I'm a twit too

Saturday, November 5, 2011


this post is a revised 8th March 2018 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY


ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO BRITISH WOMEN over 30 with property were allowed to VOTE! Equality by law did not come easily. The Government's fudging brought some women to the view that violence was the only way to make change happen.


You would have found it hard to miss the Suffragettes and women unionists striving for better wages and working conditions in the LONDON of my second Great Grandparents. 

The Suffragettes knew the lives of women would not improve as long as they didn't have representation in Parliament.

Around 1914 My Great Great Grandmother ALICE CLARK nee Woolley was packing and moving to Scotland. She was ill. Did the Doctor say "Mrs. Clark you should visit your daughter or you won't see her again?"

It was probably the first time they would travel by steam train, as living in the City they walked or caught a bus/tram. 
The Clarks hadn't seen Margaret and Eduardo since they lodged with them when the 1911 Census was taken. She doubted she would see all her children again, ever...except in Heaven.

Daughter Margaret and husband Eduardo Palombo had moved to Cambuslang, near Glasgow, circa 1912, and ran a successful Barber and Hairdressers in the High Street. 

Husband Henry would take his tailoring tools with him as you never know when they make a 'bob' or two.

When WAR had taken the men away, women like Margaret Palumbo nee Clark, ran the home and business. By 1918 one baby Therese Alice was lost to Measles and she was pregnant with her 5th child. 

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO the GREAT WAR was officially at an end, and so was the life of ALICE born in CHESHIRE.

11/11/1918 ALICE DIED THE DAY AFTER ARMISTICE DAY from cancer of the Uterus, with her 2nd husband Henry Clark and daughter Margaret near. 

 The Clark children she laboured for were, Henry Edward, John Herbert, Thomas, Margaret and James Clark.

Alice's boys soldiered for British colonialism, being sent to Europe, India and my Great Grandfather THOMAS Born 1893 in Soho, was sent to Dublin to deal with the Irish Republicans!
It may have felt he was fighting his own kin with leaders called Thomas Clarke, and Kathleen Clarke. And Roman Catholics all... He named his daughter Kathleen and in honour of his Mother and sister, he added Alice and Margaret.

The couple had a baby boy in 1919 at the Ross family home in Longford Street Dublin, and a little while later left Ireland for the first cheap accommodation until Thomas could get work. 


Cambuslang High Street LANARKSHIRE, SCOTLAND
Palombo's family and barber shops on each side of town est. 1913

MY MUM'S MUM was born at 10 George St. Glasgow in 1920. Honouring his sister and mother Nan was called Kathleen Margaret Alice Clark. Her sister Marion in 1922.            


My Great Great Grandmother was from Cheshire, was 21 years of age, in mourning, and had enough coin to get to Brighton hoping to make a living. 

The railways network had established itself in many British villages making it easier for folk to find a future elsewhere.

The train would take her into a dangerous world...from Farndon Village near Chester to the big seaside resort of  Brighton, Sussex.
There was likely to be plenty of work at the numerous Hotels and Tea Rooms for a young woman like Alice WOOLEY.

She had said goodbye to her siblings: Emma, William, Catherine and James. They all had been contributing to the household income with domestic service positions since they were 12.

Once Grandfather Woolley, the Village Blacksmith had died, they had to shut up shop...and move on.

The children had been without their Mother since she died when James was born in 1867. Their Father, Sam was dead 6 years later at the age of 38years so their care was in the hands of Grandparents who were in their seventieth year (Retirement was not a term people were familiar with).

Alice had been without a Mother since she was nine years old -  the ninth year of endings and new beginnings...
(9 when my Mum and Dad had separated and 9 when Mum was shipped away from Birmingham to Australia)

The Woolley family in 1861& 1871 Farndon-near-Chester, Cheshire.
For Victorian girls and women it must have seemed like they were forever in mourning. Death was a constant shadow until it became a shroud. 
Everybody knew the Church graveyard as well as the font. 

Alice's mother, Elizabeth Hughes(3xGM) born in nearby Tattenhall was 30years when she was buried leaving behind her baby son JAMES who would have to survive and thrive on somebody else's milk.
If not would her Father, a Farmer provide milk from his cows or sheep?

