Friday, 26 July 2013

Sepia Saturday 187: The family bible

This is a photograph of some members of my grandmother's family. At first I thought I didn't know who they were and then I found this handwritten note from my mother in the photograph album.
(It's a small picture and not in good condition, so you can only really make out the shapes of the people)


"from left to right:
Nan Welch's mother Charlotte Turner, nee Sayer
Nan Welch's mother's sister Gertie
Nan Welch's mother's mother, Helen Thackery (maiden name)
Nan Welch's mother's father, Luke Sayers , compositor"


'Nan Welch' was what we always called my mother's mother, Dorothy Welch, nee Turner. Interestingly those were my mother's exact words in the description, so she must have been writing this down for us, as she would have referred to her as 'mum'.

I'm veering from the point of this post now, which is about the family bible, but that is because I have just read something on the back of this slip of paper that just has to be included here!

"Sister Gertie 'got into trouble' with a Canadian in the First World War who 'passed on something to her". She was taken in by my mother's mother until treated and cured in spite of scandal and opposition from my mother's father!" (I would guess these to be the words of my grandmother.)

Anyway, a fascinating if rather sad insight into the times. Syphilis, which I would guess this was, was rife amongst the soldiers returning from the front and as this was in days before the invention of penicillin I would imagine treatment was as unpleasant as the disease.

Now to the bible. None of my family have ever been particularly religious. That's not to say they were atheists, but they were not regular church goers. We had a bible when we were at school but it was not a regular feature of our lives. My mother grew up with her parents in a house in the suburbs of London. My grandparents bought it when it was first built. When my parents got married they bought the house from my grandparents and I grew up there as well.  Families stayed put in those times and so my mother knew the parents of my friends and some of their parents as well.

I can't remember the exact details as to how this came about, but my mother met the family of someone who lived round the corner from us. They were moving house that week. Somehow the conversation turned to families and names and addresses, and the woman my mother was talking to stopped dead in her tracks and said "We have your family bible". One of my grandmother's relatives had lived round the corner for many years. (I can't remember what one, maybe her mother?). When she died the house was sold  to this family and somehow the bible got left in it.  By the time the new owners moved in and found it they had no contact details for the seller. As it was a bible, no one wanted to throw it out, so the family held on to it for about 50 years, never knowing who the bible now belonged to or anything about the names of all the people in it. Had she not met my mother that week the bible would have probably been lost to the family forever.

My mother held onto the bible until she died last year. I couldn't bring it on the plane with me as it is enormous and so my brother has it at his house.  Writing this has made me think that I should do some investigating into the surviving relatives of other branches of my grandmother's family, as we have no children on our side to pass on the family bible. It was obviously meant to stay in the family.

17 comments:

tilly said...

what a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it with us
Tilly

Wendy said...

Wow, that is the best story. I'm glad Sepia Saturday gave you the opportunity and inspiration to share it.

The Silver Fox said...

Thanks for sharing that with us.

Brett Payne said...

How awful for Gertie that her father should oppose her being treated at home, even if he didn't approve of her actions.

Karen S. said...

Thank you for such a touching story!

Alex Daw said...

What an amazing story!!

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

That Bible has quite the story, all its own!

Bob Scotney said...

Are you able to date the photo. Gerte has a pleasant smile - perhaps that's what got her into trouble.

Lovely's Blot said...

Not accurately Bob. My grandmother was born around 1900 so I would guess this to be around 1920, although it could be later.

Deb Gould said...

The author in me is intrigued by the bible story...is this just coincidence -- or is it something much bigger? What a great story!

Lovely's Blot said...

@Brett Payne. Yes really rather sad but I suppose that was the world at the time. I would guess that there are some cultures and families where even today and incident such as that would be treated in a similar fashion.

Lovely's Blot said...

@ Deb Gould. Yes... it's especially weird as my great grandfather, Sidney Turner, was very involved in spiritualism. He claimed to have a spirit guide and was apparently friendly with a well know spiritualist of the day. She died in mysterious circumstances. My grandmother sent me a letter with all the details and photos but it got lost in the post! I've always felt a little uneasy about persuing it any futher!

Little Nell said...

That's an amazing story and just perfect for this week, but poor old Gertie; what a harrowing experience it must have been.

Gail Perlee said...

Isn't is amazing how purely coincidental things like that can happen. Sometimes, though, I wonder if they really are coincidental? There have been times when an inkling of a feeling urges me to go somewhere or do something I hadn't planned on - leading to some rather surprising results . . . like your family getting their bible back after all that time simply because your mother decided to visit with a neighbor. You just never know! :->

Joan said...

Great story. I love how some objects just seem to stay around till they find their way home again. The landlord from whom I rented office space, also owned a mini storage facility. He had foreclosed on a unit and auctioned off the contents except for the bible, which he brought to our office. Several years later, a family member contacted the landlord about the bible -- and we were able to return it to the family.

Sean Bentley said...

Wow - amazing story. Life is so bizarre.

Jackie van Bergen said...

How wonderful to get the bible back.
Poor Gertie - such a pretty girl too - I wonder how else 'the scandal' affected her life - did she manage to recover well and go on to marry and have children?