My elder sister is researching our family tree.
I am interested predominately in the maternal branch of the family which seems to originate between Quaker stock from Bristol and poor Irish folk from the back and beyond but my sister quite rightly is collating all the information from both sides.
Yesterday we went to see Joyce, my father's cousin to see if she could furnish us with more information.. Approaching 90 she is the oldest surviving member of his side of the family.
We chatted about this and that , made notes of a long forgotten aunt and had tea and cake, so my sister and I were not quite prepared when our host, with unexpected candour talked about just how dour and bad tempered our grandfather, her uncle, was.
In those days my great grandfather presided over his children with a somewhat iron and controlling fist and each one lived in a house which he had built, the houses set in a row. My grandparents brought up my father and his brothers right next door to Joyce and she remembered just how cruel my grandfather was to my father.
" we heard the beatings through the wall you see" Joyce told us " He used a belt with a.buckle and he never hit the younger boys just Ronnie..Ronnie was the eldest of course, it was always Ronnie that was beaten"
Joyce then recalled that the punishments became so bad that, that her grandfather was informed and subsequently intervened. And it was thought that the abuse stopped although they were never quite sure it did.
When he was alive , my father never spoke of this time at home.
This snippet of a sad part of my father's childhood upset both me and my sister, perhaps for different reasons.
I looked at him in a slightly different light than I had before , for I know, that it is common that the eldest child will often take abusive behaviour from a parent in a way of protecting other siblings.
Apart from the odd 1960s/70s smack , my father was in no way a cruel man with his children. In many ways, especially in later life, he was indeed a sensitive soul.
That's why this news, perhaps sounded so shocking.
* the photo is of the autumn sun glowing on the trees of the churchyard and was taken by teenage boffin Cameron