After he retired in 1966 my dad took up family history as a hobby. Things were different then: no internet, no ancestry.com. Rather every scrap of information was the result of hours of work, mainly visiting the register of births, deaths and marriages housed at Somerset House, then St Catherine’s House – though living in SW London made this fairly easy. These records, though, only go back to 1837.
To take the search further back, in June 1975 I accompanied dad for a week’s holiday in Somerset. On his father’s side, the Bryer family could be traced back to Combe Florey, then Cannington near Bridgewater. Whilst staying there we met several distant relatives – I wish I’d kept a journal as 46 years on my memories are very hazy.
One, cousin Nancy Palmer*, lived in Ruscombe House, a rather fine house in the town centre. We also met an elderly couple, George and Elsie Hurley of 8 Gurney Street who produced a picture of the village carpenter’s shop with wagon wheel and part finished coffin amongst the contents. Dad’s grandfather, William, was the village carpenter; his son, my father’s father, George, moved to Bristol and read gas meters for a living; my dad moved to London and became a civil servant, and here I am living in Melbourne.
But back to the main task. We did spend an afternoon at the County Record Office in Bridgewater, but the real interest was in searching through the Cannington parish church baptismal, marriage and death records. There were no shortcuts, rather it was a question of reading through page after page of often barely legible handwriting. Slowly we filled in some gaps in dad’s research but others remained unresolved.
The vicar, Arthur Moss, was very helpful and as a keepsake I bought a copy of his book, ‘The Holy One’. It’s an interesting piece of work: he takes the four Gospels and rearranges them to make one narrative of the life of Jesus.
This was not an original idea: according to Wikipedia the earliest known gospel harmony is the Diatessaron by compiled by one Tatian of Adiabene in the 2nd century which Moss acknowledges as one of his inspirations, the other being William Newcome, Bishop of Ossory who compiled his Greek Diatessaron in 1778. Moss’s work is a translation of this text. It starts with St Luke’s preface and finishes with Jesus’ ascension and John’s epilogue.
Now I look through it for the first time in many years, it’s an beautifully crafted work and I will take time to read it through. My bookshelf apart it has seemingly disappeared without trace. A Google search on “The Holy One” “Arthur Moss” produced nothing of consequence, something that this piece will rectify!
- Nancy (1920-1980) was the daughter of Clifford Bryer (1890-1970) and Mabel Jenkins. Clifford’s father was William Bryer, who was also the father of George Bryer, my father’s father. Elsie (1894-) was a daughter of William, thus Nancy’s aunt.
The Holy One, Arthur R. Moss, pub. Citadel Press, Derby 1971, ISBN 0 85468 512 X