Sunday, 30 November 2014

Hard Times and Heroes.

Last time I talked about daily life at grandma's. This week I want to go further back in time, by a whole generation, to talk about my Great Grandparents on my Grandfathers' side of the family.  Some dramatic events in their lives had far reaching effects on the descendants of the Connolly family, for many years to come, as you will see. 

Alfred Thomas Connolly.
(Born 1872)

My GT. Grandfather,
Alred, Thomas Connolly.

Alfred Thomas Connolly was my Great Grandfather, the son of a master gardener.  He was one of a family of 5 and when his parents died in 1875 & 1879 he went into an orphanage near Woolwich.  He then ran away to sea.
This is the earliest photo
I have of Emma.

On January 29 1896 he married my Great Grandmother,Emma Dowson at St. Andrews Anglican Church, Grimsby.  

Emma was born in 1874 in Grimsby and her Father was a trawler Skipper. 

They had 4 children:-
Alfred Edward, my grandfather who's house we lived in 'til I was 7.

born 1896
Lorina Harriet, born 1898
Emma  born 1901
Henry "Harry" born 1907.

Alfred Thomas was a fisherman sailing out of the fishing Port of
A newspaper report i at the time in the
Grimsby telegraph.
Grimsby and in 1906 he was serving as third hand on the trawler "Victoria" owned by the Standard Steam Trawling Co. of Grimsby when a severe storm struck the vessel.  The master's name was Hill and his son, W. Hill, (the Second Hand) was swept overboard.  My great grandfather swam out with a rope attached to him and retrieved the stricken fisherman but the man was dead before they got him back aboard.
The exposure caused Alfred Thomas to contract pneumonia and he was put ashore in the Faeroes Islands.

On January 17th 1907 he died of his illness at the age of 35 and was buried at Klagsvig, Faeroes Islands.
My Great Grandfather was presented (posthumously) with a medal from the Grimsby Humane Society.  It was presented to his widow Emma, along with a small sum of money from the Society's funds
"in the hope that the children would regard the medal in the light of public appreciation for their father's gallantry".

Emma was left a widow at the age of  33 with no means of support and 4 young children to bring up!  There was no Welfare State in 1907, that wouldn't start until July 5th 1948.  The only income she had was 6 shillings from the Parish and whatever other money she could earn.  
She took in washing, wallpapered and  whitewashed,cleaned and did dressmaking for people. She made shirts for people and sold them for 1 shilling each!  She did all these things and yet still managed to keep a clean house and raise 4 children, a huge achievement but all the more remarkable as she only had 1 hand!
Emma was born with only her left hand.
In spite of all this though Emma had to part with her 2 eldest children Alf (my granddad) and his sister Lorina and send them to The  Sailors' Orphan Home at Newland in Hull.  Hull is on the other side of the River Humber so visiting them was difficult. While they were there she only saw them for 1 day every 6 weeks,
they were there for 4 years.  Alf returned home in December 1911 but sadly, Lorina died at the Orphanage in January of that same year.
The other 2 siblings each took their turn at the Sailors' Orphanage,
Harry emigrated to Canada many years later and Em was to marry a butcher and live in East Marsh Street, Grimsby.

Alfred Edward Connolly.
(My granddad)
While he was at Newlands Sailors' Orphanage my Granddad was educated to the standard of the time.  He had a bad chest and the people there advised him to take up playing a wind instrument to strengthen his breathing.  The orphanage had a tradition for teaching music and had a well respected band.  Alf took up the clarinet and learned to read music, it soon became apparent that he had a natural aptitude for music and many years later became an accomplished musician to professional standard and played in many well known bands and orchestras around the Grimsby area.
However, while learning music at the orphanage he was invited into the band and immediately accepted,  for two reasons.  Firstly it would mean going out every weekend in the summer, to play at concerts in Yorkshire at places like Filey, Scarborough and Harrogate.  The other kids at the orphanage would be kept in to do cleaning etc.  The second reason was the cream teas and meals that were provided at the concerts!  To be a member though meant he had to have his own instrument, he'd only been using a borrowed one for tuition.  Once again Emma (his mum with only the 1 hand) came to the rescue and did extra washing and dress making to buy Alf a brand new Boosey & Hawkes clarinet which must have been a big expense.
There is a lot more I could tell you about my granddads' musical career but I'll save that for another time.
When Alf returned home he became an apprenticed metal turner on Grimsby docks and continued in that trade for the whole of his working life.
one of the earliest pics of Alf taken in
1943 holding my sister Kathleen.

While still at the sailors Orphanage Alf met a girl there called Rachel Younger.  She had also been orphaned and sent there after losing both parents who were Scottish.  Rachel was born in 1899 and when she left the orphanage went to live in Grimsby and later married Alf to eventually become my grandma, "Nanna".  They were childhood sweethearts and, many years later, helped raise me until I was 7 years old.
I know an awful lot about my other ancestors but that is all I know about Nanna other than that she was kind to me and my sister Kathleen and had a great sense of humour!

At the outbreak of World War 1 my granddad was a turner on the docks and was issued with a "Certificate of Exemption" from the Military Authorities which prevented him from being called up for service as he was employed in an exempt trade that would be valuable for the war effort as he was employed repairing ships.
He was also issued with a War Service Badge to wear to show why he, as a young man, had not "joined up" to fight in the war.  A certificate was also issued to verify the badge.
Many young men who didn't "do their bit" were branded cowards so the badge was very important.

I'm at the end of this weeks' entry and I've found it a bit harrowing recalling these events, although I've always known them the details are quite upsetting, I think you'll agree.
I called this entry "Hard Times and Heroes" and I'm sure you will agree that my Great Grandfather was certainly a hero but equally heroic was my Great Grandmother Emma who we always called
"Little Gran".  To be left a widow in those days was a terrible situation to be in, especially with her handicap, these days she would be described as a "single mother" and get all the help that the state has to offer. 
Little Gran was a survivor however and lived a long life.  Despite being "bombed out" of her house in 1941 during WW2 she lived for many more years and died in 1969 at the age of 95! 

There is another final story to tell about "Little Gran", a very happy tale and I hope to amuse you with it at another time later on.

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