Frank George Marling: (1863-1954): Transcript – Part Two

1: 492 MARLING, Frank George, ‘Reminiscences’, TS, pp.22 (c.16,000 words). BruneI University Library.

[Continued from part one of this transcript]


Reminiscences (Vol. 2)

By F. G Marling

Some Berkeley Worthies

When I was a boy there were in Berkeley a number of interesting “characters”, such as were then to be found in most country villages – Johnny Parsons, “Gudge” King, Polly Ruther, Mrs. Tremern, Bell the Chemist, “Long” Bell, “Barmy” Baker, and others.

Of these, Johnny Parsons was the only one with whom we boys associated. He was of a highly respectable father and mother who lived down the Stock Lane, but, alas, he was not quite right in his head, though of a perfectly harmless disposition, and in his way clever and witty. His great hobby was (p.118) making coffins, and his chief diversion attending funerals. Mr. Charles Ayliffe, carpenter and maker of coffins, had a large workshop and timber yard in Salter Street. Thither Johnny constantly resorted and by the forbearance and kindness of Mr. Ayliffe amused himself with odd pieces of wood, and succeeded in making beautiful little toy coffins. I often thought it was a pity he could not have been trained in the use of his hands – he would doubtless have become a useful member of the society.

When I was ten years old, he would be, I suppose, about twenty, just left to wander about and amuse himself in such a way as his poor, scanty wits would suggest [word crossed out, replaced with, suggest] (p.119) that he was not altogether devoid of sense was demonstrated one day when he joined a gang of us boys who were watching a funeral procession passing through the churchyard gates, being met there by the clergyman in his white surplice. “Ah,” said Johnny, (alluding to the clergyman), “I be more than he.” “How’s that, Johnny?” “Well,” Johnny replied, “He’s only a Parson, and I be Parsons.” Here was both humour and subtle reasoning. Oh, the pity of it that this gentle soul could not have been taken in hand ‘ere boredom and ennui did its work, for, alas, not many years elapsed before the morbid side of his character gradually developed, and his taste (p.120) for coffins and funerals led at last to the idea of digging his own grave, culminating in an attempt to bury himself in a self dug grave in the garden… So poor Johnny had to be put away, where restraint and repression would soon bring about the inevitable end.

“Gudge King”, otherwise known as “Tarbox” – a short, squat, figure of a man, whose main occupation, when he did have anything to do, was to go about smothered in tar, carrying a tin of the same and a long handled tar brush, for the purpose of tarring fences. Mostly, however, he belonged to the company of those who lingered at the corner of the Market Square, waiting, Micawber-like, for something to turn up!

(p.121) Polly Ruther, a half-witted young woman, too dull to do much other than stand at the street end of the alley leading up to the Court where she lived. Most people passed her by, but the impressionably young fry always had two questions to ask her, which invariably brought the same answers.

“What did you have for breakfast, Polly?” A. “Fat.”

“Who is your sweetheart, Polly?” A. “Mrs. Marling.” (My Mother).

The Marling pronounced as Murling and the second syllable cut short.

Another Polly was Polly Hopkins, a hard working woman who, at one time, came to do the washing for Mother. She would put her shrivelled, sodden, hands right into the boiling water to pull out the clothes, and when my (p.122) Mother urged her to use the boiler stick she would say, “ah, Ma’am, that won’t hurt me, I should make a good devil.”

Mrs. Tremerne was a short old woman, whose husband suffered terribly from chalk gout, pieces of chalk exuding at times from his fingers. I believe Mr. Tremerne was a working tailor. They lived in a little house in Mary-le-Port Street, the living room being a step down from the pavement level, and opening right into the street. On the wall facing the door hung an old-fashioned clock, with a long pendulum which swung to and fro with a loud, solemn “tick, tock.” The remarkable thing about Mrs. Tremerne was her likeness to Queen Victoria. It is said that (p.123) two gentlemen staying at Berkeley Castle were one day walking in the town when one of them clutched the other by the arm, and in a low, startled voice said “Good G__, there is Queen Victoria!” It was, however, Mrs Tremerne.

