February 19, 2010
Sepia Saturday - My Great Great Grandfather
He started his adult life as an agricultural labourer and by the 1880s he and his wife Harriet went on to run their own Cook Shop/Eating House in Gillingham's High Street. Unfortunately no one in the family could remember what the name of it was.
Although he was known for being teetotal, his wife's father was later recorded living in both the Staff of Life, and The Beehive - both pubs on the Hoo Peninsula. His daughter ran a pub called The Two Sawyers and her husband's family ran a nearby pub called the Plough and Chequers. This must have made the temperance gods very angry.
Somehow along the way, Joseph became the High Constable of Gillingham ( which I believe is like a mayor or reeve). He held that esteemed position for 1898-99.
Family history says that Joseph Plewis initiated the development of the Gillingham Volunteer Fire Brigade. In 1920, he received the Order of the British Empire for "conspicuous courage and devotion to duty at fires caused by hostile aircraft" while Chief Officer of the Gillingham Fire Brigade.
He and Harriet lived on Priestfield Road, a street that dead-ended at Priestfield Stadium home of the Gillingham Football Club . Sundays were very hectic on that street. The house stayed in the family for a while - my brother was born there in 1953. My own father had to deal with the final moments of Joe's odious son-in-law Fred as he lived in the flat below.
Chief Officer Plewis held the medal of the "Life Saving Society of France." Tere was also some exchange program between the fire brigades of France and the County of Kent, hence the picture above.
It says, roughly:
Brigade Commander of Gillingham (Kent County), is also very experienced in the world of fire-fighters. His brigade is also the well-organized winner of the main competition. They are highly trained in fire and ambulance service. Captain Plewis is an Honorary Member of the National Federation of Fire Brigades and the French Federation Belgium. Honorary Member of the Union of the Corps of the Fire Brigade of the Lyonnaise Region. Holder of a Medal of Honour of the French Government and honourary member of the Lifeguard of the Aisne. Gillingham is a town located in Kent County and most important country(?) in this county of a population of about 40,000 inhabitants."
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