Six of her children died young - yet this Sunderland '˜nana' always hid her grief from others
The remarkable life of Edith Musgrove touched the hearts of Echo readers when we began her story last week.
We told how the East End woman lost her mother, two baby brothers and a baby sister all in her teenage years and was then expected to look after the rest of the family when she was just 16 years old.
Today, with the help of granddaughter Carol Fish, we continue Edith’s story.
And it all starts with the early days of her life as a mum.
Death and tragedy was never far away from Edith Musgrove.
When she and her husband Patrick settled down to life in the Hendon area of Sunderland, it was tough.
Edith had gone through the mill and that included losing one child, who was a stillbirth.
Patrick and Edith had 10 children. The others were “Thomas, Mary Elizabeth (1), Edith (1), Mary Elizabeth (2), Catherine Ann (my mother), Margaret, Patrick, Edith (2) and Charles,” said Carol.
Tragedy hit the family once more in January 1923. Daughter Edith (1), contracted measles. She was one year old when she died.
It hit the family hard, but no one was harder hit than another of Edith’s daughters and that was two-year-old Mary Elizabeth.
“She would wait, looking out of the window for her baby sister, hoping she would come home.”
It was heartbreaking but worse was to follow. Mary Elizabeth herself, who had forlornly looked out of the window for her little sister, contracted both meningitis and tuberculosis and also died, just two months after the death of her sibling.
Mary Elizabeth was still only two years old when she passed away.
Patrick and Edith senior had another daughter who they also named Mary Elizabeth but even she suffered the same fate.
She suffered pneumonia and passed away when she was just four years old.
Yet tragedy had still not finished with Edith senior.
“The eldest son Thomas died when he was 25 in 1944,” said Carol. And another daughter Margaret was 13 when she became sick with a very rare blood condition.
“Both Thomas and Margaret (Peggy) were in hospital when they became very ill and a policeman was sent to tell Edith and Patrick at their home,” said Carol.
“You were issued with a ‘sick note’ back then from the hospital. Edith by then had lost 6 of her children and Catherine, Patrick and Charles died in recent years.”
Domestically, life in the house was tough anyway.
“Edith continued to have a very hard life,” said Carol. “The family lived in a shared house and they had three upstairs rooms.”
If that’s hard enough, there was a shared wash house, and outside toilet. “Patrick was a labourer and money was tight,” said Carol.
She added: “My aunt Edith (2) M Longford still lives in Sunderland.
“Edith never talked about her sad life to anyone. She kept all her feelings to herself.
“There wasn’t enough time to sit and grieve I suppose.
“If anyone asked her about her many losses she would just say ‘oh you don’t want to hear about all that’,
“My grandfather Patrick died in 1954. Edith was rehoused in the middle of the 60s when they were clearing the slum areas in Hendon.
“She moved to a flat in Town End farm. Total luxury as it was all brand new with a bathroom and toilet.”
Despite all of her own ill fortune, Edith kept on being a remarkable lady who loved her relatives.
“She continued to help all her family and grandchildren and enjoyed a drink now and then with her friends in the snug in The Aquatic Arms in Bridge Street.”
She died on April 30, 1966 aged 69.
But despite the passing of the years – and thanks to loving descendants such as Carol – her memory lives on.
Carol added: “Fly high Nana Edith. Wherever you may go, you have earned your Angel wings.”
l We would love to hear from more people with their own items of nostalgia to share?
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