Alice Ellen Redshaw 1911 -1996
My maternal grandmother was born into a mining family in Lamesley, County Durham. Her first job was in a bakery in Chester le St when she was 14, and then when she was 18 she moved to London, accompanying her younger sister, where they both found jobs “in service”. Alice lived in London for nearly 70 years....but home was always the north east, and she never lost her beautiful geordie accent.
Alice met my grandfather, Thurlo Basil, who had also come to London for work. He was from a large family ( 13 children) in Herefordshire, and he found work in London as a window cleaner.
Alice got pregnant......they married in July 1931...... and Joy, my mother was born in December 1931.
|Frail Alice Ellen with her new husband Thurlo|
Life was tough for Alice, window cleaner/ painter and decorator/odd job man Thurlo was a gambler, a womaniser and a heavy drinker. There were several occasions when Alice came home from work to find her few pieces of furniture had been sold to pay off gambling debts. Thurlo was also a violent man. Alice suffered back eyes, swollen cheeks and once, a broken arm.
|Roal Navy Deep Sea diver, Thurlo Basil Dawes|
The outbreak of war in 1939 was a bit of a blessing for the little family. Thurlo joined the Navy, and left home for 5 years. Alice and Joy, who was nearly 8 when the war began, had a few years of peace and quiet on the domestic front. Joy, evacuated from London to her paternal grandmother’s house in Hereford, returned to London and to her mother, when she discovered she hated her grandmother nearly as much as she hated her own father.
|Alice on the right, with Joy, my mother.....happy days when Thurlo was at war.|
( about 1943 )
Alice started working in a school canteen, as a dinner lady, and by the time I was born ( 10 years after the end of the war), Alice was canteen superviser. Alice was the first person in our family to have a “ superannuated” job......meaning she got a pension. Alice was incredibly proud of her kitchen, her team of dinner ladies, and the meals that they produced. At Christmas she went into work at 3am, to put the turkeys on for Christmas dinner......all fresh ingredients, cooked on the premises. She saved 3d and 6d pieces all year round, to put in the Christmas puddings ( no Council health and safety issues in those days), and she was always so proud of the Christmas cakes she and her team produced.
|Alice in the centre, surrounded by her team of dinner ladies.|
Alice put up with being beaten up, and with her few possessions being sold off periodically. Her daughter’s Christmas presents even vanished once on Boxing day, when Thurlo needed cash for an unpaid debt. Then, as she approached retirement, and receipt of that pension she regarded so highly, she discovered that he was having yet another affair. In 1970, when she was 59, after nearly40 years of marriage, of beatings of drunken brawls and countless affairs, she finally had enough. Alice divorced Thurlo and came to live with us, until she managed to set herself up in a little flat a few miles from where we lived.
|my favourite photo of "Nanny"....grandma Alice...this is how I remember her, wearing one of her great home knitted cardigans.|
When she retired, she spent her “lump sum” on a 6 month trip to South Africa to see her favourite sister-in-law, and then she returned to live in her lovely little flat, where she was finally safe and very happy.
|Alice in South Africa.....a free woman, at last.|
Alice made the best cakes, knitted the best sweaters, and was a perfect grandma. Her life was tough from the start, and she soldiered through to make the best possible life she could for my mother.
|oh, the cakes she used to make.......her pastry was to die for, and she loved nothing more than cooking for parties.|
Thurlo was diagnosed with lung cancer in the mid 70s...... Alice looked after him until he died, and she always let him think...that if he was well behaved.....she might take him back ! ( I don't think for one minute, she would have taken him back but she always said she had never loved anyone else, and it didn't hurt anyone to let him hope).