Saturday, 20 August 2011

Franciscan Nuns of the SS Deutschland...built in Greenock sailed from Bremen

Deutschland was an iron passenger steamship built by Caird & Company of Greenock, Scotland in 1866. Constructed as an emigrant passenger ship, the Deutschland's maiden voyage was made on 14 October 1866, from Bremen to New York via Southampton.

In 1875 the Deutschland sailed from Bremerhaven with 123 emigrants bound for New York via Southampton. Weather conditions were very bad, and the ship had ran aground in a blizzard off Harwich.

Among the victims were five Franciscan nuns from Salzkotten, Westphalia who had been emigrating to escape the anti-Catholic Falk Laws during the Kulturkampf. Their death inspired Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins to compose the poem, "The Wreck of the Deutschland". Four of the five nuns were buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Leytonstone, London (a fifth who was never found is recorded on the memorial) and their deaths are commemorated every year in a memorial service held on 6 December by the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters of Wheaton, Illinois - the destination of the five Sisters.

This an extract from the poem below...

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

4. The Wreck of the Deutschland

To the happy memory of five Franciscan Nuns exiles by the Falk Laws drowned between midnight and morning of Dec. 7th. 1875


THOU mastering me
God! giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh, 5
And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.


I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod; 10
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night:
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height: 15
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.


The frown of his face
Before me, the hurtle of hell
Behind, where, where was a, where was a place?
I whirled out wings that spell 20
And fled with a fling of the heart to the heart of the Host.
My heart, but you were dovewinged, I can tell,
Carrier-witted, I am bold to boast,
To flash from the flame to the flame then, tower from the grace to the grace.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Moin! Please meet the ancestors but don't mention the War

Germans were the masters of the Sugar Trade and most of the warehouses in Greenock were built by Germans. Naturally these German engineers and bosses brought over there own workers. At the time Germany was a very backwards rural country with little work, much like Ireland. Plus Germany and Britain had a very strong relationship. Most of the ethnic Germans in Greenock came from around Hanover. At one time the House of Hanover and Britain had the same King and the King's German Legion had fought for Britain in the Napoleonic War, the Hessians had fought for Britain in the American War. Even in WW1 there were ethnic Germans known as the Kaiser's Own fighting for Britain.

Immigration from Germany went from about 1850ish up to 1880ish. By 1900 there were over 800 ethnic Germans in Greenock.

By WW1 this figure was dramatically reduced with most immigrants going back to Germany or onto the US. (We still have distant cousins among the "Fancy Dutch" in Pennsylvania due to this today.)

My Great, Great, Grandfather Bernhardt Dietrich Ahlfeld was born in 1845 near Bremen, Germany his father Hermann Ahlfeld (Born 1815) was a farmer but when he died his mother re-married and Bernhardt and his brother Carl Hienrich Ahlfeld (Born 1850) both ran away and came over to Greenock to work in the Sugar Trade.

Strangely, German-Britons have always been an integral part of British culture, we are the people of Handel and Holbein. We have given you Tolkien, Betjiman and the entire House of Hanover, Saxe-Coburg Gotha and Battenburg. Yet, most German Britons today either don't know their own family history, don't care or are trying to forget it, and who can really blame them...

Ahlefeldt family
This old aristocratic family are recorded as far back as the Middle Ages in the North Germany. In 1543 Bartholomäus von Ahlefeldt, permitted the Mennonites to settle in Wüstenfelde located between Hamburg and Lübeck.

1710 = Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Carsten Ahlfeld lived as a farm worker in Altenesch near Lemwerder

1744 = Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Johann Ernst Ahlfeld (Carsten's Son) farm worker, is born in Altenesch 1744, April 17 married Anne Cathine Drees (born 1737, Sept. 30 in Hude, died in Hiddigwarden 1820, Dec. 21, buried in Berne Dec. 26). They lived in Hiddigwarden and had 8 children.

1747 = The German chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf used alcohol to extract sugar from beets. The interest in Sugar refinery, consumption and importing grows in Europe but especially in Prussia.

1765 = 1st large refinery built in Greenock by German Mark Kuhll at the bottom of Sugarhouse Lane.

1775 = Thousands of German Hessians fight for Britain in the American Revolutionary War.

1781 = Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Johan Hinrich Ahlfeld (Johann Ernst's 6th child)is born in Hiddigwarden 1781, June 24, Married in Berne 1806, March 7, Gesche Margarethe von Hatten (born in Harmenhausen, parish Berne, 1786, Sept. 23

1801 = Sugar Refining continues to grow in Germany and under the patronage of Frederick III of Prussia, the world's first beet sugar factory opens at Cunern in Silesia.

1803 = Seeking to strike at the British, Napoleon occupies the Hanoverian Electorate over which Britain's dynasty still reigns. One consequence of this French aggression is the steady and increased movement of Hanoverians to Britain. Plus, another Cholera outbreak in Prussia. In this year the King's German Legion is created to fight in the Napoleonic War.

