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Edwin Hipsey telephoned me from Canada on 28th November 1995: it could have been, by then, the day after that, as Edwin had left his phone call as late as possible - around about midnight in Victoria, so that I would receive his call at about 8.00am in Plymouth in England.  I admit it (which will surprise nobody who knows me) – I admit to being rather less than friendly, and rather more than confrontational (is that possible before the days of telephones without skype?) during our conversation.  In any event, I was not the most unfriendly recipient of a phone call from Edwin, as he explained in his letter that one Hipsey had stated “I’m not interested in that rubbish, I’d rather listen to the Budget! Bye” and hung up – after Edwin explained that he was researching the Hipsey Family Tree.

Edwin wrote me a letter dated 28 November 19951 – addressing me as Miss - in which he explained how he had tracked JH down: he spotted a letter published in The Reader’s Digest in 1990 on the Humour in Uniform page2 from Lieutenant S J Hipsey RN who, at that time, lived in Hampshire but, even though Lieutenant Hipsey had moved, Edwin was able to make contact with him.

Carol, who lived next door to me in Plymouth in the 1990s, is a chartered librarian; she worked in the Library of the Royal Naval Hospital in Plymouth[long since closed]; Lieutenant Hipsey called in to the Library and - upon giving his name to Carol - she exclaimed “Oh! You must be related to my next-door neighbour!”

In his letter Edwin explained that he had embarked on researching the Family Tree because the members of his own Hipsey Branch kept asking him ‘where they came from’.  In the 1990s the ‘pursuit’ of information about ones ancestors and extant family members was ‘all the rage’.  Having said that, it rapidly became apparent to me that here was a gentleman ‘after my own heart’ – somebody who could express himself clearly about all aspects to do with relationships between ‘fellow travellers in time’ be they related, or just impinging briefly on the person ‘people-watching’.  So I wrote a long letter dated 2nd January 19963 to Edwin in which I gave as much information as possible - to my knowledge - of my paternal Family Tree, and my maternal Family Tree which of course contains a fund of family stories as well!

Around about 20th January 1996, Edwin phoned my father: but I answered the phone.  My father, Charles Arthur Hipsey had died on 16th January 1996,4 and I was occupying his bed in his sheltered housing flat in Maidenhead, and my sister and members of her family occupied the guest rooms in the housing complex whilst we sorted out daddy’s affairs and the funeral arrangements.  Perhaps it was just as well that Edwin did not ‘find my father in’ as he was more obstreperous than his younger daughter, and did not admit to his degree of deafness - whether physical or otherwise - to unsolicited calls. As a direct result of serendipitously speaking to me - instead of to my father - when he phoned, Edwin sent me a truly memorable letter dated 9th February 1996.6

Communications were maintained between JH and the Edwin Hipseys in Canada. JH received a letter from Edwin dated July 1996:- he told me that he and his wife Sheila were planning to visit the UK in September 1996, primarily so that Sheila could attend a 50th Anniversary Reunion with her fellow students who did their Nursing Training at Leeds General Infirmary; also whilst over in the UK Edwin planned to do more research into the Hipsey Family Tree; and he planned to visit those people with whom he had corresponded, or spoken to on the telephone.  One happy story arose from JH’s encouragement to Edwin to phone the gentleman who would ‘. . . rather listen to the budget’!  Edwin phoned again and spoke to the gentleman’s son, John Hipsey, who listened to Edwin’s explanation of the reason for the phone call: the upshot was that Edwin wrote a letter to Fred Hipsey in Plympton, and subsequently Fred phoned Edwin and they had a most friendly chat.

On 29 September 1996, Edwin and Sheila called on JH after a quick nip down the motorway in a hired car (we have a different understanding of distances apart, from the folks who live in Canada) and stayed in the Novotel in Plymouth.    In October 1996, Sheila posted back JH’s borrowed copy of the biography of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson written by Jo Manton5 which had been published in 1965 - 100 years after Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became the first woman to obtain a clinical qualification in Britain which allowed her to practise medicine.  After Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries – having gained the highest marks over and above the other male students - this august body closed its doors to women for 19 years!  In her letter Sheila also explained that she and Edwin had planned to visit Plymouth again but, unfortunately, Sheila had a nasty fall which resulted in her suffering a Colles fracture of the wrist – which required immobilisation in a plaster cast - and multiple bruises - for which she required several days of recuperation!

In the late 1980s JH had done her Medical Secretarial Training and was awarded the Diploma of the Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators, and Receptionists (AMSPAR).  During 1997 JH contacted a correspondent - in the AMSPAR Magazine - Judith Brooker about Health and Safety (H&S) with regard to medical secretaries having poor working conditions, and excessive workloads.  Judith sent a reply to JH about H&S matters and, in a PS asked JH if she was related to her friends in Norfolk, Sid and Betty, who have the surname Hipsey!  I wrote to Edwin and Sheila in Canada and recounted this information, together with other information about JH - together with sister Ann - searching out our Hipsey grandfather’s grave in the old cemetery in Reading.  In a letter dated 6th June 1998, the Edwin Hipseys replied ‘. . .what an amazing coincidence – to write a business letter to a colleague and then find a connection to the family!’  And there are more coincidences to come, and a happening more amazing to some, but especially to JH!

Link to Edwin's letter 28th November 19951

Link to Humour in Uniform 19902

Link to Jeanette's letter 2nd January 19963

Link to Letter to Dr Harwood 19974

Link to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson5

Link to Edwin's letter 9th Feb 19966

Link to Hipsey Family Tree