Choices, choices…

One of the most difficult aspects of writing the book was deciding what information to include and what to leave out. Small facts about someone’s life, the minutiae of their world, can seem fascinating to one person and read like boring detail to another. Many of the gaps in Georgiana’s life were found by locking on to these apparently insignificant things and following their paths back in time. Some of the research stories were included in the book, some got a mention but no detail, but many didn’t make the cuts. This one was reduced to a single sentence in the book and on the Facebook page.

‘Another treasure was her brother George’s ticket for the opening ceremony of the Carlisle Canal in March 1823, just before his tenth birthday.’ (Page 321)

There was more I wanted to tell about this object, saved in her sewing box and handed down through the family. The first few times I saw the ticket I assumed that it was Georgiana’s. I was looking at the photograph more carefully last year and realised that the name is ‘Mr’ and not ‘Miss’. The abbreviation is the common one for ‘George’. The ticket actually belonged to Master George Kennedy. It’s one more clue to the warm affection Georgiana felt for her youngest brother.

The Carlisle Canal was a grand venture intended to boost the economy of Georgiana’s home town by connecting it for the first time to the coast via the Solway Firth. Carlisle was a manufacturing ‘boom town’ and was known for its wool and cotton cambric fabric but the world was changing and industry required faster, much cheaper transport. The canal was quite successful but short lived because it was replaced in the 1850s by an even faster and more efficient way to transport goods: a railway.

I wondered why a journey on the canal was necessary for young George. Why did a child need access to the warehouse? Why was it a day worth remembering with this ticket as a keepsake? In June 2015 I checked the date to see if that was significant in some way.

12 March 1823 was the much-awaited opening day of the canal. George (and possibly Georgiana and the rest of the Kennedy family) joined the huge crowds who attended the magnificent ceremony at the ‘basin’ and the warehouse. This explains why the ticket informs visitors about the best time to arrive if they want to watch the first ships arriving. It must have been the last family outing before Mrs Kennedy removed the whole family to Rugby in Warwickshire, where Georgiana was so unhappy. Perhaps that’s why she treasured this small item enough to keep it safe for the rest of her life.

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