The Blessing of Good Friends

Lord, thank you for leading me by quiet waters, for feeding me at Your table, and for inviting me to dwell in Your house forever.

Would You please give me opportunities this week to show true hospitality to others and to do it generously, joyfully and without grumbling.

Would You give me grace to embrace interruptions as gifts from You, and help me to make space in my schedule at my table, in my home and my heart for others.


This was one of the prayers in my Sabbath devotional this morning. Just after I had said “Amen”, I received a message on my phone from old friends saying:

“Would you like a “socially distancing” lunch brought to you today?”

IMG_5403Who knew that prayers were answered so rapidly? Especially in this time of isolating, quarantine and shielding! Not only did P and V arrive with a casserole, a loaf of bread, homemade brownies, a hunk of Roquefort cheese and a bottle of red wine, V also did the washing up afterwards! My hospitality consisted of setting the table on my patio, cutting the bread and making the coffee – done generously, joyfully and certainly without grumbling and I definitely embraced this interruption as a gift. It was a lovely surprise, and an opportunity to sit and talk, catch up, and enjoy our friendship. V and I share a birthday and I had also just finished crocheting a lacy scarf, which V graciously accepted as a belated birthday present. We decided this lunch was a belated birthday party. Thank you, Lord!

I see the last few weeks as a very generous and gracious gift from the One who provides. At the end of July my best friend – who lives about 20 km away –  invited me to stay a week with her, which became 10 days, and gave us plenty of time to put the world to rights, watch our favourite TV series on rainy days and enjoy the privilege of swimming and floating around in her private pool on hot sticky days. I was especially grateful that she played chauffeur for me, so I didn’t have to take the train (masks are mandatory on public transport here, but I still don’t like the idea) and also took me to the supermarket so I was able to stock up on food and essentials, instead of having to haul my shopping from the village. Such friends are truly a huge blessing.


Prior to that, I was delighted to be able to enjoy some time with my Dear Eldest Granddaughter and her family. She has four children, aged 3 to 12, and they spent their summer holiday in their caravan on the Bad Ragaz campsite just down the road from my house. This is Heidiland so they were out and about most of the time, but we met up twice for extended meals and the children found their way from the campsite to Granny’s house, so that also gave me a chance to exercise a little hospitality, too!

“Now I’m 12 I’m allowed to drink coffee,” announced my great-grandson S on his arrival.

“Does that mean you would like a cup of coffee, then?”

“Yes please. With lots of milk.”

His five-year-old brother M had a “Granny tea”, and they sat very primly at my table, demonstrating their good manners, but alas, the coffee didn’t meet S’s standards (he prefers Nescafé) and M wasn’t impressed by the biscuits he was offered, so it wasn’t a total success. However, they are very forgiving and promised to give me a second chance some time.


I confess that I was a little sceptical this morning about asking for “opportunities this week to show true hospitality to others” when most people I know aren’t going out – but I was quickly taught a lesson, and now my fridge and freezer are well stocked, so I’m prepared! Who will be my next surprise guest, I wonder?


Fish Out Of Water

IMG_5305The Pike has landed!

I’m sure he is very relieved to be out of his plywood case and able to look around him again, although in unfamiliar surroundings far from his native pool – which no longer exists anyway. There are some who think that I (and those of my family who have aided and abetted me in this undertaking) have gone more than slightly mad. There are many who wonder why on earth my father ever had Mr Betteridge stuff the biggest fish that didn’t get away in the first place, and why The Pike was mounted and displayed in my parents’ front room for nearly 70 years.

I understand my Dad, though. Apart from his wartime service in the RAF, the capture and landing of The Pike was his crowning triumph. He no longer had to stretch his arms out when boasting to his friends: the proof was there, his greatest trophy glaring at him for the rest of his life, with its “malevolent aged grin” (Ted Hughes)


Dad with his prize catch on 31 July 1950. Note the old Anderson air-raid shelter behind him, converted into our garden shed!

I told the tale here a few years ago  What I didn’t realise then was that actually, my father hadn’t gone fishing on his motorbike but on a normal bicycle. That makes the story even more amazing! Imagine riding your pushbike home, uphill all the way, with a metre-long live (and lively) pike strapped to the crossbar – presumably with the head (and those teeth) peeping over the handlebars. (Pause while you let your mind boggle …)

After my mother died and we cleared my parental home, my daughter had a few pieces of furniture and objects of sentimental value packed up and shipped to our holiday home in Brittany.

The Pike was wrapped in blankets and stowed away in a specially made plywood crate, with the intention of bringing him to stay with me in Switzerland. Alas, this crate was too big and bulky to be transported in a normal sized car when there were passengers and dogs, as is usually the case when any of the family goes to Brittany: it is a holiday home, after all, and the family also needs luggage when they go on holiday. And so when all the stuff from England arrived in Brittany in October 2018, the plywood crate was parked in the garage and there it stayed – until this Easter Sunday, when my daughter and I loaded it into my granddaughter’s VW people-carrier and brought it triumphantly to Switzerland (and no hassle at the customs, either!).

My granddaughter needed her car back – she had been forced to manage without it for all the weeks we were “confined” in France – and I wasn’t going home for a while because of my “vulnerable” status, so the crate remained under the stairs in my daughter’s home for another 4 weeks. Then we borrowed the VW again, and last Thursday I was returned victoriously to my own home, together with my loot, where the screws were removed from the crate. My son-in-law had been forecasting dire consequences of all the bumping about that it had undergone, and would not have been at all surprised to find the glass case filled with piles of dust and fish scales. But as the blankets in which it was swaddled came off, The Pike emerged unscathed, just a bit dusty on top.

Now here it stands in all its glory, still looking as if would like to bite your arm off given half a chance, on what the Germans call my “Lowboard” (low sideboard) which is the perfect size and height for it. In fact, it’s rather strange to have it at this height: at my parents’ house it was always at adult eye-level. Now it’s at a child’s level. Over the years, it has terrified and fascinated small children, the nearest thing to a real monster that they had come close to. My great-grandchildren all saw it, way above their heads, at Great-Granny’s house, at a “safe” distance. How will they react now?

