Tagged with: America

Posts (9)

  1. This season, between September to December, we will be embarking upon a new study entitled Americana.

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  2. From this week, the BBC is embarking on a celebration of cinema music.

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  3. Last October I received a request for help while appearing on BBC Radio Wales. It read: "How would you go about tracing an American GI from World War Two?"

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  4. General Dwight D Eisenhower was not, generally, regarded as a great soldier. But he was the supreme diplomat.

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  5. Way back in 2002, when I started working on BBC Radio Wales' Look Up Your Genes family history series, we used to tour the country with our roadshow. One of our first venues was in Caernarvon and one of the first full family history stories that I had the pleasure of researching was that of local man Harold Lowe. Known as Commander Harold G Lowe R.N.R at the time of his death in 1944, he was probably better known as 5th Mate HG Lowe, survivor of the Titanic. But to others he was simply "the one who went back". Archives often contain unusual and poignant documents, but they are not the only source of information and this employment card along with a photograph of Harold Lowe was located on a CD titled Titanic - The True Story. Vital to my search was the fact that it also confirms his date of birth. The third of seven children, Harold Godfrey Lowe was born on 21 November 1882 at his home Bryn Lupus, Llanrhos in Conway. Since this meant he was missing from the 1881 census it was necessary to purchase his birth certificate to confirm his parents' names. George Edward Lowe and Emma Harriett Quick had married in 1877 in her home town of Liverpool. Harold's decision to go to sea was perhaps due to his geographical location rather that one based on family tradition, since his father was a jeweller and goldsmith, as were as his grandfather George Lowe and his great-grandfather Edward Lowe who originated from Chester. By the time of the 1891 census the eight-year-old Harold and his family had moved to the Castle Hotel in Llanddanwg, Merionethshire, where his father's occupation is listed as "landscape and cattle painter" and his mother as the hotel manageress. Just 12 months before that fateful night in April 1912, Harold can be found on the 1911 census listed as a boarder at 7 College View, Bootle at the age of 27, where his occupation is given as Master Mariner. Working for the BBC means that I sometimes gain access to the most unusual places, and the time I spent with the original Titanic documents was the most treasured. Behind the scenes at the National Archives at Kew, in a small room with two nominated members of staff to act as security, we were very privileged to be able to turn the pages created by the White Star staff in the chaotic aftermath of the disaster. I remember the vast lists of the names of the missing and the survivors scribbled in pencil, with many mistakes crossed through and roughly erased. This simple list projected a real sense of the urgent need to know who was alive and who had died. By a cruel twist of coincidence, while Harold famously survived the sinking of the Titanic, two of his brothers tragically drowned in separate incidents. According to details published in his obituary in the North Wales Weekly News on 12 May 1944 it seems young Harold also had a lucky escape while out punting with his father. When their punt capsized at Barmouth he had to swim to shore in his boots. Harold was linked to various other deeds of bravery during his naval service; one that stands out is of Harold jumping overboard to rescue a man while suffering from a poisoned arm himself. Naturally, this type of detail is much more valued than any amount of facts obtained from a death certificate or will. Crucially, the obituary also provided the names of the chief mourners. These included his widow Ellen and details of his two children Florence and Harold, who was abroad serving in India but whose fiancée, Miss Marguerite Davies, attended on his behalf. The obituary ends with the simple words "his coffin was draped with the Union Jack. On it were Commander Lowe's hat, medals and sword". Read Titanic: Victims from Wales of 1912 liner tragedy on BBC Wales News. View the rise and fall of the Titanic animated timeline on the BBC History website. Cat Whiteaway joins Chris Evans and Alex Jones on The One Show tonight, Friday 13 April, 7pm, BBC One.

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  6. This weekend sees the 100th anniversary of one of the most tragic and dramatic of all sea disasters, the loss of the White Star liner RMS Titanic. The story, of course, is well known. On the night of 14/15 April 1912, the Titanic was on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic, ploughing ...

