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Life With My Grandad: A Nostalgic Look Back at the 19th and 20th Century Focusing on My Family's History

My grandad, Frank Trigg, pictured with my older brother, Eric, in the 1950s.

My grandad, Frank Trigg, pictured with my older brother, Eric, in the 1950s.

The early years

My grandad, Frank Trigg, was one of eight brothers and two sisters who were all born in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The family name in those days was "Triggs", but at some point, it became "Trigg" after the "s" was dropped. I am unsure when and why.

My grandad, born in 1906, was the fourth eldest boy.

His oldest brother Arthur, born in 1895, joined up with the Armed Forces to serve his country during World War One. He was sent to the Western Front and survived the war. He returned to Leeds and married, but never had children. He died quite young, in the late 1930s.

My grandad's second oldest brother, Bob, born in 1897, was a member of the Armed Forces and was also sent to the Western Front when he was just 18 years old .

Both Arthur and Bob survived the horrors of a poison gas attack and returned safely to the family home after the war.

Next came grandad's oldest sister, Annie, born in 1899, followed by sister Mary, born in 1901.

Next came Frederick - or Fred, as he was always known - born in 1904. Fred went on to marry and have children. He regularly visited grandad and grandma when my older brother, Eric, was a child in the 1950s.

My grandad, born in 1906, was to go on and have two children (my mum Audrey and my Uncle Ken).

Then came another brother, Tommy, born in 1909. He married and had one daughter, Olga.

The next brother was Charlie, followed by Joe, neither of whom had children. Joe never married, although Charlie did. I don't have their exact birthdates.

Finally, the youngest brother was Willie, born in 1918, who later married and had a son and daughter. His daughter, Pat Beaumont, lives in Australia today, after emigrating in her youth.

My mum and Pat, first cousins, keep in touch with each other to this day and exchange Christmas cards and letters.

Pat has a son, Kristian Beaumont, who came to the UK for a visit in the 1990s to meet his extended family for the first time. I was lucky enough to meet him after he stayed with us for a week before flying back to Australia.

This photo shows the Triggs family, pre-1910. Grandad is one of the little boys sitting on the front row. His father is standing at the back, far right. My great, great grandma is the lady in black, sitting in the centre.

This photo shows the Triggs family, pre-1910. Grandad is one of the little boys sitting on the front row. His father is standing at the back, far right. My great, great grandma is the lady in black, sitting in the centre.

My mum has written down all her memories and knowledge of the family history and some of it from the early years is a little sketchy with the passing of time.

Grandad's own mother was also called Anne and had a sister, Mary. His own two sisters were named after them.

I have to say this has made it rather confusing for me when researching and writing about our family tree!

The census of England and Wales, 1911, showing my grandad's family when he was a young boy living at 6 Midland View, Hunslet Carr, Leeds.

The census of England and Wales, 1911, showing my grandad's family when he was a young boy living at 6 Midland View, Hunslet Carr, Leeds.

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Researching online, I was lucky enough to find a census form from 1911, detailing my grandad's family. It showed that his father, Frederick Triggs, born in 1877 in Bristol, was a 34-year-old brush-maker at that time. Grandad's mother, Annie, born in Liverpool, was also 34 and a housewife.

It also showed that Arthur Triggs, then 16, was a brush-maker too and Robert Triggs, then 14, was an assistant mat-maker and wool-winder. Arthur and Robert were both listed as being born in Liverpool, so the family had moved when they were little.

The family must have moved around wherever grandad's father found work, as the next three siblings, Annie, Mary and Frederick, were born in Seacombe, Cheshire, while my grandad was born in Liverpool. This was something I didn't know before. Only young Thomas Triggs - the youngest child at that time - was actually born in Leeds.

Also living at the family home in 1911 was grandad's maternal grandma, Mary Donnelly, then aged 69, who was a widow. She was listed as being born in Louth, Drogheda, Ireland, in 1842.

My Great Great Aunt Mary (Grandad Frank Trigg's aunt) in the early 1900s. The young man on the left was her son, Tom, who was in the Navy but who died in the 1914-18 war aged only 16.

My Great Great Aunt Mary (Grandad Frank Trigg's aunt) in the early 1900s. The young man on the left was her son, Tom, who was in the Navy but who died in the 1914-18 war aged only 16.

