MARY ANN LUCY CORNISH
11/08/1854 - 19/03/1931 My great grandmother was the only child of Edward and Mary Ann Hoar. Although baptised Mary Ann Lucy after her mother and grandmother, she was always known as Lucy. Her father Edward, the ninth and youngest son of Edward and Lucy Hoar, had longed for a son when he married the daughter of a shipwright William Moore in 1840 but this was not to be and when Lucy arrived in the 14th year of their marriage she was a great disappointment to her father. Her early years were very hard ones as she was treated like a boy. She was made to do much of the heavy work in her father's business selling from horse and cart fish and other goods including logs in winter. He was, by all accounts, a typical brutish, bad tempered and strict Victorian father, in contrast to her mother who had been a nurse before her marriage and taught her daughter many of her skills in caring for the sick.
At the age of seventeen Lucy was desperate to leave the harsh home environment she endured. About this time she met THOMAS ROBERT CORNISH, the son of a joiner, ROBERT JAMES CORNISH. Thomas worked in Portsmouth Dockyard as a hammerman and smith. His family had presumably moved to the area for work following his birth in 1848 at Deptford, Kent.
Thomas was a kindly, likeable man with a very pleasant disposition. He was mild mannered in complete contrast to Lucy's father Edward. Of course she fell in love with him and shortly before her 18th birthday, they married at St Mary's Church, Portsea in 1872. On the birth of their first daughter in 1873, they followed the family tradition of naming her MARY ANN but calling her LUCY.
My great-grandparents had a very happy marriage with 12 children of their own. 10 of these survived, despite their poverty. In addition they took in 2 abandoned boys whom they cared for into adulthood. These boys emigrated to Australia and from time to time in gratitude sent small amounts of money home to help.
Although Lucy had no formal education she had great skills in nursing the sick and knew many herbal remedies for routine ailments. Neighbours, too poor to pay for a doctor, would knock on her door for assistance. She brought many babies into the world, acting as unofficial midwife and assisting the local doctor, who thought very highly of her. Eventually he reluctantly had to tell her that because of new legislation unqualified people were no longer allowed to care for the sick. As she was unable to read, she was unable to reach the standard required for qualification. She had become well known in the area as most of her patients and babies survived as she understood the need to boil and sterilise to combat germs.
There was another great asset Lucy had apart from her medical skills. That was her beautiful singing voice which had the quality of an operatic soprano. She would often sing for her family on special occasions until well into her old age. In her mid sixties she succumbed to bronchitis and was bedridden for the last 10 years of her life after losing her beloved Thomas in 1922.
Members of the family, including my own mother as a schoolgirl, would read her stories and passages from the Bible. Although her sight was failing she would crochet beautiful shawls and tablecloths, making up the intricate patterns herself, while she listened. I still have an example of her crochet work which has been passed to my daughter to keep.
Lucy's biggest regret was that she was unable to read. One wonders, had she had the opportunities of education today, just what she would have achieved had she been born a century later!