Una's Memoirs - 1920s - 1
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The 1920s

I was born at noon on Sunday the 24th of May 1925, at 23 Leabrooks Road, Somercotes, Alfreton in Derbyshire. I was named Una May Briggs. I have been told that the name Una was given to me out of respect for the skills of the lady doctor who attended at my birth, and May because it was becoming a family name. I was the 3rd daughter, and 4th and last child, of Elsie and George Briggs.

Me as a baby
Me as a baby

I was baptised on the 26th July 1925 at The United Methodists Church in Somercotes. The Minister who performed the ceremony was John Jay, and the Certificate was signed by Samuel Riley. 1925 was the 15th year of the reign of King George V of England, and the 24th of May is the anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria in 1837 which was celebrated as Empire Day.

My father George Briggs was born on 24th April 1889. George's birth was entered in the Family Bible as 2nd May, and because of this he said he celebrated his birthday on both dates. George was born at Seeley Terrace, Somercotes, and he lived there until his marriage. He was baptised at Salem Methodist Church, Somercotes in Derbyshire, on the 5th January 1890. His father was Joseph Briggs, a colliery labourer, and his mother was Ellen Hannah, whose maiden name was Bridden. At the time of my birth George Briggs was an insurance agent, but he had previously been a coal miner in Yorkshire and Derbyshire and had worked in the mines during the First World War.

My mother Elsie Briggs, nee Patrick, was born on 10th August 1888. Her mother was Jane Patrick, nee Gascoyne. Her mother registered Elsie's birth, but did not enter her husband's name as the father, or his occupation. Elsie was born at the house of William Gascoyne, her grandfather, at High Street, Somercotes. At the age of two Elsie was living with her uncle and aunt, Samuel and Edith Dooley, and their six year old son, Alfred. Her sister, Elizabeth, who was two years older, continued to live with her grandfather, William Gascoyne. In her early teens Elsie worked as a domestic servant, cooking and sewing. She worked for a family named Taylor in Alfreton, and later for a family named Smedley in Blackpool (I remember a visit from 'Grandma' Smedley in the 1930s).

Elsie and George had known each other from very early childhood. They were married on 23th December 1911 at the Baptist Chapel, Swanwick in Derbyshire. George was described as a coal miner. The witnesses were William Briggs, one of George's brothers, and Edith Victoria Dooley, who was Elsie's cousin. The Registrar was John J. Simpson.

My Father George's band (c1909).
My Father George's band (c1909).  He's the violinist pointed to by the arrow.
My Mother Elsie (c1929)
  My Mother Elsie (c1929)

My eldest sister Edna Lillian Briggs was born on the 8th July 1914, at Askern, in Yorkshire, and baptised on the 2nd August 1914. My next sister was Eva Clarice Briggs who was born on the 19th October 1916, at 23 Leabrooks Road, Somercotes in Derbyshire. My only brother, Harold Raymond, was also born at this address on 4th March 1920. Sadly he died on the 9th May 1920 due to broncho-pneumonia. I have often wondered what he would have looked like if he had been allowed to grow up, and I dearly would have liked to have known him.

I have been told that on the day I was born my two sisters, Edna and Eva, were asked to "behave themselves", and if they did they would be permitted to go "on the dray" in the afternoon with other children. The dray was a horse drawn cart used in the march from Alfreton to Codnor Park for a gathering of people from local Churches and Chapels where there was food and entertainment for all – of course they went and came home tired but happy! Two years later I remember that I was taken to one of these rallies, and I must have gone on the dray too, but all I remember was a lovely sunny day and the green grass where I could roll down the slopes. One of the things to see was the gymnastics display, and I remember this in particular because Alf and Sam Dooley, two cousins from Alfreton, were performing.

Edna and Eva with 'The Plane' at a churches and chapels gathering (c1919). A lock of my hair cut off when I was a young child.
Edna and Eva with 'The Plane' at a churches and chapels gathering (c1919).
A lock of my hair cut off when I was a young child.

My mother told me that up to the age of two I had shoulder length curly hair, but as it became "a bit of a job" to untangle it every day she arranged for me to have it cut short. When one of my grandfathers saw me the next day it seemed he was very upset, and cried to think I had "lost all my curls".

In 1927 the family bought, and moved into a new house about half a mile away. This was 'Sunnymede', Sleetmoor Lane, Somercotes in Derbyshire. As I was two years old by then I can just remember one or two things about this home. I remember sitting on a blanket in the back garden, and I was greatly amused by the small birds that came close to me to pick up the biscuit crumbs. I also remember the unusual design of my pram which was a half boat shape that enabled the bit at the foot to be swung down so that it was easy to sit up in. The hood and the handle were behind me, so I could always see where I was going. I expect I got wet once or twice when the rain blew in on me! At this time my sister Eva often had the job of looking after me, so to enable her to do this and do some of her school studies she would wheel me round to the cemetery which was near our old home, and there in the peace and quiet we stayed until the next mealtime. At this time my sister Eva had 'won' a place at Swanwick School which was a very good secondary school.

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