The memoirs of George Clifton Hughes focus on his early years, in particular his education and the recreational activities that he took part in as a child. In some ways his work is rather impersonal as he does not disclose his date of birth, occupation as an adult or much about his home life. His focus is mainly on his transition through to grammar school and the relationships he built with his teachers. This is not to say that his family was not important to him but it seems as though he believed his education to be the most important subject to his selected audience. This could have perhaps been due to the significant change of school systems in the twentieth century.
Hughes is proud of his heritage as the majority of the memoirs are set in his hometown of Rhosllanerchrugog and the surrounding area. His home is clearly important to him as is his family. Despite his family or home life not being the main focus of his work, Hughes does dedicate some of his memoirs to some of his relatives.
The section titled, ‘What’s in a name? – Sarah Clifton’, focuses on his grandmother in relation to where he got the name Clifton. ‘The name Clifton was my grandmother’s, Sarah Clifton. She first came to Rhos and set up business. Her married daughter followed several years later, early in 1910.’ (33) This section is interesting as it is the first insight that we gain into his family history. He tells of how he respected his grandmother a great deal as she was ‘a comparatively well off person’ (33) but was ‘very generous to her family who made not infrequent requests for help of one sort or another.’ (33) It is interesting to see how his working-class family were helped by their seemingly wealthy relative. His family was clearly close and willing to help each other in times of difficulty due to unemployment.
Hughes describes how his grandmother owned a farm shop which she worked incredibly hard to make successful. ‘She had five children, my Aunt Esther from her first marriage who resembled her features, my Aunts Sarah Jane and Liz, my mother and my Uncle Jack, who was the youngest. She was left a widow and brought up the five children in a shop at Sim’s Cross in Widnes. She used to relate how she would be catching an early train to Liverpool at five in the morning, to attend the market, do her buying and be back as early as she could to attend to the demands of business and her family.’ (33) This is an important section as we see the hardship which encircled his grandmother’s life and how she did whatever she could in order to care for her children. The shop was what kept the family together and Hughes tells a story of how the local chapels asked her to close her shop on a Sunday as they did not like seeing ‘business conducted on God’s day.’ (33) This was respected by his grandmother; however her reply was, ‘“I’ll close my shop if you pay my rates.”’ (34) Sarah Clifton could not afford to close her shop for even one day as that was what fed her family.
It is clear that Hughes learnt a great deal from his grandmother as he speaks so highly of her achievements. ‘Friday morning came and only one customer came in the shop for [a] few pounds of potatoes and to price most of the goods, with the comment, “They do look nice, don’t they? I’ll be in later.” Not very promising.’ (35) The shop had not started well, but his grandmother kept travelling to Liverpool early in the morning for produce and was determined to make it work. This is exactly what happened; ‘Saturday night was the time when a considerable amount of shopping was done by Rhos people. There was very little shopping undertaken in Wrexham and certainly for food people shopped at home.’ (35)
Hughes also briefly discusses his father in the section titled, ‘The First Wembley Cup Final of 1923’. His father was unable to attend the historic trip down to London to watch the cup final and this gives Hughes an opportunity to give the reader some information on him. ‘I know he was disappointed at not being able to go. He was a very gregarious person. He just enjoyed being with people. As for the football side of it, there was no game to equal Rugby League and in his day he had played for Widnes and Saint Helen’s Recs.’ (87) ‘He had a generous nature, too generous by far according to my mother, but apart from the money aspect things, this was so.’ (87) This is the only section which gives the reader an insight into his parent’s characters. Even these descriptions play a small part in a larger story (his trip to Wembley). Perhaps he felt that this would not be of any particular interest to his audience, which I believe to be the case, as he shows no animosity towards his parents and portrays them as good natured people.