5 The Modern Diaspora (1897-1985)

ONG 1919


Oswald and Lucy circa 1920


Malcolm and Jane Roberts, who live in Toronto, first contacted me in January 2014. Jane’s mother and father had emigrated to Winnipeg from Leicester in 1952; her mother Judy was the daughter of John Challis Garrard, my grandfather’s eldest brother, both of them being children of Norman and Annie Mary (née Challis) Garrard; so like me she is a descendant of both the Challis and the Garrard lines. Malcolm had seen the article on my website, and as a result of my interested response to his email he promised to scan any material he had relating to the Garrards and to forward it to me, though ‘I need a few days to put it together’. But his home had recently been flooded due to extreme weather in Toronto, and he was also about to travel to India and Europe; the material didn’t arrive and I all but forgot about his approach until prompted by Jill Adams four years later.

I was also contacted by Patsy Garrard from Wadebridge in Devon, and her sister Helen. They are grand-daughters of Arthur William Ordish Garrard, another son of Norman. Patsy and Helen don’t have a deep interest in genealogy but knew my name from the 1980s when I had edited a southwest regional CND magazine; we also had a mutual friend in the permaculture teacher Patrick Whitefield. When Patsy came across my website she got in touch; she came to visit me in Glastonbury and I showed her round the abbey grounds. I hoped that she would look through her father’s papers for items of useful information, though none has yet appeared.

Jane Roberts’ aunt Margaret was an amateur but proficient genealogist, who had provided most of the ‘Garrard material’ that Malcolm and Jane now held. She (Margaret) had met my grandfather, Oswald; Patsy and Helen’s father Bill (William Norman Garrard) had known him too. Jane, Patsy and Helen, and myself, are all great-grandchildren of Norman Garrard and Annie Mary Challis – and there are certainly plenty more, about whom I still know little or nothing.


The six children of Norman and Annie Mary Garrard all grew up to live varied and interesting lives, although they did not remain in the same social strata as William Garrard and David Challis.

Their eldest son, John Challis Garrard, had three children – Olive Ruth (‘Judy’), Margaret and David. Neither Margaret nor David married; Judy and her husband Jim emigrated to Canada. John Challis Garrard died in Leicester on 9th August 1945.

I know nothing of Norman and Annie Mary’s second child, Mary Norman Garrard.

The third, Arthur William Ordish Garrard, was in the Merchant Navy (he was in San Francisco at the time of the 1906 earthquake) but his wife Catherine persuaded him to come ashore. He is said to have had a problem with drink, which is perhaps unsurprising in a family that had done so well out of the liquor trade. He had a daughter, Joyce, and a son, William Norman (‘Bill’), and it is Bill’s daughters Patsy and Helen who now live in Devon.

The fourth, Francis Charles Garrard, remained in Leicester and worked as a shoe machinery engineer. He died in 1970 at the age of 85.

The fifth, Dorothy Harriett Garrard, married the Reverend Lionel Nurse O’Neal and they had three sons: Peter (b 1915), Ronald (Ronnie, b 1919) and Anthony (Tony, b 1928). She died in 1974 aged 88. Tony collected some family memorabilia, and it was he who annotated the photograph of his mother’s grandmother, ‘Grandmother Challis’. Dorothy Harriett was my father’s ‘Auntie Dot’ – she came to stay for a short while after my mother had left to be with Peter O’Neal – she came to help look after myself and my sister whilst my father continued his career. I remember her as a somewhat wizened 75-year-old.

It was Norman and Annie Mary’s youngest son, my grandfather Oswald Norman Garrard, who inherited the family Bible. He went on to become a Minister in the Church of England.

I know nothing of what any of this generation were doing during the First World War, nor whether any of them saw active service.



Oswald Norman Garrard

Shortly after the first world war, Oswald left England to do missionary work in West Africa, and apart from periods at home on leave he was in Nigeria from 1919 until 1937.

In 1920 he married Lucy Millicent Offley, from a Leicester family, at Ogidi, in Anambra State in southern Nigeria. He was given the old Challis family Bible, to go with the Imperial Bible that he had received as a christening present, and a 1599 edition of the Genevan Bible that had been given to his aunt Grace Challis as an antique.

