Tucked away in a box at the back of a cupboard, we have a huge collection of old family photos, some of them dating back over a century, which a few years ago I sorted through and scanned electronically. Quite a few of those photos are in poor condition, as we see here, so I’ve been having a go at restoration. What do you think? The results aren’t perfect, but do improve the image!
The caption on the back of this particular photo reads ‘Grannie Green and Granma Bitterly’, which places it somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, I’d say, looking at their approximate ages here.
Grannie Green was my great-grandmother, born Blanche Sara Ludlow in Cardiff in 1880; her mother died when she was 14, and four years later, at the age of 18, she married Samuel Green. He was eight years older than Blanche, and, family legend has it, met her when she was 10 and he was 18 and then waited eight years for her to grow up so he could marry her - the very idea of it seems scandalous today! Blanche and Samuel married in June 1898 and their first child, Alec, was born in December of the same year - definitely something of a shotgun marriage there! They had 12 children, who all survived into adulthood, and the 10th, born in 1918, was my grandmother, Vera. Blanche died of peritonitis in 1931 when Vera was 13 years old, while Samuel lived until 1960 - living with Vera and her husband Arthur after their marriage, despite their growing family. We still have the telegram the family received informing them that Samuel had died in hospital overnight - it arrived just as they were about to set off to visit him. It's so perfunctory: 'regret to inform Samuel Green passed away please call my office'. Damn, that's cold! But you paid by the character for telegrams!
The Bitterly connection is a bit more…complicated to unravel. ‘Granma Bitterly’ would have been Samuel Green’s mother, born Sarah French in Cardiff in December 1850, whose husband Thomas was born Thomas Bitterly in Wolverhampton in 1849 and seems to have changed his name to Green at some point in his youth, possibly about the same time that he moved down to Cardiff - a fresh name for a fresh start? There’s a whiff of scandal about the whole thing - especially since we know that Thomas Green also spent about five years in prison in the late 1870s after being convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm - can’t have been easy for Sarah, left alone to care for three small children in his absence! They went on to have three more after he came home. The family were officially known as Green, listed as such on their marriage certificate and censuses, and none of their children ever used any name but Green, but the caption on the back of this photo implies that Thomas and Sarah also still used the name Bitterly, informally at least! Of course, the full story with all the whys and wherefores of the name change is long since lost to time. We’ll never know what really happened. Sarah died in 1932, outliving her daughter-in-law by one year, while Thomas died in 1934, taking the secrets of his past to the grave with him.