Today marks the centenary of the end of World War I, and as I paused in remembrance at the eleventh hour this morning I thought of my Great Uncle Sam. And as I reflected on the life of my relation I wondered – was there anyone else in the world also remembering Samuel Rubery Thompson today?
Armistice Day is the perfect time to write his story, however limited it may be. But he was once a loved member of my family, and I intend for his memory to live on.
Samuel Rubery Thompson
16th September 1880 ~ 30th October 1914
Born Pendleton, Lancashire, England.
Uncle Sam was something of an enigma to me as a young, impressionable child. While listening to the stories my grandmother Florence Thompson told me about her older brother, I couldn’t fully appreciate how he “fit” into our family. He didn’t have the same mother as my grandmother, yet he was her brother. She adored him and spoke so highly of her brother, yet he was gone so young – why? What had happened to him?
My grandmother’s obvious adoration of her brother transcended time. Her son, my father, spoke of the man with such fondness that anyone would have imagined they had once been great friends, yet my father had never met his uncle. And my father and grandmother instilled such curiosity into me that I have researched for many hours to learn as much as I can about Samuel Rubery Thompson. So first the facts –
Samuel was born to William Thompson and Elizabeth Ann Howarth in 1880, with the 1881 Census showing the six-month-old living with his parents and maternal grandmother in Pendleton, Salford. He was baptised on the 6th of October 1880.
What became of his mother, however, is unknown. By 1891, Samuel still lived with his family in Pendleton, but with his father and his father’s second wife, Jane.
Ancestry.com provides a comprehensive account of Samuel’s army service. On the 29th of December 1898, Samuel enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. At this time, he was regarded as “a respectable lad”. According to his Army record, he transferred from the 4th Battalion Manchester Regiment. Considering a man must be eighteen years of age to join the army, Samuel could have only been with the Manchester Regiment for three months at the time he joined the Welsh Fusiliers.
When joining the Welsh Fusiliers, Samuel’s occupation was listed as a barman, he was five-feet-three-and-a-quarter inches in height, weighed only 123 pounds, and had grey eyes and dark brown hair.
Online records suggest Samuel chose the army as his career. He advanced to Lance Corporal, then on the 26th April 1904, he was promoted to Corporal. He served in this position for only six months, however, and on the 2nd November of the same year, Samuel was tried and convicted for “drunkenness”. The event occurred on the 20th of October at Dover, hence he was demoted from his position. It can be safely assumed that Samuel had quite a liking for alcohol – the only times he was reprimanded while in the army was due to his over-exuberant intake of the beverage!
By 1904, twenty-four-year-old Samuel had grown to five feet six inches and had transferred to the Army Reserve. He was still in the Army Reserve in 1910, “willing to serve for general service in the army”.
On the 22nd February 1905 at St Stephen, Salford, Lancashire, Samuel married twenty-two-year-old Ada Dugmore. In the 1911 Census, the couple were recorded as beer retailers living in Salford. They had been married for six years and had no children. Sadly, a record in Samuel’s army medical record shows that he suffered from a bout of the mumps when he was aged nineteen, followed by recordings of orchitis. Orchitis during the teenage years often leads to sterility in males, which would offer an explanation as to why he and Ada didn’t have any children.
After World War I broke out, Samuel was immediately sent to France with the Welch Fusiliers. In the final entry of his Army Record, on the 30th October 1914, Samuel was reported missing, presumed dead. He was only thirty-four years of age. Samuel’s place of death was “France and Flanders”. His name is included on amemorial plaque at Ypres Menin Gate, West Flanders, Belgium.
One-hundred-and-four years after my Great Uncle Sam’s death, the internet has provided answers to what became of my grandmother’s beloved brother, yet there are few people left who knew of him. With no direct descendants to keep his memory alive, Uncle Sam could become a forgotten statistic of the Great War. Yet I was one of the lucky family members who knew about him, thanks to his sister, my grandmother Florence, the Great Story Teller.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them. ~ Ode of Remembrance, 1914.
I came across this poem, written around 1943 by Della M. Cumming and share it today for those who, like me, understand the depths of feeling possible for family members long gone who we feel a connection to, who we understand; those we have never met, yet love so deeply.
We Are The Chosen “My feelings are in each family we are called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve. To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, Breathing life into all who have gone before.
We are the storytellers of the tribe. We have been called as it were by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.
How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count.
How many times have I told the ancestors you have a wonderful family, you would be proud of us?
How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say.
It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who I am and why I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can’t let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, To their never giving in or giving up.
Their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, Because we are them and they are us. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family.
It is up to that one called in the next generation, To answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers. That is why I do my family genealogy, And that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.”
The mere thought of going for a holiday on a cruise ship sends my sister, Vivien, into a state of horror. When my nephew recently suggested the idea to his mother, her reply was instantaneous – “I had a long trip on a ship once when I was a little girl and I was sick the whole time, so I don’t want to go on another ship!”
The voyage from England as a four-year-old child left an indelible impression on my older sister. While interviewing her for my Oral History unit with the University of Tasmania, Vivien recalled early memories of our family’s journey, their arrival in Sydney on the SS New Australia in 1951 and the challenges they faced living in migrant hostels in a new country.
During the post-World War II years, British families were invited to emigrate to Australia as part of the Ex-Servicemen’s Free Passage Scheme (p. 36). Most families travelled by ship and Vivien’s vivid memories of the lengthy journey, during which she suffered from seasickness and measles have lingered.
…I got sick and had measles and I was put in the ship’s hospital and the next morning my sister Christine was in the bed with me and she’d got them… – Vivien Knox.
A well-travelled and balding teddy bear, wearing hand-me-down baby clothes takes pride of place in a room at Vivien’s home today and she tells the story of the near doom of her treasured toy –
…I had a lovely teddy bear and they wanted to throw it overboard because they said it had germs on it and I was crying and mum said, ‘it’s alright…I can disinfect the teddy bear and then you can keep it’ and I’ve still got the teddy bear today… – Vivien Knox.
