Skip to main content

Welcome to the Dunkerley-Tuson and Goldenthread Websites!

Family History, Lancashire Dialect, Poems and More!

Site Home Page
RB Home Page
Family History
Lancashire Dialect
My Poems
Favourite Poems
My Red File
Member Login
The Martin Branch of the Dunkerley Family

The Martin branch of my family tree is the shortest, and that is spite of the considerable effort I have put in to changing that unsatisfactory situation.

Recollections of Selina

I remember quite well my grandmother Martin – my father’s mother. She was called Selina, sometimes shortened to ‘Lina’, but following her oldest grandchild’s pronunciation (my cousin Jean) we always called her ‘Nana’. My first clear recollections of Nana are of an old, white-haired, little lady, bedfast in the back room of 28 Lord Lane in Failsworth. I remember that my father used to take Christine, my sister, and me to visit her from time to time on Sunday afternoons. We would walk from our home at 1 Circular (later Chauncy) Road in New Moston ‘down the dip’, across the little old wooden footbridge over Moston brook, up through the cinder tips on the Failsworth side, under the railway bridge, along the side of the Rochdale canal, thence along Ashton Road West and either Dunkerley Avenue (‘late Fairbrother Street’) or Lord Lane to number 28. We would sit near Nana’s bedside while conversation went on and there were cups of tea. I vividly recall that Nana’s hands quivered – the result of Parkinson’s disease. I can only really remember my cousin, Jean (daughter of Albert), being there – which is strange because from 1951 Uncle Clare and Auntie Brenda also lived at 'twenty-eight'. Perhaps Sunday afternoon was their time off. Jean was fourteen years my senior and generally getting ready to go ‘courting’. She embarrassed me constantly by asking if she could ‘borrow my eyelashes’ – I couldn’t say ‘yes’ and it was rude to say ‘no’!

In February 1954 Uncle Clare and Auntie Brenda moved to Ashley Road in Hale, Cheshire, where they ran a ladies, gents and children’s clothes shop situated in a good corner location, and lived in accommodation above it. Nana went with them, still a little white-haired old lady with trembling hands, but in a much larger room on the first floor at the front of the property, and with a small television close to hand. We continued our visits by car and Christine and I then had the novelty of being able to watch ‘Mr. Pastry’ and ‘Muffin the Mule’ on television while Dad had his cup of tea and a chat. Then too we used to see Auntie Brenda, and sometimes also Uncle Clare and my cousins Jon and Peter, and baby Andrew. I remember Auntie Brenda telling a story about mice between the floorboards that she would hear scurrying about in the quiet of the evening, but sadly I remember little more. Nana died when I was eight years old, on November 20th 1955, and was buried in the family grave in Failsworth cemetery. We went no more to Hale after that.

It is a pity that I remember so little of my grandmother, for she had an interesting life that I now wish I knew much more about. Photos of her at the time she married, on January 1st, 1901 in St. Thomas’ church, Lees, show that she was an attractive dark-haired young lady with delicate, almost boyish, features. Cousin Jean has told me that Selina was a very good dressmaker. Her early life must have been hard.

She was born on 28th February 1872 in Ashton under Lyne, the second of four sisters – the others were Mary Elizabeth (always called ‘Polly’), Clara and Annie. When Selina was only eight years old her father died of peritonitis and dysentery and the family was left to fend for itself. Her mother, Alice, must have had an extremely difficult time raising four young daughters single-handedly.

William Faith and Elizabeth Whitehead
The furthest that I have been able to trace Selina’s ancestry is to her maternal grandparents. Her grandfather was William Faith (also recorded as Fayth and even Fayeth), born perhaps around 1804 at an unknown place. On the birth registrations of two of his sons, Eli (1854) and Charles (1858) he was stated to be a ‘collier’ and ‘coal miner’ respectively. His death registration, in November 1859, also showed him to have been a coal miner and the cause of death was recorded as ‘inflammation of the lungs’, perhaps from a disease contracted down the mines. Four children are known, Edwin (born about 1842 and shown as a coal miner on the 1861 census), Alice (born about 1846), Eli and Charles.

