maandag 26 mei 2008

Molly’s tale Chapter 7 - married life

The five months Molly and Baden lived in Whitley Bay must have seemed like an extended honeymoon on the one hand, but the reality was they were there in order to hide Molly’s advancing pregnancy. If she had stayed in Backworth; at No 10 Northumberland Terrace; the whole neighbourhood would have known the marriage had been unavoidable. The street in Backworth was home to several members of Molly's father's extended family, as well as many of his colleagues from the Colliery.

Dick Mowat and his family lived at No 1; he was Company Treasurer, and presumably Henry’s superior. Other members of the Mowat family lived at No 3 and No 8, and were deputy supervisors. Henry’s stepfather and two step sisters lived at No 5, Another half sister Lily, was married to Henderson Gibson, manager of the Eccles/Maude Pit, and lived next door at no 11.

I don’t think she would have been able to go back home on a visit during this time, and she writes that little Jack, who was only four, went to Henry’s office at the Colliery to ask for sixpence for the bus to go and visit Molly in Whitley Bay. The young children must have missed her terribly.

The peace of Whitley Bay, and the lying in at Princess Mary’s Maternity Hospital came to an abrupt end when Molly left hospital to move directly into Pretoria House in New York with the Thompson family. The house and business were constantly busy; The house would have been full to bursting. I am not sure who was married at that time, but Father George and Mother Mattie (Margaret) had seven children, two unmarried daughters, Eleanor and Dora, definitely lived at home, as well as unmarried sons Albert and Charlie. There would have been help in the home and shop too; those people would have had meals at the house.

Molly writes about the bad conditions in the house, as the toilets were outside, and of course there was a lot of waste from the butchery, bones and offal, which attracted the flies. Molly writes:

One hot day I bought 12 fly papers and hung them up on the wooden line in the
kitchen. They were black with flies in about an hour, I think.

Molly’s baby, Joan, was loved by everyone, which was a good thing, as Molly was busy working both in the shop and back shop. Thankfully, the young couple only lived at Pretoria House for one year as Uncle Charlie had started building. He completed two houses in Merton village, and Molly and Baden moved into 2 Hawthorne Gardens, the other was used as the house for the school teachers at New York elementary school.

Chapter 8

donderdag 22 mei 2008

Molly’s Tale Chapter 6 – What Molly didn’t say.

There is a gap in Molly’s writing, which avoids talking about how she met her husband Baden Thompson. I think this gap should be filled in as it is a defining moment in her tale, and marrying into his family impacted the rest of her life.
The Thompsons’ were tough, labouring stock. Baden’s father George, and two uncles, John and Charles, grittily went out to the diamond fields of South Africa in the 1890’s to “make their fortune” and came back with enough to set up businesses, and provide for their wives and children. Baden was a very promising sportsman, winning three schoolboy caps for the England football team. Perhaps he played cricket, too, or she met him at one of the local dances.
However they met, it was at a time when Molly had been running a household for a good six years, and looking after a baby brother for the last three. She was probably more mature in many ways that other girls of her age, but working in the home may have shielded her from some of the facts of life.
Baden and Molly were careless, or unknowing, and she became pregnant. It must have been a terrible time. I remember Aunty Louie saying that their father never hit any of his daughters, but she remembered him beating Molly once, and they were all really scared. I think that this must have been the day she told them she was having a baby.
On Baden’s side, his mother refused to let him marry her,calling her "that hussy” but his father disagreed, believing there was no question about it; they should marry.
Once the families agreed; Baden bought Molly an engagement ring for 7 pounds, which Gran Thompson thought was scandalous as they could not afford it. Baden, of course was paid a wage as he was working in the butchers shop with his father.
It was decided that Molly and Baden should go to Whitley Bay and live with Mollys’ grandfather Patterson and Aunty Belle (Jane’s sister) until the baby was born, as there would be less talk about the pregnancy.
They were married in the spring of 1922, and had a glorious few months in Whitley Bay. The house was just up from the coast, and Baden was able to swim every day in the sea, and then cycle to work. Molly’s work must have been greatly reduced, and she must have had plenty of time to make baby clothes, and rest.

