Young cousins discover their legendary ancestor

Folklore fiddler in the family

Folklore fiddler in the family

First published in News

WHEN two children began tracing their family tree, they had no idea they were related to a mischievous figure in Bolton folklore.

Cousins Caitlin Whittle-Darrock, aged 10, and Jacob Birchall, aged eight, discovered they were descendents by 11 generations of William “Blind Billy” Lonsdale, a famous composer and fiddle player in Bolton during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Born in Ainsworth in 1773, Billy Lonsdale is the first recorded organist at Bolton Parish Church until he was sacked for playing a fiddle jig instead of a hymn during a Sunday service while drunk.

Lonsdale also played with spinning mule inventor Samuel Crompton in the Bolton Orchestra and penned well-known hymns such as All People That On Earth Do Dwell and Awake, My Soul And With The Sun.

Caitlin and Jacob, from Heaton , were encouraged to look up the connection by another Bolton relative, Jimmy McClusky, who had been tracing the family connection for years.

After drawing up their family tree, the pair decided to do more detective work and went to Bolton Museum , where they discovered a portrait of their ancestor.

Their youngsters’ grandmother Alison Power said: “They have always been interested in history and our cousin Jimmy showed them what he had found out.

“When they realised who it was, they just couldn’t believe they were related to somebody actually in the museum.”

The cousins, who attend St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary School, asked the collections assistants to show them sheets of Lonsdale’s music .

Caitlin said: “We drew up our family trees and we could see how we were related all the way back to him on my mum’s side.

“It was really good to see his portrait in the cabinet.”

A museum spokesman said: “Billy Lonsdale became quite a prominent figure in Bolton folklore for his talent as a musician and behaviour as a drinker.

“He is also one of the first disabled Boltonians to be represented in a painting.

“It’s brilliant when local people take such an active interest in their family history and even better that Caitlin and Jacob’s family have done so much research themselves.

“As a museum of local history, we really encourage it.”

Bolton Civic Trust chairman Brian Tetlow said: “It is in our instincts to want to know our roots, and it is commendable these children have done it.”

Comments (1)

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11:25am Sun 9 Sep 12

andyplowe89 says...

Presumably 'The Bolton News' means that he penned tunes for the hymns (now no longer used), rather than the hymns themselves?
Presumably 'The Bolton News' means that he penned tunes for the hymns (now no longer used), rather than the hymns themselves? andyplowe89
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