Thursday, 26 January 2012

Acceptance was the usual state of mind,


it was for my mother and her family; they accepted their lot in life and saw themselves as just so much grist for the mill. It must have been so! How else could you explain the lack of rebellion? The unhealthy living and working conditions were to play their part in reducing the quality of life for all of them; even more fatal to the possibility of a happy and rewarding future was the lack of an education or any chance of getting one. There was talent in this family in abundance but mostly it never saw the light of day, and even if the opportunity had presented itself, the life that I describe even denied them the confidence to use their talent. This curse still hangs over the working class people of England to this day, and if I see my own life as a casualty stemming from the circumstances that I describe, then what I write will hopefully reveal the reality of it.

None of the Jones boys lived to a ripe old age, though it would be unfair to blame their working conditions alone for this fact, though it is certain that the life of a coal miner contributed to a shortening of the life span for many of them. With the wisdom of hindsight I now know that the health of the Jones family was affected by the physical make up that they inherited. They all, the boys in particular, suffered from narrowing of the arteries, and an excess of cholesterol; though the fatty diet of the day did not help matters. They all suffered from weight problems, and high blood pressure, diabetes ran in the family as well. Today it would be accepted as a recognised fact that all these health problems were genetic in origin, though the way people lived played a part.

Bruce was the eldest of the three boys in the Jones family, followed by Tom, Walter and finally Victor. Bruce was a good athlete and played a trial game of football for one of the top city teams; I once saw a picture of him in the club strip and was quite startled to see how much like him I was at the same age which was in the late teens. I knew all of the Jones family having lived in the same locality as a child but I did not know much about their lives and so cannot describe their circumstances. I saw what happened to them but can add little to it having been told little and with some of them nothing at all.


Bruce, was a solidly built man with blond hair, later in his life he lost his right thumb in the pit and thus left such employment while still reasonably young. He died in his early sixties, I believe from thrombosis. He was the eldest of my mother’s brothers, and the one that they used to tell me I looked very much like. In 1919 when he was in his early twenties he was following the family tradition as a soldier, and this picture shows him in uniform just prior to being posted to Russia where a British Force was supporting the White Russians against the Communist revolt.

Walter like all the Jones boys was a powerfully built man, who had his father’s dark colouring, and the same skill with words. It was Walter that took his father’s place after his father died, becoming guide and mentor to most of the working men who lived in his locality at Fenton. When WWII began he became a supervisor at a large munitions factory near a village called Swinnerton, not far from the Potteries. The effects of coal dust and the chemicals used in the manufacture of explosives were thought to have damaged his heart and respiratory system, and he died in his early sixties.

clip_image004A picture of Walter

He married and had two daughters Beryl who was dark and a little older than me, and Alwyn who was fair and a year or two younger.

Tom, whose appearance was much the same as his brother Bruce, also worked as a miner. The family health problems resulted in him becoming severely incapacitated, and it was sad to see a strong man vegetate and fade away. He finally died from a massive heart attack in his early fifties.

Victor was the youngest of the boys. He was more slightly built, though dark like his father, he was good with figures and soon gained promotion at the Glebe. At the time of his death he had reached the post of Assistant Manager, and was much admired by the men who worked for him.

He arranged for me and a young friend of mine to visit the pit when we were about 12 or 13 years old, and that visit was more than enough to confirm in my mind that life below ground was no better than an early departure for Hades. He was only fifty-seven years old when he died suddenly, and I never discovered the cause, though I must say that in his later years he became a heavy drinker.

To complete the family picture I must mention the three girls, the oldest being Jane; her father called her Jin. She was the oldest of the Jones children, with the appearance of her mother, but the personality of her father. To my mother Jin was a place of refuge, a rock to which she could cling in times of trial and tribulation. I shall have more to tell about her as the story progresses.

Then there was Elizabeth, nicknamed Nin by her father. She also figures large in my story, and hopefully she will become better known in due course. Mind you revealing my aunt Nin will not be an easy task, she was a complex character to say the least. Physically she was strongly built, and dark with brown eyes like her father, she also had his intelligence and aggressive personality. At the age of sixteen she became ill with goitre, and the treatment at that time was to have the thyroid gland removed. She recovered completely, but it has always been thought that her mercurial and unstable temperament was the result of the absent thyroid gland.


Mary about the time she became engaged.

Finally the youngest in the family was my mother Mary. She took after her mother in both appearance and nature. She was fair, and with the same gentle personality that made her popular and well liked by all that knew her. - Many who had dealings with Councillor Tom Jones found that their path was often made considerably smoother if they first applied for the support of his wife.- Grandmother Jones was one of the few who could coax and soften her otherwise uncompromising husband. My mother also revealed similar qualities when dealing with my father in later years. To end my recollections about the Jones family, it might add some interest if I include an article I wrote about my mother. The pictures it contained reveal more about her than any words I can write.


Having decided to learn about digital imaging, I wondered how I could practice this new skill. A picture is worth a thousand words they say, and I have found this to be true. In recent times I began to write memoirs, my recollections of life as I remember it, but mere words do not reveal the pictures I have in my memory. So I am now attempting to describe, with the aid of my newfound skills, the women who turned the cup of life into a draught less bitter for me to drink. (If my efforts are not as good as they should be, remember this is my first attempt to provide pictures.) I have four ladies in mind, there are others who qualify for the title, but it is these four that I know something about, so they are the ones I shall describe.

The first Mrs. Bishop that I knew was, of course, my mother. Being her first born I would have expected to have inherited her birth certificate, but due to circumstances that did not happen. My best estimation is that she was born in 1911, and moved from a little Welsh village to Stoke-on-Trent while still a very young child. This is not a family history, so all I shall say to add substance to the picture is that, like many Welsh people, when she was about 16, which would have been in 1927, she sang at the Eisteddfod.

This picture was taken about the same period as the one shown previously. I have seen, and looked for, a full length photograph of my mother in a party frock, but could not find it. I did find this head and shoulders of her wearing the same dress, so I assume she had a number of pictures taken at the time. They were taken at a studio, and sent to various family members and friends. To the best of my knowledge this picture was taken when my mother was about 19 or 20, and it is the earliest photograph I have of her. I have been told that I look like my mother, but to say that is to flatter me very much.

I  have included picture number 3 because when I found it in my box of old photographs I do not remember ever seeing it before. I would say that it was taken about the same time as the others, and it is clear that it is a studio picture in which she has been posed by the photographer. The lifting of the skirt suggests a boldness that I doubt my mother would have displayed unless instructed to do so.

The pictures I have included give a good impression of the way of life, the way people lived, the clothes; it can be seen how the old was giving way to the new. In just a few short years, since the First World War, life had changed so much, and in the next few years it would change even more, thanks to the Second World War. I need say no more but leave the pictures to tell the story as they undoubtedly do.

1 comment:

Kate said...

How fortunate you are to have these photographs. You do look like your mom and since she is a good looking lady you know what that says about you. Lol.