Wickwars

Well, if I needed a sign that might be an omen that I need to slow down and take stock, Saturday’s migraine was it. That’s my second in two months, after months without one. It’s not all stress related. My hormone are insane, absolutely insane at the moment, but I suspect I would have coped better with the hormones had not my life been a seething maelstrom of stress as well.

So it appears my body has put the brakes on what my mind would not, and the next few weeks sees me seriously sorting my priorities out and putting my health at the top of the agenda, and if that means a lot more lolling about and a lot less riding about on my charger, shouting at people, so be it.

My weekend’s plan, which was to take time off to do nice things, got concertinaed into doing nice things today, but that’s alright. I have been reading books that I needed to finish for various things, and as a real treat, getting to grips with more family tree stuff. So I am going to tell you about the Wickwars, to the excitement of nobody except me and my mother.

When I was a kid, my mum was very fond of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales, which she would read to my brother and I with great gusto. We were particularly fond of Matilda Who Shouted Fire, and The Chief Defect of Henry King Was Chewing Little Bits of String.

This macabre streak was wound through all our family doings like the words in Blackpool Rock, and is indeed something I try to instil in my own children. ‘Do not run into the road. You will be squished to jam.’ and ‘Do not eat your hair! You will turn out like that girl who got a hair ball and died.’ etc

My mum had a whole raft of stories like this. I particularly dreaded the relish with which she told the story about the boy who was pratting about on an escalator and got his wellington boot jammed into the bit at the top that disappeared into the workings and it ate his foot. I was terrified of escalators until I was about twenty, despite never having worn wellington boots on one, or having been in the slightest bit tempted to prat about, due to foot chewing fear.

The other story she used to tell us that really stuck in my mind was a dire warning not to go near the mangle. Yes. I am old. Yes. We had a mangle. Yes. Of course my brother and I wanted to play with it. It was heavy and dangerous, and had cogs and flattened things like frogs on a road.

The mangle story was actually her mum’s story to tell. Doris (my granny) used to tell me how one day she had to run an errand up the ‘north’ (Leicester, not THE NORTH) to Aunty Polly Wickwar’s, and when she got there all the kids were mucking about with the mangle, and one of the kids mangled the end of their finger off, and there was ‘buckets of blood’, and Aunty Polly Wickwar had to take said child up the Royal (Leicester Royal Infirmary) and it was all very terrible. And it just shows you.

And every time my brother and I would hover anywhere near the mangle on the days my mum dragged it out into the garden, she would run down the passage from the kitchen to our back door shouting: ‘Don’t touch the mangle. Remember Aunty Polly Wickwar.’ Which of course we did, and we didn’t. And thus Aunty Polly Wickwar (who must always and forever be known by her entire three names/title) slid into the annals of our family history as a woman of great fortitude in the mangling department.

So when I started looking into our family history in 2007, she naturally loomed large, especially as my mum then told me that she suspected that Aunty Polly Wickwar might well be related to Len Wickwar the boxer. This was news to me, but apparently he was a dab hand at smacking people around and became mildly famous for it for about three weeks in 1957. It is not clear if he is the child in the mangle incident and grew up determined to make much of himself despite his mangle related disability. Nothing was clear.

Of course, the Wickwars have remained elusive beasts ever since, and even though I regularly throw their names into Ancestry in the hope that somebody, somewhere will have done all the hard work for me and made the connection, nobody had until Friday, when it turns out that my great grandmother’s brother, George Ellis, was married to a woman who married a Wickwar, after George died in Flanders in WWI. Her name was Mary and for reasons, which like many of the finer points of the mangle incident, remain lost to the mists of time, Polly is a common nickname for Mary. I suspect she may be Aunty Polly Wickwar of the mangling fame.

I have yet to find Len the prize fighter, but who knows. With one Wickwar under my belt, anything is possible.

I rang my mum to tell her this happy news and she said. ‘Oh. I am pleased. Of course you know that the green aspidistra pot in the bathroom, the one with the chunk out of the lip used to belong to Aunty Polly Wickwar, don’t you?’

Which I didn’t, and which probably goes to prove something or other. Possibly that my life sounds more and more like a Victoria Wood sketch by the day.

5 responses to “Wickwars

  1. Great stuff. And I hope an antidote to TrumpBrexitCutsstress x

  2. I’m sure you know there is a website devoted to the place called Wickwar. Wickwar.org.

    You’re SO lucky to have an unusual surname to research. I have Smiths galore (so, loads of sweaty medieval Welshmen beating the crap out of metal stuff); Jones, Thomas, Richards, Curry – all wildly unusual, ha, ha. Surnames from the North East were more fun. Donkin, for example. I loved telling my sister that one. She’s keen for me to find some posh blood in our veins – something with status. All I have to report (with pride) is that our entire gene pool were as poor as church mice, especially the women. They had no standing (except the Bullman women, born in Stepney in the mid-to-late 1800s, who were well-educated – thanks to their Dad – and became teachers) and worked their fingers to the bone to keep their children fed and clothed, when their husbands died in the mines, at sea, or in the Wars.

    Which brings us back to Wickwar. Does your ancestor’s family hail from Wickwar, do you think?

    • The Wickwars are tricky because even though it’s a more unusual name, there are a huge clump of them in Leicester it appears, and they’ve all got very similar names, so it’s a question of trying to sort them all out carefully. I had this problem with my grandad whose surname was Oxford. I thought it was unusual until I realised he came from a small village in Suffolk where 95% of the people who lived there were all Oxfords who intermarried! I’ll get there eventually. I feel your pain with the more normal surnames though. I’ve hit a total brick wall with Jason’s family thanks to very traditional surnames.

  3. Loved this!
    It brought back memories of my childhood, and Mum dragging her huge yellow-painted mangle into the garden, then pulling clothes out of the Copper with giant wooden tweezer things, and pushing/pulling them through the mangle, while we took it in turns to turn the handle 🙂
    The cry of ‘Don’t touch the Mangle’ was a regular thing in our house, too, though we weren’t lucky enough to see blood spilt, but which made us all the more determined to do so! Lol

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