‘[A]lthough we are better off by far than our Mothers and Fathers, we seem to have lost something. Shall we say “Lost the grace out of life.”(Ford, 1987, p7)Annie Ford (p7)
The unpublished memoir of Annie Ford does not have a title, only her full name at the top. The absence of a title creates a sense of unknown and is not informative before reading. The memoir is seven pages long around 2,000 words and is in handwritten form.
Who was Mrs Annie Ford?
Mrs Annie Ford was born in 1920 on Collyhurst Road, Manchester in England. She was the youngest of five children born into a working class family and her parents were already in their forties when Annie was born. Annie recollects only having a vague memory of her two sisters and older brother being at home. However Annie lived with her Mother, Father and Brother who was twelve years her senior.
Annie’s Father worked full time as a foreman cabinet maker, however although earning good money, he stopped in 1922 due to an illness known as neurasthenia. This was an illness that created emotional disturbance to a person. This ill-defined medical condition lead to symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and irritability. Annie’s Mother helped with the family’s income: ‘Mum washed for the people who lived in the big house’ (Ford, 1987, p4). Her Mother also worked for a confectionary shop which sold treats and sometimes Annie, on a rare occasion. enjoyed some of the treats her Mother brought home.
The memoir focuses mainly on the theme of childhood and schooling. Annie recalls particular childhood memories such as playing a variety of games like ‘skipping ropes, hop scotch, football and marbles’ (p6). She talks fondly of her childhood memories at Willet Street Nursery, remembering the two teachers being ‘exceedingly kind and gentle’ (p5). From then onwards she talks of not so happy memories such as when she started Collyhurst Tin School at age fourteen. Annie spent two years here before moving to Smedley Road School. Annie writes her memoir using standard grammar that she will have learned at school.
Another of Annie’s fond memories was of going to the shops to get new clothes when she was a young child. Yet although her family could afford basic items of clothing, she was never bought the items she wanted to pick out. Annie did not complain as she was aware she was kept clean and well looked after. The memoir does not dwell on poverty. However as the years went by more of Collyhurst’s residents left and new ones arrived. According to Annie, this effected the status of the area. ‘Was vandalism beginning to show?’ she asks; ‘I suspect it was.’ (p2). These short and direct sentences reveal Annie’s memory of her declining class status and hints at the hard times faced by many in industrial communities like Collyhurst in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
‘Mrs Annie Ford (Born 1920)’, unpublished memoir, 2:291, Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiography, Special Collections Library, Brunel University. 2:291 FORD, Annie, Untitled, TS, pp.7 (c.2,000 words).
Brunel University Library. Images cited: Rochdale Road, Gas Works, Aerial image, 1939, via: