Claire's stack of papers

April 21, 2017

Claire Wilson is a journalist, writer and lecturer, and was my third participant for the research into Lofts, Garages and Basements: Treasure and Tat. Last year Claire's mother Helen passed away at the age of 85. Over the last year Claire and her various relatives have been sorting through Helen's possessions (of which there were many). One of the items Claire stumbled upon was a stack of papers buried at the bottom of a cupboard. The stack of papers contained mainly letters, but also drawings, birth certificates and travel documents. All of the papers dated back to sometime between 1939 - 1944 (during the Second-World-War). Helen, who was Jewish, was born in Germany but fled to the UK (along with her family) shortly before the war started, where she became a refugee.     

 

Amongst the many papers Claire discovered letters that were sent from Helen (her mother) and Carman (her grandmother) to Bob (her grandpa), whilst he was being interned at the Isle of Man over a 4 month period in 1940. Carman supposedly also sent food parcels to Bob. In one of the letters she explains how best to cook the calves tongue she has sent. 

 

In each of the letters Helen writes her own note to Bob at the bottom of the page. Most of these notes are about the three pets Helen had at the time, and are accompanied by a small drawing of one of the animals. She had a dog called Joy, a cat called Mucky, and (most bizarrely) a tortoise named Johnny Walker. In one of the letters Helen explains that Johnny Walker had an eye infection, and sadly went blind in one eye. In each of the letters to her father, Helen references the different animals as his grandchildren. Helen addresses Bob as Daddymouse in most of the letters.

Another discovery Claire made when going through the papers, was a pencil drawing of her grandfather Bob and two other men. All three of the men are dressed in full suits, and are sat around a table. Claire remembers her grandfather would always wear a shirt and tie, even when gardening. When finding the drawing Claire could not believe the likeness the drawing was to her grandfather, both physically and characteristically. At the top of the drawing is written Central Promenade Internment Camp, 06 October 1940. Bob apparently kept in touch with some of the men he met on the Isle of Man, and played cards with them when back in London.

 

 

 

 

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