Where do you come from? And, perhaps more important, where do you belong? For some people it’s easy. They live where they grew up, as did their parents and grandparents.
My own life has been fairly itinerant. I was born in the south, grew up in the Midlands then worked in London for 20 years, during which time I lived at 24 different addresses, including spells in Africa and in the Caribbean. My mother’s family are mostly from the north east, although one brother settled in Huddersfield; my father grew up in Barnsley. As you can imagine, I feel fairly rootless.
But recently I uncovered a surprising family story. My paternal grandfather, Lawrence, has always been a bit of mystery. He and my gran ran a greengrocer’s shop in Barnsley, bought with money lent by my gran’s brother Jack Breedon, a footballer, who later managed Halifax Town – he even has a Wikipedia entry. My gran’s younger sister remembers Lawrence secretly giving her fruit behind my gran’s back, when she was a child. He was a lovely man, she said.
He died of cancer aged 39, when my father was only two. My gran brought up my dad and his two brothers in the shop; I remember the smell of the fruit and the steep stairs leading to the flat above.
I decided to investigate further. As far as we knew, that side of the family came from Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire. But to my great surprise, I discovered that they also lived in Huddersfield. In fact, my great grandparents got married at St Patrick’s Church in 1896. My grandfather was born here in 1899.
The house where they lived in Marsh still stands. What I would give to sit down and have a cup of tea with my grandfather, and find out who he really was.
Top image: My great-grandparents, Tom & Ruth, and their three sons, Joe, Lawrence (my grandfather) and Wilf. Another son Gerard, was born later. Photo circa early 1900s.
Image below: My grandfather Lawrence outside my grandparents’ fruit shop in Barnsley, some time in the 1930s.
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