Mrs. Tremerne was chapel cleaner at the Union Chapel, and one Sunday morning had left her black cloak hanging up behind the vestry door.

A stranger was preaching that morning, and apparently was in the vestry unattended by any Church official. It was then the custom to wear a black gown when preaching, and looking about for the preacher’s gown, the visiting parson espied the old (p.124) black cloak hung on the door. Concluding it was the Minister’s gown he took it down and with a struggle got into it, the sleeves reaching about half way up his arm! His appearance in the pulpit was the cause of much amusement to the congregation, who recognised the garment instantly!

Long Bell was easily the tallest man in Berkeley, hence his nick-name. He was very thin and straight. By way of contrast was Mr. John Bell, the Chemist, of fair height and very portly in figure. His shop was at the corner of Church Lane and High Street, with a window looking into either, the shop door being in between, ie right at the corner, with a view up the (p.125) High Street. Young and old resorted to Bell the Chemist for remedies for all sorts of complaints. His invariable first question, shouted out in a voice heard all up the High Street, after you had meekly said, say, “I don’t feel very well, Mr. Bell”, was: “and WHAT is the state of your BOWELS?”

Your answer to this vital question gave him, I presume, the clue to his prospective treatment of your complaint!

I know the question fired stentoriously at me, a little laddie, the first time I ventured to seek his advice, nearly frightened me out of my wits! I have previously related how his son, Johnny, a playfellow of mine, died of typhoid fever whilst I was (p.126) laid up with the same complaint.

“Barmy” Baker was a thick set, shortish man who, in his white smock or coat, walked from Berkeley to Dursley two or three times a week, and walked back each time carrying on his head a large tin containing several gallons of barm obtained from a bakery at Dursley, and brought for the use of the bakers at Berkeley. Barmy Baker carried this balanced on his head all the six miles from Dursley. Another character well known in Berkeley when I was a boy was Tailor Dauncy. He worked for Mr. Poole, the tailor in High Street, and came in every working day morning from Mobley or Berkeley Heath. Rain or shine, summer or winter, he always brought a (p.127) large green umbrella and was never seen without it.

Thomas Woolwright lived in a large house in Salter Street. He was very deaf, and after he had gone to bed, if one listened outside his house, you could hear him shouting out to his housekeeper who slept in the next room.

At one time he played the violincello in the Berkeley Union Chapel Band, in which my father also played piccolo or violin, and of which my grandfather, James Eley, was leader. The band was superseded by an American organ before my time.

When I knew Thomas Woolwright (p.128) he used to sit in the front seat of the chapel, and for the purpose of hearing [word crossed out] the sermon placed to one ear an ear trumpet, which was connected by a tube running under the floor with a flattened funnel shaped arrangement fixed to the front of the pulpit reading desk to catch the preacher’s voice.

[Words crossed out, The Lamplighter]

Father and Mother attended the Berkeley Union Chapel, and, of course, took us children. Allan and I went to the Sunday School. I can just remember the infant class to which I belonged at first, and the box of letters for making the words. We met in the vestry. Then, later, I was passed on to the boys’ class. One teacher we liked was Mr. King, a blacksmith of (p.129) the town. Another teacher, who read his lesson out of a book, did not command very great respect thereby.

A Minister at Union Chapel in my early days was a Mr. Hurd, very sedate and stiff. He much annoyed my brother Allan one day by asking him “well, my little man and how many legs has a cow?” Such a babyish question for a boy of seven!

Another Minister we greatly liked was the Rev. George Robinson, a sensible, jolly man whose hearty laugh at a joke did one good. I was envious of Allan when he was put up into Mr. Robinson’s bible class, and hoped I should soon be old enough for the same. However, Mr. Robinson was gone (p.130) before then. He came to our house to tea one day, and when he exclaimed “why Frankie, wherever do you put it all?” He threw back his head and roared with laughter when I promptly replied “In a bag, sir.” Yes he was the sort of Minister one liked to meet with. His wife, Cicely, was a very sweet woman. After he left there came a Rev. David Evans, a Welshman, a wonderful preacher but no talker out of the pulpit. He would come to see us, and he and my father would sit on either side of the fireplace smoking their pipes. (p.131) Father would tell a humorous story, at the end of which Mr. Evans would continue puffing solemnly away for (it seemed to us) quite five minutes in absolute silence, and then suddenly he would exclaim “Very good indeed, yes indeed.” It was during his preaching that I first remember, as a boy, making an effort to follow a sermon through. I realise now that it does require an effort for a boy to listen with attention all through a sermon.

