The Ring

By Mick Whitehead

Go to Mick’s web site about Clowne - which includes some old pictures of the area

 

Let me tell you a story. It begins in May 2000, though it starts many years before, when the century was young. I began tracing my family tree in May 2000 when an unknown photograph hidden away for decades sparked my interest. When I asked my mother who was in the picture, she gave me chapter and verse, very interesting I thought. Later, I realised that there must be many images that I had grown up with, that I knew nothing about. Furthermore, when mum was no longer around, no one would know whom these faces from the past were. So I began to dig & faceless photos began to take on the bodies of real people. It is one of these pictures that started the story that I would like to tell ……

First I’ll set the scene…. It was the turn of the century; people were looking to the future. New technology was everywhere… man had even conquered the air & a new age was about to dawn!

My grandfather had two sisters - Grace and Minnie Whitehead. Born in the 1890's they all lived in Clowne, a North Derbyshire mining village. These communities were known for being extremely close knit. Grace, the eldest sister, had a childhood sweetheart named Vic. Minnie, who was a few years younger, dallied with Vic's best friend, who was named Freddie Barnes. With the outbreak of WW1, the two pals decided to enlist, the fact that they were both under age for military service, did not seem to carry much influence with the pair. Nor did the authorities seem to be over vigilant when it came to recruitment, as they were both accepted.

Vic went to his parents and asked if they would object to him getting engaged to Grace before he went away to war. Suprisingly they had no objections & neither had my great grand parents! I have heard, that the story went…. that because they did not expect him to return - no objections were raised. Certainly a couple at their age, getting engaged, was very rare in 1915. Freddie also thought that this would be a good idea but when he broached the subject, parental permission was definitely not forthcoming. As far as the families were concerned, they were both to young.

Well, the lads went off to war and like countless others, were thrown into the meat-grinder that was the Western Front. Vic fought through every engagement to the armistice. Freddie, the young idealist, did not… & he was killed on the Somme. After the war Vic returned home and married his childhood sweetheart & in due course they had a daughter, June, who later married and had a daughter named Hazel. Minnie never married.

I remember, as a child, visiting my Great Aunts & there was a picture of a soldier, in a black frame, on the dresser. Obviously I now know, that this was a picture of Minnies beau, Freddie.

Last year, as I have said, I started to chart my family tree. I had gone to see my cousin Hazel, in the hope that she would be able to supply me with some old family photos. Over a cup of tea, we talked of the old folks and the sad story of Minnies lost love. After making the drink, Hazel excused herself; on returning she smiled and said "I think you should see this". She opened her clasped palm & nestling there was a ring,

She said, "My grandma (Grace) gave me this, before she died". It was the ring that Vic had given her, so many years before. So the story that I had grown up with was true. Hazel's eyes, twinkled mysteriously, I knew something was about to happen. "Mick," she said. "You know how they wouldn't let Minnie and Freddie get engaged?" I nodded as she opened her other hand. To show a sparkling diamond solitaire. "Well, they did anyway!"

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