This is a lady I would love to have known.
From stories which have been handed down through the generations she was a larger than life character.
Born in Staffordshire in the mid 1850’s she was the youngest of six children and throughout her life answered to the name of Jinny, so this is the name I will call her.
After leaving school she joined her older sister working as a general servant at one of the nearby farms…a sharp early lesson into the *joys* of all those arduous female household chores, with none of today’s household appliances to aid her - I think a scrubbing brush and black lead polish would be her most constant companions.!
Her “husband” Frederick was a local village lad….I have the word husband in inverted commas because no record has ever been found of a legal marriage between the two of them although they were recognised in the community as being a married couple….It happened quite frequently in C19th where a couple were assumed to be married when in actual fact they never went through any ceremony to legalise their union.
One assumes Jinny and Frederick set up home together around 1877 as the first of their eleven children was born the following Summer…sadly three of their children didn’t survive into adulthood.
It is said that Jinny was a matriarchal figure and ruled the family home with an iron fist..I don’t think at this point it would be fair for us to think *poor Frederick* as I’m led to believe he was more than happy to leave all the domestic and family responsibilities in Jinny’s capable hands, while he concentrated on his dusty daily employment with the Industrial Pottery Works, which was – and still is- situated a little way down the same narrow road from where the family lived in a row of small terraced cottages. Their cottage like all the others in the terrace comprised of a small parlour and either two or three small bedrooms…How on earth did they cope with all those children!!
A short distance from their home the narrow road had a ford running across it –a very picturesque setting and I’m sure this must have been an idyllic place for the local children to spend much of their time playing in the shallow stream.
I’m certain Jinny’s strong character would have been in evidence during the sad times of the death of their baby daughter who lived for just a few short weeks and also when their 12 year old son sadly died at the age of 12 from Meningitis and yet again when their teenage son was tragically killed at Paschendale (now spelt Passendale) in April 1918 while serving with the North Staffs. Regiment during WW1.
…. Like so many other families they experienced much sorrow.
One of the many stories handed down through the years states that Jinny was a very resourceful woman, this is demonstrated in the way she supplemented Frederick’s meagre weekly wage. The family had an allotment which she took control of and all the vegetables and fruit she grew she sold to their neighbours – the extra money was used to ensure she was able to provide good fare for the family table and keep the children in tidy clothes. She was a devoted mother and the welfare of her children was always Jinny’s top priority.
An amusing little anecdote states she kept a small half pint jug for a very special purpose - she would send one of her children down to ‘The Swan’ public house each evening to have this jug filled with draught beer …(purely for medicinal reasons, I’m sure!!).. and then sit outside in their back yard on the wooden bench Frederick had made, to enjoy this *tonic* while chatting across the garden fence with her neighbours.
......it is said the children used to argue which one would go to fetch this end of day jug of ale, for it was not unknown for each child to partake of a few sips of this grown-up brew while carrying it back home.
… I can well imagine this happening. Children love to think they’re getting away with doing something that’s forbidden. I’m of the opinion that Jinny was fully aware of what these children did but was prepared to turn a blind eye.
Even in later years when the children were grown up with families of their own it was always Jinny they turned to for help and advice..it’s obvious her family had enormous love and respect for her.
Jinny lived for 13 years as a widow after Frederick died in 1933 before she herself passed away in 1946 from Arteris Scherosis & Senility. She was aged 92.
….She and Frederick lived their whole lives in the same village where they were born and are buried in the local churchyard.
A remarkable lady...