Alan Crosby: Discovering my mother's memories

By Jon Bauckham, 30 July 2015 - 11:59am

For the family historian, few heirlooms are as precious as an autobiography. Alan Crosby is lucky to possess one written by his mother, offering accounts of a bygone age

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 30 July 2015
Alan Crosby
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Alan Crosby parents

Alan Crosby's parents, from a photograph taken in the mid-1970s

I’ve been reading my mother’s autobiography, which she wrote about 25 years ago.

She’s now 89 and sadly her memory is fast fading, but at the beginning of the 1990s her recollections were sharp and clear.

My sister recently found the manuscript among her papers and typed it on the computer – and now I’m riveted by Mum’s account of growing up in Manchester in the 1930s and 1940s.

There’s masses of information about members of the family, my grandparents’ generation. I remember them from my childhood as elderly great-uncles and great-aunts, but Mum describes young married couples with their many problems and hardships. She wrote down much about my grandmother and grandfather that I never knew, or only heard from veiled hints.

There was a lengthy description of food and cooking (always one of her major interests!), including the time she ran away when she was nine years old. There had been a family argument and she’d had enough, so she carefully packed a little suitcase with a few items of clothing, her sister’s teddy bear, and a big hunk of bread.

She got a mile or so along the road, stopped to eat the bread, and then still felt a bit peckish so she decided to go back home. When she got back, nobody had even realised she’d gone!

Much more serious is her account of Manchester in the Blitz, when she was 14 and saw all of the city centre burning fiercely, a hideously vivid and dramatic image that was powerfully engraved on her recollections.

How lucky we are to have her autobiography. It’s a precious priceless piece of family and social history, recalling people, places and ways of life all long since vanished.
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities

 

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