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A Yorkshire & Norfolk Heritage

Updated on June 13, 2015
A Yorkshire and Norfolk heritage.
A Yorkshire and Norfolk heritage. | Source

My secret heritage

I'm British and definitely a proud Yorkshirewoman. But I have to confess to a dark and guilty secret. I am not one hundred percent Yorkshire. I have foreign blood. 'Foreign', to a Yorkshire person means anywhere outside our great county so here I have to confess that my paternal grandmother was a foreigner - she was from Norfolk.

Shock, horror!

This is the story of my grandparents. They were both born in the nineteenth century, during the reign of Queen Victoria. Had my grandad, George, not wandered into a pub one night and met a certain young lady .... well, let's say it's interesting, if not indicative, that my story begins in a pub.

George and the young lady Ada, who would become my grandmother, got together but they had a guilty secret. Read on to find out more.

The general images on this page are from Wikimedia Commons and are copyright-free. The photographs of my grandparents and parents are from my family collection and © BritFlorida.

George William Jackson
George William Jackson | Source


Here's George during the First World War. He was born in Doncaster (Yorkshire) and I suspect he developed a fascination for aeroplanes when he was a young boy - his hometown held aviation shows at the racecourse there - as early as 1909.

George left home to explore the world as soon as he was old enough and at first, he joined a travelling fairground, living a gypsy life.

When the First World War began in 1914 he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps, a forerunner of the RAF. After taking part in the Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey, he was stationed in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk - a lively seaport. Don't think for a minute that he was gallant flyer - he worked as a mechanic fixing and maintaining those early aircraft.

On the photograph below, he is fifth from the right.

George William Jackson and aircraft in World War One
George William Jackson and aircraft in World War One | Source
The Great Yarmouth Rows
The Great Yarmouth Rows | Source


Ada was one of six children. She'd been brought up in a tiny house in the Great Yarmouth rows. The rows were a warren of tiny alleys similar to the one you see here. (They were almost entirely destroyed by German bombing in the Second World War.)

I don't have a photograph of her in her younger years but I can tell that she was lovely-looking and quite talented too. Her father was a crane operator on the Yarmouth docks and her grandfather ran a pub right on the waterfront. (I love the pub connection!)

She was married when she was quite young, quite possibly to an older man who ran a pub (pubs again!) She had two children, a girl and a boy, probably born in 1913 and 1914. The girl was to grow into a ravishing beauty and the boy developed into a handsome and dapper man.

South Quay, Great Yarmouth.
South Quay, Great Yarmouth. | Source

A chance meeting

One evening, just after the First World War, George went out for a night on the town with his pals. Great Yarmouth offered a huge number of drinking establishments but luckily - for me - the lads went into pub where a young lady was playing the piano.

Now this is my important question

My grandmother was a married woman with two children. What on earth was she doing working in a pub, playing the piano? Mind you, I have to say that she was never an entirely conventional lady as you will see as this story progresses.

According to my dad, George saw Ada and thought 'hmm, I'm having that' and sure enough, shortly afterwards, the two ran off together. George had resumed his fairground life and had his caravan (trailer) handy.

Eric & Phyllis Jackson
Eric & Phyllis Jackson | Source

What about her children?

I'm glad you asked. Yarmouth is a seaport but its surrounding areas are made up of canals, lakes and waterways known as the Norfolk Broads.

Today, the area is recreational. Lots of people enjoy vacations afloat. In fact, the photograph you see on the left is of my mum and dad doing just that in the late nineteen forties.

But in the days when Ada and George first met, the area was used mainly for transportation and also residences - many people lived on boats. One such person was Ada's elder sister Florence, who had married in 1910. Ada used the simple device of sending her children to live with their Auntie Flo.

In his autobiography - more of which later - my dad speculates:

I've often wondered if she left a note for her husband: 'Hello love, just to let you know that I'm running away with a gypsy ... the kids are at my sister's...'

— Eric Jackson
Ada Mildred Pumfrey
Ada Mildred Pumfrey | Source

Back to Yorkshire and living in sin

This shows Ada in 1947. When she and George ran away together it was a different era - Ada in particular was concerned about the fact that they were 'living in sin'.

She had no idea how to go about getting a divorce from her husband and even if she had, she and George never stayed in one place for more than a few days - they were effectively on the run from her husband and disapproving Victorian family.