Grandad's Auntie Mary, his mum's sister, was a widow, who had one son, Tom. He joined the Navy at a very young age and sadly was killed while at sea during the First World War at only 16 years old when his ship was hit by a torpedo. He was so young to lose his life while fighting for his country.

Grandad's sister, Anne, went on to marry and had two daughters, Joan and Dorothy. They lived in Leeds all their life and mum always kept in touch with them. Joan's married name was Peck.

Grandad's other sister, Mary, had two children, including a daughter, Shirley Copley, who grew up to marry her sweetheart, Brian Manson. Sadly, Shirley's brother became epileptic and died at just five years old.

Mum also kept in touch with Shirley for many years. There was a family reunion in Yorkshire in the 1990s and all the surviving cousins were there. It was a very emotional occasion for my mum, who had not seen many of the family for years.

Grandad's mum Annie (standing in the centre) and her sister Mary (standing on the right) with their neighbours in Hunslet Carr around the time of World War One.

Grandad's mum Annie (standing in the centre) and her sister Mary (standing on the right) with their neighbours in Hunslet Carr around the time of World War One.

It was a very close-knit community in the early 20th century. Grandad's close family all lived in the same street, Midland View. Grandad lived at number six. Later, in 1928, my mum was born there!

It has long since been demolished and when mum went for a visit to Yorkshire in the 1990s, she found the whole area unrecognizable and felt quite sad.

My grandad's own grandma lived with them, his Auntie Mary lived further down the street and the other neighbours were all good friends who looked out for each other.

Looking at the photograph (above) of all the ladies (family and neighbours) posing in the street, it would appear to have been taken during World War One due to the clothing and also due to the fact there were no men pictured, as the majority were away with the troops.

My grandad's maternal grandma, Mary Donnelly, nee Wosser, from Drogheda, Ireland, a widow, who lived at 6 Midland View in the early 20th century.

My grandad's maternal grandma, Mary Donnelly, nee Wosser, from Drogheda, Ireland, a widow, who lived at 6 Midland View in the early 20th century.

Grandad had only scant memories of his own paternal grandmother. He recalled her as being "a little old lady with white hair" who used to sit next to the fire all the time when he was little because she felt the cold.

We had a marriage certificate, dated 10th February 1873, showing that Thomas James Triggs, a brush-maker, aged 21, married Emma Welsford, aged 22, at Bristol Register Office. We believe these were grandad's paternal grandparents. The bride's father was a boot-maker and the groom's father a brush-maker.

Thomas James Triggs died aged 35 of heart disease in 1887, according to the death certificate. So grandad's memories of an elderly lady sitting in front of the fire seem to tie in with this, as his paternal grandma would have been in her mid-60s and a widow by this time. People did not live as long in those days and someone in their mid-60s would seem very old to a young boy.

Grandad's father with daughter Annie Triggs dressed in outfits covered in poppies and their boxes have a red cross on them. They are collecting for the Red Cross to help the war effort during World War I.

Grandad's father with daughter Annie Triggs dressed in outfits covered in poppies and their boxes have a red cross on them. They are collecting for the Red Cross to help the war effort during World War I.

Grandad's father with daughter Mary Triggs. This appears to be a posed photograph taken in a studio.

Grandad's father with daughter Mary Triggs. This appears to be a posed photograph taken in a studio.

Grandad's sister Annie Triggs as a child.

Grandad's sister Annie Triggs as a child.

My grandad  Frank Trigg's Auntie Mary, his mother's sister, who lived on Midland View, Leeds, in the early 20th century. Her son was killed in WWI.

My grandad Frank Trigg's Auntie Mary, his mother's sister, who lived on Midland View, Leeds, in the early 20th century. Her son was killed in WWI.

Italian ice-cream man caused quite a stir

In those days, it was rare to meet anyone who wasn't a local person, as of course, this was long before everyone had a car and the only transport was horse-drawn carriages.

It was therefore a cause of great excitement when a young Italian gentleman moved to the area, just before the war in 1914, with his family.

Selling ice cream in the streets from barrels on a cart.

Selling ice cream in the streets from barrels on a cart.

He travelled round the streets selling ice-cream! He pushed round a huge barrow - a much earlier version of today's ice-cream vans.

