The Shannon Line

The photograph above is of Ballinafad, Sligo; it is here,or roundabouts, where the Shannon family comes from.

The Shannon line begins with my grandma, Bridget Ward (nee Shannon)

My grandma brought us up: me, Stephen and my mum lived with my grandma in Redearth Road, where I was born (in the front bedroom).

This was a two-up, two-down, corporation house. It was damp, and had an outside toilet (which used to scare me, at least the spiders did).

We used a tin bath which, in the winter, would go in front of the coal fire in the front room. Me and Stephen shared the bath when we were little. We didn't have much money and my mother was the main bread-winner, hence my grandma bringing us up.

My grandma was a strong woman but had a tough life. She was born at 55 Bottom Gate, Blackburn on 18th August 1884, and lived until she was 84 years old!

In 1891, Bridget was six and lived with her parents, Bridget and Thomas Shannon, her sisters Mary Ann (Polly) age 14, and Catherine (Kate), age 9. The head of the household, 10 Shackleton Street, Blackburn, which had four occupied rooms, was Michael Banks, age 62 who was a painter and came from Meath, as did his wife, Harriet, who was 60. It says on the census that my grandma and her siblings were the grand-children of Michael and Harriet. This cannot be correct and I haven't got to the bottom of it yet.

Bridget was a card room hand when she was 16, according to the 1901 census but she had probably been working since she was 14 if not before. She and her sister, Catherine, lived with their parents at 14 Livesey Place, Darwen, they occupied two rooms.

On 24th March, 1906, when she was 21 years old, Bridget married Joseph Ward, who was 24 years old and a weaver. She lived at 76 Crown Street. They were married at St John's Church of England because the Wards were members of the Chapel whilst my grandma was a Catholic - neither Lower Chapel nor St Joseph's would marry them because it was a mixed-faith marriage. They were allowed to get married at St John's if they agreed to bring their up first born (uncle Jim) Catholic. The rest of the family, including myself, were Christened and brought up Church of England.

In 1911 my grandma was a char-woman. She lived with Joseph and their three children, James, 4 years; May 3 years; and Kathleen, 3 months old at 11 Malta Street, Darwen; there were four rooms (two-up, two-down). Betsey Ward, her mother- in-law, aged 64, was also living there.

Her fourth child, Thomas (uncle Tom) was born in 1913 and then, in 1924, when grandma was 40 years old, my mother Beatrice (Bessie) was born.

Here is a photo of my grandma when she is about 44 years old: grandma is at the back, left; aunty May, her daughter, is at the back, right. In front of grandma is Bessie Richardson, then my mum, Bessie Ward; then Betsey Alice Richardson (my grandma's sister Polly's daughter) with my cousin Tommy on her knee.

At some point the family lived in Marsh House Lane. I remember this because my grandma was terrified of thunder and lightening: after my mother had married my step-father and we lived across the road at 77 Redearth Road, whenever there was a storm (with thunder and lightening), me and Stephen would have to go across to my grandma's house to make sure she was ok - we even did this in the middle of the night! Grandma would open the front and back doors in case a thunderbolt struck, so that it could go right through!! This sounds funny now, but when you realise that her eyesight was severely affected when a bolt of lightening struck some railings just in front of her when she lived in Marsh House Lane, you can begin to understand why she was terrified!

Here is grandma with her sister, aunt Polly (Mary Ann) at the top of Kay Street where Aunt Polly lived. I'm guessing this is sometime during the 1940's. I remember going to visit Aunt Polly as a little girl and her house being very dark and smelling of gas - because she still had gas lighting.

My grandma worked all of her life, until she became too ill to work in the late 60's. My cousin, Kathleen, told me she used to work for a family called Dobegans at the River Wyre Hotel in Poulton-le-Fylde. Grandma would work there all week and come home at weekends. Here she is in her serving outfit:

The River Wyre Hotel is still operating:

Our grandad, Joseph, died in 1951. Here is a photo of Bridget and Joseph which used to sit on the sideboard at 80 Redearth:

My grandma never re-married and I can never recall her being interested in any other men. In fact, she always had a female friend, as the following photos show:

I don't know who the woman with grandma is although I do remember her going in the Blackhorse. The photo below is grandma with Mrs Weatherall who lived lower down Redearth Road; the photo is taken outside 80 Redearth.

We lived with grandma until 1961 and grandma lived there until she was very ill in 1969 and went into hospital then onto aunty Kit's house in Greenway Street where she died on 14th April 1969. I wasn't surprised to learn that she died of bowel cancer as she used to have dreadful pains in her lower abdomen. She was cremated at Pleasington and her ashes scattered in Plot F, the Roman Catholic plot.

Grandma worked well into her 80's; her last job was cleaning the Black Horse pub, which my aunty May and uncle Jim Turnbull ran. She loved a tipple - whiskey or even brandy when she could afford it otherwise a gill of mild - although in winter I recall Lion Brewery would produce a stronger ale (Old Tom); I would be sent with a jug to get a pint from the pub and my grandma would heat the poker up in the fire then warm the beer up with the hot poker before drinking it. Although she never smoked, she did like her camphorated menthol snuff!!

Here she is in the 'best' room. Grandma is on the left, I'm not sure who the woman is with her.

Here is one of her, standing in the front room at number 80; my mum took the photo to send to me as I was away in the WRAF. You can see a picture of me on the sideboard in uniform:

And here is one of the last photos of my grandma with my mum in the front room at number 80.

This is a compilation of photographs. I have put them to music, Brown Photographs. We often used to get out the cardboard box filled with family photographs.