A Home for Noddy

Noddy 2

Have you ever been given a toy that you were never sure why it was chosen for you? It happened to me. I was given a marionette Noddy. Apparently someone else was given one too, as when looking to research the history of my marionette – ‘A Monty Puppet’ I came across the following object entry at the Powerhouse Museum website:

Powerhouse Museum – Puppet, Noddy, rubber/ wood/ cloth/ felt/ string/ wire, Monty puppets, [England], [1958] https://collection.maas.museum/object/167059
Made by Blyton, Enid in England, United Kingdom, Europe, 1958.
Puppet is made from wood and rubber in the character of ‘Noddy’. The head of this puppet is made of hardened rubber. The painted face has collapsed. Blue felt fuzz covers the hat, which also has a metal bell on it. Brown fuzz represents Noddy’s hair. The body is made from a tear shaped wood block. The arms and legs are made from jointed pieces of wood dowel. The hands are made from the same painted rubber as the face. The feet are red painted blocks of wood. The puppet is dressed in a red cotton shirt with a yellow felt handkerchief around the neck. This is quite worn. Noddy wears shorts made from cotton, now faded but possibly once light blue. Red, cream and green strings are attached to the hands, knees and head. These are controlled by a simple wood cross handpiece with a small piece of dowel and a metal hook for hanging the puppet. The handle is stamped: ‘The Monty Puppet/The Noddy/Copyright 1958/[illegible] Rights’.
Object No. 99/4/51
Short URL https://ma.as/167059
Width 200 mm
Depth 55 mm
Notes : Noddy was the main character in Enid Blyton’s popular Noddy series of children’s books. The first of these, ‘Little Noddy Goes to Toyland’, appeared in 1949 as a vehicle for the Dutch illustrator Harmsden Van Der Beek. This date is based on the stamp on the puppet’s handle ‘Copyright 1958’.
Designed Blyton, Enid 1958
Notes : Donated by the National Trust’s Museum of Australian Childhood by the Thyne Reid Foundation.
Owned National Trust of Australia
Credit Line Gift of the National Trust of Australia, NSW, 1999
Acquisition Date 12 January, 1999
Cite this Object
Harvard Puppet, Noddy, rubber/ wood/ cloth/ felt/ string/ wire, Monty puppets, [England], [1958] 2015, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 ‎October 2017, <https://ma.as/167059&gt;
Wikipedia {{cite web |url=https://ma.as/167059 |title=Puppet, Noddy, rubber/ wood/ cloth/ felt/ string/ wire, Monty puppets, [England], [1958] |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 ‎October 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Noddy was a gift chosen for me by my mother to amuse me during my convalescence from having my tonsils and adenoids surgically removed when I was six. I had the surgery at Camperdown Children’s Hospital and we lived at Queenscliff on the north side of Sydney, a long way away from the hospital. My mother was unable to visit except on the day of my surgery when my father must have taken a day off work, as they were both there. My father would visit after work as he happened to be working over that way at the time, so I wasn’t totally alone. I was in hospital for at least a week and it might have been longer, it certainly seemed that way to me. I wasn’t particularly worried about the isolation though as, from an early age, I was very independent and besides I had, my best friend, Teddy the bear with me.

However, I did not particularly trust or like the nurses at the hospital as they had lied to me when I was in theatre, telling me that I could remove the chloroform cloth from my face if I felt it was suffocating me but, as I went to remove it, they held down my hands until I went under. I was not happy!! Then to cap it off when I awoke in recovery feeling very angry and betrayed all I wanted was my teddy bear and they would not get him for me. I screamed and cried and screamed some more pretty much non-stop for over an hour until they finally got so sick of the racket they went and got him. My other childhood trait apart from independence, was determination. I seem to still have them.

My mother told me when I was older that the nurse had been quite surprised how I “shut up” immediately when they got my bear. My mother’s response was ‘well that was what she asked for and if you’d got it for her in the first place …’ I was rather surprised and very glad to know my mother defended my very bad behaviour – in our house there was usually no excuse. If I complained of a sore throat during my stay, the nurses would tell me that was because I screamed so much and, while I didn’t show it, I seethed at their stupidity. Hence they weren’t very popular in my eyes at all. Teddy understood though. Funnily enough I am one of those rare people who doesn’t mind being in hospital so the scarring definitely wasn’t for life – perhaps Teddy’s counselling was very good.