This was not a regular occurrence in those days and grandad's mother and the other ladies in the neighbourhood all loved the Italian ice-cream.

Prior to this, they would have to walk to the local shop on the main road at the top of the street if they wished to buy ice-cream. When the Italian gentleman started peddling his wares, all the women would rush out into the street clutching a basin to buy their ice-cream.

When the Italian fell ill for some time, another ice-cream salesman tried to "steal" his round, but the local women shunned him. They were very loyal to their Italian ice-cream man.

The Italian connection ... 70 years on

Strangely enough, mum recalled an amazing coincidence which occurred in the late 1980s, when she worked in the office of Warburton's Bakery in Blackpool. It was one of those occasions when you would say. "It's a small world."

One of the office cleaners, a dark-haired, olive-skinned man, started his shift while mum was still in the office. He was laughing and joking with mum.

Fusco's Ice-Cream Parlour in Belfast in modern times.

Fusco's Ice-Cream Parlour in Belfast in modern times.

The cleaner, Tony Fusco, said he was Italian and that he had been born in Hunslet Carr, mum's birthplace. He said he had grown up there and that his father had been an ice-cream man!

The Fusco family had later moved to Blackpool, as mum had too, in mum's case in the 1950s. It turned out Tony's dad was the mobile ice-cream man who had so delighted all the ladies on Midland View as a young man in around 1914! Subsequently, he had gone on to run a successful ice-cream business.

On settling in Blackpool, Mr Fusco senior, who was small in stature, but very sturdy, became something of a local celebrity with his impromptu strongman act on the beach! On a regular basis, he would place bets with holiday-makers that he could carry a donkey on his shoulders. (The donkeys were there, of course, to give kids rides during the summer season).

Historic photograph of a man carrying an adult donkey across his shoulders.

Historic photograph of a man carrying an adult donkey across his shoulders.

The visitors were always drawn in by his bet and they never won, as amazingly, he always did manage to carry the donkey! Tony described how his father would duck underneath and then pick up the donkey in the same way a weight-lifter would lift a heavy bar-bell, bending his knees and keeping his back straight, while positioning the donkey across his shoulders, its head and front legs over one shoulder and its back legs over the other.

Perhaps the donkey was happy to get a ride itself for a change instead of ferrying holiday-makers back and forth - who knows!

Mum thought this was absolutely hilarious and couldn't believe this was the same person who had sold ice-cream to her grandma back in Hunslet Carr.

Sadly, Tony told mum he had been disowned by his mother and father because he had married an English girl and they wanted him to marry an Italian!

Still mum was amazed to have ended up working with Tony and they were colleagues and friends until mum left Warburton's in 1991.

I have since done a little research online and found that the Fusco family had started out selling ice-cream in Liverpool in the early 1900s after settling there from Italy. They started by mixing ice cream in their back rooms and selling it from the three-wheeled carts they pushed around the streets. Eventually, they opened shops to supply both parlours and wholesalers.

So Mr Fusco senior had apparently moved from Liverpool to Hunslet Carr at the same time as grandad's father made the same move.

There are still branches of Fusco's Ice Cream Parlour in operation today.

Hunslet Lake in about 1905.

Hunslet Lake in about 1905.

Grandad's youth

Grandad used to reminisce a lot about his youth to mum. One anecdote he always recalled was the fact he had a larger than average head when a child.

The young boys normally wore hats in those days and this was discovered when his head was measured.

Grandad was teased about this, though in an affectionate and not a nasty way. He used to say to mum, "There's only one head bigger than mine and that's Flamborough Head!"

This was an east coast stretch of cliffs, a famous beauty spot. He took it all in good humour.

He part-blamed this on a fall he had as a toddler, which he said always left him with "bumps" on his head. One day, his mother was pushing his pram along Balm Road, Hunslet Carr, in the direction of the local park, where there was also a lake.

It was considered a local beauty spot in those days (pre-1910) although grandad recalled there were rats living there and in later years, the lake was filled in. According to the history books, it was filled in to make way for two crown bowling greens for Hunslet Lake Amateur Bowling Club in 1920.

On the fateful day as grandad was pushed along Balm Road, his mum accidentally lost her grip and the pushchair went hurtling off down the hill, sending him flying out. He bumped his head on the pavement. Luckily, he wasn't seriously injured, but he said he had lumps on his head for the rest of his life after this accident.

