By Pat, a lazy crafter and doting grandma who lives near Luss on the west bank of Loch Lomond. Tweets at @patmcclay
I don’t have personal memories of Elizabeth, she died in 1919, after all, seventy-one years before I was even born. Elizabeth’s life and mine crossed paths when I came upon her story while researching my family tree years ago. There must have been something in her genes which made her descendants keen amateur genealogists because I’ve spoken to many of them from all corners of the world since then, from here in Scotland to Brazil, Australia, Canada, Germany and South Africa to name just a few!
Elizabeth Jane Weeks was born in Buckfastleigh, Devon, in 1838, the third of seven children. She was apparently considered something of a beauty, which can just about be made out in the blurry copy of a photograph taken of her in about 1858. It shows her with her two little sons and with her mother, my great, great, great grandmother, peeping around her in a strange fashion. Ellen herself was pregnant with her seventh and last child at that time, so perhaps she didn’t want to display her condition in the photograph.
Elizabeth’s parents, though of modest means themselves (her father was a wool comber), had well to do relatives who owned hotels and farms and they didn’t approve of Elizabeth’s choice of tin miner Charles Faull as a prospective husband.
Elizabeth and Charles’ first son, Frederick Charles, was born in 1857but it wasn’t until Elizabeth was pregnant with her second baby that her parents relentedand allowed them to marry in 1858. They had to give their permission as she was still only 20 and so a minor.
Elizabeth and Charles went on to have another three children in Devon over the next seven years. But times were hard and mining work was hard to come by. So, in 1865, they decided they must look further afield and by 1867 had settled in Scotland with their five children. There was mining work to be had and a surprising number of Cornish and Devonshire miners arrived here where their skills and experience could be put to use. They seemed to travel en-masse and family groups stayed together as much as work allowed.
Once in Scotland, Elizabeth and Charles had another two daughters before Charles’ early death from bronchitis in July 1870 at the age of 32. At this point, Elizabeth was living on Knightswood Rows in the west of what is now Glasgow. Co-incidentally this is about a quarter of mile away from where I was brought up and I would have passed where their miners’ cottage was many, many times when I was growing up without any idea of this.
Mark Luke, a miner from Cornwall was also living on Knightswood Rows with his wife (also Elizabeth) and their young children. Just six months after Charles Faull died, Mark’s poor wife died of postpartum haemorrhage and their baby died days later. Then, two months later their only son, William, aged 3, died of diarrhoea. Mark must have been devastated.
Times were tough. Elizabeth was struggling to keep her 7 children - aged between 2 and 13 even with her eldest boy now employed by the mine owner. In parallel, very nearby, Mark was struggling with his two daughters, then aged 7 and 2. So, fortunately from my point of view, Elizabeth and Mark joined forces! They married in October 1870 (10 months after Charles’ death and 3 months after Elizabeth’s).
When I first discovered the timings of all this it seemed indecently hasty to me at first however, on further thought, it made a lot of sense, and they seemed fond of one another too.
By the time Mark (my great, great grandfather) died in July 1888 they had had a further 6 children! All but one, Ives, survived to adulthood.
So Elizabeth had 13 children of her own by the time she was 40 and brought up Mark’s two daughters from his first marriage.
It must have been unrelentingly hard work with none of the labour-saving gadgets we take for granted, nor holidays. After moving to Scotland at the age of 27, Elizabeth never saw her immediate family again. But she lived to the ripe old age of 80 and had numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren (my grandsons are just some of her 4x great grandchildren).
Elizabeth died in Maryhill, Glasgow, in June 1919. This second photo is also a blurry copy. It’s of Elizabeth and two of her sons, John and Thomas, taken in 1910 when they came home to visit her from their homes Washington State in the USA.
Elizabeth’s life was not glamorous but probably fairly typical of woman of her class at the time. That’s inspiring in its own way.