Their father is also an angler, as is his father, and the kids have all been on fishing excursions with their Papi and Opa, and have even managed to catch fish themselves – we had some delicious trout last week caught by my five-year-old great-grandson.


Trout caught by my 5-year-old great-grandson and his Daddy, cooked by my son-in-law – shared by son-in-law and me!

But The Pike, at close quarters, is something else.

It isn’t unusual to find antlers from deer, chamois and other cervidae mounted on plaques and hanging in Swiss homes. However, I don’t know anyone else with a stuffed fish apart from some old friends who had a huge stuffed swordfish on their wall in Palo Verde, California, and that was a very long time ago.

It’s nice to be back. I have had a great nine weeks of very congenial company, which was far better than being stuck in solitary confinement at home, but now I shall enjoy my solitude for a little while. My pampering continued right up to the moment of my return, as my daughter and son-in-law had been shopping for me and I have enough food and other necessities to last for a very long time. That includes tea, toilet paper and yarn.

And on the subject of yarn: my crocheting continues apace! After I finished my heirloom Corona blanket, which used up almost 33 balls of wool, I had 7 balls left and crocheted a sham pillow-case to match. Forty balls of wool at 75 m each gives a total of 3 kilometres but in fact, as I often noticed a mistake on a previous row or even several rows back, I had to unravel and re-work many times so I probably crocheted more like 5 km of wool in this marathon effort – and was very surprised when my daughter informed me that it had only taken me just over 2 weeks to do!


Of course, my fingers now can’t keep still. It’s a permanent affliction, like St Vitus Dance. If I’m not writing on the computer, I’m crocheting. My tally so far:IMG_5315

Cardigan, started during my visit to my Middle Granddaughter in February, using wool donated by my daughter (see Repair Your inner Rainbow)  Not exactly according to the original pattern, which was shorter in the body and longer in the sleeves. I prefer mine.


Shawlette in white cotton, would have been bigger if I had had more yarn. This is a pretty pattern, starting with the bottom corner or point, so you just keep going till you run out of yarn.






Four market bags (I’d call them tote bags) for my daughter and each of my granddaughters, colours appropriate to each. A steep learning curve for me, as the pattern – by Drops – was basically just a chart of one seventh of the finished semicircle. I had never worked from a chart before, without any instructions such as to how many stitches I should have at the end of each row and what I should actually be doing with each stitch, so I felt I had been transported to Bletchley Park. Little by little, it became clearer so each subsequent bag was slightly different from the previous one, though nobody would know! By the time I got to the fourth bag, I had almost figured it out so I have bought some more cotton yarn to make another one, this time doing EXACTLY what I’m supposed to. IMG_5233


With the leftover yarn from these bags, I made two doll figures. VERY scary! They look like something from a Frankenstein story. Not to be given to children, I think! Not sure what’s going to become of those and I must protest that I am not deliberately setting out to scare children, whatever circumstantial evidence you may produce.




Frankenstein’s monster and his bride …

Another shawlette in a ginger wool/silk mixture donated by Middle Granddaughter in February with pretty autumn-leaves-coloured merino from my daughter for the edging, but only just worked up in the same pattern as the white one. I was the one who got worked up, actually. Following a tip from a dear friend who is a knitting whizz, I wound the wool around the cardboard middle of a toilet roll. The idea of this is that when you slip the cardboard roll out, you have a nice relaxed ball of wool with an end poking out of the middle. The advantage is that as you use up the yarn from the inside, the ball itself stays still and doesn’t race around all over the place. Yes. True.

The disadvantage is that sometimes you get what is called a “yarn barf” when the emerging string of yarn disgorges an attached lump of not-so-well-wound wool which, if you are lucky, may just mean you have a few yards more than you really need between your work and the ball, or if you are unlucky, you have to disentangle a cat’s cradle.

I’m not saying I was unlucky. I just didn’t wind my yarn as expertly as I should have done. My “barf” was more of a disembowelment. I am proud to say that I spent four hours patiently undoing the Gordian knot. And then finished my shawlette.

At the moment, I still have most of the wool my daughter gave me back in February, so this is an opportunity to mix and match and see what transpires. Not getting bored, anyway.



Outing in a Bubble

After almost two months of “house arrest” I was finally allowed out past the garden gate yesterday. Don’t get me wrong: in spite of the speed with which my hair grows, I’m certainly not complaining about the confinement. I am one of the relatively few people to have actually benefited from this lockdown, having the privilege of being with my nearest and dearest who have accustomed me to a lifestyle that I won’t be able to replicate once I get back within my own four walls. I really enjoy being Lady Muck, having all my meals cooked and served to me, not having to go shopping or do any housework more strenuous than making my own bed or drying dishes now and then, and having congenial company constantly at hand. Even my washing is being done for me.

I have greatly appreciated being able to see, interact with and actually hug (now officially condoned) my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, in person and not just on a screen. Sorry if I sound smug, that isn’t my intention: I just want to say how grateful I am for my circumstances.

View of Stein-am-Rhein from the footbridge leading to the Island of Werd

And yesterday, a lovely day in the merry month of May, we got into the car and drove out to the picturesque village on the Rhine where my youngest granddaughter has just moved into a “new” flat (new to her, that is). It’s always exciting to move house, even if it can be exhausting. An opportunity to de-clutter, and – in our family – to acquire bits and pieces from friends and other family members that fit in with the new décor. And my granddaughter is no exception, she shares the “musical furniture” genes too. Just the odd little piece here and there, bringing in happy associations and certainly adding to the general appeal.

It’s a very nice little flat, well laid out ergonomically and full of light, with a lovely view of the surrounding countryside, and being on the fourth floor without a lift it will give her plenty of opportunity for exercise! She has good taste and has made it both attractive and cosy. Full marks from me, anyway. I do hope she will be very happy and blessed there.

