This photo shows my great grandmother Alice Harrison (nee Guy) sitting in the centre, with her five daughters, her sister Nancy and a family friend (Gertie) around her. I’ve posted this photo before but I haven’t said much about the lives of some of the Harrison girls so this post aims to fill that gap.
Alice was the oldest girl in the family. She was born in 1886 and as the oldest daughter she was expected to stay at home and help her mother in the house. Alice was therefore the only one of the Harrison girls who didn’t go out to work although on the 1901 and 1911 censuses she is recorded as an embroideress and lace maker, so she must have taken in this work to do at home. My auntie Frieda told me that Alice had a beautiful contralto singing voice and she remembered listening to Alice sing at home. Alice never married but later in life she shared a house with her good friend Gertrude Heathcote. Gertie lived with the Harrison family as a boarder and appears on the 1911 census with them, incorrectly transcribed as Gertrude Harrison. Gertie also appears in the family photo above (back left) so I think they all saw her as part of the family. When Alice died in 1959 it was Gertie who nursed her through her final illness.
Charlotte (Lottie) was the next daughter and you can read more about her life here. Lottie emigrated to Canada as a young woman, where she married twice and had six children.
My grandmother Helena, known as Nellie, was the third daughter and was born in 1892. I think she met my grandad at work and they married in 1921. I remember Auntie Frieda (my Dad’s sister) telling me that my Grandad’s mother was not very pleased when he married Nellie, as the Harrisons were from a lower social group than the Boltons. Also, Nellie was already pregnant when they got married, so I’m sure her prospective mother-in-law frowned upon that too, although hopefully she recognised that Nellie couldn’t have got pregnant on her own! I think her mother-in-law’s disapproval made Nellie’s early married life difficult but my great-grandmother seems to have got over her ridiculous snobbery after a while – perhaps Nellie providing her with three grandchildren helped. We have photographs of them all on holiday together when the children were young so I think their relationship must have improved over time.
Margaret Harrison was born less than two years after Nellie and the two sisters were very close. When my Dad was young they saw quite a lot of Aunt Margaret and her ‘friend’ Frank. Margaret and Frank couldn’t marry because he already had a wife, although he was separated from her and she lived abroad. He and Margaret had a long term relationship which must have been quite scandalous at the time, although according to family legend Margaret didn’t care much what people thought! Frank was a businessman and was very generous to Margaret and her extended family.
The youngest Harrison sister was Winifred (Winnie) who was born in 1898. She was always said to be ‘the pretty one’ in the family. Winnie married twice (her first husband died in middle age) but I don’t have any information about her husbands. I don’t think she had any children and I think she continued to live in the Manchester area and remained in touch with my grandmother Nellie and her other sisters but perhaps wasn’t as close as Nellie and Margaret were.
The Harrison sisters did all seem to be fond of one another and they kept in touch all their lives. Even Lottie who emigrated to Canada was in regular contact with her family in Manchester and my grandmother also kept in touch with her brothers Tom and Frank.