Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sepia Saturday 90

This week's Sepia Saturday call shows a very young Beatriz of Spain (1909-2002), daughter of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. Now surprisingly, I don't count European royalty amongst my family! Nor any Spaniards, come to think of it. So I'm going to use Alan's suggested theme of little girls, and write about this picture.

I'm almost certain that the little boy in this picture is my maternal grandfather. The photograph was taken in Batley, Yorkshire and that fits with what I know about him. If you assume him to be seven or eight in this picture, then it would have been taken in 1910/11. He also had a younger sister, but more about her later. If anyone out there has any ideas about the date of this picture, I would be very interested to hear your opinion.

My grandfather was born into a fairly prosperous family. His father and uncle were partners in a firm of insurance brokers; a business founded at the end of the nineteenth century by their father (my great-great grandfather). From what I know of it, it seems to have been a successful business; my great grandfather and his father before him, were prominent Masons and generally pillars of the local community. Unfortunately for him, this was not what the future held for the little boy in this picture.......

Dear reader, my grandfather was the black sheep of the family! At least, according to his daughter (my mother). I've no idea what he did to deserve that reputation; if Mum ever told me, then I wasn't paying attention at the time! As far as I'm aware, he spent most of his working life as a farm worker, presumably doing a variety of jobs; most of which would have come with the use of a tied cottage. He changed jobs frequently, and they moved around the country as his job(s) required. I wrote a little bit more about him here. 

This one was taken a little earlier, and shows the same children presumably with their parents and a grandmother. The man standing at the back is my great grandfather, and he was the owner (with his brother), of the insurance brokers I mentioned earlier. He was also an amateur artist, and I have two of his pictures that have been handed down to me. I know very little about him, and unfortunately I know nothing at all about either of the women in the picture. My great grandfather died in 1941, aged 64; his brother (my great-great uncle), continued to run the business until it was sold sometime in the early fifties. I do have a faint memory of him (he retired to the area I was born in), but he died around the time of my fourth birthday.

Funnily enough, a couple of days ago, I met a lady who remembers my grandparents, and who knew my mother as a teenager/young woman. She remembers my mum enjoying the dances at the local village hall, and she reminded me that Mum used to play tennis. I asked her if she remembered my grandfather, but apart from telling me that he worked on the local farm, she remembered little about him. I got the distinct impression that she didn't care much for him; a strange expression passed across her face when I mentioned his name. Of course, it may have been my imagination.....

I wish I remembered more about my grandfather; he died when I was seven years old. I have two younger brothers, and they have no memory of him at all, so perhaps I should be grateful! He would have been 64, exactly the same age as his father before him.

Since this post was inspired by Alan's picture of a little girl, perhaps I should finish by telling you what I know of the little girl in the pictures. She would have been my great aunt, but I don't even know her name! I just know that she married a solicitor, and that after my grandfather's death she wrote to my grandmother saying that she no longer wanted anything more to do with either her or my mother.

Families eh? Don't you just love 'em......... 

This is a Sepia Saturday post.


  1. It is amazing the number of families that harbour a black sheep. You have an interesting story to tell in support of your photos. Try as I might I could not make out what is in the lapel o your maternal grandfather.

  2. It looks like another littel girl in her Sunday best (like the one in my post), so I wonder if it’s around the turn of the twentieth century. Mind you, I don’t think fashions changed so much for little girls in those days so I could be years out! Yes, we’ve a black sheep too - had his head cut right out of the picture by his sister.

  3. Love these old pictures, and your grandfather sounds like he was quite a character.

  4. It might be possible to date the photo using the young man's collar style. I had thought to look it up in my books but realized that styles were probably somewhat different in England than in the States. Its interesting that cultural variations in dress have almost entirely disappeared ....

    Great story. It would be a fun one to research!

  5. It was not uncommon for farm workers to change jobs quite frequently. Agriculture is, after all, very seasonal. A Hundred years earlier, he'd probably being taken on, at one of the Hiring fairs, and employed for the year.
    Given his background he would have received a good education - strange he went into Farm Work, hard way to earn a living, unless there was something wrong with him.

    He was middle class by birth, but what did your grandmother's parents do for a living? If she was middle class couldn't imagine her parents permitting the wedding. What you said about your great Aunt not wanting to have anything to do with your Grandmother makes me wonder if there's a bit of snobbery and your grandfather was disinherited because he married down.

    Happened a lot amongst polite folk, several examples in my own family

    It strikes me that there is a lot more to be learnt about this man.

  6. A fine illustration of family dynamics, Martin. What is it they say? We're able to choose our friends, but not our family. So true.

  7. A fine tribute. My mother, now 81, is the family historian / storyteller with special knowledge about many previous generations on both sides of her parent's families. Sadly few of the present generation want to learn anything about the skeletons in the closet. It is the nature of modern lives now scattered around that we lose the family and village history.

  8. A white sheep is the one that looks odd in a flock of black sheep ;-) Nice photos, thanks for sharing them. I think you have the dates about right.

  9. if he was the black sheep of the family, what does that make here, the sister, after such a response??
    a word comes to mind...

    nice post anyway.
    loved the storytelling.

  10. For some reason your post has brought back memories of a BBC show from back in the early 1970s based on a short story by A. E. Coppard called "The Higgler". As I recall it took place in Yorkshire and was of a young man who travelled the countryside finding odd jobs.

    Your family photos are quite wonderful.

  11. Your photos are wonderful. I hope that you will get some of your questions answered soon. It sure seems as if that little girl would be his sister; or perhaps a close cousin?

    Thanks so much for stopping by to say hello last week.

    Kathy M.

  12. Perhaps he was just the 'black sheep' of the family purely because he didn't want to go into insurance. Though he doesn't sounds like he was a nice man judging from the posting about your mother's lost dog, and perhaps the female acquaintance who had known him also had good reason for not liking him.

  13. Oooh how exciting! You have to find out more about your grandfather - that would be an excellent post!

    Great pictures as always ... I love your retro blogs ;-)

  14. What a wonderful piece of family history. I hope you find out more.
    Having just been to a family gathering on my husband's side, there were a lot of old photos being shown around & talked about. Cousin Mikey held up an old black & while photo of an un known ancestor and said, " Look it's me ! " Indeed it was the spitting image of him & we will have the identity confirmed soon with some more delving !

  15. Did you find the family in the 1911 census?

  16. In Industrial West Yorkshire ALL The Sheep Were Black!


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