Chapter 7

Molly’s Tale Chapter 5 – was there any fun?

One thing that must have been quite fun, and a break from the housework, was helping Aunty Lily with the Backworth Cricket Club teas. When Molly was about fourteen or fifteen, she helped put up the the sandwiches, and carry the china, doilies and tablecloths down in a clothes basket. Then she helped put up the tables and set them ready for the cricketers coming at tea break. The food must have come from the Co-op as Uncle Bob was manager there, as well as playing for the team but should they run short of anything Molly had to run to Mrs Taits at 30 Warkworth Street to see if she could help. (Its not clear whether this was a shop, or another players wife) Molly always loved cricket, and loved to watch it on TV as she got older, She was very proud of the cricket club and writes

"we had a very good team and we had very good teams coming to play so everything had to be spick and span.”

When Molly was nearly sixteen she had a period of illness, and was taken by her father on the Stanhope and Tyne Railway to the farm at Stanhope. They were met at Stanhope station by the farmer and she rode a huge horse bare backed up the long railway to the Farm. Molly developed a friendship with Francis, the daughter of the house and has fond memories of her time spent there, just relaxing with someone her own age, going for walks and to chapel together.

That same year, in the October, Molly’s youngest brother, Jack, was born Molly took on the care of a baby, as well as the household chores. She writes that her mother only had strength to feed Jack, and she did all the rest. Jack as baby of the family was the “apple of Dads eye” and they got on very well. She writes very briefly

“the next 3 years were just looking after Jack and I made two new “Proggy” mats.”

What she mentions in another part of her memoirs is the fact that around the time of Jack's birth, was there was another addition to the family. Her father, Henry, had a family of half brothers and sisters, the Todds, and many of them lived in the same street in Backworth. His half brother Albert, and family lived at no. 15.

In 1919/1920 there was a global flu pandemic, and sadly, Albert and his wife Jenny died of influenza within three weeks of each other, leaving three orphan children, Mary aged 6, Albert aged 5, and Thomas, only three years old. The children were taken in by different families. Mary went to her Aunt Lily, Thomas went to his mothers brothers family (they were called Robson),
and seems to have lost contact with the rest of the family, and Albert moved in with Molly's family, at no 10 Northumberland Tce.

Molly writes that she felt Mary was never happy at Aunties Lily's, which implies that Albert was made very welcome at their house, even though an extra small child must have made a lot of work for her.

Chapter 6

Molly's Tale Chapter 4 – Starting work

When Molly was thirteen her father went to her school to get permission for her to leave as her mother, Jane, needed help in the house. She needed more and more rest, although Molly writes confusingly of two different reasons, once that her varicose veins were so bad she needed to lie on the couch with her feet up, and in another part of the memoirs that her eczema was very bad, even on her legs. Whatever the real reasons, from that time Molly left school, and took over the running of the household, whilst her Mother lay on the couch and gave instructions.

She writes
I could only do certain things at first, poor dad had scone and his ginger
every day for his pudding.

Her father went to Newcastle once a fortnight for the ginger, and bought a big piece of bacon, and newly ground coffee from Pumphrey’s at the same time. As a family they had coffee every morning for breakfast.

Washing day was on a Monday, The wash house was over the road and shared by several families, who took turns to use it. Mrs Smith from next door also washed on a Monday, and helped Molly sort the clothes, and gave instructions. Doing the wash required a lot of preparation as Henry put the clothes line up in the front garden before he went to work, and Roy helped fill the boiler and half fill the wash tub before he went to school. Carrying the wet clothes right through the house to the front garden to hang out was a big job for a Molly, so Henry would help too, when he came home for lunch. I guess that Molly would have had to make the lunch in the middle of doing the wash for everyone too.

