Story of Albert James Clifton

This story was written by Raymond Powell and rewritten by Susan ( Jelbert) Thomas
Dates of birth death and marriage are added by me, John W. Clifton.

Albert James Clifton was born in Newquay Cornwall on 6 of May 1850 and died on 6 of July 1928 in pool Camborne Cornwall.  He was the second child born to Joseph and Loveday (Treague) Clifton, called Lovelia.

Albert James Clifton, a mason by trade, was a small man, very fine and very correct. I remember him smoking a pipe while building a wall around the garden of a house at the top of Agar road, Illogan.  The year was approx.1918, and this wall is still standing in 1996.  On the ground nearby would be cart load of stone (brown elvin) from a local quarry – together with a cart of brown clay taken from the foot of Carn Brea. While working Mr. Clifton did not stop for one moment, to speak or even to light his pipe. His tools comprised of a heavy stone or rock breaking hammer (about 10 £ In weight) with a long handle, plus 2 hammers (short handle), shovel and trowel.  When building he never picked up a stone and threw it back on the pile: He could see a place in the wall for each stone before picking it up. Albert had four sons and 4 daughters his favorite also a mason by trade was named after his father. There was Charlie, the oldest, a blacksmith by trade, Howard, the black sheep of the family and Fred. The daughters were named Eva, Ida, Rosa and Hettie ( one of the twins – the other one died very young. Sometime between 1900 and 1914 Albert James Clifton went to South Africa to work in the gold mines in Johannesburg.  He was not there long before he sent for his sons Albert and Charlie – soon after this, Howard, by now 19 and almost finished learning his trade as a carpenter, became involved (so it is said) with a married woman in Camborne  and in order to save the Clifton family from disgrace Howard (or Capt’n Clifton as he was to be known in later life) was also sent out to his father in South Africa.

Days were spent working at the mine from 7 am to 5:30 pm, and ½ day on Saturdays and evenings were for working on buildings on the outskirts of the mine. They built two small cottages and a boarding House, where they all lived when it was finished. Three brothers shared one bedroom while father had a room to himself. Albert snr. was always the first one up in the morning, at 6 am, waking his sons up and getting breakfast ready, and the last one to bed.  They worked hard and earned good money, which Albert snr. took care of for them, only giving them a bit of pocket money if necessary.

After two years in South Africa eventually Howard got to thinking about how much money he must have earned, about 500£ plus 100 insurance policy at home in England. He told his brothers he was going to ask his father for 100£ – they were horrified, knowing that a terrible row would follow.  That evening Albert snr., glasses on, was reading the local paper, Howard felt it was now or never, so said to his father, father, I want 100£ of the money you owe me, Father very carefully closed and folded his newspaper and said “what did you say?”. After Howard repeated himself his father asked what he wanted the money for and Howard said that he wanted to buy a racehorse. Albert snr. said that he could not have the money, Howard said that if he did not give him the money he was not going to working in the morning, (which was something unheard of in the Clifton family) .

After a lot of unresolved argument they both went to bed. The following morning Howard locked himself in his room and refused to go to work, father returned home at dinner time to try and persuade him to no avail, and finally in the evening he agreed to give Howard the money on the understanding that he did not buy a racehorse, assuming that he would resume work the next day.   However the next day, Howard left with his money and went into Johannesburg and purchased a new suit with a white waistcoat.  Brown button-up boots, complete with a yellow walking stick and long cigarette holder.  The next day in Johannesburg he saw several black men having their photo taken by a white man. This man who came from Birmingham said he wanted to return to England and was looking for someone to buy his business. He showed him how much money he made in one day and so Howard bought the whole outfit which included 2 cameras, one which could take single while-u-wait pictures, and one to take group photos which were developed by a firm in the town. There was also a pony and ’raley’ ( a two wheeled glorified pony trap). The pony was called picanin. Also included was a black boy who did all the photography as well as looking after the pony and trap, apparently the deposit on the group photos was 100 percent profit and 100 percent profit on the while-u-wait pictures. After four months Howard returned to the boarding house to show his father (who did not know where he had gone) that he still had his 100£ and had made lots more, but he told the boy not to reveal how he had made his money. After nearly a year, Howard returned to England to live with his mother Selina, and siblings Rosa, Hettie and Fred.


This is a genealogy site for the Cliftons of Cornwall.