Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Extended Family

1952, my parents' Silver Wedding, surrounded by family and friends.
I'm sitting on the far left, my sister Betty on the far right.

Being the youngest in the family, my childhood days in Ely centred around the home and the adults who were part of my life. I remember feeling very secure and protected within the family. My sister Betty was five years older than me so, to some extent, our interests differed. But, as my mother was one of 12 children, I had lots of aunties and uncles on my mother's side and several cousins.

Auntie Gladys was the nearest with three children; Russell, Brian and Janet.  Auntie Ciss lived in a small village called Prickwillow, 10 miles away in the middle of the Fens. We were lucky to have a car so were able to visit from time to time. She had two children, Mary and David.

Posing in my cricket whites
However I saw far more of Auntie Doris' son, Tony, partly because Mother had a closer relationship with this sister. Doris and Jim Evans lived in a flat above a men's outfitter's shop in Ely which Jim owned. There was only a back yard behind the shop and an outside storeroom but Uncle Jim also rented a large garden behind the High Street shops. It was mostly lawn and flower-beds but had a lean-to greenhouse for growing grapes. This must have been his only place of relaxation as he and Doris only took one week's holiday a year away from the shop. Tony and I used to play cricket on the lawn...carefully.

East Anglia was a farming area so people earned a living off the land or indirectly through the various businesses which served the farming community. My mother's family were almost all involved in retailing. Apart from Uncle Jim with his men's outfitters, Uncle Bert had a shoe shop and Uncle Walter was a manager in a tailor's. Uncle Reg, who lived in Manchester, also managed a men's shop. Reg also married a Doris and had two boys, John and David, both older than me. This was a different world to me and after the war we did pay visits to Manchester to see Reg and Doris' family. Auntie Win, married to Joe Marshall, also lived in Manchester; they radiated a great northern welcome and made me feel instantly at home. They had no children but always made a fuss of me. Uncle Fred also lived in Manchester with his wife, Connie and their son, Freddie.

While on the subject of relations, I should also mention Uncle Harry who lived in Enfield in London. He had a son, Ken, my oldest cousin, who served in the Fleet Air Arm during the war. Uncle Sid and Aunt Elsie lived closer to home in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire with their two sons, Ivor and Dennis. Uncle Wilf and Aunt Agnes lived in Littleport, just outside Ely. He served in the war in Burma and returned home with a very bad skin disease. Finally Auntie Mabel, the oldest of my mother's siblings, who never married, lived in Ely all her life and died when I was quite young.

On my father's side there was only his sister, my Aunt Ettie, who would occasionally come down from Markinch, Scotland. She never married and lived with a teaching colleague, Kate, for most of her working life. As a school teacher, Ettie always encouraged the education of her niece and nephew and I still have a number of books which she gave me over the years. When she retired she came to live in Peterborough to be near us but I feel she was never really happy out of her natural Scottish environment.

People I remember outside the family included Cliff Cousins, Best Man at my parent's wedding and organist at St Mary's Church. Then there was Nurse McGuirk who delivered Betty and me at home and became a friend of the family as we grew up. I also remember 'Auntie Gert', a close friend of my mother who worked as a seamstress in a tailor's shop. She visited us regularly on Tuesday afternoons (half-day closing).

On occasions we were paid a visit by my father's cousin, known to us all as Uncle Wilf. I have very happy memories of a big man with a bald head who was full of fun, with a strong Lancashire accent adding to his comic appeal. His companion was a lady called Flo and I remember Mother did not approve! Wilf always knew how to get me into a fit of giggles with quips like, "Whose coat is this jacket?" and "Don't come down that ladder, I've taken it away!".


  1. Had to laugh at Uncle Wilf... And I love that first photo, there are similar ones in my Grandmother's albums and I never tire looking at them.

  2. Love the dashing pose in the cricket whites! So wish my Dad had done something like this...

  3. @Funky - I remember Dad telling me the stories of Uncle Wilf; years later Dad would fall about laughing at the memories.

    @Ms Caroline - I'm so glad Mum has kept all of the photos Dad must have had given to him when his own parents died. They could so easily have become lost.
    I can't tell you how much pleasure I'm getting from typing these stories up, and finding appropriate photos to match.

  4. Just catching up on the last few posts. I loved Uncle Wilf's quips. It's great that you are able to do this and put your dad's story together. :D

  5. @Clippy Mat - All children need an Uncle Wilf in their lives to make them giggle; he certainly made a big impression on my dad. Pleased you're enjoying the stories x

  6. So interesting... Uncle Wilf sounds like a real character! Emma :)