99. The Wish


They say you end up marrying your mother. I don’t think that’s strictly true but I did end up marrying a mother. Jersey girl and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on Friday and today it’s Mother’s Day here in America.

When I made my commitment to Jersey, I also knew I was committing to her three kids (all girls) and I knew she was a mother first and everything else second. I completely understood that, as it had always been my approach to parenting too.

I also knew that all of this could fall over – and I would be done – if, when I met her kids, they didn’t accept me. I guess I’m living a charmed life because they took to me far better than I ever had a right to expect.

And so, in the end, I didn’t just find a wife, I found a family waiting for me on the other side of the world. A family that admitted, not only me but my own son right along with me.

My boy has visited us three times since I arrived here permanently and has been welcomed with open arms not only by Jersey and the girls but the extended family as well. My wife has embraced her new adult son as if he were her own. This has been a tremendous boon to me as he lost his real mother a little over five years ago.

So, on this rainy Mothers Day in NJ, I just wanted to take a few moments to celebrate a really wonderful mom.

Happy Mother’s Day my love.




And while I’m at it, Happy Mother’s Day to you too, mum. You are so missed. Wish I could just say hi.




Iron men: part 2



The original building before the addition of a third story and the remodeling of the front. (image: Annandale Historical Society)

Part 1

New Jersey has a problematic relationship with her past. Most of the historically significant sites I write about on this blog are in a very poor state of repair and in danger of disappearing altogether. Some, such as the American Hotel, are already gone: lost forever.

Money and corruption seem to be the culprits here. History just doesn’t even seem to come a close third to development and profits.

Here in High Bridge, stands an extremely significant building that is very much in need of some kind of intervention. It can be found on the grounds of the old Taylor Iron and Steel Company. This was the first purpose-built office building in New Jersey and was the administrative centre for the 13th oldest continuously operating business (of any kind) in history.

According to the website of the nearby Annandale Historical Society, “The TISCO Office building dates to around 1725, and pre-dates the incorporation of the Union Iron Works. The structure had always housed the general office of the steel companies and contained the offices of the presidents William and Allen in 1742 through George R. Hanks in 1972.”









As you can see from my pictures, the building is in a shameful state and, if left so for much longer, will probably need to be demolished.

I’m told by local historians that this is a common situation in New Jersey which is madness as this state (one of the original colonies) played an enormously important part in the history of the Nation.

The American Industrial Revolution was born in New Jersey and Taylor Steel played a very large role in that industrialization. It is to be hoped that, at some point, town and city officials will begin to take seriously the legacy left by their forebears and begin to make moves towards preserving what is left of the country’s rich past.



Office Building.jpg
The Building immediately after the remodelling in or around 1930. (Image: Unknown)



Words and images (except where otherwise stated) are my own.




Iron men: Part 1

High Bridge, New Jersey has a long and colourful history. The area was established around 1742 when two men, William Allen and Joseph Turner, leased 3000 acres from the West Jersey Society and built an iron forge on the banks of the Raritan River.
The area was a remote wilderness but the men were attracted by the fast flowing river which they harnessed to drive the machinery of the mill and the heavily forested hills which promised a ceaseless supply of wood for the furnaces. The iron-works that they built and called Union Iron Works, ran continuously until 1971 making it the oldest foundry in US History and the 13th longest continually operating company in the world.
There had been settlers already farming in the area since 1700 but, with the granting of the lease, they all became squatters in law – a situation which lead to unrest and rioting. The situation was eventually resolved only by the intervention of the British Army.
When the American Revolution broke out, Turner and Allen – both loyalists – were forced to flee and Robert Taylor became superintendent of the iron-works. Taylor – a fierce patriot – was soon charged by the American Government with the incarceration of the loyalist colonial Governor of Pennsylvania, John Penn and his attorney-general, Benjamin Chew in the house attached to Union Iron Works.
Solitude House today.
Slave quarters at the rear of Solitude House are a reminder of darker times.


The two were held for seven months in reasonable comfort (they had their own Italian violinist for entertainment and were allowed to wander six miles from the house unescorted) and Generals Washington and Lafayette, Colonel Charles Stewart, and Aaron Burr all visited them in their captivity.
The Union Iron Works (which would soon be renamed the Taylor Iron and Steel Company was at that time (1777) busy producing cannon balls and musket barrels for Washington’s army.
Around the same time that the Allen and Turner mill came into being, an inn was built on what would later become Main Street. I don’t know what name it went by at that time but it came to be called the American Hotel and it existed in the same spot from the 1740’s until it was razed in 1979.
All that now remains to commemorate the American Hotel.


This bench should bear a plaque reading “General Washington slept here”. It would be both funny and accurate.


This ‘artistic rendering’ is all there is at the site to give an idea of the building’s appearance.


