karate Sensei, the leading figure in Ninjitsu in Europe in his style and some really decent, honest folk. Their company offers a sense a camaraderie I believe we have shared many times before. De Ja Vu has a place in this concept, but where; I simply do not know?
On my part I recognise in the eyes of some of my comradeâ€™s a bonding that I cannot explain. There is a familiarity that is so strong I felt I could view other lives and places through their eyes. An alternative, timeless dimension or tunnel that was their very being.
Bryanâ€™s delivered a philosophical tale in a calm, deliberate manner explaining we had lived many lives and that like tadpoles swirling around in a pond, we swam in relative close proximity and regularly bumped into each other sharing the same basic space.
He likened us to molecules or particles of an atom that sprang and bounced amidst each other infinitely, conducting this activity amidst all that we touch upon, however distant and every now and then collecting in time and place within such close proximity that we become intimately linked and aligned to each other.
In short we are moving through life touching upon the lives of others, with the effect ever changing as each new influence enters our sphere of activity, but in as much as we are in constant proximity of those around us, the distance and impact can vary and alter continuously, but, they are always there to one degree or another.