Everyone seems to be researching their family tree, these days – I started one myself forty years ago. It grew quickly, and it became more interesting when the names and places reminded me of the stories I’d heard from my maternal grandparents about their early lives.
My Granddad’s Holme family were farmers somewhere near St Helens and many of the tales he told were of herding horses through the local town and the things he learned when very young. It was a large family and all the boys had to turn their hand to anything from blacksmithing to doctoring animals.
Granddad joined the Territorials as soon as he could and became a Farrier-Sergeant. He thrilled me with accounts of his horse-breaking and boasted that he’d never been thrown.
My mother and I went to live with them when the Second World War started. I was eight-years-old. Granddad still had his Smithy in town then and loved animals.
He was the local vet and sometimes took me with him when he went doctoring. My mother was shocked when I told her I could dock puppies’ tails and my trips with him were “curtailed”.
I did still help him when (as a scout examiner) he put boys through their tests. I arranged lots of different objects on a tray and they had to memorise them… Kim’s Game, I think it was.
My Grandma’s family name was Alcock and she had a strict upbringing. They were from Cheadle Hume and when they visited the house on the hill, the children were not allowed below stairs. Her father managed a coal yard and whenever she was out of sight, she could always be found inside a coal cellar, chipping away at the coal with her toy hammer.
Sending her to school cost a penny a week and she grew up to be excellent at English and maths. She also remembered, well into her eighties, the lyrics of “Three Little Girls from School are we”, from performing it on stage when she was ten.
When enemy planes droned overhead, and bombs were dropping, it was difficult to keep her away from an open door. The flashes and flares and searchlights fascinated her. We insisted on pulling her inside and she got the point when, in the morning, she saw a huge chunk out of the door, where shrapnel had hit it – at just about chest level.
I could write so much more about them both and maybe I will at some future date (I haven’t even mentioned breeding fox terriers and budgerigars) but this is, at least, a start…