The Boothman Family Story 1923-1946


photograph c 1938

This is the only picture I have that shows the whole family together. It is a holiday snap from about 1938 showing Edwin (38), Muriel (14), Harry (10), John (4) and Bertha (39) standing in front of their holiday caravan in Heysham.

This volume is the story of the Family of Edwin and Bertha from their marriage on 30 April 1923 until the marriage of their eldest child, Muriel, on 24th June 1946. It is told in the voices of Bertha, Edwin and Muriel with each narrator having text of a different colour and their age given with the date at the top of each entry. The diary entries are built around stories told to me directly by Bertha, Edwin and Muriel and documentary evidence.

Later entries focus on Muriel's story as she was my main source.

30th April 1923 - Bertha (24) & Edwin (23) Marriage

Edwin and I were married today at Shaw Chapel. We have come to Blackpool for our honeymoon. The train we came on was packed with jubilant Bolton supporters who had been to the F A Cup match.

The wedding was a low-key affair – probably because Bertha was pregnant with Muriel born 23 November.

There are no real wedding photos but I have always understood that this one was taken on their way to Blackpool for the honeymoon.However, there is clearly a woman standing to Bertha’s right, which perhaps makes this unlikely. The original photograph is very degraded but the standing woman could be Grace, Bertha's mother. Neither Bertha nor Edwin look very happy!

The 1923 FA Cup Final was between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United and was played on 28 April 1923. It was the first  football match to be played at the new Wembley Stadium and King George V was in attendance to present the trophy to the winning team. The event was dramatically popular with an official attendance of 126K (unofficial figures are double this) with an estimated further 60K locked outside the gates. The FA were forced to refund 10% of the total gate money to fans unable to reach the terraces. So many spectators spilled onto the pitch that the match could not be played until Constable George Scorey and his white horse, Billy, slowly pushed the masses back to the sides of the field allowing the FA Cup Final to start, just 45 minutes late. In honour of Billy, the game is known as The White Horse Final and the footbridge outside the new Wembley Stadium (opened 2007) has been named the White Horse Bridge.The match was a 2–0 victory for Bolton Wanderers, with David Jack scoring the first ever goal at Wembley.

22nd November 1923 - Bertha (24) - Birth of Muriel

Our lovely baby girl was born today. We shall call her Muriel.

An Infantile Life Insurance Policy was taken out for Muriel on 20/12/1923 with the Refuse Assurance Company. Payments were 4 pence per month and the amount payable on death was on a scale shown on the chart below. Clearly cover lasted only until the child was 10 years old.

Sunday 13th January 1924 - Edwin (23)

Today Muriel was baptized at Cornholme Parish Church.

The sponsors were Bertha's sister Mabel, my sister Alice and Harold Stansfield (Alice's fiancé). 

The photographs are clearly somewhat later in 1924 with Muriel about 1 year old.

1924 - Bertha (25)

This is me (6th from the left in the top row) with the ladies from the British Legion. Our Cissie is on my left.

Both Edwin and I are involved with the Legion and we sell poppies on Remembrance Day. 

We have also been raising money to build a new clubhouse.

The 'Legion' clubhouse or community hall had a maple dance floor - dancing was very popular in the 20s and 30s. There were regular dances there during WWII when soldiers were billeted in the area. Edwin's first community work was through the Legion and Chapel and in this way he made a name, which was to stand him in good stead when he ran for the council. The receipt  and the membership card are of a later date.

1925 - Bertha (26)

We have moved house from Back Holme House Road to 688 Burnley Road, Cornholme. Both are back-to-back houses but our new house is the end of the terrace so we have more light. We are leaving some good neighbours including one who has a wind up gramophone. It plays a song called 'When we are married we'll have sausages for tea' which our Muriel is very taken with.

My sister, Cissie, and her family live nearby also in Burnley Road. The photograph with the motorbike (taken in a studio) shows Cissie's husband, Wilfred and their two boys Leslie (on the bike) and Alan, who is Muriel's age.

Muriel remembered this song from age 2, which gives an approximate date for the move. I remember Auntie Cissie living in Burnley Road when I was a child (around 1952). I do not know for sure that they lived there in 1925.

Leslie and Alan Marshall were cousins to Muriel on her mothers side - see below. The photo immediately above right shows them perhaps a year later than the motorbike photograph.

1925 - Edwin (25)

The picture below (top left) shows Muriel visiting the horses with my cousin Dora.The horses belong to Uncle George (Robinson) who uses them to pull his ice-cream carts. I used to work for Uncle George when I was a lad and we like each other very much. He always encouraged me to try for new things and said I should not just stay in the mill all my life. 

Uncle George Robinson (brother to Edwin's mother, Sarah - see chart below) was a flamboyant character and a favourite with all the family. Muriel remembers him visiting their house and 'flirting with mother'. If he called when there was no-one home he would go in - the door was never locked - and play some trick such as putting a chamber pot on the table. They would always know if Uncle George had been! George had two daughters, Dora the eldest and Ada (who after her marriage lived in Wallasey). Edwin kept in touch with them all his life. George's brother Sandy Robinson was also comfortably off and owned a chip shop. Both were seen to be doing well and were 'flash' although as they were born in Holland the may both have only been semi-literate in English. See Robinson Line for more background.

The picture above,
taken around 1930, shows Uncle George Robinson (wearing a watch and chain on the right) with Edwin and children Muriel & Harry and the picture on the bottom left - clearly taken on the same occasion - has the children with Bertha.

January 1926 - Bertha (26)

Muriel (aged 2 years 2 months) had a little walk-on part in a production at Vale Sunday School today. She looked really sweet in her costume with fur at the collar and cuffs. She was playing one of a pair of twins and the other twin was played by Margaret Greenwood.

Muriel is on the left. On the back of this photograph, in Edwin’s hand, it says ‘Muriel 2 years 2 months’.

August 1926 - Edwin (26)

This month two of my sisters have got married - Edith on 3rd and Alice on 26th.Both were married at our family church - Castle Grove in Tod.

The snap below taken in the street on the day of Edith and Willie’s wedding shows all the ladies & children (from left to right) Bertha's sister, Cissie Marshall with her son Alan, Bertha with Muriel, my sister, Mary Carpenter with her daughter Alice and Edith Boothman (nee Cunliffe), wife of my brother Jack, with her son, Alan.

On the back in Edwin’s hand it says "Aunt Edith and U Willie wedding day". I do not know for certain who the three women on the right are but I think the one on the far right is Edwin's sister Alice.

The picture of all the children below this on the right was clearly taken on the same occasion and shows the cousins Muriel (centre front) Alice (back), Alan Boothman (left) and Alan Marshall (right). The picture on the left is a studio portrait but shows Muriel with the same clothes and hairstyle. In 2014 Muriel's cousin, Alice remembered the dress - "In those days our mums bought the fabric and there were some very talented dressmakers in Tod." It is unlikely that Bertha made the dress though as she was not particularly talented in that direction - it was probably made by one of the aunties.

The poorer quality picture including the ladies with bouquets shows Alice and Harold on their wedding day. I do not know who the bridesmaid are although one is perhaps Dorothy Stansfield who signed the register - see above.

The tree diagram below shows all Muriel's cousins on her father's side.

5th October 1926 - Bertha (26)

It has been a year for weddings. Two of Edwin's sisters were married in August and today my sister Mabel was married to John Arthur Sharpe. They were married at St Michael and All Angels Chapel in Cornholme where the Banns were read on 3 Sundays in September.

Muriel was a bridesmaid and my brother, Walter, gave Mabel away.

The record of this marriage below comes from the records of West Yorkshire, England, Marriages and Banns found through It is amongst the listing for St Michael and All Angels in Cornholme and gives the dates of the banns and the marriage..

In the group below Muriel is on the right with Walter behind her. This photograph has a date stamp on the back - October 1926.

The two pictures below show Muriel in her bridesmaid's dress and the bride and groom.

June 1927 - Edwin (27)

I took Muriel (age 3) to Southport to watch the total eclipse of the sun.  We travelled by a very early special train, which left Todmorden before dawn.  To watch the eclipse we all had celluloid shades to prevent our eyes being damaged by the sun.

Muriel remembered little of the eclipse itself but was amazed to see a huge fish with big jaws, packed in ice in a crate on Todmorden station, in the dark before dawn. She cannot remember Bertha going (was she in hospital for the goitre operation?). They may have stayed overnight in Southport as Edwin's aunt, Hannah Robinson, lived there. This was certainly a good place to view the event, as the path of totality was 'a narrow band running diagonally across the country from Snowdonia to Hartlepool' (see clipping below).

Easter 1928 - Bertha (28)

Muriel starts school straight after Easter.  She will be going to Vale School in Cornholme, which is only just down the road.

It is good timing as the baby is due next month.

This was the 'Babies Class', Muriel remembers. The teacher, Miss Barker, made every child a cup of Horlicks at break time (presumably she paid for it herself).  Muriel remembers her telling them stories eg Little Black Sambo.

1928 May 21st Vale School Cornholme Muriel aged 4 (fifth from left in middle row)

June 25th 1928 - Edwin (28) - Birth of Harry

I am now the proud father of a girl and a boy. Our lovely Harry was born today.

Edwin would have been unlikely to use these words but there is now doubt that he was very proud of Harry later in life when he was very much the favoured son.

July 1928 - Muriel (4)

We went to Aunty Mary's for tea today. Mam took our new baby, Harry in the big pram and I took my doll.

For tea we had jam and bread and buns with currants in, which Aunty Mary had made. 

I hate the lavatory at Aunty Mary's house. It's a big deep hole that Mam says is called a tippler closet.

It's very, very deep and smelly and I just know I'm going to fall in.

The photograph on the right shows Muriel with Harry in the pram on the landing outside 688 Burnley Road. I had always believed that the picture on the left was also of Muriel but this child seems to be present as well as Muriel in the 1933 school photograph - see below. I do not know who she can be.

May 1929 - Bertha (29)

Muriel is now going to the Open Air School in Todmorden. She has to go on the bus all on her own but I put her on in Cornholme and the teacher collects her when she gets off so she seems to manage all right. We get (free?) books of bus tickets and she takes one with her each day. The doctor recommended the Open Air School for Muriel's chest and said that it will stop her getting bronchitis or still worse, consumption. She has had a bad chest ever since she was a baby and I put it down to the fact that she was always wet on her front from dribbling so much.

At the school they give them porridge for breakfast and a spoonful of cod liver oil, followed by a piece of an orange cut into quarters, to keep them healthy. In the afternoon, whatever the weather, they take a nap on camp beds in the open air on the veranda. They do have warm blankets though to wrap them if it's a bit chilly.

Muriel remembers attending the Open Air School when she was very young – see the following recollection. If this date is correct it was presumably for just the summer term in 1929 as she was certainly back at Vale School for the September 1929 photograph, see below.

June 1929 - Muriel (5)

I lost my bus ticket on Monday morning and I had to use my half crown dinner money to pay my fare on the bus. I didn't dare tell anyone what I had done so I hid the change in the clinker under the veranda. Later I helped some other children to find it and hand it in.

I played in the Wendy house with Dennis Winfield. I like the Wendy House best but I also like making gardens in the dirt with silver paper and orange peel. After lunch we always have a sleep on the veranda. When it is sunny and I look up at the sky I can see little white rings. I think they are angels looking after us.

July 1929 - Bertha (29)

Here we are, all the Boothman ladies at the Coop Gala.  The photo was taken on Tod Park near the bandstand and you can see the houses in Burnley Road behind us.

The photograph shows:- standing at the back Mary Stansfield (no relation)

Ladies seated l to r:- Bertha, Alice Stansfield (nee Boothman), Edith Boothman (wife to Jack), Edith Craven (soon to marry Fred - see below), Mary Carpenter (nee Boothman), Edith Marshal (nee Boothman)

Children left to right:- Alan Marshal, Harry, Edna Boothman, Muriel, Raymond Marshal, Alice Carpenter.

The tree diagram below showing Muriel's relations on her fathers side may help to clarify.


September 1929 - Muriel (5)

The photographer came to school to take our pictures today so we all had to look neat and tidy. At our school if you wear a dress without a pocket you have to have your hankie pinned onto the front so it doesn't get lost, like the girl who is next to me in the picture. My best friend Anne Greenwood (later bridesmaid to Muriel under her married name of Hellawell) is in front of me and on my left is Margaret Greenwood (who was in the play with me when we were toddlers - see above).

1929 September Vale School Cornholme, Infants Department Muriel aged 5  (3rd from left - back row)

1929 - Edwin (29)

Life is hard at the moment. There are over a million unemployed and all of us in work feel very insecure knowing that there are so many who would willingly take our jobs for lower wages. However with a five-year-old and a baby we can barely afford living expenses and keeping up the standard of a manager on what I am currently earning so I asked for a rise. They would not agree to the rise in wages but they have agreed to give me a bonus of 6D in the £1 for takings in the shop over a set target.

This reflection comes from a letter from Edwin in 1988. He worked as manager in Duckworth’s shop in Cornholme. I am not quite sure what he meant by ‘keeping up the standard of a manger’ but that is a direct quote. UK unemployment in 1929 was one and a half million - 15% of the workforce.

1930 April 29th - Edwin (30)

My brother Fred was married to Edith Craven.

Fred was Edwin's youngest brother and a great favourite. He never had any children. His wife Edith died in 1981 and Fred remarried in 1988 when both he and his new wife, Dora, were 81 years old. Fred died before Edwin in April 1990.

1930 Winter - Bertha (31)

There was nearly a terrible accident today. Just after tea, at six o-clock, when of course it was quite dark, Muriel went up the street to the lavatory. It was very cold and she came running back at top speed and banged straight in to the washing line, which I'd forgotten to bring in. The line is tied low down from the house to the railings and it caught her round the neck. It knocked her backwards and she fell back and cracked her head on the flags. She has a big lump on her head and was half knocked out. I went straight out and took the line in. I won't forget it again.

The house at 688 Burnley Road, Cornholme was a 'two-up-two-down, back-to-back'. Being a corner house there were windows in two walls (the previous house in Back Holme House Road was mid terrace and thus had only one external wall). Upstairs there were two bedrooms with an attic bedroom above. There was no bathroom and the lavatories were in a block at the top of the street. Downstairs there were two rooms a living room and a kitchen. The house had no electricity - there was gas lighting downstairs but upstairs only candles. A fireplace on the back wall was the only heating.

