A last photo - then tragedy struck twice for this Sunderland family

This lovely photograph shows the Peverley clan.

Thursday, 11th August 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:45 pm
A family photo showing Jessie Peverley and her children. Back row - Edward, left; Tommy; and Walter, far right. Front row - Anne, left, daughter Jessie, mum (also Jessie) centre, and baby Rose Marie.

It was taken around 100 years ago as a reminder to soldier Thomas Peverley of the family he had back home in Sunderland, when he went to war.

Sadly, he never got to see them again. He was yet another of the Wearside men who were tragically lost at the Battle of the Somme.

The Somme.

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Chris Cordner reports.

When Jessie and Thomas Peverley gathered their family together for a proud photo sitting, it would have been a happy occasion.

Sadly, it was the last time they would all experience that joy together.

Thomas Peverley was about to head off to serve his country in the First World War. The photo was taken for him to take a copy to France, as a reminder of his loving wife, sons and daughters back on Wearside.

The Somme.

He never saw them again. He died at the Battle of the Somme aged just 33.

Back at home, his widow Jessie was a mere 29 yet she was left on her own with six children to raise.

Tragically, that would soon become five .

Her baby daughter Rosemarie - who is pictured seated on her mother’s knee - died as an infant.

And even after that double blow, tragedy still had not finished for this East End family.

Another daughter Anne, pictured front left, had epileptic fits all her life. She died when she was 18 years old.

The tale of tragedy is shared for the first time thanks to Sunderland woman Mary Whillians, 86, the granddaughter of Jessie and Thomas.

Sadly, she never got to see her grandfather. Her father Edward Peverley is pictured on the left of the back row.

But Mary felt it was important to share the story of a Sunderland man who gave his life for his country.

She told of her early life in Sunderland - a life which was filled with many happy highlights.

Much of it was spent with Jessie Peverley, the nana she loved and the woman who had known so much heartache. In fact, it was Jessie who passed on the photo of the family in 1916. It remains a treasured posession of Mary’s.

Mary remembered that grandmother Jessie was originally from Ireland and had a maiden name of McDonald.

She married on Wearside, and lived at Sheepfold in Sunderland which Mary recalled was “just past the bridge as you went down to the river.

“You went through a yard and up some stairs. My grandmother lived in one house and my great grandmother was in the next one.”

Grandma Jessie was her favourite relative to visit and Mary remembered: “I was always there. Every Sunday, I would walk up from the East End.

“When I got to the bridge, I always ran the last bit.”

And when she got to her nanas, one of her favourite things to do was to “link her as we went all over town.”

Despite her tragic past, grandma Jessie never talked much of the sad times in her past.

She wasn’t the only member of the family either to suffer loss during times of war.

Jessie’s daughter, also called Jessie, lost her own husband in the Second World War.

Mary knew him as Uncle Tommy Costello and he died at sea aged 32. Jessie was only 29 at the time.

Tommy was one of three brothers - along with Peter and Frank - who all served in the Royal Navy and who all perished in the Second World War.

Mary herself is a mother, grandmother and great grandmother and fondly looked back on a life working in a nursery, as a van driver for a family business and then running her own shop.

But she will always remember the sacrifice her relatives made for their country.

We would love to hear from more people willing to share their family trees, their stories of heroism in the great wars - or even just memories of events in Sunderland’s history.

Get in touch and tell us more.