THE most senior surviving member of Emily’s Davison family has spoken of his pride at seeing his relative commemorated.
Geoffrey Davison, who is the great, great nephew of the Suffragette, travelled to Morpeth from his native Australia to play a pivotal role in the Emily Inspires events.
Growing up in New South Wales, Mr Davison initially knew nothing about his famous relation.
His great grandfather Charles Chisholm Davison had travelled to Australia to make his fortune. Over the years the family had many business interests, with hotels and at one time the largest sheep station in the country with a flock of more than 450,000. Geoffrey’s grandfather was one of the founding fathers of Australia’s capital Canberra.
The first Mr Davison knew about Emily was at the age of 10 when a Scottish teacher taught about the Suffragette who ‘committed suicide by throwing herself under the King’s horse’ and asked if the young Geoffrey was related, which he denied.
However, when he got home that evening he learned otherwise.
“It was one of the rare occasions when I got home from school and my dad asked what had happened,” he said.
“He immediately said ‘Emily Davison was your great aunt and she didn’t kill herself. She was part of the family and you are very much part of the same family’. I can’t remember how I felt at that critical moment, but I remember how I felt when I went to school the next morning and in no uncertain terms told the teacher that Emily was related to me and she did not commit suicide. I was so proud.
“I don’t think the teacher expected me to be so forthright, but he didn’t try to argue with me.”
Later, Mr Davison would take a passing interest in news items about Emily, but little more.
“My interest did develop over time,” he said. “In Australia from time to time there would appear something about her in the national Press, almost for no reason at all. It wouldn’t be for an event or an anniversary, but there would be something about Emily and the Derby and you would see the famous images.”
Mr Davison first visited Morpeth in 1992, but it was not to find out about Emily.
“Ironically, I didn’t come to Morpeth to look for Emily,” he said. “My grandfather was born in Morpeth and baptised at St Mary’s Church. I had three books of his that were prizes from Morpeth Grammar School. I’d had them since I was a little boy and as I went through life they were always in my study or library so before I went the way of older relatives I wanted to come and see my grandfather’s school.”
The businessman made an appointment to meet the headteacher, but as he was early he decided to browse in The Chantry.
He said: “I was looking through a book on the heroines of Morpeth and there was Emily. It was then that I established that she was buried here so after I had been to the school I went to the grave. It was drizzling and cold, but I found the grave and saw that my great grandparents and Emily were buried there. I felt then that I had to become more involved in the history.”
When Mr Davison returned home he wrote to authorities in Northumberland for more information, but was initially told he was not related. At first he let the matter rest, but later he wrote back. By now work was under way to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Emily’s death and local genealogist Maureen Howes had been asked to look into the family history.
“I got a phone call one day from Maureen asking me ‘do you know who you are?’ and it all started from there,” said Mr Davison.
He was delighted to attend the Emily Inspires events with so many of his relatives.
“It has just been absolutely wonderful. It has been so emotional and rewarding for all of our family and also for the community,” he said.