How is the Covid-19 Pandemic changing the way people relate?

A young Hong Kong Chinese friend of mine recently published this article on the Cross-Current website  

I find her insights interesting, and hope you will, too. 

Time and Space

In this time of global pandemic, time and space are being handled differently. Because there is no commuting, there is a sudden credit in our time deposit…but our space is also sharply constrained. On one hand, with the “extra time” we have been granted, most of us are spending more time (voluntarily and also involuntarily) with family  both near and far; family is essential to us. On the other hand, because our space is being limited, the intense shared space can cause conflicts.

The limitations on space have also confused the boundaries between work and leisure time, when everything happens in the same house. We commonly experience working even longer hours, when “home is at work” or “work is at home”. The borderline between home and work has become blurred.

In a conference scenario, the “same time, same place” changes in pandemic time from common time and place to one’s own same place and time…the only same thing we all share, is indeed the Zoom screen.

Technologies of Communication

Technology has jumped in as a “saviour” for everyone; without it, we would not know how to stay in contact with those who are not living with us, how to maintain community like church, or how to maintain work efficiency at home. Technologies give a glimpse of hope to those who live alone and those who have never used technology before to stay in touch with others. I truly admire the elderly in my church, who obviously have not used social technology before and do not feel comfortable using it, but still step out of their comfort zone to try the strange technology and remain in good contact with the church community virtually. The generation gap is suddenly pulled closer.

Technology also creates opportunities for those who normally cannot physically join the gathering, but can now join virtually from the other side of the globe.

Expression of Affections

The affection we used to show towards each other was mostly through touching – like a handshake, hugs, slapped shoulders and kisses. In pandemic time, we need to use our body differently to express affection in an alternative way, like waving a “hi”, blowing our kisses or showing a hug gesture from a distance…because we still want to show our affections towards those we love.

This pandemic time has suddenly taken away what we have taken for granted. We used to work in the same office, but because of our lack of willingness to perhaps talk to and care for others – though we were in the same space – we were all alone at our desks. When we are now forced to work separately at home, some of us have realised that cooperation and communication with others is essential and require everyone’s effort and willingness.

Shared Meal

No matter whether it’s in a business or casual context, previously we often shared meals together and considered this time one of fellowship with one another. This is strictly suspended in pandemic time. And we shall all reflect, why has sharing a meal always been such a core part of our social life? How does a shared meal open us up to each other?

Religious Rituals

Christians practise communion together to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and we sing worship songs together; these are our shared embodied experiences. In pandemic time, we do these rituals virtually together, though the communion is not served by others but by oneself; and we cannot hear the others’ singing. The feeling of togetherness is definitely missing. But our shared experiences remind us how it was, and while in the meantime we do it virtually together but alone at home, in our mind, we remember how it should be. Our shared memories bind us as a community and with a hope that we will resume that traditional practice again soon.

Collective Memories

Our collective memories as a nation are getting stronger as we all pay attention to the same news – COVID-19. The government also acts – at least in Western Europe – in a more integrated way. The feeling of unity is suddenly felt much more strongly, as we have a common problem to solve. Though some governments might fail to react to the crisis with integrity, people in our society are helping each other, finding resources and supporting one another to get through the crisis together. COVID-19 is a crisis one cannot solve or fight alone; it is a common battle for us humans to fight against.

By Shuk Ling Chan from the Cultural Influencers Group, May 2020

May 29, 2020



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.


Easter Sunday 2020

Our last evening in Brittany, Easter Saturday 2020 , with a pink coloured sea.
No retouching or photoshopping!

A pain in the lower right abdomen – first thought: appendicitis. Second thought: what, hospital, now, during the corona crisis? Third thought: PLEASE, NO!

After 24 hours, my daughter’s pain was no better but also no worse. After 36 hours, the decision was made. We packed up in record time, she declared she felt well enough to undertake the 12-hour drive back to Switzerland, and – vital factor – although the service stations on the French autoroutes were reduced to a minimum, there would be the opportunity to refuel and use the toilet facilities.