Princess Alexandra Childrens Hospital Camperdown

Princess Alexandra children’s Hospital Camperdown Sydney NSW c 1960 https://goo.gl/images/EQwF4H

I thought Mum was awesome though to go to the trouble and expense to buy me Noddy and I certainly did not expect it. I was actually more than happy just to be home from hospital and with all the jelly, custard and ice-cream I had been allowed to eat. As most from my era would know, that was a rare treat. All treats and presents were rare in my childhood, so always appreciated. I loved Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories but until recent times, I never could understand why Mum bought me a marionette. It was, by the way, not very practical. I had no-where to hang his handle to operate him and within a very short time I managed to get the strings so tangled that they could not be untangled and he couldn’t be worked. So he remained in the box and is still there now.

Noddy box

The Box Noddy came in – a little battered but surviving

I did get him out once or twice over the years as, in spite of not playing with him, he is still treasured for the many memories he evokes and that he was a special gift to me. One time, several years ago, I untied the strings and put them back on the handle so he can now be worked. I have tied them all together though so they don’t tangle again. Somewhere along the line his face, like the one described at the Powerhouse Museum, has collapsed a bit but just on one side. I suspect in the Queensland heat his head became soft and he was pressed up against another doll or something in storage. Although they have no image, he seems to be in better condition than their example and mine does have his bright blue shorts on, all his clothes are just like new. Never-the-less as can be seen in the photo, his face paint does seem worn and he looks a little scary to me in some ways.

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Noddy and his slightly damaged/worn face paint.

Recently I came across a YouTube video of another childhood favourite – Andy Pandy. I watched the TV show religiously as a little girl and when I saw the video I think I worked out why my mother thought I would like Noddy. It was because Andy Pandy was a marionette! What my mother didn’t probably realise was, to me, he wasn’t a puppet, Andy Pandy was real! So, Noddy the marionette was just a bit weird to the six year old me who believed in everything as well as him being hard to manage. It was as I watched Andy Pandy as an adult though that the realisation came to me of what my mother was probably actually thinking at the time. I never told her I didn’t really like my gift, I just let her think that his strings were too tangled and left it at that.

As I think about it though more other favourites come to mind in Mr Squiggle and Lambchop, albeit Lambchop was a hand puppet. Lambchop was another who was “real” and to a lesser extent, Mr Squiggle, although I am still fascinated watching him draw.  I do seem to remember marionette Noddy sparking an interest in how the puppeteers worked the puppets but perhaps what it really was is that he took away some of the magic… that special magic of childhood where reality and imagination intermingle. At the same time though he evokes wonderful memories of that magical time, hence why I think I have treasured him just the same.

Noddy needs to be taken care of now as we both are looking to old age and I would like to find a home for him where he will be safe and maybe I can visit. I am hoping the Powerhouse Museum will take him, I will be sad to say goodbye but I have too many things to pass on and he needs the best of care. I trust he will get it there. I can also tell them that the stamp on the handle says:

Copyright 1958/THE NODDY/Subsidiary Rights Co. Ltd/THE MONTY PUPPET

And the Box has:

THE MONTY PUPPET/QUALITY PRODUCT/ WX 3618/GLADESVILLE SYDNEY [perhaps he wasn’t made in England]

I have written to the Powerhouse so fingers are crossed, but if you know of anyone who treasures marionettes please get in touch.

© Lynette Nunn 2017

Postscript 2021 –

Noddy has gone to live with George at the Brisbane Doll’s Hospital where he will be repaired and displayed in the intended doll and puppet museum.

A reader, Jill Knox,  commented “My mother bought the Monty Puppet business from a lady in Gladesville in the early 1960’s. She lived at Collaroy NSW and made them for about five years with my father making the wooden parts and the lady next door painting the faces.They were made under licence from England” So that explains why the box says Gladesville.

Travel Diary – Chile

Something different – a travel diary from 2012

13 October 2012

Finally made it to Santiago, Very tired – no sleep on the plane and I can hardly stay awake for dinner. Have to say that flying into Santiago was pretty awesome seeing the Andes above the blanket of clouds, just like normal mountains on a field of snow. I knew then that they were taller than anything else I have seen, even in Scotland! The clouds and smog didn’t start to clear until this afternoon when I was wandering around the park near my hotel and had walked up the big hill, Saint Lucia, where I was admiring the view down over the city and thinking it was a pity I couldn’t see the mountains. It was as I was admiring some of the cloud patterns that I realised that the clouds I could see high up in the sky were actually the snow covered peaks of the Andes!