And as the weather was so clement, we went for a little walk down to the riverside, trying hard to keep the requisite distance from all the other Sunday strollers. It was quite exhilarating to be able to walk in a fairly straight line instead of in circles, and the path took us through a little woodland onto a wooden footbridge leading to the island of Werd. The water was crystal clear here, which is close to where the Rhine exits Lake Constance, and full of fish – I thought they were trout, but was put right by a local man who was feeding them with bits of bread. No, he said, they are Alet. I looked this up when I got home: my angler father would have recognised them as chub. Maybe I should have persevered with The Compleat Angler. A tiny coot kept attempting to catch some crumbs, but the fish were not only faster but also much bigger. Coot didn’t stand a chance.

Look carefully, and spot the coot among all these fish.

Over on the island, a woman was standing next to a swans’ nest, fussing the swans. Our initial reaction was horror: you don’t go near a swans’ nest when the swans are sitting on it, they can be very aggressive.  But our new friend explained that this lady is known as the Swan Mama – and we saw that indeed, the swans were very welcoming and enjoying her attention, keeping her from leaving them – and, he said, he himself was a “swan whisperer”. In fact, several years ago he had featured in a short documentary about his close relationship with the swans and we checked this out when we got home.  Fascinating!

Our walk then took us around the village, which gives the impression of having grown up organically, with houses of different styles and periods scattered a bit higgledy-piggledy, not all in neat straight suburban rows, and the gardens were filled with spring flowers and blossom. A lovely way to spend my first morning out!

In the afternoon, my eldest granddaughter came by with her elder son (11) and younger daughter (3), another treat for us, enhanced by the fact that she brought a trio of trout caught that very morning by her husband and younger son (5). These really are trout, and my son-in-law knows how to turn them into a delicious lunch for us.

The lockdown isn’t over, social distancing is still de rigeur, but – I repeat – I am absolutely not complaining. In a day or two, I shall be taken home – with my own fish! – and left to my own devices. I shall miss this family bubble.


Dawn Chorus

Chestnut tree and 17th century mil (1629)l, on the site of the ancient mill and smithy,
Schmidgasse, Kurzdorf, Frauenfeld (Switzerland)

In the dim dusk before dawn
Pours birdsong of blackbird, robin, thrush
From the richness of the chestnut tree where
Red torches bloom.
A thousand years ago
Along this dusty lane
The same song thrilled the same pale air
In the forebears of this tree.
Here trudged and trotted farmers,
Peasants, burghers, all
To mill and smithy:
Here still stands a mill
Its clattering wheel long gone, and
The smith lives only in the name
Of this small lane.
A thousand years in a twinkling of an eye
In the song of the birds
And the blooms of the chestnut tree.

In Quarantine

German has a delightful word for hoarding: Hamstern. Think of those little golden rodents with their faces stuffed full of food – what could be more apt?

So – is your annual supply of toilet rolls neatly stashed away? Good. Now what else – apart from staple foodstuffs – can be considered essential items for hamstering during a pandemic?

In our case, it seems to be yarn, tea and books as we self-isolate in Brittany.

View from our house

What are we doing here, you ask? The original plan was for my daughter, my middle granddaughter and me to spend ten days together in our family holiday home on the northwest Breton coast, an opportunity for three-generational bonding and to deal with several practical matters in need of attention. Dear Middle Granddaughter wasn’t well, so it’s just Dear Darling Daughter and me. And dog. Bonding.

The practical matters concerned the bank, the roof – which has needed repairs, and in France it’s advisable to be physically present at such times – and bringing back a couple of large, heavy items that don’t fit into a normal sized family car. Consequently, we borrowed Dear Eldest Granddaughter’s seven-seater VW in exchange for DDD’s Twingo – not really ideal for her with four children, but it was only supposed to be for a very limited time. Now this swap isn’t so convenient for her, as the schools are closing and she‘s supposed to be working from home … well, DEG is very resourceful and I have no doubt she’ll cope.

The Swiss Federal Council (government) has advised against grandparents taking care of children, as these are both vulnerable groups, so I was heartened to see an announcement on Facebook by some senior high school students offering their babysitting services to working parents. That could be a solution for DEG.

Meanwhile, we have been informed that it may be advisable for us to prolong our stay here – especially if it comes to a lockdown. Who wants to drive for ten hours and then be told at the border that you can’t re-enter your homeland? In the worst case, we could probably descend on DMG who lives just inside France near Geneva – that could be her punishment reward for not coming with us in the first place!

It’s certainly easier to quarantine ourselves here than it would have been in Switzerland, where we would inevitably have had a lot more social contact meaning greater risk of infection. Out of the thirteen houses in this little cul-de-sac, most are holiday homes. At the moment, only three are inhabited and the other two contain new neighbours whom we don’t know well enough to say more than “Bonjour, Madame!” when we see them. Just as well, perhaps.

It’s very difficult to overcome the habits of a lifetime and not offer a hand to shake or a cheek to kiss (two or three kisses in Switzerland, four here in Brittany). Elbow bumps and, among some of the youngsters, complicated foot tapping rituals, are proof that it feels wrong not to have some kind of physical contact on greeting friends and family. Does this augur the end of handshakes and bises in continental Europe? Another symbol of courtesy and civilisation disappearing? I hope not.

Our phone line isn’t the most reliable so our wifi also comes and goes. The cables aren’t buried underground here but strung in the air from posts, which makes them susceptible to stormy winds and salt corrosion – or so we are informed by the technician. At present, there’s also a broadband overload, especially as so many people must be working from home. All the same, we have succeeded in remaining in touch with folks back home, following the news and listening to podcasts as knitting needles and crochet hooks click to and fro. We get along well. There’s no lack of topics of conversation and we have hundreds of books at hand. And plenty of tea.

On the whole, we are much safer here in this tiny place, where all we hear when we open the windows is the roar of the sea down below and the song of thrush, blackbird and robin – oh, there are others that I can’t identify, as well as the ever-present seagulls but their screaming and raucous laughter is very secondary to the tweeting and trilling of the songbirds. We have pleasant (empty) beaches to stroll along and beautiful scenery to enjoy. The hedge is rosy with camellias, spring flowers are blooming and the sun is shining.

