Thursday, 24 December 2009

The family of Alfred Clayton

The youngest of my great grandfather’s brothers was Alfred, born in about 1875. We have already heard mention of Alf in stories which have been passed down through the Clayton family. We know for instance that Alf was a talented musician who could play the piano and worked in cinemas and theatres. Alf’s grandson Albert lives in Australia and has also been researching the Clayton family tree:

“My dad talked very little of his family and I thought they were from London, where I know my dad’s elder brother lived and granddad Alfred. Alfred married in 1899 at Birmingham Registry Office. His wife was Margaret Edith Jones from Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. At that time they were both living in Nechells. Witnesses at the wedding were Samuel Clayton (his brother?) and Fanny Brookes (a cousin or aunt?)”

“I can’t find him anywhere, or his wife or other brother Frederick on the 1901 census. But I do recall my dad saying he had been to the gold rush on the Klondyke, so maybe in 1901 he was overseas?”

August 1896: When gold nuggets were discovered on Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondyke River in Yukon, USA, it sparked a gold rush the likes of which had never been seen. Prospective gold miners poured in from around the world.

“Alfred had several children: Alfred born in about 1902 was a young soldier in World War 1 (I met uncle Alf several times and visited him in 1961 when he lived in Islington, London. He had two sons, William born 1934 and Peter born 1937).”

“Then came a second son Frederick, born about 1907. He died in about 1936 but his son, my cousin Joseph Clayton, was a great friend later. He was born in 1936. He emigrated with me to Australia but returned to England and passed away in 1987”.

“Next Alf had a daughter named Sylvia born about 1909. I never heard my dad talk of his sister except to say she either left home or died early. After Sylvia there was a child named Francis born in 1910 who died in child birth in Pontycymer in Glamorgan.”

“Ronald, (my dad—known as Ronnie) was born in 1913 in Pontycymer, Wales. On the birth certificate his father’s occupation is theatre manager! A surprise as he was a roof slater by trade.”

“Then came Albert born in 1915. I knew him well. He had no kids and lived for many years in Icknield Street not far from Hockley Hill. Then another son William born in 1917 who died in childbirth as did his mother (my gran)”.

Albert describes what happened after Alf’s wife Margaret died:

“Granddad Alf and his children were alone. My dad (Ronnie) was only 4 and Albert 2. Next I know that Alfred moved the family back to Birmingham, where I have a marriage of him to a Mary Conway. At this time he was living in back of 400 Hospital Street, not far from Farm Street. After he married, he went to live in Cowper Street in 1920”.

“The marriage was not good. Dad tells the story that she had 4 kids, Alfred had 4, so like the Brady bunch, he told of how she fed her kids first and when his dad came from work, there were arguments on this subject.”

“Next, in about 1927, Alfred decided to move to London. I know not why. I think his oldest son Alfred may have been living there, so he took his youngest son Albert but left Ronnie (my dad didn’t want to go and stayed behind living with Frederick who was of working age at 14). Frederick was a metal polisher all his life except during World War 2 when he served for 7 years”.

“In London Alfred must have had an affair with a Mrs Sedgwick who was quite posh. From this relationship, Ernie Clayton was born, I guess in about 1928. Ernie became a professional musician and played as support to Tommy Trinder in the early 1950s.”

Alfred Clayton’s son Ernie was band leader for the legendary Tommy Trinder.
Cockney comedian and variety performer Trinder (pictured above) famously said of American GIs “they’re over paid, over fed, over sexed and over here”

"My dad got married at aged 27 and was well known around Summer Lane. I was born in 1946 at Dudley Road Hospital. We lived in Ormond Street, off Summer Lane in Aston. I went to Cowper Street School and Summer Lane Secondary. We also lived in Paddington Street from 1953 to 1958 and then Clifford Street in Lozells. I emigrated to Australia in 1974 and own a finance company, our website is www.excelhome”

“The only other Claytons I knew were a sailor Clayton who used to come to our house when I was a kid. Apparently he traveled the world on a push bike. Some stories I heard as a kid were that my dad’s uncles were tough guys, Some worked on the circuses as strong men. He also had aunts in the theatre, these may have been from his mother’s side of course.”

“I also remember that Auntie Pem’s son or grandson, Harry Edwards was a good friend of my dad’s and they often went for a pint together in the Birmingham Arms and Green Man pubs in Summer Lane”.

The ancestors of Albert’s mother have much in common with the ancestors of my great grandmother, Mary Helen Finn, being Irish Brummies who arrived in Birmingham in the post-famine years of the 1850s:

“The other side of my family is also Irish from Galway … Murphy (mom’s maiden name)… Giblin (her mother)… Lamb (her mother)… Green (her mother). I have tracked all these names on arriving in England from 1850 onwards, most of them settled around Aston and married into Birmingham families… several lived in Hanley Street. So maybe we have a bit more in common”.

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