Selina’s grandmother was Elizabeth Whitehead – called Betty. She was born about 1821 in Saddleworth, which is near Mossley but actually in Yorkshire; Whitehead was a common Saddleworth name. There appears to have been an age difference of about seventeen years between William and Betty, which might have caused tongues to wag when they married, probably about 1842. By 1854 when Eli was born the family was living at Broad Carr, very near to Hartshead Pike, at Mossley, where a large monument commands a fine view across the Lancashire plain. The family stayed on at Broad Carr after William died and Betty was left to bring up her family, and were registered there on the 1871 census. My father used to say that Betty had worked for a time in Oldham (she was a power loom weaver according to the 1861 census), walking every morning and evening over the hills from Hartshead to the cotton mill, and when there was deep snow on the ground she had even resorted to walking along the tops of the dry-stone walls to get through. A similar story was told by my Uncle Clare, related to me by Auntie Brenda, in the sense that Betty would walk the walls on her way home on a Friday night with a doz. of flour (presumably 12 pounds) on her head to make the bread at week-end. In 1891 Betty was living with Alice and her four children at Manchester Road, Roaches, probably at what was then number 409 but which may later have become number 152, and that is where she died in 1898, aged 77, of 'Senile Decay', registered by her daughter, 'Alice Martin', who made her mark.

Robert Thomas Martin
I have made considerable efforts to find out more about Robert Thomas Martin, Selina’s father, but have had only limited success.
The family name was spelt either ‘Martin’ or ‘Martyn’. The 1871 census states that he was born in Liverpool, but his date of birth is uncertain. Based on the age given on the 1871 census and his given age at death, I estimate that his birth took place between 3rd April 1845 and 2nd December 1847. He died on December 3rd 1880. 

Information about Robert Thomas should exist on the Civil Registration Birth Index, and on the 1851 and 1861censuses. In some progression of events he must have moved from Liverpool at his birth about 1846 to Stalybridge, east of Manchester, where he was married in 1869. A search for his birth on FreeBMD proved negative – either under the name of Robert Thomas Martin, or simply Robert Martin, and using the phonetic spelling system to cover the possibilities of either ‘Martin’ or ‘Martyn’ . No obvious entry occurs, although it should be noted that for 1845 and 1846 FreeBMD is not yet quite 100% complete, so it will still be worth checking again in future. There are two Robert Martin entries in Liverpool (‘West Derby’) for 1848 and I sent off for both certificates. They relate to the same individual and neither offers any clue that they might be correct, although they cannot be ruled out. The date of birth for these, however, seems too late.

Bevan1 says that there was no penalty for non-registration of births on the Civil Registration Index until 1875, and a study mentioned by her, precisely in Liverpool, comparing parish with civil registrations suggests that the latter have a 33% shortfall as late as 1874. So Robert Thomas' birth may simply not exist on the Civil Registration index.

A helpful researcher in the Greater Manchester County Records Office found an interesting reference in the 1851 census on the website. It is as follows:

1851 Census: Parish of Liverpool, Ecclesiastical District of Vauxhall (?) part of, Borough of Liverpool. Chisenhale Street. No. 9 Court, No. 4 House.
John Morrison, Head of family, Married, age 38, Labourer, born at Belfast, Ireland
Leah Morrison, Wife, Married, age 34, born at Belfast, Ireland
Agnefs (?) Morrison, daughter, age 14, born at Belfast, Ireland
Jane Morrison, daughter, age 12, born at Belfast, Ireland 
Elizabeth Morrison, daughter, age 10, born at Belfast, Ireland
Mary Morrison, daughter, age 8 born at Belfast, Ireland
James Morrison, son, age 2, born in Liverpool
George Erven (?), lodger, married, age 39, Porter (?), born at Belfast, Ireland
Sarah Erven, lodger, age 5, born at Belfast, Ireland
William Martin, lodger, age 66, Fireman Emigrant, born at Newry Ireland
Jane Martin, lodger, age 33 Emigrant, born at Newry Ireland
Mary Martin,  lodger, age 13, Servant, born in Liverpool
William Martin, lodger, age 7, born in Liverpool
Robert Martin, lodger, age 4, born in Liverpool
Margaret Martin, lodger, age 18 mths, born in Liverpool
Thus there were fifteen people registered at this house and everything indicates that conditions would have been grim – a court was generally a crammed space; it was an immigrant area of the Irish not many years after the Irish Potato Famine; there were large numbers; there was no obvious father for Robert. It appears that William Martin age 66 was the father of Jane, and that Mary, William and Robert were born after a move from Newry to Liverpool. William, Jane and Mary should appear somewhere on the 1841 census, but I have not found them.

The age indicated for this Robert is plausible based on what know of Robert Thomas Martin and I conclude that this is the best candidate for the person we are seeking. In reviewing the various Martin families situated in Liverpool at the time of the 1841 census I was struck by the strong association with Ireland. I therefore feel that, regardless of the correctness or otherwise of the identification of our Robert Martin with the one shown in the 1851 census above, it is rather likely that Robert Thomas Martin is of Irish origin.

