zaterdag 17 mei 2008

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.

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