In 1889 he married Lydia Geraldine McDonald at an army church, (Cantonment) in Rangoon, Burma. Their marriage certificate gives Lydia’s age as 15 and her nationality as East Indian, she was born in Newtown, Madras in 1874. Lydia’s fathers’ occupation was given as Ordnance Artificer with the British Army. His job involved inspecting, testing and maintaining, storing and preparing, ordnance materials such as fuses, shells bombs and bullets. They had one child, William, my grandfather, who was born in 1891 at Barrack pore, West Bengal. Much later he told my auntie that he had seen Mount Everest! Samuel, his wife Lydia and their son William came back to the U.K. and Samuel requested to be discharged from the army, having completed his service contract. This was done in 1900 at Portsmouth.
A photograph of Clarence and his family who we understand to be the brother of my great grandmother Lydia Geraldine Macdonald
At some point the family came back to the Midlands. Samuels’ father was now living in Hogrills End and some of his brothers and sisters were living in Nether Whitacre, villages near Birmingham. Samuels death was registered in Meriden in 1921 and Lydia’s’ in Tamworth in 1925. My mother recalls how sad she was to learn of her Grandma’s death and remembers that her grandma Keeling was tall and dark lived in the country and took her on bike rides to collect wild flowers.
Their son William came to work on the Railways in Birmingham. He lodged with Charles Price, an umbrella maker who had a shop on Alum Rock Road, selling and repairing umbrellas. William married one of the daughters, Daisy Elizabeth Price in 1918. William was 27 and Daisy was 35. They lived in Tarry Road where my mother, Marjorie Lillian was born in 1919 and my Aunt Doris Irene was born in 1922. Sadly their mother, Daisy, died in 1929.
My mother Marjorie and Aunty Doris sitting outside their home in Tarry Road, 1924
He married again in 1930 to Gertrude Rowley, born in Aston in 1892. She was the insurance agent who called at many of the houses in Tarry Road, to collect the weekly insurance contribution – not many people had bank accounts in those days. They continued to live in Tarry Road where their daughter Valerie was born in 1932.
My Grandfather William Keeling and Grandmother Gertrude on a visit to Evesham, 1940
William was described by my auntie Valerie as ‘Tall and coffee coloured’! He belonged to the National Union of Railway Men, was a post holder for their orphans fund and eventually became president of The East Birmingham Trades and Labour Club in Highfield Road. He was a keen amateur entertainer and often performed at the club. He was awarded a medal for saving someone who was injured on the railway line.
The Second World War began in 1939. Williams’ work on the Railways was considered important to the war effort so he was not called into the army Gertrude, Marjorie and Doris worked in local factories. On 10th April 1941 my granddad William and his daughter Marjorie, my mom, came back from work to go out as fire watchers, patrolling the streets around Alum Rock so that if an incendiary bomb fell, they would put it out before the German planes could use it as a marker to drop their bombs. They came back to their house, 128, Tarry Road for a tea break. And then the house suffered a direct hit from a bomb dropped from an aero plane. My granddad William was killed and my mom, Marjorie, was injured and buried under the rubble. My Nan, Gertrude was working at the Wolsley in Washwood Heath, on night duty, making ammunition. My auntie Valerie had been evacuated and my auntie Doris had been staying with friends. There was nothing left of the house and its contents.
My mother Marjorie on her 21st Birthday in 1940
Marjorie, my mom, was dug out of the rubble and taken to what was then George Arthur Road public baths, being used as a clearing station for dead and injured civilians. Because there had been a lot of air - raids that night there were very few hospital beds and eventually mom was taken to a hospital that was used as a ‘Lunatic Asylum’, for people with mental illness. It was her boyfriend Walter Clarke who found out where she was and when she was discharged from the hospital they were married on 21st June 1941. At that time it was usual for newly married couples to live with their parents or find rooms and lodge with someone. My Mom and Dad found rooms in Edmund Road and then in Ludlow Road, Alum Rock, but just before their first child was born, my sister Suzanne, they got a house back in Tarry Road. Babies were normally born at home and a fire was lit in the bedroom, the mid wife arrived and was washing her hands in a bowl of warm water brought up from the kitchen, when a bug, coaxed out of hiding by the warmth of the fire, dropped into the bowl! My mom used to tell this story with a mixture of horror and amusement at how things have changed for the better!
My brother Ian, my elder sister Suzanne and myself in the back garden of 89 Tarry Rd celebrating the Queens Coronation in 1953
In those days a small deposit was paid to the landlord and the rent went towards the purchase of the house, 89 Tarry Road eventually belonged to my mom in the 1950’s. I was born there in 1946, my brother Graham in 1950 and my brother Ian in 1953. Tragically my dad, Walter died in 1954 from a kidney disease. My mom re-married and we moved out of Tarry Road in 1958.
But that is not the end of the story. In 1966 I married Clive Alwyn Lauder Kerr, a jeweler from Nechels. I was at Teacher Training College, Clive had just finished his apprenticeship, and the house at 109 Tarry Road cost £2,100. Our savings paid for a 10% deposit and a wedding at Emmanuel Church, Alum Rock, with a reception at my Moms house. We lived, very happily, in Tarry Road until 1972, when we were able to afford a semi detached house in Hodge Hill.
Myself and Clive on our honeymoon in 1966