Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Contrasting Lives of Two Great Grandfathers

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Contrasting Lives of Two Great Grandfathers

Article excerpt

ANTHEA Fraser Gupta, who lives in Australia, has been researching her family history and found some interesting information about the lives of her maternal great grandfathers, George Bowyer and William Fraser.

According to Andrea, there are hundreds of their descendants around - especially the Bowyers - some of them still in Teesside.

Anthea writes: In the 1880s the new town of North Ormesby provided decent homes for steelworkers. My mother's grandfathers found love and a good life there.

George Bowyer told his children that Stradishall in Suffolk, where he was born in 1854, was a terrible place. He had few happy memories of his labouring childhood, though he did have missing fingers from his work in the brickfields. George started as a labourer in the steelworks, and taught himself to read and write. In North Ormesby he was his own master. He had to doff his hat to no one and could freely practise his religion, Methodism. He married Hannah Davies, born in North Ormesby in 1866.

Hannah's father was a skilled steelworker born in Dudley, Worcestershire and Hannah was working class aristocracy. She managed the family finances, was literate, and cooked superbly. She had 12 pregnancies, raising 11 children - only the twins did not survive.

George treated her respectfully and she boasted that he never saw her naked. A strict but fair father, George gave his children fanciful names, some drawn from his Bible reading, and some honouring 'rich' relatives, who might leave a legacy to a child named for them.

George and Hannah gave their children a better legacy: a happy childhood in a sober and loving family, with a social life centred on the chapel.

William Fraser told stories about his childhood too. However, they turn out not to have been as true, or as consistent, as George's stories. Was he illegitimate? Abandoned as a baby in a Chop Gate farmhouse? Born on Skye? Barrow in Furness? Tow Law? The tales were hiding a story that now seems sad, but which then would have been shameful. His parents were married, but they were navvies working on some of the great building projects of the age, including the Settle-Carlisle railway. …

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