When he was a little boy, grandad joined the local Boys' Brigade (or Boy Scouts, we are not sure which). He had a wonderful photo in his box of mementoes of the whole troupe in around 1910. I know grandad is on the picture somewhere, but we don't know which one is him, unfortunately.

The local Boys' Brigade, of which my grandad was a member, in the early 20th century. We don't know which one is grandad, unfortunately.

The local Boys' Brigade, of which my grandad was a member, in the early 20th century. We don't know which one is grandad, unfortunately.

He suffered from rickets as a child, a condition that affects bone development, causing the bones to become soft and weak. With advances in health care, there is much better treatment and prevention of rickets today. The most common cause is a lack of vitamin D and calcium.

In those days, grandad just lived with it and it was quite common, often due to poverty and poor nutrition, but it affected his legs for the rest of his life.

Mum told me that when grandad was in the RAF during World War Two, he was allowed to wear long trousers all the time, instead of the shorts that his comrades wore, because of the deformities in his legs caused by his childhood illness. It didn't affect his mobility, but just the appearance of his legs, in adulthood.

Horse-drawn carts were the only mode of transport in grandad's childhood. This picture shows one of the Hunslet Shire horses who used to pull an early mode of public transport, the local bus.

Horse-drawn carts were the only mode of transport in grandad's childhood. This picture shows one of the Hunslet Shire horses who used to pull an early mode of public transport, the local bus.

Because his legs were so weak as a child, it was often hard for him to participate in the Boys' Brigade activities. His sister Anne's husband ran the troupe and the activities included many long walks. Because of his legs, grandad was allowed to ride on the open-top horse-drawn cart to their destination, a large field, where they would put up their tent.

While there, they would go apple-picking and the cart would be laden with apples on their return. On one occasion, grandad said the horse took fright and bolted across the field, with apples flying off all over the place. He said this was where the saying came from, "Don't upset the apple cart."

In those days, the area was all rural, with just horse-drawn carts for transport.

Mum recalled going back there years later and it had been built up and was a mass of traffic and houses, unrecognisable from how my grandad had remembered it.

Men working on Hunslet rail tracks

Men working on Hunslet rail tracks

When grandad was at school, he used to go home at lunch time (no school dinners then) and had to run an errand during his break.

He would run to the railway sidings at the end of the street - where the family's next door neighbour worked - to take his sandwiches, or some other meal, wrapped in a cloth on an enamel tray.

He also used to take him a jug containing a few cups of tea.

The neighbour used to give grandad a few pennies or "coppers" as a thank you for his efforts.

A silent film from the era of my granddad's childhood: Cecil B DeMille's "The Girl of the Golden West" (1915) which was an American Western movie.

A silent film from the era of my granddad's childhood: Cecil B DeMille's "The Girl of the Golden West" (1915) which was an American Western movie.

Early days of cinema

Grandad also recalled how there used to be a pool hall at the top of his street when he was still at school.

It was owned by his friend's family and the top floor was converted into a cinema. He spent much of his leisure time there in his youth, sneaking in to watch the latest movies!

This was in the early days of cinema, when silent films were made, before the "talkies" had been invented.

Grandad, who was under 12 years old at this time, used to help his pal deliver leaflets to local houses publicising the week's films.

Children weren't allowed in the cinema, but grandad and his friend used to creep past the ticket kiosk by crouching down so the box office clerk couldn't see them, run up the stairs and crawl under the curtain to hide and watch what ever film was showing!

Grandad as a young boy in around 1910, pictured with his father, in a photograph staged at a studio. They are wearing their "Sunday best", as a photo like this was a rare occurrence.

Grandad as a young boy in around 1910, pictured with his father, in a photograph staged at a studio. They are wearing their "Sunday best", as a photo like this was a rare occurrence.

In general, however, it was not an easy life for kids in those days.

Grandad left school at the age of 12 or 13 - there was no going on to university for ordinary working class folk.

Everyone in the family went out to work, as there weren't any state benefits either. They did "an honest day's work for an honest day's pay".

Grandad's first job was in a shoe factory. It was very hard manual work, using machinery.

I don't suppose unskilled youths would be allowed to use industrial machinery like this today due to health and safety regulations!

