Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Uncle Tom Finn

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The last of the six Finn children was Thomas, the only son following in the wake of his five older sisters. Thomas was born in 1889 when his mother Bridget was 42 years old. We know from the records that Bridget had died by the time the census was taken just two years later in 1891. It would not be unreasonable to guess that her death may have been related to the birth of Thomas.

There was obviously a very big age difference of some eighteen years between the oldest Finn child, Mary Helen (Granny Clayton) and the youngest, Thomas. The only other child close in age to Thomas would have been Julia (born 1886), who was three years older than Thomas. Ellen (born 1879) was ten years his senior, Margaret (born 1876) was 13 years older than Thomas, and Annie (born 1874) was 15 years older.

We can assume therefore that following the early death of their mother, the older girls would have had to bear much of the responsibility of bringing up the younger ones, especially Thomas. When Thomas was just three years old, his oldest sister, Mary Helen, married William Clayton at the Catholic church in Duddeston and within a year she had started her own family. My grandmother Florence was born in 1899, making her 10 years younger than her uncle Tom Finn.

But what became of young Thomas? Tom Finn lived at Theodore Street, near St Chad’s Cathedral, with his wife Alice. There is a record of Thomas and Alice Finn living at 5 Avon Place, Theodore Street, Duddeston in the polling registers of 1920. Incidentally, Theodore Street no longer exists on the Birmingham street map.

My Father, Geoff Millington, has an early memory of Thomas Finn:

“I only recall seeing Tom Finn once. He was my granny’s brother. I must have been a little lad. It was at my grandfather’s funeral in about 1946. He was a very tall and dour looking man, Tom Finn, as I remember, and he was dressed in a black suit. I remember him towering above me as he peered very ominously into my grandfather’s grave just before they lowered down the coffin, tapping the side of the earthwork with his long cane. And then I recall him saying, in a deep and knowing voice, “that’s a very deep hole” .

My father’s cousin Bill Clayton relates another story about Tom Finn, this time at the funeral of his sister Mary Helen Clayton in August 1950.

“Uncle Tom Finn came to our Grandma Polly’s funeral and as the funeral came to an end, Tom began to cough uncontrollably as he stood at the graveside. Our granddad’s brother Fred Clayton warned him, “you may as well stop here Tom with that cough”.

The story is concluded with the rather poignant post-script:

“Poor old Tom... he died that Christmas”.

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