Sunday, August 12, 2007

My grandfather's London

On Tuesday, 31 July 2007, I got off the Eurostar at London's Waterloo station and took the Underground to Finsbury Park in North London, where I had made a hotel booking in Seven Sisters Road.

It was only yesterday that I recalled that the name of this ancient park [originally called Fines-bury, because the heart of a slain English crusader named Sir John Fines was brought back from the Holy Land by a soldier and buried there by the knight's two daughters] has become notorious through the existence of the Finsbury Park mosque [now referred to as the North London Central Mosque], in St Thomas's Road, whose imam was Abu Hamza al-Masri, now in jail. The Al Qaeda terrorists Richard "Shoebomber" Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui both attended Finsbury Park mosque.

My grandfather Ernest Skyvington grew up here in the Finsbury Park neighborhood until his departure for Australia, in 1908, at the age of 17. In this photo, he is wearing his school uniform: straw boater hat, Norfolk jacket with a big white Eton collar (celluloid for week-days, starched linen for Sundays), clip-on bow, knee-breeches, woollen stockings and lace-up boots. [Details found in a book written by a man of my grandfather's generation: C H Rolph, London Particulars, Oxford University Press, 1980.]

I left the hotel, armed with my camera, to explore places associated with my grandfather's childhood. I walked across the railway footbridge from Finsbury Park [which existed in my grandfather's time] to reach his school: the Woodstock Road School, now referred to as the Stroud Green Primary School. It probably looks much the same, today, as it did during my grandfather's school days.

I then wandered down to 65 Evershot Road, where my grandfather was born in 1891. Finally, I tried to find the house at 42 Mount Pleasant Road where my grandfather had been living before he left for Australia. However the street names and house numbering have evolved over the last century, and I'm not yet certain that I've found the right house.

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