Monday, 28 February 2011

Memories of a special grandmother

I have been interested in history from a young age, but it was the death of my grandmother (gran to me) that sparked my interest in my own family history. She used to tell me bits about her past and how she met my grandfather, often saying it would be nice to know more about our ancestors and if the same characteristics and interests carried on from one generation to the next. I was very close to my gran and still miss her a lot, and it was during one of these times of remembering the special times we had together that I decided to start doing my family tree....I didn't realise at the time how addicting it would become...It is now 11 years later, 2,800 ancestors later and being referred to by my children as " the one who collects dead people" thought I would share a bit about the special lady who was the inspiration behind doing grandmother :)

Helen Dixon, was born 11th December 1908 in a small town in England called Barrow-in-Furness. She was the youngest of 3 children and her parents had moved there as children so their father's could find work in the shipyards that opened. Her own father was a boilermaker in the Vicker's shipyard, her brothers going on to follow in his footsteps.

Steamer Street, where Helen was born.

 Her family were not well off but she had a happy childhood, and had fond memories of accompanying her grandmother to sell her herbal beer at the shipyard gates. ( her grandmother had been widowed at a young age and made herbal brew at home to make a living). She recalled playing in the street, tagging along with her older brothers, Thomas and John (known as Jack) who did always want their little sister in tow...but she said they were happy times. Tragedy then struck the family when Helen was 24, her brother, Jack, died from Meningitis in 1932 at the age of 29 and she recalled this as being a very unhappy time in all her family's lives, with things "never quite being the same again"
Helen with her brothers, Thomas and Jack abt 1911
Helen's life was to change forever in 1938, when a Scottish man, called Thomas Flucker, arrived in Barrow to work for a few months in the shipyards. He became good friends with Helen's brother and became a frequent visitor to their house...and Helen and Thomas fell in love and became engaged to get married. Thomas came from a little fishing village called Newhaven, which is now part of Edinburgh. It was a very close knit community and it was very unusual for men to marry someone from without the village, never mind from across the border! In July 1938, they became married in Helen's home town  and then they set off for their life in Scotland. Thomas always loved cycling, and my gran used to make me laugh telling me that her honeymoon was a cycling holiday in Scotland and that there was a tandem waiting for them at the station.

Newhaven , Edinburgh, as it is today

When Helen arrived in Newhaven, she found it very hard to settle in and to become accepted, but Thomas's sister took her under her wing and they led a very happy life together, having three daughter's, including my mother. When I was 7, my grandfather died after an accident at work. He was a carpenter in the ship yards, and fell off a ladder, suffering a brain hemorrhage, never regaining consciousness. The whole family took it hard, but Helen had her strong christian beliefs and always said they would meet again one day in a better life. She stayed independent and busy, knitting, making wedding dresses, visiting the elderly for the church ( she was 80 at the time and a lot older than some of the people she visited!) and even went for swimming lessons when she was 82, successfully learning to swim.

During her last few years she lost her sight, which hit her very hard, but she insisted on being independent...firing the home-help my mother had employed to help her around the house and refusing to use her white stick...however at the age of 92 she became unable to look after herself, refusing to move into my mother's ( " I don't want to be a burden") and moved into an old people's home near my parents. Her character and personality totally changed with the move, it was like she had just given up, something she was never known for and a year later she passed away peacefully in her sleep after a bad chest infection.

So thank you gran for all the memories and for being such a special mother, grandmother and great are sadly missed and always will be xx

No comments:

Post a Comment