When I was about ten years of age Will Ayliffe and I, also another boy of whose identity I am not now sure, got up early one Saturday morning by arrangement to accompany Mr Alfred Merrett, then (I Think) our Sunday (p.132) School teacher, on his round as a postman. Leaving Berkeley about 6.30am we walked through Wanswell to Brookend, where he treated us each to a tart at Nancy Griffin’s, thence via the Malt house down the fields to Sharpness. The new docks were then in the making, and we walked across the narrow neck of land waiting to be cut through to connect the new docks with the canal. Then over in the ferry boat to the canal tow path. You pulled yourself over by means of a rope, one end was attached to either shore at opposite ends of the boat. Proceeding down to the Old Dock, then over the entrance gates and round the rocks by the Plantation, letting ourselves (p.133) down off the rocks by means of a rope attached to a chain slung on a tree which hung over the cliff at the edge of the Plantation. Walking along the shore we came to the Holy Hazel Pill, which we crossed by means of a plank just where the new entrance is now. We must have made a divergence on to the new docks works as I remember looking down into the bottom of the dock where navvies were at work excavating, filling trucks with soil which were pulled away by small railway engines. I remember walking along Dock Row where the lockmen’s houses were, and noticing what nice little flower gardens they had in front (p.134) of the houses, little thinking I should presently be living in one of the block of houses, and live there in the same house for almost 54 years. Afterwards we left the dock works and went across fields to Sanigar and Oakhunger Farms, then across fields and along the lane to Oakhunger and thence into Berkeley where we arrived about 10.30, after seven miles of tramping. At Oakhunger Farm we were given a drink of whey, which we very much appreciated.

(p.135) Removal from Berkeley to Sharpness 

The Sharpness New Docks were opened on Wednesday 25 November 1874, between eight and nine in the morning. I was to have gone with my Father to the opening but it turned out such a pouring, wet morning that it was felt inadvisable that I should go. It would have meant walking nearly three miles each way besides standing about in an exposed place in the rain. My Father’s duties, as Clerk to the Dock Company, called him there, so of course he went. In the evening he told us how the “Director” was the first ship to enter, followed by the “protector”, both sailing vessels, assisted by tugs. (p.136) Up to then the Dock Company’s Sharpness office was at the Old Dock, where Father was in charge, he being assisted by a young man names Joseph Sturge.

With the opening of the New Docks the Dock Company decided to have an office there and to transfer my father there, giving him a young man, Harry Hall, to assist him, Mr. Sturge remaining at the Old Dock office, and to be accountable to father.

The Dock Company said they would build an office, with dwelling house attached, for my father, as they wished him to live on the spot instead of walking from and to Berkeley as he had done for some 25 years.

(p.137) Meanwhile they fitted up the ground floor of one of the houses originally intended for lockmen, but till then occupied by the dock contractors, and the house next door forming part of the same block, together with two of the bedrooms over the offices, was allocated to father as a dwelling house, and thither we moved in September 1875. (The new office and dwelling house was never built!).

What an exciting time for us children it was! Allan went off early from Berkeley in the morning with father to the Old Dock. I stayed behind and when the first load of furniture was piled up in Mr. Mabet’s open van, I was hoisted on top, together with our retriever dog, and travelled the three miles to Sharpness (p.138) via Wanswell and Brookend, keeping a tight hold on “Nero” to prevent him dashing through a looking glass, or otherwise disturbing the furniture!

My dinner consisted of a currant roll, eaten standing at a window looking into the garden. Later in the day, having seen all the goods moved from the house in Salter Street, Berkeley, mother arrived with the younger children in a brougham.