1815 = Great, Great, Great Grandfather Hermann Ahlfeld (Heuerman) born in Abbehausen near Nordenham in 1815. Married to Anna Margaritha Feldman born Neunkirchen 1814.

1833 = German Lear Wrede's opens the Cappielow Refinery in Greenock.

1845 = Great, Great, Grandfather Bernhardt Dietrich Ahlfeld born Bremen Germany.

1852 = Carsten (Carl Heinrich) Ahlfeld (Bernhardt's brother) born 1852 in Lemwerder/Altensch near Oldenburg.

1853 = British German Legion is created to fight in Crimean War

1860 = Hermann dies, his wife remarries a man called Franz Augustus Reisenhausen. Her sons Bernardt and Carl-Carsten do not like their new stepfather, both live for a short time with an Uncle in Bremehaven before running away to sea

1862 = Bernhardt arrives in Greenock with his brother Carl Henrich Ahlfeld from Bremen to work in the sugar warehouse along with a few dozen other German farm workers from around the north western part of Germany (Hanover Plains).

1866 = Bernhardt marries Sarah Anderson in Greenock Mid Kirk, Carl Henrich goes to Pennsylvania.

1875 = Great Grandfather Hermann Ahlfeld born Anne Street, Greenock.

1881 = Bernhardt's stepson John Anderson Ahlfeld begins working in the Sugar Warehouse.

1891 = German Priest Father Ludger Kuhler comes to St. Mary's Parish in Greenock.

1897 = German Priest Peter Hilgers from Cologne arrives at St. Ninian's Parish Gourock. (Ahlfeld family belong to this Parish today)

1901 = Bernhardt dies. Census shows approximately 1000 ethnic Germans living in Greenock.

1912 = World War One begins resulting in the rapid decline of ethnic Germans from Greenock back to Germany or onto America on a massive scale.

1913 = Grandfather Robey Ahlfeld born Gourock

1921 = Tate and Lyle formed from a merger between Abraham Lyle of Greenock who had expanded into the east end of London and Henry Tate, who had set up a sugar refinery in Liverpool

A royal by any other name and the West Ham Pals regiment

The unveiling, by Sir Trevor Brooking at the Boleyn Ground, of the Memorial Plaque dedicated to the service and sacrifices made by the Men of the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) Essex Regiment ('The Hammers') took place on Remembrance Sunday, 8th November at 10.55am.Among the West Ham pals was Ernest Sherman, born in Whitechapel, who was originally a Corporal in the 2nd battalion Essex regiment. He was severely wounded by accurate shellfire during the Battle of Arras in April 1917 and was awarded the Military Cross at the age of 20.

It is interesting to note that, Sherman was of German origin, German immigration into the UK was very common in the late 19th Century because of the Royal family's strong German connections.***See note on family history**** Most Germans like my Great Great Grandfather Bernhardt came to work in the Sugar wharehouses in Greenock , Liverpool and the East End of London. This was because Tate and Lyle was formed from a merger between Abraham Lyle of Greenock who had expanded into the east end of London and Henry Tate, who had set up a sugar refinery in Liverpool. Lyle himself brought quite a few Scots to the East End .

However, by the time the First world war arrived the Royal Family switched to an English-sounding name because of anti-German feeling, as did some of their subjects. For those ordinary German-Britons who did not change their names like my own family there was then additional pressure to prove ones loyalty. The best way to do this was to enlisted and many German-Britons did just that...

In fact, a battalion of the Middlesex Regiment was formed to accommodate men with German names from London, and was promptly christened "The Kaiser's Own". A number of German names can be found in the pages of the London Gazette as receiving decorations

Returning to the Royals...Since the marriage of Victoria - the last of the Hanovers - to Prince Albert, Britain's royal family had been "of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha", or Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In a time of brutal war with Germany, a more German family name would be hard to find.

The in 1915, with the war less than a year old, the sinking of the liner Lusitania by a German submarine - with the loss of almost 1,200 lives - prompted a fresh wave of outrage in Britain, as well as the US and the Empire. The consequences for Germans in Britain were grave. Days of anti-German rioting in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and elsewhere saw Germans menaced and buildings wrecked.

So many bakers' shops were destroyed in the East End of London, with bags of flour emptied and loaves smashed in the street, that a local shortage of bread immediately followed. In Bradford and Nottingham, groups of naturalised Germans rushed to sign letters expressing their desire to see Britain victorious and Germany crushed.

The newspaper backed the segregation of all Germans of military age and the deportation of those who were not. There were estimated to be 60,000 Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Turks in the country as well as 8,000 naturalised citizens of "enemy origin". These words would have chilled King George V to the marrow. Austrian-born Prince Louis of Battenberg, a key member of the royal circle, had to resign his position as First Sea Lord because of his German heritage in 1914. By 1917, the pressure had spread to the whole family.

So in 1917 the royal family saw their name change overnight, princes lost their titles and became lords, the Battenbergs opted for literal translation and became Mountbatten, and the quintessentially royal and English "Windsor" was introduced - the brainchild of the king's private secretary Lord Stamfordham.