My grandmother Alice Luck was born in 1891 and died in 1978 and so managed to live over eighty five years through good times and bad. She had many aphorisms one of which was that you should always enjoy good times. When I asked why, I was told because good times come and good times go. When you are down you have something to look back on and more importantly something to look forward to. I suspect that she understood economic cycles better than many professionals – certainly she had prudence built into her bone marrow.
There were often back handed comments as to how we were all destined to go to the workhouse. This was strange as the workhouses were officially closed in 1930, but many persisted as the inmates had nowhere else to go. Of course I asked the obvious question were you or your family ever in the workhouse and the answer was a definite “No!”
So I was a tad surprised when following up an Ancestry.com link to see my grandmother being entered on a school roll in 1898 as being sponsored by the Guardians of the Ratcliffe Union (who were part of the Stepney Poor Law Union). Further (incomplete) research shows that her workhouse experiences included the following:
|January 8th 1898||Admitted||With two siblings|
|February 12th 1898||Discharged||To her father|
|July 2nd 1898||Admitted||With her mother and two siblings|
|September 14th 1898||Admitted||With three siblings.
The youngest sibling Charles was only one year old and as he was admitted from Bromley it’s possible that he was referred to the workhouse Master by the hospital.
|September 14th 1898||Discharged||With three siblings. All to her mother|
The causes of the admission and discharge on the same day are probably hidden in a dusty day book– but the whole year must have been traumatic for the family. My grandmother at this time was seven years old. I’m not sure why the family resorted to welfare but the scars resonated over the years. Grandmother went on to marry three times and have four children. She was first widowed at the age of 26 and then again at 34.
Together with her mother Katie O’Brien and the support of other family members she kept her children together and in due time rose up the economic ladder and even managed to pay for her daughter Mary to have piano lessons and to have a formal dress wedding. Tragedies came and went.
My parents were killed during an air raid in 1944 and it is obvious from hindsight that there was going to be no way their two sons were going to be split up outside of family resources. Which is how my brother went to live with our late father’s sister (Mary) and how at the age of 52 my grandmother became my guardian and took me to live with her.
What a woman! Well worth celebrating and thinking of at this time of the year when we have so much to be thankful for.