THE SKEET FAMILY

THE SKEET FAMILY

This blog posts by Graham Webb will be for the Skeet family as I research  my mothers  ( Florence Irene ( Rene ) Webb nee Skeet )  history of  her family in the UK with the help of my brother Robert Webb & sister Annette Somerville.

My mother and father met as penfriends, they started writing to each other in 1936 when my mother was 15yrs old. Rene and her mother departed the UK in May of 1949 to Australia  and arrived on the 15th July when they finally met. We have nearly all of my mothers letters that she wrote to Keith over 13 years, these will be published here on this site.

If you would like to read these letters from Rene to Keith as I publish them just  Click Here

Florence, Rob, Henry (Harry) & Florence (Rene) Skee

I will try to write a little of what I’ve been told and can remember of my forbears. It may not all be correct but will give some idea of your ancestors and from where they originated.

 

Firstly, perhaps I’ll start with my mother’s family. My mother was born on 19th July 1892 in Douglas on the Isle of Man, as were all of her brothers and sisters, 13 in all, one girl died in childhood. There were 7 boys and 5 girls who survived childhood. My mother was baptised Florence Amelia and her surname was Watterson (a great Manx name).  Incidentally, she hated the name Amelia and wouldn’t let anyone know her full name. I don’t know if I can remember all of their names but here goes …… Jane (Janey), May, Florence (Flo), Lily and Amy. Jane was the eldest of the girls and gave birth to her daughter Mabel as her mother was having Amy. Charles (Charlie), Edward (Teddy), Thomas, William (Willy), John (Johnny), Albert and Douglas. Uncle Douglas came back from the 1914-18 war blind. He regained sight in one eye in later years but was blind in the latter years of his life. I believe he died on the I.O.M. and is buried there.

 

My mother’s parents were born on the I.O.M. of Manx parents. Her mother’s name was Catherine Caley (her grandfather introduced kippers to the island, herrings smoked over burning oak shavings) and I only remember she had two sisters, there could possibly be more; they were Francis (Fanny) and Lena. She married William Henry Watterson. I’ve heard tell that before he settled down he sailed around the world twice in sailing ships, the first time being when he was 14 years of age. On his return he went on the land and had a farm but was mainly a cart proprietor, hiring out his horses and carts to the Council of Douglas town for the building of roads etc. They were quite comfortably off as all of the boys worked for him and it was a family concern. Unfortunately, when my mother was 14, which would be 1906, Dumbles Bank went broke and they lost all of their money, so they sold up and tried to start afresh in Manchester, England. A couple of years later they returned to the I.O.M. but had to return to Manchester, as there were no jobs for the boys on the island. A few joined the Police Force and on Public Transport. Uncle Johnny finished up as Detective Inspector. Grandfather Watterson died before I was born so I don’t remember him and haven’t a photograph. Grandma Watterson lived until just after the Second World War started, she was a very tall woman, as were all of their family. She went blind before she died.

Aunt Fanny was the mother of Edna and Blanche whom we visited when we went overseas in 1977 and 1981.

 

 

 The I.O.M. is an island set in the middle of the Irish Sea, about 74 miles from Liverpool by steamer. There are various other places you can travel from but Liverpool is the most popular. These days many travel by air to Ronaldsway Airport near Castletown. When I went to school in Douglas I was taught that the island was 9 miles wide and 28 miles long but today it’s said to be 12 miles X 32 miles. Their climate is quite mild and very rarely sees snow as the island is encircled by the Gulf Stream. The winters can be cold though. It is an independent sovereign country. It was annexed by England in the 13th century and is ruled by a Lieutenant Governor appointed by the Crown. It has its own Parliament making its own laws and taxes, in the House of Keys, and they are read each year on a day in July at Tynwald in both English and Manx (which is a form of Celtic.) We used to get a holiday from school on this day. It was Millennium Year in 1979 on the island; their Parliament was 1000 years old, the oldest Parliament in the world. During the first 3 – 4000 years of that period the Vikings ruled it. The Manx people are very superstitious and there are many legends. The 3 Legs of Man is their emblem and is used on postage stamps and flags etc. It means, whichever way you throw me I’ll stand, meaning, a Manxman will always land on his feet no matter what happens.

