Meet my ancestor, Mary BRINE nee MAPLESDEN (1911-1988). She was my wonderfully eccentric Grandmother.
Mary was born on 29 November 1911 at 7 Granville Avenue, Clyde Street in Hull. The circumstances of her birth however, were less than ideal. Her mother, Rosa MAPLESDEN, was just 21 years old and, in what was undoubtedly quite scandalous circumstances at the time, she was unmarried and the identity of Mary’s father was, and has remained, unknown. You can read about the family mystery and what we’ve managed to uncover so far HERE.
Rather than raise her daughter herself, Rosa was to become known to Mary as ‘Auntie Rosa’ and she would make only weekly visits, while Mary spent the first seven years of her life in the loving care of her Grandmother Mary Emma MAPLESDEN nee BARNES.
Mary’s Grandmother was, by this time, a woman in her late fifties, she’d had eight children of her own, and now she was a single parent herself following the sudden disappearance of her own husband Thomas MAPLESDEN. Her youngest daughter, Daisy MAPLESDEN, was now 18 and she must have been readying herself for retirement, however now she was the main carer for the young Mary.
In her later years, Mary would go on to write and publish her autobiography, which has given the family a lot of information about her life and relationships. She always remembered her Grandmother very fondly, and described her in her book as a loving ‘Christian’ woman. However, unfortunately, her recollections of her mother Rosa were quite different, and overwhelmingly negative.
According to Mary, when she was around seven years old, she learned that Rosa was in fact her mother and was ultimately taken to live with her. She reported experiencing great hardships from that point on.
She described suffering not only from emotional neglect, and a complete lack of maternal affection from her mother but seemingly a lack of basic compassion from her too. Mary told several sorry tales regarding how she had been subjected to particularly difficult experiences which she found to be utterly rejecting and even cruel at times from her mother. This was despite the fact that Rosa was, by several accounts, quite gregarious and somewhat popular within her social circles and even thought of affectionately by other children she had (an issue that brought family conflict when Mary ultimately chose to tell her own story in later life).
In spite of her hardships, or perhaps in part because of them, Mary became a particularly spirited, ambitious and charismatic woman. She was intelligent and talented and keen to learn, and her school days provided her with solace and an opportunity to express herself. Despite her love of learning, she left school at the age of 14, and went to work at Bennett’s Glass Works in Hull, in or around the year 1925.
A rumour has persisted in the family that Mr Bennett, who owned the shop, may actually have been her biological father. Mary herself seems to have believed this might have been the case, and she often spoke of how she was convinced she was the daughter of a Jewish man. She never actually discovered the identity of her father however, and it has become the subject of a family investigation many years after her death with the advent of DNA testing. You can read about my journey to discovering the identity of my Grandmother’s father HERE.
Following a brief period working in the Glass Works Mary left this job, apparently because she feared for her safety handling large panels of glass, and went to work in ‘service’ for the local Headmaster of the Grammar School. Perhaps motivated by her desire to at least gain some proximity to an education, if she was not to continue with her own.
As a young woman she met and married George BRINE, and went on to have four children. First she had a daughter, Sylvia Rose HANCOCK nee BRINE.
Next she had a son, George BRINE. However, very sadly she suffered arguably the greatest loss a mother can endure when he died aged just 1 1/2 years old.
She would go on to have another son, Peter BRINE and then, at the age of 44, a further daughter, Angela BRINE in 1953.
Mary and her husband George, had a long and stable, if not always quiet or harmonious, marriage together and they both worked for Northern Dairies for many years.
Following her husband’s death in 1982, Mary turned increasingly to her love of writing and, with the deeply challenging and distressing nature of her relationship with her mother having stayed with her throughout her life she chose to tell her story in her autobiography “Hopwood Street to Wellington Lane”. Unfortunately, she fell ill in the same year in which her manuscript was accepted by a publisher and she died in 1988 while eagerly awaiting it’s publication. Her life story was published, posthumously, just a couple of months following her death ensuring that her memory, and her experiences, would remain known to her family and later descendants.
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