I've inherited a pile of old music books and sheet music accumulated by my father. Every few months when I'm de-cluttering I pick out a few to take to the charity shop. I almost sent this music book recently as I never play from it. Inside the rather drab cover is a page of details about the book and a forward written by Dr. Malcolm Sargent. If you click on each image they should enlarge enough to read comfortably. (This is the Sir Malcolm Sargent we watched conducting at The Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, London in the 1960s - more of that in Jam for Tea!)
On the fly-leaf of the book is this inscription:
Norman is my dad and by Christmas 1935 he was almost twelve years old.
But who is Auntie Ivy?
My paternal grandparents had several siblings who were all my dad's aunts and uncles: George, Frances, Agnes, Albert, Sarah, Dorothy, Charley, Edith, Ann, John, Ethel and Beatrice. But no Ivy.
Who is Auntie Ivy?
She's taken a bit of tracking down but I think she's actually my dad's cousin.
Norman's aunt Agnes Buckle (1880 - 1968) married James Watson in 1898. The 1901 Census records Agnes and James visiting her father, John Henry Buckle (Norman's grandfather), and his second wife, Ellen nee Mellor, at their home in Royston, South Yorkshire. With them was their two years old daughter, Ivy.
The 1911 Census records the Watsons living in Sheffield and James' occupation is shown as a pianist. James' twenty two years old brother, Albert, is living with them and he is also a pianist.
Norman was born in 1924 so his cousin Ivy was in her mid thirties when she gave him the music book. It's highly likely she was known as Auntie Ivy and I think this solves the mystery.
However, here's another conundrum.
A Google search for the Watson brothers has identified an Albert Watson as a well known pianist and composer of the 1920s and 30s. He lived in Sheffield, was a self-taught musician and was very popular as a cinema pianist. The YouTube video below is a modern day performance of one of Albert Watson's compositions.
There's a full account of Albert Watson's life on this website if you scroll down to the bottom of the page. It's been writtenby his grandaughter but she doesn't mention that Albert had a brother who was also a pianist. She does write that Albert was born in Harthill.
And Harthill is where Agnes and her parents (my great grandparents) were born too. So I'm feeling confident that the famous Albert Watson was James' brother and Ivy's uncle.
This leads me to conclude that James must have been a cinema pianist too and this musical background probably explains why Auntie Ivy was so supportive of my dad's learning to play the piano.
Norman became a highly competent pianist managing to accompany Beethoven violin sonatas with his friend when in his twenties and he encouraged me to learn to play the piano when I was a child. I had a lovely piano teacher called Miss Heaps whom I wrote about in Cabbage and Semolina but I stopped having lessons when I was about fifteen. In retirement I've started practising the piano again regularly and keep acquiring more new music than I throw away. I had a yen to play Jerome Kern tunes and ordered this
out-of-print selection from an Amazon second hand dealer:
I don't know who Vera and Eric are but I thought this inscription in the top left corner of the cover page was very poignant. Imagine how they must have been feeling at Christmas 1945. The war was barely over; they were probably still suffering from bereavement and trauma; rationing had continued and yet they were once again living in peace. I hope they had a really wonderful Christmas and enjoyed their Jerome Kern songs.
These adaptations of Kern songs for a string quartet on this Youtube video are lovely.
When I was writing Jam for Tea I started reminiscing about a history book I'd enjoyed when I was young entitled The Middle Ages by RJ Unstead. I sent off to a different Amazon second hand dealer for a copy. This was a five volume book published in 1978 which included The Middle Ages as part two. Inside was an inscription which I thought was charming.
I don't know who Charles is or his Nan and 'Bampy'. Obviously the book was a present and I hope Charles enjoyed his book as much as I enjoyed mine when I was a child. Actually I've enjoyed reading it as an adult too and there are many more illustrations in this version than the one I had.
I'm on the look-out for more inscriptions in some of the old books we've accumulated over the years. Even when they don't add anything to the family history they're fascinating. And I'm certainly not sending Auntie Ivy's music book to any charity shop!
Thanks for reading my blog today and hope you have a great weekend.