 

 

 

 

Now for my father – his given name was Henry but was known as Harry Skeet. He was born in Manchester on 4th November 1892. His father was Robert, who as far as I know had one half brother. Robert’s parents came from London to Manchester, where Robert was born. His father’s name was Joseph George and he married a Rebecca Rodgers. His father had his own business as a ‘hatter’, as they were called. The men in those days wore top hats and there was a big demand for them. Robert worked for Samuel Yates, the Seed Merchants, in Manchester and worked his way up to Manager, he used to go to Holland each year to buy the bulbs.

Robert Skeet in his allotment, where he used to grow vegetables, 1916

I can remember him as being a very quiet gentle man, always dressing nicely. I can only recall him being annoyed with me once and he soon got over it after chasing Rob and me around the garden. My mother was making jam and in those days they used to seal the pots with ‘jam pot covers,’ circles of white paper with glue on. Grandad Skeet was asleep in his chair and we stuck a cover on the back of his head. He woke with a start and heard me say “Jesus.” I suppose I thought he had a halo over his head. I think we all finished up in a heap on the lawn, laughing.

Robert Skeet’s passport photo, 

He married Rebekah Brown. They had a daughter and three sons. Their first born, Julie, died when she was three years old. My father was already born when she died but his brothers Sam and George, who were twins, weren’t born

 

until my father was 10. Rebekah was an only daughter of Julia and Harry Brown, and they also had about four or five sons. Harry Brown had his own cut-glass (crystal) business. My mother had a lot of his work but unfortunately it was all broken when we were moving house. Harry Brown died when I was about 3 or 4, I remember him, they lived at Salford, Manchester. Julia lived until I was 6 or 7. I remember her well; she still wore a black bonnet and cape, and carried a ‘Dorothy bag’. She was very small and had the most beautiful white curly hair, which in her younger days she used to sell the combings to the wig makers for a guinea (21 shillings) an ounce.

 

Robert and Rebekah lived in Eccles Manchester until their marriage broke up and they were divorced. My father went with Robert and the twins stayed with Rebekah as they were quite young.  Eventually they both had a second marriage; Robert marrying Blanche, who died in her 40s, and Rebekah married Ernest Inchley.

Ernest was Chief Registrar at Salford Town Hall, a very nice gentleman. They lived in a large house in its own grounds on Eccles Old Road, my mother used to take Rob and me to visit. Eventually they separated and Grandma Inchley (Skeet) went to live at Bispham, near Blackpool, where she died aged 70 and is buried in Bispham Village Churchyard with the twins. George was drowned aged 36 at Rossall Beach whilst canoeing. I was 16 years of age and tried to save him, it was a dreadful time. Eleven months later, before he had his 37th birthday, Sam died.

We were living with Granddad Skeet when he died at the age of 59. He is buried in Southern Cemetery, Manchester, in the same grave as Blanche (his second wife), my father is also in the same grave.

 

My father, Harry, met my mother, Flo, when he was working at the C.W.S. (Co-operative Wholesale Society) Manchester. He was a buyer for ladies apparel and she was head waitress in an hotel (not an hotel as a pub is called here), where businessmen could go for their lunch. They were married on 13th February 1915, just before he was sent to France in the First World War.

 

 

My mother with Alice Braben and her brother, Clifford

My father, centre, 1914

My parent’s wedding photo, actually taken 4 years after their wedding, with Clifford and Alice (best man and bridesmaid).

They had a small house in Henry Street, Withington, then classed as a village. Actually, it was only about 5 miles out of the city of Manchester. My mother went to work on munitions until early 1918 when my father returned from France. He had been wounded, buried in a dugout (trench) and gassed. He suffered the effects of this for the rest of his life, spending many periods in hospital until I was about 5 years old. The gas had damaged his lungs and larynx, in consequence it weakened his heart and his voice box was affected,

 

this was the reason he could only whisper when he spoke. He was a very quiet patient man and never grumbled about his health, just took the bad with the good. It must have been very hard for my mother, but she always used to say, “God is good.” I suppose she was thinking of those who never came back from the war. Fortunately, he was able to return to his work.

Washing dishes in a stream after a picnic

My brother, Rob (Robert Henry), was born in Henry Street on 26th December 1918, and so was I (Florence Irene) on 20th October 1921.

