Thursday, May 26, 2016

Get back Jo Jo, go home (Paul McCartney)

Get Back (You may say I'm a dreamer Chapter 1, part 3)

Harry (Deedoo), William, Edward (Uncle Eddie), Emma Purdy
Turned out, William Purdy was quite different to his father in his outlook. Not only did he marry twice (to Emma Mechan, then Florence Worthington), not only did he only have two children (a third, named James, died in infancy), but, courageously, he decided to leave Rochdale behind and embark on a new life for his family on the other side of the world, in New Zealand.

I am still largely in the dark about his motives. Life in Rochdale was grim and cousin Christine's mum, Irene Purdy, has told me how the family were suffering. Vague stories of Emma's behaviour, the death of their third child and lack of work seems to have contributed to his decision. But New Zealand? With two very young sons?

And then there's the enigma called Emma. Mystery still surrounds her and the relationship with William.

Presumably, the family left England together but something happened along the sea voyage to cause Emma to stay in Australia while William and her two young sons (Harry was 8 years old) continued on to Auckland, New Zealand.

Strangely, Harry's younger brother, Eddie, did not even know of Emma's existence until he was forty years old!!

It's clear that Emma still had affection for her sons - while in Australia, she sent Harry an exorbitant sum of money to buy a top of the line radio. My parents even visited her in Sydney when they were newly married and on their honeymoon (Auckland to Sydney to Norfolk Island). I'd hear stories of how miserly she was living as I grew up but I never met her. When she died her property was left to her sons.

Apart from that, little is known about her and nothing survives about her strained relationship with William.

Emma and my grandfather, Harry Purdy
The only photographs I have of her are on this blogpost. They show an intense young woman proudly holding her sons Harry (my grandfather who I named Deedoo when I was a toddler) and baby Edward. Taken in Rochdale, Harry would have been about 12 months old in one and about four in the other - all looks normal - a typical young family, with no hint of what was to come.

What I am left with is a load of questions that even my dad couldn't answer when I asked him in the 1990's: Why New Zealand? Why was she left in Sydney? What happened to James? Did she shame the family in some way (was she a thief?)? Why didn't Eddie know about her? And on it goes.

I guess this is the same for most families and why the BBC does those programmes exploring the roots of UK celebrities.

Secrets. They are extremely frustrating and leave me with an empty pit of the stomach feeling.

If little is known of Emma, the same is true of Florence. I have discovered a few photos that show that she and William looked happy enough but I can only imagine what the young Purdy's home life was like.

Eventually they grew up and were trained in the family art of plastering and joined William in the business.

Deedoo and Graham - my dad
Harry/Deedoo was a carefree, hard grafting man of considerable skill when it came to his trade. He seemed an unlikely match for Christina Amelia Curson, apparently a lady of a different social standing. Somehow they met, fell in love (I'm guessing - I never saw any overt signs of affection), and married. I have no idea about the details - I never thought to ask. I can't see my grandmother as anything other than Grandma (old in other words).

Anyway - a son was born, my father, the jazz fan, on 26th of July 1928. Harry was 25, Grandma was 28 years old. 

Love and peace - WNP

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