After arriving in Australia, the family were offered temporary accommodation at the Balgownie Hostels, now a part of the University of Wollongong campus, where three buildings have been preserved and are Heritage Listed. Offering little privacy, the Nissan Huts provided migrants with a temporary home while establishing themselves in Australia. My sister recalls the arc-shaped roofs of the huts and the walls which didn’t reach the height of the ceiling.
…you could stand on a chair and talk to your neighbour next door… – Vivien Knox.
Besides a bout of whooping cough soon after arriving in the country, which involved a traumatic time isolated from her family in the hospital, Vivien recalls going to the beach at Wollongong and getting badly sunburnt, unaware of the strength of the Australian sun, so different to summer days in England.
After living at Balgownie for a short period, the family were relocated to Wallgrove Hostel, near Penrith, N.S.W. where stable work in the vicinity provided a steady income. Housing Commission homes became available nearby at St. Marys and after moving in, the family remained in their new home until 1960 (during which time I was born).
We got one of the first housing Commission homes that was newly built then, in Little Chapel Street, St. Marys…and things started to pick up… – Vivien Knox.
By the late 1950s the family had bought a block of land in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and built a house of their own, a home filled with love, people and memories. It was whilst living in this home that Vivien and our two older sisters met and married their husbands.
…they bought land and had a home built, actually, it was only half built and then dad finished building it and we used to have sheets up at the walls until he managed to put walls and everything up… – Vivien Knox.
Just two weeks ago in November, Vivien lost her husband of fifty-one years, the man she had met when he visited our home in the mountains with a friend of hers, the man she married while living in the house our father finished building for his family many years ago.
Vivien fondly recalls her memories of those early years of relocating to Australia, although she remains adamant the voyage across the world at age four will be the only journey she will ever make by ship.
Annie Mottershead was born in Cheshire, England, in 1921 and at the age of thirty, after witnessing the horrors of World War II in their home country, Annie, her husband and three young daughters decided to make a fresh start in Australia.
Growing up in a predominately female family, Annie’s interest in fashion naturally led to sewing. After the war years, with three daughters to clothe, Annie would sit beside the wireless each night listening to her favourite shows, whilst hand sewing dresses for her daughters.
Arriving in Australia in 1951 with few material possessions, Annie continued to hand-sew clothing for her girls. Around the mid-1950s, once the family had ‘got themselves on their feet’ in their new country, a newspaper advert caught Annie’s eye for a Pfaff sewing machine. She couldn’t resist the opportunity to own her very own, time saving, electric sewing machine!
The first Pfaff sewing machine was built in 1862. Originally made for industrial use only, Pfaff expanded into the domestic sewing machine market in 1931. By the 1950s the Pfaff 30 electric sewing machine was produced. Although similar in looks to its heavyweight predecessor, the treadle machine, the innovative Pfaff 30 was manufactured from lightweight aluminium with a wooden carry case, making the machine easier to carry. (Information source http://www.pfaff.com/en-AU/About – accessed 22nd August 2016.)
The Pfaff 30 is a straight sewing machine (there is no function for zig-zag or fancy embroidery stitches) which requires a basic presser foot. Other foot attachments included are an edge stitcher with a quilting gauge, a zipper foot and three different sized hemming feet.
A new dress for Jo – from the family photo collection.
A few years after Annie purchased her Pfaff, I was born. Being the fourth daughter of a very talented seamstress, I reaped the benefit of Annie’s expertise and always wore beautiful new dresses as a child.
While growing up, I loved to watch my mother sew at her machine. She constantly reminded me not to put my fingers too close to the needle while the machine was in use, as she had once had the needle sew right through her finger! The incident happened when Annie was in the process of making bridesmaid dresses for my eldest sister’s wedding. Needless to say, a trip to the doctor was the only way to extract the needle, while Annie was left with a painful memory. Many more beautiful wedding outfits were created by Annie throughout the years and she always took care to keep her own fingers clear of the sewing needle.
Annie was often complimented on her talent for sewing. Lacking formal training, she nonetheless could make any garment for any occasion, choosing beautiful fabrics to complete her creations. My sisters and I hold many happy memories of the selfless hours our mother spent at the sewing machine, making clothes for all of us.
The original sewing machine manual and accessories tin.
It seemed a natural progression, due to my interest in sewing, that my mother should teach me to sew. Using her Pfaff sewing machine during my teenage years, I made a number of outfits for myself (with mum’s help, of course) which later led to a lifelong career in manufacturing school uniforms in my own business.
The reason why my mother and I shared such a depth of enthusiasm for sewing remained a mystery until the advent of the internet, which allowed me to research my family history. Dotted throughout my mother’s maternal family, I have discovered a wide array of relatives, both men and women, in the sewing industry, including garment dyers, jacket machinists, shirt finishers, sewing machinists and basic dressmakers.
Annie treasured her sewing machine her entire lifetime. After her four daughters were grown, she continued to sew and the simple straight sewing mechanism suited her home decorator requirements. Annie enjoyed changing the appearance of the rooms in her home as the seasons changed, by making different coloured curtains and cushion covers with her Pfaff.
Neatly tucked away inside the sewing table.
None of my three older sisters showed an interest in sewing, so when mum passed away I was the lucky recipient of her sewing machine. My mother had found a lovely, old-style sewing table for her machine which I inherited with the machine and for the past twenty-three years (almost to the day, as I write) I have treasured and admired my mother’s sewing machine in my own home.
