Women of Means

The last of the Smith children were two girls, Marion (Minnie) born in 1896 and Margaret  (Maggie) born in 1898. How different their lives would have been than the two girls, Jessie and Anna, who were the first born, a span of nearly 18 years. Of the 3 other children, (who were boys) at home, Robert who was only 14, was already out at work. I have been told that James, the father, was “a tyrant” and I think you can see that by the speed at which the children went to work.  By the time Maggie and Minnie were born, money would be flowing in and gifts from the older children would probably be a regular occurrence. At this point the family was still at 5 Sykeside in Coatbridge. 10 years later, they had moved to their last residence, 4 School Street. The same children were there, Robert, then 24, Samuel, 21 and John,18, Marion, 15 and Margaret, 13. This is where we see a departure for the boys. The two older were working as iron puddlers but John had somehow become a carpenter.

The two girls like their oldest sister, Jessie, did not seem inclined to early marriage, Margaret did not marry until 1938 when she was 39 and Marion didn’t marry at all. My own grandmother didn’t marry until she was 25.There are two noticeable things on Maggie’s wedding cert. One, she was a clerk in a grocery store. Jessie owned a grocery store. Two, Maggie’s father-in-law, James Miller Sr. was a master builder and John Smith was a carpenter so it is likely that they were all  connected.

My grandmother, Jane, was the first to leave in 1913, the year of her mother’s death. Robert was killed in WWI. Annabella left for New South Wales in 1920. Sam and James left for Albany, New York in 1923. John was still living in Coatbridge at the time of Jessie’s death in 1949 but he only receives £100  where Marion gets the whole of the estate. Marion had gone to live with Jessie at Burnbrae Cottage in Houston, Renfrewshire. Margaret gets £500 and some personal effects.

Sometime in 1977, my own aunt Margaret made inquiries to the Coatbridge police looking for her two aunts (that was my Aunt alright). By that time Maggie was 80 and in pretty bad shape. Marion however, though she was older, was still running the little store that Jessie had left her. As I said, my aunt and uncle went to visit them and I think that Marion didn’t want to upset her sister,Margaret who was in advanced dementia. They also went to Ireland to see the remaining Phillips sibling, Eva, who seems to have been in a similar state when she told my aunt who was quite good looking, how ugly she was! Here’s a pic of my aunt so you can see what I mean.

Marg Fireplace Portrait c1965

When Marion died on December 9, 1979, there was quite a tizzy in my family over her estate. Jessie had owned some real estate and the store, possibly more than one. My Aunt had the estate audited to make sure all was well. I am not sure if Marion actually left a will but her estate was divided up equally among the then surviving siblings and their children. All in all, not a bad ending for girls that started out in a family of “puddlers”!

 

 

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