Since Molly had been ten, her mother always had breakfast in bed on a Sunday. This would have corresponded with the birth of Louie, I think. On Sundays then, Henry and Molly got up first, and Henry got the fire going and tidied up, shaking all the mats as well as making breakfast. On Sundays, breakfast was only porridge, whereas the rest of the week it was bacon and dip. While Henry worked, Molly cleaned all the shoes ready for Monday morning, working outside in the yard. And helped get the rest of the children ready. Then she took Roy, Norah and Louie to Sunday School. On Sundays, Henry did all the cooking but all the children had to help with the dishes. Every 5th Sunday the preacher in the Methodist Chapel was invited to tea, and Molly would bake a cake on the Saturday in readiness for that visit.

Chapter 5

zaterdag 17 mei 2008

Molly’s Tale Chapter 3 – Schooldays

It was Molly who often had to run to the Co-op before school began, as the shop opened at 8.30 . School for Molly, as with many girls of her generation, was not a priority to her family, even considering her father had been a school teacher. She was a clever girl, and very capable, but it was not surprising she failed the equivalent of the eleven-plus exams, with so many other demands on her time and attention. However, the manager of the Co-op was Molly’s Uncle Bob Patterson. He knew that there was a scholarship sponsored by the Co-op and Molly’s father took her to Ashington to sit the exam. Although she passed the examination, she did not accept the scholarship, as it was felt that Ashington would be too far to travel each day.

It was not that she was not encouraged to learn, simply that learning needed to have a reason. There is a charming note she wrote:

Feb 16 1992 – I forgot about this but when Andrew (her grandson) told me he was learning piano I remembered taking piano lessons then playing the old piano at Sunday School for the children doing solos and choir practice for the “Anniversary”. Mr Newlands was very helpful and a lovely old man. I made my dress that I wore on the big day in the Chapel. I even had to play on the organ for them on Good Friday tea and concert and Easter Sunday. Mr Robson the proper organist sat beside me and made everything safe and I didn’t need to touch any pedals. Even so, I had a bilious attack on the Thursday before the big weekend, and everyone was at panic stations!

It seems from her memories there was a constant building pressure on her as she was relied on more and more to support the family, and the families’ way of life. There were moments of relaxation, however.

She writes of the picnic they went on during one summer holiday. Aunty Lily took Molly, Roy, Norah and Louie to St Mary’s Island for a picnic. They walked there over the fields, and carried the picnic in a basket. Once at the beach they bought water, probably from the family at the light house, which was a tourist attraction at the time, and made a fire out of driftwood to make tea. It mush have been a lovely day, but a really long walk home – as I estimate Louie would have been about four years old at the time.

There was also a small note in her writing about a holiday they took once:

Daddy and Mothers brother Rob Patterson always went to Stanhope for their holidays to a wee farm called “Shield Hurst”, and once Mother, Roy and I went with him. I never left the farm as I went all goose pimply with every wild sound when walking down to the burn.

Perhaps in the end she was happy in her role as family support, and stepping out of her comfort zone was too great a change for her.

NB: In the 1901 census The Harrison family lived at Shield Hirst; Thomas, Elizabeth, teenage children, Francis and George, and Elisabeths Mother, Frances Dent - Could this have been the same family?

Chapter 4

Molly’s Tale Chapter 2 – The move to Backworth Village

When Molly was about seven years old, her father got a new job as payclerk in the colliery offices. There was a house tied to that job, and the family moved to 10 Northumberland Terrace in Backworth. As this was a colliery house there was no rent to pay, and in addition we would be entitled to receive one load of best coal a month. These benefits would ease the family finances somewhat, so it was a good move. At this time Molly’s father was also company secretary for the local blacksmith whose forge was next to the pub. He worked there each morning between 8.00 and 8.30 before walking up to the colliery for 9.00 o’clock.