There could be much worse places in the world to be stuck: in my opinion, serendipity strikes again!

Explosive Eggs

(Continued from Putting All The Eggs In One Basket)

Leonz Egg (born in 1718) stayed in the Gäu area, married Maria Burkhard and had five children. He was naturalised as a citizen of Oberbuchsiten on 1 January 1746, and was able to buy property there. Like his father, he was a talented gunsmith and locksmith, and taught his sons the same trade. Apparently widowed, he remarried on 18 April 1768.

Was this the cause of friction between him and his grown-up sons? The elder son, Hans Jakob, moved quite early to Upper Alsace near the Swiss city of Basle, where the French had built a fortress with an arsenal near Hüningen, obviously an attractive opportunity for a gunsmith. He married the widow of a well known French gunsmith, which probably also helped his career. Soon, his younger brother Urs Christian, who had fallen out with his father, turned up on Hans Jakob’s doorstep, where he found a welcome and work.

However, “der Urs” was an ambitious young man. in 1770 he appeared in London “with 3 shillings and 6 pence in his pocket” and found work with the then famous British gunsmith Henry Nock. By 1772 he had his own business with rented premises in the Haymarket, Panton Street, under the name of Durs Egg. On 3 June 1776 he sold two “Ferguson Rifle Guns” to the British army for £31, the first of many regular orders for arms, and by 1778 he was ensconced at St James, Piccadilly, where he counted the Prince Regent among his customers.

Among the numerous Durs Egg weapons which are shown as masterpieces in the weapons collection in Windsor, is a pair of pistols on which the trademark “Gun Maker To His Royal Highness” appeared for the first time. The prince’s esteem for Durs Egg was revealed in a letter to his brother Prince Ferdinand of Hanover:

“… the rifle barrel gun was made by the best workman we have here; he is a Swiss German and his name is Egg. This gun is made after Ferguson rifle, it is almost the neatest piece of workmanship, ever was made.”

One of these weapons is also kept at Windsor Castle.

At the age of 35, Durs Egg married Ann Mary Salomon, daughter of a London merchant of German descent, and had seven children with her. On 29 August 1791 he became a British citizen. At this time a conflict with France began to emerge, which he could survive better as a British citizen than as a national of a country which soon had to come under French influence.

In 1792 his father Leonz Egg died in Oberbuchsiten, leaving Durs the relatively modest sum of 900 guilders (approx. £70 ). From 1799 Durs Egg was allowed to call himself “Gun Maker To His Majesty, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York”.

During the war years against Napoleon Bonaparte, Durs Egg produced a large number of rifles and pistols for the army and he also supplied the French royalists, who had established themselves on the Channel Islands, with a large series of carbines. The historian John F. Hayward mentions in his work “The Art of the Old Gunsmiths” that Durs Egg was particularly famous for his double-barrelled shotguns and duel pistols, which he produced in large numbers.

Having made his fortune, Durs Egg participated in various companies and buildings and himself bought a few properties. At this point, he made the acquaintance of a fellow Swiss, equally if not more ingenious than himself, who fired his imagination with a totally new project. The inventor Samuel John Pauly (born Johannes Samuel Pauli near Bern) had arrived in London from Paris. Please read his fascinating story on Wikipedia as I can’t do him justice here.

Although penniless, Pauli brought with him the blueprints for an airship that he had developed with support from Maréchal Ney. Durs Egg was enthusiastic about Pauli’s airship plans and became a partner investing large sums of money, from £5,000  (statement Pauli) to £10,000 (statement Egg). Together they entered a patent specification for the construction of the airship “Dolphin”. Pauli was to prepare the plans and supervise the construction. The length of the hull was approx. 29 m and its largest diameter approx. 8 m. The hull was made from the dried intestines of 70,000 oxen sewn together in several layers into the shape of a dolphin, with a second hydrogen-filled balloon inside and it had a moveable tailfin as a rudder. It was driven by a steam engine, since the combustion engine had yet to be invented. It took a long time to develop, but plans were announced for regular flights between London and Paris carrying 15 to 20 passengers at a time, and the public poured in to pay a guinea per person for a peep inside the hangar where this aircraft was being constructed.

Unfortunately for Durs Egg, the defeat of Napoleon and the ensuing peace meant that in 1815 his income fell from around £90,000 pa to about £2,300. He was also beginning to lose his sight at this time, and clearly getting cantankerous, involving lawsuits with family and business partners. He fell out with Pauli, dragged him to court, and work on the Dolphin was stopped. His airship was later sold to the American showman Phineas T. Barnum who exhibited it as an attraction with his famous midget General Tom Thumb in the gondola in the zoological garden of Surrey. It was an irony of fate that this was the only use of the costly but captivating project, wrote J. E. Hodgson in 1924 in “The History of Aeronautics in Great Britain”.

From 1822 Durs Egg was blind. He lived until 1831.

Only one of his sons, John Egg, born 1795, followed his father in the gunsmith profession but the economic situation forced him to give up until 1837 when, with the support of his family, he was able to reopen his own business. He chose an address three doors away from his father’s former shop (No. 4 Pall Mall, In the Opera Colonnade) and was successful, although as a gunsmith he wasn’t in the same class as his father. John Egg was probably the supplier of arms for the last known pistol duel in England in 1843.

He was married and had two sons and two daughters. One of his sons, Georg D. G., born in 1842 and died young in 1870, is mentioned in the annals of the gunsmiths of London, but no further information can be found. It seems that he left no children. His brother John chose another profession and remained unmarried. One hundred years after Durs had set foot in London his line died out.

However, Jean Joseph Egg, a son of Hans-Jakob Egg – the brother of Durs Egg who had emigrated to Hüningen in Alsace – became a gunsmith like his father and followed his uncle to London. Joseph Egg worked for Henry Tatham from 1801 and later co-founded the company Tatham & Egg. In 1814 he opened his own shop at Piccadilly Circus. In addition to his professional successes, Joseph Egg’s personal references are sparse, as he is not included in the traditional family chronicle written by a daughter of Durs Egg.