Husband Samuel Woolley would have been thankful his parents were still alive, helping the family stay together. However it was only 6 years later when the Grim Reaper came to collect him too.

Day by Day 

Grandparents Samuel Woolley and Elizabeth (nee Eyton) tried to  provide for their parentless grand-children after  seventy years of labouring at the forge and family, but then the old woman died three years after her son. Three years later the old man passed away.
St. Chads Parish Church, Farndon Village and buriel ground.
painted by Paul Burrell at Farndon, Cheshire

AN ANCIENT EXPRESSION OF DEATH IN THE WELSH BORDER VILLAGES WAS a tradition of Halloween. This recipe is from the Cheshire region, on the border with North Wales. A Soul Cake (or Souling Cake) is a small round cake, like a biscuit, which is traditionally made for All Souls’ Day (the 2nd November, the day after All Saint’s Day) to celebrate the dead. 
These plain cakes, often simply referred to as souls, were given out to the soulers, children and the poor, (beggars) who would go from door to door during this period saying prayers and singing psalms and songs for the dead.

Traditionally each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern day Trick or Treating, which now falls on Halloween(two days before All Souls’ Day). The tradition of ‘souling’ and giving out Soul Cakes on All Soul’s Day originated in Britain and Ireland hundreds of years ago, from giving out bread on All Souls’ Day during the devout Middle Ages.
 Rev. M. P. Holme of Tattenhall, Cheshire, collected the song traditionally sung during souling, from a little girl at the local school. Two years later, the text and tune were published by folklorist Lucy Broadwood, who commented that souling was still practised at that time in Cheshire and Shropshire.
The 1891 song contains a chorus and three verses
A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

[Verse 1]
God bless the master of this house,
The misteress also,
And all the little children
That round your table grow.
Likewise young men and maidens,
Your cattle and your store ;
And all that dwells within your gates,
We wish you ten times more.

[Verse 2]
Down into the cellar,
And see what you can find,
If the barrels are not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.
We hope you will prove kind,
With your apples and strong beer,
And we'll come no more a-souling
Till this time next year.

[Verse 3]
The lanes are very dirty,
My shoes are very thin,
I've got a little pocket
To put a penny in.
If you haven't got a penny,
A ha'penny will do ;
If you haven't get a ha'penny,
It's God bless you

Lantern slide of Brighton beach 1890

I imagine Alice Woolley finding a 12 hour job waitressing, sharing an attic room with a work-mate and the one thing saving her from madness, making sure she took a work-break on the West Pier. A new, grander one was being built, and it was here she first experienced a German oompa oompa band! 

Perhaps she was delighted by the brass humour of the German musicians and she would go there every day to have her spirits lifted. 
One of the Musicians was 61year old Caspar Lemmer. He had been going backwards and forwards across the channel every Summer season since he was 18years old.

What charisma Caspar must have had to woo and wed a woman like Alice; single, no family, and ripe for the pickin'! More vulnerable to kindness and temptations with no mother or grandmother to ask her why this foreigner didn't want to grow old in his own country or what kind of future could a strolling musician provide, the couple married.

When it came to her wedding day she had no Patriarch to give her away but the Brighton Registrar would have noticed the 40year age difference and the fact she was due to give birth in about a months time. 
Whether in September 1880 or 2011 people's eyebrows would be raised... 

Not to worry,  Alice was a respectable married woman.  She had found happiness with a worldly husband, who was creative and a Master of his occupation. 

Alice had probably fallen for a father(or grandfather) figure, and Caspar had made an honest woman of her in the end; their son Caspar was born legitimate - a month after their marriage. Phew!

1881 CENSUS - The Lemmer family resides at 44 Grosvenor Street but then something must have happened - did Caspar have a falling out with the other band members? Maybe got the sack for being drunk when playing his brass instrument in a posh hotel? 

Alice Lemmer was now a Bandsman's wife with 3 year old Caspar, and baby Prince Carl journeying to the biggest city in the world, London.

