THE LADY ON THE BICYCLE
by Mrs Betty Marsden (Mem no 27)
Just before Christmas 1987, almost four years diligent searching came to fruition in a most unexpected way. In all our searches we could not establish that we had the correct family line - there were too many discrepancies. Going round in circles for so long I decided to follow a hunch.
My Uncle, TED CORNISH, had emigrated to Canada in 1905 when he was eighteen. Why did he have a photograph of a young lady on a bicycle? Was she a former girlfriend? No one knew. When my cousin in Cornwall gave me another photograph of my uncle as a young man, bearing the same name and address on the back, " DORA STAMMERS, Bedfield, Framlingham, Suffolk" I had to follow it through.
Armed with a map and the Suffolk telephone directory, I selected two people named Stammers with addresses nearest to Bedfield and wrote to them. Only one replied but the reply surpassed all expectations. The gentleman who replied said the lady on the bicycle was his great aunt, and told me one connection between my family CORNISH and the STAMMERS family.
He related that many years ago, BERTHA CORNISH had married JOHN STAMMERS and they kept the village shop in Tannington near Worlingworth. He told me that there was also an ARTHUR CORNISH, my grandfather's name, who was in a residential home in Ipswich. His leg had unfortunately been amputated.
I enquired of Social Services the whereabouts of Arthur Cornish and they told me he had been born in 1907. I also telephoned the home to ascertain his ability to converse and to let them know why we wanted to visit him. We set off for Suffolk a few days before Christmas.
On arrival we were given a warm welcome and were shown into a private room. Arthur joined us in his wheelchair. As he entered, I thought his face seemed vaguely familiar, but I could not think why it should. He looked far younger than his eighty years and proved a lively character.
After chatting generally about the purpose of our visit, I showed Arthur two photographs of his namesake, my grandfather and asked if he knew him. I was not prepared for the surprise I got! He became quite emotional as he looked at the photographs and said, "That's my uncle Arthur. He used to visit us every year. We all loved him."
BERTHA CORNISH was my great aunt, grandfather's sister. DORA STAMMERS (the girl on the bicycle) was Bertha's daughter. So she was my uncle's cousin and not a girlfriend as supposed.
What more proof was needed? In fifteen minutes we had established the family connection - and all because of a "hunch". What a lovely Christmas present!