There is no Robert Thomas Martin listed in the 1851 or 1861 Liverpool surname census indices. Another helpful researcher at Tameside Local Studies (which covers Mossley and Ashton under Lyne) could not find Robert Thomas Martin on the 1851 census; for 1861 there is very little in the way of surname indices, just for a part of Ashton, and nothing remotely plausible for Robert Thomas. The only other comment that this researcher could offer was to the effect that to be married in New St. George’s church either Alice or Robert Thomas must have been living on the ‘Lancashire side of Stalybridge’ ‘because the service was by banns’. However, she added, that is precisely the part of the 1851 census that has never been microfilmed, because it was damaged by water.
On the 'findmypast' website there is an interesting entry for a Robert Martin on the 1861 census. It relates to a house at 4 Firth Street in Burnley where the head of the household is a 41 year old widow, Sarah Ryan. Living with her is a son, aged 11, a female border aged 38 and her son aged 2, and no less than seven boy boarders, six of them aged 14, one 13, all doffers at cotton factories. All eleven members of the household were born in Liverpool. One gains the impression that a Liverpool woman set up a hostel for young workers from her home town who were able to find work in the booming cotton industry of Burnley. Although 'Ryan' is a Celtic Irish name, none of the names of the other occupants are obviously so. One of the 14-year old boys is Robert Martin.
Given that I have been unable to find any other plausible reference from the 1861 census for Robert Thomas Martin, this record has to be seriously considered and appears to support a coherent story. It suggests that Robert Thomas Martin was the son of a family from Newry in Northern Ireland who emigrated to Liverpool in the 1830s. He may never have known the name of his father and grew up in poor conditions among the Liverpool Irish. When a young teenager Robert left Liverpool with a group of other youths for employment in the booming cotton industry of Burnley. There he developed skills that later allowed him to move on to employment as a grinder in the Stalybridge/Mossley area further east where he settled down, married and raised a family. In the end he died young leaving little evidence of his history. This story must be similar to that of many Irish of the time - Irish people appear in most of the cotton towns, such as Oldham, during the mid-nineteenth century, evidently migrating across Lancashire in search of better employment opportunities.

Could an Irish origin also explain the blue eyes of Leslie Dunkerley and the fair or sandy-coloured hair of Clare Dunkerley and two of his boys? The theory rests on uncertain foundations and a breakthrough is needed – perhaps by finding the births of Mary, William and Robert in a Liverpool parish register. 

Alice Martin

Selina's mother, Alice, was married in St. George’s church, Stalybridge, on 11th April 1869 after banns, to Robert Thomas Martin, who was probably born about 1846, like his bride. At the time Robert Thomas was a ‘grinder’, which means he worked in the carding roomof a textile (probably cotton) factory, maintaining the carding engines. The marriage documents give no clue as to Robert Thomas’ origins, but (as described above) the 1871 census states that he was born in Liverpool. This census also confirms that Robert Thomas was a cotton factory operative, as was Alice at that time. After Robert Thomas’ death in 1880, caused by dysentry and peritonitis, it appears that Alice and her four young girls moved to Ashton under Lyne to live with Alice’s mother, Betty, for they are registered there on the 1881 census.

By 1891 Alice had returned to Mossley, living at Manchester Road, Roaches, then probably number 409, later perhpas re-numbered as 152, in the valley of the River Tame. The accommodation of 152 was a small terraced stone cottage, probably with four rooms (see photo above). Alice was still at Manchester Road in 1901 living just with her daughter Polly and, based on the estimated date of a postcard written by my father, Leslie Dunkerley, to 'Mrs. Martyn', she was still living at 152 probably until about 1920. Afterwards it appears that she and Polly moved to Failsworth, living at number 11, Wright Street. She died there on July 8th 1930, aged 84, of acute pneumonia.

As I remember, my father told me that after the death of Robert Thomas, Alice’s brother Charles took her and the four young girls in, but Alice needed to work to provide a living for the family. This story cannot be quite true because Charles married in 1886 and in both 1891 and 1901 was living at a different address to that of Alice and her daughters. However, in my experience there is usually some basis for this type of story, and I suspect that Charles may have paid the rent for Alice; he seems to have had no children of his own and could probably afford to help in this way.

In spite of any help from Charles, Alice probably had a very tough time bringing up her girls. She would have had some help from her mother Betty, perhaps as a child minder and housekeeper, allowing her to go out to work in the cotton mills of Oldham, as described above. Towards the end of her life, though, Betty may have been more of a hinderance than a help to Alice. My cousin Jean says that Alice used to bake bread to order and took in curtains from the big houses to wash, all to help earn a living.

