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Autobiography of Henry O. Little, Sr.


The Littles originally came from the Scottish Highlands of Fifeshire not far from Edinburough. In Ireland, the catholics and protestants have always had the habit of massacring each other. In 1653 the catholics pulled off a massive massacre with torture disposing of about 150,000 protestants. At that time, Cromwell was a dictator in London. England was going through what is now called their civil war. James I, son of Mary Queen of Scots, became king on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. He and his son Charles I didn't believe in Parliament and tried to run the country with the idea of their having the "divine right of kings" they didn't bother with parliament. They were devout catholics.

Cromwell was a puritan. He was a farmer from northern England who was a member of the House of Commons. He and his followers in parliament decided to arrest King Charles I. They had a trial in Westminster Hall, a remarkable building beside the House of Parliament. The hall was built by William Rufus, that is William II, the son of William the Conqueror in 1090. It is 250 feet long, 70 feet wide with without a central support and can seat 2000 people and has very good acoustics. Here they tried poor Charles I. On a cold morning on January 30, 1649, in front of a big platform the banqueting hall in Whitehall they had his head chopped off so a large crowd could watch.

Charles' eldest son was Bonnie Prince Charlie, age 19. Two years later in 1651 he raised an army of Loyalists and others but was unable to defeat Cromwell at Worcester. After the battle, Cromwell and his men scoured the country looking for him. For the first two days he lived and slept in big Oak tree near Worcester with one of his loyal friends. Cromwell's men were looking up into the trees but missed him. That tree is still called the "royal oak". Charlie was finally able to escape to France. In France, he still had to keep hiding from Cromwell. Although he was the first cousin of Louis XIV the King of France, he had very little money. During the nine years that he was there he fathered fourteen children from seven of his girlfriends. Hence, he is known to us a Bonnie Prince Charlie.

On hearing of the massacres in Ireland, Cromwell decided to apply the final solution. That is, he decided to kill all of the catholics in Ireland. He proceeded working from the north. He managed to dispose of nearly all catholics in that part of Ireland that is now known as Ulster (the six northern counties). His purpose was to populate Ireland with protestant immigrants from England and Scotland. To a large extent he succeeded. At present there are one million presbyterians and a half a million catholics.

For some reason Cromwell evidently had to hurry back to England so the destruction of catholics stopped. The six counties in the north are predominantly protestant and the twenty six counties in the south (now called the Republic of Ireland) are predominantly catholic. The Irish Republican Army think that by terror and massacring that they can persuade the British to give up Ulster. They are having a bit of difficulty. In fact, the British government keeps thousands of their soldiers stationed there to protect the half million catholics because it would be very bad for their health if the one million protestants decided to eliminate them.

Cromwell died in 1658 and his son Richard took over. He was, however, entirely unable to manage the job so the British Parliament called Prince Charlie to come home from France and he was restored and made king in 1660.

In Ulster, when Cromwell had disposed of an unfortunate catholic he was usually unable to find a puritan to take over his farm. In that case he was willing to accept a fellow if he called himself a presbyterian. Presbyterians from Scotland and puritans from England both were followers of John Calvin, a leading protestant reformer from Switzerland. A certain Jimmy Little from Fifeshire in Scotland acquired land in this manner.

That branch of the Littles had always named their eldest son James without a middle name and after a couple of hundred years, the direct descendant of that Jimmy Little was Jimmy the sixth and he lived in Belfast. In the village in County Down where they came from a large proportion of the people still have the name Little. James the sixth went to fight in the Crimean War (1854- 56). His brother Bill was one of the two hundred survivors of the famous charge of the light brigade. When the war was over, James Little was transferred to Gibraltar where my father, James the seventh, was born. They were transferred to Barbados and then to Halifax. Finally he retired from the army and returned to Belfast. He died when my father was twelve.

