The following is a letter from "Auntie Rene" to Patricia Bowes Hymas (nee Nichols)
April 11, 1990
This is such a rambling report but there's so much to delve in & recollect so forgive me. Any questions?
I think I should part with the enclosed photos as they will give you pleasure I know.
It was most kind of you to speak to me on the Wedding day & it was much appreciated! Since then we've heard more of the occasion & it all sounded wonderful & I rejoice with you.
With loving thoughts
It's Easter here & I hope you're having a very happy time with the family. The sun shines & spring is very far advanced this year with a marvellous show of blossoms - & a great crop of lambs.
It would be nice if you could pass this on to Helen sometime with my loving thoughts too.
Down Memory Lane
Vera & I became close friends soon after we met at Warrington Grammar School in 1910. Vera was a County Scholarship pupil & I was allowed to sit the entrance examinations because my mother was a Rate payer in Warrington, tho we lived in the Country.
We travelled to school by different railways & lived about 8 miles apart. The first time I went home with Vera I met her mother, but then she became ill & died, & Vera came to school in a black frock. Later I went again & your Grandpa emerged from his study to sit at the head of the tea table and cheerfully lead the conversation, introducing his family one by one as they arrived. I was thoroughly confused & thought I'd never know which was which or sort them out.
Florrie was one of the darker ones, & charming & took over the housekeeping when her mother died, before marrying a St. Helens Dentist who was a Roman Catholic. Vera took me with her several times to see the babies. Peggy was a lovely girl & later Florrie was most concerned lest the Priest influence her into becoming a Nun. Then there were twin boys Bernard & Phillip & other boys - Vera's eldest brother (I've forgotten his name) went to Manchester University but sadly at 21 had died of diabetes & James I rarely met as he didn't live at home then, Mabel & Olive the twins came next, fair but not really identical. Mabel worked in the town library & soon married after Florrie & then Olive took over the housekeeping & later she married someone involved in racing - a trainer I think. And then Dolly took over until her father died. She then became housekeeper for 2 ladies. We kept in touch until she died.
Jessie was between the twins & Dolly. She was good looking in a refined way, smart & in the Civil Service in London. Later she married Hugh Mitchel (District Bank) & son of Rev. Mitchel (Canon) Best-man to Jack (see photo) they had 3 children.
Ernie was a Dental Mechanic with Florrie's husband when I first knew the family, & Percy was in the Chemistry Lab with Sankey Sugar Works.
Then came Vera with her lovely blue eyes & wavy hair; so bright & responsive. She was the one to have a Cap & Gown for piano playing at an early age with Florrie's encouragement & to win a scholarship & please her father.
Last came Roly with his fascination for sketching & cartoonist humour. He admired my artistic efforts & I encouraged him. It was great when eventually after a lot of hard work & the courage to go to London as a free lance, he had work accepted by Punch!
Being so welcomed by the Bowes family was for me like the opening of Pandora's Box, as my sisters were 8 yrs & 14 yrs. older & my brothers at sea & in Canada.
I remember once Mr. Bowes saying with a smile that he knew I'd arrived when he heard me slide down the bannister - something the family never did!
It was a self contained family & I don't remember any of them bringing friends home.
I must have been staying the weekend because I remember one Saturday morning Ernie & Vera & I walked over to Newton le Willows a few miles away with a message for Grandma Brigham. A dainty gentlewoman living alone welcomed us.
I think the Bowes home must have been the Rectory at one time because it was so close to the church & graveyard & the outlook from Vera's bedroom window on a moonlight night was a somber one!
And then the war came. We had passed our Seniour Oxford exams. Vera stayed at school another year, but my father indulged me & I'd a year's freedom to do what I liked & I don't think it was wasted. I attended Mr. Woodier's Studio as a pupil & painted water colours for family & friends & actually sold them & the proceeds were most acceptable pocket money for College.
Actually Mabel bought some for her new home!
Immediately war was declared James was called up as he was in the Territorial Army. He gave me his black Labrador dog Tony, a great companion for years. Sadly James was killed early in the war.
Ernie volunteered & was put with the Welsh Fusiliers - a undeserved shock I thought. Percy was sent to India & later Roly (because of an accident to his eye when a child) joined the NAFFI & served troops in Italy.
I corresponded with them all & Roly's letters were always adorned with little sketches.
Ernie had a dreadful time but nothing changed his cheerful loving disposition. He fought in the Dardanelles against the Turks & was invalided home & then to France & the trenches (later we had reason to suspect this a clerical error). He was shot in the ankle & in a shell hole all night & eventually lost his leg well above the knee.
When discharged he studied under the Government Scheme & qualified as a Dentist. My mother was one of his first patients & they became firm friends. Later he met a sweet young thing who adored him & made him an excellent Dentist's wife & receptionist. And years later, at John's wedding in Wales, it was wonderful to meet again.
I believe Grandfather Bowes came from West Hartlepool & trained to teach, & then took further training & was an Architect & Civil Engineer? The name Bowes is well known in the north east & we have the Queen Mothers family connections in these parts - "Gibside" & the Bowes Museum in Durham County & Ridley Hall also a few miles away (Northumberland). Both under National Trust care now. The book about "John Bowes" is a super book & I wonder if your mother got it as I hoped she would.
I met Jack's parents at their home before the wedding to your Grandmother & took to one another, I think because it was years later that I married & she sent me a lovely piece of china as a wedding present. She was small & neat & capable & businesslike & nice looking with a fresh complexion & brown eyes. Mr. Nichols was quiet & friendly, a keen Mason I believe with a very good tenor voice.
I don't know when it was but I remember one Sunday afternoon sitting with the brothers with Vera at the piano singing Negro Spirituals to the quiet amusement of Percy who had a dry wit. He was clever but lacked ambition & went his own sweet way. I tried hard to get him to further studies. I lost touch after his marriage tho I tried to locate him when years later we were in the Wye Valley area on holiday. Vera left school at 17 to join the Westminster Bank with the first girls in Banking & to replace the young men called up for the army. Maths & languages were her forte & she took Banking Exams & and always seemed very happy in her chosen career.
After 3 years at College I was appointed by Warrington Education Committee (taught DSc for 15 years there) & two months later the War ended.
We enjoyed some summer holidays together especially one in the Lake District & then Jersey was an adventure.
My college friend Ian joined our DSc Staff & soon there was a friendship of 3.
We'd one lovely week together in London & Roly welcomed us - after the war ended he went to a College of Art in London & there met his wife to be, a lovely talented girl & a happy marriage. I'd like to add that it was Roly who served in 2nd World War, as a Fire Fighter with the Thames River Police.
I think the family were so fair minded & when the Estate had to be settled Vera told me they each made a choice of keepsakes & then cast lots. Vera chose the piano & some of her fathers books from his well stocked library & retreat of his own.
You will gather from these bits & pieces that to have known & loved the Bowes family has been my privilege.