Mary Norreen Hart (b.1928): Home & Family [part 2].

“Our story starts in Aberfan, where Mama and Dada made their home”

Mary Hart’s home town is a key discussion in her memoir. Her attachment to Aberfan is something she draws upon. Home and family are linked throughout the text and it gives a little insight into how the community felt like one big family.

An image of Aberfan after the disaster in 1966.

On the mention of community, Mary says; ‘we lived in a village context where people knew one another and understood family connections’ (10). As a close-knit community, Mary suggests that the people of Aberfan understood each other’s connection with most being related through marriage in one way or another. Mary understands and even recognises that her huge family tree may be confusing to some, so her memoir consists of an appendix which explains significant family members in greater detail.

Move to Birmingham

Her sister Winnie (and husband) with Mary in Birmingham.

However, in the 1940s, Mary and her family migrated to Birmingham as in the ’20th century many doubted whether Wales could survive at all’ (Johnes, 2010, 1257). Mary mentions how difficult it was for her family due to ‘putting up with taunts from being different, trying to make sense of an alien environment’ (46). Mary makes a big deal out of her move. As a child, she recalls back to a time where moving to a different country was, as she suggests, distressful. Though the move was difficult, ‘the family continued to draw on its Welsh roots to sustain its values as it raised the next generation in Birmingham’ (5). Mary suggests that family traditions were made and influenced by their life in Aberfan, and those values are embedded today in the family that she made for herself.

‘from the valley born out of a community which got through hard times through resourcefulness, family bonds and a respect for education’

Mary writes with a strong sense of belonging and also reminiscing of her childhood. This is popular among working-class writers as ‘many other working writers looking back into their childhood seek to convey their nostalgia for a past ‘community’’ (Bourke, 1994, 137). Therefore, a place of home is just as significant as family bonds. Aberfan generates a sense of belonging for Mary, which is shown in how she ‘continued to draw on [her] Welsh roots’ (5) even after migrating.

Life after memoir

Mary and her husband with their 5 grandsons.

The idea of a family is the ‘basic unit for acquiring the means of existence’ (Vincent, 1980, 223). This resonates with Mary as although she only writes on her childhood; Mary inserts images of her children and her grandchildren at the end of her memoir. With this information, I was able to use their first names to find out about Mary’s life after her memoir. As Mary finishes her memoir with her move to Birmingham, I wanted to find out further information about her home and family situation in adulthood.

Family Tree

Mary’s family tree

Through using Ancestry.com, I was able to discover that Mary Hart (then Jones) marries Ronald Hart in 1953, 8 years after her move to Birmingham. From there Mary and Ron receive their children Rosslyn A Hart in 1961 and Lindsay J Hart 1968. I’ve inserted above Mary’s new family tree which includes the birth of 5 grandsons as well as her children’s marriages. Through this, we can come to the conclusion that her daughter Rosslyn Brown (then Hart), moves to Cheltenham where she has her children. Whereas, Lindsey seems to start a family in Birmingham. Interestingly, Rosslyn included her maiden name (Hart) in her children’s names.

Twitter conversation between Amber and I.

I thought this was quite unique, however, Amber Heyes informed me that her author (also called Mary) had a similar situation in her family. It’s clear that keeping names in the family was popular during the 19th to 20th century.

What’s interesting is that her daughter Lindsey names one of her sons Alexander ‘Ieuan’ Hammond. The name Ieuan originates from Wales and is the Welsh name for John (pronounced ‘Yey-an’). So, it’s clear that Mary’s Welsh roots still had an effect on her children and they wanted to honour that. It’s clear that the Welsh patriotism has stuck in the family up until the present day!

Proof read by Zoe and Shauna.

Bibliography

Bourke, Joanna. Working Class Culture in Britain, 1890-1960: Gender, Class and Ethnicity (London, Routledge, 1994)

Denison, Mary. ‘Church Bells and Tram Cars; a Vicarage Childhood’. Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:250, available at http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/10895

HART, Mary Norreen, ‘A Welsh Childhood: Memories of Aberfan 1928-1945 through the eyes of Mary Norreen Hart (nee Jones).’ (privately printed, 2011), pp.63. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel University Library. Special Collections, Vol.4.

Johnes, Martin. ‘For Class and Nation: Dominant Trends in the Historiography of Twentieth-Century Wales.’ Swansea University. History Compass 8/11 (2010): 1257–1274.

Vincent, David. ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century working Class’. Social History, 5.2 (1980): 223-247.

Shipton, Martin. ‘The ‘terrifying tale of bungling ineptitude’ that led to the Aberfan disaster’. Wales Online. Daily Herald. https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/terrifying-tale-ineptitude-aberfan-disaster-12025544

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