into, was an inner-city tenement teaming with paupers. Her parents had migrated from the slums and chaos of civil war in Dublin.
Like most people who move, their search of better work opportunities, was for a better standard of living for them and their children.
That three of my Great Grandmother Christina's babies survived in an overcrowded tenement with poor sanitation, in a city where infant mortality was tragically high, makes her a heroine in my view.
Finally in the winter of 1923 she succumbed to the stress, disease and malnutrition aged 28years with brief rest and clean sheets before death.
In those years in Glasgow there was also political struggle and a clash of ideologies which wanted to determine the future for Glasgow's population.where many were still affected by war and unemployment.
Whilst the "Red Clydeside" activists contested their religious and political promises in the public arena, the Pauper Children of Thomas and Christina Clarke being Roman Catholics were boarded-out with others of their religion. My motherless 3 year old Nan scored a nice spot in the seaside town of Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, under the care of the Sisters of the "Servants of the Sacred Heart".
There was a long tradition of boarding out orphans and abandoned children in Scotland. In 1845, the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed, which made provision for the erection of poorhouses. By 1893, 66 poor houses had been established in Scotland. Mr. Peterkin regarded the boarding out system as "the means by which thousands of children have been raised from the pauper class into the higher grade of self-supporting and independent workers." He visited a number of parishes, interviewed the poor law inspectors and visited the houses where children were boarded out to discover whether the system operated satisfactorily. He made notes of the number of children boarded out in each parish, whether they were placed with relatives or strangers, and what careers they subsequently followed. He discovered that most of the children found respectable jobs and married well, very few of them remaining on the poor roll.
Many of the inspectors thought that the children should be boarded out in the country as this was much healthier and the children were removed from the evil influence of towns. Furthermore, those boarded out with crofters and small farmers had the opportunity of learning farm work. Later, most of the boys were employed on farms and the girls became domestic servants. (excerpt copy from Glasgow Digital Library).
My maternal grandmother didn't share much of her/story to her daughters or grand-daughters. I guess she didn't want to open herself up, after spending so many years building a respectable facade.
This grand-daughter who got to read Literature and Women's Studies at University level can only imagine the complexity of emotions from legal, religious and social prejudices in the British culture my female forebears had to contend with.
Brought up Catholic, discussion of any form of family planning and abortion was not an option for them.(It's still against Catholic doctrine), and sex education in any form was censored.
Glasgow born Marie Stokes was setting up the first family planning and sexual health clinics in the 1920's but access would have been out of sight and mind for my Nan in the Catholic communities she grew up in.
To have two Grandmothers who found themselves unmarried and pregnant in the 1930's and bearing the existence of secret children with no-name fathers is no surprise to me looking at the environment they lived in. Whether taken by force or submission to their desire, their pregnancies and resulting children, rocked the foundation of their families when they were revealed.
My Dad's Mother Elsie, had parents who were not overtly religious, but hid their pregnant daughter in the house until she gave birth in 1935, then claimed their grandchild as a 'late baby'(peri-menopausal accident).
My Mum's Mother Kathleen was without parents and extended family...she could only turn to her parental Catholic Church for answers.
| Back of George St. Tenement when Nan Clarke was born Feb.1920|
My Grandmothers were victims of patriarchal prejudice from Church and State. Feminism was mainly a middle-class, educated womans privilege; 'Mary Poppins' looked after the children whilst the lady of the house went out with her placards.
The hang-over of being a 'bastard' remains for some; What you were born into determined your life experiences, opportunities and also your Inheritance - whether you are included in the Will...
The Clarke children born in Glasgow grew up thinking their father was dead. The Nuns may have told them so they wouldn't expect him to turn up one day.
It's a fact that when their father Thomas Clarke came out of the Paisley asylum he re-married and lived in Greenock, near Glasgow until his death in 1950. Obviously he always felt incapable to face them.
The record shows:
Cath Clark 10 George St. Glasgow Religion R.C.
Legt. or Illegt. LEGIT Cause of Charge: Mother died in Asylum, Father unable to provide a home(and now in asylum).
|St.Joseph's Convent/Orphanage, Rothesay, Isle of Bute.|
6 yrs in 1926 GUARDIAN: Mrs.Morrisson
Clunemore, Drumnadrochit , (nr Loch Ness).
13 yrs in 1933 GUARDIAN: Mrs. Murdoch
South Rd. Fochabers, Moray.
I would have noticed if my Grandmother had a Scottish accent, surely? Brought up in rural Scotland with the Doric language? I haven't a memory of how she sounded. Being almost a stranger grandchild the one Christmas Day we shared with the excellent festive pudding she cooked I wouldn't have guessed she was not originally from Birmingham.
My Mum didn't talk about her Mum much.