Clearing my parents’ house is a sad duty. But amongst the piles of routine ‘stuff’ are items that form part of the family history.
A Clarice Cliff bowl, bought by my maternal grandparents in the 1920s as wedding present which they decided was unsuitable. It survived the Derby Blitz, and eventually moved to Belfast – and now it lives with me, understood and respected.
A set of eight wine glasses had been bought by my maternal grandfather from the estate of his Uncle, John Birks. They must have travelled with the Unitarian Minister as he moved ministries. They survived with my grandparents and moved to Belfast with my parents – now they are with me, and I know them for what they are.
Two flower paintings, well-executed with a vague ‘fin de siecle’ feel to them are the work of my paternal grandmother, Kathleen Rudduck. She was the daughter of a grocer, but acquired some art training from an artist, Campbell Archibald Mellon, who was active in Norfolk, where she was brought up. A quiet, bookish woman who died in her early 50s leaving no evidence, other than two paintings, that she was an accomplished artist. I know this story because her son, my father told me, without that continuity it would be lost.
Material things can be important in the understanding on our ancestors – we should be careful to preserve them and their stories, for without their stories they are nothing. It is the duty of a family historian to preserve and tell stories.