Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Cheerio, Nellie and Jack


Today is the birthday of my Great-Aunt Ellen, or Auntie Nellie as I always knew her. She was born in 1902 and was a younger sister of my Grandmother, one of ten siblings. The photo above may be a betrothal photo, as in 1928 she married John Clarke, or Jack as I knew him. I have very hazy memories of Jack, whom I only met on rare visits by the couple in the 1960s to stay with my grandparents. I remember he was soft-spoken, with a strong Irish accent, and as a child I found him difficult to understand.

I don’t know how Nellie met Jack but it’s easy to see why she fell for him, a good-looking and charming young man. She loved him enough to convert to Catholicism, a decision which caused a prolonged rift with her family. Jack was a staunch Catholic and Nellie embraced the religion wholeheartedly. I have a memory of pictures of the Sacred heart, and containers of Holy Water in their house in Watford.




The next photo is clearly their wedding day, and the only other picture I have of the two of them together. I don’t know when Jack died, but they were married for over thirty-three years, possibly more. The card they sent in 1961 to my grandparents, from Sandbach in  Cheshire, was signed with both their names; in 1967 she accompanied me and my grandparents on holiday to Mablethorpe. She clearly lost Jack sometime between the two dates. I was a young teenager and I’m sorry to say that it wouldn’t have registered in my memory very well.




I do remember that Nellie, like all the remaining siblings whom I knew, was most generous and kind. On that holiday, I only had to show an interest in some seaside souvenir; a postcard or trinket, and she would immediately say, “Auntie Nellie will buy it for you,” and a coin would be pressed into my hand. She and Jack never had children of their own, so you can imagine that her sister’s children and grandchildren were given lots of love. We shared a bedroom in the tiny holiday bungalow, and Auntie Nellie would have told me all sorts of stories about her life - if only I had written them down. She was a smoker, with a true smoker’s cough, and would wheeze and gently snore all through the night. The picture on the right was taken outside our little rented seafront chalet, where we made cups of tea and ate ice-cream, and grandad and I would enjoy a dip in the sea.

My grandfather, who as a teenager, had seen his first conflict of WW1 in the Dublin Easter Rising of 1916, understandably disliked the Irish; however, in later years that was smoothed over and the two couples were friends. In the picture below, taken some time around 1960, they’ve been captured, probably by a street photographer, as they enjoyed a day out together. My grandparents are in the centre.

The earliest photo of Nellie is at my grandparents wedding in 1918, when she would have been sixteen, and thereafter she appears as a guest in group photos of various weddings, but my favourite picture is one taken some time around 1970 -71where she has fallen asleep on the shoulder of her brother-in-law, my grandfather.


Nellie died in 1984, by which time I had a young family and was living abroad and I hadn’t seen her for many years. I’m sorry I don’t know more about her life, and my own Mum, at ninety-five has lost the ability to recall the facts. There will soon be few left who remember Nellie and the warm-hearted and loving person she was, so here is her birthday memorial. Cheerio Nellie, wherever you may be.

Join us today on Sepia Saturday, for more pictures and stories from the past.


11 comments:

  1. They obviously felt very at ease together by the time of the last photo!

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  2. One of my grandmothers also converted to Catholicism when she got married. I like to think that different religions get along better today, although there are obvious exceptions.

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  3. That last photo of Nellie & Jack is precious! How lucky you are to have it.

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  4. A beautiful tribute. I love the photo of the four of them strolling towards the camera.

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  5. To echo Alex, a lovely tribute beautifully written. I like the perspective of their wedding photo, taken from a camera held at the photographer's waist. It's not common anymore since digital photos are framed by squinting at a small screen, often held overhead too.

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  6. A lovely memorial, children always remember kindness. Teenagers are so much occupied with themselves they rarely notice what is going on around them! What lovely holidays you had. Some of my best holidays I remember were also spend with my family and my mothers sister and her family.

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  7. That bow on Nellie's bouquet looks a little strange, almost dominating the photo. A nice memory.

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  8. What a sweet tribute to Nellie. I don't remember hearing anyone with an accent from a different country when I was a child but I can imagine it might be difficult to understand, at least at first. These days I love to listen to different accents. I like the last photograph, too.

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  9. Nellie on your grandfather's shoulder is priceless. Thanks for introducing us to this lovely couple. Funny, the things you remember about people like the wheezing. We had a family friend who smoked cigarettes down to about 1/4" in length. I can recall his yellowed fingers, shakily holding one of those cigs, quite vividly.

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  10. I have relatives that as a teenager I didn't take any interest in but now I do. Such a pity to have been a typical teenager!

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  11. They don't look very happy at the first photo, fortunately they are smiling at their wedding pic. The last photo is sweet indeed.

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