He took an interest in the ‘family register’, and he did some tentative research into the Challis family history when, on leave back in England, he visited the parish of Panfield in Essex. It is from Oswald that we know something of the Challis family’s eighteenth century tithe payments, whilst scribbled on the back of his notepaper are some interesting thoughts concerning ‘our colonies and protectorates in Africa’:

‘Real poverty arises when the accepted way of African life, where every individual is the object of communal concern, is disorganised by inevitable contact with the outer world. The tribesman who has discarded communal discipline can no longer look to his community for help in time of need.’ He has then jotted down further notes, though very briefly, as if he was intending to enlarge on them later:  ‘increase of population and stock production’, ‘soil erosion’ and ‘land speculation’. This was remarkable for someone writing in the 1930s.

Besides this, I found amongst my Aunt Edythe’s papers a hand-decorated poem, unsigned and undated, that begins ‘Old Garrard in Isoko, a year or two ago, made a pretty garden at the mission bungalow. Flower loving Garrard, with his own hand, out of stark wilderness fashioned fairyland’. This garden was apparently created ‘in the wet swamps of Oleh’, and the last stanza names the gardener unambiguously as ‘Oswald Norman Garrard’. Isoko is a region of the Niger Delta in the south of Nigeria, and Oleh is one of the nineteen clans of the Isoko people.

Oswald and Lucy finally returned to England in 1937. They had made a number of voyages back and forth from Nigeria, and their four children had been cared for whilst they were away by a foster-mother, Mrs Francillan, who was an accomplished (and published) cook; I can still remember her cookery books sitting on the bookshelf in our family home during the 1950s. Her husband died in the early 1930s, having suffered in a poison gas attack during the first world war.

Back in England, Oswald continued working for the Church Missionary Society until the end of the second world war. From 1941 he was in London, where he carried out broadcasting on their behalf, and his broadcast talks were – according to the Society’s Minutes – ‘instrumental in introducing several recruits to the Society’.

In 1945 he was given a parish at St Cuthbert’s in Bedford. Later, in 1946, he was also one of the founders of the Lee Abbey Christian community in Devon. In the 1950s, still with his parish in Bedford, he was also Chaplain to the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire.


Garrard family late 1940s

The Garrard family photographed in the late 1940s: Lucy, Oswald Norman, Ian; Ursula, Cedric John, Edythe. The photograph is believed to have been taken by Peter O’Neal.

Oswald Norman Garrard died in 1961, struck down by a stroke – so it is said – whilst preaching in the pulpit. His four children had all led active lives during the second world war, Edythe and Ursula as nurses, whilst Cedric (always pronounced ‘Keedric’) was an officer in the Rough Riders and took part in the Normandy landings. He reached Berlin unscathed, but whilst there he accidentally shot himself in the foot with his own revolver. Ian joined the RAF at the age of 17, towards the end of the war, and then spent three years as a sergeant PT instructor.

After the war Cedric returned to England with his German wife Gisela, and they emigrated to Rhodesia where they ran a tobacco farm for about ten years. He returned home with failing health, and died in 1961 aged only 40.

Edythe dedicated her life to her nursing career, and consequently did not marry until after she had reached retirement age in 1982. She finally married Arthur Patterson, a former Harley Street dentist who is said to have first proposed to her many years before. They lived together on the Isle of Wight and both lived beyond 90 years of age.

In 1946 Ursula married her cousin Peter O’Neal, who had survived most of the war in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. She had three children, Ann, John and Alan, before she and Peter divorced in about 1961. She never re-married. Peter’s story is dealt with in some detail by his youngest son Alan, who has written a history of his branch of the O’Neal family: https://www.oneal.me.uk

The family Bibles passed to Oswald and Lucy’s youngest son, Ian Garrard, who was born in 1927 and married Veronica Frances Kenyon in 1951. They were both children of clergymen, and first met in a holiday camp for clergy and their families. They met again whilst studying at the Central School of Art in London.


