There are a lot of women in my life who inspire me ever day. Like my mum, a very lovable Belfast bred woman who isn’t afraid to share her opinions. Which is something that I admire about her. She is witty, creative, kind and just a well-rounded woman and mother.
As much as my mum is an inspiration to me, it isn’t who this blog is about.
Born on 21st August 1932 and adopted by Elizabeth and James (Jimmy). Jimmy a former solider in the Horse Regiment during the war, who later in life took on shipyard work to make a living for his family and Elizabeth who became an invalid during an accident in her late 20’s. The pair lived in Bruce Street sandwiched between the Dublin Road and Great Victoria Street.
They also had two biological daughters Grace, who moved to England and Annie who went to Scotland because their parents couldn’t look after them. Years later Jimmy and Elizabeth adopted 4 girls. Margaret (Maisy), Elizabeth (Lilly), Annette (Netta) and Pearl.
The woman in the photo above is the woman who brought my mum up to be the person she is today. My Granny Pearly. Who met my grandad Gerry when she was 14 in a video arcade in Belfast. From the night they met my granny says that she never looked at another man again.
Pearl and Gerry decided to keep their relationship as secret as possible from their parents because of their different religious backgrounds, Pearl being a Protestant and Gerry being a Catholic. One-night Pearl fell off the back of her friends motorbike on her way home and had to go to hospital to get her wrist checked. A couple who had seen the incident drove Pearl to the hospital while her friend told Gerry what happened, who she was meant to meet up with later that night to tell him what had happened to Pearl.
Pearl left the hospital with her sister Lilly who took her home to find that in the kitchen her father and Gerry where sitting together in the same room and talking! After a nervous Pearl left the kitchen to walk Gerry out, they thought they had gotten away with her father not knowing that Gerry was a Catholic. However, Jimmy knew from the moment he met Gerry that indeed he was a Catholic and didn’t try to separate the two as he got on with Gerry and knew he would be good to his daughter and that she loved him.
Pearl and Gerry married on the 27th May 1949 in Great Victoria Street Baptist Church. Pearl aged 18 and Gerry 22 at the time…Pearl had worked in a handkerchief factory in Belfast… Pearl and Gerry went on to have kids…. Gerry’s father disowned him…2 sons and 3 daughters… on Sunday 8th August 1971, they were put out of their house…the house had been ransacked…. the family moved to Lisburn…
As you can see, I’m still trying to piece together the information about my granny’s life. So much happened to her and my family throughout World War Two and the Troubles in Belfast.
Pearl recently fell in her house trying to mop the floor and ended up breaking her pelvis. After a couple of weeks in Hospital and a few more weeks in a rehabilitation home she could go home. The family did what they could to make her life at home easier for her, but it was obvious that she wasn’t happy and kept telling us how her memories were being ruined because of all the changes to her house.
To help the family out I would go to her house and cook dinner for the two of us. I then thought… I know nothing about my granny and her life. I started asking her questions, ‘Where did you meet Granda?’ ‘How many siblings did you have?’ ‘where have you worked?’ simple questions that expanded into story after story about her life.
I decided to write this blog about my granny, as I do think she is an amazing and inspirational woman. She is witty, intelligent, kind, and caring but I also want to let people know that its okay to ask questions.
Get to know your grandparents, you parents, aunties and uncles, anyone. Because what you hear and find could surprise you. Asking questions can:
- Help us to acquire knowledge
- Help us to eliminate confusion
- Help to allow someone else to feel special/important
- Help to strengthen a relationship
If you take anything from this blog post, I hope that it is to help encourage you to ask the people around you about their life and be inspired to listen and take on the stories they tell you. to remember what their stories for them and to pass on their legacy which is exactly what I tend to do with my Granny’s stories.
Aimee Orr is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: LinkedIn: aimee-orr Twitter: @aimeeorr13