One week into memories of The Great War and it’s the turn of my Grandfather on my Mum’s side. He died when I was about 3 or 4 so I don’t remember much about him. All the memories below are those of his youngest daughter – my aunt Anne who contributed her wartime memories to my wartime rationing blogs at the beginning of this year. I only have only 2 personal memories of Granddad, and they’re of him lying in bed in what, I suppose, was his sick room. He loved canaries and I do remember the sound of them chattering. I also remember that whenever I walked in the door he started singing, ‘Sugar in the morning, Sugar in the evening, Sugar at suppertime…’
Born in London, possibly Clapham, around 1878, he was the youngest son in a family of 6 girls and 4 boys. Anne doesn’t know where he got his education and training but presumes it was something to do with glass because when he couldn’t find a job in London, he found one in Glasgow, with Barr and Stroud. My grandmother stayed in London to await the arrival of her first child, Percy Alexander Huggins, who was born in November 1912. (I think I remember Uncle Alex saying that Granddad wanted him born in England so he could play cricket for England when he grew up – but that might be a false memory.)
Part of Barr and Stroud’s production included range finders, torpedo depth recorders, periscope range finders and binoculars, so although working in a reserved occupation, my Grandfather’s work was essential to both First and Second World Wars.
According to Anne, he was just over 6′ tall, and thin. His legs seemed to take up most of his height – a real Daddy-longlegs. They were thin too. My brother at 2 years of age always, and off his own bat, grabbed a cushion before he would sit on his Granddad’s boney thighs!
Anne has nice memories of him taking her to Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow to feed the ducks, to another park Dawesholme, which was also a bird sanctuary – he was fond of birds, especially chaffinches, and of accompanying him on fishing trips to Kilmardinny Loch – as long as she promised to keep quiet! He fished for pike (huge, vicious things) sometimes battling for half-an-hour or more. Sometimes they were too big to take home and he would hand them in to a local nursing home – the fish were big enough to feed both staff and patients.
Her wartime memories are mostly of his work during World War 2 as she was born long after The Great War ended. As far as she can remember, during WW2 Barr and Stroud hived off some departments to what were called ‘shadow factories’ – the main building at Anniesland being too obvious a target for bombs. Anne doesn’t know how many shadow places there were, but Granddad was put in to manage one – a very large ex-garage and workshop near Kirklee. He took her there one Sunday when it was quiet. She was in her early teens and fascinated by the equipment on all the benches and wanted to know what they all did. There were also small cubicles at one end where two people could work on tricky pieces of work.
At the back of the building there was a large area, laid down for wartime as allotments, and he quickly put his name on two of these. At 60/61 he had a garden for the first time – and what a job he made or it. He kept it going for a long time after VE Day too, since food was in short supply (after WW2) until the early 50s.
As always, when reading or listening to Anne’s stories, I wish I’d asked more questions when I was younger. It’s a lesson to us all to ask the questions of our parents and grandparents now!