on her 90th Birthday
the day I was born in 1943, one of the most important people
in my life was my Nan. We had a very special relationship.
Nan was a widow and I was the youngest of three children
and so I spent most of my childhood days with her. She was
a wonderful person, full of fun and so kind. I don't think
I ever heard her moan, even though life must have been hard
at times. She was always there to share my happy and sad
moments and I loved her dearly, as did all the family.
her last year of life she suffered a series of falls, now
blind and with brittle bones, life became a series of operations
with long periods staying in Newton Abbot Hospital (the
old workhouse) and I spent hours at her bedside. This was
when she told me about her mother, Maryann Westaway. She
talked about how Maryann would visit her mother, Jane, who
then lived in Kingskerswell Road, Newon Abbot. Maryann and
the children would ride on the back of the milk float which
was horsedriven, from Torquay to Newton Abbot. Maryann died
in the workhouse and Nan felt terribly guilty about this
as at the time of her death she was heavily pregnant with
my Aunt (1930) and as there were no free medical care Maryann
was forced to go into the workhouse to die. The Geriatric
Ward at the Newton Abbot Hospital was originally built as
a workhouse and Nan was scared that she would die there
Nan was 97 years of age and all the family were
willing her to live to a hundred years old. Over the months
it became too much and she died on Easter Sunday, April
1st, 1991 and was buried on the 8th April. I went straight
from her funeral to London to buy her birth certificate
as I just had to find out more about this remarkable lady.
How I wished I had asked her more questions about her childhood,
but it was too late.
Augusta Brooking was born on the 18th October, 1893, the
twelth child of William Thomas Herd Brooking and Maryann
Westaway. Two more girls were to complete the family, but Helena outlived them all. Helena was well educated and an
avid reader. She took me to the Theatre and on trips to
other parts of Devon. Every day she would read her bible,
although she didn't attend church on a regular basis.
loved colourful clothes and was always immaculately dressed.
She, like many of her sisters, had beautiful auburn hair,
which even when she was ninety still hadn't gone grey. Her
favourite perfume was California Poppy and later Yardley's
lavender. Whilst she never remarried she was never short
of admirers and enjoyed life to the full. Her favourite
party piece was a rendering of "Knees up Mother Brown" and this she would do on top of the nearest table. As she
married a Frederick Brown it had significance. In contrast
my mother was quite a serious person and often felt Nan
was a bad influence on me as we shared the same sense of
humour. In her last years she had no money but was visited
by all because of the love and respect we all felt towards
her father, William died in 1905, Maryann started a Laundry
Business in Lymington Road, Torquay. All the girls were
taught the trade and were expected to help out. I can remember
my Nan ironing for all our family. The shirt would take
over an hour to iron, with its starch collar etc and then
it would be folded in an expert way so that it didn't crease.
Helena was to continue in the laundry business when she
herself was widowed at the age of 40 years and my mother,
Eileen Augusta, as the eldest daughter was her assistant.
Life was very hard in those days, and even though my mother had passed examinations for University, there was no way
her father would let her do it. Children were expected to
bring in extra income to support the family and female education
was considered unnecessary.
mum was a gifted athlete and he encouraged her in this.
Mum died in 1965, at the young age of 47 years old, and
how different her marriage had been to her mothers.
Mum around 1931
rose to the rank of Squadron Leader in the RAF and it was
amazing how my mother adapted to this life style, although
always retaining her humble roots. Had she lived longer
she would have been delighted and very proud that her seven
eldest grandchldren have all graduated from University and
two have obtained Doctorates.As
well as my mother and Uncle Arthur, her elder brother, Helena
had three young children to feed and bring up when Frederick died in 1933, Edward was just 5 years old, Jean three years
old and Peter just a year old. There was no widow's pension
so she and the two eldest children, my mother and Uncle
Arthur had to make money taking in laundry and selling newspapers.
Nan has left me a real legacy, since her death I have been
so involved in Family History that I have
both the YEO & WESTAWAY names as one name studies. The
fun of writing and meeting so many different people world
wide has really changed my life and I can only say how lucky
I am that my grandmother was called HELENA AUGUSTA BROOKING
photograph below is of my wedding on the 16th May, 1964
is fourth from the right holding her handbag, behind her
to the right is my Aunty Jean, Next to Helena, fifth from
the right is my sister, Eileen. Then myself (wearing a hat)
with my younger brother Andy in front of me. In front of
my sister is her son Stephen, who has ginger hair. Behind
my sister is my mother, who in fact died nine months after
this photograph was taken. My brother, Bob, first from the
right is holding my niece, Rachel. Behind Rachel is Edward,
my uncle and son of Helena.
on the photograph to enlarge it