A Tale of Two Cities

Mary Christina Snedden and Margaret Ann Morrison had many things in common. Mary’s father died when she was young, and her mother had remarried. Margaret’s mother had died when she was young. What they most had in common, however, was Charles Edward Wilcox. They each had seven children, and Charles was registered as the father of twelve of them. He may even have been the father of one other.

Other than birth, death, and marriages, Mary, Margaret and Charles’ lives can only be viewed in ten year slices. Thanks to the Scotland Census, however, much information can be gleaned from those slices.

Mary married Charles in Edinburgh in 1877,[1] he was a Mechanical Engineer and his income would have made them a middle-class couple. It is difficult to imagine therefore, how after only ten years of marriage, Mary came to leave Charles, and live out her life in remote Galashiels on the Scottish Borders, but by the time of the 1891 Scotland Census, that is precisely where she was, working as a birler in a nearby woollen mill.[2]

It could not have been easy for her to leave her husband, and work in a factory, she was not a working class woman. In Victorian Britain women and children and had no rights as individuals. Children belonged to their father and inevitably stayed with him. This was the case for Mary, six of her seven children were, by this time, living in Glasgow with their father.[3]

At what point in time did Margaret enter the Wilcox household? She was not present Ii the 1881 census in Edinburgh.  Charles is not recorded as present on that night either, but he and Mary were together for at least six more years, because their youngest child Jessie, was born in Edinburgh in 1888.[4]

The work of keeping a household running without the kinds of household machinery and pre-packaged food that we take for granted, was back breaking, full time work. It was not possible for anyone to keep house and hold down a job. With or without children, Charles would have had to employ a full-time, live-in housekeeper to replace his wife. Margaret first appeared in documents at this time, 1891, listed as his cousin and housekeeper.

She now had three children who are listed as, Charles’ adopted daughter, and two sons. The oldest son, Alfred is only one year younger than Mary’s youngest, Jessie. Alfred’s birth is registered as Alfred Edward Morrison, with no father, but with the same middle name as Charles. He died in infancy and his death record lists his mother as the wife of Charles Wilcox, who lists himself as the step-father. One could be forgiven for wondering if Charles was in fact the father of this child, and perhaps the reason for the marital split.

Could Margaret have been first employed in the Wilcox household whilst it was still in Edinburgh? Margaret’s first child Alice was born in 1884, in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, probably because Margaret was an unmarried, first-time mother.[5] As a middle-class family with many children, they could have employed one or more servants. In the 1881 census, they lived in a house with only two rooms with windows. This is not uncommon in Victorian times, most working class housing would have had only one such room. What it does show is that, although they were middle-class, they were not wealthy enough to have spare rooms to accommodate a maid and her child. It is Margaret’s child, therefore, that makes it less likely that she entered the house at this time,

For these reasons, I think it is fair to imagine that Mary left Charles before Margaret was employed. Charles fathered twelve children in his lifetime, indicating a consistent sexual appetite, perhaps he was a philanderer, who was publicly caught out. Or, perhaps Charles was extremely violent and Mary feared for her life. After all, she moved a considerable distance from Edinburgh. If she moved away because of the shame that was attached to “desertion” in Victorian Britain, she need only have moved a short distance. She could have lived in Perth which was a large metropolis like Edinburgh.

As an engineer, Charles would have been limited to the highly industrialised cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow in order to gain work. The fact that he moved from Edinburgh to Glasgow, gives reason to believe that he may have done something too shameful to stay in his social circle. Was it sexual promiscuity or violent behaviour? Short of uncovering a newspaper article or a criminal history, we can only guess.

Without good social standing, Charles would have had difficulty in hiring a housekeeper. With an illegitimate child to care for, Margaret would have had difficulty in obtaining employment. This could explain how Margaret came into the Wilcox household. She could have come into service in Edinburgh and then moved to Glasgow with the family.

It is tempting to think that blended families are a modern occurrence but a quick look at family history will soon give another view. Margaret continued to live with Charles and had five more children. By 1901, Margaret’s oldest child Alice, had an illegitimate child of her own.[6]

By 1911, a number of Christina’s children had moved to Galashiels and are recorded living with her.[7]  It seems that, as in modern times, the children of the first partner, were not happy with their new arrangements.

 

 

[1] Scottish Marriage Register 1877 GROS Data 685/05 0426 Charles Wilcox and Mary Sneddon (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 25 December, 2009)

[2]Scottish Census 1891 776/0B 006/00 0031 Mary Wilcox (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 21 May, 2011)

[3] Scottish Census 1891 644/09 075/09 012 Charles Wilcox (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 25 December, 2009)

[4] Scotland Birth Register 1888, GROS Data 685/02 0518 , Jessie Margaret Wilcox, (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : Retrieved 24/7/2016)

[5] Scottish Birth Register, 1884 GROS Data 685/04 0313 Alice Lycke MORRISON (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 17 April, 2016)

[6] Scottish Census 1901 644/06 052/00 003 Charles Wilcox (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 26 July, 2011)

[7] Scottish Census 1911 775/00 013/00 011Mary Wilcox (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 21 May, 2011)

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Granny Rowley’s Wedding Ring

An Object Biography

Sarah Morgan, my paternal grandmother, married Archibald Rowley in Glasgow, Scotland in 1922,[1] she died in 1945.  In 1981, after the death of her only surviving daughter, Sarah, I was given her wedding ring by my father.

Wedding rings have been worn by women for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. In the UK it is believed to have been adopted during and after the Roman Occupation. In some cultures it is worn on the left hand and in others on the right. Some cultures wear it before the wedding on one hand or finger, and after the wedding, on the other hand or finger. It is most often, but not always worn on the fourth “ring” finger.[2] It is not uncommon nowadays for a man to also wear a wedding ring.

This plain gold wedding band weights approximately 4g (0.1oz), it is 7mm (½”) wide, approximately 18mm (8/10”) in diameter, and 63mm (2 ½ “) in circumference. Its’ scrap value is currently $86.00.[3] On the inside of the band, in letters large enough for plain sight, is stamped “8LP”, much smaller and requiring a magnifying glass, is stamped the four components of a British Hallmark.

The “8LP” remains a mystery and much research has found no explanation of its origin or meaning.

Hallmarking of precious metals in Britain is a very old consumer protection, it was first legislated in 1300 by King Edward I of England.[4]  It has four components: a sponsor’s mark being the company or person for whom it has been hallmarked; the standard mark being the fineness of the metal; the Assay Office mark; and finally, the (now optional) date letter.[5]   For this ring the marks are E.J.LD.; 9.375; S; [Illegible].

E.J.LD.  was the maker’s mark of Excalibur Jewellery Ltd of Birmingham and London, now defunct.[6] 9.375 represents the fineness of the gold at 9 carats[7]. The date letter, before 1975, was unique to each assay office and as the assay office mark is illegible, it was difficult to ascertain the date, however the letter “S” is sloping forwards and has a distinctive concave tick at the top. It could only be an item Hallmarked in 1973 in the London Assay Office. This ring was assayed in London in 1973 as 9 carat gold by Excalibur Jewellery Ltd. This was not the expected result.

My grandparents were a working-class couple of modest means. In 1922, a wedding ring would have been a significant purchase. Although it is common now for wedding rings to be made of 24 carat gold, that would most likely have been outside my grandfather’s means. A nine carat gold ring would also have been more robust, an attribute that could have been relevant at the time, due to the hard labour a working-class woman would do in the course of an ordinary day.

The Clyde Shipyards, the largest industry in Glasgow, was in recession. By 1920 It was operating at only eighty percent of pre-war levels, falling steadily throughout the decade.[8] 1922 also was a year which saw a “Hunger March” from Glasgow to London, people protesting to the government about the high unemployment and hence inability of workers to afford food.[9]

Assuming that it was, indeed, my grandmother’s wedding ring, which I have no reason to doubt, it is possible that it was purchased second-hand, that it was not manufactured in the UK, and it was assayed in 1973 in order to obtain a valuation. This, of course, is pure conjecture.