I have spent the afternoon wandering around near my hotel, some interesting shops and lovely parks but the rest of the city doesn’t do much for me. The ride out from the airport reminded me of Mexico looking at the housing. Some of it looked like it was made out of scrap timber…or else they were stables, but everything was very dilapidated and depressing and the high rise got me too – this is an earthquake zone!

Chileans make the best salsa! I normally do not like it much but the real stuff is so good! Served at my hotel – Foresta

The other thing that surprises me is when I walk into my hotel, the porter jumps to his feet and rushes to call the lift for me and to open the door, select the floor etc. As this is a low budget hotel I am rather taken aback and I wonder what happens in the expensive hotels. 🙂 All rather old world but nice just the same

14 October 2012

Had to laugh at myself yesterday. Never having spoken Spanish to anyone before my instant reaction was to reply in German! 🙂 I didn’t actually do it but my brain must have registered it wasn’t English. After being spoilt at lunch yesterday finding a restaurant where the staff had excellent English and a Safe Food Award (very handy sign to look for), I decided to try out the hotel restaurant for dinner where they have no English and one hopes the food is safe. 🙂 The phrase book and my duo lingo lessons got me through. Nice food too – nothing too fancy but good and presented nicely. Hopefully I will have a little more confidence each day.

Fitting in well to the routine here – my hotel doesn’t serve breakfast until 8am and dinner starts at 8pm. I missed breakfast. After getting up at 4am for an hour or so I went back to bed and, after taking a while to go to sleep, it was after 10am before I woke up again. Started off very cold but has finished up a lovely sunny day. I like getting to know Santiago.

Another interesting day. Walked all over Santa Lucia Hill today – it is a bit of a labyrinth. 🙂 Couldn’t help but notice the dogs today. They too seem to have the South American way of life – very laid back. Most were asleep and didn’t appear to have owners but they aren’t starving either. They had no aggression what so ever, just peacefully enjoying the sun. Also discovered a young tabby cat in the bushes that came out to greet me when I spoke to her. Poor baby, I would have liked to take her home. There were dogs asleep on the streets today I noticed as well. I guess they are allowed to wander as there are no backyards in the city and it is all apartments.

The Palace Changing of the Guard Santiago

My favourite waitress told me about the Santa Lucia markets. They are not on on Sunday but in looking I found some other shops selling craft and souvenirs. Ended up buying shoes 🙂 and a CD. Most places here play English music that I hear at home all the time. Last night in the restaurant they were playing some really nice Spanish songs, which I prefer since it is different. The music shop was playing a really great artist a bit like a Spanish Bob Dylan only with a better voice. Had to buy it. I needed to get the owner of the shop next door to translate for me and explain which song I heard.

There are lots of markets in Santiago. The arts and crafts market in the city centre was very interesting.

                           Art and craft markets in Santiago 

Off to Easter Island tomorrow.

15 October 2012

Day 1 at Easter Island. It has been a long day. Josie Haumaka, my tour guide met me at the airport and presented me with a Lai.  Did an afternoon tour of some of the statues and the volcano close by. Tomorrow is a full day going to the other end of the island. Too tired to say much except that the most awesome thing I saw today was the ocean around the Island – from the air it is the most incredible shade of blue and it is from the ground too and when the waves break, the blue appears to leak into the white foam like the colour is running. Heading to bed, no sleep last night and jet lag has got me which is unusual for me. I hope I get a good night of sleep tonight.


17 October 2012

Day 2 on Easter Island where the horses run free, the cattle run free (pretty much), the dogs run free, the cats run free and the chickens run free. Fences hardly exist. There are hundreds of horses – they tell me that a few years ago there were more horses than people. They are mostly owned and once again the dogs and cats look well fed. I am sure all the dogs in Chile and Easter Island are drugged because they are all so placid, with a couple of exceptions.

Last night at dinner I was visited by, firstly, a very skinny mangy tabby cat so I gave her some of my chicken, which, by the way, was the best piece of chicken I have had in years – it actually tasted like chicken did in the old days! I don’t know if it was home grown or it was the cooking but it was really good.  Anyway, when she finally gave up and went away I noticed she looked pregnant, poor little thing. Next was a female dog in the queue of here’s a sucker, she looked like she had puppies at home or had recently lost them. The waiter shooed her away but she looked half starved also and very forlorn. She lay a short distance away and watched us. A male dog came along and she surprised me as she gave him what for and snarled at him until he took off.

