Maternal Grandmother

My grand mother Ethel, was born in Gateshead, Co Durham in 1895. She was the youngest of six with three sisters and two brothers, or should I say half brothers and sisters. This wasn’t discovered until many years later. Her mother, Sarah Sandercock (nee Lythgo) was married to George Sandercock a seafarer who was lost at sea a couple of years before she was born. Sarah had a liason/affair with a man called George Saunders who was either also lost at sea before she was born or just deserted Sarah. The truth about this is hard to discover but in any event the story was that Sarah had a ‘bun in the oven’ when a man called Melville took pity on her and married her. That’s what they did in those days and exactly the same was to happen to Ethel when she was eighteen.

What she did in the intervening years is presently unclear but in 1914 she too was pregnant only this time she was taken advantage of by her employer. The story is that she was working as a housemaid and the liklihood is at the age of 18 she was very much taken advantage of by the master (or the master’s son) of the house. She never talked about this, ever.

The reason this much is known is that my mother remembers hearing how Ethel’s mother Sarah, marched the pregnant Ethel to a large house to confront the perpetrator and the door was slammed shut in their face.

My grandfather Lawrence Copeland, who was a tram conductor at that time – but later became a band conductor – was a lodger at Ethel’s mother’s house whilst playing in the orchestra at the local theatres. He ‘fancied’ her, and also took pity on her and they married. The alternative for a single mother in those days was for the infant to be adopted. The baby, named George was born on the 9th October 1914 and Ethel and Lawrence were married on January 3rd, 1915.

According to the marriage certificate they were living at the same address at the time of the marriage. So that probably reflects the fact that he was indeed a lodger because they didn’t live together in those days. It turned out to be a stormy marriage mainly, I think, due to my grand mothers resentment and bitterness at previous events. She certainly did not respect Lawrence and this attitude was carried on by my mother.

My grandmother remained bitter all her life unfortunately and had a very sharp tongue. The story is she used to ‘wind’ Lawrence up to the point where crockery went flying. I cannot believe he was the bad man and waster that he was painted. After all it was an act of kindness to marry her in the first place.

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