Some Family History

My 87 year old uncle, who lives in sunny Australia, has been emailing me recently with little snippets of my maternal family history (he is the oldest surviving sibling of my grandmother's eight children).

This week's instalment concerned my grandfather and I found it quite interesting as this was the first time I had learned about his background.

For anyone else who may be interested, here is his story, however, I have not had an opportunity to verify any of my uncle's account.

The family name comes from a word meaning, ‘of the land’.  Gamekeeper, protector of livestock, farmer, farm-worker.      It appears that somewhere in East Anglia circa 1800 a farmer had  developed quite an estate.  He had 4 sons, and then re-married late in life, living only 4 more years after his marriage.  When he died, everything was left to the second wife.  She already had her 4 sons and decided that she no longer needed her husband's four as well so they were "turfed out", as the saying goes.
We understand that one of them landed in poverty, in London’s East End Docklands. He had been born in 1857, dying in 1927 of cancer,   He had 3 sons and 2 daughters.  The youngest daughter was born in 1889. Apparently she had severe learning difficulties, and at the age of 17 years she became pregnant by the family's temporary lodger, who came from Belfast, (born in 1876).  He was a Merchant seaman, who was briefly in Docklands and took advantage of the confused young woman it seems before disappearing.  The baby, my grandfather, came as a surprise to the family and was brought up to believe that his young mother was actually his sister.  His early life was spent in a time of great poverty, living with a drunken father (grandfather in reality) and not much love or affection. 
He left school at age 12 years, which was usual back then, and worked in a Corn Chandlers shop, whilst waiting entry into the Docks.   Eventually, his father (grandfather) sponsored his membership into the world of the Stevedore. Dockers  were often not ‘called on’ for work so after standing out in all weathers, had to return home, unpaid, to maybe, a frosty reception and very little for dinner.  He noted that crane drivers always got work so applied for and luckily managed to achieve a crane driver's licence. This was right after WW1 and licence or not, the country was heading for massive unemployment.  He saw a way to make a little money and headed for the big Boxing hub, in Poplar, London, The Premierland.  My uncle writes that grandad had some success there and got matched against Ernie Jarvis, twice, for a Draw and narrow points loss, over 4 rounds. Jarvis became British Lightweight Champion. 
It was around this time that he met my grandmother, who was reportedly quite a beauty and worked as a nippy  in a Lyon's Corner House.
And so the story goes on.

29 comments:

  1. Ooh I love all the family tales that are told. Good or bad it’s what binds you all together.

    And big laughs at your Sunny Australia quip - this is what we living east of Melbourne have had to contend with this past week (i live in the foothills of the Dandenongs) https://www.9news.com.au/national/weather-news-victoria-thousands-without-power-as-destructive-storms-lash-state/c36b2a57-3eb9-4178-90f4-f9eb9a455e9c

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    1. Yes, the sunny Australia quote was a little joke. Family and friends over there have been telling us all about it!

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  2. You could write your own Victorian Eastenders script JayCee. Fascinating reading. Please tell us more tales of your ancestors.

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  3. Oh, Lyons corner house brings back memories for me. I used to go in them frequently. We had several here in Brighton. I also used to go into the cafe part of the BHS store. They used to have trays of cups and if there were several cups of tea to pour they would just run the teapot across the cups. lol
    Briony
    x

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    1. This is one of those stories which brings back memories of our British family histories - both the good and the bad! It seems that life was incredibly hard in those days - something the current younger generations have very little knowledge of now that history isn't even taught in some school systems....so sad!
      My dad had a bad childhood in Devon - no father, and his mother had to put him in the care of a foster family. My mother though was OK as her father (originally from Canada) became an officer in the Coldstream Guards. She grew up in Windsor and was permitted to play in the castle grounds with her four siblings when they were children.
      Thanks for sharing your story with us. Yes I recall Lyons, BHS etc. Even though gone from England for so many years, it's always been and continues to be HOME!
      Enjoy your weekend.
      Mary -

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    2. My grandad wouldn't recognise the docklands area now. It has all changed so much; like everywhere I suppose.

