When I was born, my father’s parents were delighted. I was the youngest grandchild and only granddaughter, and my grandparents were devoted. My Nan sewed tirelessly, believing that elegant sewing is part of every lady’s upbringing; dainty little dresses and crocheted cardigans.
My Grandad was a sensitive, very intelligent man, at times a little highly strung, but loving, warm and supportive. My Nan was a lady in the true sense of the word, immaculate and strong and her pearls of wisdom and sayings still enrich my life now while my Grandad has left me with a love of music hall, variety acts and theatre.
My grandparents met when they were 16 and 18 and were very rarely apart. Devotees of healthy living before it was fashionable, they both lived into their 90’s. I miss them still. This is a little of their story in my Nan’s own words from a letter that she wrote to me when she was 90.
When I was 15 years, my mother had my younger sister, June, at 48 years old. We were in the throes of building a larger house and although we had help, my father said that he would pay me a proper wage to look after my sister: “Your mama and I will still go to the theatre and dancing so you will be in full charge…”
I also went to private tuition for short hand typing and book keeping. When June was 2 years old, I was 17 and worked for a building company (my father’s firm had financed them.) This was in 1934 when Bricklayers were paid 1/7d an hour, Labourers 1/2d… riches indeed.
At 16 years I met Grandad at a Football Dance, he played for Wolverhampton Amateurs on Saturdays. A reasonable footballer, he was a rotten dancer, but he was always fun to be with.
Grandad was a metallurgist and when he had qualified he was a Member of the Institute of Metals. He met an American who asked him whether he would like to learn the technique of putting glass onto metal. I used to type all his notes about Bessemer furnaces and took a job at a rolling mills.
When Grandad was 21 years old, he bought a plot of land for £100 – a lot of money in 1937, where we built our first house, and then we were married in 1939. While we were on honeymoon, war was declared and Grandad tried to enlist for the navy, but when it was discovered that he was a metallurgist, he was involved in Ministry work for parts of bombers.
Nan, in later years, with my father
After the war, Grandad helped rebuild factories in Holland, France and Italy – an awful lot of travelling. When he had to go to the States, he used the Queen Mary, or the Empress line for Canada and oversaw his final project in Mexico at the age of 70.
He could talk on his subject ‘Vitreous Enamelling’ for hours and never need notes and lectured far and wide, South Africa when Apartheid was in full swing and invited behind the Iron Curtain. He was given a doctorate but wouldn’t use it.
He always said that he had no regrets, he had a very busy but enjoyable life, from school to business, and was very tired when he died at 92 years. I miss him terribly and know that I always will.
Although I didn’t see my grandparents as much as I would have liked in later years, both Nan and Grandad had an impact on how I view the world… I secretly fancy myself a somewhat better seamstress than I actually am and I know a surprising amount of music hall songs off by heart…
My Nan’s favourite flower, and a scent that always reminds me of her…