In fact, apart from a few trucks delivering perishables, the autoroutes were virtually deserted. There were checks by a couple of gendarmes as we entered and left the Parisian region, keeping their distance as they examined our papers, and then, agreeing that we represented a special case as my daughter explained that she didn’t want to be a burden on the already over-loaded French medical system, they waved us on.

The Swiss guards at the border were sympathetic, too. Of course if you feel sick, you prefer to be in the Swiss system! Welcome home and a speedy recovery! Never in the history of keeping to the speed limits have any of us managed the trip so quickly: exactly 11 hours from door to door!

Was it the Ibuprofen she had taken that defeated the inflammation, was it being drenched in adrenaline, or was there really nothing wrong? When she finally made it to the GP, the doctor did blood tests, examined her thoroughly, and found nothing of any concern. The pain had gone. Hallelujah!

My only regret was that, having sacrificed cheese, coffee and wine throughout Lent, and looking forward to a splurge on Easter Sunday, I had to continue waiting for all of these until Monday. But then my darling son-in-law (who knows his mama-in-law so well, even if he doesn’t always follow the labyrinthine workings of my mind!) served me a wonderful breakfast as a reward for my patience, followed later by a cheese platter fit for the gods (including Epoisses!). And he is overjoyed to have his wife back, as he was beginning to get rather lonely.

And so here we are, back in Switzerland. We were enjoying our reclusive life in Brittany, but it’s good to be back with the family even if we do have to maintain a distance. I am certainly in a win-win position here: currently staying with “my children” means a very pampered existence for me as well as very pleasant company. Even the dog seems happy – the more the merrier!

I do have something to show for the enforced idleness, however. I finished my big woolly blanket – a family heirloom that will forever be a reminder of the corona crisis. I interpret the bobbles as the virus itself, the lattice pattern as the lockdown, the arrow lines as the national borders – or possibly the “slings and arrow of outrageous fortune” – and the hearts as all the positive side-effects of this pandemic. Much love has been shown, in spite of everything.

And I also completed the transcription of the German monograph about the mill owned by my son-in-law’s Egg ancestors, copied and pasted the photos, and translated it all into English for the benefit of the distant cousin in California who had the foresight to photograph the original. It was the only copy, and has apparently since been lost, so we’ll make the new German version up into a new book for the present owner who will also be very pleased to have it restored to her.  

As far as the Eggs are concerned, the information in this document completes and expands on that already in our possession, so we now know plenty about the family right back to 1500 AD.

My reading programme was interrupted, but I have no regrets about leaving The Compleat Angler behind. It was ideal bedtime reading and put me to sleep within two pages. Here, I have my daughter’s library at my disposal which also includes some of my own books, lent but not yet returned, that I will be able to take home with me.

Still relaxing in a Swiss garden

And finally, the reason why we needed to take my granddaughter’s big VW people mover with us to Brittany in the first place: we have returned with a prize. A large plywood case, packed up in England in September 2018, which for safety reasons will not be opened until I finally get it back to my own apartment. Hopefully, the contents are undamaged. We’ll see. It passed the customs unchallenged though we had our story all pat: this really is a family treasure, the metre-long pike caught by my father in July 1950, stuffed and mounted in a display case: the one that didn’t get away.


WEF is over, Davos and the surrounding villages can go back to “normal”. Tonnes of hot air spouted, millions of dollars spent – much of it on security and “necessary luxuries”. Climate change was a major topic and the invited speakers’ actions spoke much louder than their words. Especially in their choice of transport.

Greta Thunberg wanted to hike there, but was obliged to take the bus. Donald Trump flew to Zurich in Airforce One, then took a helicopter. His wider entourage presumably travelled by road, and as they were too numerous to fit into the accommodation available in Davos, stayed in various luxury hotels within a 50-km radius. This included our own Grand Resort of Bad Ragaz, where their stay was invoiced at just short of half a million US dollars. Who picks up these bills?

