Although we were not particularly well-off, our house was always open to my parents’ friends and acquaintances. My dad, Donald, was born and brought up in Cambridge and his parents lived at the Portland Arms Hotel, so he knew many, many people in the town. Donald had his youth interrupted by seven years of war, but when he came home he made the absolute most of his life. He was twenty-seven when he left the army and married three years later. He worked at the Low Temperature Research Station as a scientist but had many interests and activities out of the lab. He was a great oarsman but once into his thirties he coached rather than rowed. He loved fishing and no doubt he often thought back to his holiday on board the M.C. Belle with his friend Sammy. He played golf, as his father had , at the Gog Magog Golf Club, and golf remained a life long passion.
He was extremely sociable and he and my mum, Monica would welcome everyone to their home and cook wonderful meals… or if there was only time for a cup of tea, the biscuit and cake tins would be brought out filled with home baking.
One of the people who came often to our house at 18, Metcalf Road in Cambridge, was Uncle Wid. I’m not sure how my parents knew him, maybe it was through rowing, maybe it was from work… although I seem to remember that Wid worked in London and had the dreadful commute each day. He was married to Aunty Daphne… not Daphne Arnold, Monica’s best friend, but another Daphne who I remember from all those years ago as a smiley, shy woman, slim and pretty. Somehow though, Daphne was in the background; my sister Andy and I loved Uncle Wid. They didn’t have children but he was gifted with the ability to make children laugh, in a gentle, comical way. He had a funny way of talking, a sing-song, quiet but hilarious voice which kept Andy and me in stitches. I remember him making us laugh in the sitting room, being silly until we were giggling and no doubt shrieking. All my parents friends were nice to us – obviously, but Uncle Wid was special and we adored him. I don’t remember seeing him and Daphne very often, I vaguely remember visiting their house but where it was I couldn’t say.
We are so open with our own children today, there is not much we keep from them, at least in outline; my parents were open too, but there were things which they did not completely tell us… and also over the years I have forgotten things too. Something happened to Wid and Daphne. At some point Wid died… and Daphne too died. I don’t remember and my own parents died many years ago too.
Over the years I have thought of Wid, and remembered him fondly and sadly because even though I don’t know the details, I know he must have died relatively young, and I have an image of Daphne later, whether created in my imagination or whether we saw her, as pale, thin and beautiful, clouded in unhappiness.
Since becoming so interested in genealogy I have over the last couple of years tried to find them; Wid’s name was Alan Davies but it’s quite a common name.. and Alan-may not even have been his first name. As I tried to find him, quite unsuccessfully I dragged back more memories, but maybe they were imaginings. Had Daphne had a nervous break-down? Had she ended her own life?
Then quite unexpectedly, while going through some old photos yesterday I came across this:
This gave me Daphne’s maiden name, Yarnall and from that I was able to trace her birth, in the summer of 1921, in Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, in Wales. Alan’s middle initial was W so he was A.W.D. – hence Wid. I entered his name into a Births, Marriages and Deaths search… and he too was born in Wales. That was why he spoke in what my sister and I thought was such a funny way, he was Welsh! I had found his birth in the summer of 1923, and I also found he had died in 1961, at the age of 48. How very, very sad.
I don’t know if Daphne remarried, I don’t know if she returned to Wales. I don’t know if Alan had brothers or sisters, nieces or nephews, his mother’s name was Morgan but there are so many Davies married to Morgans I haven’t been able to trace any siblings. I know that if he did have relatives, and I am sure he did, he would have been much loved, and I hope he is fondly remembered by people other than me.