The Ward Line

The photo above is of Darwen moors and tower: the Wards come from Darwen and it is where my brother Stephen and I were born, as well as our mother, Beatrice (Bessie) Ward, and the rest of the Wards. Here is a link to British History On-Line which gives an historical overview of Darwen.

Mum was born on May 15th 1924 at 27 Malta Street. She is the youngest child of Bridget (nee Shannon) and Joseph Ward. The other children are James (1907), May (1908), Kathleen (1910), and Thomas (1913).

Here mum is when she was five years old; her mum, (my grandma) Bridget, is at the back behind Bessie Richardson who is the daughter of Betsy Alice Richardson in the centre and in front of aunty May, mum's sister. I think I have this right: Betsy Alice is the daughter of my grandma's sister, Mary Ann (known as aunt Polly) who married Michael Harwood. Betsy Alice married John Richardson and Bessie Richardson is one of their children. Mum is at the front in the centre and my cousin Tommy, aunty May's eldest son, is the child sitting on the lap of Betsy Alice.

To put this period into context, about two years before this photo was taken, in 1928, all women aged 21 years and over were given the vote on the same basis as men.

I remember Mum telling me how much she enjoyed being in the brownies, which is why she encouraged me to join and was very disappointed when I didn't last very long! Here is a photo of her with the rest of the Highfield's Brownie Pack on a day trip to Southport in 1935. My mum is on the back row at the far right with her hand shielding the sun from her eyes.

And here is a photo of her when she was a bridesmaid at uncle Tom and aunty Lily's wedding in 1937; she is on the left, standing next to her other brother, uncle Jim, and is about 12 years old.

I'm not sure which junior school my mum went to but she definitely went to Avondale Secondary Modern School for Girls, which is now a Primary School. I know this for sure because I also went there. Miss Holden, who taught me maths (and was a very good maths teacher) was my mum's PE teacher when she was there.

Mum left school at 14/15. Here she is at 15. She sent this photo to her brother Tom who was in the navy, hence 'little sister Bessie.'

She worked in various factories, I think she first worked in a weaving shed. Here she is at 16.

I know she worked in a munitions factory during the war and that her all time favourite song was Green Eyes.

When she was 20 years old, Mum caught scarlet fever/rheumatic fever and was in the isolation hospital at Bull Hill; this was the cause of the heart condition she developed many years later.

She recoved in time to marry Harry Foster when she was 20 on March 19th 1945 at St John's Evangelist Church in Darwen. This is where I can remember the majority of our family getting married or being christened. One of the hymns that was sung at her wedding was "For those in peril on the Sea" specially for uncle Tom because she thought he was still at sea but, in fact, he was on dry land. Nevertheless, a good reminder of the time in history. Eternal Father

Mum lived with Harry in a little cottage in Bilsborrow (it was painted pink) as this was when Harry was in the army; I'm guessing he was stationed at Fulwood Barracks (on the marriage certificate it says he is in the Manchester Regiment). I know this is the cottage because I remember my mum saying it was a little bit back from the adjoining two houses; my cousin Kathleen confirmed this as she had stayed there. It is quite near the Roebuck pub.

According to my cousin, Kathleen, my dad's parents and his sisters lived just a few houses up from the cottage on the same side. I don't know how long they lived here for or whether it was before or after mum had Stephen. But mum gave birth to Stephen at aunty Kit's house, 573 Blackburn Road, Darwen, on 23rd March 1946, a year after they had been married. Here is a photo of mum with Stephen on her lap, aunty Kit and her son Barry:

Here is a photo of mum with Stephen, dad, dad's sisters Dorothy and Jenny; I am guessing they are visiting my grandparents. It is probably at about this time that I was conceived.

By the time this next photo was taken, my parents had separated. Here is mum, my cousin Kathleen, and me, in the back yard at 32 Ratcliffe Street where aunty May and uncle Jim Turnbull lived with their children Tommy, Jimmy and Kathleen.

Here is another one taken behind Ratcliffe Street of my cousins Jimmy and Tommy Turnbull and my mum:

The divorce became absolute on 29th January 1954. I do have very vague memories of visiting my grandparents when they lived in Preston. Here is one such visit:

I'm not sure how my mum met her second husband, Jim Tyman, but I know she knew him when I was 5 years old (1952) because I remember I was loaned his wife Vera's washing bag when I went into hospital to have my tonsils out. Vera died in 1954.

I remember he used to come on holiday with us, we often went to Sunnyvale, a holiday camp just outside of Rhyl. Here is mum on one of these holidays, it must have been 1959:

Mum and Jim clearly had a long courtship because they didn't get married till 18th February 1961. Here they are at their wedding held at the registry office in Blackburn:

I'm afraid I didn't get on with my step-father, nor did Stephen. We went from complete freedom to having what I thought at the time, a tyrant as a step-father. He clearly thought himself to be well above my mum and us: I recall a family row when he said to my mum, in front of me and Stephen and his friends the Kaye family, that he picked my mum up from the slums - and she could go back there! Bit of a joke, really: I have just found their marriage certificate and his father was a chip and fish fryer. Still, I suppose as far as the class system goes, being a chip and fish fryer is better than a weaver!

I recall him as a mean man. Whenever mum wanted something to help her in the house, like a washing machine or fridge, she had to buy them herself. He once bought me a pair of tights for my Xmas present whilst he bought the Kaye's daughter something else - I can't remember now what it was but I know it was a better present than the one he bought me!

My mum worked all of her life in different factories. I think the one she liked most, and one she worked at for a long time, was Walpamur. Here she is at a Walpamur fancy- dress party:

This is one of her having a Kings Ale and smoking in the Walpamur Club.

It was probably about 1970 when mum realised she was ill - she stopped smoking. She had her first major heart operation in 1971, this opened up a valve. It wasn't long before she was back at work: I feel very angry towards my step-father for allowing her to go back to work, particularly as it was a very cold factory.

My step-father died in 1978: he dropped dead on Darwen moors whilst out picking whimberries. In 1980 mum was back in Victoria hospital to have a valve replacement.

Here is a photo of mum with aunty kit's dog:

My mum got married a third time, in 1984, to Kevin Corrigan. Kevin was Irish and I know my mother had this romantic idea of marrying an Irishman (no doubt as a result of her grand-parents being Irish). They were married about a year before my mum died.

Here is one of the last photos of her:

And here is the last photo she had taken for her passport, you can see that she is ill.

My mother was an excellent cook: her whimberry pies were delicious, not to mention the other cakes she used to bake and roast dinners. She could turn her hand to almost anything: she used to do all the painting and decorating when we lived with my grandma.

My mum had a hard life. But I also remember her laughing a lot; she used to wait on at the Blackhorse pub when my aunty May and uncle Jim ran it for many years. We used to have a piano and I recall her 'gathering up the keys' and us all having sing-songs. She would be a main player in helping to organise things for the kids in the area, such as making may-poles, spud pie for bonfire night. I have my mum and grandma to thank for a wonderful childhood.

You could always tell how mum felt by looking into her eyes. Her Bright Eyes died on 25th April 1985, she was 60 years old. Mum was cremated at Pleasington after a service at St Edwards (her third husband was a Catholic); her ashes were scattered on the same plot as her mother, Plot F.