I was asked by a writing group do write a piece on the subject of “My Name.”
My name is Andrew Bradford and I quite like my name. When you look at it, it’s both symmetrical – each part has two syllables - and it’s alphabetically progressive– A is followed by B. Unless you bring my middle name, Charles, into it of course, but we’ll ignore that. Because I worked in IT in the City for years and worked with concepts that were ordered and logical I quite like having a name that has a sense of order to it.
I’m called Andrew after my mother’s grandfather, Andrew Kennet Bridgeman. I never met him; he died donkey’s years before I was born. He was born in Cambridge in 1857, and there is a River Kennet that flows though Cambridge and Suffolk. I believe that that’s where he gets his middle name from. He was in the Grenadier Guards for about forty yearsand fought in the Boer War as well as loads of colonial skirmishes, mainly in India. He and his wife Elizabeth had seven children, some who were born in England, one each in Canada and Ireland and two who were born in India. The two children who were born in India both died there as children.
As I write, I’m looking at a sepia photo of my great-grandparents. It shows Andrew, Elizabeth and their five surviving children, three of whom are teenagers, but that was before that word was invented. The second youngest girl must be Beatrice, my mother’s mother. She’s holding a vase of flowers. It was taken in the early 1890s, by A&G Taylor,’Photographers to the Queen’, of 62 Ludgate Hill.
Andrew is every inch the Victorian patriarch. Ramrod-straight back, wing-collar, hair parted in the middle, piercing eyes – I imagine they’re blue - and a waxed moustache. I hadn’t looked at this picture for years, and I’m disappointed that he’s not wearing a fob-watch on a chain,because if you’d asked me to describe it from memory I would have told you that he was wearing such a watch.
I have a silver fob-watch and chain, but of course I never wear it because three-piece men’s suits are quite out of fashion. My daughter has borrowed it because a few years ago it was a cool fashion accessory for a young woman. Perhaps I’ll get it back one day. I inherited my watch from my Dad –come to think of it I’d borrowed it from him years before he died. I borrowed it when I was in my twenties and three piece suits were in fashion.
My Dad’s watch was a twenty-first birthday present from his Mum, Letitia Bradford. But she never got to give it to him personally because she died suddenly, a few days after she’d bought it, and a few months before his birthday. So it had great sentimental value to him, and has the same value to me, because it connects me with my grandmother.
I don’t remember any grandparents. Two of them died before I was born, one shortly after and the fourth, my mother’s father, walked out of the family home one day and was never seen again. It was only when I had children and saw the relationships that they forged with their grandparents that I realised what I’d missed out on. I really would have liked to have known more about my Dad’s mother Letitia, who died in 1927 when she wasonly fifty. All of my cousins on my dad’s side are much older than me and remember their grandfather well, but nobody from my generation remembers Letitia, or knows very much about her.Letitia was Irish. All the other ancestors that I know of are English, and I think that by knowing so little about her I’m missing a part of my heritage. Her mother was born in Cork in 1835 so I’m fairly certain that she must have come to England to escape the famine. I presume that I have distant relatives all over the English-speaking world whose ancestors made far longer journeys for the same reason. But there are no photos and no memories of those people.