This plan shows the whole terrace of 6 houses.

1931 - Muriel (7)

Dad always comes home from the shop for his dinner in the middle of the day and one of his jobs at dinnertime is to shake and turn the flock mattresses on all the beds.  Afterwards Mum makes all the beds ready but the mattresses are too heavy for her to turn.

I come home from school for dinner too. After dinner I have to go up the street to the lavatory – even if I don’t feel like going.

The school photograph shows me in Standard I.

The instruction to move the bowels in the middle of the day was a partly an indication of Edwin’s passion for regularity but may also have been a matter of expedience. With shared facilities it was as well to go at a regular time during daylight hours.

On the back of the school photograph in Edwin's hand it says June 1931 - Standards 1-2-3 - Muriel in ST1 age 7 years

Muriel is on the left of the second row from the front wearing the dark gym-slip. The child immediately in front of the female teacher appears to be the same one shown in the 1928 photograph above. I had thought that photograph was of Muriel but that clearly cannot be the case.

studio photograph showing Muriel and Harry has the following written on the back:
1931 Muriel 7 years Harry 3 years
the other shows Harry alone at a similar age.

1932 - Muriel (8)

I won first prize at Vale Baptist Sunday School for Regular and Punctual Attendance and Good Conduct. My prize was a book called Five-Minute Recitations by A B Harley. This is the second prize I have won this year. One of the things we have to do at Sunday School is to learn some psalms by heart and I have won a Lord Wharton Bible for that.

I still have Five- Minute Recitations. It is a collection of poems and prose pieces, most of which are moral tales advocating kindness, respect and other so called ' Christian values'.

The Sunday School is just across the road from our house. I go every Sunday after lunch, always in my best clothes. We sing lots of hymns and listen to someone giving a lesson. Often we have missionaries visiting when they have returned from foreign fields and they tell us about their lives. Once a missionary came with a little black picannini. It was the first time I had seen a black person - she was very pretty like a little doll.

My Dad also goes to Sunday School where he is a teacher.  He does not go across the road but to Castle Grove Sunday School, which is where he used to go as a child.  That is near where Grandma lives and Dad usually calls on his mum after the service.  He always wears his best clothes, spats and a bowler hat and he walks to Castle Grove, which takes about 40 minutes. 

The Castle Grove Sunday School Anniversary is the first Sunday in May and this is a big event in the Boothman family.  All Dad's five brothers and sisters and their husbands and wives and nine children always go. Everybody has new clothes and we go first to Grandma's house. It is a small house with only two rooms downstairs but we all manage to fit in somehow.  We have a sit down tea of ham, tinned salmon and salad followed by trifle and cakes. Mother and the other aunties usually bring the cakes. We are too many to sit down all at once so we eat in two sittings, first the adults and then the children. The children usually play in the yard outside while the adults are eating. Dad's sisters serve the food - they do not sit down at the table but eat theirs in the kitchen.

At six-o-clock we are at the Sunday School for the service.  The young children 'sit-up' on the tiered benches at the front wearing very pretty clothes. My best ever was a white satin dress with pink rosebuds woven in and 3 tiers of frills on the skirt.

Later Muriel was a teacher at the Vale Sunday School. The Anniversaries at Vale Sunday School and later Shore (which I attended as a child) were also major events. The girls would all wear white dresses and parade through the streets after the service. There was always a guest parson to give the sermon and a choir with a good soloist who would sing a piece from the Messiah (or some such). The collection on anniversary day was always substantial and kept the chapel going all year. Everyone was expected to give half a crown or so and the total collected was published at the start of the next service. It could be in the order of £400 - a substantial sum at the time.

The photograph shows Eunice Marshall (cousin to Muriel) at the front of a typical anniversary walk.

1933 - Muriel (9)

I was swinging up onto the table with my hands behind me but I tippled forwards onto the fireplace and hit the trivet with the top of my nose. There was blood everywhere. Dad took me up the road to Doctor Hubbard who stitched the cut up for me, but as he was putting the stitches in Dad fainted and banged his head against the wall. The doctor had to stop stitching me to see to Dad.  I couldn't stop laughing!

School photograph - September 1933 - Vale School Cornholme - Muriel aged 9  (second from left - back row - with plaster on nose). Her cousin Alan Marshall is sitting to her right.

Holiday snaps (at Wallasey) probably late summer 1933 as no sign of baby John and in the standing snap Bertha (second from the right) appears to be pregnant. In seated snap - back row left to right – Mary Carpenter, Mabel Sharpe, Jack Carpenter, Bertha, Edwin; front row – Alice Carpenter, Harry, Muriel. (The photo was probably taken by John Arthur – Mabel’s husband who was a keen photographer and belonged to the local photographic society.)



1933 - Edwin (33)

It is a very worrying time. We are expecting twins to be born in March next year and I am wondering how we are going to manage with Harry 5, Muriel 10 and not a big wage coming in.

"But how foolish to worry what the future holds for we all enjoyed the following 32 years probably with many little problems on the road but all overcome but in memory all forgotten by family - joyous days."

This comment comes from one of Edwin’s 1986 letters. It suggests that they knew the birth was to be of twins - although that could be hindsight - but the remembered worries about the future are doubtless genuine. The '32 years' reference is the period from this time to the death of Bertha in 1965.

The photograph shows Harry aged 5.

March 1934 - Muriel (10) - Birth of John

Mother had twins on 5th March, John and Shirley. They were born at our home at 688 Burnley Road. Shirley only lived for a few days.

The local church magazine, the Baptist Herald, printed the birth announcement in the April edition.

1934 - Muriel (10)

I have got a County Minor scholarship to go to Todmorden Secondary School.

The august edition of the Baptist Herald offered congratulations. The comment in the school report below about the hesitant reading is odd for this 'star pupil'. Perhaps the hesitancy was more a lack of confidence when reading out loud than a lack of reading ability. The bottom right quarter of the document is missing.


July 1934 - Muriel (10)

Today was my last day at Vale School and after the summer holidays I shall start at Todmorden Secondary School.  I am the only one from my class who passed the County Minor Exam to go to secondary school so I shall have to make lots of new friends there.

I shall be sorry to leave Vale.  For the last two years I have been in Mr West's class (he is the Headmaster).  I think I was his favourite.  He would always let me do painting if I wanted to and he liked the fact that I was never smelly (unlike some of the others in the class).  He would often comment, 'It's a bit smelly in here!' and throw open the window but the culprits never seemed to take the hint.

I got a lovely letter from Granny when I passed for Secondary School and Dad got a couple of nice letters from Mr West when he wrote to thank him for all he had done for me.

The letter from Granny is above and that from Mr West below the photograph. Granny is Edwin's mother Sara who would have been 65 years old at the time of writing.

This photograph of the seniors class at Vale School has Muriel on the left standing immediately in front of the teacher.

November 1934 - Bertha (35)

We have had a photo taken of all the children.

Text on reverse of this photograph reads: John 8 months, Harry 6 years 5 months, Muriel 11 years, Nov 1934
The assorted snaps below are mainly of holidays and cover a period of several years.

December 1934 - Muriel (11)

I got a good report at the end of my first term at Todmorden Secondary School.