What is certain is that Joseph was probably the most creative of the entire gunsmith dynasty. His speciality at first was a new type of miniature pistols (pocket pistols) of the highest quality, whose precision is reminiscent of the work of watchmakers. They have one or two barrels and fittings made of engraved silver, in some cases even gold. This was followed by a whole series of inventions and patents. Joseph Egg’s weapons can be found in Windsor Castle, the Leningrad Hermitage and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Augustus Egg, born 2 May 1816, the son of Joseph Egg, inherited the creativity and considerable wealth of his father and became an important artist of the Victorian age. He was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1835 and his works can be seen in numerous museums and galleries in England (Leicester; London: South Kensington, Tate, Birmingham, Preston; Sheffield). He was also an excellent actor in the amateur group around Charles Dickens, the most important writer of the time. With Charles Dickens he travelled around Italy in 1853. Because of his fragile health he spent the last years of his life in southern climates, in Italy, France and finally in Algeria where he died in 1863.

Claude Blair, the weapons historian and author of a newspaper article “The Egg family” described the significance of the Egg gunsmith dynasty as follows:

“Among the outstanding gunsmiths of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Great Britain, Durs and Joseph Egg were among the most important. Most English collections contain weapons from their hands that are much sought after and valued for their great reputation.”

This is a summary of the Egg Gunsmith Dynasty:
(see also

Egg Jakob abt. 1690-1748, from Blüemlismatt, Solothurn, emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1745, father of Leonz
Egg Leonz 1718-1792, naturalised in Oberbuchsiten, gunsmith, father of Hans Jakob and Urs Christian .
Egg Hans Jakob 1745-1815, born in Oberbuchsiten, gunsmith in Hüningen (F), father of Jean Joseph.
Egg Urs Christian (Durs) 1748-1831, born in Oberbuchsiten, gunsmith in London, father of John
Egg John 1795-1870, born in London, gunsmith in London, son of Durs

Egg Jean Joseph 1775-1837, born in Hüningen (F), gunsmith in London, son of Hans Jakob.
Egg Charles 1811 – 1867, born and lived at 1 Piccadilly, London, gunsmith, son of Joseph
Egg Henry 1815-1869, born and lived at 1 Piccadilly, London, gunsmith, son of Joseph.

How do these Eggs tie in with my daughter’s in-laws, the millers in Schlatt and Ellikon? The Solothurn Eggs were Roman Catholics, registered as “peregrini”, non-residents, in the Gäu region of Solothurn in 1718. Where had they come from in those turbulent times? So far, I haven’t been able to identify a connection, but I’m pretty sure there is one if I can get back to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

(All images credited to Wikipedia)

Putting All The Eggs In One Basket

Maybe Easter would be a more appropriate time for this post, but I have been collating all this information in the last few days, so am bursting to get it down in black and white.

My dear son-in-law’s grandmother was born an Egg – that is, her surname before marriage was Egg, which I’m afraid made me giggle. However, I have to take the Eggs more seriously now as he has inherited some family portraits and genealogical details. Hence we have been delving into the history of the Swiss Family Egg and come up with some very interesting findings. My daughter actually has enough material to write a book about it all, if she can ever find the time and I hope she doesn’t mind my intruding on her domain by my summary here.

The first Egg we could positively identify in my DSIL’s line is a gentleman called Rudolf Egg from the village of Schlatt near Winterthur, Canton Zurich, who purchased a mill in the village of Ellikon an der Thur in 1630. Mills being very lucrative in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Eggs were among the wealthiest families in the Zurich dominion, and became very important people in Ellikon. The miller and Chief Magistrate Hans Kaspar Egg (1740-1792) and his wife Ursula née Arbenz had at least four sons, Hans Kaspar, Johann Jakob, Johann Konrad and Johann Rudolf (helvet. Grossrat – Cantonal Deputy in the parliament of the Helvetian Republic 1798-1803) from whom my DSIL is descended.

The eldest son, Hans Kaspar (b. 29.1.1764 Ellikon an der Thur – d. 8.12.1846 Ellikon an der Thur) became Municipal President of Ellikon and then from 1803 to 1830 was a member of the Zurich Parliament. His brother Johann Jakob (b. 9.6.1765 Ellikon an der Thur – d. 18.8.1843 Naples) was a shrewd businessman, who set up a mechanized spinning mill in Ellikon in 1803 (later taken over by another brother Johann Konrad and sold in 1868) and in 1812 established the cotton spinning industry in the Kingdom of Naples, importing 100 workers recruited in Zurich. This rose to over 1,000 by 1840 mainly from poor houses and prisons.

These two great-uncles both led very full and interesting lives but remained without issue. Now, their portraits – one a jolly, chubby judge, the other a slim, sophisticated dandy – are watching over my daughter and her husband, and I’m leaving the task of writing their fascinating biographies up to her.

Still, point me at a family tree and whoosh – you can’t hold me back! For once, the question of who came first, the Chicken or the Egg, is irrelevant. What other Eggs are connected with the Ellikon nest? Google is always good for a starter and I also have at my fingertips.

There’s a Rudolf Egg, marriage 13 December 1707 in Ellikon an der Thur to Gottlieb Zimmermann, daughter Gottlieb Egg born about 1708 but no other information. Are they related to us?

Another Rudolph Egg was born in Ellikon on 17 February 1717 and arrived as a hopeful nineteen-year-old in Philadelphia on 29 May 1736. He settled down, married a girl called Anna Catharina and started a family in the township of Upper Salford, Pa, as shown in the church records of Goshenhoppen (delightful name!). A family tree I found online but have not been able to verify claims that Rudolph’s parents were Hans Rudolph Egg and Barbara née Bachmann, his grandparents Ulrich Egg and Regula née Frei, all from the Winterthur area. The family tree shows the descendants of his daughter up to the present day.

However, Rudolph and Anna Catharina are not the only Eggs of Goshenhoppen. There is also Jacob Egg and family, who arrived in Upper Salford township in 1745. Are they related to Rudolph or to any of “our” Ellikon Eggs? It’s hard to say. But there’s plenty of information about them.

