Well, her full name has ingots in it: Mabel Elsie Margaret Bayliss, nee Llowarch. She is my major Welsh connection.
Mabel was the daughter of Edward “Teddy” Llowarch and his wife Francis (nee Ash). They had four daughters.
Teddy Llowarch’s parents were “economic migrants” to The Midlands. Teddy had his own business: a barber’s shop in Piper’s Row, Wolverhampton. The shop, with its old-fashioned look, was still there when I was a kid, but I hear that the area has been “developed” over the past few years. (When I perform my one-man show, I tell an amusing tale about great-gran’dad Teddy.)
Mabel – Nan Bayliss – did not have an easy life. Her first husband, Mark Leonard Muir, died young, leaving his wife to cope with four children in a tiny, tiny terraced house in Fox’s Lane off Five Ways Island, Wolverhampton. That terrace was knocked down over forty years ago. The house was a two-up, two-down, one-outside tumbledown place. My Mom was the eldest of the brood: she was only six when her father died.
But Mabel did what so many women had to do in those days: she worked her fingers to the bone and managed to get by. There was no Welfare state in those early 20th Century days.
She met and married Jim Bayliss (a little of his history appears elsewhere in this blog). That was the beginning of stability for her and her little family. Jim was a great provider.
The couple had two children of their own: Rene (Irene) and Doug, my uncle and aunt. So Mabel and Jim had quite a few mouths to feed!
Of her first husband’s children, Beatrice died of tuberculosis when quite young – in her early twenties, I think. Neither Mabel nor any of her family ever really recovered from that loss.
During the Second World War, there was never a shortage of cups of tea at Nan Bayliss’s house: she’d stocked up on those red-lettered packets of Barringtons tea and lots of bags of sugar before the War started. They were kept in the cupboard beside the chimney-breast. That preparedness was what made me call the Help Yourself group’s storage project “Nan’s Pantry”. Alas, the thrift of those times has all but been eroded from our culture.
In looks, Mabel was “typically Welsh”: very short (she fitted under my arm) and she always wore a wrap-over pinnie. Until she died, she would do her own shopping, carrying her filled bags all the way from Wooding’s grocery-shop on the Stafford Road and refusing help to carry them that half-mile.
Her son, my Uncle Jack, died when he was in his fifties – another sad blow for Mabel.
Her first names were bestowed on her grandchildren: I have a cousin Elsie, my cousin Susan’s middle name was Mabel, and my Mom and Dad’s baby which only lived a few hours and was buried in Australia was named Margaret.
My Mom died in 1967 when Nan Bayliss was in her eighties. She died – we said of grief – a couple of weeks after her daughter.
Like all the members of my Family who I write about here, little Nan Bayliss left me a legacy of hard-work and Family love.
Mabel Elsie Margaret Bayliss, nee Llowarch, 1967.
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