My grandparents honeymooned in Ireland and had a studio photo taken to commemorate their wedding. My parents emigrated to Australia when I was five years old, and so I did not know any of my extended family. Although I did not know it at the time, I had never met anyone who in any way resembled anyone in my family. As a young teenager I embraced that Australian tradition of visiting the UK on a “working holiday”; now known as a “gap-year” and reciprocated by the British. Whilst at my grandfather’s house, I was shown the studio photo taken in Ireland. It was a sepia-toned very traditional studio photo. My grandmother was sitting in an elaborate chair, with a book in her lap and her hands crossed over the book showing her wedding ring. My grandfather was standing to her left, a little behind the chair and his hand was resting on her shoulder.

It is a moment that, for me, is frozen in time. The woman in sitting in the chair, was identical to myself, I was the image of my paternal grandmother. Some years later, I was able to borrow that photograph and have it enlarged and copied.

The ring is the only material object I possess that is tied to my family of origin. This is the result of two major events in my life. Firstly, I was a child migrant in the 1960’s, when migration still meant the disconnection of virtually every relationship, and the loss of virtually all possessions. Secondly, as the result of violence, I made a choice to move within Australia, at a time when I was unable to afford to take more than a suitcase. The material objects left behind in storage, were variously stolen, sold without my permission then the proceeds stolen, or destroyed.

I no longer have that photograph. That being said, however, I have the photograph in my mind and it is linked, inextricably to my grandmother’s ring. One object elicits the other. At times my grandmother’s wedding ring evokes the memory of loss. Loss of relationships, of the culture and heritage attached to being a Scot, of the life I had before the violence. At other times my grandmother’s wedding ring evokes a deep sense of attachment, to someone who is exactly like me, someone I never met, my grandfather in his youth in the photograph, in old age holding that photograph out to me, to my Aunt who cared for it before me.

Just as a wedding ring is a symbol of never ending love, this ring is a symbol of the continuity of my family across the great chasm of time, place and meaning.

 

[1] Scottish Marriage Register, 1922, ROWLEY Archibald to Jane Morgan, District of Govan, County of Lanark p96/191 (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 22 March, 2005)

[2] http://weddingdetails.com/lore-tradition/ accessed 19/8/2016

[3] http://www.cash4goldaustralia.com.au/ accessed 19/8/2016

[4] http://assayofficebirmingham.com/safeguard/hallmarking_history.html accessed 10/8/2016

[5] https://theassayoffice.co.uk/help-with-hallmarks/anatomy-of-a-hallmark accessed 10/8/2016

[6] http://www.silvermakersmarks.co.uk/Makers/Birmingham-EJ-EO.html accessed 10/08/2016

[7] http://www.gold-traders.co.uk/hallmarks/results.asp accessed 12/08/2016

[8] http://www.inverclydeshipbuilding.co.uk/home/general-history/clydeside-revisited accessed 19/8/2016

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger_marches accessed 19/8/2016

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Finished Map

Completed Annotated Map

I chose my paternal great-grandparents, Archie and Jane Rowley, as the subjects for this map. Glasgow is the place of my childhood, and so I chose to draw with children’s crayons.

Archie worked in the shipyards, and the shipyards dominated Glasgow. Family lore painted him as a drinker and they moved twelve times in seventeen years. I represented these things with whisky spilling into and further polluting the Clyde, and an oversized passenger liner ensnaring the city and polluting the air.

Jane had twelve children, I marked each birth and joined them chronologically. A pattern emerged correlating with the Glasgow Underground which was open in their life time. I represented the nearby stations as mouths swallowing and spitting out lives.