I presume we all set to work, and then got our beds up for the night, at any rate we were soon settled.

What a strange place Sharpness was then!

The only brick built houses on the New Docks were the eight, in (p.139) four blocks of two each, occupied respectively by six lockmen, the new Dock Office, and ourselves.

Turf huts there were in plenty, occupied by the navvies and other men still engaged in finishing the work around the docks. The first grain warehouse was being built.

The railway from Sharpness to Berkeley Road was under construction. There was no gas, no school, no church, no shops, but a kind of general store and post office. We had to use condensed milk and get our meat once a week from a butcher who came with supplies to a public house, formerly a farm house, at Oldminster. The office was not opened next (p.140) door for a little time after we settled in, and as the open dock side stretched right away from our premises Mother felt lonely and insecure, especially as there were rough navvies and foreign sailors all over the place.

One day, just before one o’clock, mother was busy over the range preparing dinner, and expecting father in from the Old Dock any minute, when she heard the front door open and shut, then the living room door open quietly. Thinking it was Father, she did not look up for a moment as the cooking needed attention but as Father did not speak, after a while she looked round, and to her horror discovered a big foreign sailor in the room!

(p.141) Poor Mother almost fainted, but the sailor held out a letter and said “Post Office?” Mother managed to make him understand that the Post Office was elsewhere and the man, perfectly harmless, left. Father came in, and explained that in their country (Norway) to which the sailor belonged it was customary to walk into each other’s houses uninvited. However, after that our front door was always locked, or fastened with a little bolt.

Soon, however, the Dock Office was established next door, and with Father so close at hand Mother felt more secure.

With the advent of the Dock Office, my father, who was in charge of (p.142) same, was also appointed Sub Postmaster, and the Post Office was moved from the wooden shop where it had till then been located, near the old “Shanty” (a Public House overlooking the canal near the Old Dock) to one of the rooms in the Dock Offices side of our block. The old Post Office and shop had to be pulled down to make way for a coal tip.

Allan had left school by the time we went to Sharpness, and he was installed as Father’s assistant in the Post Office work while Father had a young man named Harry Hall to help him in the Dock Office.

It will be realised that in those early days there was hardly (p.143) any permanent residents at Sharpness other than Dock officials, so it was natural that the Dock Company had to nominate one of their staff to take over the postal duties.

The letter box was cleared once a day, at five o’clock, and there was one delivery, the letters being sent out from, and despatched to, Berkeley (by a postman on foot) under which office Sharpness was a sub-office.

I had to go to Berkeley to school, and to avoid the nearly three mile / walk to + fro it was arranged between my parents and Mr. Alfred Merrett and his wife (Mr. Merrett being the Sharpness postman and therefore in daily contact with my father) that (p.144) I should go to Berkeley on Monday mornings and stay with Mr. And Mrs. Merrett till Friday afternoon, sleeping with their son Harry, I to buy my own meat, butter, bread, tea, sugar, milk, etc, Mrs. Merrettt doing such cooking as I needed. For this Mrs. Merrett offered to be paid one shilling and sixpence a week. I must say she looked after me very well, and when they had any I always shared their green vegetables and pudding.

I think the Merretts were glad to get a companion for their son, an only child, who was older than I was. On winter evenings we used to play draughts in a tiny room, with sometimes other boys joining us. Apart from (p.145) his job as postman, Mr. Merrett was a cobbler, and had a shoe shop, Mrs. Merrettt looking after the shop. One thing she did for me – she taught me how to pack parcels! A journeyman named Driver and anther worked at the cobbling for them, and Mrs. Merrett used to make paste for the shoemakers, but, so she used to say, she made it so good the men used to eat it! After a time, the railway from Berkeley Road to Sharpness was opened and then it was arranged that I should go to Berkeley by train in the morning, the Sharpness station then being at Oldminster, and walk back in the evening

. Mother, Allan and I went in the first train from Sharpness (p.146) to Berkeley, my ticket being the first return ticket Sharpness – Berkeley.