1883 Alice arrives in Westminster: the Capital of Power, Pleasure, and Majestic marvels.

Caspar would have been confident in finding digs and gigs with the social network of German immigrant community in London - but first they had to get baby Prince Carl baptised as insurance...High Infant mortality meant the newborn were quickly blessed at the  font to assure safe-passage to the after-life.

Mr and Mrs Caspar Lemmer would attend their local parish church, a short walk away. Not hard to miss!


1883  29 Great Barlow Street  next to Manchester St. Marylebone is now a CARPARK 
for the Farmers Markets and is called Cramer Street.
1885 92 East Street (off Paddington St.) is Very Close to the facilities of the Marylebone Workhouse.
1887 baby ALICE is born. Her father was 69years old and her mother 28years. 
If Alice could read she might have also received the birth of a fictional hero who lived just around the corner from them in Baker Street.
Caspar may have been showing signs of the lung cancer he was to die from: fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath - and thus struggled with looking and finding work as a musician. 


Alice must have worried what would become of them. This could have been the time when she became the main breadwinner as a seamstress in one of the many tailoring workshops around London. 

Caspar and/or a kindly neighbour could keep an eye on the children, but in many situations the older kids would be left holding the pram.       
If there wasn't enough money to feed and shelter the family they would be forced to go to the Paupers Workhouse or live on the streets, stealing what they could. 
In earlier Hard Times Charles Dickens who had also lived in the neighbourhood created his famous Artful Dodger. 
Conan Doyle's contemporary detective character would enlist the Baker Street Irregulars to gather information for his cases, for a shilling a day plus expenses. 

Around 1889 Alice was pregnant by another man, Henry Edward Clark (my Great Great Grandfather). He was a forty year old Bachelor and Tailor Journeyman. 
Self-preservation must have been Alice's template. Henry might have looked very dapper in his bespoke suits but he didn't have room to fit in her children from another man.
He wanted to settle-down with Alice though and have a son of his own. It was now, or never.

Caspar would be dead soon and Alice would be free to marry again. 

When their mum left home to go and live in sin with Henry Clark (and his father) in Carnaby Street, Caspar junior was 9, Carl was 6 and Alice, 2years.

Little Alice was 5years when her father died in 1892 and her mother was very busy with her other family and pregnant with my Great Grandfather Thomas Clark.
Would her daughter Alice Lemmer be an added complication in her life? It wouldn't be the first or last time a woman like Alice had to make a heart-breaking but pragmatic decision to give her child away to the authorities and hope she would be okay, leave her to God's good Providence?

The only mention of an Alice Lemmer is in the 1891 Census where there is a little girl "inmate" at the Chase Farm School(in the old Enfield Workhouse). 
Luckily there was room because the previous year many girls had been sent as immigrants to Canada. Perhaps Alice would be in the next contingent of child migrants?

Did Alice Woolley born and bred by the River Dee, who married a German brass bandsman in Brighton-by-the-Sea and became Alice Lemmer, a London working mother with a dying husband,  kiss her 5 year old daughter Alice goodbye in the uniform and shoulder badge for paupers?

 Waiting for the London train she may have envisioned her little girl playing in the fresh air of the outer London playground, thinking that her giving up her child  she would avoid the degradation that girls faced at an early age around the streets of  Soho - where she lived with Henry.
1891 Infant school, Chase Farm, Enfield
1893 Oscar Wilde's Play being advertised at the Haymarket Theatre, near where
 Alice and Henry live in the West End with their Clark kiddies, making clothes for the Hoity-Toity!

Another literary figure of this era was GEORGE BERNARD SHAW who wrote the play, PYGMALION in 1912.
As a self-taught Fabian Socialist this play on the theme of the superficial British Class System was entertaining with a bite for its mainly UPPER CRUST audience! 
FILM and T.V. would bring it to the masses with memorable songs.

The day our English teacher gave us the play of Pygmalion to read in turns, sitting around the library tables of Selly Park Girls Secondary School in Birmingham 1977  I understood the power of the written word to cross media forms - bringing joy and learning at once and into the future. I was passionate. I was literate and felt liberated!

Not Henry Higgins - I'm Julie Higgins
Rebel without a school tie. 
Ready for Selly Park Girls 1977

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