|Sisters, sisters, there were neve such devoted sisters!|
Esther, Florence (Cis) and Ethel
We saw recently how Herbert and Esther Bayliss's first child, also called Bert was born in Brunswick Road in 1903. At some time soon after young Bert's birth the couple moved to the nearby district of Crouch End. It was there at 26 New Road on 9th July that Esther gave birth to their second child, a girl, who they named Florence Maude. The family stayed at New Road until, at least, late 1907 - when a third child, another girl, was born. They moved back to the more familiar territory of Upper Holloway where we next find them in rooms at 149 Fairbridge Road.
|26 New Road|
|Cis about 1926|
We now come to a question that has long intrigued me and one I wish I had asked about when those who possibly knew the answer were still alive. For most of her life Florence was known as "Cis" or "Cissie", in later years this became "Big Cis" or "Big Cissie" to distinguish her from her daughter Cecilia who was known as "Little Cis". Of course, as a child I simply accepted that she was "Auntie Cis" but much later when I discovered that she was "Florence" I began to wonder if "Cis" had originated with "Sis" because she was the Big Sister to the other Bayliss children. However, while sorting through my collected papers and photographs I came across a small rather worn and very old envelope that had originally contained a photograph. Written on the front are the words "To Neffie with love from Skissy". "Neffie" was a was an affectionate name for my mother, Ethel, and I'm sure that "Skissy" is Florence
After her marriage to Fred Abbott (see below) the couple moved to No.2 Cathcart Hill, Upper Holloway where their daughter, Cecilia Joyce, was born on 4 December 1927. By 1931 they were living a 125 Junction Road and in 1933 next door at 127 with sister Ethel and her husband Ernest registered at the same address. The next move was to 52 Hargrave Park before ending up during the 1940's at 44 Pemberton Gardens.
|Fred and Cis about the time of their marriage.|
I'll now let cousin Sue, Cis and Fred's granddaughter, take up the story.
"Frederick Abbott was born 24th August 1905 at 16 Colva Street, St, Pancras, London, at which time baby Florence Maude Bayliss was about 6 weeks old. Fate, or chance if you like, bought these two babies together and they married on 8th August 1925 at Islington Registry Office. This couple, forever known to family and friends as Fred and Cis, were my grandparents. I loved them dearly. In my early childhood we all lived together at 44 Pemberton Gardens, Upper Holloway, London, N19. Mum and dad at the top of the house, grandma and grandad at the bottom (with Aunty Peggy to act as a buffer on the floor between). My mum and dad were both only 18 when I was born, and I believe my grandparents filled the role of mature parents in my life
|Cis and Fred, possibly a marriage photograph|
Thinking back to my grandad, he was surprisingly well read and, to me, seemed very wise. He was interested in communism and Buddhism among other things and would often share his thoughts with me in terms that I could understand as a child. He had a bookcase full of exotic stories and poems including The Rubaiyat if Omar Khayyam. He would read from them to me and my grandma. I thought nothing of it at the time but this seems a little out of the norm for a plumber living in a damp little basement in London and I realise, only now, what a profound effect he had on me
|Cis and Fred with daughter Cecilia|
at Bognor Regis in the 1930's
My Grandma was a wonderful cook and housekeeper. She blacked the grate, whitened the step, boiled and scrubbed and mangled the linen. She loved her husband and family and was always fun to be with. I have a clear memory of her singing her party piece, to Fred, leaning on the piano in our front room, while Uncle Billy Barrett tickled the ivories to Al Jolson’s, 'You made me love you, I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to do it.'
Cis and Fred always struggled to make ends meet. Fred had ‘a bad heart’, his first heart attack was at age 41, and by which time his varicose veins had become ulcerated. This must have affected Fred’s ability to work full time, he started his own business as builder and decorator, I suspect, to give him flexible working hours. Grandma once told me that, in the past, they had been in danger of going into ‘the workhouse’, a thought that horrified me as a child.
Beside other things, to earn a quid Fred and Cis took in ‘homework,’ painting lead soldiers and farm animals for a toy company. I remember the boxes of toys arriving at the door, all jumbled and grey, and leaving on trays, in neat rows, gleaming with bright shiny colours and smelling of fresh paint.
This might be seen as slave labour through today’s eyes, but I have fond memories of the whole family, and visitors if there were any, sitting around the table in the living room, joking and singing while getting on with the work.
The figurines would have been dipped in a base colour the day before and lined up to dry on boards. Then each of us would have our own job, I had to put the figurines on the table to keep the flow going, while one would paint the jackets, another the trousers, another the face detail and so on. All the family around the one table working together on a project, this would indeed be seen as ‘quality time’ by today’s standards.
Fred and Cis at Bognor Regis in the 1930's
Fred and Cis enjoyed exploring the countryside together and especially the beaches. They often took a tent and went off into the West Country, both were sun worshipers and they always returned looking as brown as berries. Eventually they moved to Cornwall but sadly my grandad died quite young and my grandma not too long after. I believe she missed Fred so much that she died of a broken heart. They are buried together in the tiny Parish Church at St. Wenn, Cornwall. Their grave is unmarked by a headstone, but a single tree is growing from where they lay, seemingly a symbol of their unity."
|St, Wenn Church, Cornwall|
The toy soldiers that Sue mentions were very much a part of our childhood. My mother, Ethel, also painted them, as did her half-sister, Joyce. The soldiers were supplied by the firm of Britains Ltd, one of the most famous manufacturers of lead (and later plastic) figures.
Living in Pemberton Gardens, indeed living, like Susan, in No. 44 (and I lived in that house on two separate
occasions) Cis and Fred were very much part of my childhood . After Fred died I was lucky enough to spend two holidays with Cis at her cottage in Wadebridge, Cornwall and Cis came to stay with my mother in London. I remember Aunt Cis with great affection and particularly remember her great sense of humour. The second of these holidays was in the company of my mother and Nibo and Peggy Barrett, Cis's daughter Cecilia (Little Cis) was living nearby at Cransworth Springs and Billy Barrett and his wife Eileen where running the Bridge-on-Wool pub in Wadebridge, so it was very much a family reunion.
Little Cis will be the subject of a future post. Coming soon will be a post devoted to Pemberton Gardens.