I still have the original case the sewing machine came in, along with the instruction book and tin of attachments. Occasionally, I pack the machine into its carry case and take it to a sewing centre to have it serviced and as a result, the machine still sews beautifully. I have a number of sewing machines which I have bought myself, but mum’s Pfaff will always be dear to me. The straight sewing stitch is ideal for quilting, a hobby that I have enjoyed for years, in fact, one of the first items I made on mum’s Pfaff as a teenager was a quilt, made out of various fabric scraps mum had stashed away over the years. My youngest daughter is now the proud owner of that quilt.
My mother’s Pfaff sewing machine has continued to be loved and used in my family for over sixty years. It isn’t only the practical use of the sewing machine which makes it a priceless possession, but also the memories of a lifetime.
My love of writing, combined with an obsession for family history, led me to a new and unexplored place of learning last year. I signed up for a short course with the University of Tasmania, “Writing Family History”, which has opened up a whole new world to me, one which I’ve been edging around for years, that of giving my ancestors a voice.
As any addict of tracing their family will tell you, during the hours of research into our beloved, yet unknown ancestors’ lives, our imaginations provide a running commentary of how they may have lived their day to day lives, how they felt during times of joy and heartbreak, and the words they no doubt would have spoken. We hear their accents, we feel their pain …
… we begin to love them. And when that final discovery of a death certificate is unearthed from amid the millions of archived records, we often shed a tear, crying over the loss of an ancestor we have grown to love. That forgotten man or woman born decades ago, whom we have travelled a paper trail journey of their worldly existence with … that final written proof of their demise is a blow to our soul.
The view from Werneth Low, Photo by Keith Talbot.
During the first six weeks of the Writing Family History course, minus a break during Christmas, students were asked to write a short story of a moment in time, no more than two-hundred-and-fifty words in total, in which we would bring our ancestors to life.
At the conclusion of the six weeks, our final task allowed us to let our hair down and write to our heart’s content, bearing in mind the limitations of our heart’s rampage must be reined in when one-thousand words of our story – their story – had been reached.
As I sat at my computer one morning, poised to begin my first one-thousand-word draft in which my three-times great-grandfather would play the lead role in my imagination, I found that the voice inside my head was that of my mother. Mum took over at the keyboard, she had her own story to tell. And here it is ~
King Walter Meets The Queen
Her hands trembled, opening the envelope. She’d been waiting for the post daily, knowing her sister would send the newspaper clippings from England when they were published. Such excitement, and in her own family too!
She carefully removed the letter from the envelope, opened the pages, and neatly folded within a letter, she found the clippings she had been waiting for.
Annie settled herself in a chair in the kitchen, a freshly brewed cup of tea beside her. Opening the newspaper article, she recognised her brother immediately. He hadn’t changed that much in the eighteen years since she’d left England and sailed to Australia. The faces of loved ones are always remembered, no matter how many years pass by.
Saved and treasured.
There was Walter, all smiles. Annie read the article with great anticipation. He’d donated three-quarters of an acre of land from the farm to plant a thirty-foot tall sycamore tree. There was a plaque unveiling too, by the Queen of England!
If only there had been someone at home to share this with, Annie thought to herself, as she looked at the photo of the Queen, smiling at Walter, holding his outstretched hand…good heavens, she held his right hand, the one he’d lost three fingers on! The Queen seemed not to have noticed, by the look of her relaxed smile. Annie chuckled as fond memories of her brother flooded her mind. Thank goodness the Queen always wore gloves, she probably hadn’t even noticed.
Annie smiled, remembering how Walter had always looked after her, like a second father. His son Billy was only three years younger than her, and even though Walter had his own home and family, he’d always made sure their larder at home was full of fresh food from the farm. She hadn’t even been aware of the Great Depression in the nineteen-thirties, thanks to Walter’s generosity.
Cow-heels for stew, eggs newly laid each day, fresh vegetables, creamy milk fresh from the cows, and, oh dear, those chickens she had to pluck! Annie shook her head, as she recalled those days of her childhood, trudging up the hill to Ash Tree Farm, rugged up against the cold. She must have been a sight to see, heading back home to Hyde Road, a lifeless chicken dangling from each hand, still adorned with feathers. She shuddered, wondering how she’d managed to clean and cook the dead birds for her family, without even so much as a grimace.
As she refilled her empty teacup, Annie recalled her childhood, how she’d been expected to help out, especially when mam became ill. Children in those days were to be seen and not heard, do their chores and question nothing. In some ways a hard life, yet many fond memories lingered.
Her thoughts turned to her mother, as the ghosts of the past continued to invade her mind. Walter had always treated her mam well, made sure she never went without. Walter wasn’t mam’s son, but oh she would have been so proud to know he’d been presented to the Queen! And their dad, well, she imagined he would’ve had to tell all his cronies at the pub all about his posh son if he’d lived to see the day.
Returning to the present, and Annie read further into the article. The Queen had thanked Walter for the land, to which he’d replied, ‘It’s a pleasure.’ Imagine that, they’ve quoted my brother in the paper, Annie thought, bursting with pride, especially after she read that Walter was the uncrowned ‘King of Werneth Low’.
What a job it had been for Walter and Mary Ann after their publican’s licence came through, renovating the pub next to the farm when they first moved to The Low in 1928 with young Billy.
With no electricity and no tap water, they’d had to collect water from a nearby well. Never mind water though, all Walter needed was his beer and ‘his’ chair in the pub, and he was happy. Annie laughed as she remembered Walter’s saying, ‘More Drink, Less Talk.’
The sound of the front door opening jolted Annie back to the present again and the ghosts of the past disappeared.
‘Sam!’ she called, rushing to her husband to greet him as he walked through the front door. ‘Edie sent the newspaper clippings, you should see our Walter with the Queen! ‘Ere, I’ll boil the jug and make another cup of tea…come on then, sit down!’ she ordered. Finally, Annie had someone to show off her brother’s day of glory to.
