Alston RICKETTS 
- Christened: 2 Feb 1838, St Mary Magdalene Taunton
- Marriage (1): Hannah CRUISE  on 3 Oct 1860 in Ontario CAN
- Died: 4 Sep 1884, Ontario CAN aged 46
Alston was apprenticed by his uncle for seven years to a cordwainer in Corfe in Somerset in 1846.
In 1851 he is 19 years old still apprenticed to Samuel Lee, a Master shoe maker, and we find that Alston is deaf.
Alston then is working for and with the Clark Bros in Street by 1856 and following their lead becomes a Quaker. Then joining forces with a friend who has recently lost his wife they together depart from Plymouth on 11 August 1857 in the "Margaret Ann" for Quebec. By 1860 Alston is married. He raises a family of four girls and one son and he died in Ontario on Sept. 4 1884 aged 52 and I am in touch with two of his descendants. One (a Jane Brunton) wrote the attached story entitled "The Tea Caddy" which I came across and set me off trying to find out more about Alston.
Ref: Steve Alexander 2017
Image courtesy Steve Alexander 2017
THE TEA CADDY
"Have I ever told you about your Great Grandfather Alston Ricketts?"
said my Mother, a faint smile playing over her lips.
I knew I was in for the long version when she began with, "Get me that tin box that's in your dad's dresser. And bring my nail file too."
As I trotted off I could hear Mom beginning her well-loved story, "He worked for Clarke's Shoe factory in Street England. Remember that awl I gave you? That was his. And the miniature last."
Her words evoked the soft-black leather of the doll's slippers he had fashioned on that last.
Mom's voice was clearer now as I neared the dining room where she sat with our steaming mugs of tea. I placed the large black box in front of her. It had brass handles and decorations of gilt and Chinese red. If the light caught it just right you could see where someone had neatly painted out the words NORTHWEST TEA COMPANY with a shinier paint than the rest.
The box was locked and there was no key but Mom inserted the nail file and it popped open. It was redolent of old paper, silk and leather.
"Did I ever show you his note book from Clarke's?" she continued, knowing full well that she had. "Look at all the rules in the front! I can't read this fine print," she said passing the well-worn book with the marbleized cover of brown and green to me. I began reading just a few, "Any workman bringing in his work with the linings soiled, shall be fined 1d per pair. Any workman tying odd shoes together will be fined 1d per pair. No workman shall at any time make goods to order, or otherwise, for any other person, while in the employ of C and J Clarke. Unless by special permission.
STREET, 7th Month 23, 1851"
Instead of a list of the shoes he had made, inside was the diary of his trip to Canada. It was entitled,
"A journal of a voyage
In the ship Margeret Ann
By Alston Ricketts
11th mo 1857
11th of 8th month
The morning broke in splendour over my head as I rose and dressed myself. The last that perchance I shall ever behold in England."
Mom was unfolding the large square of taupe-colored silk with its lavish patterns of cranberry and black. "Gentlemen in Grandpa Alston's time would carry these on top of their heads under their beaver hats. They'd pull them out to mop their brows when the weather was warm," Mom explained.
Now she opened a small notebook. Its crisp-yellowed pages contained a list of names, dates and book titles. "This is how he kept track of the people who borrowed books from his lending library. He called it the Owl's nest. It was the first library in Oro Township where he settled."
She lifted out the last item in the box, a long black-leather wallet with a fancily-tooled fastener which slipped through a loop on the front. Great Grandpa had made that too.
We were coming to the conclusion now; a part that intrigued me not just because it spelt the end of the lecture. "Grandpa Alston loved reading so much that he even read on horseback," Mom said.
This conjured up romantic images of a tall stranger on a shiny steed. He ducked his head as they ambled along under the shade of apple trees in blossom.
"One day he was riding along the railway tracks, reading as usual. The horse shied and threw him. He broke his neck and died. The people that found him said his book was still in his hand. They figured that probably the train scared the horse. Grandpa wouldn't have heard the train because he was stone deaf," said Mom.
I often wonder when Great Grandpa became deaf. I think it was caused by illness. He had certainly learned to read and write and I believe he could speak. But I know from his poetry that he felt isolated and alone. From a book he has entitled, "Excelsior! 1854" he writes in his spidery hand,
"Twenty years have passed away,
Since on my mothers lap I lay,
Since on my ear the cadence fell,
The echo of the song I loved so well.
"The voice of the charmer it comes not on my ear
The song of the birds has no power to cheer
For in my heart silence has her dark throne
To separate me and keep me alone."
Like so many of us, deaf or not, his best company was his writing and his books.
I still have Mom's tangible treasures and her intangible ones too. But I have no children to share them with. If I had I would say with the faintest of smiles playing over my lips, "Have I told you about your Great Great Grandfather Alston Ricketts?"
I understand the above document was written by Elizabeth Jane Brunton in Canada.
Stephen R Alexander 1 / 1/ 2017
Alston married Hannah CRUISE  [MRIN: 4898] on 3 Oct 1860 in Ontario CAN. (Hannah CRUISE  was born on 9 Apr 1836 in Ireland and died on 1 Feb 1911 in Orillia Ontario CAN.)