But in late 1923, after over five years of living the gypsy life and travelling around the country, Ada became pregnant.

My dad was born in their caravan home on July 23rd, 1924.

Ada decided that enough was enough. Now she had a baby to care for, it was time to settle down. They'd been on the run, undiscovered, for six years. The time had come.

Eric Jackson as a boy
Eric Jackson as a boy | Source

Their son, my dad

They settled in Yorkshire as a respectable married couple. George worked as a mechanic and but retained his wanderlust. After a while he moved his family to another area. George bought a truck and made his living dealing in livestock and hauling them to Doncaster Cattle Market.

As you can see from the photograph on the left, their son made the most of this life. (Note too that the young boy who became my dad was riding bareback - no wussy saddles or anything of that nature).

At about the time that this photograph was taken, Ada's children came to live with them now that they were settled in a real home.

Auntie Flo had had enough.

They had done such a good job of creating a supposed marital status that I didn't know until I was forty that my parents never married - and it turned out that the rude name people had been calling me for years was actually true.

— Eric Jackson
Eric Jackson
Eric Jackson | Source

Further adventures

As you'd imagine, after having such an unconventional background and upbringing, you couldn't really expect my dad (pictured here) to settle down and lead quiet life.

Certainly, after being in the army (see the links below) my mum managed to get him down the aisle but it wasn't long before he was off on his travels.

To start, he went to New York where he consorted with movie stars, tough cops ... and gangsters.

Then he was off on his travels to deepest, darkest Africa where he encountered bandits, guerillas, drunken boy soldiers and even cannibals. Fortunately, he has nine lives - or more.

He should write a book, shouldn't he? Well, he did, we're in luck. He started writing it when he was in his eighties (writing longhand and sending it to me to decipher).

Find out more here.

Further reading

Find out more about Great Yarmouth and Doncaster during the First World War.

I wish my grandparents had written their autobiographies.

Have you ever considered writing your autobiography?

Writing Your Life, 4E: A Guide to Writing Autobiographies
Writing Your Life, 4E: A Guide to Writing Autobiographies

I honestly believe you should.

When I was helping my dad with his, I researched the internet and found that there is a lot of nonsense written about his motorsport career.I also have magazine and newspaper cuttings about him that are completely wrong.

But it's not just a matter of putting the record straight, it's a wonderful legacy to leave for your family and generations to come. Wouldn't it be wonderful if your grandparents had done so?



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    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Virginia Allain: I know what you mean. I started out with just dates and names too. Most of the information above was told to me by my dad but it wasn't until he was in his eighties that he could be bothered to tell family stories!

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Dave Lynch: That sounds lovely. It was certainly a very different era.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @DreyaB: I know, it's pretty embarrassing to not be a thoroughbred. But the good thing is, the dodgy genes come from Norfolk - think how much worse it would be if they were Lancastrian!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      In researching my family lines, I sure wish some of them had written more about their lives. The bare dates and names just don't satisfy me. You have a fascinating family.

    • Dave Lynch profile image

      David Edward Lynch 3 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Nice story; my mother is from Norfolk originally and she is very old. I think they had a lake at the bottom of their garden as children which they could go ice skating on when it iced up.

    • DreyaB profile image

      DreyaB 3 years ago from France

      I'm shocked and stunned! You're not 100% Yorkshire?! Horror of horros... ;0) I love your stories and how you write - this is another grand tale to tell. Maybe one day you'll write your biography - I'm sure there are some more tales to tell there... Wonderful page as always and congrats on the purple star - well deserved.

    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Fantastic story. You're inspiring me to write about my grandparents! George and Ada's story is so romantic.

    • profile image

      Ibidii 3 years ago

      Great story and photos! :)

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @esmonaco: Thank you so much for a lovely comment!

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      You tell the most wonderful stories, about your life and family, and I do enjoy them all. Thanks for sharing your family again :)

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @RinchenChodron: Thank you - I've always loved the story of how my grandparents got together.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Kim Milai: Thank you!

    • amytrumpeter profile image

      Amy Trumpeter 3 years ago from Oxford

      Love your stories!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 3 years ago

      Interesting story about your family. Nice to get to know them.

    • Kim Milai profile image

      Kim Milai 3 years ago

      What an amazing story!

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @amytrumpeter: Thank you so much Amy - I have loads more :)