Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Grandma I Never Knew. Part 1 1918-1938

(Based on birth and marriage records, and an interview with Ruth Griffiths, younger sister of Iris Griffiths. All quotes are from the interview with Ruth Griffith in June 2012)

The Early Years

Iris Griffiths was born to a Harold. E. Griffiths, and Annie Griffiths (Formerly Simpkins) on the 25th February 1918, in Wales.[1] She was the second of 9 children who despite the family moving around a great deal, were always born in Wales. As Ruth, one of the younger sisters would later say, “Mum & dad wanted all the children to be born in Wales as Dad wanted us all to be true Welsh. Mum would stay in Wales for 6 weeks.” (Just enough time to ensure they were registered there.) Though many of Iris’ siblings would be named after people from the Bible, her father Harold was not yet a Christian[2] and both Iris and her older sister Annie were not named in this fashion.
Wales at the time was dominated by the mining industry and in the early years her father, as with most of the community, would go daily to the mines and complete another hard day’s work. Even the walk to the mines could be quite long, over hilly terrain no matter what the weather had to offer. It is important to remember that while countries such as the U.S.A. were not suffering from a depression in the 1920’s, most of Britain was. World War 1 had left Britain in debt and with a significant cut in economic output. People were glad for what work they had.

Life in those days was without the creature comforts we are now so familiar with. Even a cup of tea would require collecting water from a pump, lighting a fire and then finally beginning to boil the water. There were no washing machines or dryers, clothes would be washed in the sink or at the well. Iris eldest sister Annie, although born mostly blind still did a lot of the house work.

Iris loved dancing and by the 1930’s she liked a certain man named William [Bill] Sargeant. Bill, by all accounts, was a genuine nice warm fellow and Iris would sneak out at nights and go down to the local dance hall so they could dance together. This showed a certain mischievous streak, for by this time Iris father was a vicar and would not allow dancing as it was, “mixing with the world.” It therefore should come as no surprise that her father would often check on her at night. Finding her bed empty he knew exactly where his dancing, life filled daughter would be. Making his own way to the local dance hall he would confront Iris and bring her home. It didn’t seem to stop her for long though, for as her younger sister Ruth would recall, “This happened quite a few times.”

Finally, at age 18 on Dec 19th 1936, Iris married Bill. The wedding took place at the Wesleyan Chapel, Cheddleton, Cheadle, Staffordshire, England. Since Iris was 18, she must have had her father’s permission. Harold was the sort of man you would want permission from and since Iris was not yet 21 it was unlikely she did not have it. No doubt Harold secretly liked the spritely lad who would oft' spirit away his daughter to the local dance halls. Unfortunately the marriage was not to be for long. Bill died in 1937, soon after their wedding. He had suffered from ear ache for quite some time and soon after they were married, Iris, being the determined woman she was, finally convinced him to go to the hospital and have it seen to. He never came back from the hospital. There had been something seriously wrong with the mastoid in his ear. Despite the sadness of this time it did pave the way forward for a different life that would eventually take Iris half way around the world to Southern Rhodesia in Africa.


[1] On January 27th 2017 I looked through old records provided me by a family member and discovered that I believe Ruth must have Iris' birth year wrong. I think it was 1916, which would make Iris 20 when she married William Sargeant.
[2] A short biographical pamphlet published in 1950 for the opening of Milton Hall, Assemblies of God, lists Harold Griffiths conversion date as 1922.

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