Every day that passes we are making our own history, the love and friendship we give will forever be imbedded in our families hearts.
We will leave our own little mark in this huge universe, though small, it will in its own right be powerful.
Some of us will leave more than others, some will leave behind a huge hole that can never be filled. Some will leave grief that we can never come back from, our heart will forever ache, we will never feel whole again.
Their passing will take a part of you with them, lost until you meet again, be it in heaven or in your next life.
I’m a great believer in soul mates, I truly believe you will live a life though different, over and over again. You will search for your one true love, your soul mate, and until you find them you will not rest. You may not even know you are searching but you’ll feel a unexplainable emptiness until you find them.
Love is to me the most powerful emotion, an emotion that can make you feel so extremely happy, make you feel as you have everything in life you need even when you have very little. It completes you.
That emotion can also be your destroyer.
Heart break, be it through loosing a loved one by death or even separation can slowly but surely make your body shut down. You lose who you are and never feel complete again.
When I think of my Great, Great Grandparents John and Ethel, I envision a love just like this, a love only few of us will ever be lucky enough to feel.
Of course there is no way that I can stand in the same room as them and feel that love, the love that would have filled the room, shone from theirs souls, twinkled in their eyes.
But I do know that the love that my Great, Great-Grandmother had for her family left it’s mark, even all these years later.
This week I have been lucky enough to be able to hear from two of her grandchildren about how special she was, how her just being in their lives for a short while gave them such warm and loving memories. She changed their lives just by being her, their warm, caring, tender Gran Ethel May Wheeler.
Ethel May Wheeler was born on the 25th May 1886 at Cowdown, Micheldever, Winchester, Hampshire, England, to Alfred William Wheeler, a humble Carter and Emily Wheeler nee Shinkfield. You can read more about Emily Shinkfield, here and here.
Ethel was baptised on the 7th July 1886 at St Mary’s The Virgin, Mitcheldever, Hampshire.
On the eve of the 5th April 1991 the census return was taken, which shows Ethel, her father Alfred, her mother Emily and her two brothers, Ernest and Albert and her sister Florence, also her Uncle Edwin Wheeler, residing at Moorgreen, Westend, South Stoneham, Hampshire, England.
Alfred and Edwin are both working as Agricultural Labourers.
Their neighbours are Robert L Webb, Julie Webb and their Children, Julie, Robert, William and James. Also Ernest Chalk, his wife Kate E Clalk and son Duncan E Chalk.
Ethel paper trail runs dry up until the eve of 1901, when once again the census is taken. It shows the Wheeler family residing at Eadle Street, Southampton, Hampshire. They have three boarders, lodging with them called Robert Airey, a Coal Porter from Eye, Suffolk, England, Charles Sail, a General Labourer from Hedge End, Hampshire, England and Henry Sail also a General Labourer from Southampton, Hampshire.
Their neighbours are William Stote, a Carter, his wife Emily and their two children Ernest and Nellie.
About 1907 Ethel parents take in a new lodger called John Cornelius O’Connor.
Ethel and John fall in love and on the 26th December 1908, they marry at St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.
John Cornelius O’Connor, son of John Cornelius O’Connor and ?, is a widower and working as a Coal Trimmer. Ethel and John are both residing at 14 Albert Road, Southampton. Their witnesses are Albert Edwin Wheeler and Clara Helena Wilson.
On the 18th August, they welcomed their first born Eileen May O’Connor into the world. She was born at home at, 12 Deal Street, Southampton, Hampshire.
John is working as a Coal Porter.
Ethel registered Eileens birth on the 27th September 1909.
Alfred Thomas Burt is the registrar.
In the hunt to find Eileen May O’Connors sisters birth certificate, I emailed the Southampton Archives, unfortunately they do not hold copies but Joanne Smith, kindly gave me the details of a few of Ethel and John’s children baptisms. I’m so excited to be able to tell you all especially my wonderful nan, Doreen Townsend Nee Willats, her mums baptism date.
Eileen May O’Connor was baptised at St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire, England, on the 8th September 1909.
John occupation was given as Trimmer and their address was 12 Deal Street.
On the 2nd April 1911 Ethel and John and their beautiful baby girl Eileen May O’Connor, my Great Granny, were living at number 4 Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton, which was a dwelling of only 3 rooms.
John was 37 years old, Ethel 24 and Eileen was just 1.
John was working for a Coal Marchant as a coal porter.
Ethel and John have been married 2 years, they have 1 child born living and 1 child sill living. Ethel is pregnant with their second child.
Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor was born on the 4th May 1911. I believe she was born at 4 Crosshouse Terrace, I haven’t yet been able to confirm this, as I can not get hold of a copy of her birth certificate even though it is listed on Ancestry and Find My Past. The records office were unable to find her registry and refunding my payment. I have now contacted the Southampton council in hopes they may be able to find a copy. I really hope so, as her birth and marriage certificates have been lost and I would love to be able to get a copy for her daughter Joy Croucher.
Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor was baptised on the 2nd June 1911 at St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.
John is working as a Coal Porter and the family are residing at 4 Crosshouse terrace, Southampton.
On the 4th of December 1913, Ethel and John welcomed their third daughter Kathleen Eleanor Florence O’Connor, into the world. She was also born at 4 Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton, Hampshire. John was still working as a coal porter.
Kathleen Eleanor Florence O’Connor was baptised on the 7th January 1914 at St Mary’s, Southampton.
By 1915, the O’Connor family have moved home, just a few doors away to number 11 Crosshouse Terrace, and on the 2nd of July, a son was born, Patrick John O’Connor.
I can only imagine the delight they must have felt to hold a son in their arms, also the pain that John would have been feeling, as memories of his two sons in Canada would have come flooding back to him. I wonder if he was in contact with them, or they were just a painful memory that never got spoken about? You can read more about them here.
Patrick John O’Connor was baptised on the 25th August 1915, at St Mary’s, Southampton.
A few years passed, it’s now 1918, Ethel, John and their children are still living at 11 Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
Once again they welcome a new arrival into their humble home.
Norah Margaret O’Connor was born on the 3rd May in the Southampton district, I assume at 11 Cross Terrace, this will to be confirmed when my Mum and I visit the Hampshire Records Office.
The family is rather large now, money must have been tight as the family grow in size and the Great war was still looming over the city.
My nan informs me, that Ethel John and their children were well feed throughout the war, not one mouth went hungry, as John would go fishing on his boat Allanha, bringing home plenty of fish for everyone to eat, they even feed everyone in their street.
Allanha sadly got bombed in WW2 and was destroyed in Southampton waters where it was moored at Crosshouse Harbour.
The Great War is now over, it’s 1920, and the O’Connor family are still residing at 11 Crosshouse Terrace. John is still working as a coal porter. Life must have been returning to normal after the war, as once again Ethel finds herself expecting.
On the 17th November, Brennan Cornelius O’Connor is welcomed into the world.
I can only imagine how wonderful life would have been surrounded by so many children, all looking out for one another, learning and experiencing life. How I wish I could go back in time and have a wee peek in their window and watch how they all spent their days.
Ethel’s childbearing days are still not over, she once again finds that she is expecting another baby.
She gives birth to Molly E O’Connor, on the 3rd May 1923 in Southampton, Hampshire.
Ethel has finally had enough of childbearing after having 7 children, she banishes John to live on his boat in hopes that she wouldn’t fall pregnant again. From what I can make out from old maps of Southampton, his boat was harboured a stones throw away. I’m sure having a catholic husband, children brough up as catholics and being a baptist, had a huge part to play in, John sleeping on his boat, Allanha.
Between the years 1931- 1939, Ethel feels a great deal of heartache, she loses her mother Emily, her father Alfred and her husband John after 30 years of marriage.
John Cornelius O’Connor, sadly passes away on the 4th October 1939 at 1 Botley Road, West End, aged 66. His occupation is listed as a watchman.
His residence at the time of his death is 32 Canute Road, Southampton, Hampshire. Cause of death is Bronchitis and Myocardial Degeneration.
Ethel registers his death on the 4th October 1939. The pain she must have felt is unbearable to think about.
Ethel buried her husband on the 7th October 1939, at Hollybrook Cemetery, Tremona Road, Shirley, Southampton, SO16 6HW.
On the 29th September 1939 the WW2 National Registration was taken, which finds Ethel living at 32 Canute Road, Southampton, Hampshire32 Canute Road, Southampton, Hampshire. Ethel is living with her son Patrick John and her daughter Molly A O’Connor. Ethel is working as an Office Cleaner and Home Duties. Patrick is working as a Deal Heavy Worker Porter (Wharf) and Molly is working as a Waitress.
In the same dwelling is Ethel’s daughter, Dorothy Croucher nee O’Connor and her husband Harold A E Croucher, their son Peter and daughter Joy.
It has just dawned on me that the 1939 register was taken before Ethel’s husband John’s death. I can not for the life of find him on the registry. Was he on his boat? Where was he?
Ethel paper trail once again runs dry up, until 1974 when her families hearts break as she sadly died on the 1st November 1974 at Moorgreen Hospital, West End, Hampshire.
Her eldest daughter, my great granny cuddles, Eileen May Willats Nee O’Connor registers her death on the 4th November 1974.
Ethel funeral service was held at Hollybrook Cemetery, on Thursday November the 7th at 3.30pm.
