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Thursday, 1 February 2007

Brigit Agnes Keyton

Bridget Agnes Keyton was thirty years old when her husband died and she lived in 15 Othells Street with her two children, Cyril and Doris, along with many other lodgers. My father worshipped her, holding her up as the main reason for his own success. She worked, she pushed, and in a world without state benefits, haunted auctions where she would buy what took her fancy. All the beautiful things in our house were bought by her and later on by my dad: oil paintings, prints, watercolours, stuffed birds in glass domes; later came the more substantial stuff: a mahogany sideboard and a large matching cupboard and book-case of mahogany and glass. The living room was dominated by a big rosewood table which we managed to scuff and damage and which was subsequently covered by a golden brown table-cloth. All this was done, along with bringing up two children by sheer hard work and Victorian thrift.
In the 1920’s with help from my dad, who was by this time at sea, they moved into 14 Ribblesdale Avenue, Aintree. In line with most men at this time, my dad would give every penny of his earning to his mother and take back what pocket money she could afford. That changed of course when my dad met began courting, but by this time Brigit Agnes Tobin was dead.
I wish I knew more about my grandmother, but the photograph above tells you a lot. It’s quite a fierce face. What strikes me is that she never forgot her husband, but had lived all this time without him. When you compare the two photos you sense the wasted years.
It is hard to tell if she is posing or was taken by surprise. She is standing in our tiny backyard which housed both a coal-shed and a lavatory. What was left she turned into a garden. The outside lavatory, by the way was a favourite, though frustrating ‘reading room’. We wiped our backsides on squares of the Liverpool Echo attached to the wall by string. The number of bizarre but disjointed stories kept me going until my knees turned blue and the cold forced me in.

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