Mary Wellock’s life in a birthday book

Left behind. Mary Wellock & her brother Benjamin at Toft Gate in 1912. Own collection.

Mary Wellock’s birthday book is a treasure trove of genealogical information containing birthdays (plus some marriages, death & burial information) of more than sixty of Mary’s relatives. Yet what makes the book really special is what it tells us about Mary herself. A couple of weeks ago I wrote of what the book taught me about her friends and the impact of WW1 on this generation. Now I want to turn to Mary’s close relationship with her brothers in particular which oozes out of the pages.

Mary was my great grandmother, mother of my Grandpy. Born in 1886 she was the tenth child of eleven. Sadly, Mary’s younger brother Hornby had died when she was just six effectively making Mary the baby of the family from that point. There’s more background on the Wellock family in this blog.

Mary (Pollie) Wellock’s birthday book. Own photo.

The book itself is small (11cm by 8cm) and falling to pieces. There are indications that it was purchased second hand, owned first by a Nellie Hood. It was January 1907 and two of Mary’s closest brothers by age, David & Major, were preparing to emigrate to Canada. Was it a goodbye gift or did the twenty-year-old Mary buy it for herself to keep a record of her family? Mary’s beautiful handwriting helps to identify the first entries which are for parents, siblings, nieces & nephews plus the odd uncle & aunt. The most poignant of these are those of her two brothers, Richard & Hornby, who had both died in childhood.

Figure 71: the page recording the birthday and death date of Hornby Wellock, Mary’s younger brother who had died a few years before the book was started, and of her brother-in-law William Henry (Willie) Barrett who sadly also died young. Own collection.

At the front Mary records a few further red-letter dates, dates such as house moves and winning 1st prize for her butter making at the Yorkshire Show for her butter making. Topping and tailing these were her two brothers’ emigration “David & Major sailed for Canada March 15th 1907. Arrived at St Johns March 28 1907. Major sailed back for Canada Feb 17th 1911” and a final return holiday of one in 1949. “Major & Violet came on holiday July to Sept 1949.” It is these pages where her love for her brothers’ truly shines through and led to this final photo of Mary with her brother Major and their other surviving siblings back in Yorkshire. (In 2022 I was able to trace David & Major’s life in Estevan with some of their descendents).

the Wellock siblings back row, left to right, Benjamin, Major, “self” (not identified, but possibly Sarah, Benjamin’s wife), Violet (Major’s wife), Jeanette (unsure how relates). Front row Walker, Mary. Gargrave 1949 during Major & Violet’s last trip to Yorkshire. Own collection

I love this worn little book for it contains so much of my Great Grandmother making her so much more real to us. With much gratitude to Mary Wellock for recording that which was important to her about her life, her family & her friends.

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