I feel quite lucky to have known all four of my grandparents and for them to have had an influence on who I am and my values in life. I say ‘lucky’ because my children never knew their grandmothers and have only one granddad left.
Starting with my paternal grandfather left: James ‘Jim’ Rhodes was born in Mottram-in-Longdendale in Cheshire in 1895, the eldest son to survive infancy of Jeremiah Rhodes and Suzannah Ratcliffe. Jeremiah was a coachman, or cab driver, working for his Uncle Miles.
Granddad was an athlete in his youth — a strong cross-country runner and a decent fast bowler at cricket. He went to work on the railway which was probably lucky for me as it meant he was in a reserved occupation and wasn’t called up to serve in WWI which he might not have survived.
He eventually became a train driver, despite a botched attempt at pulling into Glossop Station and crashing into the buffers. It was his work that brought him to live in Dukinfield to be near the large Guide Bridge marshalling yard.
He was a great football fan and his occupation meant that he was able to follow both Manchester clubs across the country and even in old age, a family tradition was the Boxing Day match at Old Trafford or Maine Road with granddad, my uncles, my dad and me.
James married Jane Harrop in 1919. She was the youngest daughter of George Henry Booth Harrop and Hannah Thorpe. George was a carpenter and though he and the Harrop family were from Derbyshire, he settled in Broadbottom which is on the Cheshire side of the county boundary.
Jane was a very practical woman, not averse to improvised DIY, like sawing off the bottom of a fine walnut wardrobe to make it fit in a room with a lower ceiling.
My dad tells me that she was very anti-Catholic, although he never knew why. This caused her consternation in the 1920s when granddad was a union man and held strike meetings in their front room. The leader for social justice was the local RC priest!
James ‘Jim’ Binnie’s was the son of Henry Bell Binnie who had been born in Falkirk, Scotland, until his family moved south when he was about six years old, first to Preston in Lancashire, then Ashton and finally Dukinfield.
Like my other granddad, James was a keen cricketer and joined Old Chapel Unitarian Church so he could play for their team. He later became an umpire and it’s thanks to him that many of my childhood summer Sunday afternoons were spent watching cricket.
The one luxury in my grandparents’ house was a piano which James played well, often at the local working men’s club, and it was mostly self-taught.
He married Deborah ‘Deb’ Prestwich at the same Old Chapel church mentioned above in 1924. She was the daughter of John Alfred Prestwich and Mary Elizabeth Stanley, the Prestwich family having lived in the Ashton area for several generations.
Nana, as I knew her, went began work half-time in a cotton mill when she was twelve, until she finished school at fourteen and began to work full-time.
Of all my grandparents, Nana had the most influence on the person I became, or so I like to think. She was the best person I ever knew, had a great sense of humour and was terrifically optimistic.
So that ends a brief introduction to my grandparents. Hopefully I will be one too some day, although my children are showing no signs of that being any time soon!