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a blog by Chris Barrow

The Perfect Imperfectionist – Step 7 of 11

The long-standing Chris Barrow fans will have heard me mention the above letter before – it hangs on my home office wall and is one of my treasured possessions. Albert Mellor was my maternal grandfather and lived in a very poor working class area of East Manchester where he and Ellen raised my mother, Norma and my uncle William (aka Bill). Albert worked “on the railway” and their terraced house faced miles of sidings – as a young child I often stayed with them and spent many hours watching the carriages and “shunters” come and go. He was an engineer by training and a collector of endless bits and pieces of junk, turning his shed into an Alladin’s Cave for me. The letter above was written during Christmas 1941 – a time of war when enemy bombers were overhead, targeting Manchester’s extensive industrial landscape. My mother tells of the family watching on “the front step” as parachutes carried incendiaries past their home to land, with devastating effect, a few hundred yards away – they spent the Blitz sheltered beneath a reinforced dining room table. The letter is a simple gesture of thanks for a Christmas bonus paid to young William – a bonus that exceeded expectations and established “Morrells” as a philanthropic employer. I’m never going to forget the fact that my grandfather was a good man – they lived next door to a public house but he never went inside the place – and so my mother and uncle avoided many of the problems faced by those families whose breadwinner would regularly drink away the family income on pay day. Albert & Ellen faced many challenges, not the least a Methodist man marrying a Catholic girl and remained a devoted and loving couple until death. This time of year is a good one to remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors to secure our liberty and well-being. Also to remember the simple gestures of good employers and parents – that can sometimes outlive them by many years. The war ended and the house was unscathed – here am I with my mother outside their front door in the 50’s.

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