I have the newspaper clippings Annie received from England, dated 1967, lovingly saved between the pages of a photo album, which I inherited. Annie, the storyteller, was my mother.
In another newspaper article, celebrating Walter’s fifty years in 1978 as publican of the ‘Hare and Hounds’, Walter was quoted as saying ‘…the highlight of his life was in 1967 when he was introduced to the Queen during her North West tour.’
As a child, born to an English family after they immigrated to Australia, I became fascinated by the old stories of England. I looked forward to rainy days when mum and I would share cups of tea and I would curl up beside her and say, ‘Tell me stories about England, Mummy.’
‘I have no more stories left to tell you!’ she’d complain, and I would ask her to tell me the same ones again. Mum and I were opposites, she wanted to make new memories, whilst I longed for the old stories, the history.
Tirelessly she repeated them, humouring her strange daughter who was totally besotted by cold old England, the country Annie had wanted to leave, ‘to get warm’.
I write this story, one of many told to me by my mum, to pass on to future generations, to those strange little children yet to be born, who will also ask their parents to tell them the stories of the olden days.
Uncle Walter in ‘his’ chair at the pub, with mum’s sister, Edie, who sent her the newspaper clippings.
Grandma…hold me a Little Longer… Rock me a little more… Tell me another story… (You’ve only told me four) Let me sleep on Your shoulder… I love your happy smile… I’ll always love you… Grandma…so stay with me a while. ~ Author Unknown.
Granny. I knew her ~ I loved her ~
She sprinkled stardust over her stories, each and every one of them, and I was her captive audience of one.
It has been often said that my granny didn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. She was theatrical. She craved attention. And she drew me in like a moth to a flame when she began her stories, and for hours, I listened. And remembered her words.
And I always remember the essence of who she was. ~ Jo.
Florence Edith Thompson
17th January 1897 ~ 28th June 1973
Born Salford, Lancashire, England
The details of the early life of Florence Edith Thompson were always questionable. She spoke of brothers and sisters who were long ago dead and buried, of the children she referred to as “her children”, yet long gone. And of the Irish Catholic mother who she barely even knew, due to the short time she had lived, leaving Florence virtually alone, with just her father, and even he didn’t seem to have been in her life for long. She spoke of people she had met, famous people. The family doubted her, said she was dreaming. I was advised to take all of her stories with a grain of salt.
My early learning of anything relating to superstitions, the supernatural, and ghost stories all began with Granny. What a mysterious lady she was.
The conflicting reactions from my family toward Granny had me bewildered. Whilst, on the one hand, those whom I knew and trusted warned me not to believe the stories Granny told me, to me, she seemed so believable, so sincere. But what did I know? The young have not lived long enough to have developed the ability to decipher truth from fiction, I was told. And yet …
Without any encouragement from my family, I paid close attention to Granny. If she wasn’t telling me the truth, how did she come up with so many details of each incident she described? And when I asked her to continue an unfinished story, how would she be able to continue on from where she left off, correcting me if I repeated something back to her with even the slightest detail wrong?
So many stories, so many unanswered questions. Truth or fiction? My family never knew what to think about Granny. But she was my granny, dad’s mum, so I looked up to her, talked to her, admired her tenacity. I knew the life she led had been a colourful one, so I listened to her stories, intrigued, holding onto her words, remembering them.
We knew that Granny was born in Manchester, England, and her birthday was the 17th of January. We sent her birthday cards every year, and we knew her age, as her birth year was 1897.
Dad had a copy of her marriage certificate to his father. They were married in Manchester, England, on the 28th of June 1919.
Granny was a carer. She fed people, nursed them when they were ill, and took in stray cats. And she sang to herself and constantly hummed a tune as she went about her day.
The life of Florence Edith Thompson ended on the 28th of June 1973, in a hospital bed in Dubbo, N.S.W. Australia. I travelled with my parents to Dubbo to attend her funeral, and the only feeling I can remember is one of numbness. The freezing cold Dubbo winter could have been partially to blame, but it wasn’t just the cold air, it was the people. I didn’t see one single person shed a tear for my grandmother, and I would like to think that, as with me, tears were shed privately.
The funeral began late, and when the hearse finally pulled into the churchyard, smoking and spluttering, the apologetic undertakers were most concerned about why their almost new vehicle had broken down on the way. As I stood nearby, shivering, awaiting the time when we could all take up our places in the warmth of the church building, cats, in fact many, many cats, scurried around the yard. How very appropriate for my cat loving grandmother to be so well attended by her feline friends at this time.
Inside the church, I listened to a minister speaking of a lady I knew nothing of, a lady who visited the aged and sick in hospitals and nursing homes, always willing to take the lead in bringing music into the lives of the elderly, singing the old songs they knew, encouraging them to sing along. The minister had known my granny, he knew of the sunshine she had brought into many a sad day, her loving nature, the care she showed to others.
Sitting in the church pew that day, as my teeth chattered and my legs shook from the cold, I saw candles flickering as if touched by a gentle breeze. I quietly pointed the flickering candles out to my mum. No doors were open; perhaps they were decorative, electric candles, she whispered. After the service, we investigated. The wax, hand-lit candles had flickered, in the stillness of the church. How surreal. And how very Granny. She knew just how to let us know she was there.
Over thirty years passed by, along with my parents, yet the mystery of Granny’s life remained.
It wasn’t until the early 2000s, after the onset of the internet, when records emerged of births, deaths and marriages along with Census information from genealogy sites that I finally began to unravel the mystery of the life of Florence Edith Thompson.
Florence was born in Salford, England, on January 17th, 1897, to William Thompson and Mary Catherine Kemp. According to Census records, Mary was also born in Salford, but to an Irish mother, hence the stories of Ireland. Unfortunately, Mary passed away when Granny was only a young girl eleven years of age.
Florence had a half-brother, Samuel Rubery Thompson, seventeen years her senior, and a younger sister, Lilian Thompson, who didn’t survive past infancy.