I have all school reports to 1939 but will not display them all here as all are similar in reporting a bright and hard working student.


Summer 1935 - Muriel (11)

It has been the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Mary. Everyone has been helping in Mother's hut in the park. It was so busy that we made a separate booth out of the crates that the pop bottles come in. My Granddad sat there on a chair in the middle selling the pop - he is in the middle of the group of people to the left of the photograph. We took home a biscuit tin full of coppers (pennies, ha’pennies and farthings), which was very heavy. We had done a terrific trade.

Bertha ran the hut in the park, which was open for refreshments at weekends in the summer time (see this sketch by Muriel).  Pop (fizzy drinks) was sold in bottles sealed with marbles at the neck which were pushed in to open the bottle. However, Vimto, a favourite costing 2d had a pull off top. The hut sold tea but not coffee as that was not common in Yorkshire at that time.

The hut just shows to the right of the photograph and behind it were tables and chairs to sit down.

1936 - Muriel (12)

Art today - my favourite and I have always been good at it. Art lessons are always the rumpus lessons at Todmorden Secondary School. We've never had an art teacher who could keep order and we have been through quite a few! 

Today we had to design a milk bottle top. Mine was the best and I got praised for it. (School milk comes in dumpy, third of a pint, bottles with cardboard tops with a punched circle that pushes out for the straw. The cream collects on the underside of the tops and we lick it off. It always tastes of cardboard!)

Last week we had to design an advert for a pair of stockings (silk or lyle). I drew a really good pair of legs with high-heeled shoes and I got praised for that too.

Last weekend I went on a church outing with my cousin Alice. I had my first lipstick, which I was showing her but she said 'Put it away and don't let anyone see it!'  Her mother (Aunty Mary) thinks that lipstick is sinful and only for 'ladies of the night'.

I understand that Mary never wore lipstick in all her life.

The photograph shows John at about this time standing outside 688 Burnley Road.

1937 - Edwin (37)

My cousin Ada Robinson was married in Wallasey. Ada is the second daughter of Uncle George.

FreeBMD has this wedding in the third quarter of 1937. The Robinson's were a flamboyant family and the whole family attended this wedding. Alice, in 2014, remembered that Muriel and Alice joined other young people in taxis to chase the newly weds through the Mersey Tunnel to Lime Street Station.

Judging by the first sentence, the press cutting is from a local Rochdale paper.
(See Edwin 1925 - above - for more about Uncle George. He is standing on the right of the photograph above.)

Muriel and Alice can be seen in the photo below on the left of the picture. Alice has the boater style hat with white trim and Muriel is in front of her with a plain fedora.

1937 - Muriel (13)

At school we are seated in class according to our positions in the end of term exams. The best sit at the back and the duffers at the front. I usually come about 7th - 10th which means that I sit in the next-to-the-back row in front of my friend who usually comes top of the class. Last year I did very badly in the tests and came 20th at Christmas, which meant that I was moved away from my friends much nearer to the front of the class. It was horrible and I worked very hard to do better. I succeeded and returned to my usual place in the spring. I have made a great effort since to make sure that it doesn't happen again!


The photograph shows Muriel with school friends in uniform. Muriel is in the centre at the back.

May 1938 - Edwin (38)

We went to Barnoldswick for the funeral of my Uncle John (Dad's brother).

John Robert Boothman was brother to Edwin's father William Boothman. He had been born in Barnoldswick in 1874 and lived there all of his life. Barnoldswick had been the home to several generations of Boothmans - see Boothman Ancestry pre 1900.

1938 - Muriel (16)

We have been to Heysham for our summer holiday, staying in a caravan belonging to Maurice Greenwood. Mother knows him because he is a supplier for her hut on the park and he has caravans in various places, including Heysham. He took us in his car towing the caravan and he and his wife and children (the same age as Harry and John) stayed in another caravan near by. 

This was a regular holiday pattern for a number of years, with Maurice Greenwood driving the Boothmans to their holiday resort. Later his business grew and he had many vans - those the Swinburn family first stayed in at Benllech in the 50s belonged to him

Top row of holiday photographs show the family at Blackpool and New Brighton in 1936. Bottom row captioned on the back: Heysham Aug 2nd 1938.

July 1939 - Muriel (15)

I have passed eight subjects in my School Certificate with credits in six.

I am going to be a pharmacist.

Sunday 3rd September 1939 - Muriel (15)

Today war was declared. We heard it on the relay radio as we all sat down after Sunday lunch. Relay is the cheapest way to get radio with just one receiver, which is wired to many houses in the village. In each house there is just a speaker with an on/off switch. The main radio is at the house of Willie Pickles (mother's cousin) and he is the one who tunes it in. Willie and his brother Jim  have wired up the whole village and everyone pays them 6d per week to use the system.

I am not entirely sure who Willie Pickles was as there is no-one of that name in the family tree. The names I have for Bertha's cousins (children of John Pickles and Rachel Crowther) are John and James. The latter is presumably 'Jim' in the diary entry above so perhaps his brother John was nicknamed Willie - although according to the 1911 census his full name was John Herbert.

Monday 4th September 1939 - Muriel (15)

I started work today at Boots in Todmorden as an apprentice. I get ten shillings per week.  My boss is the pharmacist, Mr Horsfall. I work mainly in the dispensary with the unqualified dispenser Mr Foulds. My main job at the moment seems to be to wash out the bottles in the big lead sink. There is soap in a little basket on a stick which I swish about in the hot water to work up a foam and then I use a bottle brush to wash the bottles, finally rinsing them carefully and standing them up to dry.  All the bottles have the Boots logo on them and are marked out on the side in tablespoonfuls.

The dispensary is lined with shelves on which are the shop 'rounds'. These are bottles, some containing liquids and some powders, but all with an inset label printed in gold. All have Latin names such as Tinct Belladonna. Tablets and pills are kept separately in a cupboard, again in bottles with Latin names.  We have about 30-40 different kinds of tablets in the shop.

Miss Dawson who sells the toiletries does not come over to our side and I am not supposed to serve in the shop much, although I shall be involved each week with the stock taking. Because I am an apprentice pharmacist (see 1939 Pharmaceutical Society letter) I am known as Miss Boothman, while the shop girls, who are older than me are known by their Christian names. When I applied to become an apprentice I had to send a photograph so I had these taken. The photograph was returned to me at the shop.

My friend Anne is working in the shoe shop in Todmorden, which is not far from Boots, so we meet up at lunchtime to have our sandwiches together, except on Friday’s when I go to Granddad and Grandma’s house (see 1949).

Wartime brought changes and traditional distinctions became blurred - Muriel increased her work in the shop and the formal ‘Miss Boothman’ was dropped.

1940 - Muriel (16)

It was a lovely day today (Sunday) and this afternoon I went out with the gang for a walk as we often do if the weather is fine. We went up round the reservoir and lay in the sun on the grass having a lazy time. This evening they all came round to our house and we sat about chatting and smoking cigarettes. We usually get together at someone's house on a Sunday evening - and it often seems to be ours!

There are 4 boys and 4 girls in our gang but none of us are couples. We first met at the tennis courts behind the church and we play tennis together a lot there. On Saturday night we often go to the Gem cinema and then to the fish and chip shop for supper. Yesterday at the Gem we saw a musical with Carmen Miranda.