Two births did not fit the pattern, fifth child Allan, born in Perthshire and ninth child Alice, born outside the underground network and away from the Clyde Shipyards. Allan died of Tuberculosis in the nearby Royal Infirmary at this time. Contemporary maps (1914) show a “Poorhouse” at this address. I had a strong emotional reaction to these discoveries and it changed the mood of the map. I broke the line at each of these places and drew tears and broken hearts spilling onto the ground and increased the darkness of the sky. I left the gardens brightly coloured and incongruous with the rest, but signifying that all was not doom and gloom.

I would enjoy expanding this piece to a three dimensional work, giving each of the elements a deeper more significant treatment.

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Gone too soon

Margaret Morrison had seven illegitimate children to three (or possibly only two) different fathers. Her story begins in Aberdeen in northern Scotland in 1864.[1] Her mother, Annie Hatt, died in 1874, at the age of 37,[2] of Tuberculosis. At this time her seven children were aged between two and fifteen years of age.[3]  Margaret was ten.

Being the eldest girl, the mothering would have automatically fallen to Margaret, the only other girl was aged two. We can only speculate about how it must have felt for Margaret to lose her mother and at the same time have such responsibility thrust upon her.

Margaret’s first illegitimate child Alice was born ten years later in Edinburgh in 1884.[4] and her life was irrevocably changed by the birth of that child. Could it be, however, that it was the loss of her mother at such a young age, that set Margaret on a collision course with her fate?

Margaret lived most of her life as the servant of the father of five of her seven children.

References:

[1] Scottish Birth Register, 1864 GROS Data 168/02 0974 Margaret Ann MORRISON (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 17 April, 2016)

[2] Scotland Death Register 1874, GROS Data 168/02 0098, Annie Morrison, (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : Retrieved 23/7/2016)

[3] Ancestry.com. 1871 Scotland Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original Data: Scotland. 1871 Scotland Census. . Reels 1191.General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland. Source Citation: Parish: Old Machar; ED: 22; Page: 17; Line: 7; Roll: CSSCT1871_35

[4] Scottish Birth Register, 1884 GROS Data 685/04 0313 Alice Lycke MORRISON (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : acessed 17 April, 2016)

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Annotated Map

I am constructing an annotated map for part of my Family History studies. The unit, Place, Image, Object requires that I create a representation of a place of significance to myself or my family.
All my ancestors are either Scots or Irish and the little I know about them all centres around Glasgow. That made the choice of place easy, next was who and how. The who was answered by choosing the family I am currently investigating, on my paternal side, my great-grandmother Jane Ross and her husband Archie.
Jane lived around the beginning of the twentieth century, and had twelve children. I had noticed whilst collecting the birth records of each child, that they moved almost every year until their last child was born and then remained there until their deaths.
The most difficult part was working out how to print out a map of Glasgow large enough to map their moves as many times they moved only a few doors away. I enlarged a Google map on my tablet until it was about the right size and then I took screen shots. It was tricky trying to move the selection sideways and create an overlap for joining, but even trickier was moving vertically and then back again. My first attempt was quite reasonable but I learned enough to make it a second time.

Annotated map 3
I carefully marked each address where Jane and Archie lived and drew a line to show the chronological order of each address. Not many people know that Glasgow has an underground railway, and I knew it was very old, so I looked up when it was opened and found that it was newly opened at the time of this family. I added this to the map as could clearly see the correlation between where they lived and the underground stations.
At first, I had intended to interpret the map with embroidery but I decided instead to interpret it in a drawing. This was mainly due to the time constraint; I may yet do an embroidery for my own satisfaction.

Annotated map 3
I was a child when my family emigrated from Scotland, so I chose to use crayons and child-like drawing. The Clyde River is central to the Glasgow story and so it bisects my page. The Underground Railway is in the centre, and only those stations next to their houses are marked, but they are marked like a dragon’s mouth spewing them out and swallowing them up.

Annotated map 2
The Scots are known, not unfairly, for their capacity to drink whisky, and the only story I know about Archie is one in which he is drunk. I drew a bottle pouring whisky into the Clyde and further polluting its’ waters. An oversized passenger liner in the centre represents the influence of the shipbuilding industry that created Glasgow as it is today, as well as the fact that the liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth II were built here.
I have paused for the time being whilst making that most difficult of creative decisions. Is it finished? I hope you enjoy it.

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A Rare Insight

My parents rarely ever spoke about the past. Once, I was showing my dad an enormous rectangular basket with a lid that had I bought to use as a blanket box. His eyes lit up when he saw it.

“We had baskets just like that when I was a child,” he told me

I held my breath, not daring to interrupt him in case he stopped.

“When we went away on holidays, we packed everything into one of those baskets, and then we’d all get on the steam train, and go.”

My imagination was fired; a busy Glasgow train station, a steam train, hissing steam, men, women, and children, in old fashioned clothes. I could almost smell the smoke.

Suddenly my father’s eyes widened as another old memory surfaced.

“My grandfather, ‘Papa Rowley’ was a huge man, six feet tall and built like a Highlander. I remember one year when someone tried to pick his pocket.  He was carrying that basket on his shoulder and the pick-pocket must have seen him swaying because he had been drinking, and thought he was fair game.”

I gasped with the surprise of such an insight.

“As soon as his hand went in Papa Rowley’s pocket, Papa’s arm flew back and caught him by the hand. The pick-pocket yelped and let go of the money, it bounced all over the platform. Everyone else was running around picking up the money, and rushing up to give it back to Papa.”

He chuckled under his breath, and as quickly as the moment had come, it was gone.

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Strangers in the Night

Archie ROWLEY (1897 – 1981) and Harry HARVEY (1893 – 1979) lived their lives twelve thousand miles apart, yet, before cars and planes were commonplace, their paths, so very nearly crossed. Archie and Harry, had the unfortunate luck to be born just in time to participate in a conflict we now call World War I. To them it became the “War to end all wars”.

Military service can be a boon to a family historian because of the information that is recorded and kept. Four years of Harry’s life is recorded in twenty-two pages of his army record. [1] Not only did the “war to end all wars” fail to end any war, it was followed a mere twenty-one years later by a sequel that obliterated over fifty percent of the British records of the first one. [2] In September 1940 a German bombing raid struck the London War office, and what remains of these records is now known as the ‘Burnt Documents’. Archie’s service in the Gordon Highlanders is recorded on a single medal card all other records burnt in the raid. [3]

Archie and Harry both served in France. Late 1915 or early 1916, Archie was gassed and blinded for three days, it impacted his health for the rest of his life. [4] On 12 July, 1916 Harry was sent to hospital in France with neurasthenia, a medical term used at the time known colloquially as shell shock. [5] He was shipped to England and admitted to the King George Hospital for treatment, he does not appear to have returned to France, and was transferred to the Australian Flying Corps 13 March, 1917. [6]

References:

[1] National Archives of Australia (NAA): B245 Harvey, HC (http://www.naa.gov.au/ : accessed 13 March, 2016)

[2] Service records for the first world war. The National Archives (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/service_records/sr_soldiers.htm : accessed 27 June, 2016)

[3] Ancestry.com. British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original Data: Army Medal Office. WWI Medal Index Cards. In the care of The Western Front Association website. Retrieved 27 June 2016.

[4] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished, “Interview with self” p 70. In the possession of Georgina Adams.

[5] Smithsonian Magazine, The Shock of War, C. Alexander, September 2010 (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-shock-of-war-55376701/?no-ist Retrieved 27 June, 2016)

[6] Same as 1, above.

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Finding a difficult ancestor

I have been slowly tracking down a particularly difficult ancestor called Margaret MORRISON.  Firstly her name is unbelievably common in Scotland at the time she lived. Secondly she never married and so I had no documents that listed her parents.

She was the mother of my grandfather Edward WILCOX who was illigitimate. I was able to find his father Charles Edward WILCOX in Glasgow the 1891 Scottish Census where Margaret is listed as the Housekeeper.