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  4. My mother's family lived in Tower Hamlets/Poplar. My uncle worked on the docks. Grandmother is buried in Tower Hamlets(Bow) Cemetery--we walked behind her horse-drawn hearse from my aunt's house (where her shrouded body had been kept in a wood coffin in the second bedroom--ask me how I know...) to the cemetery. Visited the area often growing up so familiar with it as it was back in the 1950s/60s/70s. Also remember many visits to Lyon's Corner Houses on the Strand, as well as the one near Marble Arch. So much history--such a different time.

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    1. My grandparents moved from Poplar to Hounslow to the west of London during WWII so my memories are of a different place. Even that area has changed a lot since then.

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    2. From the early to mid-1950s, we lived in a lovely house that backed up to the Actonian Sports Club near Gunnersbury Park, so I know that area, too. Can still remember my way from Acton Town tube to the house. I've looked at photos of my old street--all the beautiful front gardens that had lovely low brick walls with pretty gates have been replaced by cement parking pads. Sigh.

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  5. It is a wonder that they survived and even prospered, altho, many, many did not survive. The "good old days" weren't so good for many people, were they?
    And here I am complaining about the warm weather and my weeds growing! Geez! I am a wimp!

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    1. Don't worry, you are not the only one!

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  6. How splendid to learn all of this. The lives of poorer people are often harder to unearth as there is usually very little documentation. Was a "nippy" a woman who nipped customers' bottoms in Lyons Corner Houses?

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    1. Wishful thinking on your Part, YP. They certainly had to nip around quite quickly in those days.

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  7. What a great history - hang on to every detail. I have never been into tracing family history (have cousins who thrive on it, but nothing they have ever found out could be made into a great story like that; we are as boring a mud).

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    1. I believe that every family has a great story to tell. Life's rich tapestry.

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  8. I wonder if your uncle is concerned these stories might be forgotten, which is why he's telling you. Putting them on your blog helps preserve them.

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    1. Thanks Tasker. I think that he is very aware of the fact that the younger members of our family do not seem to be particularly interested in our history. It is only my sister, my cousin and me that want to hear all about them. Probably an age thing.

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  9. Wonderful family history. How the real people survived. Lovely for him to pass on all these stories

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    1. Yes, without him I wouldn't know anything about it as my mother left home many years ago and any stories (and photographs) went with her.

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  10. I love these family stories. I have just started to learn about mine. Its so interesting.

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    1. I am hearing about other aspects of our family's past and finding it fascinating.

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  11. I hope you wrote it all down - it sounds like a fantastic start for a lot of research.

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    1. I shall have to write it somewhere other than on my blog as my family don't know that I do this!

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  12. Such stories are so interesting. As Weaver says; write it down, someone else will need to know it one day, and will thank you. My father's people lived in a large house, and one day found a baby on the doorstep (literally). They decided simply to keep her, named her Molly, and brought her up as a daughter, although my father and his older brother knew that she wasn't really their sister. My father did suspect that she'd been 'fathered' by his older brother, but it was never mentioned. Molly went to live in Canada, and the last I heard of her was when my father died, and I'd written to inform her. I suspect many of us have such stories hidden away.

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    1. Secrets and lies... that was a good film

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  13. It was quite normal around here for a baby born to a girl in the family to be brought up in the family home as a sister and member of the family without it being revealed who was actually the mother. Of course people in the community would know but it was fairly well taken in the stride. Better than taking babies away to be adopted. Country folk were good at dealing with difficult things in a matter of fact, kindly way.

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    1. My grandfather was probably fortunate that he wasn't taken to an orphanage or the workhouse.

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Although I am quite used to talking to myself, any comments on my posts are very welcome, provided they are not abusive. I do reply to them so please check back. It's good to talk (!)