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A remarkable Sunderland woman who battled on after a string of tragedies

Edith Musgrove whose story has been shared with us by her granddaughter Carol Fish.
Edith Musgrove whose story has been shared with us by her granddaughter Carol Fish.
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Edith Musgrove led a remarkable life which was beset by tragedy all too often.

We are indebted to her granddaughter Carol Fish for the chance to share her story and to tell the tale of a resolute woman who battled on in the face of enormous adversity.

Patrick Kieron Mallan, pictured in an Army hospital.

Patrick Kieron Mallan, pictured in an Army hospital.

It’s a tale of numerous family deaths – and even a courtship which arose out of sadness.

Imagine a life where you have lost your mother, two baby brothers and a baby sister all in your teenage years.

It all happened to Edith Musgrove who lived in the East End of Sunderland from 1896.

Today, we look back on the life of a woman born on November 6, 1896, and who lived in Tees Street, with a family including parents Thomas and Edith Musgrove.

By the time she was 16, she was running the family home because her mum, Edith senior, had died giving birth to baby Annie, just before Christmas 1912.

It was no easy task to run the house with a family of seven (three younger sisters, three younger brothers and her dad, dock labourer Thomas, to care for).

Carol told us: “My nana being the eldest child living at home had to take over and care for her brothers and sisters and her father who of course had to go out to work. Her elder sister Emma was away working.

“Edith was only 16. She had to care for Annie the new baby, Joseph, 3, Molly, 2, Margaret, 8, Thomas, 6, and Christopher, 12.”

And it got worse when youngest brother Joseph died aged just three. Two years later, the baby of the family Annie also passed away.

But in those tough times there was “no time for grieving back then,” said Carol. Not with a world war just around the corner.

Carol told us: “Just before the First World War, Edith was courting a local lad called Thomas Kieron Mallan. He volunteered to go into the army along with his brother Partick Kieron Mallan.

“Thomas always believed he wouldn’t come home from the war and asked Edith, if this was the case, would she court his brother Patrick instead.

“We have a copy of a letter sent to Edith from Thomas on August 23, 1915, from his camp in Godalming, Surrey, thanking her for the shilling she had sent him and saying he would rather ‘go down’ as to his brother Patrick ‘go down’.”

Fate soon played its part and brought more tragedy to Edith.

“Six weeks later,” said Carol, “Thomas was killed fighting in the war. Edith at this time was still caring for her family but again was devastated at another loss.”

But true to her word, she kept her promise which had been made by Thomas. “She did however go on to court Patrick after the war,” said Carol.

Yet even that didn’t go smoothly for the couple, as Carol explained. Patrick hadn’t escaped the war years without injuries of his own.

“He was gassed and had to have a lung removed but recovered.”

But eventually, there was some good fortune at last for Edith and it was much deserved.

Edith and Patrick were married in St Patrick’s Church in 1918.

They lived at first in Norman Street and later in Robinson Terrace, in Hendon.

“They had ten children in total, one was a stillbirth” said Carol.

“The others were Thomas, Mary Elizabeth (1), Edith (1), Mary Elizabeth (2), Catherine Ann (my mother), Margaret, Patrick, Edith (2) and Charles.

Readers will have noticed two sets of daughters with the same name and we will explain more in the second and final part of the story next week.

Carol added: “Edith continued to have a very hard life. The family lived in shared house and they had 3 upstairs rooms. Shared washhouse and toilet outside of course.”

Watch out for more on Edith’s amazing story next week, including SIX more tragedies.

And to share your own family history, email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk