When it comes to the letter N there is no contest about my subject matter. My great-grandmother was Ellen Jolly, but everybody knew her as Nellie.
I was blessed to grow up near and get to know my great-grandmother. Nellie was truly amazing. She was caring, warm-hearted, and fiercely devoted to her family and her religious beliefs. When I was very young I remember staying at her flat in Bungay and sleeping with her in her bed. She would kneel by her side of the bed every night, holding her rosary beads and she would pray for everybody in the family. It was a long list of names and it took her almost ten minutes to get through them all but we couldn't get into bed until she had named everyone who meant something to her.
|Nellie (taken in 1916)|
Nellie was a very loyal person, as a daughter, a sister and as a mother and grandmother. She was close with all of her brothers and her eldest sister Alice. She also became firm friends with her one-time neighbour Alice Kent (who married my great-grand uncle Herbert Ward in 1911). When Nellie's father contracted influenza and broncho-pnuemonia in 1916/17, she took him in to her home and nursed him for several weeks until he passed away in the January of 1917.
When The Great War was well into its second year, Nellie's husband enlisted in the Army (due to a recent change in the conscription age) and soon after was posted to France. By this time they had one son (my grandfather) and, during her husband's absence, Nellie clung to her son and they formed a strong bond which would see them through some extremely tough trials and challenges during World War Two. In June 1940 Nellie's son was reported missing and for several months she did not know whether he was alive or dead. When he finally sent word that he was a Prisoner of War in Germany, it tested her very resolve yet it further strengthened her relationship with him.
Nellie was widowed by the time she was forty-two years old. She never re-married. During the 1940s Nellie opened a Boarding House for Single Working Men. She would run this house in Lower Olland Street, Bungay for at least ten to fifteen years until she retired. My mother has vivid memories of the layout of Nellie's house and all the blood, sweat and tears she put into running everything like clockwork. Nellie baked, washed, ironed, sewed, and cleaned and she did it all single-handed. When my mother was old enough she used to stay with Nellie and assist her with small chores but she was never allowed to go into the men's bedrooms. Nellie always ensured that her grand-daughter was downstairs at all times, to help her in the kitchen and at the dining table.
|Nellie and Deb (taken in 1976)|
Check out the television behind us!
I remember Nellie most of all for her kindness, her soft voice, her prayers and rosary beads, her flat in Bungay with its tiny kitchen and curtained off cupboard, her hard mattress, her jug and bowl on her wash-stand, her clothes (which were almost always navy blue) and her devotion to her friends and extended family. She never said a cross word about anybody, and always encouraged us to see the good in people. Nellie was such a lovely mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and I will always remember her with tenderness. I know she is proud of me for recently writing a book about her son's Army life.