Being the oldest son, my father got a job as clerk at Sinclair's hog packing factory probably for five or six shillings per week. He worked there as a clerk for seventeen years. By that time he had acquired his Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College in Dublin, which is about equal in stature to Oxford and Cambridge. On six shillings a week you don't go to college, and he didn't. In fact, nobody needs to go to college if they want to read. He just read everything that they teach in college and hired tutors. He had a remarkable brain. He also studied theology and was ordained a presbyterian minister in University Road Presbyterian Church in Belfast. On February 8, 1896 he married my mother, Emily Marie Reynolds. He was about 31 years old at the time.

After my brother James the eighth had died at eleven days old, my parents went to California as missionaries. My father went first, and the following year, my mother sailed to Halifax and took the train to Vancouver and met my father there and they took ship down to San Francisco where my father studied some theology at Berkeley College across the bay and became the minister in the Village of Concord, now with 150,000 people.

My mother's father was an orthopedic surgeon in Liverpool by the name of John Boyd Reynolds. He was a partner of Hugh Owen Thomas. Dr. Thomas is considered to be the father of orthopedic surgery for the world. My mother was born in Liverpool on March 2, 1864. Her mother's maiden name was Emily Marie Mappin. The Mappin family were Huguenots that had escaped from France in 1641. They had brought the secrets of making knives and forks with them to their new home in Sheffield. Prior to that even the best of people ate with their fingers. That is why finger bowls became popular because people were continually wiping the grease off of their hands and wiping them on napkins. The Mappins developed the knife and fork industry in Sheffield making it the world center for cutlery. The Mappins were also in the steel business.

In 1845 many thousands of people were dying of starvation in Ireland because the potatoes had a blight that year. Life in Ireland, at that time, depended on being able to get potatoes. My grandfather, Dr. John Boyd Reynolds, at the age of 20, sailed across to Liverpool like almost a million other Irish did at that time, causing Liverpool be referred to as the "capitol of Ireland".

My grandfather was born and grew up in Dublin Ireland. He had learned how to be a bone setter and surgical instrument maker from his father, James Reynolds. His Elder brother James had died in his youth. His cousins in Dublin used to tell me that my grandfather had been a cousin Viscount Bingham, the Earl of Lucan. The Bingham family, I presume, still own County Mayo in the west of Ireland. In the Crimean War, Lord Lucan was the officer in charge of the famous light brigade.

After traveling to Liverpool he met Dr. Hugh Owen Thomas, a Welsh bone setter who had acquired an M.D. degree in Edinburgh, his bone setting brothers and father having chipped in to pay the expenses for the two year course.

At that time the world's only commercial railroad ran from Liverpool to Manchester. It had been built in 1830 by the famous engineer named Brunell. My grandfather didn't have the means to afford the fare on the railroad so he had to walk the 40 miles to Manchester. On the way a bargee, with his horse drawn barge, let him ride for a while in the barge. In Manchester he didn't find anything interesting so he walked south to Birmingham. There he called on a man named John Mappin who dealt in surgical instruments hoping that he could get a job. He was told that there was no work for him. As he stood interviewing on the front porch, the gentleman's daughter, age eighteen, was standing in the hall. She overheard the conversation and was able to get a look at the young man, my grandfather. John Mappin had thirteen children in all. His daughter in the hallway was rather frustrated at the time since she and her sister had arranged to have a double wedding with two young doctors. Her young doctor, however, had recently left this world due to an attack of small pox. She thought John Reynolds did not look too bad so as he was walking away, she climbed out of a window and ran after him. She caught up with him and they both walked back to Liverpool and had eighteen children.

My grandfather become became the partner in orthopedic surgery of Dr. Hugh Owen Thomas. Dr. Thomas is considered to be the father of modern orthopedic surgery. They had quite an active practice.

My grandmother, Emily Mappin, married my grandfather, Dr. Reynolds in 1846. After their marriage my grandparents had eighteen children. None of whom died in infancy, but three died in one day from diptharetic scarlet fever, as they called it.

Their first child was uncle Bill who married a girl with a little money at the age of twenty and lived in Berkenhead, one of the residential suburbs across the Mersey from Liverpool. After eight years they had been blessed with seven sons and a daughter. My grandparents were married in 1846. The three children that they lost died on the fourth of February, a day that remained a day of sadness until she herself died on the fourth of February in 1881.