Selina's Life

As mentioned, Selina was born at Broadcar in Mossley, very near to Hartshead Pike. By 1881, aged 9, she was a scholar in Ashton under Lyne and ten years later she was a cotton operative living at Manchester Road, Roaches in Mossley.
It was from the cottage in Roaches that Selina did her courting with Billy Dunkerley. We cannot know how they met, but according to my cousin Jean they went out for quite a long time before they married at Lees church on 1st January 1901. The trajectory that Selina’s life took after her marriage very much mirrored that of her husband and can be read here
. The following notes are a brief outline of events seen perhaps slightly more from Selina’s point of view. As is usually the case, there is much less information available about the wife than the husband in the marriage.

At the time of the 1901 census, about the time of the adjacent photo with Billy, Selina was living at Quail Street in Oldham, ‘not employed’. Her first child, Gladys, was born that December. Thereafter Selina was a housewife and mother, bringing up five children. It seems that she had medical attention for the birth of her first child, but thereafter never saw another doctor until towards the end of her life. She supported Billy, who soon moved up to a managerial position at the Regent Mill in Failsworth. Selina also backed Billy as he took on local political office, and must have enjoyed a good number of social occasions related to Billy’s politics and during his later Masonic activities.

Selina probably enjoyed teaching her daughter Gladys to sew – for, like her, Gladys was an excellent seamstress, and also a professional hair stylist – and put up with washing dirty rugby kit provided on a regular basis by her sons Leslie and Clare. She eventually must have relished a move to her own home at 28 Lord Lane, in about 1934. She knew the happiness of seeing four of her children marry, and of becoming grandmother to seven grandchildren.

She also experienced the great sorrow of the early death of her son Lewis in 1930, and must have been concerned at the tendencies shown by her oldest boy, Albert, to squander his money, to such an extent that she and Billy had to help their daughter-in-law, Muriel, to buy food for their grandchildren, Jean and Maureen. Eventually Albert and Muriel were divorced.

Until 1921 Selina’s life was probably one of steady improvement. She was spared the anxiety, and worse, of having her family fight in the First World War, for the boys were too young and her husband was in a reserved occupation. Thereafter, however, she was subjected to a series of difficulties, caused by the cotton industry, on which the family had depended for the whole of their lifetimes, going into irreversible decline. Billy lost his job and went through difficult financial circumstances before eventually obtaining employment as a brewer’s representative. Times were so harsh that Selina swore than none of her children would ever work in the cotton industry – and they never did.

In 1936 Selina was widowed. She continued living at 28 Lord Lane and the house played host to Leslie and Irene after they were married in 1942, and also to baby Christine, my sister, in 1943. Leslie arranged for Selina to receive a widow’s pension from the state, little enough no doubt, and both he and Clare must have helped Selina financially. Gladys and her husband Bob Stott lived close by at Burgess Drive, and similarly Albert on Dunkerley Avenue (which was named after his father).

My sister Christine thinks she remembers seeing Selina walking with a stick, but perhaps before 1950, she became bedfast and lived in the downstairs back room at 'twenty eight' where she was looked after by her grand-daughter Jean and her daughter Gladys, who often went to sit with her during the day. Clare was able to install one of the early, small valve-powered televisions made by the Bush company to help her pass the time. Although Selina had various health problems, including a bad prolapse and Parkinson’s disease, she received little or no medical attention, but never complained.

Clare and Brenda lived with her and helped with the caring from the time of their marriage in 1951 until 1954, when they moved to Hale, as described above. Brenda said that Selina had a nice sense of humour, and also that she was very broad spoken. One time, during the papacy of one of the Popes Pius, Selina suddenly waved her arm and said to her visitors ‘Pope Pius’. ‘Yes’ said everyone, ‘that’s the Pope’s name’. ‘Pope Pius!’ repeated Selina, with emphasis. ‘Yes, Pope Pius!’ said the visitors, slightly baffled. Making a greater effort and gesticulating Selina eventually managed to make her visitors understand: ‘Poke th’ fire!’ So they did.

After she became bedfast Albert dutifully paid his mother a weekly visit at Lord Lane, but she was not impressed and greeted him with a curt ‘What ‘ave you coom for?

Selina’s Sisters
While living in Failsworth Selina always maintained contact with her three sisters.

