Mum – How well do you know her? (An ongoing project)

It’s the all important question for Mother’s Day. I suppose I’ve always been quite inquisitive so spent a lot of time asking my mum lots of questions. I’m also a genealogist so that made my mum’s story all the more important to me.
Today is actually my late father’s birthday and tomorrow is Mother’s Day so I am actually remembering them both this weekend and what better way to remember them than to tell their story as part of my mum’s.

Mum’s Story (Part 1)

She was born in Belgium in 1924, one of 7 children, well, it was apparently 8 but there was a twin still-born, so we can only really say she had 3 brothers & 3 sisters. Her older brother died at the age of 28 in a very spectacular way. He worked on the docks in Ostend and was hit by a crane and fell, unconscious, into the harbour and drowned.  Mum was only 26 and expecting her 2nd child.  The 1st was born during the 2nd world war.  I say 1st, as this was the 1st to be born.  Yes, mum made her mistakes young, like many.  Her first pregnancy was terminated by a ‘helpful’ neighbour.  Mum never actually told me about this until I queried the fact that my brother (presumed to be her 1st child at the time) was the one affected by the fact that she was Rhesus Negative and it is usually the second child to be affected.  She then told me of the abortion she’d had at 18 only to fall pregnant again by a German soldier (she insisted til her death that he was Swiss!) and have a son at 19.  She was still studying to be a seamstress at the local catholic high school during the war & her mother didn’t ask where the extra rations & chocolate came from.  However, her German soldier was married and by the time the British arrived to liberate the Belgians in 1944, she had already come to terms with the fact that she would be a single mother.

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Mum aged 20

In April 1943, a young man of 18 joined the British Army and was serving as a dispatch rider between Ostend and Brussels after the Belgian liberation.  He & his friends would frequent the bars in Ostend when they could and he fell for a stunning waitress whom he called his Barbara Stanwyck.  The soldier was my dad, the waitress, my mum.

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Barbara Stanwyck

Dad began staying in the front parlour on a spare bed whenever he was in Ostend.  My grandmother was very strict, and very religious and mum was expected to go to church every Sunday morning.  As she got to the front door , mum would open it, shout her goodbyes to her mum, close the door & go visit dad until it was time to ‘come home’.  Even a single mum at the age of 20 was expected to be ‘good’ with her beau until they married.  I’m sure her mum wasn’t so naive but it wasn’t the done thing in those days to condone such actions 😉  Such a difference to today’s sexual freedoms.

Her young son started calling this British soldier ‘Limey’ and was always very excited when he came to stay.  Mum was never actually proposed to by dad, she received a letter from my British grandmother saying that she had been told that her son had become smitten by this Belgian beauty and that after a short courtship it was time that they should get engaged to be married.  She enclosed a small diamond ring for my mum.  When mum showed my dad, he said ‘I suppose you’d better put it on your finger then’. Such a romantic, my dad!

In 1946, Dad applied to his commanding officer to be married.  In October that year, he made a promise to the Catholic priest that any children would be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith and the two were married in the vestry of the local church.  Dad was Church of England so they could not be married in the church proper.

When I began writing this, I believed it would probably take a few paragraphs to write mum’s story.  Obviously I’ve only actually reached her 1st 21 years and as she lived into her 80’s there is a lot more to record.  I think I’ll leave things here for now and come back another time for a further installment.   I feel I’ve done mum some justice just by putting this small part of her life in writing.

I’m hoping that perhaps I will boost others to write a little about their mums too and maybe they’ll be brave enough to let me include it in my blog?  If I’ve made you think about doing the same you can contact me by email at nimuesnest@tiscali.co.uk

Nessie Richards (Internet Sales, Marketing & Admin)

The Nest at John Richards

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