By the time Florence was fourteen, according to the 1911 Census records, she worked as a servant at a private home in Old Trafford, Manchester. The records show her employers as a husband and wife, with twin daughters. Remembering the stories Granny told of “her” children, I have to wonder how many other children were born to the couple she worked for? Or did she leave their employ, moving on to another family to care for?
Little is known of the life Florence led between 1911 and 1919, when she married Samuel Mottershead, although my cousin told me that she remembered hearing a story of our grandmother from her younger years … Granny had wanted to be an actress, and spent some time with stage actors near to her home. When her father found out how his daughter had been spending her days, she was forbidden to see the performers again. Poor Granny, she must have spent the rest of her years longing to be in the spotlight.
Florence and Samuel Mottershead were the parents of my father, Samuel Rubery Mottershead, and his three younger siblings ~ William, Margaret, and Ronald. Samuel had fought in World War I prior to their marriage, resulting in ill-health for many years, ending with his passing away in 1946.
On the 30th of December 1948, fifty-two-year-old Florence boarded the ship “Orontes” in London, alone, to begin a new life in Australia.
The sister of Florence’s husband, Alice Mottershead, had emigrated to Australia as a young single woman and although the sisters-in-law had never met, it was to Alice’s farming home, where she lived with her husband and grown family, at Gilgandra, in the middle of New South Wales that Florence headed to, after her arrival.
In 1951, Florence married James Hughes, a son of Alice’s, and a man twenty-three years her junior. Throughout my childhood years, I would overhear talk of the “odd” marriage my grandmother chose. However, the man I called Uncle Jim (my grandfather through marriage, but also my father’s cousin) remained a constant friend and loved family member to us all.
Granny lived in the farming area around Gilgandra and Dubbo with Jim for twenty-two years, right up until her death in 1973. As a child, I remember visiting Granny and Uncle Jim on their dairy farm, and later at their home in Dubbo. A granddaughter of Alice (and niece to Jim) lives in Granny and Uncle Jim’s home to this day. I once asked her what she made of their marriage, and why she thought a man as young as Jim was would choose Granny for his wife, and she said that he cared for her, a woman alone in a new country, and they were companions, friends. The adult in me can understand such a situation completely. I admire Granny for her bravery in beginning a new life on the other side of the world after the death of her first husband, and Uncle Jim, for his companionship and caring for my Granny.
When I think of my Granny now, after so many years of confusion, of wondering about her story and the stories she would tell, the puzzle pieces are beginning to fit together. Talking about her to cousins has helped, and seeing her life through the eyes of an adult has helped me to understand her more as well.
My only regret is that I didn’t spend enough time with Granny. I was only a teenager when she died and when she told me stories, I wish I had asked more questions, and written down the details. Even though so many people doubted her words, I enjoyed playing my small part on the stage in the life of my magical, mysterious, grandmother.
To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms, but absolutely terrified of the word boo. ~ Robert Brault.
I didn’t have the opportunity of meeting my grandfather Samuel Mottershead. He had been gone for many years before I was born, but I grew up loving the stories of the man who I knew as “Little Granddad”. From what I heard of him from those who knew him, I know in my heart that granddad was the bravest of the brave, the kindest of the kind and would have been the perfect grandfather to his six grandchildren. No one is about to tell me otherwise, so I will hold this image of him, and the essence of my grandfather close to my heart always. ~ Jo.
20th August1890 ~ 30th April 1946.
Born Prestwich, Manchester, Lancashire.
Samuel, and his twin brother, George Henry, were born the fifth and sixth children of Edmund Mottershead and Alice Hassall. I have only one photo of the twins and although the quality of the photo leaves a lot to be desired, it was significant to the beginning of Samuel’s life.
Although dressed the same, I’m guessing from the looks of the babies, they were fraternal, or non-identical twins. I’m also guessing that Samuel is the twin on the right-hand side, as I can see a resemblance to his older photos.
Samuel and George were christened on 3rd September 1890, at Bradford, Lancashire, England. Perhaps the photo was taken at their christening.
Samuel was very small in stature. In the photo above, he is the fifth child from the left, the second row from the back. Or to make it easier to locate him, look for the tiniest boy in that row, and the cutest … that’s him! The clothes worn by children going to school in the mid-1890s were stunning, although I suspect they didn’t appreciate how charming they looked back then.
I’m sure the photo above shows the young man Samuel wearing his Sunday best. Unfortunately, I don’t have the year that this photo was taken, but I have seen the background setting in many other photos taken of this side of my family. I’m sure it was taken at a photographic studio, probably somewhere in Manchester, England.
Samuel and his brother Albert, who was two years older than Sam, were choir boys. I know his religion was Church of England and he grew up in Manchester, but that’s all the information I have on the possibility of where he may have sung in the choir, assuming it was a church choir. The books they are holding look like they may be church hymn books.
The photo above shows a slightly older and rather dapper Samuel, although still a young man. Again, I have no date for when the photo was taken. The photo was made into a postcard, with his name, “S. Mottershead” stamped on the back of it and taken by photographer Mrs B Goodman, from Manchester.
On the 11th December 1915, Sam joined the British army at Mill Street, Manchester. According to his army record, he was five feet and half an inch tall and his address was 220 Palmerston Street, Beswick, Manchester. During his time in the army, he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Sam’s brother Albert had emigrated to Australia by the outbreak of the war and when Albert took leave whilst in the vicinity of his family, he visited them. The above photo shows Albert, wearing his Australian army uniform, with Sam, the British soldier.
The above photo of Sam, looking tanned, moustached and wearing his army regalia was taken at the Van Ralty photography studios in Manchester.