With my mother, father and

Aunty Amy, 1923

With my mother, Aunty Amy and Edith Boardman, 1923

In a side car on a London holiday with my mother and father and Mrs Dillon

A professional photo from when I was entered in a baby contest, 1 year 9 months

1926, second from right, front row

When I was three, Blanche (Granddad’s second wife) died. They were living in Northenden, about 7 miles out of Manchester, on Palatine Road in a larger house than ours. We went to live with Granddad so that he had someone to look after him. Northenden was an even smaller village than Withington. Rob and I attended the village school. I commenced at the age of 5 and, after about 12 months, we were sent to Moseley Road School in Fallowfield (nearer the city), which meant a bus ride, which was quite an adventure in those days. My grandfather died and my father’s health deteriorated, so my parents decided to sell up and move to the I.O.M. in preparation for my father to retire early to see of his health would improve. We spent nearly 5 years there. Rob and I attended Murray’s Road School.

ISLE OF MAN

With my father and Bobby Lockets (the son of friends of my parents) on board a fishing boat

With Joyce Bool, a friend of the family

 

                      With Jack and Alma 1931                                       

Rob and I with George Caley (my mother’s cousin) 1932

Rob & my mother

1924, on London holiday

Rob used to work at a garage after school for a shilling a week

1926, Rob back row, far right

Rob Skeet        

Fire spotting with workmates                                     

In the meantime, my father’s health improved, so he continued to work in Manchester and travelled over to the island each weekend. Strangely enough, we went there for my father’s health and had to return to the mainland because of my mother’s. She was a cripple with sciatica and couldn’t get the treatment she so badly needed on the island, so we sold up again and moved back to Manchester, where my father got a council house at Wythenshawe (near Northenden, which was then part of Manchester.) I passed my Scholarship from Yew Tree Lane School to go on to Fallowfield Girls School. Rob had left school and had passes his exam to start work at the C.W.S. Just after I was 14, Dad bought a new house in Walton Road, Sale, Cheshire.

Walton Road house, taken by Robert on a trip to England

Walton Road house, taken by Robert on a trip to England

I was 15 ½ when I left school and sat for my exam at the C.W.S. (family affair) and started work in Hollerith Department, an office doing book-keeping on the Punch Card System. The war commenced on 3rd September 1939, just before I was 18. As I was of call up age and my father strongly objected to me going in the army, I obtained a position in a factory making munitions. I was book-keeping for about 12 months and then I was put on inspecting Mortar Shells as well as book-keeping, and had to do shift work. Rob didn’t serve in the forces as he was very ill for all of 1939 and never went to work, he couldn’t pass the medical, much to his disappointment.

 

When I was 15 I received my first letter from Keith, who had got my address from our Science Mistress at school, Miss Goodwin. She had gone over to Australia on exchange to teach boys at Wollongong High School and she took with her books of English Poems which we girls in Form 3A had written. Keith received my book and so commenced a pen-friend correspondence, which was to last for 13 years and finally in marriage.

My parents, with friend Miss Howe

The war ended in 1945 and I returned to my old job at the C.W.S. It was great to be at peace again, even if it wasn’t the end of rationing for many years. It’s strange how bad times can fade in one’s mind and wars are bad times, but we shouldn’t forget them because we don’t want them to happen again. If we forget them we aren’t remembering our dear friends who never returned or perished in air raids.

 

So I was back at the C.W.S. In January 1948 my dear father passed away, aged 55, we were fortunate to have kept him for so long. He was buried with his father in Southern Cemetery, Manchester.

 

My father, three years before he passed away

 

POST WORLD WAR 2

With my mother and Aunty Bess

With Hedley, Louie, Beattie and Mary

1947

Rob, myself and my mother on a beach holiday on I.O.M., 1947                                    

With Louie, 1947

My mother and I decided at the end of 1948 to travel to Australia for a holiday and accept the kind invitation of Keith’s parents to stay with them at Bellambi. We left England on the ‘Maloja’ in May 1949 and, owing to strikes when we got to Australian waters, it took 6 weeks before we set foot on Sydney ground, on 15th July 1949. Keith met us in Melbourne and sailed up to Sydney with us.

Myself, Keith and my mother, arriving in Sydney

We were married on 29th October 1949 at St Alban’s Church of England, Corrimal. The Rev. Osborne-Brown was the minister and we had the reception in the old church hall, the new rectory now stands on the site of the hall. Keith’s Uncle Percy gave me away; Dulcie was Matron of Honour and Laurie Richardson, Best Man.

