Friday, 25 December 2009

Anecdotal evidence about William's brothers and his sister Pem

In December 2002, I made new links with other people researching the Clayton family tree through the Virtual Brum website. These included Julie Brindley in Burntwood, Staffs and Ralph Edwards in Winnipeg, Canada, who are both descendants of great granddad Clayton’s older sister, Mary Emma. Also Carole Graham in Leicester, who is descended from another Emma Clayton who was the sister of great granddad Clayton’s father, Thomas.

In June 2005 I made contact with yet another Clayton descendant living in a far off land, this time Albert Clayton who lives in Australia. I have already referred to Albert at the start of this document as being the person who has traced the Claytons to Shrewsbury. Albert is the grandson of Alf, Henry William’s brother. I am indebted to all of these people, as well as my father’s cousins in Birmingham, including Bill, Dennis and Sheila who have all contributed information and stories in the next few pages.

Prior to the fascinating new evidence about these sides of the Clayton family, I had limited recorded information concerning the family of Emma Brookes and Thomas Clayton, or the origins of either the Claytons in Willenhall or the Brookes family of Hockley.

There has been quite strong anecdotal evidence passed down from members of my father's generation about their grandfather's brothers and his sister (Henry William Clayton was my father's grandfather, making Thomas his great grandfather).

The Clayton family are remembered as being very musical. William's brother Frederick was both an accomplished cornet and piano player, whilst the youngest brother Alf was also a brilliant pianist who played the piano in the early cinemas, providing background music to the old silent movies. Many members of the family recall both Fred and Alf coming around to their brother's home in Garbett Street, Ladywood to play on their sister-in-law Mary's piano. My father Geoff recalls Alf playing a melody called Over The Waves whilst his cousin Bill recalls him playing The Blue Danube. Bill told me that Alf worked for the Moss Empires theatre.

There was no shortage of musical ability in the Clayton family. Both Alf and Fred were talented pianists. My father’s generation recall Uncle Alf playing The Blue Danube and other classical pieces

Geoff Millington recalls Grand Uncle Fred being a smartly dressed man who wore a black suit and a bowler hat, often to be found sat at the piano. As I understand it through family anecdote, Fred apparently married a lady referred to as Aunty May, who was the mother of Emily Wayne, who in turn married George Clayton, the son of Henry William Clayton. I believe this could have been Fred’s second marriage. My aunty Kath referred to Fred having two daughters named Anna and Sylvia who were, like their father, talented pianists. She also told me that these girls once saw a ghostly regiment of phantom soldiers passing through their house and wrote a letter about their experience to the Birmingham Evening Mail.

My father’s cousin Bill Clayton mentioned other daughters of May and Fred by the names of Hilda and Miriam, also a son possibly named Fred. Sylvia lived to a very old age and Bill Clayton believes she died in about 2003, leaving a daughter named Joan Chambers who lives in the Weoley Castle area. Bill elaborated on the family tree and how it relates to his mother Emily Wayne and her mother May, who both became Claytons:

“Fred Clayton was actually my mother’s step father. Her real father died of pneumonia. May was born in London near West Ham, her father was a Jew. The family did have a Jewish name but they changed it to Philips, as Jewish people were inclined to do back then. May’s family had businesses down Summer Lane”.

Another memory of Aunt May, this one from my dad’s brother Bill Millington, recalled her living with one of her daughters in Garbett Street, presumably a widow following Fred Clayton’s death. For many years the family are also recalled living in a cottage close to St Peter’s RC Church near Broad Street.

William's brother Samuel, who was his closest brother in age, is recalled as being "the black sheep of the family". Samuel had apparently done time in prison where he had mastered the skill of rolling his own cigarettes. There is one theory that Samuel may have emigrated to the United States.

There is a record for a Samuel Clayton residing in H.M. Prison Birmingham in the 1901 census. This Samuel Clayton is 31 years old and is a prisoner along with 559 others in the institution. His trade is given as a painter. I have been informed that there is also a record for a Frederick Clayton in prison in the 1891 census, which would link to a story in the family that brother Fred also went to prison as a young man.

Mary Emily Clayton (Aunty Pem) - William Clayton’s older sister

William's sister, Mary E, who was six years his senior, became known as Aunty Pem (probably a shortened version of her middle name Emma or Emily). It is suggested that William did not like his big sister Pem, some describing the relationship as frosty to say the least. My father's sister Kathleen told me:

"Granddad didn’t get on with his sister Pem. If he heard her coming through the front door he would leave by the back door."

Aunty Pem lived in the Nechells area of Birmingham and is recalled by many people as being an eccentric old dear who told people's fortunes from their tea leaves. As an old lady Pem was a frequent visitor to the Millington family home in Monument Road, Ladywood in the 1940s, where she would tell fortunes to relatives and friends by appointment.

My father, Geoff Millington recalled:

"Aunty Pem had an uncanny gift of predicting the future. I remember that she once foretold that Doris who worked at the pork butchers in Ladywood, would soon become pregnant. Most people smiled at this prediction because, whilst Doris was a good looking woman and financially sound, she was a confirmed spinster in her late thirties with no prospects of either marriage or romance. But a few weeks later a married fellow from round the corner put poor Doris in the family way and Pem's prediction came true".

My father's sister Nance Bourne has added further information about the family and remembered Alf playing the piano round at granny's:

"Granddad didn't get on with any of his brothers, except Alf, the piano player. He'd only have Alf in the house for a drink and Alf'd start up on Granny's piano. It used to fill the whole house up, he was gifted musically. But he didn't like his sister Pem who told the fortunes, he'd say "Oh no, here she comes". Granny used to say "you shouldn't be so cruel to her" but he'd be off out the back if she ever came down the street. She was a wanderer was Pem, she wandered around".

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