|Ethel aged about 16|
Like her older sister, Florence (Cis), Ethel Rosina Harris was born at 26 New Road, Crouch End. She was the third of the Bayliss children, being born on 23 September 1907. According to her own admission Ethel was a bit of a rebellious child and often in trouble at school where one of the regular punishments was to stand in a corner with your apron over your head. This never deterred Ethel as stubbornness was a trait she displayed all her life. When not playing games in the street Ethel was a voracious reader and could often be found hidden away in some corner of the house with her nose in a book. She liked adventure stories best and among her favourite books were Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan of the Apes, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and P.C.Wren's Beau Geste. As Ethel's son I was introduced to these books very early on and they instilled in me a love of reading as well. Ethel, known as "Neffie" or simply "Neff" grew, like here siblings, to be a teenager in Windermere Road. Ethel hero worshipped her father, Herbert, and loved talking about him when she grew older, although some of her stories about his military career have since been proved to be either misremebered or exaggerated. Herbert Bayliss's sad death in 1918 had a great effect on all the children and while I can't speak for any of the others I do know that Ethel somewhat resented her mother's remarriage to Richard Barrett. She always claimed that her step-father "didn't like her" but there seems to be little real evidence to support that. I think it was simply that it wasn't her dad.
and started dating Ernest Harris who she met when he had a fruit and veg stall at the corner of Windermere Road and Holloway Road. Ernest was a "barrow boy" who used to wheel his barrow to Chapel Market and pick up discarded fruit and veg at the end of the day's trading and wheel it back to Upper Holloway to sell cheaply. They were hard times and people were happy to buy food that was, to use modern term, past it's sell by date. Ernest had been born in nearby Tufnell Park in 1903 to another Ernest Harris and his wife Minnie Smith. As far as I can determine, Ernest's father was killed in an accident (he was a Carman) and Minnie remarried to another Ernest - Ernest Tapping. Tapping, fresh out of the army, bought a sweet shop on Dartmouth Park Hill where his stepson worked as an assistant. But young Ernest was not happy in the shop as his weakness was gambling. He left his stepfather's employ to make his own way in the world. It was while selling fruit and veg that he met a young man named Mark. Whether this is the same Mark who was a close friend of Charlie and Arthur Bayliss is uncertain. Mark had connections to the notorious Sabini Gang. Of Italian ancestry the Sabini's, led by Darby Sabini, operated out of the "Italian Quarter" in Clerkenwell. Sabini liked to hire Jewish boys to run messages and do odd jobs for him - believing they were more "honest" with money than some of their contemporaries. Ernest, thanks to Mark, went to work for Sabini, passing himself off as Jewish (which he wasn't) and earning the nickname "Yossel". Ernest was caught up in a gang fight while working with one of the bookmakers (who were protected by the Sabinis) at Alexandra Palace racetrack. Attacked by a rival gang from Birmingham, Ernest was badly beaten with a cricket bat, necessitating several operations on his shoulder and leaving him with one arm slightly shorter than the other. Through out the rest of his life Ernest continued to live on the fringe of organised gangland - mainly because of his obsession with gambling - first for the Sabini's and later for the equally notorious Billy Hill.
|This is one of my favourite pictures of my mother, taken|
at Bognor Regis in 1935 with her husband Ernest and her
neice Cecilia Abbott.
Despite Ernest's unreliability in many areas he seems to have been a very popular and likeable man and many people have commented to me about his sense of humour. I certainly believe that my mother loved him and was willing to forgive many of his faults. There were, however two real clouds over the marriage. Ethel was often left alone while Ernest was away and she desperately wanted a child. According to my mother she had suffered a miscarriage early in the marriage and had failed to conceive since. In the summer of 1935
Ernest and Ethel booked a holiday chalet in Bognor Regis. This holiday, I am convinced, was one of the happiest periods of my mother's life. The holiday lasted from 6 June until 30 June 1935 and the chalet, named "Anchorage"(total cost £6) became a magnet for family and friends. Countless photos were taken during the holiday (most of which survive) and they show not only Ethel and Ernest but Cis and Fred and their daughter Cecilia, sister Esther, friends such as Mabel and Charlie Smith with their daughter Valerie and Bill Stratton. The photos show people who are totally relaxed and enjoying themselves. They are among my favourite pictures of my mother because they are the ones in which she looks the happiest
|Another picture from the 1935 Bognor Regis holiday.|
Left to right : Ethel, Mabel Smith, Esther Bayliss, Cis
Abbott. The children are Valerie Smith and Cecilia Abbott.
|Ethel about 1941. Note the gas mask case.|
TO BE CONTINUED.......
You can click on "Ethel's album" under "More to See" in the column on the right to see more of Ethel's pictures.