Alan John Neame, only son of Alan Bruce (1888-1967) and Annie Victoria Neame, was born on 24 January 1924 in the Kentish village of Selling. His interest in family history started with a childhood discovery that a large part of the village churchyard was filled with Neame memorials. This early interest, nurtured by elderly relatives with vivid memories of his ancestors living in the mid 19th century, became a fascination that would endure throughout the seventy-six years of his life.
Alan Neame graduated from Wadham College, Oxford just after the war, and taught modern languages at Cheltenham College before moving on to lecture at the University of Baghdad. After further lecturing posts in various other Middle Eastern capitals, he gave up teaching for writing and was soon to return to England and to the village of his birth that he so loved.
Alan was a religious scholar, working for three years as Literary Editor of the Jerusalem Bible (Old Testament) published in 1966, and a translator of many religious works. As a historian, he wrote the definitive account of the life of Elizabeth Barton in The Holy Maid of Kent and made a study of Bernadette Soubirous in The Happening at Lourdres. Alan was also an accomplished poet and novelist and, throughout his literary life, devoted much of his time to family history.
Forty years before Alan was born, his great-grandfather Frederick Neame used to ride around the county of Kent gathering family history information from parish registers to draw-up a pedigree stretching back over three hundred years. In 1888 this research produced the evidence needed for the family to successfully apply to the College of Heralds in London for a re-grant of the family coat of arms.
One early version of a Neame family tree was published in 1927 in a book entitled The Faversham Farmers Club and its Members that commemorated the two hundredth anniversary of a club, whose first Neame family member joined in 1781. The book sets out the family records of the yeoman farming families of the district, including details of Alan's direct ancestors going back to Roger Neame of Woodnesborough who died in 1486.
Alan commenced his own research by checking this pedigree with details contained in an 18th century family bible and against records of wills in the Public Record Office in London. His work soon started to take him far beyond his own direct line as a systematic search of East Kent parish registers unearthed many long forgotten family members.
From his twenties onwards he started writing to any Neame that he came across, a practice he continued throughout his life. He regularly corresponded with distant cousins from all corners of the world and had a wonderful way of enthusing those to whom he wrote, tempting a response by the offer to provide a line of ancestry reaching back to the 15th century.
Over the years more and more parts of the jigsaw began to fall into place. When he used to say "every Neame is related" it was with the benefit of knowledge, built up from years of research that did so much to establish and confirm the extensive Neame family tree.
Through his knowledge of history, Alan was able to tell a captivating story of the Neames in Kent, starting with our earliest known ancestor John Neame, a tanner in Canterbury in 1450, perhaps, working together with his relatives from Neamestown in County Wexford (Ireland) as they exported their cattle hides. At the same time, according to Chancery Records, our entrepreneurial ancestor victualled the ships from Rye and Winchelsea, taking his profit from their acts of piracy in the English Channel and later leaving an inheritance of land near Sandwich that was to underpin the family's subsequent yeoman farming tradition.
From this early dose of adventure, generations of conformity were to follow with family members acting as churchwardens and marrying the daughters of other yeoman families, so keeping hold of their freehold land and firmly anchoring successive generations to their Kentish villages. As the rural economy became more diversified, so the family moved with the times becoming producers of beer as well as growers of hops and barley - another example of family members working together.
With the family's extensive Kentish ancestry and his reputation as a genealogist, Alan become one of the founders of the Kent Family History Society, editing a monthly journal and later becoming chairman of the society. Within his own immediate locality, he spent much time recording monumental inscriptions from surrounding parishes, writing church guides and helping neighbours with their own family history endeavours. Throughout his life, Alan was generous with his time, never allowing a somewhat scholarly life to detract him from the need for painstaking, often repetitive, research.
In remembering Alan's family history achievements, he would have wanted two people, in particular, to be recognised. From his grandfather's generation, Charles Gordon Neame (1870 - 1941) who encouraged Alan's early interest and May Joyce Gibson (nee Neame) who collaborated closely with Alan on family research during the 1970's.
On a personal level Alan was a modest man with a great religious faith. He was charming, intellectual and famously witty. Perhaps one of Alan's greatest legacies was his ability to enthuse others in the family history quest. He would have loved this initiative to create a web site to further this goal, no doubt seeing it as yet another example of the family moving with the times and working together!
Alan is greatly missed by all who knew him, but he will never be forgotten. Indeed, future generations will come to know of him through his remarkable and everlasting work in researching the history of the Neame family.
We are very grateful to Alan Neame (family historian and founding member of the Kent Genealogical Society) who for thirty years researched into our family history. He was ably assisted by the significant collaboration of Joyce Gibson nee Neame. It is really thanks to Alan that any of us are aware of the others' existence. Alan travelled the world meeting people and recording their data for the benefit of all of us.