It would be wonderful to know when my grandparents met, but alas I have no romantic story to tell, nor any wedding photos. Above is the earliest photo I have of the two of them together; however, Samuel married Florence Edith Thompson on the 28th June 1919, at St. Mary’s Church of England, in Beswick. I am guessing that this photo was taken around the time of their marriage.
Sam and Florence were parents to three sons, Samuel, William and Ronald and a daughter, Margaret.
Sam remained active as an army volunteer throughout his life and posed proudly with his eldest son and namesake, Sam, during Sam’s time in the army during WWII.
After leaving the army, Sam’s health slowly declined. His lungs had been badly affected by the various gases used in battles during World War I. In 1945, a year before his death, Sam wrote to his employer, the Manchester Corporation Transport Department, tendering his resignation, saying he must be “resigned to the Will of God”.
Granddad passed over on the 30th of April 1946, just two months before his third granddaughter, Vivien, was born.
In May of 1946, Granddad’s eldest sister, Alice, wrote a letter of sympathy from Australia to my Grandma Florence. In the letter, she expresses her sadness at the loss of her brother, after looking forward to the family coming to Australia. She remembered him as a lad in his twenties, loving and loved by all. Alice also talks of the strain on my Grandma, with having nursed my Granddad to the end. He was only fifty-five years of age. Granddad was laid to rest at Highfield Cemetery, Romiley, Cheshire.
Although I wasn’t lucky enough to know my Grandfather in person, I feel as if I know him from hearing my parents talk about him as I grew up. I know that my Grandfather was an avid reader, well educated and double-jointed! He was a highly respected man, well mannered and a thorough gentleman. My uncle Bill preferred not to speak of his father, who had passed away on my Uncle Bill’s birthday. He never celebrated his birthday again, due to the devastation he felt at losing his father, who he thought so highly of. I don’t think Uncle Bill ever quite got over the loss.
My parents both held Granddad in the highest esteem. My mother always referred to her father-in-law as “Mr Mottershead,” as a sign of respect for him. She told me that she missed him after he was gone and had enjoyed talking to him. And of course, my father adored his father!
This is Little Granddad’s fob-watch, one of my most treasured possessions, which I inherited from my Granddad. Dad had it during my younger years and I often asked if I could look at it and hold it. Knowing how much I love this watch, my parents passed it on to me. It no longer works, and one hand has come adrift, but that’s okay. I can still hold this watch and know that once upon a time, many years ago, my Grandfather, a wonderful, highly respected and greatly loved man, Samuel Mottershead, held this watch in his hand too.
I treasure the many mementoes saved by my parents from so many years ago, many of which travelled from England to Australia with them when they emigrated in 1951.
Among these treasures is a set of postcards, sent to my mother during World War II, by my homesick father who was stationed at Whitley Bay in England, sometime during the early 1940s.
I would like to share these postcards, along with the messages my father wrote on the back of each card.
The first postcard, above, of the Promenade and Children’s Wading Pool, has rather a romantic note written on it. I had never taken my father for the romantic type at all ~
To my wife, with every thanks for past pleasures, and thoughts of happiness and love to come. From a grateful and ever true and loving husband, Sam.
He must have been pushed for time when he sent the next postcard, of the Promenade and Slopes, as the message seems rather hurried. He did remember to include the word loving, however, with a capital L ~
From your Loving husband, Sam.
My father gets straight to the point in the next postcard, showing the Lower Promenade of Whitley Bay, saying ~
From your still loving husband, Sam.
Please send something soon, I am broke, another thing, you’ll have to send it quick because of me being moved.
I wonder where he was being moved to? Who knows.
The final postcard, my favourite photo of the series, shows The Promenades Looking South, and of course, my father has added yet another deep and meaningful note to his wife at home ~
To My Darling Wife Annie, from Sam.
(Your ever loving husband, but always broke.)
These messages sound so much like my Dad! He could be such a character and I might add also, he was never known to be great at handling his money.
The next photo was taken for me last year and emailed across from England by a very lovely friend of mine, Richard, who took a photo for me to recreate the last postcard ~
Isn’t that fabulous? I can almost see the ghosts of another era, as the shadows of their figures still walk along The Promenades at Whitley Bay.
Thank you so much, Richard! This photo and your generosity in taking it for me means so much to me.
There is one final card that I would like to add here, this one having been sent from my mother and then baby sister, Annette, to my father when he was away at war.
Oh, daddy dear, I wish you could hear
The song I’ve made up just for you.
It’s called “Come home as soon as you can”,
for you see
We want you so much,
Mum and me.
On the back of the tiny card, written in my mother’s hand, it says ~
To Daddy, from your darling daughter, Annette.
What a difficult time it must have been for young families back in the early 1940s when these cards were exchanged and families were torn apart.
These precious postcards depict World War II, seventy years ago, with my father’s words caught in a time warp of love and memories. I will continue to treasure them on behalf of my mum, dad and big sister (none of whom are here with us any longer) for as long as time.
To the outside world we all grow old. But not to sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. ~ Clara Ortega.
As a child growing up in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, my parents would often take me on an outing to see the “Three Sisters”, a mountainous landmark in Katoomba, where the majestic formation of rocks juts out into the depths of the Grose Valley.
Mum would tell me I should call the “Three Sisters” by the names of my own three sisters, Anne, Christine and Vivien. Being a child I thought this idea was great fun, and even as I grew older I could never see the “Three Sisters” without remembering my own three sisters.
Naming the rock formations after my own sisters became even more apt as the years went by, my sisters were my rocks, giving me strength, wisdom, love, advice and friendship, for which I am eternally grateful. In so many ways, I have been blessed by the structure of the family in which I was born, having four female role models throughout my growing years, all of whom would nurture me, in their own individual ways, as mothers do their children.
Each of my sisters has their own unique personality and their own individual looks. None of us can see any physical resemblance to each other, even though we have occasionally been told that we do look alike. Apart from all being similar in height, (I may be just a tad taller than the others), and we all eventually ended up having varying shades of brown hair, that’s it – that’s where the similarities end.
