Continuing my plan to create a Mary Stewart Advent Calendar by posting a little snippet relating to Mary Stewart every day up until Christmas, I thought I’d stick with the very earliest part of Mary’s life when she and her family lived in Sunderland, in the north-east of England.

Mary’s baptism record shows that she was born on 17 September 1916 and baptised Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow – by her father – on 22 October of that year. This record also tells us that the family lived at 18 Harold Street.

I don’t know Sunderland at all, I have never been there. There doesn’t appear to be a Harold Street any longer, but there is a Harold Square, which is in the Hendon area of Sunderland and it is a 15 minute walk from John Street, the street on which her father’s church, St Thomas’s, stood. You can see the location of Harold Square here.

Looking for Harold Street led me to a grisly discovery: in 1909, just five years before the Rainbows moved to number 18 Harold Street, there had been a brutal murder at number 24. The case of Herman Cohen’s murder remains unsolved. You can read the gory details via the National Library of New Zealand, who digitised this article from the Hawera and Normanby Star. The case involved Major Richardson and his famous bloodhounds but in this case they were unsuccessful. The Islington Gazette has this fantastic photo of the Major plus dogs leaving by train to help locate wounded soldiers in the Great War.

Hmm, murder and war, really festive. To make amends, enjoy this bloodhound puppy photo (I’m sure animal-lover Mary Stewart would have approved).

Attribution: By Ⅿeagan (Flickr: Jakey Face) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons