The Seabrook / Finch Women
This entry is primarily about my Grandmother Marjorie Finch but includes some tales about her mother and siblings too.
Marjorie was born on 26th August 1921, the 7th child of Arthur Jester Denham Finch and Elizabeth Jessie Seabrook.
She was born at home in Manchester where her family had Russian relatives still living.
Marjories mother was apparently a forboding but loving woman. My mother remembers her as being a large woman who you did not cross, her husband by contrast was apparently a skinny and somewhat quiet man. Elizabeth's mother (Elizabeth Amelia Seabrook nee Thompson) had apparently been a somewhat unstable Irish woman who left her husband (or was left by him) while her children were still young. It appears Elizabeth and her younger brother were raised by their mother, their sister Minnie was raised elsewhere, possibly by her father. The mother eventually ended up in an insane asylum according to family tales but this has not been verified.
Elizabeth Jessie's volatility showed up in her own actions the most famous being the families change of religion.
The first four children were christened in the Catholic faith, as Elizabeth being of Irish descent was Catholic. We are not sure if Arthur was too. The family were not well off and food was often scarce although both Elizabeth and Arthur worked to put food in the mouths of their children. One day the local Catholic priest visited Elizabeth at home. He asked her to make a donation to the church, to which Elizabeth apparently replied that she was unable to due to them barely having enough money to feed their growing brood. This highly intelligent man then suggested to my great grandmother that she could sell the children's bed in order to get funds to give to the church. Elizabeth apparently chased him out of the house with a broom. All the children born after that event where christed in the Church of England!!
Marjorie developed a close relationship with her eldest sister Jessica Gertrude Violet Rose known as Jill. She was 12 years Marjories senior. Marjorie fondly told stories of how she and Jill would play together when Marjorie was a little girl. Jill would make up wonderful tales to stimulate Marjories imagination, one of which was relayed to me.
One day Jill gave Marjorie a matchbox and told her there was a fairy inside it. Marjorie carried the matchbox around for weeks talking to and playing with this make believe fairy.
Jill became the black sheep of the family. The expectation for young women in that day was that they would marry and my great grandparents apparently had encouraged Jill that she should do just this when she came of age. Jill however had other ideas and refused the idea, which apparently caused a great row. Jill ran off and went to teachers college and became a teacher. She was very successful and eventually became District Commissioner for Shropshire. She even had tea with the Duchess of Kent whilst in this position. Jill did not stop with her alternative ideas merely at the concept of being a single working woman. She took up with group of artists from the 1930s called the Lancashire Group of Artists. Her close friend was Robert Tusori. Robert was a wonderful painter and did the most lovely pictures of ballerina's, I was fortunate enough to inherit one of these from my Aunt Jill. Jill never painted that I am aware of but made the most wonderful pottery. She had her own little studio in later life where she would make pots, cups and other items.
The relationship between Jill and Robert was apparently a very close but totally platonic as it turned out that Robert and Jill were both homosexual. This was a closely guarded family secret up until about 15 years ago. Robert apparently asked Jill to marry him on a number of occasions, not for any purposes of love (other than the love of a friend) but because he thought it would give them both a degree of respectability whilst still being able to persue their true interests. Jill apparently would not entertain the facade. Jill did have a close female friend with whom she lived for many years in her later life. The woman's name was Rosemary but I do not know her surname. My grandmother and mother both later confirmed that Rosemary and Jill were lovers, and they apparently quarrelled frequently.
Jill eventually died in 1991 from a series of strokes. As she became worse she remembered less and less of current times and saw everyone as they were when she was young. Although frustrating at times my grandmother also found this could be amusing especially when Jill would call her young Marjorie (she was in her 70s) and would talk fondly about what they did as children.
The rest of the family were relatively conventional. The other girls married and had families as did Marjories brothers. The other family myster that does exist is that of Marjories youngest brother Lenard. Lenard was born about 1923. He apparently left England as a young man, bound for Australia and was never heard from again. It was thought he committed suicide off Sydney Harbour Bridge but I have found no evidence to support this idea. He was said to have married an Italian woman and to have worked as a mine cook possibly at Cooper Pedy in South Australia. He did returnr to England once but did not stay long.
I never met Minnie, she died of a heart attack in the early 1960s.
Louisa was another favorite of my grandmothers. Louisa had a sunny disposition and a ready laugh. I have no special stories about her but my meetings with her when I was younger indicated to me she was a lovely woman.
The other that we had close ties to was the youngest sister Kathleen. My grandmother was always a little jealous of Kathleen and felt that she was spoilt and indulged by their parents. Kathleen married well to Bernard Mills in the 1940s. Bernards family were apprently quite well off and Bernard himself became a very successful businessman. I think my grandmother who struggled financially most of her early life resented that her "spoilt" little sister then got an easy adulthood too. Kathleen did have her share of tragedy though when she lost her only daughter aged about 16 in the early 1960s.
Lynn and her boyfriend had been at his house when Kathleen was shot with a handgun. It appears they were playing Russian roulette and either didn't know the gun was loaded or did not think of the consequences. Lynn's boyfriend was arrested but because Lynn's fingerprints were on the gun he was exonerated. My mother says this was a terribly sad time for the family as Lynn was a lovely kind young woman, needless to say Kathleen and Bernard and their sons were devestated.
As they grew older Kathleen and Marjorie became closer and eventually lived only about 30km from each other. Kathleen died in 1993 (Bernard had died several years earlier) from cancer and her oldest son kept in contact with Marjorie and was very kind to her up until she died.
Marjorie was a remarkable woman who displayed amazing strenght of will in a time when women did not ususally take such a role.
She married Thomas Marlais Davies, son of Thomas Rees Davies and Jane Davies (her maiden name was also Davies) around 1943. Thomas had been a cook in the Army but was discharged at some stage either during or just after the war due to ill health. Marjorie had three children Valerie b1944, Alan b1946 and Michael b1950. Valerie and Alan were planned but Michael was a later surprise, especially given that by the time of his birth Thomas was very ill and deteriorating.
Marjorie worked when the children were young and Thomas was unable to work, but I am not sure what she did at this time.
Thomas died on 30 Apr 1955 at Guys Hospital London of heart failure. He was just 39. He apparently had weakened valves as a result of childhood illness - rheumatic fever I think. Apparently the operation that could have cured him became common practice within a year or so of his death.
My mother's memories of her father are of an angry short tempered man but this was probably as a result of his dehabilitating illness and the fact he was aware of his impending early death. My grandmother's recollections of him to me from earlier in their marriage was that he was a wonderfully strong and funny man. He loved his children and family dearly and was very frustrated by his inability to care for them as he became more ill.
My grandmother tells me the funny story of when she was in labour with her youngest Michael, who was born at home. Thomas had apparently become irritable and demanding by this stage of his illness. Marjorie was upstairs with the midwife in labour awaiting the impending birth of her baby. Thomas apparently came up to the room and banged on the door demanding to know where the sugar was for his tea. Before the midwife could tell him to go away Marjorie had told him to look in the cupboard. She said she could hear him stomping back down the stairs. Michael was apparently born within the next few minutes.
The family were still living in Whitstable Kent (where all the children were born) in 1953 when the town was flooded. My mother has a clear recollection of it. Their house was two story and they all went to bed the night before. They were awoken to Alan complaining that there was water on the steps. Marjorie thought that Michael had wee'ed on the steps in the middle of the night and got up to investigate, discovering there was an awful lot of water on the steps because the whole of the bottom part of the house was submurged. Sometime later in the day they were rescued by a boat and had to climb out of an upper bedroom window to get to it. They lost many of their possessions to the flood. They stayed with friends for a few weeks while the house was cleaned out. My mother says she can clearly remember that there was mud everywhere and it stank.
Info about this flood can be found on this website: http://www.oysta.fsnet.co.uk/fl_map.htm
After Thomas died life became very hard for Marjorie. Single supporting mothers (for any reason) were unusual and frowned upon in those days. Well meaning relatives from Thomas' family tried to take the children from her to be raised with their families but Marjorie resisted and insisted on bringing her children up herself.
She kept working and became a trainee teacher. After she completed her training she was sent to work in Corby. I am not sure which school she started in but she ended up at Beanfield Infants School.
In the early 1960s Marjorie met Howard Holloway a widower who worked as a supervisor at the Corby Steel Works. They married in Corby in 1964. Both had a love of ballroom dancing and won many medals. Majorie's boys lived with her and Howard for some time. Valerie had gone off to join the Wrens in 1962 and was posted down south as a radio operator. Eventually Alan left and joined the Army then later the Merchant Navy. I am not sure what work Michael did when he eventually left home.
Valerie met an Australian sailor, Thomas Jarrett, in late 1964 and after a speedy courtship they married in Corby in 1965. They moved to Portsmouth where Thomas was posted. Their daughter Deborah was born in Fareham in 1966 and their son Mark in Portsmouth in 1968. Thomas and Valerie then moved up to Scotland where Thomas was involved in the sea trials for the (then) new Oberon class submarines. Marjorie visited the family as often as she could.
In 1969 Thomas had to return to Australia and Valerie and the children emmigrated with him. Marjorie did not see them again until 1974 when Valerie returned with the children for a visit. By this time Marjorie was the headmistress of the Beanfield Infant School.
The visit with the grandchidlren was wonderful. She took us children to play in the woods over the road from the housing estate where she and Howard lived. I fondly remember running through the woods, climbing trees and the stories my grandmother told me of the magical creatures that lived in the woods - probably the same stories Jill had told her 50 years earlier. I remember being stung by nettles and being rushed home for a bath to stop the stinging. We fed the blue tits in her garden, took photos and developed black and white photos in the dark room (an improvised cupboard) under the stairs. She took me to school (my brother was too young) and I spent the day in one of her classes with all the children who thought I had a funny accent. I even made a friend who played with me several times during my holiday and the class gave me Dolly Mix lollies as a present. The only sad thing that happened was when Mark was playing with another little boy on an open area behind my grandmother's unit. They were playing with a ball or some toy and the other little boy ran out onto the road after the toy and was killed by a car. The police interviewed my brother but he was too young to really understand what happened.
Marjorie and I started writing letters to each other about this time (as did Aunty Jill) and I remember eagerly awaiting those letters. She would tell me about what was growing in the garden and what the children were doing at school as well as any competitions that she and Howard had entered.
About 1979 Howard became ill with cancer and they bought a cottage in the village of Weldon just outside of Corby. Marjorie continued to work but also cared for Howard as he ailed. He died in 1981.