Herbert Bayliss 1903 - 1964
When 18 year old Esther Abbott married Herbert Bayliss at St.Peter's Church, Dartmouth Park Hill on 14 June 1903 she was already nearly five month pregnant. Her baby, a boy, was born on November 10th 1903 at 38 Brunswick Road. The baby was named Herbert after his father. Bert (as he was known, just like his father) grew up to be a good looking with a love of both fashion and his first motorbike.
|A dedicated follower of fashion!|
Bert, aged about 17
I know little of his childhood and teenage years except that he worked for a while in a greengrocer shop and used to bring home vegetables and fruit to supplement the family diet. Bert bought himself a motorbike and was fond of telling his sisters that it had no brakes - an announcement that he was fond of making as he rode down Dartmouth Park Hill with one of his sisters sitting on the handlebars. Being the oldest child it is not surprising that Bert was the first of the Bayliss children to marry. He married Ada Florence Wilson (b.1903) in July 1924. At first the couple lived in the attic at Windermere Road but according to Bert's sister Ethel the Bert and Ada later moved to rooms in Corbyn Street, off Hornsey Road. I have not been able to verify this. Their first child, which Bert named Esther Florence after his mother and sister was born soon after their marriage. By 1932 Bert and Ada were living at 26 Marlborough Road, Upper Holloway and two years later they were at 10 Hargrave Park Road (later simply Hargrave Park and like Marlborough Road an address which occurs time and time again in our family story) where their second child, Iris, was born.
|Ada with baby Iris|
At the outbreak of the Second World War Bert, like his brothers Charlie and Arthur, joined the Police Reserve but, unlike his brothers, no photo of Bert in uniform seems to exist. What we do know about Bert's time in the police is that for a while he was stationed at Holloway Prison. Holloway Prison was women's prison but because of the bombing the women prisoners were moved out of London and for a while one of Bert's duties was to guard Sir Oswald Mosley who was interned there. After the war, Bert and Ada moved to Canvey Island in Essex.
|Ada and her mother-in-law Esther (with cigarette)|
having a paddle at Canvey.
|Business partners : Bert and Stanley with their mother.|
I was very fond of Bert who was, of course, "Uncle Bert" to me and I have many fond memories of going for holidays at his bungalow on Canvey. To me as a child it was a place full of adventure. The bungalow itself was built on stilts to raise it up above the ground as Canvey was land reclaimed from the sea and damp was a constant problem. On three sides of Bert's garden (which contained a small by very climbable tree) where very smelly dykes full of newts and tadpoles - the price of trying to catch them was usually to fall in the dyke and come out smelling disgusting. At that time in the early Fifties Leigh Beck seemed very primitive. Many of the roads were still dirt and some of the shops looked like they came from the set of a Western movie complete with covered sidewalks. The family would often descend on Bert in force. On such occasions the children would be left in the care of Aunt Ada while a convoy of family cars would head of in the direction of one of their favourite pubs such as the King Canute or The Monico. Of course, if the drinking was to be done at the nearby Admiral Jellicoe my cousins and I would go with our parents and many an evening was spent in the corridor outside the public bar with a lemonade and a packet of crisps!
|The Admiral Jellicoe today|
Although Bert and Ada were living on the island at the time of the great flood in the early Fifties it is odd that I have no memory of any stories relating to what happened to them at the time. You will be able to read more about Canvey, its history, the flood etc in a future post.
When I visited my grandmother (or "Nan" to me), which was most days in my childhood as we lived very close by, I was always pleased to see Uncle Bert sitting in the corner. He knew of my love of ghost and horror stories and gave me my first copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula which I remember had a green waxy cover. It was only a second hand ex-library copy but it meant a lot to me. I wish I still had that book. Bert also gave me a crucifix which he said I should keep to fight off vampires!
I have two other, much sadder, memories of Bert. One day, early in the morning I was in Bert's garden playing and he was sitting smoking on the wooden steps to the kitchen and I was aware that he would occasionally spit into an enamel bucket at the side of the steps. He called to me to say that Aunt Ada was making toast and had some of the pineapple jam I was very fond off (to this day I associate pineapple jam with Canvey Island). As I went into the kitchen I happened to look back into the bucket and saw there was blood in it. When I came out both Bert and the bucket had gone. I never spoke about what I had seen to Bert, Ada or my mother. As a child I felt I had glanced into that mysterious world of adult secrets from which children are excluded. Bert's health was never really good, his father had developed tuberculosis during the First World War and I suspect that was what Bert had.
|Bert in his garden on Canvey with a typical bungalow|
in the background (not his).
Because of the damp in his bungalow the ailing Bert had been moved to his daughter Esther's house half a mile away at 72 Point Road (the house still stands). It was pretty obvious that Bert was dying although nobody said as much. He was propped up in bed and looked terrible. Ada had removed the pillowcase which had a few specks of blood. Although very weak Bert was cheerful enough and cracked a few jokes but it was obviously an effort. Somebody took some photos which they later sent to my mother. I do not remember my grandmother being there but it is hard to believe she wasn't. We left to go home and I believe (although I may be wrong on this point) that Bert died that night. Amazingly, Bert was only Sixty when he died on 17 February 1964 - he looked much older and had looked older for many years.
Bert's daughters, Esther and Iris, both married and eventually emigrated to Australia. Esther and her husband, Peter, are both gone now. Iris is still in Australia with her husband Mike. Ada Bayliss was a lovely woman - quiet and gentle. She emigrated with her two daughters and died in New Zealand in 1976. Ada had been born at 19 Doynton Street. Her parents were Henry Wilson, a bricklayer and Mary Ann Wilson.