How Greta went home, I don’t know. Probably by public transport again. POTUS, however – or POTENTATE? – went back to Zurich airport by road, accompanied by around 50 vehicles including ambulances, police escorts from several Swiss cantons, anti-terror units, defences against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks, and, of course, the press. Naturally, the Autobahn in the direction of Zurich had to be closed for the duration of the convoy’s passage, and who cares what inconvenience that caused. All bridges had to be manned by armed police. Again, who picks up these bills?

Watch this video, and remember that Switzerland is the seventh safest country in the whole world.  

What justification is there for this massive demonstration of this man’s megalomaniac display and utter disregard for his carbon footprint? The epithet that comes to my mind is obscene.

Swissification: Suite but not quite Fin

Ruins of Freudenberg Castle, Bad Ragaz (credit

Up before dawn for six Saturdays running, in order to catch the train and attend the Staatskunde courses – a total of over 15 hours in class plus plenty of extra reading to tax my poor brain – that in itself should qualify me for Swiss citizenship! But no, on completion of this course in December I had to do a written test, an “Aptitude Test” worth a maximum of 70 points (I knew immediately I had lost at least 6 or 7, due to my brain going blank on some very simple questions, but it turned out I had 86% correct) and now in January attend a chatty interview just to make sure I’m worthy of acceptance in this village.

Yes, my friends, I am very pleased and proud that soon I shall to be able to proclaim “i bin Schwyzerin / je suis Suissesse” and I look forward eagerly to holding my ID card and red passport in my hot little hands. There is, of course, another step to go: I have passed the test, and the village elders have put in their recommendation on my behalf, but it will now take until the autumn before the powers that be in Bern will grant me that little red booklet. I confess that I pointed out to my interviewing panel that, given my age, it would be nice to get it before I pop my clogs!

I grumbled about this course beforehand but now I wish all Swiss had to do it and pass this test in order to retain their Swiss citizenship! It‘s an excellent idea, and I’m glad I did it. Having been here for almost half a century, you’d think I’d have known almost everything there is to know about this unique little country, but no, far from it – every single day I discover and learn something new. I’m sorry for all those people born Swiss who haven’t delved into the details of their native land: it’s an enriching experience. And it has increased my admiration for this landlocked island squeezed in among its louder, more notorious neighbours, for keeping its identity and autonomy for so many centuries.

Ask anyone what they know about the history of Switzerland, and most will mention Wilhelm Tell – who is probably mythical – and maybe that famous Swiss neutrality that kept its citizens out of two world wars. “Switzerland has no history,” a French friend once told me very disparagingly. “It’s just one big money-laundering machine.” And there’s the famous quote from Orson Welles about cuckoo clocks.

But look at this place: how, with its multicultural population and its impossible terrain, did it ever come to be a country in its own right, and even more amazingly, how did it manage to stay a united country, with such a strong sense of national identity? Of course it has a history, and a very interesting one at that.

The Swiss survived Julius Caesar, the Habsburgs (who started out Swiss – their family castle is still standing above the Autobahn tunnel in Aargau), Napoleon and Hitler. In earlier times, being strong and tough, young Swiss men were much sought after as mercenaries in foreign armies (including the Vatican’s Swiss Guard). Swiss history is full of bloody clashes between feuding lords and bishops, greedy dukes and earls, with fiefs changing hands every decade. Eventually, these arguments seem to have been settled and common sense allowed to prevail, but events within Switzerland had few international repercussions, so are largely ignored.

Take the story of Switzerland’s nineteenth century civil war, the Sonderbundkrieg. This was the last war on Swiss territory and lasted exactly one month, the month of November 1847 to be precise. 130 fatalities recorded. Then, typically Swiss, a compromise was reached resulting in a new constitution. The general appointed to put down the conservative rebels – and who didn’t want the job and kept turning it down –  was the famous Henri Dufour, who later founded the Red Cross. Somehow, this story encapsulates much of what is typical for Switzerland. I had never heard of it until a few weeks ago, probably because it had no immediate impact outside the country … or did it? Just a few months later, in 1848, most of Europe exploded in revolution …  

So, as I said, I discover something new every day about this country. Today? Well, all along the Rhine are ruins of mediaeval fortresses and our village actually has two. One is up on the mountainside and became home to the Abbot who was the feudal lord of most of the villagers, the other housed the feudal lord of the rest of the village and is on a small hill covered in vineyards nearer the river. This morning I found out not only some of the history of this castle, but also the bare bones of a legend: somewhere in the castle there is imprisoned a beautiful banished damsel, waiting to be rescued by a capable young man who not only gets the girl but also a legendary hidden treasure. Not a particularly original tale, but how exciting to live virtually next door to such a place!