The photo shows – left to right Cyril, Gordon, Dorothy, Walter and Jack – rest of the gang was Anne, Jenny and Muriel.

1940 - Muriel (16)

We have moved house from 688 Burnley Road to 3 Oakleigh Terrace. 

Mother first saw a house in Sunny Side (a street near to where Aunty Mabel lives with an undertakers and carpenters business at the top of the street) but the plan to move there fell through, to mother's great disappointment.

However the move to Oakleigh Terrace has been much smoother as Dad arranged a swap with Joseph Greenwood who lived there.  He accepted 688 in return for Oakleigh Terrace and a cash payment.

In 1965, 3 Oakleigh Terrace was sold lock-stock-and-barrel (right down to the Bisto in the cupboard and the coal in the coal store) for £1000.  After Bertha died, Edwin did not want the palaver of a house sale and Muriel could not face the pain of clearing things out.  Edwin retained only documents, photographs, a few books and valued china such as coronation mugs and everything else was sold to a young newly married couple, who got a bargain in return for the work of clearing up.

27th April 1940 - Bertha (41)

Edwin has bought me a lovely china tea service for my birthday. I have never had a china tea service before and I am so delighted with it. It is made from Bell's china with hand painted flowers. The man who runs the general hardware shop just around the corner from Oakleigh Terrace told me that china is likely to be in short supply if the war goes on for long and he showed me this beautiful tea service - which is now mine.

Edwin also bought some bolts of cloth, as it was known that this would also be hard to come by in wartime. Anne's mother later made some of it into a bridesmaids dress for Muriel.

The photo from around this time is of Bertha in an amateur dramatics production at Vale Sunday School called – A Village Wedding. Bertha is 4th from the right in the front standing line.

1940 - Edwin (40)

We went in a car to Morecambe for a week. We were all carsick. We stayed in a caravan owned by the man who supplied Bertha with the sweets and crisps etc at the hut. It was one of the hottest weeks I can recall. John, who spent his time on the shore and in the wood, was as brown as a berry. We were all seeking shelter from the sun. It was wartime and the farmer dug up plenty of potatoes for us. We came home on the Saturday as A Mabel and John Arthur came and that night there was a terrible storm and they were flooded out with shocking weather all week. It certainly was the luck of the Boothmans that time.

This extract is from a letter written by Edwin in 1992. In a further letter in 1993 he reflected:

"Rheumatic fever is often the cause of heart irregularity. I cannot remember how old John was when he had rheumatic fever - my guess he was under 7 - and the doctor said get a bed downstairs so he slept in the front room. He was kept in bed for some day with medicines and a light diet.

He improved and went to school normally but he never showed any inclination for physical activity sport like football or cricket or rugby. That was not really surprising for nor did anyone else in the family although both boys enjoyed cycling and Harry said when he was at Wisley he played hockey.

When John joined the forces I suppose he was graded A1 and later when he was teaching he would do a certain amount of exercise, swimming, which he enjoyed, and coaching his favourite soft-ball team. But I never approved of his smoking and beer drinking habits and the last time we spoke I let him know and reasoned with him until the early hours of the morning but there was no available offer of change."

The holiday snaps are from around this time - the one with Edwin and the two boys is marked on the back Heysham summer 1940. John Boothman, the youngest in these holiday snaps died of a heart attack at the age of only 45 in 1979. As Edwin points out his later lifestyle gave him all the risk factors (overweight, smoker, boozer, little exercise) but the childhood rheumatic fever could have been another.

1940 - Muriel (16)

I started going to Burnley Tech as soon as I started work at Boots. Two nights each week I catch the bus, at 6pm, in Todmorden (just opposite Boots) to Burnley bus station (a one hour journey). From there it is a ten-minute walk to the Tech where I have to be for a 7.15pm start. I also go for a half-day on Tuesdays (which is half day closing at the shop) and stay on after the afternoon classes for another in the evening. There are buses to and from Burnley every half hour and the journey back to Cornholme takes 45 minutes.

I am studying Chemistry, Physics, Botany and Zoology. I am taking Inter Pharmacy (the Preliminary Scientific Examination) but most of the others are working for the Inter BSc, which is the same standard [equivalent to 'A' level]. I go to all the lectures but there is no homework to be done, thank goodness.

Sometimes after Tech a group of us go to the Lido (a posh coffee-bar/café with glass topped tables, Lloyd-loom chairs and a carpeted floor) for coffee and a cigarette. There are many more male students than females and the course gives plenty of opportunities for socializing both at College and on the bus home.

Muriel later reflected that this seemed very sophisticated to her at the time and wondered "were coffee and coffee-bars a novelty in 1940 or were they just new to me?"

The photograph shows Muriel (right) with two friends from college.

The above letter from Burnley Municipal College concludes "Believe me, Yours sincerely, followed by the signature of the principal. I have not seen this sign off for a letter before - but perhaps it was common at that time?

22nd November 1940 - Muriel (17th birthday)

Today I skipped Tech to go to the cinema with my boyfriend, John Pickup to celebrate our birthdays. This was our first real date although we have spent all Tuesday afternoons and evenings together while we have both been studying at the Tech.  John is my time twin - he too was born on 22/11/23.

Muriel later wrote: "We kept in touch until we were 21 when we exchanged cards and presents but then lost touch. For some reason, John went full time at Burnley the year before I did and also on to Manchester University the Year before me. Like Maude, John's hometown was Rowtenstall and I heard from her when he married and much later she told me that he worked as manager of Boots in Scarborough for most of his working life. I wondered about trying to find him when we were 71." (17 backwards)

Another earlier boyfriend was Jud (George) Law who I knew from school and always liked. He was tall and fair and very handsome but we were always at cross-purposes, as he did not believe that I really liked him and I was afraid of liking him too much. He became a wireless operator in the merchant navy and was lost at sea during WWII."

1940 - Muriel (17)

I wish I could mend stockings as well as my friend Anne.  I get through a pair of chiffon stockings every week and at 1 shilling and 3 pence a pair that eats in to my weekly wage of ten shillings. But with my eye-sight, which has never really been too good, I just can't see the threads well enough to use a tiny hook like Anne's. Mother always used to say that it was all the reading that I did that ruined my eyes but Dad has pretty poor eyesight too so I think it just runs in the family.

The photograph shows Muriel's best friend Anne Greenwood - later to marry Harry Hellawell. Muriel and Anne were bridesmaids to each other.

August 1941 - Muriel (17)

I have been quarrelling with mother ever since I bought a black costume as she thought it was unsuitable for someone of my age. But today it came in useful because we have been to Grandma funeral. Grandma died of a heart attack last week (21/8/41).  We were all sad that she died but I wasn't very close to her really.

She lived in Holme House Road Cornholme and when we children went to visit her she used to make us sugar butties (which were very nice) because she was too poor to give us anything else. She was so poor because she would never take any money from anyone and she had only 'poor law' money (ten shillings per week) to live on. She was resentful that she couldn't get money as a widow because she had remarried after mother's father died. (Her second husband left her and gave no financial support.) The State had tried to get money from her children or their husbands (Dad, Uncle Johnny, Uncle Wilfred and Uncle Walter) to support her but she always said that was not fair and wouldn't let them pay. That caused bad relations in the family and Grandma always seemed to be crotchety.