So, tonight as I was walking home there she was again in same area and she came up to me with those sorrowful eyes and I really wished I had something to give her. I kept walking and happened to go by the general store that sold meat – there were a few dogs sitting outside the door looking very hopeful so you can guess what I did. I probably shouldn’t have but I summoned up my best broken Spanish and bought her a nice juicy pork chop – mostly because the bones they sold were too big and I did want to start a dog fight over the food. I was a little concerned about how much it would cost as restaurant food is not cheap here, but it cost me the huge sum of $2. I called her over to a quietish area away from the other dogs and gave it to her – she was ravenous and wolfed it down almost with the plastic bag as well. I hope it didn’t make her sick and she has a night with a full belly for a change. As you can see, I should not live here.

A nicer story happened earlier today after my tour, which was really interesting and informative. I saw the quarry today where they made the statues and some were still in situ partly carved, or in the process of being moved. It was easy to imagine after today what is must have been like in its hey day with all the statues and the villages. I have now seen two volcano craters. I don’t think I have ever actually seen one before.

So after my tour, I went down to the town for some shopping and a wander around and I decided to go and visit the cemetery. That was really interesting. Very colourful with flowers growing everywhere and not a stonemason’s headstone to be seen but lots that were carved out of the local stone by the locals themselves. There seemed to be a section just for the babies which always makes me sad. Anyway, just before then I heard some footsteps behind me and it was another female dog. She started rummaging in the flower pots on the graves and I roused on her but then I realised she was after water. I left the cemetery and continued on my walk along the coastline to where there are some statues and she continued to follow me. She found a babies disposable nappy and thought it was a ball and was playing with it, tossing it in the air. Finally she lost interest in that (thank goodness) and we continued on our walk. She saw some other people who patted her but she soon left them and came with me again. (Am I turning into the dog lady???) I sat down to look at the surf and the statues and she sat beside me so I decided to give her some of my water which she was really happy about. After a while I went back the way I came and she followed. She stopped to play chasing with another dog for a while – they ran around taking turns at who was chaser and chasee and I thought I’d lose her but no, she realised I had walked on and dumped the playmate and raced to catch up to me. We got to the lovely beach near the town and she raced off to a family that patted her etc and I thought must be hers. Before long though again I heard pitter patter behind me. I went down to a wonderful restaurant for dinner that was on the beachfront and she was gone when I came out.

My canine companion

The restaurant has a veranda where you sit facing the surf where the waves are good enough to surf – there were about 6 guys out, the sun was setting and with dinner done it was so relaxing I could have easily fell asleep. So ends day 2.

Surf from the restaurant

18 October 2012

Day 3 and it is siesta time although, as tempting as it is, I dare not have one and risk not being able to sleep tonight. This morning we went to the lava tube caves where the natives used to take shelter, have gardens and use as a water supply. There are bananas, grapes, and taro growing down there at the opening and when you go in to the cave it is very cool and they have fire pits there for warmth in the cold weather. I also saw an unrestored statue site which was good to see as the toppling of the statues is also part of their cultural heritage.

Did a little “research” for work and went in to the bank to change USD to pesos but they will only do that between 8am and 11-30 am and I was too late – that seemed very weird but fortunately I had mastered the ATM so it was all good.

Off to a traditional native dinner tonight and a show so that should be interesting. Flying back to Santiago tomorrow afternoon

The Native dinner was tasted good and was interesting. After watching the ceremony around the fire pit I had my face painted Rapa Nui style (the photos didn’t work out) and I had to attend a hula style dance class while the men learnt to jump around yelling like Rapa Nui men do  – a little akin to the haka. The dinner was very much like a hangi as well.

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Dinner being prepared

The show was absolutely fantastic though. They even have a version of cats cradle with string like we used to play, only theirs accompanies a song.

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Cat’s Cradle


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Finale of the show.

19 October 2012

I am still enthused about the colour of the sea and the sight of the Andes but I can’t pick a favourite thing – it has all been a great adventure. I am getting better with my Spanish comprehension and saying very basic stuff although, once I say something in Spanish, they often continue to converse in it and I haven’t a clue. I also need a bigger dictionary!

Guess who got business class upgrade??? 🙂 I happened to mention the little hassle I had at Santiago airport about my baggage and that they said I had too much. I had to get my guide there to talk to them and they let me through without charge. Tour guide here thought that was weird so she checked this morning before picking me. They confirmed here that I was well within limits so as compensation they upgraded me. 🙂 I guess it helps that this is a small place and the guide knows everyone and also that the check in girl was her cousin (she has 42 first cousins on the island). Currently using free wifi at airport waiting for my flight.

