Bernice to Carlisle

I’ve been staying in the UK for more than a month now and with the chance to spend four days in the North of England and Scotland, I travelled up to Cumbria by train to meet my husband Mike there after he had finished work at a conference in Carlisle. We had a long weekend free so we planned to continue the research that Jennifer Gherardi and I had started there when we visited in March 2006. The old county of Cumberland, where Georgiana Molloy lived as a child, forms part of Cumbria now. Carlisle is the ancient market town where she was born. It has a beautiful cathedral that was standing at the heart of a famous abbey long before G was there.

Day One
Arrived at Carlisle late last night and could hardly wait to get to the Cumbria Records Office this morning. Mike is running a conference here so the day has been mine and of course I was there as they opened the doors! The walk through town was interesting – if you just look up above the shop fronts, most of the buildings are still the same as they were in Georgiana’s day and the huge Market Square is still a busy, bustling place. Here it is in 2007.

The staff at the CRO were as helpful and amazing as before – they even knew the reference number for the Kennedy family archive without having to look it up. I was soon poring over Georgiana’s own letters and trying again to read some of the more tricky cross-writing using the magnifying glass I had brought with me from London. There’s something wonderful about opening those old, folded documents just as they were opened by their first, intended reader in the 1820’s.

After three hours I was a bit the worse for wear but something caught my eye. Jennifer and I had seen the seals on the old letters many times, at the CRO last year and on the digital images of them at home in WA. But I noticed that one of the seals was quite intact – usually they break when the letter is opened. I just wondered if I could find out what kind of picture G had chosen for her own special emblem on every letter she sent. I lifted the magnifying glass to the letter and looked carefully. The thrill of discovery – and the feeling of closeness to Georgiana – were both huge. The image on her little red seal is the dove of peace with an olive branch in its mouth. Typical of her. I smiled to myself, all alone in that big, quiet, dusty old room – but then I realised something else that sent a chill down my spine. The image is identical to the logo for JAG Films, Jennifer’s film production company. I wanted to tell her right away so I sent a text then and there from the CRO. It seemed the only thing to do when I wasn’t allowed to shout at the other researchers about what I’d just found!

Here’ a photo but the quality is too poor to see it properly. I’m planning to enlist the help of the CRO to see if they can find a way of getting a better photograph for us so watch this space.

Compare it with this much larger and more macho seal, John Molloy’s I think. I couldn’t quite read the letters on it when I was there – perhaps someone else can go and take another look to find out?

The CRO closed for lunch for an hour so I had to go for a walk in the rain. I’d worked out from some other papers that Georgiana’s parents were living in a place called Abbey Street when G was born so I decided to see if I could find it over lunchtime – being far too excited already to eat. It was certainly a lunch hour to remember. More about that next time!

Bernice Barry

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