Monday, 16 May 2016

Mrs Nellie Davison’s War .......... stories behind the book nu 25

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War*

Duncan and Mrs Davison, circa 1915/1916
Nellie Davison nee Latchford was born in Hulme in 1889.  She was one of seven children.

Her father was a dyer but briefly had chanced his luck as a coal merchant but either because he was not suited to do the occupation or for other reasons he had reverted back to his old job.

Her older brothers and sisters had been engaged in a variety of occupations.  Two worked in the fabric trade, another was an iron turner and fitter and the eldest had a fish and chip business.

And by 1911 the family were living in a three roomed house on Percy Street which had been one of a succession of houses all in Hulme all bounded by City Road to the north and Stretford Road to the south.

Postcard to Hulme, 1915
During 1907 she had been walking out with Mr George Davison.

He was three years older and had been born in Harpurhey and  belonged to those “middling people.”

His father was a solicitor’s clerk and George while working as a clerk attended night school studying English, Latin, French and Euclid which was hard work but as he wrote to Nellie “your future happiness as well as my own depends largely on the results of my studies during the next few years.”

Those were successful and their marriage in 1908 was followed by the birth of their son and in the autumn of 1914 he along with thousands of others volunteered for the army.
In the course of the next four years he was stationed in Woolwich, Ireland and in the March of 1918 shipped out to the Western Front.

Now I still do not know that much about Nellie, but by picking through the letters George sent home it is possible to piece together something of her life during the war.

146 Bedford Street, 1894
Fairly early on she moved out of her home in Romiley where she had lived since 1908 and back to Hulme.

This was 146 Bedford Street in Hulme and here she stayed with her son Duncan till the end of the war.  It is unclear if this was where her parents lived or a place she rented.

But it made sense to move back to Hulme given that this was where some of her family were still living.

The cottage in Romiley was rented out to sub tenants and she only moved back sometime in late 1918 or early 1919.

George Davison, circa 1915/1916
What I did find interesting was that during the war Nellie and Duncan upped sticks and spent time in both London and Ireland in rented accommodation either close to the barracks where George was staying or
perhaps sharing the accommodation with him.

Now there will be someone much more qualified than me who will be able to explain how common this practice was but I find it fascinating especially given that rail travel became more expensive and difficult as the demands of the war impacted on the railway network reducing the number of trains.

George didn’t survive the war.  He was killed in the June of 1918 and the extensive correspondence with the various Government agencies throws light in the years that followed.

I know that she never remarried and was still in Romiley in 1955 and there is a hint that Duncan only died in the 1990s.

That as they say is for another post and of course appears as a story in the forth coming book.**

Eltham  Church and Well Hall Road in 1915
But there is one last bit of Nellie's story and it is a bit I overlooked when I first read the letters.  Geotge refers to a Mrs Drinkal who Nellie stayed with or met when she was visiting him in Woolwich in 1915 and there is also a W H Drinkall who witnesed his will three years later before he left woolwich.

The spelling is different but there may will be a link given that a W H Drinkal was living at 7a Elmbrook Street which is listed in the electoral roll for Eltham and three years later when George was briefly back in Woolwich he had to collect a parcel from "Well Hall Post office."

And that would put him close to where I grew up.  Now that makes a connection spanning fifty years.

Material from the George Davison collection will feature in the special exhibition to mark the Battle of the Somme which began in July 1916.  The exhibition entitled For the Fallen is drawn from material collected by David Harrop and will be in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern Cemetery from July of this year.

Location; Hulme, & Southern Cemetery, Manchester

Pictures; of Mr and Mrs Davison and Duncan, 1915/1916 and postcard 1915, from the collection of David Harrop, Eltham in 1915 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and Bedford Street, 1844 from the OS for South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, 

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War

**Manchester and the Great War,

***Coming Soon ......... an exhibition in Southern Cemetery ........... remembering the Battle of the Somme,

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