The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

A little bit of Ayres family history

“Did he ever mention the idea of suicide?” asked the coroner.

“All the time until I told him I was sick of hearing it,” replied Mrs Graham at the inquest of her uncle’s death.

It turns out my great, great uncle, Arthur Ayres, shot himself in the heart in 1934 shortly after his confectionary business failed.

For a year or two my dad’s been researching the family tree, and while he’d found lots of info on his mother’s side of the family, very little was known about the Ayres line. We knew his grandfather had been in a Scottish regiment at some point, so assumed we had a Scottish connection, but that was about it.

However, my father has recently reconnected with a long lost cousin and been finding out all sorts of things about the family history: photos, newspaper clippings and tales of fortunes won and lost. It makes for fascinating reading.

For example my great grandfather, the brother of the unfortunate Arthur mentioned in the snippet of newspaper report above, married Edith Adams, the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in Surrey at the time, the Adams Sawdust Contractors. Apparently, however, Edith’s brothers managed to blow the family fortune when they took it over. Drink problems have been mentioned.

As Maggie wanted to visit the Twisted Thread Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate on Saturday, I took the opportunity to drive down to Chesterfield and take the kids to see their grandfather, while Maggie looked for interesting bits of silk fibres to turn into art.

Unfortunately dad’s computer is on the blink so I’ll have to wait a while before he’s able to scan and forward all the stuff I want copies of. However, I do now have a picture of my great grandfather, Charles Sidney James Ayres who was in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the Boer War.

Charles Sidney James Ayres and his Helmet

Do not be fooled by the tartan, however. It turns out that he enlisted with Edith’s brother and was no more Scottish than a cockney barrow boy. In the end, of all the Ayres family, by dint of marriage and location it seems I have the strongest Scottish connection of any of us


Z said...

Just so's you know, Kim, that we'll never be sick of hearing anything you want to say.

My grandmother had a drink problem. My mother never tired of reminding me and my sister of the fact as an Awful Warning. sheesh. We can take it or leave it.

TheAmpuT said...

I'm not trying to be a smart ass, I swear...but can you please explain to this (american) girl what the strategically placed ding-dong-ring-thing on the belt is all about? I am curious. Honestly. From a historical and fashion-based perspective (although I do giggle a little).

Oh, and now I'm all excited to know that your Maggie is a fiber-junkie. Yay.

Kuin said...

sooo cool .!!!

I am so glad you are able to find out your history and that of your family .

how nice for your children and you!!

Being adopted and not knowing for many years was hard but even after my search I am left with many un-answered questions..

happy for you !

Kate said...

You went to Chesterfield? I wish you had told me, I could have waved as you went past - or maybe not. I should imagine standing beside the Great North road waving would attract some odd looks LOL

I'm curious about the ding-dong-ring-thing too. What is it?

BTW, I have a Scots branch to my family, they came from Edinburgh. Oddly, I had no idea up until about a year ago.

PI said...

How absolutely fascinating and lucky you that your father is doing the research. I know you don't profess to be Scottish but do you have a kilt? I have two - a work a day one and a dress one bought by my husband but I wasn't allowed to wear them until I married him. I'm afraid they now languish in the attic.

Kim Ayres said...

Z - I suppose it was better than saying "All the time until I shot him..."

TheAmpuT - It's a very fancy sporan. Sporans come in all shapes and sizes and this one is obviously for looking extra smart in. I don't think they're bells, rather different colour bunches of hair.

As for Maggie's Fiber Arts, check her website at

Kuin - for years I didn't know anything beyond my grandfather, and even that was vague. It is odd finding all this info about ancestors I've never known anything about.

Not that I think it makes any difference to who we are. In reality both my brother and sister have exactly the same ancestors as me, but we're very different people.

But I appreciate that as an adoptee it must be one of those things that is always at the back of your mind on one level or another

Kate - See my answer to TheAmpuT above for the sporan.

If I'd known where you live I might have popped in for a coffee. As it is I made do with the flask Maggie had put together for me earlier.

Pat - I'm afraid I don't have a kilt, although I have been told I have the ideal legs for one.

Mary Witzl said...

That is a great photograph, Kim! I've got one I'd love to post: my great-grandfather at a GAR parade, scowling away on the back of a car, circa 1930.

Although I had often heard about how our British ancestry was Scottish, Welsh and Irish, I had a real surprise when I did our genealogy: tons of us came from England! In fact, I suspect that a lot of Scots would be amazed at how many English connections they have, and vice versa for the English. I'm also German, Iroquois, Dutch, and perhaps Gypsy -- among other things.

Kanani said...

I think you've coined a new phrase for the sporan. "The ding dong ring thing" is perfect. Sounds like something out of Monty Python.

Anyway, sounds like a fascinating glimpse! INTERESTING quote from "Mrs. Graham." He must've been chronically depressed --probably for decades, but back then no one knew what it was.

The Birdwatcher said...

Dangerous business researching family history. An Uncle of mine has just written a book about the family brewing business (it would be ironic if the family fortune had been blown on drink)Proudly he sent copies to his brothers. Instead of letters praising his scholarship he has raked up a simmering family feud. Ah well makes for a interesting family christmas.

Kim Ayres said...

Mary - now you know how to post photos on blogs, I look forward to seeing it :)

Kanani - a brilliant quote from my great aunt. It says so much in so few words.

Birdwatcher - I think we've got a brewers tale somewhere on the other side of the family. You're not related to a bunch of Williams' from Reading are you?

Eryl Shields said...

You've got to love Mrs Graham, I hope she didn't feel too bad.

Splendid looking chap.

The Birdwatcher said...


Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

You must be having an absorbing time poring over all that family stuff. Good on your dad for digging so much of it up. It looks fascinating.

Carole said...

Nothing is worse than a confectionary business failing. I feel bad for Uncle Arthur.

The picture is fabulous of the man in the kilt. Excellent stuff.

Jupiter's Girl said...

Maggie's artwork is beautiful and interesting. I wish her well in the upcoming show. It is very cool of you to be so supportive. I couldn't decide which one I'd buy if I could - maybe "Forrest", or "Broken". No, make it "First Tear". I like the colors she works with.

That's cool about your finding out more about your ancestry. I would like to know more about mine too, but am lazy about the researching it would take.

Kim Ayres said...

Eryl - how can you not love a comment like that?

Birdwatcher - well I wonder if you're any better at organising a piss up in a brewery than I am :)

Sam - Unfortunately I didn't have time to look through all the stuff. I have to wait until his computer's working properly so he can email it up to me

Carole - I've got a fanstastic picture of his mother-in-law somewhere, all decked out in Victorian finery. I'll maybe put that one up sometime

JG - thanks for your kind words about Maggie's artwork.

All content copyright of Kim Ayres. Powered by Blogger.