I may be speaking too soon as I have another couple of flights with LAN but I think they might be better than Qantas. In business class they give you doonas not just nicer blankets. I thought the blankets in economy were pretty swish as it was. It was a good flight and we were 30 minutes early. Saw sunset over the Andes from the plane – very beautiful.

I have to say it was a little disconcerting, to say the least, yesterday when, after boarding the plane, they announced they were going to spray the cabin with insecticide! It was a health requirement and would not harm us (sure, sure). I had visions of cans of mortein coming out but no; a lovely smell came through the air con giving me thoughts of other less pleasant things. I now think perhaps it was disinfectant and she translated incorrectly, I have heard that before I think

Braved the congor eel for dinner  back in Santiago– yum

 A selection of food at the fish market restaurant

22 October 2012

My facebook post from last night seems to have disappeared but maybe I was so exhausted mentally that I forgot to hit enter. 🙂 So, to reiterate, I have finally arrived in San Pedro de Atacama with no thanks to the tour company (Desert Adventure) who left me stranded in Calama without anyone in the airport who could speak more English than I can Spanish and me having to find my own way here, arriving 5 hours later than I was supposed to.

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Flying in to Calama on the way to San Pedro. The Andes in the background – just enormous! Look in the sky for them.

Got them to give me the $80 back for my taxi fare and they gave me free lunch at the restaurant nearby. I am currently a little concerned about the rest of this trip as last night the concierge with little English wanted to know if I wanted a wake up call and boxed lunch. I said no lunch and 7am call. So at 4-55 am there is a guy knocking on my door speaking Spanish. I think he was trying to wake me up for a tour but that would be for the tour on the last day. He went away and I tried to call reception but the phone doesn’t work – so probably was a wake up call. Will they turn up at 8am like they are supposed to? I suspect this is going to be the tour from hell and such a shame as I love San Pedro.

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  My hotel room – it was very comfortable

They did turn up at 8am but for the wrong tour – all day and I wasn’t prepared and found out after we had picked up a few more people. Something told me to ask. So I got off and waited for the tour office to open to find out what on earth was going on.

23 October 2012

Time to get dressed, find out what is going on with my tours and get some breakfast. One good thing is I self booked an astrological tour tonight to go star gazing, I think that doing it myself might be the only way in the future and that usually is what I do. Looking forward to the stars. 🙂

All sorted now. The tour company changed my entire itinerary. The driver who didn’t get me from the airport was supposed to give me a copy and the hotel. He supposedly left mine at the hotel for them to give me. Anyway I have another new itinerary now and they are doing a special tour for me this afternoon to the Inca ruins that I had thought I was doing this morning. Filled in the rest of the day wandering the streets and shopping. So all is good again.

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 Alpaca in the streets of San Pedro. They often have coloured ribbons on their heads to ward off evil spirits and are ownership idenitifiers

What a great night star gazing. We had a Professor of Astronomy and his student plus a translator. The Professor cracked jokes now and then and was lots of fun. He had a big telescope and we looked at stars, planets, galaxies and the moon. Unfortunately the moon was half full so we could not see a lot of stars. On the plus side though we were able to look at the moon and its craters and also take a photo through the telescope – very cool. 🙂 Oh, and the word is that there will be a collision with earth in 2036, bigger than the one that wiped out the planets but we can go live on Mars by then or one of the moons of Saturn so get your bags packed. 🙂 This was after Professor had a wine or two – we had wine, pisco sour (which I tried), tea and coffee in the middle of the desert by moonlight during the break. So he may have been pulling our leg. On the way home the Professor sat in the front with the Belgium guy who wanted to be in front and he was jokingly being very friendly as it was a bit squeezy with three in the front. So it was lots of fun and at the same time, educational.

 santiago 161Looking at the moon through the telescope in the Atacama Desert

Around the 23rd or 24th October (I can’t remember what day or tour), we visited a small village called Machuca outside San Pedro, population 14 but only 7 are there permanently. This is the only Church in the southern hemisphere and possibly the world that has a physical representation of God. Bottom right hand corner is Jesus with God on the right. Apparently when the missionaries came the natives wanted something physical to represent God, just as there was of Jesus and Mary so voila here He is. Obviously it was the only way the Priest was going to get converts.

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Statues of God and Jesus. The cover photo for this post is also the same church.

