Saturday, 29 May 2010

Sepia Saturday: Dear Margaret


Margaret Gregory was just 23 years old when she died. I don’t know why, but somehow, she looks older in this photograph. This could be due, in some part, to the styles of the day. Perhaps the way she wore her hair, or maybe something in the pose.

To the outside world, Margaret was a lively, outgoing young woman, the youngest sister of my grandfather, Asher Gregory. In truth, she was the illegitimate daughter of Asher’s older sister, and had been raised by my great grandparents, William and Julia, as one of their own.

During WW2, Margaret was a Land Army girl. Her work included delivering milk in the area where she lived, and it was while she was going about her business, one day in 1943, that her life suddenly ended.

A convoy of army vehicles was making its way along the road where Margaret was making her deliveries. The convoy included tanks, and the noise would have been deafening. A Land Army girl would have been used to this kind of military movement. It would have been a fairly regular occurrence.

So, when one of the tanks went out of control and started to veer off the road, in her direction, Margaret remained oblivious. The driver’s desperate warning was drowned out by the rest of the convoy. Margaret was killed instantly.

At the inquest, the driver of the tank, was a shunned and distraught figure, even though he hadn’t been at fault. It’s not unusual for people to look for a scapegoat in such circumstances.

In the end, it was Margaret’s uncle Asher that eventually placed an arm around the man's shoulder and tried to reassure him that it really had been a tragic accident. Margaret had died, but who knows how this poor fellow coped with his memories of the event?

More Sepia Saturday posts HERE

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges

21 comments:

  1. Oh what a tragic story, and so heartbreaking to look at the happy, sweet face in the photo.

    I suppose we all have family stories like this one, but I love how you have taken what you know and created something, and someone, very real to share with us. Thank you.

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  2. Hi Martin

    that is a sad story of a life so young snuffed out. I often wonder at how drivers responsible for accidents of their own causing or otherwise cope with the trauma.

    Happy days

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  3. really tragic, how awful and shocking that must have been - with all the loss going on this would have been so out of the blue.

    I was talking to my father last weekend about how much older people seem to have looked in photos around then - we have photos of my mother aged 17 and she looks in her early 20's at least.

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  4. A sad story . . . I wonder, did Margaret ever know her real parentage?

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  5. So sad. She looks so happy and what a very thoughtful person your grandfather Asher was. I'm sure his kindness would have been of comfort to the driver.

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  6. That is a very sad story, but I appreciate that you have expressed the situation from the point of view of the poor man who struck and killed her. You're right; that must have been a horrible thing to live with.
    She looked a charming young lady.

    Kat

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  7. Compelling stuff Martin. So many families of the time kept these secrets of teenage illegitimacy. A tragic end to her life it is true, but the actions of her Uncle Asher shine through.

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  8. This is so haunting and interesting. I find myself wanting to know more about Margaret. Uncle Asher must have been a good man. I'm sure the poor man who killed her so tragically and accidently in some way lived an altered life from that day onward.

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  9. What a sad story on so many levels. Margaret's mother must have suffered so much shame for finding herself pregnant and unmarried. How awful to not be able to acknowledge your child and to pretend she was a baby sister (when perhaps everyone in the surrounding area knew the true story). And what a surprising end poor Margaret met so unexpectedly.

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  10. What a heart rending story, Martin. Like Meri says, on so many levels. War eats up families like a monster. So sad.

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  11. Oh bother, I think my comment got lost.

    What I said was,that this is a very sad story and that it is good that you are collecting family tales; I also hope that you are keeping them elsewhere for the next generations to cherish.,

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  12. gripping and heartbreaking story - ah, poor margaret to leave so young with so much ahead unrealized.

    thanks for sharing.

    war always takes the young.

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  13. Oh, how sad. As I began reading I was hoping for a happy ending to the story. Margaret definitely looks older than 23. In general, people did look older 70 years ago, I think.

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  14. This story would make a great book or movie. How did you happen to know so many interesting details? A lot of these things wouldn't have been talked about openly in those days or even handed down in the family. A fascinating story, so well told!

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  15. Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

    As far as I can tell, Margaret never knew the details of her true parentage. Her grandparents would probably have taken her as one of their own from birth.

    And we may have never known the details around Margaret's birth, if my grandmother, then in her 90s, hadn't revealed the story to my mum.

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  16. A very touching story. I always learn something from your posts, Martin. Today I veered off into learning about the Land Army, a subject I knew nothing about. We had a Women's Land Army in the U.S., too, but it was associated with the suffragettes and was mostly composed of college-educated women.

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  17. That's really sad. 23 is no age at all.

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  18. What a tragic story, touching and poignant.

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  19. A truly sad story, & for the driver as well. The Land Army women seem in general to be a fascinating story--I must admit I only know about them from watching "Foyle's War."

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  20. A very sad story. A woman driving a school bus killed a kindergarten girl. She was not at fault, but she lost everything, husband and kids and peace. The people who lost their child also didn't make it in the marriage. The tragedy probably affected that soldier the rest of his life.

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  21. So sad. What a nice thing to write about poor Margaret. Her memory is kept alive because of you.

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