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18 Sep 2016

Illegitimacy and the Will of man

The most talked about will in our family conceals a multitude of factlets. It's the will of Mr Taylor of Morriston, Swansea penned 1913-1919. Cousin Alison and I triumphantly pose in the street where his house would have been (we thought), having no Money, but enjoying the free experience. "Where did it all go?", definitely got asked as a shower splashes through our chirpy photo.

The way some Welsh pronounce Money is very funny as if it was a town or a seasonal crop. We might get in to Money later....

The will is written in three stages with so many amends it reads like a diary entry. What the writer gives with one hand he takes away with the other. He changes chapel, changes executors and gives war mementos to all his grown up grandsons except the one who was discharged for wetting himself.

All the kids had moved away except the faithful Tom, by now a widower like his dad. He knocked on my great grandpa's door in 1919. "It's Dad", he began. "He wants you to be his executor as he doesn't trust any of us." In fact Tom was the only one nearby.

I only found the document as my side of the family had the testator's name and date of death scribbled on a family tree. I chose to investigate this way back in 1992: stumbling on the record after school in the local probate registry situated above Next.

We only ever had two illegitimacies and they both happened in Mr Taylor's family across the years he was writing his will. Maggie's son Tommy Fach was given great status in the family treated as a much-loved youngest child with a beautiful stone in the Church in Wales graveyard of his birthplace. Maggie married after a pause and no-one was much the wiser. Tommy Fach actually had a better life than his brother Tommy Mawr, it would seem. Note that there was no pressure to marry, probably the man concerned was judged a poor investment. The community closed ranks around Maggie and mother and child were protected.

The second illegitimacy stemmed from spite, as far as I can see. Taylor had possibly recovered from his youngest child eloping aged 18 with a total stranger 20 years earlier (she preferred this fate to becoming her father's eternal housekeeper). When this child died and hubbie remarried, the Taylor response was "no money for the Walkers as they are well provided for". This is clear code that he didn't want his daughter's 20% to go to her widower and his new family.

But as he was penning these lines his granddaughter, Eva Walker, 18, was already taking a horrendous job of formic acid dipper, helping dunk sheets of tin into 'pickle' and getting rid of the hugely toxic waste. She fell pregnant at 23, and unlike the common practice of the time, no-one compelled the father to do the right thing and marry, with no available alternatives such as familial adoption.

Eva would be completely alone, without either parent, and about as far from well-provisioned as it was possible to be. She sent her wild daughter away and slowly recovered from the experience, dying poor but happy in the Midlands. The child fared badly and the last repercussions are hitting family members right now in 2016.

It irks me the way this document rendered the women as third-class citizens who were meant to evaporate into the ether. Martha, three youngest child, looks like she's had a very unpleasant interview with Satan informing her of her family's future in her only known photograph age 16. This emerged in Mold, 2011 at the home of a great niece. Her daughter Eva's photo was kept at her tiny home in the Midlands surviving decades of money shortage, and reaching me in 2016 - no cousins had ever heard of her. Eva's daughter's photo was dug out via a circuitous route in the Forest of Dean a matter of days ago.

I'd like to think my great grandpa challenged the will of this man, or at least was aware of Eva's fate. This was and is a tight family and for vulnerable women to be ignored because of spite goes completely against the accepted togetherness of life in south Wales towns. If this is the will of man, I'm not impressed.

2 comments:

  1. I have an ancestor who died in the 1790s, well into his 90s, who left a multi-page will that even dictated which doors and staircases the family members were to use in the house. Today he'd be called a control freak!

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  2. Goodness Linda, at least those instructions could be avoided. Possibly he was trying to prevent potential strife from beyond the grave. Here in Britain, there was a famous case of a man who told his five children they would only inherit his many farms if they did not marry. So none of them did: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_east/3172266.stm

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