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Brand: Jane Ainsworth

Keeping Their Beacons Alight

by Jane Ainsworth

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Keeping Their Beacons Alight : The Potter Family of Barnsley and Their Service to Our Country

Jane Ainsworth's second book - Keeping their Beacons Alight:The Potter Family of Barnsley and their Service to Our Country - is a comprehensive family history inspired by the surviving letters and other memorabilia of two young brothers who were killed in action in the First World War. It concentrates on the military service of many of their relations during the first half of the 20th Century. Frank and Eddie Potter, sons of Barnsley Builder Charles Dalton Potter, featured in her first book published by Helion& Company in March 2016: Great Sacrifice: the Old Boys of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School in the First World War.

This memorial book about the 76 men listed on the War Memorial includes a detailed history of Barnsley Grammar School. It received critical acclaim for Jane's meticulous research and use of school records to provide biographies for these well educated young men who were prevented from achieving their full potential. It emphasized their life stories within the context of their families rather than their military experiences.

Keeping Their Beacons Alight has allowed Jane to make full use of her painstaking and tenacious research skills to write the biography of the Potter family, with an emphasis on their military service. She has uncovered an impressive number of relations who joined the Territorial Army before 1914 and who served during the First and Second World Wars in a wide variety of roles. Jane used her genealogical expertise to produce the extended family trees and consulted several relations, who generously shared information and photographs for use in this book; they were fascinated and surprised by many of her findings.

She followed clues wherever they led, spending time searching the internet and going through collections of records to provide background information, such as Barclays Bank, Barnsley Cordwainers' Society and Freemasonry. She used War Diaries and Officer Records from The National Archives as well as visiting Regimental Archives and Museums to flesh out individuals' military service. Barnsley Chronicle provided a wealth of supplementary details.

The Potter family is an extraordinary one with their zealous response to the calls to arms, but Jane hopes that it will encourage others to delve deeply into their family history and reveal hidden gems.

Staff Reviews

This book is, as it says in the dedication at the front, a memorial to four brothers, two of whom died, who fought for their country during the First World War; and not just to them, but to their families and to the place where they lived. Its genesis lay in the research the author did for a previous book on a similar but broader theme, the part played by former pupils of Barnsley Grammar School in that conflict (Great Sacrifice: the Old Boys of Barnsley Grammar School in the First World War). This revealed a substantial cache of letters written by and to members of the Potter family and their relatives and friends at this period, together with photographs. The many photographs reproduced here add greatly to the book. Mrs Ainsworth has done a great deal of research into her subjects. Her findings are presented in discrete portions rather than as a continuous narrative. For a good many readers, therefore, this is likely to be more of a reference book and one that can be dipped into for what it reveals about the Potters and members of their extended family. Those interested in the Great War, in the early 20th century history of Barnsley, or in the history of this particular family, will find this fascinating. If we need reminding, the fact that Eddie Potter was buried in a marked grave in a cemetery that was then 'lost' in subsequent fighting, is a bleak reminder of how devastating the artillery bombardments were (pp. 227-30). For others, it will probably be the insights into the attitudes and social habits of our ancestors, and the different opinions that they held even (or perhaps particularly) at a time of crisis, that will probably be of the greatest interest. Frank Potter, for example, writing from the front to his father in June 1915, was uncharacteristically sharp about his uncle's views, saying "if Uncle George could be out here & see what his wife & family would have to suffer if the Germans landed he would be glad enough to let his sons come & not hold them back instead of other chaps doing it all" (p. 134). Such letters, and the sentiments they contain, are often very touching, and the book is a fitting commemoration of two young men, and others like them, who did not come home. Penny Tucker Friends of the National Archives http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/get-involved/friends.htm Friends of The National Archives