LOCAL HISTORY SECTION
The Flying Governess
by Sara Lane -
The earliest family connection with the Formby area I can find is a letter from my great grandfather, Thomas Anderson, dated l837, addressed to his sister Janet at the family home, Kilblain House, Greenock. At this time he was a Liverpool merchant and still a bachelor. He married late in life -
My mother was born at Kilblain in 1902 and spent a happy Edwardian childhood at Freshfield. I know it was a happy time, because she loved to talk about it, and I enjoyed looking at the old photographs she kept in a silver box. She would tell me about the people in the pictures and, particularly, stories about what she and her younger sister, Marian, got up to when they were small. They were taken out for walks by their much -
There was one story, however, which I never heard until my mother was into her nineties, shortly before she died. Once, when I was visiting her, she mentioned that there had been a Flying Club at Formby, on the sands, where they used to go with Ger to gaze at early flying machines. One day, she said, a dashing young airman offered to take Ger up for a spin, and she accepted! I think she must have told the children never to tell anyone (I suppose she may have feared she might lose her job) and the children never did tell -
A few years ago, one of my cousins produced two old photographs of Kilblain. We have friends in North Wales whom we visit periodically, and we had a visit due, so we decided to route ourselves via Liverpool, and spend a couple of days there to have a look at the city and explore the Anderson connections.
On Tuesday 24 July we took an early train from London, arriving at Liverpool in the late morning. It was a beautiful day so we checked in at our hotel, ate a sandwich and then took a train out to Freshfield armed with one or two old photographs from the box, and the two pictures of Kilblain, my grand-
So we made our first inquiries at the local post office-
After this thrilling discovery, Joan Rimmer very kindly dropped us off at the red squirrel reservation where we saw several squirrels, their beautiful feathery tails glowing in the evening sunlight. It was so peaceful we could hear the squirrels cracking their pine nuts. Then we walked down through the dunes to the sea. Suddenly I realised that many of the old photographs in the silver box, which I had thought to be holiday pictures, were in fact taken very close to home, since I recognised their backgrounds in the dunes, the beach and the pines. We walked back to Formby along the shore.
Since our return I have been in correspondence with Reg Yorke, who informs me that Kilblain was still known by that name, and unoccupied, in 1925. He has also confirmed that there was indeed a Flying Club on the sands at Freshfield, and that at least three hangars were built there. Reg referred me to Chris Aspin’s DIZZY HEIGHTS; THE STORY OF LANCASHIRE’S FIRST FLYING MEN, and he very kindly sent me a delightful photo (1910) of a group of interested spectators inspecting a biplane on the sands. Standing behind the plane are two little girls and a lady who just might be Janet and Marian Anderson with the intrepid Ger......
We will never forget our wonderful day in Formby, nor will we forget all the kindness and trouble people took to help us find my mother’s old home in an impossibly short time. It is so good to feel we have a link with Formby and I hope we’ll be back one of these days.