A hundred and forty-six years ago yesterday in 1873, a baby was born in Wandsworth… I shall call him Frederick Carpenter. His mother, before she married Fred Carpenter senior, was Joan Turley from Guildford and they wed in 1872, They were both twenty-eight and he worked in an inn as a waiter – what exactly that entailed I have no idea. Baby Freddie soon had several siblings, Harriet, William and Edith, and later little Alfred was born. Fred had become a porter, which sounds a little more important than a waiter in an inn, however by the turn of the century, Fred was a waiter once again. Three of the children had moved away, but Alf and Freddie still lived at home and were both commercial clerks. Ten years on and there were still two sons living at home With Fred and Joan – ‘young’ Freddie, now thirty-eight, still a clerk, still single, and his brother, William, aged thirty-four, also a clerk, still single lived with mum and dad. William died young, at the age of thirty-nine, and as far as I can tell, never married. Their father, Fred died the same year… I wonder if somehow their deaths are connected? An accident? An infection? That again will probably remain unknown. Joan remained a widow for seventeen years, dying at the grand age of eighty-nine.
Freddie must have been devastated by the deaths of his father and brother, however, in that same year, he married, a young woman, Lily Thompson. They had a very long marriage, she died in her eighties, but Freddie lived to be one hundred and six. In his last few years he lived with his son’s family, but up until then he had lived alone after Lily’s death, still tending his garden.
I knew Freddie, I knew him all my life until he died. I didn’t know him well, we were related in a distant sort of a way. Thinking of him on his birthday, I think what a lot of things happened in his lifetime, how many changes he would have witnessed in his one hundred and six years. When he was born Victoria was queen and Gladstone was Prime Minister, and across the water Ulysses S. Grant was President of the USA. Kaiser Wiihelm was supported Otto von Bismark, the first Chancellor of the German Empire. Alexander II was Tsar, and in France, the President was firstly: Adolphe Thiers and then, Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta. It was in this year that German troops finally left France after the Franco-Prussian War which had finished two years earlier.
Freddie would have grown up in an age that I studied as history! I wonder what he would make of the world now… probably just puffed on his pipe and read the newspaper!