Are you embarrassed by your roots?  I know I like to keep mine covered when the grey starts to show through! But with the current series of  ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, I’m thinking more of historical ones.  It always seems that they find some glamorous character in the ‘victims’ family tree, or a famous or infamous  person, sometimes even royalty.

I have done a bit of digging up my roots, but so far nothing glamorous.  They all seem to have been weavers, or railway workers.  All working class people living in soot blackened terraces in the north of England. Nothing remarkable there.  Then I found the joining up papers of  Richard Bullough, my late father’s uncle, my great uncle.  I’d never heard of him before,  But here he was, signng up for the first World War.  He must have been desperate to join up – a way out of a humdrum future perhaps? He joined up on 25th  August 1914 aged  ’17years and 170 days’. 

For a standard form it made sad reading:  Height 5′ 5″ & a half inches – he must have been proud of that extra half inch!  Chest: 33″, Weight 107 lbs, Eyes: Blue.  He was only a child.!  Delving further, I found receipts signed by his mother for his pay, which was sent home,  a record of him being ‘absent without leave’ in town in France after a few drinks.   I could picture him dreading going back to the sights and smells of the trenches.  Blotting it out with beer.

Then on 25th September 1915, a year after joining up –  another note ‘killed in action’ it said bleakly. Even though Ihadn’t known of his existence before, it was like a blow to thee heart. Poor , poor lad, what had he seen and been through? How must his mother feel, her youngest son gone at only 18 ?  Richard Bullough

A little further on, I found a receipt signed by his mother, not for his wages this time but for a war medal and a victory medal.  I hope that gave her some comfort, though that ewasn’t until 1921.

So although there is no royallty or famous people in my familytree, there are people that made a difference, who worked hard for little reward.  Without them me and my family wouldn’t have what we do today and I wish they could know how grateful I am.   I will never hide my roots, it would be denying their contribution to history.

3 Responses

  1. A fascinating story. I can see why you became emotional on discovering he had died. Good to know he was a hero but such a waste of a young life.

  2. So interesting when you have a World War 1 connection. My grandfather served in India (Bangalore) and my aunt has his diaries. The poor thing suffered bouts of malaria later in life.

  3. Poor and proud, I am. I love my hardworking roots. I am sad for your great uncle WW1 was grim.

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