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My Mother

Posted 26-09-2008 at 21:36 by West Ender
Updated 26-09-2008 at 21:40 by West Ender

I was thinking about my mother today. You know how it is when you're doing something and it triggers a thought that pops into your head, followed by another, then a whole load of them?

My mum was the youngest child in a family of 8 children. She was born on 4 December 1909 at Rochdale railway station, where her father was Station Master. Her oldest brother, my uncle Frank, was nearly 16 when she was born and welcomed her into the world with the words, "Good God, another mouth to feed", which didn't bode well for their future relationship, though he was a kind big brother until he married. After that, things weren't too brilliant, he lived in Norfolk for most of my life and I hardly knew him. Mum never got over the fact that all her brothers and sisters had at least 2 Christian names, except her. She had only one, Winifred, and she hated it. She was known as Wyn, to everyone, and you called her Winnie or Winifred at your peril.

When Mum was about 4 the family moved to Church and Oswaldtwistle station. The First World War started and one of her few memories of it was being taken along the train lines on to the bridge over Market St., by her father, to see a Zeppelin going overhead. Uncle Frank joined up in the King's Own Scottish Borderers, where he had to wear a kilt (not allowed to go upstairs on the tram - open stair-treads, nothing under the kilt), though there was no Scots in the family. He got pneumonia just before his regiment went to France and, as a result, he missed the battle of the Somme as he was in hospital in England. His best friend was killed in battle and the friend's mother never spoke to my grandmother again.

When my mum was about 12 a new private school opened in the area, Paddock House, and mum was duly enrolled. Thirty years later, when I started at the school and complained about the dreadful uniform, I was told to shut up, it was wonderful compared to what she had had to wear. At the time she started at Paddock mum had 4 older sisters and 3 brothers, all living at home. Her father, by now a Conservative councillor, had a tennis court built, on the land beside the station, and all the daughters played well. The Turners were one of the local families.

Mum was only 14 when her mother, Annie Turner, died. Annie had had pneumonia but was slowly recovering when she had a sudden heart attack. Mum's eldest sister, my auntie Elsie who was 13 years older, took over the role of mother. She carried on that role with us 3 children, being the nearest thing to a grandmother that we ever knew when we were growing up.

When Mum left school, aged 15, she went to work for a furrier in Accrington, though I can't remember the name of the firm. One thing they taught her to do was to pack a perfect parcel - a fox fur could not, after all, be despatched in a messy lump of paper and string - and she was always brilliant at wrapping presents for the rest of her life. Her Christmas presents were always a joy to receive, even if the contents were not expensive.

After about a year she went into the Civil Service, in the Ministry of Labour, a busy job in those days of very high unemployment. She was 18, and a very keen ballroom dancer, when she was introduced to a tall, thin drummer in a local dance band - Sid Ashmead's Ritz Orchestra; this was to be my dad, Harry Sleddon. On their first proper date they went for a walk up the Coppice and he told her her hair, which was gold-blonde, looked "lovely in the moonlight". He used to sing, too, with the band - one tune was just for mum, it was called, "Positively, Absolutely and How".

They were married in April 1932 and their first home was in Lord St., Oswaldtwistle. Dad was an engraver at Steiner's at the time and was in full employment at a time when so many people weren't. A year and a half later my eldest brother was born and, within another year, they moved to Spondon, Derbyshire, where dad went to work for British Celanese.

World War 2 led to a lot of upheavals and, not least, for my parents. Derby was bombed, unmercifully, and mum and dad decided to move back to to Oswaldtwistle. Dad, who was in a reserved occupation, transferred to working as a technical inspector at Bristol Aircraft Co. and they all (including my 2nd brother, born in 1936) moved in with auntie Elsie at her bakery in West End. In 1942 they got the chance to buy a house a few hundred yards down the road from auntie's shop and in 1943 they got a bonus - ME - totally unplanned!

Mum was a full-time housewife until I was 15. She then went to work, part-time, for dad who was an optician and had shops in Bolton and Accrington. She stayed until she was 60 when she retired. She and dad had, by that time, moved to Feniscowles, near to my eldest brother and his wife.

Dad died in 1985, just 4 days after his first great-grandchild (my grandson, Peter) was born. He never saw Peter but he knew he had arrived in the world and he approved of his name.

Mum lived to be 91 years old. At the end of her life her body was frail but her mind was as sharp as a person half her age. She remained a Lady until the end, always neat and smart, and always ready with a sharp retort when needed. I was never cheeky to my mum - even when I was over 50.

Bless you, Mum, if I've been half the mother you were - I've done all right.
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  1. Old Comment
    flashy's Avatar
    ah westender that was lovely
    i know what you mean about certain things bringing back memories, i dont have many memories of my mum, she died when i was 15 but the things i do remember i will keep in my head forever
    Posted 27-09-2008 at 07:10 by flashy flashy is offline

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