3 June 2010


Two husbands walked out on my nana, Phyllis White. She was born in Rawmarsh Yorkshire on September 24th, 1901 and while still a teenager she married a Mr Jackson whose first name was either Albert or Wilfred. They had two children, one of whom was my mother born in 1921 but by 1927 he was gone - never to be seen again though it is certain that he lived and worked in London.

In the early nineteen thirties, nana met somebody else and fell in love. She left her two kids with her mother in Rawmarsh and followed her heart to Manchester where she wrote to the advice column of "The News of The World" about her marital status. In a detailed typed response, they referred to her first husband as a "rapscallion" and gave her the green light to re-marry. It was in November 1940 that she married her Geordie beau - George Forster Morris - always known as Jock.

I loved both of them. By the time I was born they had moved back to Jock's native Newcastle. We would occasionally visit their humble terraced flat on Canterbury Street with its flight of stone steps down to the yard. There their only lavatory was located with neatly cut pieces of newspaper hanging from a string. I thought this was wonderful. She loved to feed stray cats and made wonderful scotch broth while he loved to joke, make things from wood and gamble. Once he took me to the dog track where an excited winning punter thrust a fiver into my hands for good luck. I must have been eight or nine.

One of Jock's pet sayings was: "In the midst of life we are in debt" and he usually was. In their late seventies, they moved to a sheltered old person's flat in Bridlington. It was warm and snug with an inside loo! She was very happy there but he pined for Tyneside and so he left her when they were both 82 years old.

I was at both of their funerals. He was buried in his beloved Newcastle when the earth was hard as iron in January 1985 and she was cremated in Scarborough in June 1988. There are two other things I'd like to say about them. Firstly, he took me to my first ever professional football match at the vast St James's Park in Newcastle. I was perhaps nine years old and The Magpies were playing Sheffield United. Secondly, she worked in a munitions factory in Sheffield for the last two years of World War One - making shell casings and breathing in noxious fumes that were to affect her chest for the rest of her life.

I love this happy photo of Nana and Jock. Probably taken on the seafront in Blackpool in the late nineteen forties but they don't look too happy in what I presume is a wedding photo at the top of this post. If only people would always write little details on the reverse sides of their old pictures. It would help amateur archivists like me.


  1. It's amazing what memories can be stirred up by an old photograph. You are right, some notations on the backs of photos would help future generations understand the context. My maternal grandmother (1902-1996) would pull out boxes of old photos and tell us who the people were, where it was taken, and when it was taken. But she never wrote on the backs of any of them, and now we are left trying to remember what she said!

  2. What a fascinating insight, YP and imagine being deserted by your husband in your latter years, like that.

  3. You're really lucky to have so many family photos. With my interest in family history, I've begged and borrowed them from relatives and I share your frustration regarding where, when and sometimes why they were taken.

  4. SAM Similarly, my old mother could pretty much recall who was in every photo thefamily possessed and bless her - she did write on the backs of a couple of hundred photos which has been most helpful I should have asked her when I had the chance but mostly people never do.
    JENNY I don't have a husband!.... I wonder what it was about my nana that she could drive not one but two men away.
    SHOOTING PARROTS Wow! Haven't heard from you in ages mate! Nice to see you're back. Regarding the photos - it is so tantalising. We're only a short distance in time from that family history but key information can so easily be lost.

  5. My gran was born in 1900. How life was different and created different people then?

    I wonder what they'd think of the 21st century now? I imagine it would be like living on another planet.

    So much culture has died in the last 20 years, that's for sure.

  6. Somehow it seems fitting that you are the grandson of a rapscallion. I mean that in a good way. And to Jennyta, some older women would be happy to be deserted by their husbands. I know I was only upset for about 90 seconds when mine said he was leaving. Again, I mean that in a good way, we're better friends now than we ever were.

  7. My dad, who was born in 1892 and was 57 when I was born, was a prodigious photographer who always wrote on the back of pictures and postcards. But then one day he pasted them into one of those black paged books. Can't get that black stuff off to see the writing.


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