Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gillian Brock — Lost, found. and lost again…

Gillian, in centre, explaining something to her Aunt Phyllis

Gillian talking to her cousin Linda. Both photos taken
when Gillian was here in England four years ago.

Gillian Brock —
Lost to us when a child, found and now lost again… my dear niece, Gillian.
Among the Christmas cards arriving through the letterbox last week we had a letter from a lady saying that my niece Gillian had died on August 17th. The neighbour is opening Gillian’s mail so as to find friends and relatives who are unlikely to have heard about the death. We had put a Christmas letter in with Gillian’s card. I rang the lady who had given us the news. She told me that Gillian had not been seen out the day of her death, unusual because she took her dog out regularly. The police were called because only the dog could be heard inside the house. Not wanting to break in and destroy the door and locks, the fire brigade was called and they got in through the roof. Gillian, fully dressed, was found on the floor — dead.
Gillian had been planning her 60th birthday. Not old by today’s standards.
I have been informing Gillian’s relatives on my side of the family.
I googled ‘Gillian Brock Died August 17th Australia’ and straight away I was in a position to find more information about those in the UK who knew about her death. A web site called Heaven Address had messages, ‘flowers’ and such, displaying the names of those who sent them. I added my tribute and uploaded a photograph of Gillian talking to a cousin and her aunts — Phyllis and Gladys. It had been taken when Gillian visited here in 2007.
I wrote above here, ‘lost to us when a child’ and this needs explaining.
I am the youngest of six children. My brother Jack (Gillian's father) was the eldest. He was in the Air Force and met his wife Peggy when she was in the ATS. The first we (at home) heard of her, and of the marriage, was when he brought Peggy home (I think it was around 1948). I was still at the art school, two of my sisters were married and had homes of their own, the other sister, aged seventeen, worked in a factory and we shared a room at home. My other brother was at the local university and lived at home. My dad, struggling to keep on his feet due to a crippling disease, was not a well man. My mum had cleaning jobs to bring in a few pennies.
The housing shortage was much worse than it is today, after all, we had just been through WW2 and everything was still rationed — houses were no exception. The newly-weds took over the front room. They had both left the forces. I seem to remember Peggy was soon pregnant.
I liked Peggy but my mum thought she made the most of her pregnancy and led an idle life. My mum had never had the luxury of taking things easy at any time of her life and, I think, rather resented having an extra workload, especially after the baby was born. Looking at things from Peggy’s angle, it could be that she did not want to interfere with my mum’s running of the house. Washday was particularly stressful  — no electric ‘helpers’ in those days, at least not in homes like ours. I do remember Peggy making us all some lovely tomato sandwiches. Mum had her fast-moving routines from getting up after five in the morning, lighting the fire for hot water and starting the day’s chores. Everybody had a cooked breakfast in spite of rationing.
Crunch time came when Jack came home from work one day to find the baby had no clean nappies. I think Peggy was drying a wet one in front of the fire. Peggy evidently complained that Mum said she couldn’t wash them because there was no hot water, or some such. Jack complained to my mum in the presence of my dad. Dad was not pleased with my mum (he could be pretty horrid to my mum when the mood took him) but Mum was annoyed with Peggy. Mum had not told Peggy she could not use the water, only not to wash the nappies in the bathroom at that time because it took the water from downstairs. Likely she wanted Peggy to wait until mum had finished washing and mangling the family wash. Anyway, the result was that mum raced to Jack and Peggy’s room, collected all the nappies and washed them in the kitchen sink. Not so long after this, a van arrived and Jack, Peggy and baby went off with all their baggage without any sort of warning. Jack had been quite close to Dad, joking together and both of them smoking and enjoying a drink. My mum did none of those things. I rather think he always blamed my mum for Jack's swift departure without a goodbye.
They were now living in a cottage that went with Jack’s new job (running a garage) in another county some miles away. I, along with the others, must have kept in touch because I recall visiting their home so they could meet my husband-to-be. We went on our motorbike and took sandwiches for our tea. I feel sure that they were pleased to see us. Jack took us into the parlour and called to Peggy, ‘Come and see who’s picnicking in our front room.’ We met their lovely family — Jacky, Dennis and Gillian.
They all went off to Australia on an assisted passage. We wrote to their new address but I did not have a reply. When my dad died, my mum sent a telegram but still no reply. They moved and, with no address, we could no longer be in touch.
I used to pray there would be a reconciliation before my mother died, but it did not happen. I tried googling Jack’s full name adding ‘Australia’. To my surprise something came up — an announcement of his death. His wife’s maiden name was mentioned so there could be no doubt I had the correct person. He died about the time that my mother did.
So was that it? Not at all, unknown to me Gillian was doing a family tree search at the same time as my eldest son took up the hobby. I was able to write to Gillian and we kept contact through emails. Then she came over here four years ago and I was able to give her a signet ring that had been passed on to me by my Aunt Gladys. I too used to be a GB before my marriage. I last wrote to her in July and wondered why I had not had a reply. Her death never entered my mind.
I do not know where her brothers are. When I saw Gillian she did not seem to know either. In actual fact she did not care where they were as she had broken with them. So sad. I don’t expect I will ever see jack’s sons again but no doubt that is the way they prefer things to be.
Goodbye Gillian. I did not know you for very long but we had a good, if short, relationship.