Constance Wilkinson Lamin (Connie) 1910 -1929

Click any image to enlarge it.

Connie appears regularly in Harry's letters. He obviously has a great deal of affection for this little girl.

When I started the blog, I knew nothing about her. I hadn't really looked at the two or three photographs in the "bits & bobs" box. She'd certainly never been mentioned in any family conversations that I could remember. Sister Anita knew nothing about her. But, as she was frequently and affectionately mentioned in Harry's letters, there was research to be done.

Connie aged three.

The official facts;

The Birth Certificate tells us that she was born on the 18th May, 1910 in a private house at 145 Nottingham Road, Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Her mother, who registered the birth, was Catherine Lamin. (Kate) Catherine's occupation was recorded in 1910 as a School teacher, living at that same address. There's no father on the birth certificate. The only other information on the certificate tells us that the birth wasn't registered for over a month after the birth - on 25th June.

Connie's death certificate records that she died on 21st December 1929 at Harlow Wood Orthopaedic Hospital, Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. Her mother, recorded as living in Leeds, registered the death in Sutton in Ashfield. Kate's occupation was then recorded as a midwife. The death was registered on the 27th December, 3 days after the funeral on Christmas Eve, December 24th.

Connie's cause of Death was; a) Acute Dilation of Stomach. b) Operation. c) Spastic diplegia

The story;

I asked Willie (my father)about Connie. His memory was, at the time, failing and he told me that Connie was the daughter of a wealthy Ilkeston family. As she was a cripple, they advertised for someone to look after her and Ethel, Wllie's mother offered to do that. "It was very good of her."

I would guess that was the family story to cover the fact that Connie was Illegitimate. Willie knew the truth, as he annotated one of Connie's photographs to say it was "Daughter of Kate Lamin", in his distinctive handwriting. The "story" must have been used to explain the appearance of this little girl into the Lamin household. It would have came to the fore as Willie's memory became unreliable. The significance of the cryptic message on Annie's card to her sister Kate becomes clear.

Connie had cerebral palsy. "Spastic diplegia" on the death certificate confirms that explanation for her problems with walking as this form of cerebral palsy affects the legs and walking. The photograph showing her leaning against a chair, apparently illustrates a typical attitude for such a sufferer.  It is quite likely that her intelligence was normal.
I'd love to tell you more of this sweet little girl who was obviously adored by all in the Lamin Family but there is no more and there's no one else to ask. Anything more must be largely speculation and guesswork.

I have no clues as to where the "Wilkinson" part of her name came from. It could be a link to the father. Maybe he was able to pay something towards Connie's upkeep. As a schoolteacher and later, as a junior nurse or midwife, Kate would not have been well paid, yet there were expensive studio photographs taken and Connie was sent away to boarding school in Liverpool. The outfits we see her in were quite smart. Note the beautiful boots.

A phone call to the council offices for Ilkeston located her grave in the main cemetery in the town. I duly visited and photographed the grave that she shared with her mother, my great aunt Kate. Another emotional interlude.

I now feel that I know her quite well. It's recorded by Harry that she and Willie were great friends. Harry and Ethel loved her dearly and she was obviously in Harry's thoughts through his tribulations in the Great War. I don't think she ever walked properly.

The inscription on her gravestone reads "Peace".

Next week - Annie

Harry's Song

As the first "extra", I'll post Harry's Song.

It may not be a masterpiece, but after being told all my life that music wasn't my forte, (thank you Nottingham High School) I'm extremely proud of producing something that Harry's experiences initiated. Thanks to Shaz Adams, the singer.

Anyway, you don't have to listen. Turn the sound down and watch the slide show of images from the book and blog.

Positive comments would be astonishing.

Next week, Constance Wilkinson Lamin (Connie). BL

Harry's Home. The last letter, 12th January 1920

Jan 12th/ 1920

19 Mill Street

Dear Jack
Just a line to let you know that I have got home at last for good. I got demobilised on Thursday, and got home at 9 0 clock on Friday morning from Ripon. Ethel thanks you for the 10/- you sent. We are all in good health except for me I have just a bit of a sore throat but I hope it is well in a day or two. the weather is very wet just now. I dont know whether I shall start at Trumans or not, they seem to be quite busy just now. I will write again soon and let you know what I am going to do.

