Frederick Brough, my paternal grandfather, was born in Hanley, Stoke on Trent in 1893. He was the youngest of 8 children. His mother died when he was 3 years old. He came to Doncaster with his father and some of his older brothers, not sure how many, in about 1910 for work at the newly sunk Brodsworth pit. He looked after the pit ponies underground.
He volunteered for the army when WW1 broke out. He joined the 1/5th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. At some time during the war, according to his medal record, he spent time in the Royal Engineers and the Labour Corps. This is quite puzzling because documentation from his medal records show that he was awarded his medals by the Royal Engineers but they have K.O.Y.L.I, his name and K.O.Y.L.I service number inscribed on the rim. Also, his marriage certificate dated January 1918, shows his occupation as 1/5 Battalion K.O.Y.L.I – BEF France. His service record isn’t available. Probably amongst the majority that were destroyed during WW2.
Because there is no service record I can’t pinpoint exactly where he was but the1/5 Battalion K.O.Y.L.I was certainly in the thick of it both on the Somme and Passchendaele. I do know that at some point he was gassed. I’m guessing 1917 because he was definitely in England in January 1918 for his marriage to my grandmother.
I have documentation which shows that he was awarded a pension in 1919. I assume this was as a result of him being gassed.
He suffered with a ‘bad chest’ after the war and wasn’t able to return to his job down the pit. My grandmother told me that she would rub ‘goose grease’ on his chest. Put ‘red flannel’ (whatever that was) on his chest and that he ‘always’ wore a scarf, winter or summer!
I don’t know how, but he became a Bookmaker’s Clerk. Commonly known as a Bookie’s Runner. In the 1920’s any form of gambling was illegal but appeared to be widely condoned. I’m unsure of how things changed regarding gambling but I have a Bookmaker’s Certificate, dated November 1929, issued to him by HM Customs & Excise, which allowed him to take bets in Roper’s Yard, Marshgate. Shortly afterwards he contracted pneumonia and died in January 1930 age 36.
My grandmother was left with 3 young children at the age of 32. She told me that when grandad died she had 6 shillings to her name. There was no Social Security in those days so she had to apply for ‘Parish Relief’. They refused to help her. She was told that the best thing she could do was to put her children in an orphanage and go into ‘service’. She was having none of that! She had already lost 2 children to illness and wasn’t parting with the others willingly. That was the thanks she got for her husband dying as a result of being gassed during the war. She went to see the bookmaker her husband had worked for and asked if she could have his job. He gave her the job but she couldn’t get a certificate. They were only issued to men! For some unknown reason the Bookmaker’s Certificates were withdrawn in the early 30’s anyway. Therefore, technically she was working outside the law even though it was largely condoned by the authorities and being a woman she was no doubt frowned upon by those who thought they were a cut above! “A woman taking bets in the back alley! Tut tut.”
She was ‘summoned’ as she called it, on a couple of occasions when the police had a purge on street betting. See attached press cutting. This would be about 1953.
The bookmaker she worked for had an office on South Parade. She walked from Marshgate to South Parade to pick up her ‘time clock’. Walked back to Marshgate. Took bets throughout the day then walked from Marshgate to South Parade to take the time clock and bets back to the bookmaker’s office and then walked back to Marshgate. She did this 6 days a week until 1968 when she was 73 years of age.
She did remarry to a lovely man who I called grandad but she remain fiercely independent with a lifelong fear of the workhouse, until she died in 1988 age 91.
Yes, it was an unconventional job but as she saw it and I have to agree, she wouldn’t consider the alternative.
Story and photographs submitted by Patricia Gospel.