My mum was born on New Year’s Eve 1926 the fourth of seven children. Her father was an Irish Catholic and her mother was English and Protestant I think. She was born into poverty and experienced verbal and physical abuse in the street due to being part Irish.
I only know of a couple of photographs of Mum as a child and I do not have either of them to hand. One was taken with her sister Margaret in one of those photographic studios by the look of things. The other showed her on the May Procession which is a big deal in all Catholic communities.
Mum played out, went to church and school. She did well at school and passed the 11 plus which should have acted as a passport to Grammar School and a better future. On the day she got her results, her older brother said he was taking the King’s Shilling (joining the Army). This meant taking a wage out of the household and Mum’s formal education ended there and then.
She had to take on a job in a factory and recalls incidents of bullying with men playing their games. She was only 12 years of age.
Home-life was happy it seems although blighted by her father who would get drunk and lash out violently. Mum recalls how she used to be locked upstairs with her siblings whilst her mother took the beatings. Her Dad used to walk miles in search of work but often without success so her Mum would go out cleaning to make ends meet. This meant my Mum was often involved in looking after her younger siblings.
From what I can tell, Mum was always interested in dressing well. She had her own sense of style. It was one of her trademarks.
Mum grew up into a beautiful young woman.
Her best friend was the daughter of the couple who ran the fish and chip shop. Apparently they did not like their daughter mixing with my mum. The two girls both called Irene remained firm friends and went dancing together. It was on one of these nights out that they both met their future husbands.
Mum also spent a lot of time with a girl who nobody wanted to be friends with. I remember Dad saying how she would even take this girl on dates rather than let her be left alone. As you can imagine, that did not go down well with my Dad at all.
Mum got out of the factory as soon as she could. She had a dream of being “in service” and was offered a job at stately home. However, Dad made her choose between that life and him. She never let him forget it! She went on to train as a cook and worked in hospitals and schools.
So as we find Mum as a 22 year old in a Northern market town, what makes her so groovy?
She overcame poverty and discrimination.
She had her own sense of style.
She kept moving forwards positively.
She was a good friend and looked out for the underdogs.
She could distinguish between the person and the behaviour particularly in the case of her own father.
She supported her Mum.
She had a cracking pair of legs and was an amazing dancer.
Dad saw all of this and snapped her up. I will talk about that romance in another post but here is their wedding picture.