Jacob Leonz Egg and his family were Roman Catholics originally from Blüemlismatt above Egerkingen, at the foot of the Jura in the protestant canton of Solothurn, where their religious affiliation was a disadvantage forbidding them to own land or to graze cattle on the common. The Jura is well known for its precision engineering, producing not only watches. In the seventeenth century, the names of Pfluger and Egg were famous gunsmith dynasties.

Jacob Egg was born about 1690 and married Anna Maria Margaret Kilcher in about 1715. Their eldest son, also Jacobus Leontius and known as Leonz, was born on 15 April 1718 and baptized in Hagendorf/Gäu under the heading “Non-residents” (peregrini). Eleven more children followed, all baptized in Gäu.

There could be several reasons why they were considered non-residents. One, being Catholic, the family could have been uprooted because of the recent conflict. Two, his occupation, gun maker, may have required the move in order to master the trade and become a journeyman, or master gun maker. Three, he or his wife might have had relatives in the Gäu area of the canton of Solothurn and they were on their way there.

In any case, they eventually moved from Blüemlismatt and tried to make a living in the area around Basle before undertaking the great and dangerous adventure of emigrating to America. Sons Leonz, Joseph and Durus stayed behind. The family that arrived in Pennsylvania was reduced to Jacob, his two daughters and three sons. There’s no record of what happened to his wife and the other children but they probably perished on the long, arduous voyage

Jacob was able to purchase 125 acres of land in 1746, but died only two years later. As a Roman Catholic, he may have chosen the homestead site for the express purpose of being near a church and neighbours of his own faith. There was only one Catholic Church in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia at that time, St. Paul’s Mission at Goshenhoppen (now Most Blessed Sacrament Church at Bally, Berks Co.) which had been established only a few years earlier in 1741. The Goshenhoppen Register, church records for St Paul’s Mission, do not mention Jacob Egg specifically and the church records are very incomplete for the early years but it does have information about some of his children and later descendants up to the present day.

In the list of Jacob Egg’s children there is a repetition of names for some of them. Giving more than one child the same Christian name was a common practice during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An example is that three sons were named John Paul, John Peter and John George. Usually one son would be called John and the others were known by their second name. The same principle held for daughters who had the Christian name of Mary or Anna. There may be other reasons for this practice but Jacob Egg presented a real problem for researchers of family history because two of his sons, Hannes and Johannes, were both known as John Eck. They attended the same church and lived in the same general area of Pennsylvania.

Jacob Egg, realizing that his death was near, almost certainly asked one of his children to write his will as he dictated it. In it, his children are all named except for Leonz, Catherine, Anna Maria Barbara, Jacob Christian and the son who died in infancy. The court could not accept the will as valid because his children, or heirs, signed the document as witnesses. Letters of administration were issued. Hannes Egg and Valentine Wiebel, Jacob Egg’s future or new son-in-law, were appointed administrators. It is a very interesting document as it shows, on the single piece of paper, the handwriting of one of the children as well as the signatures of all six family member who were present. Here is the English translation of Jacob Egg’s will:

February 13, 1748

Because of an extended illness, I, Jacob Egg have to distribute my belongings in the presence of witnesses. If it can be executed, I will to Hannes Egg and Jacob Egg and Johannes Egg, each one 33 pounds, to Durus Egg and Joseph Egg each one 25 pounds. And Hannes Egg and Jacob Egg and Johannes Egg are to draw for six years the interest from the sale once it is carried out. If one or the other of the two brothers should come, he must receive his appropriate share. Anna Maria Eggin and Anna Eggin shall each receive 25 pounds and each one the bed she is sleeping in and each one her dishes.

Everything is to be sold, horses and cattle, hogs and household goods and everything there is. If at all possible, each one should receive an equal share. If, however, the final proceeds are smaller, each one should proportionately take a lesser amount. And once the six years have passed and neither of the two sons has appeared, then the other five shall receive everything in equal parts.

(signed) Jacob Egg

Witnesses: Hannes Egg, Jacob Egg, Johannes Egg, Anna Maria Eggin, Anna Eggin

The final inventory totals approximately £200. The daughter’s names appear with the feminine form of the surname, Eggin. Jacob Egg died some time between 13 February 1748, the date of the will, and 28 April 1748, the date of the estate inventory. Although the exact date is not known it is probable that he expired shortly after the date of the will in February or early March. I’m indebted for most of this information to ECK FAMILIES, A Compilation of Eck Families Primarily Listing Descendants of Jacob Egg/Eck and Anna Maria Kilcher compiled by Helen E. Arkey,plus some amendments of my own.

The eldest son, Leonz, is not mentioned in the will but I was able to follow him and his descendants up from a detailed account in the 1996 article Die Solothurner Büchsenmacher Dynastie Egg by Hans R Degen. And that will have to be another post!

(Continued in Explosive Eggs)

Exploring That Rabbit Hole Again …

Whoo-hoo! Sliding down that rabbit warren again, and picking at etymologies like itchy pimples!

It started with “cousin”. I have hundreds of them, first, second and several times removed. I wanted to know the exact definition, and where the English word came from. Well, I never realized anyone could be so specific in the degrees of consanguinity.  Having studied Latin at school aeons ago, I remembered only pater, mater (mother and father), frater, soror (brother, sister) avus, ava and avunculus (grandfather, grandmother and uncle).

However, the following Roman family round-up made my eyes water! My informative website says of the word Cousin:

early 13c., “a collateral blood relative more remote than a brother or sister” (mid-12c. as a surname), from Old French cosin “nephew; kinsman; cousin” (12c., Modern French cousin), from Latin consobrinus “cousin,” originally “mother’s sister’s son,” from assimilated form of com “with, together” (see com-) + sobrinus (earlier *sosrinos) “cousin on mother’s side,” from soror (genitive sororis) “sister” (see sister).

Specific modern usage, “the son or daughter of an uncle or aunt,” is attested by c. 1300, but throughout Middle English the word also was used of grandchildren, godchildren, etc. Extended sense of “closely related thing” is from late 14c.

