I've been thinking a lot about my mother this week. She would have been ninety last Saturday. Sadly, she died in August 2000. This is my parents' wedding at Gildersome Baptist Church on 18th July 1953. All four of my grandparents are present - Joseph and Ethel Whitehead are (discounting the child in arms) the fourth and fifth from the left at the back while Elizabeth and Thomas Graham are on the far right. My father's two brothers (and their wives) and my mother's three sisters (one of whom married my father's twin brother) are all there. So are my two oldest cousins. I think I can name almost everyone - but I really should have double checked with my father, who died a couple of years ago.
I've blogged about my father, Arthur Whitehead - but not so much about my mother. Time to make amends. Margaret Graham was born in Glasgow - her father was a Protestant from Belfast (his mother was a Catholic, which explains why they eventually moved out ) who served his apprenticeship in the Harland and Wolff shipyards, then moved over to Glasgow where he worked as a boilermaker in the Govan shipyards.
My mother was brought up in a close in Ibrox, a short stroll from the Rangers football ground - she and her friends used to sneak in when the gates opened and catch the last few minutes of the game.
When my mother was about nine, her father got a job as, I think, a foreman in a steel stockholding plant near Gildersome, and the Graham family all moved to West Yorkshire. Their home was on Grove View at the centre of Gildersome. My mother went to Morley Grammar School and worked as a telephonist before meeting and marrying my father. Her parents and two youngest sisters eventually emigrated to South Africa and her father (who I never met) died there.
Just by coincidence - or is it? - I have over the last few days been looking through some of the family papers and photos my father left - quite a few of which are in fact my mother's. Some of the letters feel too intimate for a third party to read. Among them is a Valentine card my father sent before they married. She also kept a lot of my letters - from college, from India when I worked there, all sorts of stuff which I never imagined might survive.
There's also a few of my mother's pocket diaries from the 1950s, including her entries at the time of my birth. It's both wonderful and slightly unsettling to read about how I came into the world. I was born on June 23rd - here's what she wrote on that day and the days either side:
'To go in Mo[rley] Hall [[maternity home]] 10am if not taken before. A[rthur] took me. Dr McNaughton came - started injections 2.15pm. Pains started about 3.30pm. Had injections. A came 7-8pm. Pains wore off + started at midnight. Went into Labour Ward 1am - nothing to eat all day. Dr Mc called twice + called to see A. A came 7-8pm the waters started to break. Baby born app 11.30pm. 8lb 2ozs. Dr McNaughton arrived about 5 mins after birth + gave 2 stitches.
Sun 24: A + Mam came 2.30-3.30pm + A at 7-8pm. Baby doing fine - Andrew. Dr McN called in morning. Nellie came to window about 6.15pm + brought flowers.'
Also among her papers I came across this portrait photo - I don't recall seeing it before. It's undated, but I imagine it may have been taken for her twenty-first birthday.
I've been on a sentimental journey back to Gildersome and Morley, the corner of West Yorkshire where I - and my father - grew up. This locality, just outside Leeds, was once part of the Heavy Woollen District. The Whiteheads had a mill in Gildersome - though producing fine worsted cloth rather than heavy woollens. It was called W. Whitehead & Sons - Willie Whitehead was my great-grandfather.
The journey, and this post, has been prompted by the recent death of my father, Arthur Whitehead, at the age of 91. He worked for a while in the family mill, and lived for much of his life in Gildersome.
The inscription reads: 'In Loving Memory of Eunice, dearly beloved wife of Leonard Whitehead, who died March 5th 1919 aged 31 years'.
Leonard was my father's uncle - Eunice died five years before Dad was born. Leonard later married Eunice's sister, Agnes.
Their nephew - Geoffrey Crowther, Baron Crowther of Headingley - was editor of the Economist for almost twenty years.
On Morley's skyline, alongside the Town Hall, another building dominates - the burnt out ruins of St Mary's-in-the Woods. It wasn't the parish church but non-conformist. There's isn't a C of E church in the town centre - though the place is stuffed full of grand non-conformist chapels, many still in use.
My father died earlier this month at the age of 91. I've written this tribute for the Morley Observer in West Yorkshire - I'm posting the piece as submitted, along with some memory-rich photos:
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!
Arthur Conan Doyle
Boundary Street Estate
Burston Strike School
China In London
'Cohen The Crooner'
Curious Kentish Town
Dorothy 'Dorf' Bonarjee
Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Fiction As History
George E. Harris
George 'Jonah' Jones
Grand Union Canal
India In London
Lost And Starving Dogs
Marques & Co.
Museum In Docklands
Riff Raff Poets
Sir Francis Burdett
Sir Frederick Sykes
Spanish Civil War
Stairway To Heaven
Steptoe And Son
Vale Of Health