Blencowe Families’ Association Newsletter Vol. 18 No. 2 June 2003


News has come from Australia of the passing of three senior members of the Blencowe family of Armidale NSW. The youngest of the three, John Thomas (‘Jack’) Blencowe passed away on 24 February at the age of 82. The little church at Nowendoc was filled to overflowing when he was laid to rest in a typical Australian country churchyard, surrounded by gum trees, cattle and the sound of the songs of magpies.

Jack was the son of William Leslie Blencowe and Cecilia Wright. In 1937 the family moved from ‘Middle Farm’ to ‘Wild Cattle Creek’ in 1937; while on a cattle buying trip with his father in 1941, a serious car accident claimed his father’s life and left him with severe injuries from which he made a slow recovery. Jack worked as a manager on a property east of Guyra where wife Edna Hicks had three of their children.

In 1962, having failed to sell ‘Wild Cattle Creek’ at £2 an acre (about US$6.00 in those days!), he returned to work the property himself. With a lot of hard work and innovative husbandry he turned the farm into a valuable enterprise. Just the day before he died he was pleased and proud that a pen of his cows and calves had topped the market at the sales at Gloster.

Only two weeks later Jack’s cousin, Olive Ruth Hardman, died peacefully at the age of 94. More than a hundred relatives had attended her ninetieth birthday; she had 5 children, 20 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-children. Olive, known as ‘Tot’ in the family was the youngest daughter of Joshua and Alice Blencowe.

Over a period of many years ‘Tot’ accumulated an enormous collection of dolls and toys; her favourite was a bride doll by Cuno & Otto Dressel dating from the late 1800s. Her philosophy in life was to make the most of every day: Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere!

Just as Pat McClenaghan was preparing the papers for this note Tot’s elder sister Phyllis Myhill passed away. The eighth child, she was born on 14 June 1905 and died just one month short of her 98th birthday. At her memorial service in St Peter’s Cathedral in Armidale her daughters Jean, Nancy and Deborah remembered that it would have been the 69th anniversary of Phyllis’ marriage William Edwin Myhill. Phyllis was always proud that she was the traditionally lucky 7th daughter of a 7th daughter and her family of 5 children, 17 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren believed that luck was passed to them!

Jack, ‘Tot’ and Olive were grandchildren of Joshua Benjamin Blencowe who emigrated to Australia from Buckingham in the 1850s and whose ancestry can be traced back directly to the 14thC Adam de Blencow of Cumbria.

Frances Forbes wrote of the death of her father, another senior member of the Blencowe family in Australia. George Francis Blencowe passed away at Nowra NSW aged 92 years.

George was the eldest child of George Henry and Edith Agnes Blencowe. Born born in 1911 at Tamworth NSW, his family moved to Leeton in 1922 where he and his family were pioneers in rice farming in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. In later life he joined the Rice Marketing Board and was extremely active in social and cultural affairs in Leeton. He married Emma Caldecott Day in 1940, and they had five children, Wilfred, Allan, Noel, Maurice and Frances.

George and Emma retired to Nowra in 1975 where he continued his interest in the Rice Industry and the documentation of the its pioneering years.

George’s Australian branch of the family also descends directly from Adam de Blencow, through John Blencowe (1798-1887) and his wife Mary Drinkwater who emigrated from Brackley to Tasmania in 1830. The family moved to Adelaide in 1838. Naming their eldest son George (1824-1907) started a tradition and first-born sons George Henry (1859-1940), George Henry (1884-1953) and George Francis (1911-2003). The sequence was broken by naming Wilfred, born in 1941, who is now the senior member of the family.  Wilfred, a concert pianist, is now living in Belgium.

George Donald Heath: Members of the Association will all wish to join me in sending our condolences to Tricia Heath whose husband Don passed away on 17 February. Don worked as a manager for the Yorkshire Post, one of Britain’s most prestigious provincial newspapers. A man of many interests: music, gardening, computing, classic films, the countryside — especially his beloved Yorkshire Dales. Don &s; Tricia were also keen caravanners and are the only members to attend one of our gatherings  towing their own accomodation!

We were fortunate to enjoy the company of Don and Tricia at three of our Association Reunions.

Peter Blencowe had written telling me of the birth of his fifth grandchild; with so many sad events to be recorded in this issue I wrote and asked him to tell us something of this thriving young generation of Blencowes, he wrote:

“After the publication of ‘The Blencowe Families’ I was asked why there was very little mention of present day members of the family. The answers I gave were first that the book was primarily a history of our ancestors, and second that it would be invidious to name some who are alive and not others.

In Chapter 4 of the book, I recalled that the 540 years of Blencowes at Marston St Lawrence ended in 1988, with the death of Lawrence Blencowe. This is true but the Marston St Lawrence direct line is continued by the descendants of my great grandfather, John Jackson Blencowe of Marston House. His third son was the Rev'd Alfred Blencowe who married Sophia Louise Walcot, and though they had seven sons, the next generation saw only two male Blencowes: my cousin Jim, (who has a son Clive and grandson Ben), and myself.

Not to be outdone my wife Anna and I have four children, John Charles Walcot Blencowe, Rupert Duncan Walcot Blencowe and two daughters, Lucy and Emily. The first three are already married and producing the next generation while Emily, with her husband-to-be is getting married in July and they have just bought a house in Chailey. Those who study family history will know that the village of Chailey has been home to a branch of the family since the 17th Century, so she will be reminded of her ancestry by the Blencowe memorials in the Parish Church.

To date Anna and I have five grandchildren, Alice, Imogen and William who are the children of Rupert and his wife, Lucy Henrietta, and our daughter Lucy and her husband Iain's children, Iona and Flora. As Iain's work carries him to foreign parts, Iona was born in Buenos Aires and Flora in Istanbul so with Argentinian and Turkish passports along with their British ones, these grand-daughters are somewhat cosmopolitan. Our family hope that the Family surname is carried on in the 21st century lies, at present, with William Peter Walcot Blencowe, aged 4, who you can see in this family group taken on a cold day last Christmas.

Another cheerful item got missed out from the last issue. Belated congratulations to Helen and Bob Simpson, who celebrated their eightieth birthdays. The entire family assembled for a special surprise party at Thanksgiving.

updated: 6 February 2009