To the Grandfather I didn’t know
Last night August 4th 2014, like many others I watched the broadcast from Westminster Abbey. We had switched off all our lights at 10pm and had a single candle glowing in the dark, as we commemorated the date and time a century ago when Britain plunged into World War I. My Grandfather was not killed during the war, but he died early from the injuries he received. He was gassed and never fully recovered from that, so that my Grandmother, a weaver, as many women were in Lancashire, continued to work after the war ended in 1918.
He died before my mother was married in 1939. Her brother Jack the child in the photograph was the one who walked her down the aisle to giver her away; my Grandmother would have walked alone. Although he knew he had one grandchild, Keith the eldest son of my Uncle Jack, he never knew about Roger, Keith’s brother nor myself or my younger brother Stewart. My Grandmother was a widow for over thirty years, dying when I was 26. Not for her the comfort of a shared life, shared memories and experiences into old age.
We, his grandchildren, never knew him and I don’t remember either my Grandmother or my Mother reminiscing about him. I don’t know which regiment he served with or what he did during the war. I know he loved horses and from time to time my mother said he would groom and harness the team of horses that drew the hearse in the small town of Haslingden Lancashire; black horses whose coats gleamed and who wore black ostrich plumes on their heads. He must have been interested in Art because I have a set of three books published by Odhams Press of Long Acre London in 1934 called The Worlds Greatest Paintings. My mother said they were an offer by one of the daily newspapers.
Of course, compared with too many, my family were lucky he did come back alive when so many didn’t. But the only way I can remember him is by this photograph; for me he will always be a handsome soldier with a pretty wife and young son.