24 October 2012

Got to see wild flamingos today in the Atacama salt lakes. 2 of the 3 species were there today. Also saw quite a few vicunas – like little llama kind of animals that can’t be domesticated as they die. We went from desert and salt lakes to what they call the wet lands …still arid to me. It was freezing in the Andes foothills and I am wearing thermals for tomorrow’s trip to the mountains and geysers. Early start and then back to Santiago. Home soon

 santiago 196
Me up in the Andes

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The geysers

25 October 2012

If I thought it was cold in the Andes foothills yesterday it was nothing like today up at 4500 metres above sea level, just after sunrise looking at geysers and eating breakfast!! It was minus 12c. I had thermals on but I thought my fingers would drop off and my toes were even cold. One poor girl wore leggings. She had grabbed a jacket when they told her it would be really cold but didn’t think it would be that bad. She was shivering and said it had gone from being uncomfortable to horrible. The best part of breakfast was the hard boiled eggs that were still hot – don’t know how they did that but holding them was wonderful and so was eating them – haven’t seen an egg since I left home. 🙂 The geysers were good but not that interesting to me as I have seen them in Rotorua but we got to see some more vicuna close up, more flamingos and other bird life.

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A contrast – snow in the stream and steam from the geysers.

 The best part of that was the red fox that came wandering along the road and stopped just near the bus. He stood a few minutes and then sat for us to take photos. Also the flamingos were flying about and that was something to see. I also saw a native kind of rodent a bit like a rabbit with a long tail that blended perfectly with the green bushes.

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The fox who graciously posed for his photo

I know I try to be adventurous but up at the geysers they have a thermal pool we could swim in. Sounded nice but I knew what would happen when you got out of a nice warm pool in nothing but your swimmers at zero degrees. It was quite funny to watch the young ones who were willing to brave it. The guys enjoyed the added spectacle of bikini clad girls trying to get dressed again more or less in public – they have change rooms but no door.

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 The hot pool and doorless change rooms

When I arrived in San Pedro the guide that was supposed to meet me at the airport was Manuel (shades of Fawlty Towers comes to mind immediately). When I was checking what time I would be collected in the afternoon for my flight back to Santiago they said Manuel would collect me at 3pm. No surprise 3.15pm came and still no sign of Manuel. Got reception to call and there was a delay and he would be there in 10 minutes. He did eventually turn up and I made my flight but there was no tip from me. I was glad to see though that he still had a job – it is a poor country and I would not like to think he would suffer unduly. I wonder if he had to pay back the $80 – I hope not, I just hope he takes better care next time.

Back in Santiago and I do a bus/walking tour of Santiago with a very nice young man with perfect English. Turns out he lived in Forestville in Sydney for 2 years as did one of my guides in San Pedro!

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 Statue of Mary, San Christobal Hill, Santiago

 26 October 2012

Home sweet home. Travelling for 24 hours, no sleep for over 40 now – hanging out for as long as I can before I go to bed. Just realised I forgot to eat lunch. …mind you I had 3 breakfasts today on 3 different flights. I have decided that Qantas is the best airline – they just have it all over the others. The new public pick up area at the Brisbane domestic airport is the pits – takes 20 minutes to walk there and they throw in an obstacle course as well! Some of us on the course were wondering if we got a navigation certificate at the end. 🙂

Was the trip all that I hoped? I think it was, I love looking at different cultures and learning a little about their way of life. I think I will be back again – maybe not to Chile but South America and I want to take more Spanish lessons. There are many memories not recorded here but I will remember this trip for a long time.

 ©Lynette Nunn 2017

updated 2019








Pulling yourself up by the Bootstraps: Another Man with Initiative.

Sometimes our ancestors surprise us. John Hooper was my great, great, grandfather. When he was born in 1808 in Whitestone, Devon, his father, Simon, was 43 and his mother, Judith (nee Smale), was 40. Simon and Judith had been married in the parish church at Whitestone in 1790. Simon signed with a mark but Judith and one of the witnesses Jenny Smale both signed their names quite legibly.

John was the youngest of the five known children of Simon and Judith. Both Simon, who was listed as a labourer in 1841 and Judith appear to have passed away between 1841 and 1851.  Simon, was residing in the Charity House when he died in June 1842. His granddaughter, Maria was the informant. [i] I believe the Charity House was most likely the Church House in Whitestone originally set up in 1714 for pious and charitable purposes. Some years later it was in ruins but rather than become a workhouse, it was rebuilt in 1752 as a school and alms house. It provided rooms for five ‘old, decayed, aged, or infirm people, men or women, married or unmarried, who should have no relief of the parish, or anything whereby to maintain themselves but their labour’.[ii] At this stage in Simon’s life he, at the age of 76 would quite likely qualify at least to some degree.

