Hannah, Marian and the Scaleby Grahams: a memoir.

A group of Grahams gathered together for Sarah Jane Graham's wedding to Percy Graham in 1925. Sarah Jane was Hannah's 1st. cousin. Hannah is on the back row, sixth from the right. She must have been 28 at the time.

As back as I can remember my mother talked about the Grahams. They gave her her identity. Her branch once owned Scaleby Hall (this was true) and before that came from various castles (doubtful). She was always adding more castles, which she happened to discover were inhabited by Grahams. All the Grahams had more or less the same stories, athough some thought the castles were across the Border. We really do not know.

She was the daughter of Walter Graham and Annie Broadfoot.They married in the parish church at Scaleby on July 16th 1896, and Hannah was born on 23rd August 1896. Walter and Annie had 4 children altogether: Hannah named after Walter's mother, Margaret Winifred who died as a baby, William and Nora Annie. Hannah was born at Scaleby, and Margaret, William and Nora at the Banks, Burtholme. The christenings of the last 3 children are in the records of Lanercost Church: Margaret (July 1st. 1899), William (June 15th 1902) and Nora (August 27th 1905). The family were living at Banks Hill Farm. From the Banks they moved to Brocklewath and finally to Wall Farm Plumpton.

According to Hannah, Annie had never shared her love equally among her children. Nearly all the attention was given to William with very little to spare for Nora, and even less for Hannah. Nora received some praise because she was very good looking. Hannah was the odd one out, but luckily her father's favourite. She dismissed the others as Broadfoots, "they tek after mother," and declared that she was a Graham.

My mother then may not have got on with her immediate family, but she had a large extended family - the Grahams. She was especially close to the Brownrigg "girls": Hannah, Jane, Ellie, Clara, Ada and Nora. They were the daughters of Ellen, Walter's only sister. Hannah died, when she was 16, of rheumatic fever, but the rest of them turned up regularly in Carlisle. My mother had a market stall, on Saturday mornings, and afterwards we met up with one or other of them and had tea and cakes in a cafe. Here they exchanged news and gossip, family legends and stories. The Grahams were great talkers and Hannah fitted right in.

The Brownrigg girls. One of them Jane (she liked to call herself, Jean) was a talented violist. According to one story she was offered a place at a music school in London, but her parents discouraged her from taking it up.

Hannah then liked to talk and was willing to relate story after story about the past, some of them quite improbable. For instance, a very strange encounter she had with Uncle Jobbie, when a teenager, in Brocklewath Loning. This lane goes from Brocklewath farmhouse to the main road and the Robleys had land on either side of it. My mother had this tale that one day when she was walking along the loning she met Uncle Jobbie and he gave her a rose.

Privately, I was very doubtful. Where did he get the rose? Farmers don't generally go about their daily work carrying roses. She repeated this story many times though, and I suddenly remembered that there were wild roses along Brocklewath Loning. Maybe Joseph went to the hedgerow and plucked a wild rose. Whatever the explanation she was always very fond of Joseph, so he must have done something right.

There were many eccentric characters in the Graham family. One of them was my grandfather's brother, George who was known as Geordie the Brightonflatt. My mother liked to distinguish between the Grahams by adding the names of their farms, and thus there were Geordie the Brightonflatt, William the Kingmoor, Ellen the Brownrigg and so on. Geordie was the miser of the family, who went to great lengths to save the odd penny.

Geordie the Brightonflatt. He walked to a nearby farm every day to read their newspaper, because he was too mean to buy one of his own. He kept to the grass verges, and avoided the road, to save shoe leather.

In 1899 George married Lydia Bell and in 1900 they had a daughter called Ethel. Ethel was an only child and she was remarkably gifted. At school she came top in every subject subject and moreover she was a brilliant artist.

Ellenor Partridge (daughter of Clara the Brownrigg) wrote, "I used to go down to the Brightonflatt with mam when I was very young (about 4 or 5) and I always remember seeing this painting which Ethel had done. It was in the barn of all places. It was of brown and white heifers and they had so much expression in their eyes. I often wonder what happened to that painting. I would like to have it." I too would like to have one of Ethel's paintings, but they have all disappeared.

Ethel grew up and all seemed well. When she was 21 she married man from a neighbouring parish called Thomas Harding and they had a son, Graham Harding. After the birth Ethel became very strange and as my mother put it "went mad". She left her husband, who she called Mr Glover, and baby Graham, and returned to her parents at the Brightonflatt. Graham was brought up by her husband's family, the Hardings. Ethel never recovered.

Ellenor continues with her story, "One day, during the war, we had gas masks delivered to Half Way House. The person who brought them asked if we would mind taking the ones for the Brightonflatt. He knew what he was doing! Mam sent my 2 brothers and myself down with them and when we delivered them Ethel went crazy and started to chase us. My brothers were older than me and could run faster. I remember running as fast as my little legs would carry me, with my brothers well ahead of me. I don't think we ever went there again we were so frightened of her."

