Saturday, 2 April 2011

Story Telling Sunday - April

"Of course, Gran was an Actress," Aunty Mu (pronounced mew) would say during the course of Sunday tea at our house "Went all over the world, acting, she did." Let me pause here and put this into context for you. My Dad was one of 12 children. His parents had five, then his mother died and his father married a widow who had a son and she went on to produce six more children. The eldest child was Aunty Mu and her mother, just before she died, told her to "look after your brothers and sister". So she did. For the rest of her life she kept them together, mended relationships, kept them in touch with each other and regularly invited everyone to Sunday tea at our house because her house was too small. This was in the early 1950s when there was still rationing of some things and no one had very much. Everyone brought something to contribute to the meal. Aunty Mary brought two sliced loaves made into paste sandwiches. Sliced Loaves! such expense! Aunty Mu brought fruit cake and a tin of sliced peaches or pears and sometimes a tin of thick cream. The uncles that weren't yet married would bring what were called "boughten" cakes. Cakes from a shop that came in a cardboard box usually with the name Lyons on the outside. "We're related to them, of course, The Lyons family from the Corner houses" Aunty Mu would say and us children, forced to sit separated from one another for ease of swatting and control, would prick up our ears for more information. Anything to do with food was A Good Thing in those austere days. At some point in the course of the meal one of the grown ups would say something and Aunty Mu would say the bit about her Gran being an actress. The thing that amazed us kids was the fact that someone as old as Aunty Mu, and lets face it she was older than my Mum and Dad and they were ancient! Someone as old as her had a Gran! It just didn't seem possible. So we dismissed it as another bit of make believe and went back to trying to get a bowl with sliced peaches AND cream without having to eat bloater-paste sandwiches first. We never could. Someone would cut the "boughten" cake and a voice would say something like "I thought they were Jewish, those people that own the corner houses". "They are," aunty Mu would reply and we've got a Spanish Jewess in our family." The jaws of the junior branch of the family would stop masticating, hands that were reaching for cake would pause as we waited to see if this time she would elaborate. But she never did. We went back to chewing and grasping and concentrating on ensuring that cousin Pat and cousin Christine didn't get one more crumb of bread or cake than we did. If we knew what a Jewess was it might have helped but we didn't. Now we fast forward to 1998. My Dad has been researching his family tree for at least 12 years but his health is deteriorating and soon after he and Mum moved in with us he handed over the results of his research and said "I'm too old for this now, you can do it. See if you can find those bl**dy actors" I took the few clues given by Aunty Mu, now long gone from us, and set about searching for evidence. Now I can, and do, say "My great gran was an actress, she went all over the world acting. She was Jewish, you know and related by marriage to the Lyons family that ran the Lyons Corner House restaurants in LOndon. and her Grandmother was a Sephardi or Spanish Jewess." I am totally hooked on this family history research lark, so much so that I am Chairman of our local family history societyand I am also Editor of their quarterly Journal. I have discovered cousins in Australia who descend from the siblings of the Actress. Cousins who are Jewish, as we are not, because the Actress married an Irish Catholic actor. I have learned that a 3 x great grandfather was "feloniously killed and slayed" that the actress had her married name, her stage name and her husband's stage name to use as and when she felt like it so finding her in the census has been a labour of love and all of this because Aunty Mu kept telling us all those years ago that she had a gran and "Gran was an actress" This has been brought to you by Storytelling Sunday, invented by Sian. Why not take a look at the others

16 comments:

Sian said...

This is absolutely wonderful! There has to be a book in it, honestly - you so deftly conjure up a time and a place and draw us in. Now I'm aching to hear more about your fascinating family..

Have a great day!

Angelfish said...

What a fascinating family you have! No wonder you are hooked on researching your family tree:)

Fiona x

Mary B said...

Oh wow fancy finding out all that detail just from the words of your Aunty Mu.

Jimjams said...

That is some serious research - well done for corroborating Aunty Mu's stories. Loving the description of family teas - brings back a few memories of my own. TFS

S said...

How wonderful - thanks for sharing.

furrypig said...

gosh what briliant family research I would love to rad all he stories from my family, what a great hobby!

scrappyjacky said...

Amazing what you have found out from those few words....family history is so fascinating.
And that teatime certainly brought back memories.

Becky said...

How wonderful. I agree, I can quite see why you are so hooked on family history and researching your family tree.

Miriam said...

This is such a brilliant story, and beautifully told and did you mention 'a tin of thick cream' We used to have that , I seem to remember it required a lot of shaking? Families are fascinating aren't they? tfs x

Alison said...

That's funny, the tin of thick cream struck a chord with me too! Great story
Alison xx

mary ann said...

When my Dad was alive, he would tell me stories about his Gran who was born in the Big woods of Wisconsin and then came back to Ireland with her Mom. We actually got to meet some distant cousins right before he died

Amy said...

Now this is just an excellent family history to have so vibrantly told today - thank you :-)

tidbitsandtreasures2011 said...

Your aunt knew how to set the hook, didn't she? But you have the satisfaction of solving the mystery from so long ago. Wonderful story..TFS!

Maria Ontiveros said...

Great story! My dad was one of five and my mother one of nine! That certainly provides lots of stories.
Rinda

Gail said...

How fascinating. Love that you were able to find all that out from your Aunt's little bits. So great that you also let us in on a wee bit of what it was like for you growing up.

humel said...

How lovely! Gosh, I want to hear more about your family, it sounds fascinating :-)