Britain's relations with America will prosper under George Bush's presidency if residents of Messing have anything to do with it. This obscure English village of 90 households, two restaurants, and no post office has learned that it is the ancestral home of the next president of the United States. The news has made local residents of this agricultural settlement proud of their connections, and some villagers are preparing for a rush of tourists.
``We were what you call a `lost village.' But not anymore,'' says Ann Burns, a local resident.
``This Bush connection is going to put us on the map'' says restaurant owner, Brenda Mills.
According to British genealogist Hugh Peskett, President-elect Bush can trace his ancestry to one Reynold Bush, son of a yeoman farmer from Messing, who, in 1631, sailed from Ipswich, England, to what is now Cambridge, Mass. There are 10 references to the Bush family in Messing parish records, but no one by that name now lives in the village.
Reynold Bush became a farmer after arriving in America with his wife and children, along with other Puritan settlers from Messing and other nearby towns. Later ancestors, says Peskett, include a Capt. Timothy Bush, who fought in the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. Captain Bush was ``a larger-than-life character ... a complete non-wimp,'' Peskett says. His grandson, also Capt. Timothy Bush, fought in the War of 1812 against the British.
The Princess of Wales is also related to George Bush through a great-grandfather who lived in New England, but Peskett says the relationship is ``pretty remote.''
One Messing resident, Henry Close-Smith, has taken careful note of the President-elect's lineage. Despite the history of anti-British sentiment, he is proud of Messing's ``native son.'' ``There's no middle European blood; there's no Irish blood. He's just an ordinary Englishman,'' Mr. Close-Smith says.
Burke's Peerage reports that Bush has a connection with the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, through Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. But genealogist Peskett, who also traced President Reagan's ancestral village to Ballyporeen in Ireland, says this relationship is nothing special. ``This makes him the 13th cousin twice removed of the Queen, but frankly millions of people could claim that remoteness if they sat down and worked it out,'' Peskett says.
If the new President accepts Messing's invitation to visit his ancestral home, he will find a compact village surrounded by corn and barley fields 50 miles northeast of London. Built on the site of a Roman villa, Messing now has a population of 350 people, with roads barely wide enough for a tour bus and with some of the houses dating to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603).
The chief historical site in the village is the All Saints Church, a parish of the Church of England with stone work dating to the 12th century and a stained glass window from the late 16th century. The bats in the belfry and peeling plaster are of more recent vintage, the village vicar says.
``This area has very strong links with the United States. Miles up the road, Thomas Hooker left for America with a number of settlers from this area, including Messing, and they founded the town of Hartford,'' says the Rev. Martin Clarke at All Saints Church.
Some Messing residents are musing about how to adapt to their Bush connection. Mrs. Mills, who runs the Old Stores Bistro, a converted Elizabethan house, now serves special Greek dinners. But she is thinking about adding some new dishes to the menu. ``Although we'll continue with our Greek nights, we might even try a few American nights,'' she laughs.
Paul Roseblade, a craftsman and musician who lives in the Old School House says he hopes the publicity doesn't spoil the village. ``It's causing some concern,'' he says. ``I hate to say it, but we live here because we like the peaceful life.''