I too have my Ethel tale. I was at Wall Farm, with Grandma, when a message came from Lydia at the Brightonflatt. It said she was very ill and wanted to see Grandma. Grandma was always very much in demand when there was a baby to be delivered or someone was critically sick. She seemed to know instinctively what to do. She told me once that she brought me into the world and also my brother, Walter and sister, Anne. My mother would never have put up with a midwife.

Uncle Willie had a car, but there was a problem about what to do with me. The only person around was Jimmy Bayne and he was not reliable. He would probably wander off and forget about me. I set up a clamour saying I wanted to go and in the end Grandma decided that the safest thing was to take me.

When we arrived Uncle Willie parked on the roadside and we all got out and went along a path, across a field, to the Brightonflatt. There were bushes on one side of the path and suddenly a wild woman, with strange clothes and uncombed hair, emerged from the bushes and barred our way. I was frightened. Grandma seemed to have gone into a reverie and Uncle Willie tried fruitlessly to explain who we were, and why we had come. Ethel's answers made no sense at all.

She then fixed her eyes on me, came nearer and raised one arm as if to attack. Grandma and Uncle Willie seemed paralysed and clearly didn't know what to do. Then as suddenly as she had arrived she turned, began to run and disappeared into the bushes. I never saw her again.

We contiued on up to the farm and Uncle Willie joined Great Uncle George to look at the crops. I went with Grandma into a ground floor room where Lydia was lying on a double bed. She looked very sick and when she saw Grandma she began to cry. She said, "he isn't feeding me you know." Grandma went into the adjoining kitchen to look for some food, but couldn't find any. She hurriedly looked through the cupboards. She was afraid that George might come back, and she didn't want him to think that she was prying. There was no food in the cupboards either and I think in the end all Lydia got was a cup of tea.

By that time, though, she had forgotten about food. Her face lighted up and she drew a bundle of papers from under her pillow. They were poems and she showed Grandma the one she had written that day. It was of course lost on Grandma. I asked to see it, but was too traumatised by my surroundings to take it in properly. In any case I was no critic of poems. What I do remember is how happy she looked when she discussed her poetry and it made her seem such an attractive person.

I have never forgotten that visit to the Brightonflatt. It was like something out of the Bronte writings: the sick old woman, the eccentric uncle and the mad daughter. Grandma was very worried about what to do. In the end she did nothing, but simply went home. I should add that Lydia didn't die - not then. She lived for quite a few years after that, and died on December 16th 1947 aged 80. It was Ethel who died young. She died a couple of years after her mother, in her late forties.

When I was young I remember asking my father if he thought Aunt Nora was very good looking. "When she was about 17", he replied, "I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen."

Hannah envied Nora her looks. Her mother had called her plain. They had an on/off relationship, but towards the end of her life Hannah cut herself off from Nora altogether. When she was dying she forbade anyone to tell Nora of her death. "If she wants to know she can read it in the papers."


Nora Graham (Hannah's sister). She was the beauty of the family.

Her relationship with William was even worse. William had been put off Holmewrangle by a land tribunal for poor farming. "Silly old man! Feckless old fool!", she muttered, "I never liked him from the minute he was born."

About Annie, she would remark from time to time, "I wish I had had a different mother." Grandma is an enigma to me. There were so may sides to her character. Some said she was a great support in times of trouble and others that she led her family a terrible life.

I remember that she was generous with the tramps who went around the country-side begging. She said they enjoyed their wandering lifestyle, and did not want to live in houses. Tramps were really poor. Poverty meant dry bread, or bread with margarine instead of butter and very little else. When extra hands were taken on at harvest-time, Annie cooked them large and appetizing meals. Men doing heavy work had to be fed.

Sometimes Hannah wondered if I might be a Graham, but dismissed the idea. I did not talk nearly enough. Eventually she decided that I might be a Robley, which was not as bad as being a Broadfoot, nor quite as good as being a Graham

How did Walter fit into all this? My mother idolized her father. In her eyes he was the one who could do no wrong.

Walter Graham. He died before I was born, but has been described as a lovely man, very kind and gentle.

From what I can gather, he was a hard worker and a good family man. He made sure that all his 3 children had an education beyond the village school. William went to Armstrong College, Hannah to a commercial school in Carlisle and Nora to a private school in Penrith, where she studied new subjects like French.

Walter was interested in politics and was very Left-Wing. My mother said he was one of the founders of the Penrith Labour Party. I have been unable to verify this, but I think it can be assumed that he was at least a member. Social issues were of great concern to him as he had seen so much poverty, in his youth, growing up in Scaleby.

Walter died on 5th May, 1929 at Wall Farm. He had visions, at his death, of being led into a beautiful country with "green pastures". "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters." He promised that if there was any way he could communicate with them from beyond the grave he would find it. It was one of my mother's great disappointments that this never happened.

He was buried in St. John's Churchyard, Plumpton on the 8th May. I remember, when I was very little, going down to the churchyard, holding Grandma's hand, to put flowers on his grave. She said that eventually they would lie there together. Again, that never happened.

Marian Foster. November 2012.