A key tip in researching your family history is to gather facts and memories from living ancestors before it’s too late. It is easier to find answers to questions from those who are living and hold the answers than to try and find those answers for yourself once they have passed on. Family gatherings and social occasions provide perfect opportunities for fact gathering. For similar reasons, it is so important to make a record of your own life and memories – it may seem of little consequence to you to do so right now but journals and scrapbooks that share nuggets of information about you will be of greater value to your children and their children than any other legacy bequeathed to them. The smallest discovery of a memory of someone has brought the biggest thrills to me in my research. They are the details that give life to a name and so today I want to record the small memories I have of my maternal Grandparents Arthur and Eva McNama.
(Grandma and Granddad McNama pictured in their back garden at King’s Road, A-u-L)
I will begin with my Granddad – Arthur McNama, born 20 August 1919 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England. He died 3 Apr 1977, aged 57, in Cardiff, Wales when I was just 6 years old yet I have memories of him – my own memories – not a memory of a story I have been told and so I want to record those few memories I have before it is too late and they are lost. I am sure there will be someone who will be thankful of my memories however brief or simple in detail they are. I am one of six children myself and am the third child in that group of six. One of my younger brothers was only one when Granddad died and my other 2 siblings weren’t even born by then so it seems strange to me to have physical memories of a man for whom three of my siblings have no memory whatsoever of other than what memories have been passed down to them.
(Arthur McNama – aged about 21)
Despite his death whilst we were young, he has played an influential part in the lives of his Grandchildren. A younger brother has the name McArthur as one of his middle names in honour of Granddad McNama (and looks so much like him too!) and my parents tell a story of my Granddad, who having passed away just 5 months previously almost to the day, speaking to my dad from beyond the veil and warning him to return to the hospital because my younger sister’s birth was imminent. My father had been sent home from hospital leaving my mother there in the belief that nothing would be happening any time soon and could not be contacted by phone and yet he recalls quite clearly receiving a warning in my Granddad’s voice that he should return to the hospital which he did do in time to witness the birth of my sister – further witness to myself that our existence carries on after death and the bonds we share in mortality carry on also.
As for my memories; and I know that they are mine for my parents have no recollection themselves of these memories in relation to myself, Granddad was a long distance lorry driver and drove one of those huge articulated lorries for a living and I remember being 5 or 6 years of age and riding with him inside the cab of his lorry. I guess it made a big impression on me as I was so tiny and it was first of all a massive effort to climb into the cabin but I remember the feeling of being on top of the world once inside and having the clearest view for what felt like miles in front as we drove down the road where I lived. It was the greatest fun and with hindsight probably not the safest as the compulsory wearing of seat belts was not in force then and we bounced around in that cavernous space of his cabin over every lump and bump in the road to our thrill and delight. How did we ever survive our childhood? We are so stringent with health and safety these days, perhaps too much so in some cases! My other memory is of being stung by a bee as it landed on my hand and I reached up with my hand to scratch my head. It was at a time when Granddad was visiting and I remember seeking comfort from him and sitting on his knee and him persuading me to take some medication to help with the pain which I was resisting. I remember as a young child having the absolute belief in his words that I would get better if I took my medicine and remember just the warmth and security of being safe in his arms.
(How I remember Granddad)
Other memories I have are not entirely my own but have come from stories I have been told by family. They are still important details in developing a sense of who this man was. He was a storyteller and inventive too creating characters called “nicky nocky noo” and “plick plock plucky” (forgive me if they are not accurate spellings – I do not remember the stories he told myself but my older brothers would possibly tell that story better and I should get those stories written down before they are lost too!). My mother tells me when I was born there was some incredulity from him upon hearing my name. I was born on my mother’s birthday so was named after her and called Pamela Louise. I was always supposed to be called Louise but “Pamela Louise” sounded better than “Louise Pamela”. When Granddad heard I was to have the name Pamela his retort was something along the lines of “What on earth have you called her that for?” Mum’s response was to declare “What’s wrong with that? You and mum called me Pamela!” to which his response was that that had nothing to do with him whatsoever but was all Grandma’s doing! That story has always made me laugh so much – I think Grandma was boss in their house! My Granddad blessed me as a baby. In my Church, infants are given a name and a blessing in a ceremony not too dissimilar from a christening in other faiths and traditionally this is done by the father if he has the priesthood authority to do so but my Grandfather was given the privilege on this occasion to bless me as his first Granddaughter and so I treasure that special bond I share with him and he remains close to my heart despite his early passing.
(Grandma and Granddad’s Silver Wedding Anniversary – 1965)
He was married for 37 years to my Grandma and she spent almost all that time again (32 years!) without him after his passing and she has my every admiration for doing that – that must have been tough to bear and very lonely at times especially since a large proportion of that time was spent living away from her closest family too!
(Grandma McNama – about 1959)
Grandma was born Eva Rose Metcalfe on the 18 September 1916 in Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, England and died 9 January 2009 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, England – we buried her one week before I got married! She was aged 92! I had to check that age was correct just then because I can’t believe she was 92! Grandma had great skin and great hair and looked fabulous for her age and lived mostly an independent life only going into a home and becoming very frail towards the end of her life. She was a character and a half. I don’t remember her with the same warmth as my Grandma Edwards but that comes as no surprise to me given she had lived so long on her own and was no doubt very used to things going her own way and getting what she wanted. With the distance between us we certainly didn’t have visits with her as often as we did my other Grandparents. That said, we knew we were loved and she was loved in return.
She was a knitter and growing up I benefited from her talent. She knitted my school jumpers and cardigans for me and she was famous for her bed-socks. I think everybody who knew her must have received a pair of knitted bed-socks from her at some point. She knitted and crocheted blankets including one for my eldest daughter, her great granddaughter for when she was born and one she made for when my sister was born which survived despite being played and played with, being used for dollies prams and cots by grandchildren and great grandchildren alike and remain in my care now as treasured heirloom items to be passed down to the next generation along with the history and stories attached. It’s a skill she passed on to my mother who has taken her talent and improved upon it making countless home-made items for family and friends alike that are heritage pieces in themselves and will bring pleasure and happy memories of mum to many but also of Grandma McNama who began the tradition.
(Treasures from Grandma – beloved blankets made with love)
We grew closer to Grandma as she got older and had to move closer to us giving us opportunities to spend more time with her and take care of her. She had a cheeky smile and personality to match. She had a naughty streak too – getting unsuspecting carers to buy chocolate in for her even though she wasn’t supposed to have it! I think she was just independent to the end and refused to be told what to do! My children would laugh because whenever they would visit she would say the same thing over and over to them and always told them to “Never forget that your mum is your best friend!” She would say it every time like she was telling them for the first time but they have never forgotten and that has become her legacy to them and something they now find endearing about her. How thankful I am that they were able to know her and have a relationship with her and how thankful I am to have known my Grandparents as closely as I did. My mum does not remember ever having a relationship with her grandparents so it is a relationship I value and never take for granted and vow to be ever present in the lives of my grandchildren and great grandchildren should I be blessed to live long enough to enjoy them.
(Eva Rose McNama – 1916-2009)