Italian cugino, Danish kusine, Polish kuzyn also are from French. German vetter is from Old High German fetiro “uncle,” perhaps on the notion of “child of uncle.” Words for cousin tend to drift to “nephew” on the notion of “father’s nephew.”

Many IE languages (including Irish, Sanskrit, Slavic, and some of the Germanic tongues) have or had separate words for some or all of the eight possible “cousin” relationships, such as Latin, which along with consobrinus had consobrina “mother’s sister’s daughter,” patruelis “father’s brother’s son,” atruelis “mother’s brother’s son,” amitinus “father’s sister’s son,” etc. Old English distinguished fæderan sunu “father’s brother’s son,” modrigan sunu “mother’s sister’s son,” etc.

Used familiarly as a term of address since early 15c., especially in Cornwall. Phrase kissing cousin is a Southern U.S. expression, 1940s, apparently denoting “those close enough to be kissed in salutation;” Kentish cousin (1796) is an old British term for “distant relative.” For cousin german “first cousin” (early 14c.) see german (adj.).

(Do follow those links – it’s fascinating!!)

OK,  so let’s look at some other relatives. The word uncle is clearly straight from avunculus and in English avuncular is still used, but there’s more:

late 13c., from Old French oncle, from Latin avunculus “mother’s brother” (“father’s brother” was patruus), literally “little grandfather,” diminutive of avus “grandfather,” from PIE root *awo-“grandfather, adult male relative other than one’s father” (source also of Armenian hav “grandfather,” Hittite huhhas “grandfather,” Lithuanian avynas “maternal uncle,” Old Church Slavonic uji “uncle,” Welsh ewythr “uncle”). Boutkan, however, says “the root probably denoted members of the family of the mother.” 

Replaced Old English eam (usually maternal; paternal uncle was fædera), which represents the Germanic form of the same root (source also of Dutch oom “uncle, grandfather, brother-in-law,” Old High German oheim “maternal uncle, son of a sister” German Ohm “uncle,” Old Norse afi“grandfather”).

Also from French are German, Danish, Swedish onkel. As a familiar title of address to an old man, attested by 1793; in the U.S. South, especially “a kindly title for a worthy old negro” [Century Dictionary]. First record of Dutch uncle (and his blunt, stern, benevolent advice) is from 1838; Welsh uncle (1747) was the male first cousin of one’s parent. To say uncle as a sign of submission in a fight is North American, attested from 1909, of uncertain signification.

So Uncles appear generally in a positive light. Now what about aunt? She’s a mixed blessing:

1300, from Anglo-French aunte, Old French ante (Modern French tante, from a 13c. variant), from Latin amita “paternal aunt” diminutive of *amma a baby-talk word for “mother” (source also of Greek amma “mother,” Old Norse amma “grandmother,” Middle Irish ammait “old hag,” Hebrew em, Arabic umm “mother”).

Extended senses include “an old woman, a gossip” (1580s); “a procuress” (1670s); and “any benevolent woman,” in American English, where auntie was recorded since c. 1790 as “a term often used in accosting elderly women.” The French word also has become the word for “aunt” in Dutch, German (Tante), and Danish.

Swedish has retained the original Germanic (and Indo-European) custom of distinguishing aunts by separate terms derived from “father’s sister” (faster) and “mother’s sister” (moster). The Old English equivalents were faðu and modrige. In Latin, too, the formal word for “aunt on mother’s side” was matertera. Some languages have a separate term for aunts-in-law as opposed to blood relations.

I heaved a sigh of relief that I didn’t grow up speaking one of those languages, and having to distinguish the bloodlines of all my aunts, uncles and cousins!

From families to orphans. Now that is a strange-looking word, and although I knew that it’s orphelin in French, that didn’t really help. Did you know that etymologically, orphans are linked to robots? (Just click on the word robot in the excerpt below.) Seems they have been exploited forever.

Here we go – and look out for the goblins!

orphan (n.)

1300, from Late Latin orphanus “parentless child” (source of Old French orfeno, Italian orfano), from Greek orphanos “orphaned, without parents, fatherless,” literally “deprived,” from orphos “bereft,” from PIE *orbho- “bereft of father,” also “deprived of free status,” from root *orbh- “to change allegiance, to pass from one status to another” (source also of Hittite harb- “change allegiance,” Latin orbus “bereft,” Sanskrit arbhah “weak, child,” Armenian orb “orphan,” Old Irish orbe “heir,” Old Church Slavonic rabu “slave,” rabota “servitude” (see robot), Gothic arbja, German erbe, Old English ierfa “heir,” Old High German arabeit, German Arbeit “work,” Old Frisian arbed, Old English earfoð “hardship, suffering, trouble”). As an adjective from late 15c.

The Little Orphan Annie U.S. newspaper comic strip created by Harold Gray (1894-1968) debuted in 1924 in the New York “Daily News.” Earlier it was the name (as Little Orphant Annie) of the character in James Whitcomb Riley’s 1885 poem, originally titled “Elf Child”:

LITTLE Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,

An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,

An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,

An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;

An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,

We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun

A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,

An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you

Ef you





Christmas Blessings


View from my apartment today

To use those alliterative clichés much loved by TV weather people, it’s a wet and windy, misty and murky Christmas Eve. No hope of snow down here in the valley, which is probably just as well for the motorists. But it’s cosy indoors with my candles lit and adding to the peaceful atmosphere, and as I don’t have to go out today I’m quite content to sit in contemplative mood in my chair listening to traditional carols. I shall make another batch of mince pies to take to the family gathering tomorrow, and thanks to the Internet, I shall also be able to watch and listen to BBC1’s Carols from King’s this evening, a nostalgic touch to round the day off.

In Germanic countries, Christmas Eve is the main day of celebration so some of my friends were quite concerned to hear that I would be alone on this important occasion. I can reassure them that this is really not a problem for me, quite the contrary in fact.

