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My Family: Sell the Shops and Follow Me.

Updated on February 21, 2016

Sell up and follow me.

My Grandfather James Lee, came from a family with engineering interests in Cheshire. The business provided a living for his parents, himself and two brothers. In 1895 there was a dispute amongst them over the way the business was managed. My Grandfather wanted change, the others did not. This led to James leaving the family home, and the dispute was never reconciled. For the rest of his life James never saw his Father or Brothers again, he did see his mother but only once as I shall reveal later.

The Start Of A New Life.

James was not without money and was well able to fend for himself financially, he had extensive experience in metal work and knew he could find work elsewhere. So came the day he set off with a new cart and a strong horse to pull it, he knew there was call for engineering and forge work in the north of England. He decided to head for Newcastle. In those days of main roads and side roads I guess it must have taken him a week to get there. On arrival he set up a small forge and was soon undertaking work from local businesses. As time passed he moved into operating as a full time wheelwright, this meant travelling from place to place repairing or making cart wheels. There was considerable skill required for this work and business was good.

Settling Down And Romance.

James was a tall man who had a 'handlebar' moustache and always wore a bowler hat, usually wearing a waistcoat and without a jacket. He was a friendly approachable man who worked hard and liked a pint or two in the evening. It was one evening in 1900 that he went into a pub in a village outside Newcastle, there he was served by a lovely barmaid her name was Isabella and James was smitten. They started a courtship and soon they set up home together. Before long they needed somewhere to live and James bought a Greengrocery shop. At some point James decided to cease working as a wheelwright and bought the shop next door. Here they opened a pot shop selliing pots, pans and other kitchen utensils. All seem to have been well because their first child came along in 1903, a boy and they named him Jack. Three years later in 1906 came a second son, he was named Frederick and he was to become my Father. Two years later in 1908 came a daughter she was named Maisie and now the family was complete. They stayed in the shops throughout the years of the first world war, 1914-1918, times were tough but, like everyone else they had to put up with austerity.

The Years Pass By.

We move on now to 1920 by now James was known as Jimmy and Frederick was of course known as Fred. Jimmy who by now the reader must have realised was a free spirit, organised a trip to Manchester to watch Newcastle play Manchester United. The all male trip was made up of local men and customers of the shops. Having watched the match they were to stay overnight in Manchester. Sometime over the weekend Jimmy made a decision. When the party set off for Newcastle on the Sunday morning Jimmy wasn't with them. He had decided he liked Manchester so he sent a Telegram to Isabella ' Sell up and follow me '

Another New Beginning.

How long it took to 'sell up' I don't know but sell up she did and the four of them set off for Manchester. They loaded the cart with light furniture, boxes and bags, and a Parrot in a cage. Many times my Father laughed when telling us about this but of course it was not so funny at the time. The horse they used must have been strong, I don't know how long it took them but they got there in the end. Where they found accomodation each night I don't know, but having sold the shops money was not an issue. Indeed due to Jimmy's original background and his ability to find a good deal, money seemed not to have been a problem for most of the time.

The New Shops.

Jimmy who had now aquired the family term of 'Pa' had not been idle during his time in Manchester. He had been staying at the Midland Hotel, at that time it was Manchester's finest and to my mind it still is. To stay there one had to have funds to say the least and Pa had spent several weeks there. He also had access to enough money to buy a large double fronted shop on Stretford Road, a main thoroughfare through Manchester at the time. He immediately moved the family into these premises on arrival from Newcastle. They were to live upstairs and downstairs was opened as a new furniture shop.

A Meeting With Mother At The Midland Hotel.

Business was good and soon a second shop was rented half a mile down the road, this was opened as a new carpet shop. Pa walked between the shops during the day by this time they had employed two assistants. Over the years Pa had contact with George, one of his brothers. George had also left the family business and had gone to London, where he was now a Wholesale Jeweller. One day he contacted Pa and told him that he had told their mother that Pa was now in Manchester, she was coming to the Midland Hotel, she would be there for three days and she wanted to see him. She also knew from George that he had three children and that he had taken up with a Barmaid. Reluctantly Pa decided to go and see her, it was to be the last time. My Grandmother asked Pa to come back home and rejoin the business. Time had passed and his answer was no. His mother was even conditional on her offer he could come, 'but not the barmaid' neither did she mention his family can you imagine how he felt? I certainly can. So he left her that day and they never met again.

The Years Move On.

We are now in the1930s and Britain was hit with the slump as it was called. Furnishings were a luxury that few could afford and Pa like thousands of others, went bankrupt and closed the shops. He contacted George to tell him, George sent him an open cheque with a note to say take what you want. Pa thanked him but said no to his offer and returned the cheque. George came up to Manchester a few days later, he pleaded with Pa to take the cheque. He offered to go and pay any creditors personally, again Pa said no. At this George went back to London, I think that was the last time that they met. Things get a little patchy here. Pa and my gran eventually married in the registry office at All Saints in Manchester. The last I can remember is that they moved to Stretford an area four miles away and opened a cafe. It was there my Dad Fred met my Mother Violet. They were both looking in a pet shop window, a chance remark by Fred regarding the pets in the window, led to courtship, two children and 63 years of happy marriage. Pa died sometime before 1939, I know it was on New Years Eve because throughout my life there was always a toast at 12.00 midnight. Dad would raise his glass and say 'To Pa' we would do the same and say 'To Pa'. Even now on New Years Eve, my sister Dot and I still say 'To Pa'



My Family: The Second World War.



Manchester England 1920.
Manchester England 1920. | Source

Working Class Business

© 2012 Graham Lee

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    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Bison. Thanks for your visit and comment.

      Graham.

    • profile image

      Bison 2 years ago

      I can already tell that's gonna be super hefplul.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Bert. Thanks for your valued visit and comments.

      Graham.

    • profile image

      Bert 2 years ago

      A little rationality lifts the quality of the debate here. Thanks for coinnibutrtg!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Melia.

      Thank you for your welcome visit and comment.

      Graham.

    • profile image

      Melia 2 years ago

      This shows real extispere. Thanks for the answer.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi snowdrops. Thank you for your valued comments. I do appreciate them. Thanks again for your votes. If only we could all learn from the past.

      Graham.

    • snowdrops profile image

      snowdrops 5 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      Family histories are always fascinating stories. One could also learn a thing or two from these memories. UP UP and all!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi molometer. Thank you for your most welcome comments. Yes it is truly a real slice of life. Thank you for your votes, I do appreciate your interest and response.

      Graham.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a fascinating story, all the more so as it is a personal family history. Brilliant work.

      This is a slice of British social history.

      Thank you for sharing this with us.

      Voted up and 4/5 buttons. sharing this great story.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Eddy. Thank you so much for your comments . There are a couple more family story hubs, on my page. I am working on my memory at the moment, For more. LOL.

      Graham.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Well Graham you certainly know how to tell a story;I really enjoyed it and cannot wait to read many more by you.

      Take care and I wish you and yours a wonderful Easter.

      Eddy.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi samtebbutt. I am so pleased that you enjoyed reading this hub. Thank you for your welcome comments.

      Graham.

    • samtebbutt profile image

      Sam 5 years ago from Ireland

      I enjoyed reading this. The part about the move to Manchester, with the parrot!Made me laugh, it reminded me of my own haphazard move to Southern Ireland in 1995

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Seeker7. Thank you again for your valued comments. Yes it is hard to believe about the 'barmaid' but that's life.

      Graham.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      What a fascinating man 'Pa' was! I think he truly was a free spirit. This guy would I think have succeeded at anything. Bascially because he seems to not only have believed in himself, but it's sounds like he had loads of energy and motivation.

      That's really sad about the invite home but 'not the barmaid'! Your Pa was a true gentleman. Walking out and going back to his own family is the mark of someone sincere, loyal and loving - I'd loved to have met this free spirit who was a gentleman!

      Great hub and wonderful family history! Voted up interesting + awesome!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi KoffeeKlatch Gals. Thank you for your interest and comment. Thank you for the votes.

      Best Wishes.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I love to read family history stories. Up and interesting.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Thank you maggs. I am so pleased that you could hear the horses hooves. I couldn't ask for more. Thank you for the vote.

      Best Wishes.

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain

      I loved this Graham and it is so lovely to have access to the history of ordinary people and you brought it so vividly alive that I could hear the clip clop of the horse's hooves as he pulled the cart loaded with the family's possessions through the streets.

      Excellent read voted up and hit the interesting button :D

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Ciel Clark. I am glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for your interest and comment.

      Best Wishes.

    • Ciel Clark profile image

      Ciel Clark 5 years ago from USA

      James/Jimmy/Pa, good family history story!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi kellyward. Thank you for your interest and comment.

      Best Wishes.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Great hub! Thanks for sharing.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Billy thanks for your interest. All are dead here now it's just my memory.

      Best Wishes.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Fascinating history; I am just a wee bit jealous that you have a history. Our is a bit sketchy at best and all are dead now. I suppose if I want to know bad enough there are ways....a job for another day. Great telling of a valuable story.