I stayed at school until I was fourteen and a half. I well remember the day I left, it was quite unexpected. It was 18 July 1877. I left home that morning as usual, going up to Berkeley by the train about 8.00am.

During the interval between morning and afternoon school a message reached me that I was to go home. When I got home I was told that my Grandmother Eley, in Bristol, had died after a short illness and that my Mother had gone there.

Father went down for the funeral and I stayed home to help. It was a busy time in the office and I was useful delivering (p.147) telegrams, etc, and it was decided that I should not go back to school. /I was very grieved about my Grandmother’s death. After Grandfather Eley died (before I was born), she continued to live in Berkeley for a time. I remember going to see her in a house in the High St. (p.148)

Then, when I was quite small, she and my youngest aunt, Aunt Fanny, went to live in Bristol, and on several occasions I went to stay with the. I enjoyed this very much, and used to roam about the City by myself. At other times going with Grandma to call on Uncle Edward or Aunt Emily (Mrs. Greening) who also lived (p.148) in Bristol at that time.

On the day that Grandma Eley died, Mrs. Anne Eley of Kingswood, Wotton-under-Edge, (the widow of my mother’s first cousin, James Eley) with two or three of her children, including Kate and John, called to see us, they having been down to the Plantation for a picnic. Going to the station to see them off we found the Lock Gates were open, so we had to walk across on the “Baulk”, a floating wooden structure across the entrance to the locks. John was quite a little boy and I carried him across! In later years he far topped me in height, size and weight!

The years that followed came (p.149) and went. One can give but a brief impression of them. I could not get any settled job. I helped my father in the Post Office, went with telegrams, and eventually learnt to send and receive telegrams on the single needle instrument then in use. But Allan was the recognised assistant. I had no definite status. If there was a telegram to be delivered beyond the free limits I was glad to take it for the sake of the fee for delivery, payable by the addressee, a shilling or sixpence. Once I went to the Manager of the Gloucestershire Banking Company at Berkeley to enquire if I might be given a position in (p.150) the Bank. I was then eighteen and he said I was too old to start. I talked of trying to get into a drapery firm in Bristol, but nothing came of it. Then just when I was twenty, Harry Hall, who assisted my Father in the Dock Office, developed consumption, and was ordered a sea voyage to Australia. I was appointed temporarily in his place. Poor Harry died before reaching Australia, and the Dock Company took me on a £1 per week. I paid 10/1 or 12/6d a week to my mother for my keep, insured my life with the United Kingdom Temperance and General Assurance Institution for £100 with profits payable at death or on attaining (p.151) 40 years of age, for I argued to myself, by that time I may have children and I am determined to give them a better education than I have had myself, and this may enable me to do it. The premium was £6-2s-10d per annum.

A little time after this I began paying £1 a month into the Bristol Economic Building Society to save up for the eventuality of getting married.

Meanwhile, Sharpness was growing. The navvies ‘ huts, row by row, disappeared. Brick houses and wooden shops were built. Warehouses were erected. In 1879 the Severn Bridge was completed and the Sharpness (p.152) Railway Station was moved from Oldminster to its present position, a site less convenient for the people, but perhaps more so for the Railway Company. The opening of the Severn Bridge was celebrated by a large gathering of invited guests, who travelled across the bridge and partook of luncheon in a marquee erected near the Severn Bridge Station. Whilst the bridge was in construction I walked across once or twice. My Father was given a pass to permit him and his family to walk over. He took us one day. We had to get over the canal bank wall, walk across planks on to a wooden staging, up a wide (p.153) ladder or steps up to the bridge itself. I also walked across with a telegram once. As is evident the bridge is supported on piers. These consist of iron cylinders built up in sections, the bottom bolted on to the solid rock, then filled with concrete. When the sections lay on the ground at Sharpness waiting to be conveyed out to their positions I walked through a number of them. As the sections were taken out to the river in barges they were lowered over the side into the river and gradually built up. To enable the riveters to work inside the cylinders a bulkhead with double doors (p.154) was erected at the top of each cylinder, and air pumped in at high pressure to keep out the water.

On one occasion then this was being done a man fell from the top inside a cylinder, a fall of about thirty feet. In ordinary circumstances a fall such as this would have probably have killed him, but the buoyancy of the compressed air under his clothes so reduced the force of his fall that he was practically uninjured.

Religious services were held during the construction of the Docks in a tent.

In quite early days after the opening of the Docks, services were held in a wooden room alongside (p.155) the Dry Dock, a Sailors’ Missioner from Bristol frequently conducting same.

Then a lady provided a corrugated iron structure at the end of Dock Row, and the services were continued there. Services of an evangelical nature attended by the inhabitants quite freely irrespective of their religious denomination.

Soon after this the St. Andrew’s Waterside Mission became interested in the work, and eventually the oversight and direction of the services was handed over to the Vicar of Berkeley, and a Dock Chaplain was appointed, whose stipend of £150 a year was contributed in equal proportions (p.156) by the Sharpness Dock Company, St Andrew’s Waterside Mission, and the Vicar of Berkeley. The services had by now become definitely as laid down by the Church of England, and those who were Nonconformists no longer felt at home in same.

This led to a movement for a nonconformist place of worship, and my Father and others approached the Union Chapel, Berkeley, who decided to build a branch chapel at Sharpness. Just at that time a field at Oldminster was offered for sale in building plots, and the Chapel Committee secured a plot on which was built the first temporary Union Church.

(p.157) Houses were built forming a little centre, and the newly built place was named “Newtown.” I have dealt with the history of the Sharpness (Newtown) Union Church in my booklet entitled “The First Fifty Years of Sharpness Union Church, 1880-1930”, which I wrote in 1930 at the request of the Minister and Deacons, so there is no need to repeat it here.

In 1879, when I was 16 ½ I commenced Sunday School teaching at Pitbrook Sunday School, transferring to Sharpness in February 1880, when the latter was opened.

In 1929 I was given the National Sunday School Union Diploma for fifty years continuous Sunday School service.

(p.158) The Sharpness Union Church was opened on 25 January 1880 and on the following Sunday a Sunday School was started.

The Rev. W.J. Humberstone was the Minister at Berkeley and became automatically Minister of Sharpness. On 29 February the first communion service was held, and at that service I was amongst those received into Church membership.

I remained a member until February 1932, when, with my wife, I was transferred to the Church at Old Town, Wotton-under-Edge. From the latter we were transferred on 4 March 1934 to Southgate Congregational Church, Gloucester. From the first I took an active part as teacher in the Sharpness (p.159) Union Chapel Sunday School, and in 1893 was appointed to the position of Superintendent, a post which I held until the end of July 1929 when I left Sharpness on retiring from business.

It is impossible to tell a hundredth part of one’s experience and activity in the Sunday School, of the hundreds of boys and girls whose careers I watched from their earliest infancy till they grew up, some of them into grandparents! Sunday followed Sunday, Anniversary followed Anniversary. The time seemed crowded with all kinds of activities. For many years I trained some fifty scholars for an annual Entertainment, consisting in later (p.160) years of an Operetta. The children loved these, and one got to know them so well in the practices. Sunday School and Christian Endeavour Conferences and Rallies on Good Fridays were a great feature for some 29 years. For a lot of these I wrote an “Exercise” for the children. The Anniversaries and Treats were great events, the latter especially being big undertakings. My greatest regret on giving up the work on leaving Sharpness in 1929 was severing my close connection with the young life of the Church and School. I always felt myself one with the children, and it was ever a delight to talk to them and enter into (p.161) their thoughts and feelings. I think it was because I had such a vivid recollection of my own thoughts and ideas as a child that I felt so much at home with children, and they with me.

