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A Bastardy Order

Do any of us ever ask our parents enough about their pasts? I remember glazing over whenever my father spoke about his time in Italy and North Africa during WW2 – not that he banged on about it, but it was like ancient history to me growing up.

Linda M Father

My Father

I do know he was just four years old when his father was killed near Carnoy in France on 8th June 1916, and he always said he felt the loss that he'd grown up not knowing his father. I visited my grandfather's grave about twenty-five years ago, and I remember standing in front of it, some flowers a French friend had given me in my hand, and felt my father's loss. It was mine, too, because I grew up without either of my grandfathers. But my dad's dad had died a hero, fighting for king and country, and there were tears of pride that day, too.

Linda M Grave

I was placing flowers at my grandfather's grave in the mid eighties

I was a mother myself by then and I remember thinking how dreadful it must have been for my grandmother, being left with three small boys – my father (born in 1912) was the middle one of the three – at a time when there was little poor relief. I only ever met my grandmother four times before she died when I was in my late teens. I remember her as rather dumpy and very grumpy. And I remember she never sent me a single birthday card or Christmas card, and she never gave me a present either. A warm and snugly grandmother she was not. And a little part of me has always been very sad about that.

I know now (thanks to my brother's dogged family history research) that both my grandparents went to their graves little knowing that one day their secret would surface.

Great Bardfield Petty Sessions Jan 14th 1908

Alfred Elijah Underwood of Howe St, Finchingfield, was charged with disobeying a bastardy order and owing arrears and costs of £3 15s – One month's imprisonment.
In January of the following year, my grandfather was again summoned by Annie Harrington, a single woman, to show just cause etc.......and in his absence was ordered to pay 2s a week until the child is 14 years of age, £11s. doctor's fee, and court costs of 4s. In January 1910 my grandfather was given another month in prison for disobeying a bastardy order.

Linda M grandmother

My grandmother, unsure of the date

Alfred Elijah and Annie married on 15th April 1911, so he did good by her in the end. But what a time she must have had of it. These days – in the main – it is a case of form filling (in private) to bring a case against a man (or a woman) for maintenance. But my granny would have had to do her pleading in public and been named and shamed and I look up to her for that. I appreciate she was hardly the innocent here....or was she? I have few photographs of her and she isn't smiling in any of them. I can only guess, now, at the sadness behind her dark eyes.

Linda M Family

 Cockington rose garden in 1959 and is of me with my granny, my mother and my brother.

I'm left wondering if my father knew any of this. It is hardly the sort of thing he would have told me if he had. But thinking about it, my father was by far the more liberal of my parents, the more understanding of others' indiscretions, falls from grace, and bad life choices. Nothing much ever bothered him. His stock phrase was 'They can't shoot you for it, love.', if ever I was riddled with angst over something. So, perhaps he did know. I'll never know now.

But, as a novelist, there's a part of me that wants to write my grandmother a happier ending – time slip, perhaps.....hmm, I feel a new book coming on.

Meet The Author...
Linda Mitchelmore
Who Am I?

Writing sort of crept up on me when I lost my hearing and had to do something to fill the silent hours. That said, pre computers, I had been an avid letter writer to family and friends, and more than one had said I should put my letters in book form.

Well, I’m a slow learner and I was in possession of a bus pass before my first novel was published. I’ve now had four full length novels and two novellas published by Choc Lit, as well as 300+ short stories and something in the region of 60 magazine articles.

I am blessed in that I was born by the sea in Devon and I never saw the need to move away. From the house I live in now, I can be on the beach within fifteen minutes walk, and if I go in the other direction I have uninterrupted views out to Dartmoor.

Both provide endless inspiration for short stories and novels. I like to strike a balance between writing and seeing family and friends. This means that I can often be found riding pillion on one of my husband’s vintage motorbikes, playing with my eight-year-old grandson and four-year-old granddaughter, or lunching with friends in Exeter or Brixham. It’s a hard life, but someone has to do it.

I am also a founder member and regular contributor to :-

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