“We had some happy days and sad ones too” (p4)
Ruth Cox was born in 1890 and her memoir, titled White Knob Row, framed through typed letters written to her great-great grandchildren, describe her experiences growing up in Hyde, Cheshire. Ruth wrote White Knob Row in 1978, at the age of 88.
The title White Knob Row, is a reference to the nickname given to Nelson Street, the street in which Cox was born and later lived with her husband. She states the name White Knob Row, “originated because every door had a white china pot knob.” (p1)
Ruth Cox came from a working-class family in Hyde. She had eight siblings, six brothers and two sisters. Her father was an engineer and the manager of a mechanics works called Goodfellows whilst her mother was a housewife who worked hard to make sure that the children and her husband had everything they needed. Family is a key theme for Ruth and she conveys a true sense of family spirit and community in White Knob Row. The environment she depicts in her writing is an extremely loving one where all the children and parents looked out for one another, especially in times of war. We can see the communal spirit and sense of togetherness within the Cox household when Ruth writes that her father would, “get up at 4, he always lit the fire and toasted a whole large loaf for us all who had to go to work. He would spread the butter on the toast and make a large pot of tea and we all came down for breakfast. Mother used to put ready our breakfast boxes and billy cans”. (p5)
Ruth covers a variety of topics and themes such as love and relationships, school and education and family, but one of the most pivotal themes in Ruth’s writing is about work, and more specifically, her work as a member of the Women’s Voluntary Service during the Second World War.
“When the bombs came down…we took and looked after those people in the shelters” (p9)
Her work as a member of the Voluntary Service is something Ruth was passionate about and seemed to fill her with a real sense of purpose. The selflessness of her voluntary work indicates the warm and kind nature Ruth had. The work included looking after evacuated children, delivering aid to those who needed it and helping the members of the Fire brigade with respite, aid, food and drink.
The tone and the mood of Ruth’s writing shifts constantly. Some parts are written concerning the joy and happiness of working-class life in Hyde, whilst other parts are tinged with sadness and a sense of melancholy.
“I would like to dedicate this book to my great-grandchildren, Oliver and Elanor. May they know and reach the fullness of life and be happy” (p11)
Due to the fact that Ruth was writing her memoirs for her great-grandchildren, there is a personal touch throughout. This personal writing style is important as, for the modern reader of Ruth’s autobiography, we feel included. Ruth’s use of personal pronouns when writing to her great-grandchildren, such as ‘you’ and ‘we’, help to fully immerse the reader into Hyde at that particular time of writing and truly allow themselves to be drawn into the stories Ruth is painting.
Cox, Ruth, ‘White Knob Row’,1:184 TS, pp.11 (c.4,000 words). Brunel University Library.http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/9489
Rutherford, Harry. ‘Nelson Street, Hyde and St. Georges Church’ http://www.clark-art.co.uk/artists/4278/12233/harry-rutherford/nelson-street-hyde-and-st-georges-church
The Daily Mail, ‘World War II Women’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3603271/Poignant-photos-never-seen-diaries-reveal-everyday-struggle-hidden-army-women-volunteers-kept-Britain-feet-WWII.html