Why hasn’t our Tourist Office exploited this story? Probably because this castle is also used every summer for an open-air rock festival, which attracts masses of young people. Who knows, maybe some of the lads might start trying to locate the mysterious captive and her treasure – and that could lead to vandalism. Or maybe, more mundanely, there are no romantics left.

Incidentally, this castle is called Freudenberg, which means Mount Joyful. At the end of December, I travelled here with my daughter and son-in-law after visiitng Heitertal = Cheerful Valley. My son-in-law’s surname means Happy, my daughter’s middle name is Joy, and their dog is called Merry. Could there be a more felicitous omen?  

The need to forgive

i mentiond in my last post that I had finished translating another book, so this is just to satisfy any curiosity which that may have aroused. If you have been following me for a long time, you may remember that back in 2013, 2015 and 2016 I reported on an African family separated by the war in Rwanda who were finally, after several years, reunited here in Switzerland.

The posts were Perseverance Rewarded, When life becomes a fairy tale, Book launch and Book launch: Postscript.

My friend Josêphine and her husband Désirė described their traumatic experiences and adventures in a book published first in German as Auf der Flucht getrennt which I translated into English under the rather lame title of On The Run (see my blog post Synopsis of On The Run in 2016 – ISBN 978-3-7407-1525-0, available as paperback or Kindle edition from

A few months ago, friends who had spent many years as missionaries in Africa asked me if I would be interested in tackling a book that had just come out in French, with another story from Rwanda. Once again, it’s a Christian testimony by an amazing woman. The title in French is Pourquoi je leur ai pardonnė, and is also available from Amazon (ISBN 978-2-8399-2477-6) for those of you who read French. The autthor, Apollne Dukuzemariya, has also given a TV interview that can be viewed here The English version will hopefully be published later this year. Here’s the synopsis:

Rwanda1994. Pastor’s wife Apolline Dukuzemariya is beaten andg butchered by militia who leave her for dead in front of her children. Physicians doubt she can survive with an open skull and without suitable treatment; her life hangs on a thread, while murderous raids contnue daily even inside the hospital. Despite all odds, she holds onto life.

Eventually, Apolline is able to get to Europe on humanitarian grounds thanks to the intervention of long-time mssionary friends. The long slow healng process allows her opportunity to reflect, read and pray. Today she is able to talk about the inner workings of her soul and spirit that led to this miraculous outcome.She also describes her childhood, her vocation to become a nun that turned out so differently, her marriage and the events that prepared her to face the indescribable. Far from being a chronicle of the genocide, this book is the story of a woman’s spectacular resilience and those who accompanied her on her journey, making her triumph possible. A first-class testimony to the power of forgiveness in a generation that, more than ever, needs reminding of what it means to forgive.


2020: Happy New Year

Giessensee, Bad Ragaz, covered in ice on 1.1.2020

Sorry I’m a day late – maybe even two days late if you are in Australia – but 2020 is such a satisfying kind of number that I just have to wish my readers a really happy and healthy new year.

I’m late because I was hurrying to meet a deadline I had set myself, to finish the translation of a book (that I started in November) by the end of 2019. Actually. I have until Easter for this but I wanted to prove something to myself I suppose, and anyway I was enjoying the work. Sadly, I needed one extra day, so this post got postponed. But the book is finished, all 200 pages, and I have also done the initial proofreading. Time to hand it over to a beta reader now.