Before the soles were fastened to the uppers, the size had to be stitched on using a massive industrial sewing machine with a treadle. This was heavy work for a young lad, as it wasn't an electric machine.

He was doing this all day (very long hours) and then at night, after a full day's manual work, he had to cycle home on his pushbike, exhausted.

Grandad's father (pictured with workmates, we believe) in the early 20th century. His dad is the tall chap right at the back, wearing a hat.

Grandad's father (pictured with workmates, we believe) in the early 20th century. His dad is the tall chap right at the back, wearing a hat.

The CWS (Co-operative Wholesale Society) brush factory on Balm Road, where my grandad's father worked

The CWS (Co-operative Wholesale Society) brush factory on Balm Road, where my grandad's father worked

He told his mum he found it hard to cycle due to the intense pain in his legs due to operating the treadle machine all day. His legs would be in such great pain due to having had rickets that his mother had to massage them each night, as he could hardly walk.

People today who complain they "don't like their job" would never have coped at the age of 12 or 13 working in an industrial factory. It was very hard manual work, but the family needed the money and it had to be done.

Grandad's own father had originally moved to Hunslet Carr in Leeds to find work - people had to go where the work was in those days. He worked in a factory, the local brush works.

According to old documents we have found, grandad's father was the third generation of the Triggs family to be a brush-maker.

The house where they lived at the time, at 6 Midland View, was tied in to his job at the brushworks and was rented from the Co-op.

For many impoverished families in Ireland in the 19th century, potatoes formed their staple diet.

For many impoverished families in Ireland in the 19th century, potatoes formed their staple diet.

Prior to living in Liverpool, the family had originated from Drogheda in southern Ireland. (This was my grandad Frank Trigg's maternal grandparents' side of the family. His paternal grandparents had come from Bristol, as detailed earlier).

We have some old birth certificates and other documents confirming this, although we are a little sketchy on some of the dates.

Mum was always told the family had gone to Liverpool seeking work to escape poverty and the great potato famine in Ireland, which began in 1845.

According to the history books, potatoes were the staple diet of the rural population of Ireland at that time. But there was a horrific famine in 1845 after a potato blight, ‘Phytophthora Infestans’, caused them to lose 50 per cent of the crop that year.

The crop of 1846 was all but a total failure and there was a very poor harvest in 1847. Three disastrous years in succession presented Ireland with huge problems.

Between 1846 and 1850, one million people in Ireland died of starvation, or the diseases associated with the famine.

Itinerant workers struggling to feed their family due to the Irish potato famine of the 19th century.

Itinerant workers struggling to feed their family due to the Irish potato famine of the 19th century.

Itinerant workers with no work or food during the Irish potato famine of the 19th century.

Itinerant workers with no work or food during the Irish potato famine of the 19th century.

We believe grandad's ancestors came by boat to Liverpool at around this time to try and start a new life. If this date is correct, this would be when my grandad's own grandma was a child.

Mum has an old marriage certificate, dated 20th February 1865, confirming the marriage of Charles Donnelly, a 34-year-old railway porter, to 27-year-old Mary Wosser, in St Augustine's Church, Great Howard Street, Liverpool. We think these were my grandad's own grandparents, on his mother's side.

So we believe Charles Donnelly must have been born in Ireland in 1831 and would have been a young man in his teens when the family moved to Liverpool during the potato famine.

At the time of the marriage in 1865, the groom's father was listed as farmer Hugh Donnelly, while the bride's was Patrick Wosser, a joiner. This is the earliest documented evidence we have of our family history on my Grandad Trigg's side.

So this is how grandad's family came to be living in England in the late 19th and early 20th century.

A new career for grandad

As a youth in his teens, grandad eventually left the shoe factory and found work at a funeral parlour. Mum is unsure of the year.

However, she said it was a job he hated and he never spoke of it. She believed it upset him working there.

An early photo of my grandad, just visible on the right, with a wedding cake. It would have been the wedding of one of his older siblings.

An early photo of my grandad, just visible on the right, with a wedding cake. It would have been the wedding of one of his older siblings.

She said, with hindsight, it must have affected him psychologically, as he developed a dislike of the dark which remained with him for the rest of his life and he always slept with a nightlight on.

