John Malam, photographed at Woodley Library, Reading, 2002

1. What's in a name?
It's a palindrome, you know

First things first – my name ...

If you think about it, your name is probably the very first thing you were given when you were a newborn baby ... and you usually keep it for the whole of your life.

What about my name? Can you say it? Can you spell it?

The 'John' part is easy to say (say: jon) and is quite easy to spell (remember: it's got an -oh- in the middle not a -ho-).

The 'Malam' part is trickier. In our family it's pronounced with a soft first vowel (say:may-lam not mal-am).

Thanks to the internet, I've been contacted by Malams from all over the world, and we all pronounce the name this way – it's only non-Malams who seem to have difficulty saying it!

I've seen it spelled many different ways (Mallam, Mallum, Malham, Maleham, Milam, Malan being the most frequent).

And it's a palindrome – one of the few surnames that can be spelled the same way forwards and backwards.

I'm very interested in history, and I've found out a little about my father's (paternal) family tree. I've discovered that my branch of the Malam tree has its roots in the Cheshire village of Weston, near Crewe, north west England.*

I've traced my direct ancestors back to my great-great-great-grandfather, who was born in 1772. He was also called John Malam, and he worked as a butcher. One day I hope to find out who his father was, which will take my Malam family tree back to an earlier generation. But this will be another story.

But that's quite enough about my name. What about my childhood? You'll find out about that on page 2.

* As an English regional surname, Malam is most frequently found in Cheshire and East Yorkshire. If you would like to find out where in Britain your surname comes from, based on data for 1881 and 1998, click here: Search for a Surname