Saturday, 20 June 2015

remembering Grandad

This week on the gratitude challenge, we're tasked with talking about someone we got to meet.

So I'm going to talk about my Grandad, who was a sweet, kind, loving man, at the centre of his family.

All the pictures are from my Dad's slides. Thanks Dad!
Charlie Tomlinson was born in Longridge, Lancashire, and lived at the top of the hill, next door to the cinema. His Dad was a fat pork butcher, and his Mum was kept busy with lots of children.

Charlie used to go to the cinema every Saturday with all his mates to watch the matinee. They'd get in trouble for throwing orange peel at each other. His Dad had to go into the cinema through the double doors at the back, as he was too fat to fit into the main entrance.

No doubt his Dad's weight contributed to his death, from a heart attack, when Charlie was only 4. His poor mother was by that time exhausted anyway. She'd had a daughter, May, and two sons, Charlie and Harry, that we know more about. But she'd also had another 7 or 8 babies. Four of them died in the first six months of their lives. Two or three went to fight in the First World War and never came back. She herself died just a year or two after Charlie's Dad.

At this time May, the oldest, was 24, and working full time twelve hour shifts in Ribchester cotton mill. Charlie, his brother Harry, and another infant were taken into care. Charlie and Harry immediately lost contact with the infant, who we assume was adopted.

When she got a chance, May visited Charlie and Harry in care, and was horrified by the state of them. Charlie said she 'raised hell' that they were badly dressed and clearly underfed. At that point though, there was not a lot she could do about it.

When May's boyfriend came back from the war in 1918 or 19, he was in a dreadful state. The war had been hard on him both physically and emotionally, and there just weren't enough jobs for all the young men. May sent him out to find work, and he got a job at Longridge quarry, although it was hard work, and very physically demanding.

Him working meant that they were able to marry, and take in Charlie and Harry. May's husband got a job at Ribchester hospital, and she carried on working at the mill. Charlie remembers that one of his jobs was to get the table set up for tea when he got in from school. If he didn't do it before May got home, she would kick him with her clogs still on. He always felt love and respect for May, but he also learned to fear her wrath!

Charlie did badly at school. When he was 12 he developed asthma, which May blamed on his playing football in the rain. So when he finished school he needed to find work that would be suitable for him, and his health. May's husband helped him get a job at Ribchester Hospital as a nurse.

There, unmarried staff members had to sleep in, in corridors strictly segregated by gender.

The staff did socialise though, and Charlie had a memorable night out with some of the other nurses, including a certain Lillie. They went to a dance in town and were walking along the dark country road back to the hospital, sharing an umbrella, when a motorbike with no lights careered into them, knocking Charlie down. He hit his head, and Lillie helped to look after him. There was blood everywhere, and Lillie was rather annoyed about ruining her dress, even if she found she did rather like Charlie.

The two married, and with the help of Lillie's Uncle they got a house in Longridge, just along the road from the mill, and the mill workers would clomp along the cobbled street every morning and evening for their shifts. Charlie worked nights at the hospital, finding that to be best for controlling his asthma, while Lillie did dressmaking, childminding, and then chiropody, to fit around the children. They had three. The youngest, Margaret, is my mother.

Charlie was a kind, sweet man. Mum remembers him as being unusually helpful around the house (she couldn't think of another man who ironed at the time). I remember him as being warm, forgiving, and of doing what he was told, with a wry grin.

Mum says that the only time she could remember him being grumpy was when he was ill. Then he would take horrible stinky asthma powder, which he was supposed to burn and inhale the smoke. He was advised by the doctor to take up smoking, and did, dropping the habit when it turned out to be no good for asthma.

Charlie worked four nights on at the hospital, and then two nights off. He would usually stay in bed through the day, until Mum got home from school and woke him with a kiss, and he would smile at her and say hello.

In the summer he'd get up at lunchtime and do work around the house, fixing things, but also cleaning, gardening, and he also did some cooking.

Mum recalls that she would save up her spending money until she had half a crown, and when Charlie had a Saturday off she would give him the half crown, asking him to look after it, and they would go into Preston for the Saturday morning market. She would go around choosing the things she wanted, while he laughed, telling her she'd gone far past her half crown.

Mum remembers him as being very strong. My brother and I would run into his arms when he came to see us, and he would always catch us.

I loved being with my Grandad.

When my parents split up my Mum moved into a small house which needed a lot of work. Grandad came around and got busy (I say he came 'round - Granny drove him; I'm told he could drive, but he didn't like to, so Granny always drove the car), wallpapering the stairs on a ladder when he was 77.

Whenever he visited he'd go around looking for jobs, fixing things that needed fixed, and always being helpful.

I find it amazing that he was such a giving man, considering the hand he was dealt as a child. I am so glad to have had him in my life, and I miss him, but I'm glad he got to live a long and pretty happy life, surrounded by family.