Memories of flower and bird and wind and world, and all the living and all the dead.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Benjamin and Charlotte lived on the edge of coal mining with Charlotte bringing a little bit of money and some pretension to the household. They ran a shop passed to them by Charlotte’s parents. Benjamin was an occasional coal haulier, or “Haulier of Coal” as Charlotte would have it.
Sons and daughters filled the home, worked in the shop and contributed to a comfortable but not luxurious existence. Some of the older sons worked in the local brewery. James went to sea. The daughters who were not working in the shop became seamstresses. All except Hannah. Tall, elegant and sharp, Hannah went into service where she became the housekeeper in a grand house. On her visits home she brought magazines relaying the latest styles and comme il faut to her sisters. She taught Alice, Esther and Gwenllian how to trim the edges of skirts and blouses according to the magazines. She taught Ann how to twist her beautiful dark hair on to the top of her head and to wear a hat at a fashionable angle.
Ann is on the far left in the photograph and Hannah on the right. Their mother, Charlotte is next to Ann, followed by Alice and Gwenllian who is holding baby Morfydd. Esther is not in the photograph. Please note Hannah's crisp black dress with the leg-o-mutton sleeves and immaculate over pinny. A woman not to be messed with.
Ann was born in 1881. A late summer baby with dark hair and eyes. At three years old she had an eye injury. Playing around with a pencil, one of her brothers poked it into her eye. It took a while for Ann's eye to recover and it was kept bandaged over for months. She developed the habit of looking down and then fixing you with a fierce glare, mainly through the good eye. You remember when your mother said "you'll take someone's eye out"? Well they nearly did.
Hugh was captivated by Ann’s dark intense looks and she adored his curls and swift smile. After the Peeping Tom incident, he had a gift for her: two hatpins. To keep her hat neatly on her head and "just in case". She wore them for the rest of her life. One was tipped with a crystal finial and the other with jet.
Hugh’s young sister-in-law looked down her rather pointed nose at the shop-girl who was being brought into the family. She showed off the fine embroidery, cut glass, pianola and fish knives that graced their home, compared with the modest trappings of Ann’s family. Robert and his wife invited Ann to tea. Hannah was invited to accompany her sister. A bone china miserable affair, Ann sat through the agony of scrutiny and put downs. Alice politely admired the finery. When the tea of thinly cut bread-and-butter and dry cake was served, Alice smiled, arched one eyebrow, looked carefully at the tea-set and said “Ah, Mrs Lloyd-Jenkins has something very like for the second best set”.
The Boer War and the Great War took brothers away to fight and potential suitors to a distant death. Only Ann married. The sisters stayed kept a neat home, never marrying. Hannah kept them in order after their parents’ days, reminding them “We might be poor, but we’re not common”.