My mother, who was born March 2, 1964 also continued to look upon the fourth of February as the black day of the year. Even more so after we lost my little brother Fred on the fourth of February, 1909.

In 1882, I believe, My grandfather married a widow of Scottish decent whose maiden name was Polly McEcheran. She had been married for twenty years and had no children. She promptly increased the number of my grandfather's children to twenty-two by adding Aunt Edith, Uncle Charlie, Aunt Alice, and Uncle Fred. After seven years in general practice in Manitoba and the prairie in Saskatchewan and deciding to study eyes in England, I, with my mother, sailed to Liverpool where we docked at the landing stage on the 22nd of September, 1936. Welcoming us were mother's sister Jessie, a year younger, her brother John, a bachelor who was older, and his brother Bob, who lived in Manchester, plus Uncle Charlie. Also there were Aunt Jessie's daughter, Mrs. Donald McDonald. Uncle Fred had died that year in Alberta from blood poisoning that he had acquired from picking at an ingrown toe nail, leaving an only child, twelve year old Vincent.

My mother and I stayed at a residential hotel across the Mersey in Wallasey, near to where Uncle Charlie lived. Wallasey, like Birkenhead, was one of the bedroom towns across the Mersey from Liverpool. While going for a walk in the evening with Pauline, Charlie's sixteen year old daughter, she stopped to talk to a girl. When I asked her who her friend was she said "oh, she's me cousin" in a typical Lancashire accent. And I said "well if she's your cousin she must be mine too". And she said "that's right". "Well how come she is your cousin", I asked. "I don't know, she's just me cousin". So her father Charlie informed me that young lady was a descendent of Uncle Bill, married at least eighty eight or eighty nine years previously. This young lady apparently was a fifth generation descendent Uncle Bill's second son Sydney. So I remarked to the young lady "I must have quite a number of cousins in Berkinhead" and she answered "rather".

It appears that Uncle Charlie had heard some rumor that my grandfather was not actually the father of that second batch of four children and that their real father one of the men that used to deliver groceries at the back door of the house where the children lived.

It would have been inconvenient for my grandfather to have some of his many children invading the rooms so he had purchased the house next door where the family lived and the children very seldom saw their parents. So Charlie began to consider himself and his living brother and two sisters as being illegitimate. As a result, he would have nothing to do with any of Uncle Bill's descendants.

In April of 1985 when I was invited to present a paper at the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom in Yorkshire, my cousin Jimmy from Plymouth drove us up through Liverpool. We met Pauline whom I hadn't seen for fifty years. She had two grown sons in their forties and was still living in Wallasey across the river from Liverpool. They call their home the Orchard. To substantiate the title, in their back yard paved with flat stones, they nurtured and maintained a little apple tree about four feet high plus a couple of other small fruit trees. Pauline arranged for Jimmy, his wife Edna, and a friend to stay at a small local hotel.

In the morning, going through the wonderful Mersey tunnel into Liverpool, we headed west to Manchester but circled north of the city, since it was such a vast area, and drove on to Sheffield. As I mentioned, my grandmother's father was John Mappin. The Mappin family originally migrated from France as Huguenots and escaped the catholics to England in the year 1641. That was in the reign of Charles I, before he had his head chopped off.

The Mappins had brought with them the secrets of making table knives and forks, especially forks. Prior to that, no matter how grand a dinner you had, whether he was the duke or the king's uncle, you used your fingers to eat. That is why finger bowls and table napkins were used, so that you could always be rinsing off your fingers. As a result, Sheffield became the cutlery and knife and fork center of the world.

When I was in Sheffield, I was in hopes of meeting someone who could tell me something about the family, but my cousin Jimmy wasn't interested so we met a friend of his there and had a very fine dinner in the Trust House Forte Hotel. It seems that a fellow named Forte had come over from France at about the time that I first went to Liverpool and started a little ice cream store but at the present time he owns and operates 800 of the largest hotels in the world plus a lot of smaller places such as the Little Chef Restaurants situated along various back roads (not the big highways).

