I remember my great-grandparents; Tom and Annie were born in 1864 and 1865 so in a way I feel as if I’m in touch with that time over a hundred and fifty years ago because I knew them when I was a very young child and they were extremely old. Considering their hard lives, working from leaving school at the age of thirteen, never well off and with six children (as well as a little daughter who died when she was only one) life must have been a struggle. Tom was firstly a fireman and latterly an engine driver on the Great Eastern Railway; as a driver he wore a bowler hat. When the uniform changed and caps were introduced, Tom refused and steadfastly wore his bowler as long as he was a driver. Tom and Annie married in 1887 and had their first daughter the following year. By the time their last child, Grace was born in 1902 they had four other daughters, Fanny, Maud, Olive and poor Blanche, and two sons Walter and Sidney.
I only knew Tom and Annie as very elderly people who were often in bed when I was brought to visit. Once Granny Anne opened the door to us and I must have shown I was surprised to see her not in bed because she remarked that yes, she did have legs! Even as a small child I could see she was a tiny lady, but a woman with great strength of character – which she needed to be married to Tom. He was a tough man and a bit of a drinker – when they could afford it (and probably when they couldn’t)
I remember them and can talk to my children about them so when they are as old as I am now there will be a link, a tenuous one, with real people of the past, because I actually knew those people. Of my other great-grandparents, four were born in the 1860’s although all died long before I was born, and two – who strangely I feel very connected with were born in 1845 and in 1853. We have no grandchildren, and if we do we would be extremely elderly, even older than Tom and Annie if we were to meet our great grandchildren!
PS the engine in my featured image is from the Great Western, not Great eastern Railways!