If you are able to get out for a walk in your locality at the moment, you will I am sure, like me, have noticed the many rainbows which have appeared in people’s windows or been chalked on the pavements. They seem to have been mostly painted or drawn by children, though I have seen one which has been crocheted. And one word is repeated over and over: Hope. The rainbow as a symbol of hope has certainly captured people’s imagination.
6 weeks ago we all had hopes: hopes for the family gatherings we would have at Easter, hopes for forthcoming holidays, perhaps, weddings to attend, a scheduled operation, a new job to start, a major conference (maybe attending Family Tree Live in mid April?). And then a world crisis suddenly changes and crushes our hopes and we turn the pages of our diaries and sadly cross out the events which will not now take place.
In the last few weeks I’ve been doing some research on the Sayers family – the parents and siblings of my 2 x great grandmother Eliza Sayers, my grandmother’s grandmother. As I have traced them through the censuses, baptism, marriage and burial records I have followed the family trials and tribulations and it started me thinking about what their hopes might have been.
Take Eliza’s mother, for example. Born Harriet Capon, at the age of 14 she fell pregnant with her first daughter, Helena, who was baptised in Capel, Surrey, in June 1816. Did she hope that the father of the child would marry her? Did she hope that her parents would accept the situation and look after her? I don’t know what happened to the child, as I can find no trace of her after that, but I hope that James Sayers, when he married Harriet in October 1818, was able to accept her.
No doubt Harriet then hoped for a bright future, or at least a stable one. James and Harriet had had 8 children, with another one on the way, when he died in January 1837 in Ifield, Sussex, where they had made their home. Their son Joseph was born just 6 days after James’ burial. I’m sure that finding herself a widow at the age of 37 with 5 children still at home to care for was not something Harriet had anticipated. What did she then hope for? Well, Harriet went on to have another son, Amos, in 1841. Who was the father? Had Harriet hoped that this person would take care of her? If so, that was not to be as by 1851 she is described as a ‘pauper’. Did she hope that when she was given a home by 1871 by her daughter Sarah and son in law Thomas (who was also her nephew) in Tonbridge that she might be able to end her days there? Sadly that was not to be. In January 1874, aged 73, she was admitted to the Asylum at Haywards Heath due to ‘senile insanity’ and she died 4 months later. But someone looked kindly on her as she was buried back in her home village of Ifield, I like to think perhaps reunited with her husband James. I must see if there are any MIs to consult.
Then there is James and Harriet’s son Edward, baptised in 1827 in Ifield. By 1861 he had taken up the trade of a sawyer and was living in Tonbridge with his wife Caroline, a dressmaker originally from Brighton. They would probably have hoped for children, but none appear to have been born to them before Caroline died in 1863. When Edward married for a second time, to Sarah Mitchell, in the March Q of 1864 and they then went on to have 2 children, no doubt Edward looked forward to seeing them grow up. However, events took a different turn and Edward died in the June Q of 1867 just before the birth of their third child, Edward James, in July 1867. Edward’s widow Sarah and their 3 children moved to live with her parents, also in Tonbridge.
Son Joseph, of course, never knew his father. I’m sure, like all his siblings, he hoped for good health, a stable job and family happiness. He, at least, would not be disappointed. He became a gardener in Tunbridge Wells and by 1881 was living in the Gardeners Lodge of Larchwood Hall, Ferndale Park, with his wife Ann and their children. The 1891 Kelly’s Directory of Kent, Surrey and Sussex says that Joseph Sayers was gardener to Rev S M Barkworth of Ferndale, Tunbridge Wells. Joseph was still working as a gardener in 1911, by then living in Southborough. He was the longest lived Sayers in that generation and the last of the siblings to die, being buried on 7 Nov 1924 by which time he was 87 years old.
And then lastly I would like to mention Frederick Capon Sayers, the son of Amos, who was born in 1888. Frederick seems to have had great hopes for a very different future, away from the land-based occupations of his uncles. Aged 18 he decided to emigrate to Vancouver in Canada where he became a car mechanic. The First World War nearly scuppered his hopes and plans for a better future: he left Canada again in 1916 when he joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. However, when he finally returned to Canada in 1920, he took with him his 65 year old widowed mother Eliza. They left Liverpool on 3 May, travelling on the ship Grampian bound for Quebec. The Ocean Arrivals, Canada, records on Ancestry tell us that both of them were literate, that Frederick was paying for Eliza’s passage, and that they were taking the Canadian Pacific Railway from Quebec to Vancouver where Frederick’s employer was to be the Terminal City Motor Company. What great hopes for the future they must have had and I hope they enjoyed their new environment.
We cannot foretell the future any more than our ancestors could, but it’s important that we do not lose hope. We cannot plan anything at the moment, but we can dream of the things we’d like to do when the world is a safe place again. We won’t go back to how we were. But we can hope for a healthier, kinder, more community-minded world and we can walk alongside those whose hopes have been crushed and who struggle to see any rainbows right now.