The Curse of Carlisle

I lay on the slimy river bank, close to the path where the cows had made deep hoof tracks as they went down to drink. Exhausted, shivering, possibly in shock and sucking in deep gulps of oxygen, then coughing and coughing are my recollections. My hair barrette was found at the rivers edge, had I reached for it where it had slipped from my hair and tumbled into the current? My mother was teaching an older sibling to swim and to her horror saw my little bright colored swim suited bottom summersaulting downriver. She rescued me. I was five and still at this minute of writing I can still feel the panic, the lack of oxygen and paranoia to water that developed. This I shared with my father who wouldn’t leave the shore or go fishing in a boat.

I do not consider myself a superstitious person or given to the believe in curses but maybe just maybe I broke the curse of Carlisle. It has 1069 words and below I quote just one passage. “May the malediction that fell upon all the world, man and beast and all that ever took life, when all were drowned by the flood of Noah, except Noah and his ark, fall upon them and drown them, man and beast and make a realm free of them for their wicked sins.”

This ancient curse, five centuries ago, was cast on the Reiver people to punish them for pillaging. Reiv means to steal. The Reivers were clans who lived along the border of Scotland and England. There was constant upheaval, lands being invaded and pillaged constantly by enemy armies. Clan life, for these gentlemen farmers, became professional cattle rustlers, a fighting man whose second nature was theft, raid, track and ambush. They became gangsters who profected the racket of protection way before the Chicago mafia. With their reckless thieving and violence keeping the peace was a hopeless task and corruption resulted.

Between the borders was a no man land 20 miles long and 8 miles wide. The clans who lived there could switch political allegiances and could be English at its pleasure or Scottish at will. Scot pillaged Scot, Englishmen robbed Englishman. Feuds were deadly between families. Here developed the word, “blackmayle”. Blackmail was paid to a powerful Reiver and in return the farmer was left alone and protected from other Reivers.

In 1525 the Reivers were such a nuisance that the Archbishop Gavin Dunbar of Glasgow put the Curse of Carlisle on all of the Reivers of the borderlands. He didn’t leave much to the imagination as he cursed the hairs of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without, and anything for their sustenance and welfare. It is too bad that I didn’t write of my experience to Carlisle and tell them the curse had been lifted when I survived! The City of Carlisle had all 1069 words of the curse inscribed and sculpted on a granite boulder and called it “Cursing Stone”, in 2001. Misfortune then plagued the city, livestock herds on the border with Scotland were wiped out by foot and mouth disease, there was a devastating flood, factories closed, a baby held by his mother had his throat slashed, the man who created the project died. The man who opposed the project died The stone was created to attract tourists to the sleepy town of Carlisle, England, but as a believer in the curse says softly “that when Dunbar laid the curse he did it in absolute sincerity. He wanted harm to come to the Reivers. But since the stone came, lives have been lost, destroyed and put into turmoil”. The town voted to smash the stone into pieces but today it sits innocently in a gloomy underpass. The morbid and curious touch it still.

It was not until King James VI of Scotland also became the ruler of England in 1603 that the Borders raiding was finally resolved. The King put an end to most of the criminal activity by executing or deporting any offender.

It was here in Carlisle, Cumberland, England that my great grandfather, John Francis Faulkner Waddell was born on March 11, 1854, his father David, 35 (found in a previous blog How a Harness Maker Came to Canada) and his mother, Sarah Holliday, was 28. John lived here just briefly, with his step brother Thomas Crosswaith Waddell and Eliza Jane Waddell and sister Mary Alexence 6 years older than himself. By the time John was a toddler, he had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was growing up in Napanee, Ontario. Sadness must have gripped the family as a child simply registered as E Waddell died in 1856 but John was surrounded by female siblings with Laura Ann born Dec 15, 1858, Sarah Helena on Aug 24, 1865 and Edith Gertrude October 4, 1867. By the time John was 17, Thomas and Eliza were married and at home the girls aged from 22 to 3 were his companions. He was not listed as attending school as were Laura and Lena so probably already learning to learn the leather trade. The house with 10 in it would have been crowded with 3 more in the mix: a Scottish lad James Murray, a harness maker, Charles Gunsolus, a German age 18 and James Halister, German age 14. All listed as Weslyan Methodist’s.

John was 24 and had wandered 75 miles down to Perth, Ontario where he wed Maggie Scott, 18 on September 25, 1878. Maggie was a Presbyterian, born in 1860 at Morris, Huron County, when it was still called Upper Canada. She grew up among 5 brothers and 2 sisters of Scottish background with a father who was a carpenter. The couple after marriage resided in Kingston City, Frontenac Ward. 11 months later Maggie labored and delivered a son named after his father, John P Waddell on August 19, 1879. Little Johnny was not to remain in her arms for very long dying within the year. Oh such sadness for the family as Maggie started a chronic cough, fever, night sweats and great weigh loss. On December 8, 1881 John lost his young wife of consumption or tuberculosis.

John Francis Waddell 1854-1910

Did John think about jumping on the Canadian Pacific Railroad which was under construction in Kingston, Ontario, in 1881? The harness shop and the funeral parlor would have been on the same street, Princess Street, Kingston, Ontario. It wasn’t far for John to go a courting. Instead of jumping on that train John three years later married my great grandmother Eliza Jane Reed. (note spelling wrong) on marriage certificate. His father listed as D A Waddell and mother Sarah H??Ileda Waddell. The wedding took place April 30, 1884 at Frontenac, Ontario. Her last name was actually spelled Reid but I’m thinking people just wrote down what they heard rather than checking records?

His father, David, was a successful harness maker, called the old Kingstonian when his daughter, Eliza Jane drowned after walking off the wharf in 1889. John continued in the harness industry. The Reid family were successful as undertaker and Embalmer, which expanded into funeral caskets and building the hearses. If one were to go back and read the last blog about Eliza Jane Waddell Reed drowning it is not surprising to read that the order was given to R. Reid, undertaker, to take charge of the remains. They were put in an ambulance and taken to Reid’s morgue.

Elizabeth Jane otherwise known as Ida grew up in large family: Her elder brother Robert James Reid would take over the family business, Joseph William and Ida twins born 1861, then Georgina Alma, Catherine, Florence, Samuel Franklin, Francis Caldwell, Richard L, Edith, Ethel Christina, and Frederick Charles listed as belonging to the Church of England.

James Reid and Christina Conklin Reid Family

In the next 10 years John Francis Waddell and Elizabeth Jane or Ida had 6 children: Florence Gertrude Feb 10, 1886 , Ida Olive Nov 9, 1886, Gladess (Gladys) Christena Sep 9,1889 , my grandfather Gordon Reid Sept 3, 1891, Alma May 18, 1894 and Fern Feb 9, 1897 at Kingston, Frontenac, Ontario.

So what happened after this is rather a mystery. John Francis Waddell disappeared! Why did he walk or run away from his family? Did he just finally jump on that train heading west? As a child I was told perhaps he joined the circus? At the age of 46 he is still with his family, a harness maker fully employed 12 months of the year, could read and write, religion Church of England and then poof, he disappears after the 1901 Census. Eliza Jane raises the children with the help of her family. Ida receives notification and a paperclipping of his death in 1910 stating that he drowned in British Columbia. John was 56 years old. And when I saw this notification and the newspaper clipping of the drowning of his sister Eliza Jane, my own near death water experience, my father’s aversion to water, is it just my imagination or does the Curse of Carlisle exist for generations and I conquered it? You decide!

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