Wednesday, October 7, 2009


The cute little baby in the photo is my mum, Joan.
Why do I mention my mum?
Well this week my mum has her 80th birthday.
So I have chosen to post about my mum today .

Mum is what we Aussies call a pom (or pommy). In other words she is a native of that green little country at the other end of the world called England. The origin for the term pom is unknown, although there is a myth that the term pom comes from the acronym POHM (Prisoner of His/Her Majesty). Allegedly convicts sent out to Oz in the early days had those letters painted on the back of their shirts.

Mum has always been a story teller (one of the ways I take after her) some of my fondest memories are the tales she used to tell about growing up.
She was born in her grandparents’ home on the family farm in the little village of Weston-on-Avon in Warwickshire England (not far from Shakespeare’s Stratford). Glen, one of mum’s cousins, still lives in a cottage at Weston.

When she was still small mum moved, with her parents Fred and Hilda, to Redhill Farm on Alcester Road.This photo shows my grandparents at the back door of the farmhouse.
Both went to the same village school. They left school at thirteen my Grandma went into service. My Grandpa went to work for his dad on their farm. They did not see each other again until my Grandpa was in the army during WWI. Because of his skills as a horseman the army did not send him overseas. Instead he was put to work training horses for the army. Then one evening as he was walking back to his billet he ran into a familiar looking young woman who just happened to be going back to work after her afternoon off.

I think this photo was taken around the same time as the one above, the kids are mum, and her double cousins Joyce and Eric (double cousins because their mothers were sisters and their fathers brothers, if that makes sense). The older boy is Ted, another cousin.
Mum was an only child but she had a large family with many cousins on both sides. This photo shows mum’s paternal grandparents, at the time of their Golden Wedding Anniversary, with the cousins on that side of the family. Mum is the little girl whose arm is being held by my great-grandmother (Glen is the smallest boy, Joyce and Eric are to my mum’s left and Ted is the tallest boy at the back). My great-grandfather used to ride a bicycle everywhere. As he got older he lost his sense of balance, mum says his sons got together to buy him the tricycle to keep him mobile.

Mum has very many warm memories of Redhill farm. Many of them revolve around things like the farm horses. These two were Bob and Smart (I don’t know the name of the ploughman).
Both horses gave years of loyal service and were much loved. Then Bob died suddenly of heart failure, poor Smart was so grief stricken he stopped eating and pined away. No matter what Grandpa did he couldn’t get Smart to cheer up, the poor fellow died a week later.

Harvest was clearly a very important time, as many of the photos were taken then. This when mum was about 10.
And 16.

This is my Grandpa with Joe (I think) one of Smart and Bob’s successors.
I could ramble on for hours about Redhill Farm, mum tells so many stories. Examples include: tramps and beggars during the depression; policemen picking primroses in the woods; friendly Italian POWs. Maybe I should write a book!

I never went to Redhill until years after my Grandparents had retired and left. In the meantime my mum had come out to Oz as a “ten pound pom” (a government sponsored immigrant). Once here she met my dad, and the rest as they say is history.


Anonymous said...

Hi Al,
You brought tears to my eyes with this one - it just reminded me how very special is your Mum.
D xx

Kristen M. said...

How wonderful to have these stories and pictures. Our family has very few storytellers and so many fantastic stories are being lost. Happy birthday to your mum!

Lisa said...

You are so lucky to have so many pictures and know so much of the history. It's a funny thing that we can look at the pictures and think how idyllic it all looks, but it was a really hard life. I love the story about your grandparents meeting up again after years away from each other.

Al said...

Hi Anon.,
She is special. I am really blessed by some special people in my life. Love Al

Hi Kristen,
I have been blessed with copies of hundreds of pictures from my mums family going back to the 1800s and dozens of stories to go with them. I am very lucky. I'll pass on your wishes.

Hi Lisa,
I have been blessed, I know so much about both my parents families. As a bonus I have copies of so many of mum's pictures. It was a hard life, but my Grandparents were incredible people who made their home so warm that from what I hear many many people flocked there whenever they could.
Isn't it romantic how they met again? I loved that story too, my Grandma told it to me herself.

Wendy R said...

Dear Al

Stunning post. The photos are so clear and detailed. The very substantial shoes, the men wearing ties for manual work, the neat clothes, the snuggling in to each other, the bright smiles - all this shows a decent, loving, happy family. How can you resist incorporating them into you novels - however codified your approach. Perhaps you have...

Al said...

Dear Wendy,
Definitely big shoes to fill. My Grandparents were amazingly open, generous and welcoming people. Their farm became a haven for many people inside and outside their family. These are just a tiny sample of the photos I have and almost all show human warmth. There are hints of some of them in my writing, but really I am just beginning and there is so much more to write about.

Amanda said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mum! I think a book on it would be so interesting. I love the photos. I love history, especially family history and pouring over my grandparents photos. I am lucky that my mom is a bit of a shutterbug and so she has tons of photos too. Thanks for sharing!

hmsgofita said...

What a brilliant tribute to your mom! I love those old photographs. And thanks for commenting on my Wondrous Words Wednesday post. A lot of these words, I think, are used more often in British English so since Amanda Grange is English that makes sense. Us United States peeps don't seem to have the wonderful vocabulary of the Aussie's and the Brits!!! OK, I'm really just speaking for myself here!

Jenners said...

What a lovely post! I loved looking at the photos ... and I've never heard of "double cousins" -- I like that!

Happy Birthday to Your Mum!

heidenkind said...

How cool! I love the pictures--thank you for sharing. :)

Al said...

Hi Amanda,
You are lucky to have a shutterbug in the family. It is such a pleasure to look at history especially when it has a personal dimension to it.

Hi Heather,
I love old pictures too. On the vocab stakes I am sure you are just putting yourself down, you are a reader for heaven sakes! Perhaps my mum has rubbed off on me she is not only a Pom, but she was an English teacher too. Mind you my grammar sucks!

Hi Jenners,
Thanks for commenting. I couldn't think of anything else to call them, uncle and aunt both siblings of parents. I never met Charles who was my Grandpa's brother, but I have fond memories of Aunt Ginnie who was Grandma's sister.

Hi Tasha,
You are most welcome.