It is not often that I sit down to write a piece without a plan on how I intend to develop it or a set offacts, data or references I intend to use. Today is different though. I want to use this piece of writing to honour my gran Glenda as she is someone who played an important role in supporting me in her own quiet way at a time in my childhood which was confusing and difficult to navigate.
I’m not sure exactly when I started to regularly visit her on a Saturday afternoon but it was probably around the time my great grandmother died, when I was 13. I had passed my eleven plus and moved from a village school to one in York where I was one of a number of scholarship girls. Then when my great grandmother died it triggered the start of a mental health struggle for my mother.
I knew I could visit my gran on a Saturday afternoon and sit in a quiet place to read a book, chat with her or watch her black and white TV. There would only have been two channels at that time and Saturday afternoons were usually reserved for sport. I know that when I went home it would probably be to see my family watching the wrestling. Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks were firm favourites in our house.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the conversations I had with my gran and I certainly didn’t take the opportunity to ask her about her siblings and parents. Something as a keen family historian I know find rather frustrating. At the time I did know that she was one of ten children, many of whom I came into regular contact with.
Gran’s first names were Glenda Florence Edith. All her siblings had multiple names. Her father Francis had been coachman, later motor car driver, to the Lawley family and her mother Violet Kate had been born to a Yorkshire father and a mother of Irish descent whose family had come to York in the mid-19th century to escape the famine in Ireland.
What I do remember about my gran was that there was always a quiet sadness about her. I knew that she had lost her husband in World War Two and had been left to bring up her two daughters on her own. After he died, she moved back to the village to be near her family and worked locally. When I was a child, she was the caretaker for our local primary school so I probably would had seen her at work.
She was an important presence in my life as I was growing up. I continued to visit her on Saturday’s until she became too ill to see people. She died not long after I took my ‘O’ levels and I will always be grateful for the quiet space she provided me when I was studying.
Her death was reported in the local Parish Magazine where she was described as:
“Mrs E had been a widow for many years. She was a quiet, friendly person, who usually did not enjoy good health, but did not wish to inconvenience anyone. Many will remember her as Caretaker of the Primary School, which she looked after so conscientiously for seventeen years, and there will be several former babies who wore her finely knitted garments, which were sold at the garden fete every year. She passed away peacefully with no pain, nursed by her daughter. We shall miss her familiar figure walking from East View to the Post Office and having a friendly word from her. We offer our sympathy to her daughters, and her sisters living in the village and to other members of her large family.”