Autobiography of William Joseph Dibdin F.I.C.,
Section 1 Chapter 1
To commence the family record it will be necessary to go back earlier than Charles Dibdin, better known as England’s Sea Poet, who was my great grandfather. He was the son of Thomas Dibdin and Sarah Wesgarth who were married at Southampton in 1729. Amongst their 14 children (tradition says 18) were:
Thus I am introduced to the reader. Writing as I do under the portraits of six generations of my own and my wife’s families I may be pardoned for saying that I can look up at them and not be ashamed.
These portraits, it may be interesting to recite – unfortunately I do not have one of Charles, the Poet, but an excellent on of my grandfather Thomas Dibdin and his wife, my grandmother (nee Hillier). Next a fine oil painting of my father at about 40 years of age and a smaller painting of my father and mother painted in oils by my father-in-Law [Augustine Aglio – junior] from photographic enlargements I made in 1880.
There on my mother’s side are oil paintings of my mother’s mother and grandmother.
On my wife’s side [ Marion Dibdin nee Aglio ], there is an oil painting of Signor Aglio my wife’s Grandfather who was the sole representative of the ancient Cremona family of Aelius.
Companion portraits of her Father [ Augustine Aglio – junior ] and Mother [ Margaret Aglio nee Absolon ], similar to those of my father and mother above.
In addition to these are excellent portraits by my daughter Marian (Mrs Paul Montford) of myself, of my daughters Letty and Christine and one of herself which was exhibited in the Royal Academy. In another room, so as to be separated from the oil paintings is an excellent pencil portrait of my wife by my daughter Marian which was also exhibited at the Royal Academy.
Of course elsewhere are photographs of sons and daughters , but these do not come under the above descriptions.
At the time of my introduction to this **** abode [ this life ] my father was engaged on a series of paintings of Indian Scenery, amongst them being one which included a view of juggernaut cart in progress, and on the principle, I suppose, that all must bow down before King Baby, he dubbed me "young juggernaut" which term he often used in later years.
I was reminded of this recently when I was called upon to address a number of young Indian Students, and it was astonishing how it helped to take away any feeling of nervousness at so novel a position.
[ A Juggernaut Cart was used in India for processing a Hindu God ]
In consequence of severe illness and several deaths in the family, when I was about 3 years of age, my father took us all down to a small cottage in The Banstead Lane, Surrey, about half way between the Downs and village and here I benefited by the country air and life. When old enough, it soon became my task to see to the garden so far as I could and I well remember the sharp lesson I received on the importance of doing work thoroughly.
Before leaving home for town one morning my father set me the task of planting a number of young cabbages. I was only about 5 or 6 years of age and did my best but on his return in the evening, he tested them to see if they were firmly set in the ground with the result that he pulled them up and I had to replant the lot. It was rough on me, but it served its turn and to this day I never plant anything without remembering those cabbages!
It is little trivial incidents like these that set the "time" for ones life and if I have been, as I have tried to be, thorough in my life’s work, it is largely due to those cabbages.
I pass to the time when I went to school at Reigate under Robert Read, one of whose sons, Walter, later became Surrey’s famous cricketer. Although I was by no means a forward scholar, I could play chess, so much so that even at that age gave my much respected Pedagogue a good drubbing much to his disgust. The fact is that my father was a very good player and I had learnt under him from very early days. I knew my chess long before my knowing spelling.
There I spent three years under as good a man as one desires to meet, strictly just and always kind, he stands out before one’s mind as a good man. On the removal of our family from Banstead to London, Kentish Town, I went for 12 months to a school in Fortess Terrace but, when at 14 years of age, I had the opportunity of obtaining a clerkship with the London and North Western Railway at Camden Station and knowing that my father had a hard task to keep a large family going I asked to be allowed to accept it.
Much against his wish my father consented and I went one day to the office and on asking what time I was expected to be there on the next day, was staggered to be met with the question " Oh! I suppose you can be here at five o’clock", I meekly answered "Yes Sir" and was there the next day at five am. And so ended my school days and I entered on my life’s work.