This is the only photograph of Grace - captioned 'Mother' in Bertha's hand. The date and location are unknown. After the death of Bertha's father William Fitton in 1905, her mother, Grace Fitton was remarried on 13th May 1908 to Joseph Wilson Dixon. However he was not with Grace and the children in the 1911 census so may already have left by that time - see Bertha's Story for more detail. He seems to have survived until 1931.

17th August 1941 - Muriel (17)

I was baptized as a believer today at Vale Baptist Church and will officially join the church in two weeks time.

Muriel later wrote - My passion for religion was mainly fired by the minister, Frank Peace. He was a Welshman with a seductive voice who could move me to tears with his talk of Jesus. He was typically very evangelical – as were we all. I became a Sunday School teacher and told stories of missionaries such as David Livingston who took Jesus to Africa. My first sight of a dark skinned person was a beautiful Asian little girl who came to visit the church with a group of missionaries.

Later we were visited by some young men from a Baptist college who came to preach.  They were real ‘hell fire’ Christians. I told them I did not believe in ‘hell’ or even in ‘sin’. This got me into arguments with them that marked the beginning of the end of my great faith.

Muriel was a teacher at Vale Sunday school in her teens following in the footsteps of her father who was a teacher for 21 years at Castle Grove Sunday School (see 1932 entry above).

1942 - Muriel (18)

1.   Aunty Mary has taken in an evacuee from London and her four children. She was forced to take them because she has a spare room in her house. Over the past month hundreds of evacuees have been coming to Tod. Many of them have been housed in the empty houses down by the side of Boots, where I work. Most of the women seem to come in pairs with about six children each (not all their own - they bring other peoples children with them). They seem to be living in pretty terrible conditions down there with whatever furniture and other bits and pieces they can scrounge. Last week one woman came with an old cracked cup asking for medicine for her sick child.

2.   My friend Nina's father has died of T.B.  During the last year she has lost all her family to that disease, her sister who was a nurse, her brother who was a flying officer and both of her parents. It has been terrible for her. Nina works at another dispensary in Tod and we go to Tech together three nights a week.

3.   My brother John, who is 8, got into real trouble one night. Dad is always telling him off for daydreaming. He had been sent to the fish and chip shop for 2 fish and 6 pennyworth of chips for the family to share for tea but instead he bought 6 fish and 2 pennyworth of chips which was very expensive and left Mam short of money for the week.

4.   My turn to get into trouble. I have been having a bit of a fling with the dispenser at Boots. He is called Mr Foulds – William. His wife calls him Billie but I usually just call him Mr Foulds. He takes every opportunity to touch me and kiss me. He is older than me and it is quite flattering but I don’t feel anything for him really. He said he would leave his wife for me and came to Cornholme and had a to do with Dad. Dad said he’d see what Mr Peace (the Baptist minister) thought about it if it carried on. I didn’t want that - Mr Peace is my hero – so that was the end of it.  Shortly after Mr Foulds was called up anyway.

Monday 26th July 1943 - Muriel (19)

Maud and I are youth hostelling in the Lake District. We have met a couple of boys who seem to be just a nice as the two medical students we met last year in Slaidburn (one of them was an amazing story teller - he told us a ghost story just as if he were reading it from a book). We are now at Hollows Farm Youth Hostel, Grange, which has room for 6 females and 25 males - a good place to meet a boy!

It has poured down all day and Maude and I got thoroughly soaked, right down to wet socks and squelching shoes. After we had been into the hostel and changed out of out wet clothes the weather brightened up a bit and we went to sit on the bridge at Grange waiting for supper time. We saw two good-looking lads coming towards us both looking like drowned rats - they were so wet!

I said to Maude, "Bags the tall one - that's mine!"

This evening we were all sitting round the piano (someone was playing Begin the Beguine) and when I got a cigarette out, my one threw me a box of matches. He also gave me a saucy look when we all went up to bed. I hope I get a chance to talk to him tomorrow.

The lad in question was Dave Swinburn - see below.

The photograph shows Muriel in Grange-over-Sands but I do not know a precise date. Grange-in-Borrowdale where Muriel and Dave met is not on a lake or the sea. Grange-over-Sands where this photo was taken is about 50miles south on the Cumbrian coast. Both places were well loved by Muriel and Dave.

Tuesday 27th July 1943 - Muriel (19)

A lazy day today and this evening I wrote a postcard to Mum and Dad who are staying at a guest house in New Brighton for their holiday.

Tuesday 7pm     Keswick    Save this card

Dear Mum and Dad,

I'm writing this on the verander of the Keswick hostel, overlooking the river.  Its a very big hostel but I like the one we were at last night better.  We had a pretty hard day yesterday probably because it rained but we have done very little walking today we even came up Derwent Water on the steamer.  We were in Keswick at 11.30 and we have sunbathed since.


Thursday 29th July 1943 - Muriel (19)

I have spent all day with a wonderful boy but now I might never see him again!

Last night at Honister Hostel we met up with the two boys we saw at Grange and this time we spent all evening talking with them. We are all students doing Inter. Maude and I are doing Pharmacy and the boys are doing Inter. BSc (chemistry, physics and maths). My one is called Dave Swinburn and his friend is Alan Mallett.

This morning we had agreed to go together up Great Gable but as it is another miserable day, Maude and I decided not to go. We said goodbye to them and they set off. We felt so miserable at seeing them leave that we sat debating whether or not to go after them. But before we could make up our minds we saw them coming back. They had changed their plans and come back so we were able to spend much of the day together after all.

However, they have stayed for another night at Honister and Maude and I have come to Eskdale I wish we had exchanged addresses. I can't bear the thought that we might never see them again.

Friday 30th July 1943 - Muriel (19)

Tonight they are here at Eskdale!  This time I shall make sure that I get Dave's address!

Poor Dave is in a bad way tonight with sunstroke and terrible sunburn on his arms and legs.  It has been a really hot day today and Dave and Allen seem to have walked miles. 

Saturday 31st July 1943 - Muriel (19)

Dave had blisters on his arms as large as eggs this morning from yesterday's sunburn.

We go home today from a wonderful holiday, as I have to start work at Boots on Monday morning.  This was our itinerary:

Sunday            - by train to Windermere stayed at Windermere hostel

Monday            - walked to Grange stayed at Grange Hostel - met Dave

Tuesday           - steamer to Keswick, sunbathed, Keswick Hostel

Wednesday      - walked to Honister Hostel

Thursday          - Eskdale Hostel

Friday                - Eskdale

Saturday            - home by train from Windermere

The caption on the back of the photo in Muriel's hand reads: This photo was in my camera when we met in 1943. It was my excuse to write a letter & send it to Derby but it had been love at first sight. Maud and Allan extra.

1943 - Edwin (43)

I am too old to be called up for the regular army but I have enlisted in the Home Guard as a Civil Defence Warden for the Calder Valley area.

I never discussed the Home Guard work with Edwin but I understand that there was not really much for the Home Guard to do in this part of the country.

1944 - Edwin (44)

I have been co-opted to serve on Todmorden Town Council.

The free bus pass for members of the Council is interesting - and indicative of an age when few Councillors would have had cars.

