A tangential journey to the one taken with Cyril began with the image below. It shows a line of decorated rowing boats on the River Derwent in Matlock Bath.

For over a century each Autumn the riverside and the tors above Matlock Bath have been illuminated originally by candles in glass jars and later by strings of electric lights.

A traditional part of The Illuminations were parades of illuminated boats along Lovers Walk. The boats carried imaginative, often animated designs, constructed from canvas and wood and outlined in lightbulbs.

In the postcard below, one of the boats carrying a plane, has sunk.

It struck me that the image was a rather poignant epigram for Cyril, given he was killed in a flying accident during the second world war. However, the picture also shows two other decorated boats, a paddle steamer and a inland yacht. If Cyril is symbolised by the sunken plane, who might the other two boats represent?

In the twenties, thirties and forties the resident population of Matlock Bath, probably numbering less than 500 people, would have know each other well. It  struck me that in focusing on Cyril I’d lost sight of other two branches of my family that lived at the same time in this same small town – the Lill/Slater‘s (mums side of the family) and the Allen‘s (my dad’s mums side of the family). These families lived cheek-by-jowl for decades. I’m going to try to find out a little more about the two branches.

I’m hoping to populate those two other boats. IMG_6502 Given that the process of ‘navigating’ (described more fully HERE) is a ‘drift’ across numerous stories and permits leaps in the dark in search of a deeper sense of place, I decided I’d start my journey into the branches by looking for a plastic bag under the bed in our back bedroom.

The bag contains what remain of a lifetimes photographs, left by my maternal grandmother Marian Slater nee Lill. I wanted to see if contemporaneous photographs of her existed that would have been taken around the period when Cyril lived in Matlock Bath.

This is what I found: scan0009 grandmas Family scan0005 Grandma-S scan0002

Captioned: Marie 1929

scan0007 scan0008

Captioned: Belper River Gardens, Whit Monday, 1930

Slater Wedding IMG_5900 (3)


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