Sally in a Tree

About Bert:

Bertram Ryan, popularly known as Bert, was my grandma Elsie’s brother. From the cards and letters I’ve seen sent to her by him, he seemed to adore his sister. There was just a year in age between them. Bert signed up, as soon as he could by all accounts, with the navy and fought in World War II.

On his travels he met Ruth, originally from Melbourne but then living in New Zealand to help look after her family. They married when she was 23 and Bert brought her back to England during the war. Originally Ruth lived in London, though when the London home was bombed out, she moved to Waterloo near Liverpool, where she had an aunty and uncle. Again the home fell under attack from bombs and Ruth then moved  to Northowram in Halifax to stay with Bert’s family. Ruth gave birth to a daughter, Judith, when she was 25. When Ruth was 27, in 1942, she received a telegram letting her know that Bert was missing presumed dead. On November 10th, his ship the HMS Martin had been torpedoed off the coast of Algiers, North Africa.

These are the facts. Entwined and entangled within them are sadder stories of how families misunderstand one another, with grey areas, different perspectives which coloured and clouded the thoughts of generations. Perhaps one day I will pick out more facts to piece together some of the other stories within stories which can be told. Suffice to say, I’m honoured and warmed that this blog has brought me closer to family I might never have had the chance to spend time with otherwise, before it was too late.

In the meantime, as the keeper of family things, these medals came to me and helped me learn more about my great uncle Bert, who died aged just 27. Love to you Bert and Ruth, I hope you are now reunited have both found peace at last.

Grandad - Arthur Mulligan - set up the Astronomical Society at Nelson Grammar School*, where he taught Maths, in 1946. 
 
The society met monthly and kept detailed minutes of the techniques and equipment used, and the content explored in each meeting. Attendance registers were also kept, with around 15-30 students being involved in the society each year.

Many beautifully detailed diagrams were also included which showed the precision of Grandad’s mind, as well as the creativity of his thinking. For example, an illustration demonstrating how to prepare a reflector, which he likened to the petals of a flower; or the ‘convergence perspective’ in his lecture on Stellar Movements, in which he used a beautiful pen and ink sketch of a squadron of aeroplanes to illustrate the formation and illusion being referenced.

Arthur took the group to visit Preston Observatory every year, which from the minutes seemed to be a highlight for him and the students.

The last set of minutes in the book are from March 30th 1953, when a guest lecturer, Dr. Clegg, from Manchester University, gave a lecture on ‘Radio Astronomy’.

There are no further entries in the book, and no indication in the last minutes that the society planned to end. 

* Nelson Grammar School became Walton High School, which then became Pendle Vale College. 

I was touched to be given Elsie’s sewing table and sewing tins when she died. She was a prolific needlewoman and I remember the hundreds of times I saw her peering over an embroidery or tapestry frame. For a long time all her haberdashery supplies were left as they were, in my sewing cupboard. There was a huge tangle of embroidery threads in tins and bags and I’ve finally got round to sorting and tidying them. As I unwrapped the many ‘leftovers’ which she preciously saved for other projects, I unravelled the scraps of paper she’d wrapped them around. They date from 1938 to late 1950s (I’m guessing, from the design of the gas advert). The W. Ryan mentioned in the British Legion is William Ryan, Elsie’s dad. I’m still working through the threads, there may be more treasures to uncover yet…

Victorian necklace: silver with red glass droplets. This belonged to Annie Forsyth, mother of Arthur Mulligan and grandmother of Janet. Annie gave it to Arthur’s wife Elsie, who gave it to Janet, who gave it to me. We think it’s the only thing left of Annie’s possessions that have remained in the family.I remember playing with this as a little girl when I tipped out mum’s jewellery boxes, I had no idea it was so special. I’m filled with warmth to have it in my hands and know of its roots. I can’t help but wonder what sort of life Annie might have had, to have owned such an item, and what occasions she might have worn it for. 

Victorian necklace: silver with red glass droplets. This belonged to Annie Forsyth, mother of Arthur Mulligan and grandmother of Janet. Annie gave it to Arthur’s wife Elsie, who gave it to Janet, who gave it to me. We think it’s the only thing left of Annie’s possessions that have remained in the family.

I remember playing with this as a little girl when I tipped out mum’s jewellery boxes, I had no idea it was so special. I’m filled with warmth to have it in my hands and know of its roots. I can’t help but wonder what sort of life Annie might have had, to have owned such an item, and what occasions she might have worn it for. 

This time something on the Entwistle side.
One of Lily / Grandma’s treasures, given to me Christmas 2007.

At the time we thought it was the only thing remaining with her maiden name, Pope, (though now I know otherwise, more on that another day).

It has slide out rulers on each side in centimetres and inches. I didn’t expect to see centimetres on something of that age. It also has a secret pencil drawer underneath and a slide out section.

And the most beautiful floral decoration. As far as I can work out it’s about 1930-32, but perhaps you know more definitely?