In the early 1940's Edwin had taken up the cause of old age pensioners, who, at that time, received a pension of merely ten shillings per week, and because of his active campaigning on their behalf he was co-opted to Todmorden Town Council. He accepted and served as an Independent but never fought an election, as he was unopposed at each election. He served as a Councillor and later Alderman for a total of 21 years including a year as Mayor of Todmorden in 1950. This work (like all local Council work at that time) was entirely voluntary with no pay or perks apart from this bus pass!

30th January 1944 - Edwin (44)

It was my parent’s Golden Wedding Anniversary. There would have been a big party but it was a low key affair because of the war.

William Boothman married Sarah Robinson in 1894. I have no detail of how the Golden Wedding was celebrated but in normal times there would have been a big get-together. Muriel's cousin, Alice, wrote to me in 2014 with her recollections of her grandparents, William & Sarah Boothman.

How I remember Granny’s little wobbly gas ring where she made all the meals and we had to be careful not to knock it over. Granny had dark auburn hair and each day she would put two curlers either side of her head. She had a very sweet tooth and would ask any of us to go across the road to the sweet shop for some ‘spice’. The last time I went to see her when Mike was a baby she asked me to do the sweet shopping. I asked her for coupons (sugar was rationed) and was told not to bother ‘the shop knows me’. The lady in the shop told me that Gran owed months of ration coupons - ‘I can’t keep letting her have any more sweets without coupons’ - but I was given a few because of the baby Mike.

Gran didn’t talk a lot but was always glad to see any of us as was Granddad. He would stand at the front door specially Sunday, looking out and saying ‘Doesn’t look as any of them are coming tonight lass.’ His comment was ‘ Nice to see them come and nice to see them go!’ Sometimes they would go to Wallasey or Southport to Granny’s brother and sister. The highlight of Granddad’s year was to visit Southport flower show but I think the attraction was the beer tent. Granddad went to live with my Mum and Dad (Mary & Jack Carpenter) when Gran died & was living in London for a time before getting a house in Tod again. He got into trouble with my Mum for putting his lighted pipe in his pocket before making sure it was out - twist has a dreadful smell.

May 1944 - Muriel (20)

I have had a card from Dave’s dad saying that Dave has scarlet fever and has been taken to the isolation hospital in Derby. 

I am really worried about him. I can write to him but they are not allowed to send anything out of the isolation hospital in case it spreads the germs.

This photograph of Muriel is undated but comes from around this time

17th July 1944 - Muriel (20)

I was bridesmaid at the wedding of my best friend Anne Greenwood. She married Harry Hellawell. Anne’s mum made my dress from some cloth that Dad had the foresight to buy at the start of the war (see April 1940). Cloth is rationed now.

The day was rather spoilt by a big row between Dad and our Harry. Harry is working on Tod Park and he had made a corsage for himself and Sheila (his girlfriend) using white rhododendron flowers from the park. Dad said that they were not to wear them because Harry had stolen the flowers and sat all afternoon making the corsages when he should have been working. Harry cried and threw them away and Mum shouted at Dad (which was very unusual). Dad was ashamed that his son might be seen wearing these stolen flowers and Mum was angrier with him than I have ever seen her before or since.

Muriel was not sure whether this event was at Anne’s wedding but was certainly during the period 1944-1947 when Harry worked on the park. It was unusual for Edwin to argue with Harry who was his 'blue-eyed boy'.

The photograph to the right shows Harry at around this time at age 16. In the wedding photograph below Muriel is on the far left.

Tuesday 1st August 1944 - Muriel (20)

Tonight we are staying at Eskdale but we spent last night in what used to be the old hostel at Blacksail Bothy. I am here in the Lake District with Dave and Alan for a week's hostelling holiday. As usual we had booked all the hostels but we were unable to get fixed up for last night because the hostel we wanted was full. We had planned to sleep out as the weather has been lovely, but we met some hostellers who told us that Blacksail Bothy was empty but unlocked so we walked up the valley and stayed there. Alan and I paid today for drinking the water out of the taps - we have both been ill - but Dave seems to be all right.

We are all going back to Tod at the end of the week. Mum and Dad are off on their holidays on the same day that we get back. The boys will stay for the weekend and then go back to Derby.

The photograph shows Muriel with Alan and Dave (right) in the lake District - probably taken on this holiday. Muriel also kept a postcard image of Blacksail Bothy dated on the back 31st July 1944. This was clearly a significant event - presumably the first night they had spent together.

The postcard below sent when on this same holiday is interesting as it mentions the hens. Ediwn kept hens for many years around wartime.

September 1944 - Muriel (20)

I finished at Burnley Tech at the end of last term with my Inter Exams (which I passed).  My reports from Burnley Tech for Autumn 1943 and Spring 1944 both gave me 'Satisfactory' - which was good enough I guess. The testimonial was rather better..

This term I started at Manchester University to study for my Chemist and Druggist Exams.

The group in the photo (which everyone has signed on the back) were all full time at Burnley Tech but only me, Maud and Marjory (front row l-r) and Harold (directly behind Marjorie) were Inter-Pharmacy students. Tony (behind Maud) was a medic but I cannot remember what the others were doing. Missing from the photo is a pretty long-haired girl called Heather who was doing Dentistry but was also seriously deaf. Muriel is seated on the left.

Easter 1945 - Muriel (21)

We have had a lovely weekend in Shrewsbury staying with Dad's cousin Dora (her husband, Alan, is away in the forces). I met up with Dave at Crewe station and we had a compartment to ourselves all the way to Shrewsbury.

On Saturday we walked to Church Streton through some very pretty scenery.

Back in Cornholme the interesting news is that a group of D.P.s (displaced persons) have come to settle in the village. They are a community of weavers from Estonia who have been made homeless by the war. Cornholme people are very suspicious of the foreigners but they have not caused any trouble so far.

July 1945 - Muriel (21)

I have just heard the result of the Chemist and Druggist Qualifying Examination, which I took at Manchester. I passed most of the papers but I have been referred in Practical Pharmaceutics. It’s ironic really since Pharmaceutics is the easiest of all the papers. The others, which I passed, are Pharmaceutical Chemistry (the chemistry of drugs), Pharmacognacy (herbalism and the chemistry of herb potency) and Forensic Pharmacy (the law). Pharmaceutics, which is all about the making of ointments/pills/ powders/injections/medicines and the appropriate dosages, is easy stuff as it is just a matter of learning and I find that quite straightforward.

However, I know why I failed the practical! We had to make 24 five-grain pills with 1/8 grain cascara in each one. So I weighed out the 3 grains of cascara and the (24x5) - 3 grains of the excipient (liquorish powder) and mixed these in a mortar but I added too much liquid glucose so that the mixture was too wet to roll up properly. I didn't have enough time to start again so I just added a bit more liquorish powder and threw some of the original mixture away so that I had the correct weight. That of course made the dosage wrong but I thought I might get away with it. It seems I didn’t!

When I passed Part 1 at Burnley last year I was awarded a textbook of Pharmaceutical Chemistry under a bequest to all trainee pharmacist at Boots from Jesse Boot who founded the company. It has been very useful for my studies.

August 1945 - Muriel (21)

Dave and I are Youth Hostelling in The Lake District. The photograph was taken on August 3rd. We were just leaving Grange in Borrowdale for Patterdale.

