This blog is a place to share the stories of the Blaney family - their lives in Birmingham, England and across Canada. Hopefully I will make contact with other descendants along the way. Family names currently being researched are Blaney, Elcocks, Cheffins, Langley, Bellingham, Welch, Lewis and Barnes.
It was New Years Day 1920 in King’s Norton and a happy occasion for Harry
& Jane Blaney. Their youngest child, Alfred (Alfie) named after his
father’s brother, was born that day.
At the time of Alfie’s birth his sister Elizabeth (Bess) was age twenty
three and married to Harry Welch with two young children of her own.His oldest brother, William (Bill) was twenty
four; serving in the Navy and his brother Edward (Ted) was twenty. Alfie’s other
brothers were Albert age sixteen and working as a brass worker, Stan age
fourteen and his sister Louise was about five years old.
Harry Welch had returned from his war service and both he and Bess were
working locally at any job that was available, likely brass work for Harry and
cleaning for Bess. It was interesting times for their young children, Lewis and
The family were
living on Cobden Place, Balsall Heath when, as my mother Joan tells the story,
fire reels rushed to the Welch home. As best I can tell it was 1921 - she would
have been about four years old and her brother Lewis was eighteen months older.
The first sign of trouble was when she heard the fire truck coming down
their street. She ran upstairs to look out the window - only to find the bedroom
curtains were on fire. Lewis had been playing with matches that he found in the
bureau drawer while he was upstairs alone.
Fortunately the fire brigade was only a few miles away on Moseley Road.
The fire station opened in 1912 and still stands. Although it is no longer a
fire station it retains many of the original fire hall features.
There was not too much damage, only to the curtains and the bureau; it
was likely caught early by neighbours.
Joan says when their mother Bess got home from nearby and their father
arrived “there was hell to pay” with Lewis getting yelled at and walloped,
although he claimed “he didn’t do it”.
It was not
unusual at the time to leave such young children alone in the home with row
housing neighbours always close by who all knew and looked out for each other.
I always knew my grandmother Bess was
worried about fires but until hearing this story I did not know why.
As mentioned in a previous post, for women without the benefit of
various modern inventions, cleaning and laundry were demanding chores with few
houses having hot water. First the water had to be heated on the stove then
poured into a tub where the laundry was scrubbed or agitated by hand and then
pulled through a mandle (clothes wringer).
My mother Joan has a substantial scar on her lower left leg just above the
ankle that causes her skin problems even today, more than 92 years after an
accident. Her mother Bess had boiled water on the stove then left the pail on
the floor before leaving for a few minutes to pick up the children from their nearby
Joan said that she had just come home from school where there had been a
party and she had won a prize. She was about five years old and so excited that
she tripped over the bucket of very hot water that her mother had placed on the
floor in preparation for scrubbing it. It seems it was a severe burn as the
doctor came to the house that day and for several days afterwards to treat it
and it left a 2 by 4 inch scar.
Bess and Joan both believed that later osteoarthritis damage to their
knees was from this kind of housework. Joan continued to clean her kitchen and
bathroom floors on her hands and knees until the doctors made her stop quite
late in life. She had two knee
replacements and argued with her cardiologist after an incident of congestive
heart failure when he was telling her she couldn’t use her vacuum cleaner never
mind hand scrub the floor. Bess also suffered with arthritis pain for many
Lewis and Joan
My grandmother often told
of calling her young son “Lord Fauntleroy” (from a children’s
story where a boy discovers that he is the son of a British Earl - the name is
sometimes used to describe a young boy who is dressed in fancy clothes or who
is unnaturally polite). She said that
her sister-in-law Amy often took Lewis out to visit his Welch grandparents and bought
him fancy clothes and treats.
Bess felt that Amy was
spoiling him and she should be treating both Lewis and Joan in the same manner.
However, Lewis was the first born, the only Welch grandson and he was probably
charming even then.
Lewis and Joan were close as seen here. Always up for an adventure, Lewis had fallen
out of a tree and broken his arm.
I was told by Bess that Harry’s parents did not accept her but by 1923
Harry and Bess show their address as that of his parents - perhaps it was
temporary until they left the country or incorrectly shown on the passenger
1923 life was still harsh for working class families and Harry was considering
emigrating. It seems Bess did not agree even though a number of Blaney and
Elcocks relatives had already done so. Harry was also being encouraged by a
friend of his, talking about the two families going together.
The Elcocks were the family of Bess’s mother Jane Elcocks Blaney. Her
parents were William Elcocks (1836-1910) and Martha Bellingham (1838-1914). They
were married in 1855 and had a family of at least one son and nine daughters.
William was a brewer and reportedly owned a pub.
At least three of their
daughters emigrated to Canada between 1919 and 1923 and some of Bess’s Cheffins (one
of the Ellen Elcocks married Harold Cheffins) cousins had preceded the Elcocks.
My next post will tell a little about the various relatives who emigrated
during that time including when they arrived in Canada how long they stayed and
where they settled.