What Happened to Uncle Norman?
by Bill Soles
This article was published in the March 2000 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
When I left school in 1930 my first job was helping my father in his wholesale meat business. He also employed my Uncle Norman William Soles, as a butcher and slaughter man. Norman was born in 1909 and was just five years older than me.
After a year or two our business failed and we moved to Nuneaton. Norman and his sister Dora lived at No 1 Homepark Road and we lived at No 2. After a short while, Dora married a farmer, Evan Lloyd, and moved to Rugby. Norman also left and I never saw him or heard from him again.
We thought it strange that we heard nothing of Norman as the family had always been so close. My father said Norman was in Jersey in 1939, and had been taken by the Germans for forced labour and, had he been alive, we would have heard from him.
When I started researching my family history, Norman’s disappearance was a mystery I had to solve. The war had now been over for some years and I still had no news of Norman. We went to Jersey for a holiday and I took the opportunity to search the archives there, but there were no Soles names in the records.
Whilst helping Fred Sole to extract the Soles/Sole names from the then St Catherine’s House records I came across a Norman William Soles who married a Mary Victoria Dawson on Christmas Day in 1938; he was 29 years of age and she was a widow age 41 years. The marriage took place at the Parish Church, Campden Hill, London. Norman described himself as a chef, he lived at 12 Calcott St, London W8 and she lived at 11a, so it appears he married the girl next door.
Now what happened to Norman? Had he survived the Blitz, joined the Forces or emigrated? Someone somewhere must remember him. I put notices in local London newspapers but I had no luck, he just seemed to have disappeared. Then one day whilst searching the Sole Society’s death lists I found the death of a Mary Victoria Soles in Newcastle on Tyne on 21 Feb 1970. Her daughter Catherine Dawson reported the death. The death certificate showed that Mary Victoria was the wife of Norman William Soles but it did not say deceased, so maybe Norman was still alive in 1970?
In early 1999 I had not found Norman’s death. If alive he would have been about 89 years of age. Catherine Dawson was a daughter by her mother’s first marriage. I noted her Newcastle address from 1970; would she still be
from job to job and place to place never staying anywhere very long. She said they even lived in Scotland and that was the last she heard of him. Her mother had searches made but no trace of Norman was ever found.
Scotland! I had not searched the Scottish deaths. A search was made and Norman was found - he died in Glasgow on 13 July 1961, aged 52 years, the informant was B* Soles, ‘A Friend’.
I now needed to know more about this ‘friend’. Luck was still with me. My friend, Fred Sole, has a software programme that enables him to find anyone who was on the Electoral Roll in 1998. Fred kindly offered to carry out a search for me and he found only one B Soles in the UK. Was this Norman’s ‘friend’? I wrote to her and kept my fingers crossed.
In a few days I had a phone call, a voice said ‘I am speaking for B Soles, B is the ‘Friend’ you mention in your letter, but she was more than just a friend’ and after a pause she said ‘B is my mother and Norman was my father. I was born in 1959 in Glasgow and I have three children.’ She said B would be pleased to see me if I cared to visit her and that is what we hope to do.
So the mystery of Norman’s disappearance is solved and I have found a cousin.
*Editor's note: The Christian name has been removed to preserve anonymity.
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