So far my family history research (and writing) has focused on the life of my great-grandfather, Tom Robinson. Tom was certainly a strong character but his wife, Ann Holme, was equally forceful.
She is one of a line of formidable matriarchal figures in my family history.
This photograph shows Ann Robinson as a twinkly, kindly older lady.
But this kindly image may belie her real character, for while her children remember her as a loving mother, she was quite capable of steeliness. Several family anecdotes illustrate this. In her later years, Ann moved between the homes of her daughters. A neighbour of her daughter Frances recalls visiting when Ann was staying. It was a Sunday, and the neighbour was advised that she must not, as was her habit, bring her knitting round – as Ann would strongly disapprove of such Sabbath breaking.
As the mother of fourteen children, thirteen of whom survived to adulthood, Ann had few moments to rest. She had the household well organised, with each child having set chores to do. Her youngest daughter recalls being sent to the well at the other end of the village for water (the cottage had no running water at that point). With so many children, the family income was tight. Ann not only had to work hard at home, which she kept spotless, but also had a cleaning job at the local school. And when she was not occupied with domestic chores, she ‘relaxed’ by making rag rugs. So much so that she is immortalised in a poem about the family as follows:
‘Annie, she’s Tom’s wife, a splendid mother in every way
Although we get a bit fed up with her rugmaking every day.’
She must have had the constitution of an ox, as she died at the age of 83 in 1963.