I would probably have finished it even earlier if I hadn’t been so obsessed during December by using up all the wool in my stash and crocheting things that nobody really needs – but they all very politely said Thank You Very Much when presented with their handmade scarves, beanies, wrist-warmers and cowls at Christmas.

The only one who showed true enthusiasm was my great-grandson who seized on the bobble-topped beanie and wore it like a crown throughout my visit. Sweet!

It’s been a while since I presented my crochet projects, so here’s a summary:

Back in September, it was my granddaughter’s 13th wedding anniversary for which the gift is traditionally lace but can also be textiles. Their wedding was marked by masses of sunflowers, and so I crocheted a sunflower granny-square blanket for them. To my chagrin, I seem to have squared the circle multiple times. The round sunflower motifs all turned out squarish when linked together, but my granddaughter was very gracious in her acceptance of the blanket.

From the leftovers I made an owl hat and a cowl for my youngest great-granddaughter’s third birthday in early December. Bald for a long time, she does now have hair but I seem to have started a mini-tradition of providing her with hats on her birthday. As she has very blue eyes and I also had some blue wool, she also got a second hat that actually is rather too big for her, but no doubt she’ll grow into it. Again, graciously received.

My next production was a scarf, a Christmas gift to a good friend who has played hostess to me many times over the past years and who has frequently provided me with a comfortable bed and breakfast when I was reluctant to travel home late by public transport.

Another scarf for my eight-year-old great-granddaughter enabled me to use up the remains of the white wool from the sunflower blanket (it’s always very difficult to calculate just how many skeins of each colour will be needed) brightened by a ball of purple that was lurking in the bottom of my bag, and a further skein of white superwash wool came in handy for a white cowl with black edging and matching wristlets – hopefully they will be useful to my granddaughter. I was practising a honeycomb effect stitch, but forgot to take a photo of these.

The rest made a trim on the brown bobble hat seized on by my great-grandson and a snood for my daughter’s cocker spaniel.

A second snood saw the end of some fluffy red wool and a short length of furry white: very Christmassy!

Why does a dog need a snood, you ask? Cockers have long ears that dangle in their food if they eat from a flat dish, so a snood enables these ears to be tucked in tidily and kept clean.  

I might market these, with a jingle:

Don’t dangle your ears in your food
Wear a snood!

Now what else? My neighbour has been very kind and considerate so she deserved recognition, and it took the form of a soft wool cowl. I just hope she isn’t one of those people who can’t bear wool on their skin. But she could also wear this as an Alice-band ear-warmer if she is.

I was myself the beneficiary of my next invention, using up some lovely soft silk-alpaca mix given to me by my daughter a while ago. The problem with this is that it’s a devil to undo – if you make a mistake you can’t easily go back and rectify it, so I was loth to try anything really fancy.

This was probably a good thing in the end. I made myself a plaited (or braided) cowl which turned out to be too big, so then I made a smaller one that fits inside the larger one. There was still enough wool left over to make a hat, which was rather too close-fitting and made my head look like a skull, so I made some extra braids to go around it and then was fortunate enough to find a rabbit-fur pompom at the Christmas market that went perfectly with it. I hesitated to buy real fur, but the lady selling these items assured me – and I believed her – that they were all from domestic rabbits that had been butchered and eaten. So my conscience is clear on that score.

Those were all my pre-Christmas projects. Sitting around quietly on Boxing Day, with my daughter knitting as usual, and having exhausted my own stash, I asked if she had any spare yarn that I could play with. She gave me a skein of mustard wool and I made her a beanie (we bought her a fake fur pompom for that, and again I forgot to take a photo). As we were buying the pompom I also couldn’t resist some quite thick multi-coloured wool that required a size 7 hook, so that too went very fast and I now have a very useful short poncho.

And the very last item is a cable-stitch headband made from a leftover ball of teal-coloured wool.

That, then is my long excuse for being late with my new year greetings. One last photo, taken on 1st January 2020, as proof that we have beavers in our local pond. Most trees near the water are now wearing chicken-wire skirts to protect them. Maybe I could revive the custom of yarn bombing?

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)