A Sound Investment  -  By Rachel Philips


There is a gap in my knowledge with respect to modern-day economics. I have always lived within my means, but have not come to grips with the stock market, TESSAs, PEPs, ISAs and the like. Anything named by an acronym is anathema to me. My savings have simply gone into the bank or building society.

It is therefore unsurprising that I have not accumulated a fortune, though just enough. My house is my own and my needs are small. Indeed, apart from a few god-children who require presents at Christmas and on birthdays, I seldom touch the money I've put away for a rainy day.

That is, until October three years ago, when I received a most interesting letter from someone who shares my surname. He lived in the Province of Manitoba in Canada and was researching his family, using the Internet. By some amazing flook he found my name whilst making inquiries about a distant cousin who is the descendant of his great-great aunt, the only member of his family not to emigrate from these shores. He then found my address by searching the Electoral Roll; so he went to a lot of trouble and his envelope bore a beautiful stamp.

I sent him my reply, assuring him that I am not the cousin he was seeking. My own family came from mining stock and none of them, to my knowledge, had ever had a relation in Canada. Nonetheless, I suggested that there might be a connection, as our surname is so unusual:  'Flisper'. There are no other 'Flispers' in my telephone directory so he, Josiah Flisper, might be a very distant relative of mine.

His second letter raised more questions than it answered. He had always been told, as a child, that his mysterious great-great aunt married a member of Buffalo Bill Cody's troupe, a Native American (or 'Indian' as they were then called), shortly after the Wild West Show visited a small town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, in the year 1889.

He explained that after a highly successful visit to England for Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887, Buffalo Bill toured Europe again, between 1889 and 1892. He thought his great-great aunt's marriage took place in August 1889 in a little place called Muchington, but was unable to find any record of it.

That was when I decided to act. As my local library was, and is still, open only on Mondays and Thursdays, I visited it immediately and booked some time on their computer, just to see whether any 'Indians' had come over with Buffalo Bill. Yes, they had : Ninety-seven of them, together with 10 elk, 5 steers, some 18 buffaloes, 181 horses and a real stagecoach....  Goodness me !

Now, thoroughly interested and quite excited, I decided that I could do a little more research. After all, I had nothing else planned and a trip to the area once known as the 'East Riding' of Yorkshire might be agreeable. I could send Josiah a post card, even if I discovered nothing. Shocked by the price of train fares and anxious to cover expenses such as taxis and a modest hotel, I determined that I should need at least 200.

So, for the first time since depositing my money in the building society, I made a withdrawal :  of 260. That accounted for one-fifth of my entire savings and I felt a little dizzy as the girl piled up the 20-notes in front of me at the counter.

I won't describe my adventures on the train, that it stopped for forty minutes in the middle of nowhere for example before, in fits and starts, pulling into Driffield. On arrival I took a taxi to the Fairview Hotel in Muchington.  Next morning I spoke to the landlady, to see whether she knew where I could find very old marriage records for the area. She said I could try the library, the church or the museum, all of which were fortunately within walking-distance.

The tiny library had very little, as it was a satellite of a larger one in Driffield, 30 miles away. But one of the librarians said that the church dated back to the 15th Century, so would surely have something, and the museum had records of Buffalo Bill's visit. This latter information thrilled me greatly.

To cut a long story short, there were no Flispers in the marriage records for 1889 at the dear little church. I felt deeply disappointed. The museum, however, yielded a little more. Buffalo Bill Cody and his enormous entourage had suffered from the flu whilst visiting Driffield and had therefore stayed longer than planned  --  in fact, quite enough time for a romance to blossom and even a wedding to take place.

I wanted to share my findings with someone. I telephoned Josiah, rather breathless when I heard his voice for the first time.

"Hi, Margaret, I've some information for you too," he said. "The guy she married had the surname 'Spear'. That should make your research easier. And by the way, I'm coming over."  Goodness me !  I thought.

The next day I returned to the church to look at the marriage records again, this time with the assistance of a kindly curate. "Here it is" he suddenly said, pointing to a faded page.  I looked ....    ' Simpson, Margaret  :  married to  : Spear, Flying  :  16th August 1889 '

Flying Spear, the Indian, Margaret Simpson, the great-great aunt.  The right date, the right names.  'Flisper': our own unusual name.   Goodness me !

Josiah and I have been married for 2 years now.  It's heaven.

                                                                               The End