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  7. Say the words "American gangster" and your mind invariably turns to criminals like Al Capone, Pretty Boy Floyd or John Dillinger. But one of the most successful of all gangsters - perhaps because he lived to a ripe old age - was actually a man of Welsh descent. His real name was Llewellyn Morris Humphreys and for many years, under the assumed name or nickname of Murray the Hump, he was one of the most powerful men in the whole Chicago underworld. Murray the Hump's parents came from Carno, a few miles outside Newtown, having been married in the Methodist chapel at Llanidloes. However, the final years of the nineteenth century were difficult for the small Welsh farming community and the young couple found it hard to make a living on their isolated hilltop farm. As a result they decided to emigrate to America in the hope of "making it big" in the New World. Their son, Llewellyn Morris Humphreys, was born in their first American home on North Street, Chicago in the year 1899. Conditions in Chicago were not much better than Carno and by the age of seven young Llewellyn had quit school and was making a living selling newspapers on the street corners. It was a rough and dangerous existence in a city where the newspaper sellers - and even the staff of the papers - fought with fists and baseball bats for the best pitches. Luckily, Llewellyn found himself befriended by a local judge, Jack Murray, a man who took something of a benevolent and fatherly interest in the mischievous young boy. He soon adopted the judge's name, Murray, instead of Llewellyn - which was probably just as well because nobody in Chicago could even begin to pronounce his real name anyway. And, of course, it let the other paper sellers know that he had powerful "protection." Murray the Hump, as he became known because of his fondness for wearing fashionable camel-hair coats, quickly moved on, out of newspaper selling, into the world of gangsters and hit men. To begin with he worked as a hired gun - one of his early victims was apparently Capone's arch enemy Roger Touhy, blown apart by a shotgun blast shortly after his release from federal prison. Forging his way up the ladder, Murray the Hump was one of the planners behind the infamous St Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929 when seven members of Bugsy Moran's gang were lined up against the wall of a garage in North Street, the very street where the Hump was born, and machine gunned to death. He was far too clever and too powerful to be involved in the killings himself but his was the hand that guided the machine gunners. After that Murray the Hump was clearly destined for the top. He was the man who, when Prohibition was repealed in 1933, decided to channel the mobsters into the semi-respectable world of running bars, keeping saloons and distributing liquor. He also became involved in controlling the unions and by the early 1950s the mob was making nearly $100,000 dollars a year under his careful and diligent management. The other interests of the mob, prostitution and gambling, the Hump kept to himself. When Al Capone died in 1947 Murray the Hump succeeded him at the head of the organisation. The FBI were clear that the Hump was a violent and vicious gangster but one who always preferred to use his brain rather than the machine gun. He was, they declared, the gangster who introduced money laundering to the mob, investing money from crooked deals in what were otherwise legitimate businesses. He was the man, they said, who was responsible for the introduction of gambling to Las Vegas. Violence was, however, a way of life for Murray the Hump. It is believed that he murdered the husband of his mistresses, stabbing him with an ice pick before divorcing his own wife, a Native American by the name of Mary, and then marrying the younger mistress. Murray the Hump never forgot his Welsh roots, so much so that he had a real desire to see what the country was like. He visited Wales just once, in 1963, travelling to the land of his parents under an assumed name. He never had the chance to come again as, two years later, at the age of 66, he died suddenly at his Chicago home. It was perhaps just as well for the Welsh gangster as the FBI had just issued a warrant for his arrest and with his violent and murderous past beginning to catch up with him he was certainly looking at a long spell behind bars - or maybe even the death penalty. Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login. Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

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  8. During World War Two nearly three million American soldiers and airmen were sent to Britain, most of them arriving in the years 1943 and 1944, prior to the D-Day landings in France. General Dwight Eisenhower arrived in Tenby by train. Wales housed more than its fair share of these exub...

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  9. Five of the first six Presidents of the USA were of Welsh descent and the country has had no fewer than ten Welsh-connected Presidents in all.

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