Monday, 16 January 2012

Call The Midwife and Our Poplar Nan

Call the Midwife is a BBC TV adaptation of the gripping and heartfelt memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a midwife who worked the poor area's of Poplar in the Eastend of London during the 1950's. This trilogy of memoirs each sold nearly a million copies. Sadly, Jenny passed away last year aged 75 and never got to see her book transformed onto our screens. As I sat and watched the eagerly anticipated programme last night my thoughts turn to my Nan and her family.

 (Me and Nan)

Nan was born in Poplar, the same area from which these memoirs are based and was actually named after the Poplar midwife who delivered her. Nan, the youngest of seven often spoke of her time growing up in the Eastend and she would tell me stories of how her Mum and Dad met. 

My Great Grandmother came from a military family and was born in India while her father was serving over there. She was raised in very privileged surroundings with servants meeting her every need. 

When her family returned to the UK they settled in London and my Great Grandmother took a job as a Nanny for a distant cousin of the Queen. My Great Grandfather couldn't have been raised more different and was considered poor, very charming but very skint. He worked as a Grenadier Guard (you know the ones with the red coats and fluffy black hats who guard the palace) and Nan would tell me romantic stories of how my cheeky cockney Great Grandfather would wolf whistle my Great Grandmother as she passed him on her way to work. They fell in love and against her parents wishes my Great Grandparents got hitched. Her parents felt their Daughter had married beneath them and Nan would delight in telling me how well spoken and lady like her mum was.

I don't know how true this story is or if Nan added a bit of glamour to liven it up because she knew I was a sucker for a good love story but I was fascinated as she dramatised every word for me so many times and the Great Grandparents that I had never met come to life so vividly in my imagination.
(My Great Grandparents)

Aged just thirteen Nan sadly lost her beautiful Mum during the blitz. She died as the local air raid shelter was blown to pieces. My Great Grandmother lost her life protecting her children as she quickly pushed them under a bench in the shelter while the bombs hit London. Nan and her sisters were rescued but lots of her Friends and neighbours were lost to the bombing that night and it is something that still haunted my Nan right up until her death last year.

As she was so young Nan was evacuated to Wales and then to Ireland where she met my Grandad. They married and after having two kids in Ireland they eventually returned to Nans beloved Poplar where my Mum was born during the fifties. Like a lot of Eastenders they then moved out to Essex as Grandad took a job at Fords motor company and Nan had a fourth and final baby, my Uncle.

 (Nan, Grandad, Mum & her siblings - Mum in the middle next to her Brother)

They were very happy, very in love and I miss them both so very much.

So did you watch the Call The Midwife last night or have you read the books? Like me did last nights episode make you realise how easy us Mums have it nowadays?


  1. Yet again you've made me well up! x Lovely post x

  2. Emma, I have both read and watched call the midwife, and like you it is very true to my families roots. Can you imagine having to endure childbirth like ournans did??? We are so spoilt these days. On my dads side, my nan (She died in may age 102)was the other side of the coin....she had some training???? Not sure what and provided a vital service for young girls who found themselves pregnant in the 1920 onwards. It was shameful to be unmarried and with child ....a sad and sometimes fatal service that she provided......I think it is easy to judge in these days where contraception and health care are on our doorsteps, but I do wish I had spoken more to my nan about her life, especially this side of you can imagine, it was not talked about.....

  3. Oh by the way Emm, that was Melanie xxxx

  4. Wow, Mel How interesting! I would have struggled not to ask her all the gory details if my Nan had been in that line of work. I find our Grandparents past so interesting and I bet your Nan could have written a good book with a background like that! We really do have an easy life compared to them. The level of care we receive during our pregnancies and childbirth are brilliant. We give birth in luxury nowadays, dont we xxxx

  5. I didn't watch the programme I'm afraid, but Emma, I can see such a family resemblance between your Greatnan and your Mum!
    We are certainly so lucky these days with childbirth and healthcare that we take so much for granted.
    Joy xx

  6. Hi Joy, the resemblance is uncanny isn't it, they look like the same person, infact people would always assume that this photo of my Great Grandmother was actually my Mum dressed up in vintage clothing xxx

  7. Fascinating post, with amazing pictures! I adore that last one!