After this, he became an upholsterer. I don't know if he had any formal training, but he became very skilled.

He kept, in his box of mementoes, a hand-written book of his income and expenditure which made him about 23 years old when he was running his own upholstery business.

He did this for the rest of his life and was meticulous with his book-keeping, all done in the 'copper-plate' handwriting which he had been taught at school.

Births, marriages and deaths

It has been hard to keep track of the family tree with grandad having had so many brothers and sisters and with only sketchy information from the early days.

We do know that grandad's parents had married in Liverpool before moving to Hunslet Carr and already had young children, including my grandad, when they settled in Yorkshire.

I am thrilled that we have quite a lot of wedding photographs from the early years, including the marriage of grandad's younger brother, Charlie, to his sweetheart, Kitty, in the 1930s (pictured below). My Uncle Ken (mum's brother) was a pageboy on this occasion.

Mum's brother, Ken Trigg, is the young boy on the left, at a family wedding in the 1930s. It was the wedding of my grandad Frank Trigg's younger brother, Charlie, to Kitty. My great grandma (grandad's mum) is on the right.

Mum's brother, Ken Trigg, is the young boy on the left, at a family wedding in the 1930s. It was the wedding of my grandad Frank Trigg's younger brother, Charlie, to Kitty. My great grandma (grandad's mum) is on the right.

Grandad's brother Charlie marries his sweetheart, Kitty.

Grandad's brother Charlie marries his sweetheart, Kitty.

Grandad's brother Charlie (fourth left) is pictured marrying Kitty. Pictured in the wedding party (above) is grandad's mum Anne Trigg (seated on the left). Grandad's mother-in-law Laura Garnham (seated on the right, wearing glasses). Mum's brother, my Uncle Kenneth Trigg, as page boy. Mum's cousin Joan Peck, standing on the right, is bridesmaid. I think it is grandad's sister Mary possibly (maybe maid of honour?) standing, second left.

Arthur and Elsie Trigg

We also have a photograph of the marriage of grandad's older brother Arthur to Elsie, on May 19th 1920. Arthur was 25 and Elsie (nee Gilliam) was 27. The couple didn't have any children.

Looking at the marriage certificate, they had already become "Trigg" rather than "Triggs" at this time.

Arthur's address was listed as 6 Midland View and Elsie's was 45 Woodhouse Road when they married. Her father, Joseph Gilliam, was listed as being a guard.

Their marital home was at 10 Sissons Road, Middleton, Leeds. They are also listed as living at 25 Middleton Park Avenue, Leeds, on the Electoral Register of 1932.

The marriage of grandad's older brother Arthur to Elsie, on May 19th, 1920.

The marriage of grandad's older brother Arthur to Elsie, on May 19th, 1920.

The marriage certificate of Arthur and Elsie Trigg in 1920.

The marriage certificate of Arthur and Elsie Trigg in 1920.

Then, tragedy struck at a relatively young age. In the late 1930s, Arthur was in a lot of pain with his back. Mum recalled it was before the outbreak of World War Two. I recently obtained a copy of his obituary and found it was 1937.

He was ill in bed with what he thought was a painful boil on his back, but when his condition worsened, on a Friday, he asked the doctor to come and visit him, being too ill to go to the surgery.

The doctor said he would go on the Saturday, but - not realising the seriousness of Arthur's condition - he went to watch a football match first.

During the afternoon, Arthur's condition deteriorated and by the time the doctor came, it was too late. Arthur died in the Leeds General Infirmary.

It turned out it was not a boil causing the pain, but an abscess on his spine, which had burst and caused an infection throughout his body.

Mum said there were no antibiotics then and illnesses such as this could prove fatal.

It was very sad that he died so young, after surviving the war.

Grandad's older brother Arthur and his wife Elsie in happier times, enjoying a day on the beach in the early 1930s.

Grandad's older brother Arthur and his wife Elsie in happier times, enjoying a day on the beach in the early 1930s.

Arthur and Elsie again relaxing on the beach. Arthur, like my grandad, was always smoking a pipe.

Arthur and Elsie again relaxing on the beach. Arthur, like my grandad, was always smoking a pipe.

I am unsure where the photographs on the beach (above) was taken. Mum thinks it may have been at Bridlington, which was near Flamborough Head.