Grand daddy of them all!

Iris talked again about our Grandad, here was a man, ‘born with a silver spoon in his mouth’ unable to help his dead son’s family, having fritted away a fortune on his own pleasures.

We were a family that was once reasonably comfortable, now we are facing destitution, in just one generation.

 The death certificate stated that Charles Weguelin died of a heart attack, brought on by his recent influenza. And probably going back to work before he was fit to do so. 

  “After the funeral, Grand-dad, rarely came back to see how we were coping, he died three years later, we had never had anything to do with his other family”.

After the first few weeks, the cash dwindled, Ethel had two children under four years old. No one in the family was old enough to earn a proper wage. Although Deidre worked at week-ends in a shop called ‘The White Rabbit’, she was being taught how to be a dress maker, but for very little money.

  Another problem now faced the family, a woman, alone with six children, unable to fend for them or herself, although still supported by some neighbours. The authorities, in the name of the council called, the children would have to be looked after by a home, but not all together, because of their age difference, they would have to be separated. This was too much for anyone to think about.

  Then steps forward Mrs Salmon, she had a master plan, the two youngest boys were already living with her, but with daily visits to their mother. She found other neighbours, who could do the same.

Iris and Deirdre stayed with their own mother and Bernard and Christine, were looked after by their next door neighbour, Mrs Lee, almost as if they were living at home.

 This eventually allowed Ethel to work and to earn a living.

The official from the council said this could not happen, but he was dealing with Mrs Salmon, she was very persuasive and he allowed her to put the scheme in place. He obviously thought it would be worth a try, anything would be preferable to splitting this family up.

  At first it was very hard to work it all out, Ethel had to get jobs that allowed her to be flexible, she had to be a cleaner and by just doing a couple hours here and there, she was just able to fit it all in. One of the jobs was cleaning for Mrs Snelgrove, a French lady who was the land lady of ‘The Golden Grove’ a pub a couple hundred yards away. After a few weeks Ethel was employed by this lady for most of the week, allowing her to look after the kids when they came home from school, it was all working out fine.

  Iris went on to talk about living on such a diminished family income, before the passing of their father, the family were generally living quite well, compared with some of our neighbours, Charlie was a metal worker, he made the tips of propellers out of copper, a skilled job, with an above average wage. Many of the things that were taken for granted were now just a memory and Iris carried on with her tale.  

  “In our house, we had gas lighting through-out, in the kitchen and scullery there were also electric lights along-side the gas lights. Because of our new situation, the gas lights were always used, simply because the gas meter took pennies and the electric meter needed shillings. Another reason was the poor light that the electric ‘globes’ gave, compared with the very bright gas mantle”.

“The trouble with the gas lighting, was that if it was switched on and off many times, it would damage the fragile mantle, so it was often left on all day. The gas used in this way, was cheaper than replacing the mantle, which could be could be quite costly”.

“There were a couple of young men in Chertsey, who were always up to no good, mum called them ‘Rascals’. One, Eric Turner, lived in Barker road, the other, Alan Knight, lived in Pyrcroft Road next to Pippernell Izzi’s shop. They took it upon themselves to help Mum—not with stolen goods or anything like that—but they would set snares up St Anne’s Hill and sold the rabbits they caught for a sixpence each, they also sold the large mushrooms that they collected from the fields early in the morning. They regularly gave us a free rabbit! But Mum still called them both ‘Rascals.

George and Fred.

I asked Iris about George, our granddad, how did he cope with losing another son?

She looked over her glasses and shrugged her shoulders.

“He was devastated, I saw him at the funeral, but he rarely came to see us after that”.

Our granddad was a very odd man, but I do remember him when he did call, he wore some funny clothes, he would dress like Sherlock Holmes, even with that sort of hat. I remember his Blue bike with a big basket on the front. Mum said he needed a good bike to go between his two families.

Although Iris was very upset talking about those days, she did find something funny to say. ‘Mum didn’t like him very much though, she would say, he liked ‘Wine Women and song……. But not too much of the song bit’, or ‘He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth’.

She laughed as she remembered Mum saying these things.

I think that our Grandad was the sort of man who seemed to attract one line descriptions.

The first description was certainly true, he liked a drink, and with a wife and four children in one village and another ‘wife’ and four children in the next village, just four miles away, he didn’t have a great deal of time for singing.

The second one was partly true, he was born into a fairly rich family—his father being a Colonel in the Indian Army—but he certainly wasn’t idle, not with two families to look after. …..and all those bike rides.

Although I make light of Georges character, he had many tragedies in his life. The loss of two sons in their first year of life, then a son of nineteen who took his own life while working in a nursery in Ottershaw, and another son who died when he was twenty-nine after an accident in The Royal Navy.

Georges private income had been exhausted around 1914, and he had to find a job. He worked in The Airscrew Factory as a draughtsman. He was well educated and fitted in well and it also excluded him from military service, as the Factory was doing vital war work.

He also carried on with making his model sailings boats, and selling them, he even patented some rigging, which is still used today on model boats and even tents, but he was never able to defend the patent, and have some reward for it.    

Author: madeinchertsey

Born in 1932, this is a collection of stories of my childhood growing up in Chertsey, and some stories of my later life.

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