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U3A Writing: Enriching Lives

...Now I have two young grandchildren. I can look back on my experiences with my grandparents and am able to take the positive things I learnt and pass them onto my grandchildren and hopefully enrich their lives in the same way that mine did for me...

Hazel Dracup remembers her grand parents with deep affection

I have been fortunate in the fact that I had all my grandparents till I was in my late twenties. I had a wonderful relationship with them all, each showing me a different aspect of life.

My maternal grandparents lived in Grange Moor and I was their only grandchild. They had three children, an older son who never married and lived with them, my mum and a baby daughter who died at the age of ten months.

Grandad worked at Shuttle Eye Colliery for over fifty years. He started working underground as a young lad, then when he later developed chest problems worked above ground. I can remember his last few years before retirement working on the night shift in the lamp room cleaning the lamps ready for use the next day. Once or twice he took me to have a look inside the room where he worked.

In his younger days he played the trumpet for Grange Moor Band. At that time the band was the Shuttle Eye Colliery band, and an important focus for the community.

When I was staying with my grandparents, Grandad and I would go for walks around the village and he would tell me so much about it and gradually build up within me a love for the area.

Grandma originally came from nearby Whitley, and on leaving school worked for Lion Fireworks. The site of the original buildings is just 200 or so yards from where I reside. They ceased making fireworks long before I moved there, but the site was only demolished a few years ago and new housing built.

Grandma had to walk all the way from Whitley to Rowley Hill, Lepton in all weathers! It was normal for them at the time. She didn't moan at the distance like we would if we had to do the same!!

Grandma kept up her skills by working at home for Standard Fireworks, rolling the paper that was supplied for the job into what looked like long drinking straws and putting blue touch paper on. She would get up early in the morning and start rolling. She would do so many each day, place them in the hearth to dry then get on with her daily routines. In the afternoon she would put the touch paper on. I used to help her on many occasions (once she considered me proficient enough!!).

She would be paid each Monday when the van came to take away the work she had already done and the new batch of paper dropped off.

My paternal grandparents had three sons. My father was the eldest, and I was the eldest of their five grandchildren. Grandad had a hard upbringing. He was brought up in the East End of London, a proud cockney - born within the sound of the Bow Bells. Unfortunately when he was seven and his brother five, their father, who was a tram driver, committed suicide.

There were no social security benefits in those days and their mother, for some reason or other, was compelled to place her two young sons in an orphanage where they remained until they could start work. Often the loss of the main breadwinner in those days could lead to poverty.

Grandad then came "up north" to work at Shuttle Eye Colliery funnily enough. His brother emigrated to Canada in 1911 to work on a farm on leaving the orphanage.

Grandad hated working down the pit and eventually ran away to join the army and served with the Duke of Wellington's Regiment during WWI. He was awarded the Military Medal and was badly gassed towards the end of his service and suffered from severe respiratory infections each winter. Despite this he lived to the grand age of 91.

He worked in the textile industry after the war, and his closest mate during the war was the brother of my grandmother whom I called Nanna. No prizes for guessing how they met!! He was a man of few words, but with him actions definitely spoke louder.

Nanna (as she liked to be called) was born in Linthwaite, where my father was brought up. She had worked in the mills on leaving school. She and Granddad lived down Almondbury Bank for many years whilst I was a child then downsized, going to live in a cottage in Birchencliffe. I would visit them each Sunday with my father and would stay with them both on my own and others, with my cousin who lived in York,

Nanna was a smartly dressed person. She loved being with people. She worked part time at Novello's a fashion shop down King Street for a few years and she enjoyed it. When I was staying with her on my own, we would go to see some of her friends. For me it was an experience, meeting other people associated with her.

I loved them all dearly, but was particularly close to my mum's parents. Being their only grandchild. I suppose I had their undivided attention. For the six years whilst I was at boarding school, every Tuesday afternoon I would receive a letter from them written by Grandad. Grandma would only write if Grandad was ill.

My dad's parents would write about once a month. It was always a surprise when they wrote, whilst if I did not hear from my mumís parents on a Tuesday afternoon I would be disappointed until the letter eventually arrived the following morning! (This did happen on occasions).

Now I have two young grandchildren. I can look back on my experiences with my grandparents and am able to take the positive things I learnt and pass them onto my grandchildren and hopefully enrich their lives in the same way that mine did for me.

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