Polly (Mary Elizabeth) Martin
Polly was born in Mossley about 1870. She never married and it appears her mother, Alice, lived with her until she died – probably in the late 1920s. In 1934 Polly was living at 11,Wright Street in Failsworth, close to Lord Lane. At one time Polly probably worked at the Regent Mill in Failsworth, where Billy was the Winding Master. The Wrigley Head cotton mill, formerly called 'Johnson's Mill' was in Failsworth and
it was Polly who, after a stray bomb landed on Failsworth in the Second World War, excitedly exclaimed: "All the mills blew out of Johnson's windows!"

Clara, born about 1873 also in Mossley, did marry, probably in about 1898, to Albert Batty also of Mossley, who about that time was a mule spinner
. Albert's father was probably Henry Batty from Meltham, Yorkshire, a railway signalman whose wife was called Ann (perhaps Moorhouse) from Turton near Bury. They had at least five children, of whom Albert was the youngest, all of whom worked in cotton factories in the Mossley area.
From 1919 to 1935 Albert ran pubs in Oldham, successively the Red Lion at Bottom o’ th’ Moor, the Queen’s Inn on Huddersfield Road, the Railway and Commercial at Railway Road, and the Royal Hotel on Rochdale Road. My cousin Jean said that Albert was too soft-hearted to run the pubs – if someone with no money came in and asked for ‘a pint and change of half-a-crown’, Albert too often obliged! After 1935 Albert may have gone back to work in a cotton mill. He and Clara had no children.

Albert probably died in 1952 and Clara in 1962 at 40 Villa Road in Hathershaw, Oldham. Clara’s end was sad, for she was badly burned when attempting to light her own coal fire and died in hospital. I remember ‘Auntie Clara’ as a dear little sparrow of a woman, dressed in black and living in a cold house. She was saving silver three-penny pieces in a jar, which she engagingly told me were for her funeral! Cousin Jean added that she also saved ten-shilling notes and half crowns for the same purpose. She seemed kind but was very deaf.

Selina’s youngest sister was Annie, born about 1877 also in Mossley. She was a witness at Billy and Selina’s wedding in 1901. Just three months later Annie was working as a domestic servant in the Olive Branch Inn at Marsden, over the hills from Oldham in Yorkshire. Two doors away were the Topping family made up of John Topping a widowed plumber with six children, four of whom still lived with him. The oldest of the four was called Thomas and at the age of eighteen he was also a plumber. Whether Annie already knew the Toppings before she went to Marsden, or met them there is not known, but from about that time, at least, she and Tom were courting. In October 1906 Annie and Tom were married at All Saints church in Oldham. Annie was then living in Oldham with Selina’s family at 38 Cottam Street, where my father was born, and working as a ‘cotton operative’, no doubt in one of the mills in the Busk area of the town. The witnesses at the wedding were Gertrude Topping, (Tom's sister) and William France Garside; Gertrude and William France were to marry in 1909.
John Topping was born at Bleasdale, near Garstang in Lancashire, about 1858 (click here to see a picture of the area). John was twenty-three years old when he married a local girl – Ellen Bleasdale, who came of Cumberland stock but was born in Rochdale. Her family later settled at Marsden, just east of Oldham, and it was there that she and John married. The six children were, in order of birth, Allice, Frances, Thomas, Gertrude, William and Ellen. Sadly in 1897 Ellen (the mother) died so perhaps Annie never met her.

Tom and Annie had only one child, Roy, born in December 1909. My cousin Jean said that he was a large baby and the birth was very difficult so that Annie never really fully recovered. Roy’s father, Tom, was killed in the First World War; he seems at the time to have been a member of the 2nd Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment, was Private number 41854 and died from his wounds on 26th December 1917 in the Flanders area. For part of her life after Tom died Annie lived with her sister Clara and she probably died in December 1949. My cousin Jean says that Selina, Annie and she enjoyed holidays together to Port Erin in the Isle of Man.

Cousin Jean said that Roy ran a photographic business at the east end of Union Street in Oldham, and the photo believed to be of his maternal grandmother, Alice Martin (shown above), is thought to be his work. On his daughter Joan’s marriage certificate Roy was stated to be a ‘clerk’ and Joan said he worked in the offices of the important Asa Lees engineering company in Oldham. She also stated that Roy had a lot of photos in a box, but not apparently of the family. Roy married Amy Stott (see photo, although this is mis-labelled as Annie Stott), probably in 1935 at St. Barnabas in Oldham, and the couple went to live at 84, Schofield Street in Failsowrth. They had four daughters who all married and had families. Jean also said that Annie and Amy were very close - like mother and daughter.
1. Bevan, A., 2006; Tracing your ancestors in the National Archives, The National Archives, ISBN 1 903365 89 9.
This page was last modified on Friday, October 10, 2008