Sunday, 9 September 2012

Great Aunts and Uncles

My dad had lots of aunts and uncles on his mother's side. I don't think I realised quite how how many until I started investigating my family tree. As a child I remember visiting only one of them on several occasions. And that was my dad's Auntie Dot. We'd bundle into the car, drive up to her house and have tea in what my memory recalls as a tiny front room. I never looked forward to going; I wanted to stay behind and play with my toys. But I remember ultimately I always enjoyed those visits as Auntie Dot, or should I say my Great Auntie Dot, was a lovely person. I lament those lost opportunities to have talked to her about her life and the life of her siblings; of growing up in East Finchley, north London; living through the First World War; marriage; children; enduring the bombings of the Second World War; the birth of grandchildren. And, of course, she is now long gone, along with all her brothers and sisters. So this is my small tribute to them, to the relatives that I would give my eye teeth to talk to now. Unfortunately I know very little about any of them, but I think in many cases, the photos tell their story...

My grandmother, Esther May, was the eldest of the siblings, born in 1892 to James Cullip and Ann Esther Hardwick who came from Tempsford in Bedfordshire. By the time of Esther May's birth, the couple had relocated to East Finchley where all their children were born. I'm not going to go into any detail now about my grandmother as I will most definitely be posting a full blog on her in the future.

She was followed two years later by James Ivanhoe. I've already written at length about James. He tragically died at the close of World World One, just one week after he got married, after contracting the Spanish Flu virus. No photos have survived of him, however I do have a very poignant card that he sent to my grandmother Esther May. He must have sent it to her when he was serving in France as the card has been hand-made using a French post-card as the backing with a delicately embroidered image pasted on the front. The wording on the back simply states, 'with fondest love from Jim'.

The postcard that James sent to his sister, Esther May,
during World War One.

Mabel Elizabeth, known to everyone as Lizzie, was the third born, entering this world in 1897. She married a chap called Len Stevens and had three children by him. Most of the siblings lived to a good age, but Lizzie, along with her brother James, was the exception to the rule and sadly died in 1940 at the young age of 43.

This lovely photo shows a very happy family gathering. Lizzie is the lady on the far right. Her husband Len is resting his hand on her shoulder. I believe she is pregnant in that photo with her son Robert. My grandmother, the lady in white, also looks rather pregnant, which would mean this photo would have been taken in 1932. She is carrying my dad!

From left to right, my great uncle Tom Cullip and his wife Dora, my grandmother
Esther May, my grandfather Nathaniel Joe, my great aunt Lizzie, her husband Len.
The two boys are Tom and Dora's son, James, and my uncle Roy.

The fourth child to join the family was the second and last son, Thomas. During the First World War Thomas enlisted in the navy where he served on board HMS Juno. Luckily he survived the war unscathed and two years after his demobilisation he married Dorothy Bowen, otherwise known as Dora. They had one son, James. They are pictured in the photo above on the left hand side. He died in 1964.

And then lots of girls were born! The fifth child was Ethel Alice, born in 1901. She was known as Alice and married quite late in life at the age of 50. Her husband, Cecil Humby, was seven years her senior and a widower. He already had a daughter by his first marriage. They were to be married for 16 years as Cecil passed away in 1967 leaving Alice a widow for the next 18 years, until she too died in 1985. This photo shows Alice and Cecil on their wedding day. He looks very dapper in his suit with beautifully pressed trousers!

Alice Cullip and Cecil Humby's wedding day

Child number six was my Great Auntie Dot, who was baptised as Dorothy Mary. She married Ernest Bishop at the age of 24, had two children and lived to the ripe old age of 94. As I said earlier, she's the only aunt I have any semblance of a memory of. My childhood recollections are of a very warm and gentle woman. And of teas in front of her gas fire...

The next child to join the clan was born in 1906, Florence Winifred, known as Win. Win married Arthur Miller and had two children. She died in 1991 aged 85.

Win, wearing white

The penultimate child was Elsie Irene. She married Reginald Terry in 1934 but I've been unable to find any children for them. I have a wonderful photo, definitely one of my favourites, which shows Elsie with a 'trying not to laugh at the camera' expression on her face. She's failing dismally. She's seated on the ground, with her sister Win, in front of four elderly ladies, one of whom has the most fantastic outfit on. The ladies dressed in black look fairly stern, whereas Elsie can't seem to stop laughing. I would love to have known what the occasion was. I think I would have liked Elsie if I had got to know her. She died in 1999, aged 90.

Four stern old ladies, with sisters Win (left) and Elsie (right).

The last child and the baby of the pack, born in 1912, was Edith, known as Edie. She married William Boulton when she was 22 and had three children. She was a fairly well built and bespectacled young lady but  in every photo that I have of her she wears a wide beaming smile. As befits the youngest of the family she was the last surviving sibling and the only one to see in the new millennium. She died in 2004.

Edie holding a handsome young chap, my dad.

So I only really have the bare bones of facts for most of my great aunts and uncles. But I have a lot of photos and I feel that these images really reveal the inner souls and personalities of the people portrayed. They show siblings who got on well and clearly have a great affection for each other. There appear to have been numerous occasions when the family got together to celebrate births and marriages, or for day trips to the seaside, or just to gather for the sake of it.

Which brings me on to the last photo. This wonderful image is the only one I own which shows all the surviving siblings in one picture. I would guess that it was taken in the first years of the 1960s. My grandmother, who died in 1969, looks fairly elderly and frail and as her brother Tom, who is standing next to her, died in 1964, I feel this photo was probably taken around 1962. But that's just a guess. I love this photo for the fact that the ladies all look so smart with their pale coloured hats, white gloves and handbags. As most of them are wearing pigeon holes, they must have been attending a family wedding, but whose I don't know. It was probably one of the last photos taken of all the siblings together. It's a shame that both Lizzie and James were not alive to feature in it, but seven out of nine isn't bad!

From left to right, Edie, Elsie, Win, Dot, Alice, Tom, May.

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