My Back Story
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.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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