A sister is both your mirror…and your opposite. ~ Elizabeth Fishel.
Annette (February 16, 1942 – December 3, 2007) was “Miss Independence”. She lived her life under her terms and made it very clear that there was no room for compromise.
Anne enjoyed the independence of earning her own income, working from home after her two children were born, even though back in the early 1960s, when she first became married, it seemed perfectly acceptable for a woman to be a homemaker. Anne enjoyed having a nice home, she just didn’t choose to be tied to the obligations of a home, in fact, she resented being tied to anything!
It wasn’t until around my fifteenth birthday that I felt that Anne saw me as a person she wanted to get to know. In her younger years, she seemed to have little time in her life for children, even though she had children of her own.
As Anne matured, however, she showed kindness towards everyone. The rebellion of her youth subsided and she became the most caring of people. Whilst mellowing though, she never fully lost her quick wit or the trademark spark in her personality.
Anne and I became great friends and shared a special bond that can best be described as a relationship of being sisters, best friends and worst enemies, with just a smattering of mothering on her part.
We would talk for hours on the phone, sharing opinions, not necessarily always agreeing with each other, but that was okay. I learned a lot from my eldest sister.
On October 27, 1962 Anne married Bruce in the Presbyterian Church at Springwood, NSW. They had two children, Jeffrey and Jenine, but were later divorced in 1977.
Bruce has been a part of my life since my earliest memories. To me, he was and always will be my brother, such is the affection that I feel towards him. I’m sorry his marriage to my sister didn’t last, but that was a decision they had to make. For me, I always have and always will regard Bruce as an important and close member of my family, and he knows that.
There are two other men in my life, who I also regard as my brothers- David, the husband of my middle sister Christine, and Adrian, husband of my youngest sister, Vivien. Like Bruce, I have never known a time in my life when they weren’t there. All three of these men are a part of the secure family unit I grew up in. Nothing will ever change the love I feel for each of them.
Sisters are different flowers from the same garden. ~ Unknown.
I looked forward to times when I could have a sleep-over with my sister Christine when I was young, and we all still lived in the Blue Mountains. I always had the best time with David, and Chris and I would spend time together looking through her jewellery and trying on her clothes and shoes (which were always way too big for me!) Chris had longer hair than my other two sisters back then and she would let me play hairdresser on her hair.
Chris was the sister that I could have deep heart-to-heart talks with when I reached my teenage years. I could tell Chris my deepest, darkest secrets and she would never be shocked by anything I said, betray my trust or laugh at me.
Not long after my parents and I moved north to live near the border of New South Wales and Queensland, Christine, David and their two baby sons moved south to Tasmania.
In Tasmania, Chris and David became parents to two more sons and over the years, Christine’s busy life and the distance we lived from one another did not allow us to keep in touch as often as I would like. But when we speak on the phone, no matter how long it has been since we last spoke, we just pick up our conversation as if we only spoke the day before! That’s just the way it is with us.
An older sister helps one remain half child, half woman. ~ Unknown.
My youngest sister, Vivien, is the sister I see most often and also talk to the most. Vivien lives about six hour’s drive south of me and all of my children are the closest to her out of all their aunties.
But that’s how Vivien is. She’s the Mother when your own mother isn’t there, I know she was to me, and perhaps still is at times. She nurtures and protects and loves and cares for just about everyone.
When I was young and I stayed at her home, we would go on outings, perhaps just shopping or for a walk, but I always enjoyed whatever we did. We would cook together and I would lick the beaters when we made a cake and when she tucked me into bed at her place at night, I would think it was the cosiest bed I had ever slept in!
Just last year, when I spent a couple of days with Vivien at her home, her grandson told me about the things he and his grandparents did together and I felt like a child again. I could relate to his stories and told him, “I used to do those things when I spent time with your grandparents when I was a little girl!” He and I have a lot in common.
And when I went to bed at Vivien’s home, even as an adult, the bed I slept in was still the cosiest bed in the world.
My own son, who visited Vivien with me last year, agrees that Auntie Vivien’s house is the coolest place to visit! My sister is loved and adored by multiple generations.
A younger sister is someone…who needs you…who comes to you with bumped heads, grazed knees, tales of persecution. Someone who trusts you to defend her. Someone who thinks you know the answers to almost everything. ~ Pam Brown.
It is through the different personalities and relationships that I have had with my three sisters that I believe I have learned the true meaning of what it is to be a part of a close family. Although there is age and distance between us, the bonds of sisterhood can never be broken.
Both within the family and without, our sisters hold up our mirrors: our images of who we are and of who we can dare to become. ~ Elizabeth Fishel
“The love between a mother and daughter exists in a special place…where “always” always lasts and “forever” never goes away.” ~ Laurel Atherson.
The closeness of the relationship I had with my mother goes beyond words; it extends into the depths of feelings, emotions, and unconditional love, the likes of which I didn’t think could ever be repeated until I had children of my own.
When I gave birth to my first child, a son, I told my mother, “Now I understand how you feel about me”. I corrected that statement when my daughter was born, telling her “Now I really know how you feel about me!” The bond between a mother and daughter cannot be explained in words, only in feelings.
It’s been eighteen years since I last saw my mother, but she never really left me; she can’t. There’s an invisible golden thread that holds us together, for all eternity. A thread that can never be broken…
My mother was pure love … an indescribable love … a forever love. Jo.xxx
Annie Mansfield, born Bredbury, Cheshire, England.
June 5, 1921 ~ August 30, 1993.
Annie was confused as a child, constantly wondering who all the men were in her house. Of course, she knew one of the men, her father, Walter Mansfield, but as for the others, she wasn’t sure. She knew them by name, and they would visit her home often. It wasn’t until she grew older that she understood the structure of the family she had been born into …
Annie was the eldest daughter born to Walter Mansfield and Edith Lillian Statham Potts Mansfield. Her younger sister, Edith, came along three years later.