Jimmy Reynolds arranged for us to stay in a very nice hotel but I failed to meet anyone connected with the Mappins. The next day we drove up to Harragate in Yorkshire where the ophthalmological convention was being held. It is really a remarkable place. It is the garden center of England and in about 1841 it became a spa. When the convention was over, Jimmy drove us back to Plymouth, his home. We very much enjoyed fish dinners at the Little Chef Restaurants on the 400 mile journey.

Jimmy's grandfather (also named Jimmy Reynolds) was the 18th and youngest son of my grandfather and grandmother. When my grandmother died, young Jimmy had to leave home and join the British Navy at the age of 13. He served for twenty one years making his home in Plymouth, in Devonshire where he had one son, Jimmy Jr. Jimmy Jr was a big handsome fellow who became a policeman. He was considered to be the best tenor singer in Devonshire. With his wife Myrtle, they brought Jimmy III into this world in 1934. A couple of years later, Thelma was born.

Being interested in his ancestors, Jimmy (III) went over to Dublin to see what he could discover in the family tree. He found that he was actually Jimmy VIII and not just Jimmy III.

The second world war came on while Jimmy was just five years old. Like many of his neighbors, they acquired a garden plot in two square mile Ganna Park, which was nearby, so that they could grow some food.

Jim is now a big handsome fellow, over six feet, and has several times come to visit us here in Hudson. He plans to return again next spring. His daughter Julia, about twenty-one, is just completing her nurses training in the Exeter Hospital. Joanne is finishing high school, and Jimmy IV (that is Jimmy IX), helps his father in the real estate office where his father appears to be mighty successful judging by the way that he lives. He owns a fifty four foot mahogany hulled cruiser, is a master in the masons, has five or six cars, and when I was there in 1985 he took the whole week off to drive me up to Harrigate in Yorkshire to an eye meeting where I was presenting a paper. He claims to have converted a building next to the lodge hall into a first class restaurant. Jimmy does love to eat. The evening before I left Plymouth in 1985 Jimmy and his wife Edna, and Thelma and her husband Peter had dinner in a small restaurant beside a large picture window looking out over the harbor. Right below the window and across the street was a monument marking the place where the Mayflower had sailed from Plymouth in the year 1620.

One hundred years ago war was considered to be a legitimate outdoor sport. When there was a battle between two nations, other countries would be hovering on the horizon watching, for instance, a sea battle taking place. That evidently was happening when Jimmy's grandfather had a photograph taken in Yokohama Japan while he was in the British Navy. During one sea battle ships from the British, American, and German navies were observing the action from a distance. The German admiral sent a flag message to the British, "what would you do if I cleaned up on that little American navy?" "Try it and see" was the British reply.

Just before leaving Plymouth in 1985 I took the train up to Bristol, about a two hour run on the British Railway. What interested me most was the small size of the diesel locomotives that they used. A little red engine that you could put in a good sized living room. The trains there all travel at an average of 125 miles an hour and exactly on time. Bristol is rather a beautiful city on the south side of the bay with Cardiff in Wales on the other side. The river Avon enters through a very deep gorge in the rocks and over that gorge Brunnel, the amazing engineer, built a bridge. He also at that time, one hundred and fifty years ago, built the Great Western Railway from London to Bristol and the station with a large glass roof is still intact and the name of it is Temple Meads. On leaving Plymouth on the morning of May the third, I took a Dehaveland (made in Canada) jet prop plane carrying about fifty-four passengers. When the plane had reached cruising altitude those four propjet engines made only a very slight hum, almost silent. When one boarded a plane, you just took two or three steps to the rear right into the corridor of the plane whereas in ordinary planes you have to do a long flight of steps or use a snorkel or whatever they call it. London's Heathrow Airport is becoming quite large with four terminals and handles about 38,000,000 passengers a year. I boarded a Boeing 727 for Iceland where during a stopover, I added to my collection of Icelandic woolen sweaters, which is a special kind of wool. From Reykjavik I boarded a DC-8 for Kennedy Airport. From where the limousine took me up the west side of the Hudson to Catskill where my daughter picked me up and drove me home.