She was reunited with her beloved husband, John Cornelius O’Connor.
I have heard such wonderful words, memories about Ethel from two of her many grandchildren. My nan Doreen Townsend nee Willats and her adored cousin Joy Couturas nee Croucher have kindly and wonderfully shared a few of their memories by email, and have allowed me to share their emails with you.
My nan wrote –
Now how can I bring my Gran to life for you. She was a very lovely Lady, much loved by all the family. She was a Methodist and read her bible a lot. When I was little and stayed the night with her I remember her kneeling to say her prayers before she got into bed. She worked hard all her life. When she was in her seventies she was still working for two old ladies who had a wool shop in Bedford Place, Southampton, she used to clean for them and get them their lunch every day. She called them her Old Ladies, but they were both younger than her.
I will tell you the story of her chicken, I don’t know where Gran got her from she was called Biddy, Gran treated her like a pet. One of my uncles, I can’t remember who, bought a cockerel to keep Biddy company, he didn’t last very long. Gran was furious as the cockerel tried to get familiar with Biddy, there was Gran chasing the cockerel with a broom shouting “Leave my Biddy alone, you filthy swine.” Everyone thought it was funny, but not Gran, she wasn’t happy till the cockerel was gone. Biddy lived a long life and died naturally. My Gran was wonderful, she stayed with my Mum and I at the hospital all night when my Dad was dying, she was with her family through every emergency. She lived with us off and on during the war but she was living at my Aunty Norah’s when we were bombed out, but my Dad evacuated all my Mums family out of Southampton as the bombing was so bad. Auntie Norah’s baby was only two days old, and my Auntie Kits baby Jean, I think was three days old. Dad somehow got an empty bungalow at New Milton and moved the whole lot of us there including Gran who was a tower of strength.
Grans favourite flowers were violets, when they were in season she always bought them and a little bunch to wear in her lapel. She only lived one road away from us when we lived in Burlington Road. We could see Grans bedroom window, from my Mums back bedroom window, so Mum could check Grans curtains were drawn back, but Mum wasn’t there when Gran needed her, she was on holiday with us in Germany. It was a cold night with a bit of a frost, Gran came in her back gate, slipped, her foot went into the drain and her leg broke, remember we had no phones in the house or mobiles or alarms like we have now. Gran called and called but no one heard her. I don’t know how she did it but she dragged herself into the house and got to her chair, where she stayed for hours, until one of her Daughters called in and found her, she must have suffered such pain ?My Mum was so upset she wasn’t there when Gran needed her.
One night when I was about 16 Mum was at work, she was on evening shift at the Buffet at the Central Station, so I had a few friends in, boys and girls, knock knock on the door and in comes Gran, she had her coat on and her slippers. I nearly died, they were Turkish with curly toes ! I thought my friends would take the mickey but they didn’t, Gran settled down, I made some tea and we all chatted away, Gran asking them what they did? She was a great hit, she stayed until she thought they should be off home, then she helped me tidy up, then said Goodnight God Bless You, and toddled off home. Gran was a great influence on me when I was growing up, I thank her for everything she taught me, A very wonderful Lady with a heart of gold. Sleep in peace Gran, God Bless.
My nan words melt my heart and bring tears to my eyes, how I wish I could have met her but if my great granny Eileen was anything like her mum Ethel, I’ve felt in my heart a little piece of that love and I believe I understand how my nan felt about her gran.
My nans cousin Joy, daughter of Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor and granddaughter of Ethel and John wrote to me –
These are some of my memories of my grandmother.
My Gran was a wonderful and gentle lady, with the most beautiful smile.
Every Sunday her grandchildren would go to see her after church. She would make us tea and cakes sometimes toast. Gran made lovely little tea cakes. She would make every grandchild feel they were so very special.
Sometimes on the way home from school she would meet me. Gran would put my arm under hers and we would walk to my house. As I got older I realized that she knew that, when I got home my parents would be at work and I did not like being on my own. We would have tea and Gran would tell me stories until my mother arrived home.
I knew her life must have been difficult. She worked very hard, but was always willing to help anyone that needed it.
All of us became better people because of Gran. Her gentle ways and kindness helped us all.
Last time I saw Gran. I had just arrived back from America. I visited her in hospital, she was so happy to see me. We took a walk in the corridor and again she took my arm and put it under hers, I knew this was our good bye.
Joy just reading that back, gives me a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes. I thank you for both sharing your wonderful and heartfelt memories, through them she lives on and through all her children, their children, their children’s children, grandchildren etc, she will be remembered, and lives on through us all.
Sleep peacefully great, great granny.
Ethel May Wheeler
25 May 1886 – 1 November 1974