The Youngest Among Us

“I will lend you, for a little time,
A child of mine, He said.
For you to love the while he lives,
And mourn for when he’s dead
.”

Edgar Guest (1881-1959)

It is always difficult to comprehend the deaths of the youngest among us. All of us have come across sad family stories. When they involve the death of a baby or young child, we mourn a little with our ancestors. Such is the story of Isabel Bowes Bruce, my second great-grandmother. Isabel married John Bruce in 1864 in County Durham, England.  Isabel was 19 and John was 21. They began their married life in the small mining village of Tudhoe where a new coal mine (Tudhoe Colliery) had opened in 1864. John began work there as a miner.

On 4 May 1866, Isabel gave birth to their first child, a baby girl they named Margaret. Between 1866 and 1876, Isabel and John had six children. Sadly, within that same time period, they buried four of their children, three of them were less than a year old. Isabel was often heavily pregnant at the time she was burying one of her babies.

  • Margaret Bruce, born 4 May 1866. She died 13 months later, aged 1 in 1867. Isabel was about 8 months pregnant with their second child.
  • Thomas Bruce, born 23 July 1867. He died 7 months later in February 1868.
  • Margaret Bruce, born 14 May 1869. (My great-grandmother, she died aged 80.)
  • John Thomas Bruce, born 3 Jan 1873. He died at 2 months old in March 1873. Isabel was pregnant again within a month or so of burying John.
  • William Bruce, born Oct. 1873. (My great grand-uncle, he died aged 85.)
  • John Bruce, born 1876. Died, aged 11 in 1887.

Isabel herself died before she was 40 years old, by 1884. Her husband John remarried in March 1884. The marriage certificate states he was a widower. I am quite sure that burying so many of her babies must have taken a toll on Isabel.

In what seems a sad coincidence, Margaret Bruce (born 1869), my great-grandmother, would have the same experience her mother had. She would bear 6 children between 1889 and 1899, four of which she would bury before their second birthdays.

MargaretBruce1869_photo-croMargaret Bruce Thomas (1869-1949)

 

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 32 prompt: Youngest

Music and Miners

In the coal mining districts of County Durham, England, in the 19th and 20th centuries, almost every colliery (coal mine) had a colliery band. Bands were sponsored by the local mining communities and were a source of great pride for the working men who played in the band and the community who attended their performances. These were brass bands with brass and percussion instruments. My father was about 15 years old when he joined the New Herrington Colliery Band in Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham in 1950.

Dadwithtrumpet
My father, James, on the left with a friend and fellow band member.

Formed in the 1900s, the New Herrington Colliery Band became a military style band after the First World War.1 Financial support for the colliery bands came from the coal miners themselves. In 1934, the New Herrington Colliery Band was supported by subscription and a levy of a penny per fortnight from the Herrington Colliery miners.2

Band
New Herrington Colliery Band, 1953. Photo courtesy of The Internet Bandsmen Everything Within (www.ibew.org.uk). Used with permission of site owner. Copyright unknown.

Although most of the pits in County Durham have now closed, there are some colliery bands in County Durham and other parts of England which still play on today. One of the most well-known is the Grimethorpe Colliery Band in South Yorkshire. Formed in 1917, the band is one of the most successful and long-lived brass bands. They were the focus of the 1996 British film, “Brassed Off”, which showcased the bands’ struggle to survive after the closure of their pit.

And if you feel like getting your toes tapping, just click below and hear the Grimethorpe Colliery Band playing the William Tell Overture.

 

This post was written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Week 29 prompt: Music.

  1. Gavin Holman, Brass Bands of the British Isles, a Historical Directory (N.p.:n.p., March 2018), digital images, Google Books (http://books.Google.com : accessed 5 July 2018). 
  2. “New Herrington Band,” Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, County Durham, 13 March 1934, page 4, col. 1.