With best Love to you
both      Harry

This letter just couldn't be better if I'd made it up. "I have got home at last for good" says it all. Harry's arrived home at Mill Street, last Friday, 14 months after the war ended and 16 months after his last leave. His prediction of "Thursday at Ripon" proved to be spot on.   This is the first letter that has a postage stamp. (click on the letter for an enlarged image)

"10/-"  means 10 shillings, 50P in today's money, worth about £25 (UKP) today.

We can only imagine the inside of number 19 this last weekend. To see number 19 today, click this link and go to 55 seconds into the film clip. Film link

Me? I'm just overwhelmed with emotion as I "time shift" back to 1920. There's even more emotion as it becomes clear that I've also reached the end of an incredible personal journey.

What happens next? My plan is to spend a few weeks tying up all the loose ends. I'll complete the story of each of the characters, as far as I can, and will publish the photographs and documents that I have that relate to the blog and to Harry and his family. There is a great deal more material than could fit into the book.

Then I just sink back and learn to live without the blog. It won't be easy.

My readers? If you've followed the blog, please tie up your loose end with a comment. Anything will do. Just let me know that a little bit of Harry's life has touched yours. Take a moment to glance at the comments that are, already, appearing while you're adding your own.

If you've put off buying the book until Harry got home, well, there's no excuse now. Signed copy click here. The audio version is on the way soon. I also intend to produce a CD of just the letters, read by myself. The audio publishers are doing a version of the whole book and want a "proper" actor to do it - I can understand that. If you just would like just the letters, watch this space. Email if you would like a sample reading.

To all of you, thank you,

Bill Lamin

Card to Jack, 6th January 1920. On the way!

Jan 6/1920
Dear Jack
Just a line to let you know that I am alright. We have left Marseilles after having three days their. We were allowed out. its a fine big city and you meet all sorts  of people. At present I am in Calais and hope to be in England by Thursday at Ripon if good luck. Hope to be seeing you soon. With love Harry

Nearly home! I would think that a train from Marseilles, retracing the route he took in November 1917, is the most likely method of travel. 3 days in Marseilles, 24 hours in the troop train - that about accounts for all the time. I wonder what "all sorts of people " encompasses.

The YMCA have put their own postmark on the card. Harry must have stayed in Hut 2 in Calais.

Ripon is in Yorkshire, not too far from Jack's home. 6th January would have been a Tuesday in 1920 so, if he thinks he'll be in Ripon by Thursday, things will have to move quickly. 

Two letters, 1st January 1920. Definite progress.

Jan 1st 1920
Dear Kate

Just a line to let you know that I have left Italy and have arrived in France at Marseilles. I dont think we shall be here more than a day or two. we got in today at 4 o clock. and we are not allowed out of camp so i expect we shall have to stay in. I hope to be in England this time next week that is with good luck. I have got my papers for demobilisation so I expect to get demobilised within this next fortnight so I hope to be seeing you before long. I hope you had a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year and I hope Connie enjoyed her holiday. I will write and let you know as soon as possible how I get on.

With Best Love

Jan 1st 1920

Dear Jack

Just a line to let you know that I have left Italy. I am at present at Marseilles how long I am here for I do not know but I don't think it will be more than a day or two. We have just got here by train and we are not allowed in the place so I expect we shall have to stay in camp. We was on the train about twenty eight hours so we went well for a troop train. I received your tobacco alright it was very good. I hope you have both had a Merry Xmas. I expect you have been very busy. It is very cold here and wet I don't know what it is like in England I expect to be there within another weeks time with a bit of luck. I will write and let you know if I am so you need not bother writing till you hear from me.

With Best Love to you

This seems quite conclusive. At last, Harry's on the way home. BL