Annie Sole - My Lost Grandmother
By Frances Davies
This article was originally published in the December 2000 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
I am a fairly new member of the Society and being a lover of history I have wondered over the years whether it was possible to trace the family of my paternal grandmother.
Her name was Annie Sole and she was never mentioned in the family as she had died tragically in childbirth in 1909. She left three motherless sons: Stanley age 4, Frank (my father) age 2, and baby Douglas. At the time, my grandfather Harry was living in Wimbledon and immediately sent for his sister Maud, in Halifax, to help. Maud was quite a formidable aunt - as a child I positively shook whenever she came to visit, as her voice was quite thunderous. Amazingly she looked after the boys for three years, leaving her fiancÚ back in Yorkshire and just putting her life on hold, until a suitable nanny was found. The photograph shows the children with Aunt Maud.
Grandpa Harry eventually re-married and this marriage produced a daughter but sadly after a few years his second wife died. Harry married yet again - this time to his secretary Stella. As a grandfather, Harry was completely disinterested and granddaughters were certainly not in his world! Extremely Victorian, stern and unapproachable (definitely no cuddles and laughs that we had from our maternal grandfather). Stella, just pint size but with a dynamic personality, devoted her life caring for Harry and his daughter who never married.
Before Stella died about six years ago, I did try to question her about Annie but was told not to dig up the past and it was no business of mine. My father Frank knew very little, for it seems that Harry's second wife had destroyed everything that was Annie's, photographs included, and she had stopped all communication between Annie's sisters and brother and her three sons.
I have thought since how proud Annie would have been of her three boys as Stanley the eldest, became a research chemist and had a great future ahead of him - sadly though he died tragically playing rugby aged only 24 and leaving a 6 week old daughter. My father Frank, now aged 93 and suffering from serious dementia had a good career in a bank and while in the RAF rose to the rank of Squadron Leader and was posted to India. Then lastly Douglas - who had such a kind and gentle nature but also died young, while in his forties after a hernia operation.
My father so wanted to know what his mother was like, both physically and as a person and he did try to trace her grave in his latter years believing she was buried near Stotfold, Bedfordshire where her family had originated. I have recently located it in Wimbledon where she is buried with her mother-in-law (not surprising as father-in-law had chosen to live with his mistress - but that's another story!). With the help of the Society I now know where and when my grandparents married and also Annie's line which traces back to the early 17th century.
I have wondered, of course, about finding the ancestors of my grandfather but as the family came from Yorkshire and with the name of Sutcliffe, which today has a certain notoriety, perhaps I had better not!!!
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