Whilst researching strands on my family tree, I found a woman called Dennes/DenisSkull (also Scull) – so distinctive and unusual a name I had to check out the derivation. According to www.surnamedb.com Skull is a medieval name based on someone’s cadaverous appearance. My Dictionary of Surnames didn’t register the name at all.
I wonder how her family pronounced her first name; she was baptised in 1832. Denise perhaps? One of her descendants has amended her name on Ancestry.
However, it wasn’t just her name which was fascinating but her occupation. In 1871, having married William Gibbs, a shepherd, she was now widowed and a shepherd in her own right in Great Cheverell, Wiltshire. It was common for a shopkeeper’s widow to take on her husband’s business. I’ve even seen a female blacksmith – presumably she took on her late husband’s business and employed journeymen to do the heavy work.
But shepherd? This was my first.
During lambing, shepherds lived in the fields with their flocks; Matthias Shoenaerts is doing exactly that at the beginning of the 2015 film Far from the Madding Crowd. The photo above is of a hut I’ve seen in Staffordshire and, as they are now getting quite rare, I took its photo. Did Dennis live in one like this?