Ian Garrard The Shooting Box

Ian Garrard became Art Editor of Good Housekeeping magazine, and then of Harper’s Bazaar. From the early 1960s he made his living as a self-employed graphic artist and illustrator, specialising in botanical illustration. His drawings for The Wild Flowers of The British Isles, first published by MacMillan in 1983, were particularly noteworthy, whilst his widely published illustrations of trees were described as ‘unsurpassed’.

He had two children, Bruce and Stephanie, and was divorced in 1962 after his wife had left to marry Peter O’Neal, the former husband of Ian’s sister Ursula. Ian then married Rose Beattie Cheyne, of Scottish descent, and they had two further children, Clare and Robert. In 1964 they moved from Surrey to live in Winterslow, near Salisbury, Wiltshire. There Ian followed a successful career as a self-employed illustrator, but never realised his ambition to be a painter. This he had hoped to devote himself to during his retirement – but he died at the age of only 57.

Ian Garrard died of a heart attack on 31st January 1985. I am his son, Bruce Kenyon Garrard, born 6th October 1952. The Bibles are now in my possession, seven generations on from Daniel Challis of Panfield and George (Samuel) Garrard of Gissing.


I have still not yet discovered where Mary’s three boys – the three Challis brothers – were in 1841. There is something curious about this, a sense of resonance with my own life, and one that in fact can be traced down through the generations. There can be little doubt that those years in the late 1830s and the early 1840s contained deep trauma of some sort for these boys. Of the three, it is David Challis that I feel the closest affinity to, partly because he was at that time the same age as I was in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, and partly because it was David who was my own direct ancestor – through his daughter Annie Mary, my Great Grandmother, who married my Great Grandfather Norman Garrard.

Norman was William (of Ticknall’s) eldest son, and Annie Mary Challis was David Challis’ eldest daughter. Information about the female members of the family was somewhat scarce in those days, so it is not possible to make any obvious judgements about whether Annie Mary carried trauma that had been passed on from her father. She may have been the ‘Miss Chalice’ who visited the Reverend William shortly before his death; in fact this was quite likely, since she was the eldest of David’s eight chldren but at the time still only 18 years of age. After her marriage and the fairly early death of her husband, she certainly preferred to return to Leicester rather than remaining in Derby, and she does seem to have been particularly close to her father David.

It was Norman’s youngest son, Oswald , who would inherit the family Bible. Oswald was born in 1892, and his father Norman died in 1897 when Oswald was less than five years old. Shortly afterwards Annie Mary returned to Leicester along with her children; so it was at around the age of 5 that Oswald lost his father, and his life must have only settled down to a sense of stability after he had moved home to (for him) a strange new town. As a result, he probably spent far more time with his grandfather David Challis than he would if he had stayed in Derby. Oswald died when I was away at boarding school, and I know very little of his early life; but it is easy to conjecture that it contained trauma passed down through the generations.

Oswald’s youngest son Ian was born in 1927, and he was only three years old when his parents left England and returned by steamship to West Africa. They would come back home on leave, perhaps once a year, but they did not finally return until 1937. I do know – I think I heard this from my mother – that being without his parents at such a tender age had a deep and lasting effect on him: once again it was at a similar age, this time in the 1930s, that Ian endured circumstances that must have been traumatic.

Now, looking at my own life, I have inherited not only the family Bible but all this family history. And after my parents’ divorce and my time in boarding school when I was seven or eight years old, it feels that it is left to me to record this aspect of the family line, and perhaps if possible to heal it. The photographs below were taken in Glastonbury on my 70th birthday, when I was looking pleasingly cheerful. Nevertheless I know from work I have done on the subject that I carry trauma, most likely such as has been passed down generationally


2022 10 09 Bruce 70th Birthday 0027

Ian Garrard’s four children, photographed in 2022: Bruce, Clare, Stephanie and Robert.

2022 10 09 Bruce 70th Birthday 0030

Bruce with his son and daughter, their partners, and three grandchildren, photographed in 2022:
(from left to right) Krishan, Chris Conlon, Finn, Max, Sarah, Bruce, Sam, Palka Mistry.