 

OUR WEDDING      29TH OCTOBER, 1949

With Dulcie my Bridesmaid

Keith with Jack Chaumont, Laurie Richardson and his brother, Tom

                              My mother with the Rev. Osborne-Brown

 

We spent our honeymoon in Sydney and Katoomba, returning to Dombarton (Unanderra – Moss Vale Railway line), where Keith was working as a signalman on the railway. There were three houses in the bush, we had the middle one

My mother had to return to England as my brother was still over there. She left Sydney in January 1950.

We spent nearly 4 years at Dombarton and built a house at Pioneer Road Bellambi; on the block of land Keith’s father had given to us from his dairy farm. Graham was born whilst we lived at Dombarton, although I had to come down to Bellambi a month beforehand to be near to a hospital, I stayed with Mum and Dad Webb. 

Graham was born on Wednesday 17th October 1951, at 11:15 am at Wollongong Hospital, he weighed 7 lbs 6 ½ oz.

 

Graham’s Christening 16th December, 1951

We moved down to Bellambi in June 1953, our house was completed and Keith’s transfer had come through to work on the coast.

Our first home at 69 Pioneer Road Bellambi 2 blocks away from the Webb farmhouse

Robert was born on Tuesday 19th April 1955 at 4:30 am at Bulli Hospital, he weighed 9 lbs.

Robert, nearly 2 months

Robert, 2 ½ months

On 7th October 1955 the four of us (Keith, Graham, Robert and myself) set sail for England on the ‘Himalaya” to visit my mother and brother.

Before sailing from Sydney on the ‘Himalaya’. L – R: Trevor, myself, John
Barwise, Aunty Doll, Dot Bramsen, Robert, Joyce, Ronnie, Grandpop

England 1955 – 1956

Rob and Graham    

                   Robert  

Robert and Graham.

Suez Canal

Graham and Robert at our home on Pioneer Road Bellambi.

We returned to Australia in March 1956 on ‘Iberia’, my mother and brother came back with us, much to our delight. It was on ‘Iberia’ that we first met Ian Gibb, he was then a Cadet or Junior Officer, aged 19. Rob had owned a Sweet, Tobacconist and Lending Library business for about 4 years, so he had to sell that before leaving England. A few months after our return they bought a house in Alban Street, Corrimal.

Annette was born on Wednesday 11th June 1958 at 10:20 am at Bulli Hospital, she weighed 8 lbs 12 ½ oz.

Annette’s Christening

 

 On Annette’s second birthday we moved into a mixed business on Pioneer Road, East Corrimal.

Annette outside our shop pioneer Road East Corrimal.

After six years we sold up and moved to Sturdee Ave, Bulli.

5 Sturdee Avenue Bulli – Keith just loved his garden !

No 5 Sturdee Ave Bulli

 

Keith then got a clerical position at A.I.S.

 

Grandma Skeet was in hospital and Nursing Home for nearly 2 ½ years before she died on Robert’s 17th birthday, 19th April 1972. She was cremated and her ashes are at Wollongong Crematorium.

Uncle Rob retired and moved out to Thelma Lodge Retirement Village, Woonona. He passed away in Wollongong Hospital on 12th December 1994 after a heart attack. His heart had been weakened when he was 7 years old after suffering Rheumatic Fever. He was cremated and his ashes are in Wollongong Crematorium close to Grandma Skeet.

Rob, Annette and Robbie 1994

 

In case you’re interested, Eileen, who came out to stay with us, was my father’s cousin. Her father, Joe, was one of Julia and Harry Brown’s sons.

With Eileen and Ian Gibb 1980

 

When I look back on my childhood, it was a very happy one. I had good parents, even if I did sometimes think they were strict and I wasn’t allowed to do things that I wanted to, I realise now that it was for my own good.

 

OTHER RELATIVES

Aunty Amy, with her sons Roy and Harry, who were evacuated during the war

Aunty Amy made the boy’s suits

Evacuation in Bramford Derbyshire

With Aunty Amy in 1981

My cousin Roy with our Uncle Johnny, at his 90th birthday

Ronnie and Elaine used to come and stay with us.

With Trevor and Graham 1952

Graham, 2 years 2 months, with Trevor and Elaine

Family holiday to Queensland, 1965

Family holiday to Queensland, 1965

Rene & Keith in Dee & Graham’s Caravan November 2014

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I’ve been browsing on-line more than 3 hours as of late, yet I never found any fascinating article like yours. It is pretty price enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made just right content material as you probably did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before.

    1. Thanks for your kind words
      Cheers Graham

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