At first my fascination was with Charles’ wife Mary SNEDDEN whom he married in Edinburgh – what happened to her, was she still alive? I tracked her down fairly quickly, discovering that she lived her life out in Galashiels. That was some time ago, and now my focus was on my ancestor Margaret MORRISON.

I needed more information,  so although I knew who the children were, from the 1881, 1891, and 1901, Scotland Census,  I decided to lash out and get their birth registers.

We Scots are proud of who we are and we lead the English speaking world in access to family history archives. For less than £1 I can instantly download an image of the page in the registration book. To access that information here in Australia it costs up to $45 and can only be accessed by snail mail.

I digressed. Charles Edward WILCOX had ten children by these two women and Margaret already had two other children  whose fathers’ were not named. I could not find anything to define when one relationship ended and the other began, I suspected that they overlapped – not an unreasonable guess for the Victorian era. There were too many Margaret MORRISON’s to prove or disprove her status in either 1881 or 1911. Now I was frustrated, returning to the lesson on brick walls in my course I thought about the collateral lines (using siblings) and I decided to get the birth registers of the second Morrison child Alfred Edward,  his middle name implied that Charles could be his father but he had not been given the WILCOX name so I knew his father was unnamed and had ignored him so far.

This was when I struck gold. For reasons unknowable, on Alfred’s birth, she called herself Margaret Ann Hatt MORRISON. Now, assuming she predeceased Charles because neither woman was named on his death register, I moved to a death search between 1901 and 1920 where I found a possible Margaret who’s mother’s maiden name was given as HATT, the informant, her daughter Alice CAMPBELL, could possibly have been Alice MORRISON now married.

Finally,  could I prove or disprove this death register with a birth? It was known that she was born circa 1865 in Aberdeen,  Aberdeenshire.  Two possible births were found one Margaret and one Margaret Ann. Margaret Ann’s mother had a maiden name HATT and so closed the circle of proof.

Margaret MORRISON was born Margaret Ann MORRISON on 5 November, 1864 in Morningside, Aberdeen. Her father was Robert MORRISON a clock maker and her mother was Annie HATT. She was never married and had seven children, Alice L and Alfred E MORRISON, then Charles, Thomas, Edward, John and George WILCOX. Alfred and Charles both died in infancy. Margaret died in Glasgow on 23 October, 1919 nine months prior to the suicide of Charles Edward WILCOX, the father of at least five of her children. No mention of Charles is made on her death certificate, her daughter now Alice CAMPBELL informed the registrar.

I cannot tell you how addictive the hunt and the find is, it has to be experienced.  I am so glad I decided to join the Diploma of Family History at the University of Tasmania,  I have decided to continue to study even though the next unit is Convict Ancestors and I have none.

Stay tuned for the next exciting adventure:

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Getting somewhere

This is week five of my family history course and I would be hard pressed to tell you half of what I have learned.

Pedigree charts and family charts are great for getting started as well as keeping up. This week it has been suggested to create a time line for the person of interest.

Wow and I mean wow! I spent the day transferring as much as I knew about William Charles HARVEY, as well as any other information contained in the documents. I carefully added the references (I was becoming a bit overwhelmed with references) and transcribed the detail wherever possible. I added a column for clues and inserted a hint where something must have happened before, after or between the documents.

Lastly I wrote the results into my Family History Workbook and when I was finished I had uncovered and/or documented ten more clues. That’s right, ten more clues.

I am a happy researcher.

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Interview with self

I spent the afternoon writing everything I could think of that I knew about the HARVEY  family. This is the branch I have decided to investigate.

I have purchased an A4 exercise book to keep a written record before anything is entered into the computer. Eek that’s right – pen and paper, that is so 20th century.  I rarely use this method because I like everything at the tip of my fingers, or available in my ubiquitous phone.

I have, however, learned a lesson about losing information to obsolete technology. In this case my back up of last resort is the faithful pen and paper.

Providing it is stored properly it could even survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

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