A SOAL in One
Playing a round with Arthur
by Lizzie Love
This article was originally published in the July 2000 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
No, I have not been a naughty girl! I never met Arthur, who died when I was a child. I know almost nothing about him, but he did one small thing that earned him my gratitude when the lucky shot was finally played on a golf-course in Buckinghamshire.
When I teed off four years ago in my attempt to assemble the SOALs of Sussex/Hampshire I tackled them from both ends, so to speak. I compared notes with Bob Sheldon on the IGI and GRO databases, but also wrote to all SOALs on the UK InfoDisk. The response was entirely positive and we traced them back to their roots. Most descended, like me, from Richard SOAL and Sarah BOXALL who married in Harting, Sussex in 1768.
A wandering SOAL
I descend from Richard and Sarah’s youngest son Edward, who wandered away and settled in Gravesend, Kent. We have now identified branches from his brothers, George, William and Richard. The last of these accounts for most SOALs still in the UK, including a branch assembled by Bob Sheldon, headed by George SOAL and Edith CHARMAN.
I have mentioned before that I was ‘mislaid’ by my family, many of whom lost contact when I was five. It was through the Sole Society that we found each other again, starting with my mother’s cousin Dorothy BRUFORD.
Dorothy had collected cuttings bearing the SOAL name and one of these featured a newspaper photograph of signalman George SOAL at the Petworth Box one sunny morning in 1924. I guessed this was the George who had married Edith CHARMAN, and sent copies to several of his scattered grandchildren. They confirmed his identity.
The GRO index also showed a grandson named Graham, but his branch had lost touch and the InfoDisk information was out of date. I put Graham on the back burner and tackled another knotty problem in faraway Gravesend.
The Letchford connection
When my 3xg grandfather Edward SOAL married Sarah LLOYD, they eventually settled in Gravesend. Apart from my 2xg grandfather, William we know little of their descendants.
We do know that their daughter Sarah married Stephen LETCHFORD and moved to Millwall in the London Docklands where Stephen worked as an engineer. His brother was a nurseryman in Lewisham, and I suspect that it was through this connection that William SOAL founded his greengrocery.
I wanted to know more of the LETCHFORDs. My enquiries put me in touch with Bill LETCHFORD, who quickly established that he was nothing to do with us, but continued to share information with me.
Meanwhile, down at the docks …
Stephen LETCHFORD and Sarah SOAL had a son, Arthur, born in 1865. In 1945 when he was eighty, Arthur drew a tree in an exercise-book, detailing his descent from Michael LETCHFORD of Wateringbury, Kent. When Arthur died a few years later his family stowed the tree in a drawer, where it remained for thirty years. At that point someone sent a copy to Bill LETCHFORD. A further eighteen years passed and Bill sent a copy to me.
Bill ruthlessly prunes his paperwork and could not remember who sent the tree, and so far I have not had time to follow it up, but the story had a further twist.
Back at the 19th hole
Bill remarked that it was funny I was researching SOALs because “I play golf with a Graham SOAL” … You WHAT?!!
Unbelievably, Bill and Graham had been playing together for twenty years. They worked for the same firm in different counties, were transferred simultaneously to the Cookham branch, where they met and joined the golf club on the same day.
I suggested that next time they reached the 19th hole, Bill should settle Graham with a glass of the necessary and ask him if his father was Harold and his grandfather George. They were. Bill told me gleefully that Graham had to have another glass of the necessary to contain his excitement.
Of course it would have been nice if Bill and Graham had been distant cousins, but you can’t have everything.
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