One the day of the move the whole family was up with the larks as the men with the lorry were expected at 8 o’clock. Molly’s job was to look after Norah in her pram while they were all loading the lorry. But everyone was still busy as it neared 9 o’clock, and Molly decided to leave Norah with the neighbour Mrs Archbold at No 4. Mrs Archbold was happy to help, and Molly went off to school.

At dinner time, the main meal in the middle of the day, Molly walked along to find the new house in Backworth. The family were horrified to find she had been to school, and did not have Norah with her. Molly had to walk back to Holywell to get her, before she was allowed to eat dinner. For a seven year old, this was a long walk, at least three or four kilometres round trip, and would have taken the good part of an hour. On her return there was no time to go back to school that day, and she had to help with the move.
Molly writes that

as a child I often suffered from chilblains and had to go to school in mothers boots when my feet were swollen

I hope on the day of the move she was wearing shoes that fitted properly.

Living in Backworth had benefits, but also brought different chores. The free coal was delivered by the haulier with bad grace, and was always dumped OUTSIDE the coal house; meaning the family had to shovel the whole load inside every time.

There were, of course, no carpets, and the new house had to have floor coverings. The usual practice was to make rag rugs or “clippy mats”. Molly’s father would cut the old clothes into strips and all the children would make short “clippings” of the strips. Then Auntie Lily Todd who lived at number 5 would help them push the rag clipping in and out through the burlap backing to make a firm, warm, “clippie mat”.

Each morning Roy and Molly had to carry water from the tap opposite the Todds house (House number 5) before they went off to school. They filled the large jug and the kettle, and topped up the large washtub that stood in the pantry held 5 pails of water. In the yard there was a large butt for rainwater which was used to wash hands and clean anything. On wash days they had to fill the pot of the boiler and half fill the posstub in the wash house over the road too.

Molly remembered an terrible accident one Thursday. Granny Patterson tripped in the back yard when going to the water butt outside. As she fell she broke the big ware dish that was used for the bread making and cut her wrist. It was a deep gash, and severed a nerve. The poor woman was never able to use the arm again. Granny Patterson died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 68, and her death affected Molly deeply; not only did she miss her greatly, but as oldest child at 9 years old, with a younger brother and two younger sisters, the household chores were mounting.

After her grandmothers death, Molly often went to stay a few days with Aunty Belle Patterson and Granddad Patterson at 9 Gladstone Terrace, Whitley Bay. It must have been quite restful there, and she would have had a lot of attention, and love. She writes

Aunty Belle taught me to knit this edging which I put around a bit of real Irish linen and made a tray cloth. Dad put it on a nice tray we had which we used for mother’s breakfast in bed on Sunday mornings.

Even the haven at her granddad’s house was not sacrosanct for Molly. On one visit, she had only been there two days when her father came to "seek" her as her little sister Louie would not eat because she was fretting so much for Molly. Molly writes:

I cannot remember much about Louie being born but once she could walk she was always in trouble somewhere or other.

Molly’s Tale Chapter 1 - Early childhood memories

When Molly was a baby she lived with her mother and father at Normans Buildings, in West Holywell. Henry was at that time a teacher at Cramlington Elementary school. She described one of her earliest memories, a time when she was still the only child in the family:

I remember being about 3 years old It was around about November 5th, and Mother went down the yard for a bucket for water. Three “guisers” came in all dressed up as was the custom then. I screamed and fainted, they disappeared, and Mother dropped the bucket and came running.

Later she remembered the time, her father took her out one night to observe the path of Halley’s comet. This was in April 1910, and Molly was seven years old – her brother Roy and sister Norah would have been too young to go out, so this would have been a special moment alone with her father. He carried her on his shoulders down to the level crossing gates closing Blyth and Tyne railway line from the road to Backworth village where the view of the night sky would have been clear across the fields.

There is evidence that Molly’s father was quite artistic, a beautiful hand painted valentine card survives, which he gave to Jane when they were courting, and later he developed an interest in photography. Molly remembered him having a big camera. He hung a backcloth in the yard of the house in Holywell, and the children would pose for him.