Her father had previously been married to Martha Shaw and they had eight children. Martha passed away in 1915, and by the time Walter had married Edith, and Annie was born, Walter still had five surviving adult sons.
Her mother, Edith, had been married to John Lowe Potts, who had also passed away in 1915, leaving Edith with two young sons and a young daughter. With another two teenage boys in the house, it was little wonder that Annie felt surrounded by men. Annie adored her big sister Lily Potts (the only girl) and always had an understanding that Lily was her sister.
During the first ten years of Annie’s life, she vividly recalled the days she spent with her mother. She often reminisced about their regular trips to Yorkshire to visit family, and her carefree days playing on the Yorkshire Moors. She had no clue who the people were she visited in Yorkshire, all she knew was she was loved and safe when she was with her mother.
Her brothers lived nearby to her home and Annie remembered visiting her brother, Walter Mansfield, to collect newly killed chickens, which she carried home and was expected to prepare for cooking. In her older years, she would shudder at the recollection of plucking chickens!
She also vividly recalled the day she was christened, being dressed up in her “Sunday Best” and walking to the local St. Mark’s Church in Bredbury, situated next door to the school she attended, where her christening took place.
She had a particularly close relationship with one of her brothers, Bill Potts, a son from her mother’s first marriage. Bill joined the army and spent much of his time in India and he later moved from Cheshire to live in the south of England. During Bill’s travels, however, he and Annie constantly stayed in touch with one another.
When Annie’s mother took ill, she knew something was terribly wrong. There came a time when she was forbidden to go upstairs to spend time with her mother and was delighted one day when one of her brothers told her that he would take her upstairs to see her “Mam”, as she called her.
She hadn’t bargained on the sight of her mother, laying still and cold in the bed, and even though at ten years of age she did not understand the concept of death, she felt petrified. Annie later recalled the terror she felt and realised that she had run downstairs, even though she didn’t feel her feet hit the stairs, such was her freight.
Unfortunately, that was the day that Annie’s idyllic childhood ended. Whether through grief, or another emotion unknown to Annie, her father would often leave her alone at night, coming home in a state of drunken stupor, which he would have no recollection of the next day. Annie had also become cook and housekeeper for her father.
At age fourteen, Annie was invited by a friend, Harold Barton, to go to the local Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, on November 5, 1935, where they would eat treacle toffee, see the fireworks and keep warm by the huge bonfire. Harold introduced Annie to his cousin, Sam Mottershead, who had come from Manchester for the night. Sam and Annie were inseparable, from that night on.
Another huge blow hit Annie when two years later, she lost her beloved sister, Lily Potts, through complications of diabetes. Sam also had become great friends with Lily, and the two took her loss very hard.
By this time, living with her father had become unbearable for Annie. She told Sam of her misery and he questioned her in disbelief, as he had great respect for Annie’s father. Annie asked Sam to stay with her at home one night until her father arrived, to witness what she knew would happen.
True to form, her father arrived home, and in his drunken state, found no kind words for Annie, who apparently reminded him of her mother.
Sam told Annie she should speak to his mother about boarding at their house. She remained living with the Mottershead family until after she and Sam were married, in 1939.
In 1941, with Sam in the army and overseas fighting during the Second World War and their first child on the way, Annie moved home to be with her ageing father.
Annie and Sam’s firstborn child, Annette Mottershead, was born on 16th February 1942, in the same room and bed in which Annie herself had been born twenty years earlier. The midwife had been called but didn’t arrive in time. Annette was born with only Annie’s seventeen-year-old sister Edith present at the birth.
Annette became a big sister when Christine was born in April 1945, during the same year Sam was discharged from the army. Sam had spent so much time away that when he finally came home for good, Annette didn’t realise that he was her daddy. When Annie told Annette to kiss Daddy goodnight, she followed her usual routine, which was for her to climb up onto a chair to kiss the photo of Daddy on the sideboard.
In June 1946, Annie and Sam’s third daughter, Vivien, arrived and in 1951, the family of five immigrated to Sydney, Australia.
When they arrived in Australia, one of the first purchases Annie made was a Pfaff sewing machine. She had been taught how to sew by her Auntie Lily, a sister of her mothers, and she made all the clothes for her three daughters using the sewing machine. When the girls were married, Annie made wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses and flower girl dresses, along with doing all of the catering for the weddings.
When Annie and Sam’s fourth daughter Joanne came along, Annie continued the tradition of sewing beautiful clothes for her to wear. As Joanne also showed an interest in learning to sew, Annie patiently spent hours teaching Joanne everything she knew about sewing, (between multiple cups of tea!) on her trusty Pfaff sewing machine.
To this day, Joanne still has her mother’s one and only sewing machine bought in 1951.
After all the girls had left home and Sam and Annie had moved to the far north coast of New South Wales, Annie found more time to pursue her other interests, cake decorating and crochet.
Annie insisted she was a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. Her family, however, knew Annie to be capable of any task she set her mind to. Annie underestimated her own abilities profusely!
After the death of her own mother, while still a child herself, Annie lived what some people would regard as a hard life, but she never gave up pursuing her dreams. Her strength of character saw her conquer the most trying of times, as she continued to care for her family with love, strength and compassion when others might have given up the fight. Annie was the driving force in keeping her family happy and close, the one who everyone turned to if they needed a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to listen to their woes. Annie always had time for those she loved ~ always.
Annie left us on Monday, August 30, 1993, but the family traditions she created during her lifetime have remained. Sam said the memory of his wife lived on, every time he looked into the eyes of one of their daughters.
“My mum is a never-ending song in my heart, of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune.” ~ Graycie Harmon.