This is a self-indulgent post. I am fascinated by this gentleman, and want to record what little I know about him to keep his memory alive a little longer. His family were all agricutural labourers, a far cry from modern times.
My great-grandfather, Isaac, was born on 13th May 1855 in Nottinghamshire. His father was a farm labourer; his mother registered the birth, making a cross as her mark, so must have been illiterate. By the time he was 5, she had died, and he was living with her parents. His grandfather was another agricultural labourer. Ten years later, Isaac and his father had both moved in with his cousin.
He claimed to have run away from home at 14 and worked in a pub, where he was given a cigar on his afternoon off; to have tapped railway wheels and to have been a horse trader. He is on record as having been, variously, a stoker in a waggon shop (at 15), a coachman, a groom, a ‘gentleman farmer’ and a gardener. Finally he ran a tobacconist shop or stall in Earl’s Court Road. He had married and had seven children born alive, two of which later died young. At some point he had moved to London, where he lived in various mews, now very desirable. He ended up living with his daughter, a teacher, and died in 1946, outliving my grandfather by 13 years.
I am fascinated by him, because he was a tremendous tale teller. His second wife told my father not to believe a word he said. He said his stepmother sewed his pockets up. He claimed to be able to castrate a cat without drawing blood; to be the only person in a radius of 50 miles to have this skill; and to have demonstrated his technique to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He and his son, my great-uncle, told my father that if he planted a dead cat in the garden, it would grow cat’s whisker crystals for his amateur radio sets. I haven’t checked whether my father did so; but when Dad got an electric motor for one Christmas (simple days!) he was told to grease it with goose or turkey fat. Needless to say, it never went again….
The trait for tale telling runs in the family. My father has it…. and I’m afraid I have it. As you may find out if you follow this blog. But so far it’s all been true, to the best of my knowledge.