As the family grew, Molly’s mother, Jane, needed help with the heavy household work. They were never rich enough to pay for a servant or household help, so every Thursday Granny Patterson came and baked and cooked while Jane “did” the bedrooms. I expect that meant topping and tailing the sheets (There was one clean sheet a week, the bottom sheet went to the wash and the cleaner top sheet was put on the mattress) shaking all the mats and sweeping the floors, and stairs.
Chapter 2

Mollys Tale - Preface

Molly was my grandmother, and I loved her dearly, she was a strong and forceful presence in our family. I have many memories of her, from my earliest childhood at her bungalow in Seaton Sluice, Northumberland, to the last time I saw her, three weeks before she died. This narrative is not made up of my memories, however, but hers, provided on precious scraps of paper; carefully preserved. The preface to one bundle of papers reads:
25 October 1991

At long last a start at all the events in my life. Please excuse all mistakes in spelling as I cannot remember that very well. Today, Friday, have had two ladies in for coffee from the golf club, and what a lovely morning we have had

She would have been 88 when she wrote this, about 14 months before her death. She had been born October 7, 1903.

She was the firstborn child of Henry Elliott and his wife Jane. Henry had never known his father, being a posthumous child, and life had been hard for his mother, Martha, bringing up five children alone in the late 19th century. When Henry was four she married again, and this union was blessed with a child every second year for eight years. Henry was a clever child, but surviving surrounded by such a big family his talents did not shine very brightly.

In order to gain a decent education, he became a pupil teacher at the age of sixteen, working in the local elementary school. If that had not been possible, he would have ended in the pits, the same as most other young men in the villages in that area of North East England. As it was, he moved on from teaching to work as a clerk in the colliery offices, a respected position, but hardly well paid.

Molly’s mother, Jane, was daughter of a coal miner. She left school as early as possible in order to help her mother with the household until her marriage to Henry. She also came from a big extended family. It was common practice in those days before the birth of the welfare state that support for those in need came from family members; for a period through her childhood most of her family moved in with her mothers uncle William, in order to keep house for him, whilst sister Belle went to stay with aunt Betsy Landreth.

Molly, then, was born into a very big extended family, and a household with a strong work ethic, typical of many working class families at the turn of the twentieth century. Click on each chapter to read about her life.

vrijdag 2 mei 2008

War came and we had sheep on the golf course

I've been working on family history matters for a couple of years now - but my focus has been the internet (my beloved internet!) as the main sources of information are naturally in the north east of England. Mam and Dad are the keepers for family lore, and have boxes of information I would love to get my hands on.
Finally Mam decided she could trust the postal service with some of these precious documents and sent my grandmothers memoirs recorded delivery! They came last week, and I had to take a photo so you could see what I have to work with!
The best part is the fifteen closely written A6 pages of notes you see on the right! Its taken a bit of deciphering but I've finally got a first draft of her life story, helped in that she seems to have written two versions, and I can move from one to the other if somethings not clear.
I took the title of this blog from what I think is the best line in the whole story!
I'm looking forward to moving it forward into a more readable whole, she had such a long and very interesting life; what I feel comes through in her writing most strongly is her simple description of her development from childhood to maturity.

It never rains but it pours as they say, and having the family tree published on the internet means that I get contact from long lost relatives with the strangest pieces of information. The last weeks I have been sent not one, not two, but ten, pictures of gravestones from various family plots scattered around Northumberland; the last resting place of ancestors from both sides of the family. This impressive memorial was sent by Dylane Symm, a relative from dad's side. Dylane added the daffodils as a mark of love and respect! Thanks Dylane!

I've also had loads of information in the last days about my mothers family, Its really hard not to get all caught up in this and work non stop to get everything recorded; when you think about it, some events happened nearly 200 years ago, whether I write about it today or next year, its not going to change history!