From this information it would seem that John was raised in a typically poor labouring class family but it may not be all that it seems. The Church House, as well as being the alms house was a school. When it was rebuilt in 1752:

a sixth room was for the teacher, and a schoolroom for ‘an English School for poor boys and girls, children of such people of the parish as should have nothing whereby to maintain themselves but their labour, or orphans of such labouring people, to be taught to read, and for the children of none others.[iii]

 In 1823 a report stated that reading and spelling was taught to all the children, while only a few were taught to write. In 1830 there was a John and William Hooper attending on the free list but I do not know if that John was the son of Simon and Judith and, as far as I can establish, a William Hooper was not baptised in Whitestone in any time that would have been appropriate.* So it is unknown whether he could be another brother of my John, but he certainly would fit in the gaps between those children that I have recorded so far. [iv] Never-the-less it appears that John would have received some kind of education and that his mother was quite literate so she could also pass on knowledge.

By the time John married in Whitestone on 12 May 1835, he could also sign his name quite legibly. His bride was Ann Brownston and at the time she was 28 years old and resided in the Rectory at Whitestone. According to the baptisms of their first four children in Whitestone, John was a shoemaker. As his father was a labourer, it seems likely that John was apprenticed and that this, as was usual, was organised through the parish.

Shoemaker pic

A Shoemaker, makes coverings for the feet, usually of leather; but frequently also of other materials, as silk, jean, nankeen, &c. He also makes boots of various kinds, both for ladies and gentlemen… In some instances, especially in the country, he is the leather cutter to all the little traders in the surrounding villages … [In the picture above] the master is cutting out an upper-leather of a shoe to a paper pattern, which lies upon it. A small leaden weight is placed on the skin at the corner to keep it from slipping: on his left lies a hammer, which he uses to beat down any rough parts which stand on the inside of the leather; and on his right-hand is a pair of pincers, which are made with teeth, in order to hold the leather tight in the act of stretching it. The journeyman is in the act of joining the upper-leather to the sole of the shoe … A journeyman shoe-maker, if he be a good hand, sober, and industrious, will earn thirty shillings a week. [v]

John appears next in the official records in the 1841 census living in the nearby parish of Topsham with his wife Ann and their children Ann, Caroline, Henry and Frances. Three more children would be born in the next decade – Edwin, Jane (my great grandmother) and Walter. In the meantime his occupation had changed to schoolmaster.

In 1842 when their son, Edwin was born they were living in Countess Wear which was in the parish of Topsham and largely an agricultural area. Not only was he now a schoolmaster though, he was also the Parish Clerk at St Luke’s Chapel, which was built in 1837 just two years after they married. It was not uncommon for a person at that time to have several occupations at a time to supplement income and one would think that if John was suitable as a schoolmaster, he should be able to carry out clerical duties for the parish. He may have even kept up his shoemaking as a sideline. Perhaps he foresaw the advent of mechanisation and the reduction in earnings that would bring as the industrial revolution took hold and instead he followed the occupations that would see him struggle less, or he simply preferred to be known by his other occupations. Living in an agricultural area would probably not be the place to have enough clientele to earn thirty shillings a week either.

St Lukes Countess Wear

Photo: St Luke’s Church, Countess Wear, Exeter. Photographer David Smith[vi]

It was at this stage in my research that I began to wonder how he might have received the education to uplift his social standing. Perhaps the answer may lie in the fact that Ann, his wife, was residing at the Rectory when they married in 1835. One wonders was she a servant at the Rectory and did John impress the Rector, Charles Brown, enough that he may have taken him under his wing and continue educating him?

A Parliamentary Papers report into education for the poor shows the following information for Whitestone:

Parliamentary papers Whitestone


However, it is said:

Shoemakers led most craftsmen in literacy, and took a strong interest in politics; many were freethinkers and Dissenters from the Established Church. [viii]

Sadly, Ann passed away in 1846 when their youngest child, Walter, was just 16 months old and Ann, the eldest, would have just turned 10. John looked after his family without their mother until 1850 when he married Caroline Strong in the parish church St Mary Steps Exeter. Caroline may have been a widow as she gives her father’s name as John Mayne. Now John has become a Commercial Clerk and in the 1851 census, when they are living Under Walls, St Mary Steps, he is a Timber Clerk. John and Caroline don’t appear to ever have any children and sadly she passes away too in 1855.