With regard to my family, my wife and I were very happy together. I had joined the Church, as previously stated, on 29 February 1880 and was a Founder Member. On our marriage my wife became a member, and in every way with regard to temperance, thrift, management of home and children, etc, we saw eye to eye. We first met when I was four years, four months old, the first week in May 1867, and I have a vivid recollection of same, but as Kate was then only just past her (p.162) second birthday (being born on 17 April 1865) she does not remember it. My Grandmother, who then lived in Berkeley, had occasion to go to Thornbury about some property of her late husband, and asked my Mother, also then living in Berkeley, to go with her – Mother took me. We drove in a dog cart driven by my Uncle Henry, who had taken over the saddlery business formerly carried out by my Grandfather (his father, James Eley) in Canonbury Street, Berkeley. I remember the white railings at the side of the road leading up to Bevington, so that shows we took the route through Hill. Next I remember seeing the Maypole at Moreton, and Uncle saying “A few days ago they were dancing round the Maypole.” Then I remember being in a house in Thornbury at the bottom corner of High Street as you turn round for Gloucester, and looking out of the window across “The Plain”, and seeing (p.163) people fetching water from the pump there. When we were ready to start for home someone said “Why not call at Moreton and see cousin James?” James was a first cousin of my mother and Uncle Henry, and kept a farm at Moreton, which was near Thornbury. I remember the left hand turn in the lane, then a big pond on the right overhung by a big tree (walnut, I think), then the garden gate and path up to the house (a double fronted one). As we walked up the path we could see through the right hand window on the ground floor, where in that room was cousin James’ wife sitting on a chair with a baby on her lap (this was Shield, the eldest boy). I was sent out to play with the two little girls, those would be Florrie (three the previous February) and Kate (just gone two), the first girls I ever remember seeing. They took me into their “house”, the interior of a huge hedge of box, hollowed out in the centre where was (p.164) a bare branch on which I sat and jogged up and down. We did not see cousin James as he was out in the fields and did not come in whilst we were there. I do not remember anything about the drive home.

With the exception of the brief visit on 18 July 1877 I did not see Kate again until March (I think) 1881 when she came to stay at our house at Sharpness for a week. She was sitting on a chair on the left of our sitting room not far from the door when I went in, and directly we saw each other we fell in love with each other. I was too young and shy to say anything but we both understood. One night as I was going to bed we accidently met at the bottom of the stairs and I kissed her hand. Strange to say, and to my great annoyance, it was Allan who had to go everywhere with her, to Berkeley and to Gloucester, and even to the station to see her off when she returned home. She was then living at (p.165) Mireford Farm, Kingswood, near Wotton-under-Edge and had lost her father some years before from typhoid fever. We corresponded for a couple of years, and then Uncle Henry, then in business as a saddler in Colston Street, Bristol, invited us both to visit him and his wife for a week. I suppose he saw how things were, and had a serious talk with me, saying he did not think we ought to marry as we were too nearly related, etc. As I was then only 20, and I suppose easily persuaded, I gave up all thought of Kate, and ceased to correspond.

Some years afterwards, when I was about twenty five, I became engaged to Emmie Fear, a daughter of Father and Mother’s old friends at Berkeley, Benjamin and Emma Fear. In the autumn of 1892 I went to London to see Emmie (where she was Assistant Matron of a home for girls) to arrange for marriage. She told me her feeling for me was like that for her brothers, so when I got home I wrote breaking off the engagement.

(p.166) There were other differences, particularly on religious matters. In the spring of 1893 I asked our choir at Union Church, Sharpness, if they would like to repeat a Service of Song that they had given at Sharpness, at a country place of worship. They were willing, I arranged with Shield Eley, who had the management of Stone Room (where I sometimes conducted services) to give the Service of Song there, he to take the choir. I arranged conveyance and took the choir over, and I did the reading. Shield brought his sister Kate, and seeing her again, unexpectedly, brought all my love back again, and I determined to try and win her. Her Mother, some time widowed, had not long before taken a large farm at Tortworth with the help of Shield and Ernest. Soon I found excuses for going to the farm and found


Image of “Mr and Mrs F. G Marling”, found online. Taken later on in his life, most likely during the time in which he had written the majority of his memoirs.


  • ‘Frank George Marling’ in Burnett, John, David Vincent, David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945. 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989)
  • Marling, Frank George. ‘Reminiscences’. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies. Brunel University Library. Special Collection, 1:492.

Images Used

[note: the memoirs do not have page numbers, I have included them myself for easier referencing].  

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