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MEMORIES OF MY POLLITT AND GRIFFIN GRANDPARENTS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS

An extract from the above private publication, with the kind permission of June's son, Tony Cope who is my 4th cousin.

My Grandfather married Georgina Spry Gordon Barlow in 1878. The surname ‘Spry’ was frequently mentioned by my Mother, as was her ‘Aunt Cecilia’. Note that her mother’s name was Georgina Spry Gordon Barlow. The Barlow came from Georgina’s father who married a Miss Gordon. My Great-grandparents on this side had at least three children, among them my Grandmother Georgina, her sister Cecilia, and a brother, Gordon. My Mother spoke of a grandmother, or great-grandmother who came from Devon. 
I have in my possession a beautifully handwritten letter, written from Compton Gifford and posted from Plymouth on the 28 August 1850 from George Spry to his niece, Miss Gordon, who clearly ran her own school in Rodney Street, Wigan, Lancashire. The letter is simply signed ‘Geo Spry' but in my mother’s handwriting the name ‘Geoffrey Spry’ has been added for clarification.
(This is incorrect, he was George Spry, a School teacher in the 1841 census and his niece, Cecilia is his assistant.)

This letter is the only clue I have to add substance to the references to ‘Aunt Cecilia’ and Devon antecedents made by my Mother. My Mother used to talk of a female relative–here I am being unclear–but I feel that it was either her grandmother, or great-grandmother who, married to an artist and had four sons. What impressed my Mother was that “she wanted to keep her sons around her and never wished them to leave home”. (Cecilia's grandmother, Elizabeth Hunt had 3 sons surviving. Is this whom she means?) Financially secure, there appeared to be no pressure for them to find a career. Was this a member of the Barlow family? Certainly Georgina Spry Barlow, who married my Grandfather, was both financially secure and a second generation feminist as later comments on her will show. Time now to meet the forebears.

Grannie Griffin, small, autocratic, with a thoughtful face and eyes which showed a critical and amused attitude to life, was not a comfortable motherly woman. I can see her now as, with my cousins and my brother, her ‘pensioners’, we lined up on Saturday mornings in Gordon Villa, Prescot Road, St Helens, Lancashire, for our Saturday sixpence, or halfpenny, depending on age. Grannie sat upright in her tight navy blue silk dress with its cross lacing bodice, her hair in a bun, gazing with detached amusement at each grandchild as they presented themselves. A halfpenny for me, ranging up to pennies or even sixpence for the older children. After a formal thank you and handshake, Grannie would ask which drink you would like: “Lemonade, dandelion and burdock, or ginger beer?” Having made your choice, the maid would bring the china flagons up from the cellar and the drink was duly poured out.
My mother used to tell me that her mother (Georgina Spry Gordon Barlow) was the daughter of a feminist and on marriage was told “never stop your subscription to the suffragettes”. In turn my grandmother passed on similar advice to my mother who advanced on that by telling me never to marry, but should I do so, not to marry a Scot. She thought them the most pampered and chauvinistic of males. This could suggest that my parent’s marriage was unhappy, but this was not the case. Only once did my parents hurt each other–a hurt that was soon healed. 

If grannie was a remote rather than comforting mother figure to her young brood, she emerges as a mother who clearly understood the needs of questing minds when her bright young teenagers entered their student days. My mother talked of the regular evenings when grannie would leave loaves of bread and treacle and jugs of beer on the table and ‘the boys’ and their friends would debate into the small hours. These were their lively student days when in their various chosen careers they studied at Liverpool University.

My grandmother (Georgina Spry Gordon Barlow) lived in times when many children were born, some only to die in infancy. Did this make her tougher than today’s mothers who are able to choose a carefully spaced family? My mother used to tell me of grannie’s comment if any of her seven children were ill. Putting her hooky nose around the bedroom door she would say “If you’re ill, you’re better dead”. It was uncle Harold who used to sit by my mother’s bed stroking her hand (and telling her how beautiful her hands were). He was the one who nursed her it seems. 





Owner of originalJune Pollitt
Date2019
Linked toGeorgina Spry Gordon Barlow

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