A few more years of widower-hood pass by and then in 1862 John married Eliza Jenkins, the widow of Samuel Woodley, in St Leonard Parish Church Exeter. Eliza already has an illegitimate adult daughter Eliza Jenkins and a three year old daughter, Sarah Woodley. I haven’t been able to locate John in the 1861 census, so it is at his marriage to Eliza that, for the first time, we see he gives his occupation as Accountant. A son to Eliza and John, William John Hooper came along in 1866 and that same year his daughter Jane married George Edward Marious Scott in London, where she gives John’s occupation as clerk.

1871 comes around and John, his wife Eliza and stepdaughter Sarah Woodley are living in Jubilee Place, St Leonard, Exeter and John is employed as a clerk in a saw mill. 1881 and John, at the good age of 73, is working again as an Accountant. He is living back in St Mary Steps at 63 Commercial Rd with Eliza, Sarah, working as a dressmaker (surname now recorded as Hooper), sons Edwin, who is unmarried and working as a waiter, and William who, at the tender age of 15 years is, like his father, an Accountant. 1891 and John and Eliza are still living in Commercial Road. Sarah, now recorded again as Woodley, is there also and all the other children have gone.

Before he died in 1892 at the grand age of 84 years, John married three times and had five sons and four daughters. He started life as the son of labourer, spent his adult life as a shoemaker in Whitestone, until about 1841 when he then moved to Topsham and, while still working as a shoemaker, became a schoolmaster and Parish Clerk at St Luke’s chapel. He then moved up to being a Commercial Clerk and then an Accountant. It is not known exactly where he was educated, but he signed his name at his first marriage in 1835 with an even hand so he was not illiterate and he apparently must have had a talent for maths. His signature did change somewhat over time but that may have been with practice. Genuki has a transcription of the Whites 1850 Directory that includes Topsham and John is listed as being both a National School Master and Boot and Shoemaker at Countess Wear, so any doubts I had that the records I have found may not be for the same man are pretty much dispelled.[ix]

The expression ‘Pulling yourself up by the Bootstraps’ usually means something like improving oneself by one’s own efforts and in John Hooper’s case it can be a quite literal meaning for a man, who started working life as a shoemaker and ended up an Accountant.


[i] “England, Devon Bishop’s Transcripts, 1558-1887,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2CY-54TG : 9 December 2016), Simon Hooper, Whitestone, Devon, England; citing Burial, The Devon Record Office, Exeter, 16 June 1842

General Register Office, Certified Copy of an Entry of Death, Simon Hooper, Labourer aged 80 years & 2 months, residence Poor House Whitestone, informant Maria Hooper [illegitimate daughter of Betty Hooper],  died 13 June 1842 Saint Thomas Union, Devon England, entry no. 2571 registered 14 June 1842.

The informant at the death of John Hooper was Ellen Hill, granddaughter of Cowick Street, St Thomas. She was the daughter of Robert Hill and Eliza Jenkins/Hill/Horsley, the illegitimate daughter of John’s last wife, Eliza Jenkins. General Register Office, Certified Copy of an Entry of Death, John Hooper, died 12 July 1892, Merchant’sClerk, aged 83 years, residence 63 Commercial Rd, Exeter Western, Exeter, Devon England, registered 13 July 1892


Whitestone Parish Council, History of the Parish Hall Splatt’s School in  the Nineteenth Century, http://www.whitestone-devon.org.uk/hall_history.asp accessed 30/9/2017

[iii] ibid.,

[iv] ibid.,

[v] Phillips, Richard, ‘The Shoemaker’, Book of English Trades and Library of the Useful Arts, J. Souter, St Paul’s Churchyard, 1818 pp. 344 -349, Google Books, http://books.google.com accessed 30/9/2017

[vi] Smith, David, St Luke’s Church, Countess Wear, Exeter, licenced for reuse – Creative Commons Licence, http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1405294 accessed 29/9/2017.

[vii] Parliamentary Papers, A Digest of Parochial Returns made to the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into The Education of the Poor. England, Volume 1; Volume 9, HM Stationery Office, 1819. Pg. 190., Google Books http://tinyurl.com/y7ehwuet accessed 1/10/2017.

[viii] Christensen, Penelope Ph.D., National Institute for Genealogical Studies – English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades (Familysearch Research Wiki https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/England_Manufacturing_Occupations_A_to_H_(National_Institute) Accessed 29/9/2017

[ix] Randall, Brian, Transcription, White’s Devonshire Directory of 1850, 3 July 1998, http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/Topsham/Topsham1850

*it is noted that William Hooper is also a shoe and bootmaker in Topsham at this time.