We had a small congregation in our little international church fellowship yesterday, but everyone joined in heartily and once again I was very grateful for this tiny community where the Christmas spirit is still hale and hearty. We actually had a real straw-filled manger, brought in as a visual prop by our preacher who lives in an old farm house and found it in the barn. He also has four young children, and I was amused after the service to see that the youngest had honoured the occasion by laying her teddy bear to rest there. Another wry smile at the juxtaposition of lantern and tablet on our worship leader’s music stand!



I am grateful for the opportunity last week to visit my Dear Middle Granddaughter and her Darling Husband near Geneva. I lived in that city for 8 years in the seventies, and though much has changed (it has expanded beyond belief) I still found much to be the same. The day I arrived was sunny and bright so I took a few photos, and it didn’t matter that it rained the rest of the time as the main purpose of the visit was to see my loved ones and inspect their new home. Yes, the home passed my inspection with flying colours of course! And we had a really lovely time together (at least, in my view – they may have been glad to drop me off again on Friday!)


Proof I was in Geneva – the lake and jet d’eau


Sunrise over the Jura  – view from DMG’s window

We shall meet up again tomorrow for the Big Family Turkey Dinner at my Dear Eldest Granddaughter’s house. The main reason for this is that having four children, she also has the biggest house and can get us all round the table, plus the kids can play happily in their own familiar environment. The meal will be a joint effort, with contributions from all of us so that takes some of the burden from her shoulders.

My very best Christmas wishes to all my readers, especially those who don’t have a family around them at this time. May the love, peace and joy of Christmas enfold you.

More About The Hardwicks

John Holdsworth / Hardwick 1815-1875

My Great-Great-Grandfather 

Was this a man with a chip on his shoulder? Right from the start, he was marked: “Spurious son of Mary Holdsworth” it says on his baptismal record of 10 May 1815, and although his parents married and had eleven more children in their 40 years together, he was branded as “he being illegitimate” on his marriage certificate on 9 June 1851.

I wonder about his relationship with his parents, brothers and sisters. How did he feel in his early years? Did he suffer his illegitimacy as a stigma? He presumably spent his first three years alone with his mother and grandparents, so her marriage and the arrival of his first siblings may well have put his nose out of joint. Did he resent his situation?  Feel angry with his father? Is that why he used the name Houldsworth rather than Hardwick? How was he affected by the death of his grandparents and two siblings, all within 3 months, when he was eleven? And then the loss of three more little siblings during his teens?

The 1841 census shows him as a 25-year-old living at home, an agricultural labourer like his father, helping support the hungry mouths of his younger brothers and sisters. The Hardwicks’ home stood between those of his mother Mary’s 70-year-old Uncle Henry Holdsworth, a framework knitter like many others in the village of Heath, and her brother John Holdsworth, 5 years older than Mary. Did our John identify more with his Holdsworth relatives than with his Hardwick family? Although he had obviously been acknowledged as a Hardwick like the rest of his family, in his adult life he preferred to call himself Houldsworth which is the name used for all the entries in his family Bible and in all official documents, right to the end of his life.

He didn’t marry until his mid thirties, and his wife Elizabeth Moody was 12 years younger than he was, only 23 at the time of their wedding on 9 June 1851 at the Church of St Stephen’s, Woodville, Ashby de la Zouch. They lived in Common Newbold. Their first child, a little girl named Frances, was born almost exactly a year later on 7 June 1852. Sadly, she died 9 months later in March 1853.

Was there some consolation in discovering that Elizabeth was expecting another child? Alas, death struck yet again. The new baby, another little girl born on 8 November 1853, survived but her mother died just a few days later and was buried on 18 November 1853 at Holy Trinity Church, Chesterfield. John named his new little daughter Elizabeth, in memory of his wife.

What did he do then, a bereaved widower with a tiny baby on his hands? I doubt if he turned to his mother-in-law, as she herself died in 1855. His parents and many of his relatives were still in Heath, so did he go back to his parents’ house?

There’s a gap of 15 years from November 1853 to August 1868 where I can find no information as to the whereabouts of John or his daughter. When his father was killed in 1859 John may have returned to help his mother out as his other brothers and sisters were now all married and had their own families to care for, but I have no way of finding this out.

The 1861 census ought to give some indication, but so far we haven’t been able to find John, Elizabeth or Mary anywhere. Perhaps they were together somewhere? They weren’t in Heath, although they must have gone back there at some point because John Houldsworth reported his mother’s death, at which he was present. Also, 16-year-old Elizabeth Hardwick was a witness at the wedding of her friend Jane Probert in Heath on 19 December 1869.

A 55-year-old John Hardwick is recorded as resident in Heath in the 1871 census, but this may not be our man who called himself Houldsworth to the last: the first entry for the year 1875 in Heath parish register is the record of John Houldsworth’s burial on 15 February.


I have so many questions.

Where did Elizabeth grow up?

Did John Houldsworth return to Heath after his wife died leaving his baby daughter Elizabeth with one of his siblings?  She seems to have preferred to be called Hardwick rather than Houldsworth, although Houldsworth is the name she was registered under at birth, so that could indicate that as she grew up she felt closer to her Hardwick relatives. However, she didn’t show up among the Hardwick siblings and their families (Elizabeth, William, Joseph, Henry George, Hannah) in the 1861 census and by the time of the 1871 census she was married.

Now an interesting discovery:

In the 1871 census, John Houldsworth’s youngest sister Hannah née Hardwick, with her husband Charles Fletcher and their three daughters Mary, Jemima Lucy, and Sarah, are lodgers in the home of a young couple called Isaiah and Jane Jones and their baby Harriet. These names rang a bell for me. Isaiah Jones was born in Gornal, Staffs, and his wife Jane in Oswestry, North Wales. None other than Jane Probert, sister of Joseph Probert who married Elizabeth Hardwick in February 1871. (You can find out more about Elizabeth, my father’s grandmother, here and here

Is this a clue to Elizabeth’s whereabouts in the 1860’s?

How did the Fletchers and the Joneses meet?

Did Elizabeth introduce her Aunt Hannah to her friend and sister-in-law Jane?

Or were Hannah and Jane friends before she married Isaiah, and did Hannah introduce Elizabeth to Jane?

I suppose I shall never know – how frustrating!