BEYOND THE TREE | 'My 2019 Christmas surprise'

You wouldn't read about it. Except maybe here. Two girls grew up next door to each other at Balmain then each left and moved on. One had a son and one had a daughter.  Guess who ended up meeting and marrying! It's hard to believe, but this Christmas Pat learnt that her two grandmothers had indeed been neighbours over 100 years ago. This exhibition at Liverpool Regional Museum includes a growing community tree and you can add your own family story. Bring in photos of your family moments to be scanned, printed and mounted. In conjunction with Liverpool Genealogy Society. Volunteers help with research and family enquiries Tuesdays to Saturdays. The Champion is running a series of family stories tying in with it.

AT CHRISTMAS time in 1901, the same week Australia was becoming a nation in its own right, two families moved into Beattie Street at Balmain.

Henry and Florence Watts moved into number 32, with their family of nine living in the two bedrooms upstairs, while Florence ran a dressmaking business downstairs and Henry worked as a painter.

Meanwhile, John and Dorothy Edwards moved into the home next door at number 34 Beattie Street with their own brood of at least five children.

John was a furniture dealer who had his business on nearby Darling Street.

So, the Watts family was at 32 on the left and the Edwards family was at 34 on the right.

Both families had a daughter aged 13, Irene Watts and Annie Edwards.

Despite their parents living next door for a few years, and I'm sure they were all quite neighbourly, it doesn't appear that the girls became friends during that time.

However, this could be due to the fact that Irene got a scholarship to Fort Street Girls High School, while poor young Annie was sent down to Kangaroo Valley to look after her elderly grandfather who'd been widowed and was becoming quite frail.

She didn't have a chance to go to high school, although while in the valley she helped at the local primary school as a pupil teacher and studied at night with lessons provided by the primary-school teacher.

As time went on, their parents and families moved further afield; the girls married and raised their own families and the families didn't stay in touch with each other.

So imagine their surprise 30 years later when Irene discovered that her son Ebb had met and fallen in love with Annie's daughter Bessie!

What an occasion when the parents and grandparents all met again at the wedding.

During my childhood, neither of my grandmothers ever mentioned that they'd been neighbours as teenagers and I now realise in hindsight that they didn't really have anything in common.

However, they certainly made a wonderful effort to put on a good front at every Christmas and family gathering.

It's come as a surprise this Christmas to discover that Irene and Annie, along with my great-grandparents Henry and Florence and John and Dorothy, had lived right next door to each other at Balmain at Christmas-time over 100 years ago. What a small world!

This story BEYOND THE TREE | 'My 2019 Christmas surprise' first appeared on Liverpool City Champion.

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