Review of “The Woman Who Didn’t Exist – part 2”

The Prior Rick Hudson welcomed members to a new season of exciting talks and introduced Kath and Clive Richardson to the near full house. They continued the story of Clive’s grandmother, Margaret in a talk entitled, “The Woman Who Didn’t Exist”. This time we heard about what happened to the children.

Last time we heard how Margaret lost her husband in World War One and could not cope, and lost her way in life. She abandoned six children in all, before running away to Manchester, changing her name, and finally settling down and having two more children with her third husband Arthur Cannon. A subtitle for tonight’s talk could be “The Fate of the Eight”, as we now turned to what happened to the children.

Their stories were often as remarkable as their mother’s, with uncanny similarities. For example Jacob had been abandoned by his mother in Durham city centre. He too abandoned his family, a wife and five children. He too changed his name, moved away, and remarried bigamously, to a lady called Alice. In Jacob’s case a son from his first marriage traced him. Jacob had to admit to Alice that their marriage was invalid, but he promptly married her again properly giving his correct name and circumstances.

Another son, John, was taken in by Margaret’s sister in law, but when her husband lost his job, John had to be fostered and was treated badly. Later, when visiting his sister, he met Mary and it was love at first sight. Before they could marry though he had a terrible accident and Mary was told he had died. The mortuary attendant was shocked to see John’s leg twitch. John eventually recovered and married Mary.

We heard the life stories of the other children too, including Oswald who was left on the steps of a workhouse, and Ivan who was left with a shop keeper and never collected. The four children born to Margaret’s first husband had been told that she had died of Spanish Flu. Kath and Clive faced the dilemma of what should they tell the surviving children?

Kath and Clive later visited the war graves at the site of the Battle of Arras in 1917. They saw Clive’s grandfather’s name carved in stone. It was his death that started the chaos, tragedy, and triumphs that followed. This is but one story of upheaval out of so many caused by war, albeit an extreme and engaging one.

The vote of thanks was given by Maureen Bell. She reminded members that this was the Barbara Walker Memorial Evening. Barbara was a meticulous, strong willed, and some would say fierce lady who encouraged research but felt that presentation was all. Maureen felt that tonight Barbara would say, “That’s how it should be done!”