The date and place are  written on the back of the photograph in Dave’s handwriting.

The text below comes from a postcard sent to Muriel’s parents. It is the first document I have with both of their names.

Keswick Wed

Dear All,

The weather still as hot as last year & yesterday we kept out of the sun more than in it.  Both yesterday and today have been lazy days but we’ll probably be walking a bit more tomorrow.  I expect we’ll be home about 5.30pm Saturday. Spam and lettuce?


Muriel and Dave

Saturday 22nd December 1945 - Muriel (22)

Dave and I got engaged on a bus between Clitheroe and Burnley!

I didn’t want an engagement ring - we can’t afford it - but Dave was determined, so I said that if we could find a nice one for less than £30 I would have it. 

I have been working in Clitheroe (since September this year), and last Monday morning while changing buses in Burnley, I saw a solitaire diamond in a jeweller’s window that cost just £29. I called in at the shop and tried it and I told them that my fiancée would collect it. 

Today Dave has come to stay for the Christmas holiday and he picked up the ring and came on to Clitheroe to meet me after work. On the bus back to Burnley he slipped the ring on my finger and we are now engaged. We shall be married next June.

The Clitheroe job has been a bit strange. I have been staying in Clitheroe during the week, in digs with a spinster lady, which has been rather lonely and I’ve not even felt wanted at work - at least not by the customers, although the manger Mr Taff is very pleasant. The Clitheroe branch of Boots seems to do mainly veterinary pharmacy and all the farmers come in and say, ‘Where is he?’ The usual dispenser who I am covering for (he is off sick) was the expert in veterinary work and the farmers don’t think much of me!

This envelope addressed to Muriel at Boots in Clitheroe was amongst 40 envelopes that had contained love letters between Dave and Muriel between July 1945 and May 1946. After their 50th Wedding Anniversary D&M destroyed the actual letters feeling that they were too personal to ever be read by anyone else. However they kept the envelopes until their deaths.

22nd December 1945 - Muriel (22)

My cousin Alice was married to JC. Our cousin Edna was bridesmaid.

Alice remembers joining Muriel and Dave in Cornholme for a Christmas party before leaving Tod on Christmas Eve to join Jim’s Mum in London. Every Christmas there was a party in Cornholme with a new game each time along with the family favourites. The press cutting has the wrong name – Collinge – presumably a mishearing.

Christmas 1945 - Muriel (22)

My best friend Anne and her husband Harry sent a Christmas card with a drawing that Harry has done of a Tod street.  He is very good. They have had a tragedy this year as their baby girl Christine died at a few months old. 

Spring 1946 - Muriel (22)

At last I have passed Pharmaceutics!!

Having been referred last summer, I took Pharmaceutics again at Christmas and this time failed the theory paper. So I decided to try taking it in Edinburgh (which has the reputation of being easier and the advantage of giving you the result on the day).

Along with Maud and Marjorie who were doing the same thing, I travelled up to Edinburgh the day before yesterday, took all three parts of the exam (theory, practical and oral) during the day yesterday and then turned up at 8 pm for my results. And I’d passed!!

I caught the midnight train back and travelled in a compartment full of drunken soldiers and sailors. One of them was in a bad way and kept being sick out of the window. He gave me a very sheepish look every time and I think the others were pretty embarrassed too but I didn’t mind. I’m just so happy that I have passed!

The photograph shows Muriel (right), Maud and Marjorie in Edinburgh.

Exchange of love letters continued almost daily and the addresses tell some of the story of their lives. Two of the envelopes are re-addressed to Edinburgh in Edwin’s hand and after 8th April ‘M.P.S.’ is proudly added after 'Miss M. Boothman'. In May 1946 Muriel was again working at Boots in Rochdale.

The certificates below were displayed in any pharmacy where Muriel worked. These are versions showing her married name but the date of registration is 11th April 1946 - before the June wedding.

May 1946 - Muriel (22)

Dave and I had a day out in Heysham with Mum and Dad.

The photographs above show Dave & Muriel and Edwin & Bertha in Heysham.

The wedding invitations have been sent. The banns go up on 18th June and a week later on 24th June 1946 we shall be man and wife.

The original of this Photograph of Muriel is A4 size and mounted on card.
There are no captions but it was probably taken at around this time.

For details of the marraige and a continuation of the story of the lives of The Boothman family - now intertwined with the lives of the Swinburn family - see the separate section Swinburn-Boothmans - under development

 Footnote: Muriel Swinburn (nee Boothman) Full Biography - 22nd November 1923 to 9th October 2006

Muriel Swinburn always took the view that being a loving wife and raising a family was the most valuable career of all. She cared deeply for her husband, children and grandchildren and was always thinking about them even at times when she herself was unwell.

Born Muriel Boothman in 1923, she was the eldest child of Edwin and Bertha. Their home was in Cornholme a small village near Todmorden, on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. Muriel attended the village school and at the age of 11 passed the County Minor Scholarship to gain a place at Todmorden Secondary School where she proved an able student. On leaving school at 15, Muriel was encouraged by her father to become an apprentice pharmacist with Boots. This involved three years’ work in Boots chemists in Todmorden with day release time, followed by a year of full time study at Burnley Municipal College and a further year full time at Manchester University.

During her teens Muriel was an ardent Baptist, being baptised at the age of 17 by full immersion. For some years she taught at the local Sunday School, following in the footsteps of her father who was also a Sunday School teacher.

On a hiking holiday in the Lake District in 1943, Muriel met Dave Swinburn. In her own words, ‘it was love at first sight’. Dave and Muriel became engaged on the bus between Clitheroe and Burnley and were married in 1946. For the first year of their marriage they lived on Muriel’s salary while Dave attended Leicester University as a full time student. The couple lived for three years in Buxton and later, in 1952, settled in New Mills where they made a lifetime home raising their two children Heather and David. Muriel gave up full time work after David was born but continued to work as a pharmacist part time until her retirement. 

Muriel and Dave were loving and supportive parents, both to their own two children and also to Steve Turner who they fostered in 1968 and who became a close friend of the family. Muriel felt herself to be mainly a home-builder and a mother to those she loved but she was also proud of being one of the earliest female pharmacists, following a career which she considered to be a public service.

Muriel shared with Dave a strong sense of public duty and she served as a volunteer for the Meals-on-Wheels service for 38 years from 1959 to 1997. In 1966 Muriel was honoured to be appointed as a Justice of the Peace or county magistrate. She served for 21 years until her retirement in 1987.

In retirement, Muriel and Dave were devoted grandparents to their four grandchildren Kate, Oliver, Laura and Sophie. Although both Heather and David’s families lived some distance away, Muriel and Dave enjoyed spending as much time as possible with their grandchildren and sharing their news with regular telephone conversations. The children spent many happy holidays with their grandparents and never tired of Muriel’s many stories of her childhood and also of her own children growing up.

On her eightieth birthday in 2003 (when this photograph was taken) Muriel said how lucky she had been to have had 80 happy years with little illness or trouble. However, her final three years did prove more difficult as she became increasingly blind and deaf and had to take on the role of carer for Dave as his immobility developed. 

Muriel was deeply affected by Dave’s death, just two weeks before their 60th wedding anniversary. Only one month later she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and she died at home in her own bed on 9th October 2006.