• The Catechism of Pitts

    A HUNDRED YEARS OF AN IRISH FAMILY IN BLACKBURN

  • Illustrated Hardback available from the Waterstones Online Shop

    First edition limited print run

  • New eBook Available

    For a reduced price this eBook is available on Amazon Kindle. This version is text only; without illustrations.

  • About the Book

    The Catechism of Pitts

    When I first began researching my Pitts ancestors on Ancestry.com my main focus was James Pitts V.C. M.S.M. and my great-grandmother Elizabeth Pitts, his first cousin.

     

    James Pitts, Blackburn’s first Victoria Cross recipient is my only relative to have his own Wikipedia page, and to have his likeness grace a memorial statue.

     

    The family story about Jimmy’s gallant stand at Caesar’s Camp on 6 January 1900 involved the propping up of corpses to deceive the Boers, a tale I later realised borrowed heavily from Beau Geste. But perhaps there was some truth in this story?

     

    I began by researching the Boer War years 1899-1902, but my project soon expanded after I discovered that my own great-grandfather Hubert Blakelidge had served in the Second Boer War and at Diyatalawa POW camp in Sri Lanka with the King’s Royal Rifles as a teenager guarding Boer prisoners.

     

    The British Newspaper Archive, and particularly the Lancashire newspapers offered some tantalising hints of family secrets and scandals dating back to the 1830’s.

     

    To respect the privacy of family members I decided not to write about anybody alive today and to end the narrative before the Great Depression of the 1930s.

     

    So here it is:

     

    A history of an Irish immigrant family in Blackburn - the Pitts family - from 1830 to 1930s with 40 pages of illustrations.

     

    PART I covers the trials of the family in Dickensian Blackburn through the Cotton riots of 1878 and to the tail end of the 19th century.

     

    PART II examines the experiences of James Pitts at the Battle of Elandslaagte and the Battle of Caesar's Camp on 6 January 1900 during the Boer War through to his homecoming and marriage.

     

    PART III covers the prelude to World War I, the fragmentation of the family through migration, and their lives and losses during the war period, ending in the 1920’s.

     

    The book is not a novel. It is part historical fiction and part creative non-fiction with an extensive Cast of Characters, References and Notes to help the reader determine the truth from the imagined.

  • About the Author

    C.A.Harper

    C.A. Harper was born in Ghana where she spent the first five years of her life in Tema.

     

    Her parents lived on the same street in Blackburn for many years attending different churches and schools. John Brian Harper went to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (QEGS) and her mother, Patricia went to Notre Dame Convent.

     

    According to family lore, nobody in J.B. Harper’s family had married a Catholic for 300 years. (This is an exaggeration - it was more like 289 years). It caused a bit of a hoo-ha at the time, but everybody had calmed down by the end of the 20th century.

     

    Clare went to schools in Tema, Sheffield, Johannesburg and Cheltenham. She studied African Politics and Journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, before working on the Rand Daily Mail, Cape Times and the Star on various beats.

    She later worked as a tv producer for Tokyo Broadcasting System, meeting President Nelson Mandela at his Soweto home after his release from prison in 1990.

     

    After moving to London in 1994 she spent ten years working for Reuters before deciding to write a book about the Pitts branch of her family, in particular Blackburn’s first Victoria Cross recipient, James Pitts and her great-grandmother Betsy Pitts.

     

    This book is an attempt to explore the lives of her Pitts forebears and set the record right.

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