On the left of this image from 1917, you can make out the Hotel as it then looked. This is now the street that Jersey girl and I live on. (Image: The High Bridge Historical Society)
When Washington and his wife, Martha visited Penn and Chew at Solitude House (as the two prisoners had rather pithily named it and as it remains known to this day) he stayed at the tavern the original site of which I can actually see from my living room window.
Why such a significant piece of history was destroyed (replaced by a municipal car park no less), I don’t know but it is a sad state of affairs in my opinion.
The Taylors held on to both Solitude House and the Union Iron Works after independence had been won. They were still in possession when America’s next great trial came around.
New Jersey in the 1860s was by no means a strong supporter of the Union (industrialized New Jersey had many economic ties to the South) and had considered joining the Secessionist states before finally throwing its weight fully behind the Northern cause. Once committed to the fight, however, the men of New Jersey joined up in their tens of thousands.
Three entire New Jersey Regiments marched off to Washington fully armed and uniformed (one of the few properly outfitted Federal units at the war’s commencement). Over the course of the war, 52 N.J. Regiments would be formed.
When the 1st, 2nd, and, 4th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry were combined to make up the “First New Jersey Brigade”, it was a Taylor, Major General George W. Taylor, who lead them.
Taylor had been born at Solitude House and, after a stint at a Connecticut Military College, had joined the family business as a worker at Taylor Iron Works. But the young Taylor seems to have been possessed of a somewhat restless spirit. In 1827, he joined the Navy, serving in the Mediterranean before resigning his commission. Later, at the outset of the Mexican American War, He joined the Army and went off to fight.
By the time of the Civil War, he had been out to the Californian goldfields and was back working in the family business in High Bridge but he returned to military service to help organize the newly formed New Jersey Regiments.

In June 1862, Taylor was promoted to brigadier general of the 1st New Jersey Brigade. They fought under his command in the Seven Days Battles. On August 27, during the battle of Manassas Station, his brigade was surprised by General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson’s entire corps and routed. Taylor suffered a fatal leg wound from a cannon shot and died four days later.

His body was returned home by train and buried in the Riverside Cemetery in nearby Clinton. A large crowd gathered to pay their final respects. The poem “The General’s Death” by Joseph O’Connor commemorates the Death of George Taylor.



Words and images (except where otherwise stated) are my own.



1. Coming home


I’m feeling a little nostalgic today so I’m going way back to the beginning.



Runaway American Dream

New Jersey is a very strange place. I’ve visited the Garden State four times in the past two years. My reason for going was the best one there is; love. Yeah, that’s right; I fell in love with a Jersey girl.

How this happened is a subject for another post, but I can tell you this, when you fall for Jersey, you fall hard.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into back then; the world that was about to open up to me, but, ignorance being bliss ‘n’ all, in I jumped with both feet. Thank god I’m not the timorous type.

Because I didn’t just find my heart’s desire there, I found home. You see, NJ is simply unlike anywhere else. Sure, it takes a lot of flak from outsiders (particularly New Yorkers) but the popular notion of Jersey as some sort of industrial wasteland is…

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Infect me



Little blue flames


There is beauty

Made for the eyes

Skin and lips and perfect hair

It satisfies for a time

Achingly real in its transience

Then dies in the arms of betrayal

That is not the beauty I seek

I want beauty that scrapes at the soul

The beauty that opens old wounds

I want the intimacy of shared darkness

The crucible of  secrets torn open

I want all and everything else

Stolen breath

The blow on the bruise

Claustrophobia and no escape

We don’t eat what we know is good for us

We eat our desires

And pour gasoline

Over the bridges of consequence

Beauty is in the flame of that match

We throw over our shoulders

As we take the road most travelled.











The Walk





Unwelcome Solitude


Scuffing my heels

Down Old Jericho Road

Further, than I care to go

Past those twisted old men of

Gnarled bark and twiggy bones

By the incessant babble of

The river’s winding bed


There’s a stagnant breeze

Bearing rust from the steelworks

Repeating my name in

A singular rhythm




Through the sullen wood

The crack of dead sticks

Fraying my over taut nerves

There’s too much shadow

For this time of the day

And the cant of the road

Skews my p e r c e p t i o n

I think of home

And my girl beside me

And wish I’d brought the dog

For the company


Dragging my heels

Along Old Jericho Road

Going further down than

I want to go.




Words and image are my own.





Part 15: New Perspectives



I wanted to share this here as it represents a major

(almost unbelievable) development in the story I’ve been researching since 2004.

A Padiham Man's Great Sacrifice

You cannot realise what war is like. Belgium – well there is no Belgium now for it is a mass of ruins.

I had begun to feel that the quest was drawing to a close. My sporadic efforts to find out more were all coming up dry and I was slowly resigning myself to the idea that I had found out all it was possible to know about my tragic ancestor.

Then a red letter day rolled around, the 100th anniversary of John Harry’s death. I, of course, could not let such a momentous event pass without paying some sort of tribute. There are a few select Facebook groups to which I belong. One of these, the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades Association, I have mentioned in a previous post. The other group is the Ye Olde Padiham group where past and former residents of John’s hometown share their…

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