Monday, 7 July 2014

52 Ancestors - medals, liquorice and shop-keeping

George Smart - 1887-1964

George Smart is one of my great great uncles, this time by marriage rather than by blood, although that never really matters that much to me. Family is family as much by what they do as how they are related, in my opinion.

Sadly I never knew him, he died ten months before I was born, but having learned more about him, and seen this wonderful photo below, I wish I had.  The photo shows him pushing my Mum, Maureen, and her younger brother, Michael, in a wheelbarrow.  To me, this shows he definitely had a sense of fun.

George was born in Netherton, Worcestershire, to John and Abigail Smart, in 1887.  He and his family had moved to Yorkshire by the 1891 census, presumably going where the work was to be found.  I think George must have been lucky to avoid working in the mines, as his father and both of his elder brothers were miners.

Instead, he began his working life as a shop assistant, and clearly the retail trade suited him well as he was still working in a grocery when he married my Great Great Aunt Elsie in 1911, and by 1916 he was the manager of a Co-operative store.

He joined the army reserve in 1916, and on 27 March 1918 he left England for France, where he was a driver for the Royal Field Artillery for almost a year.  His service records give nothing away about his time in France, but no doubt he saw and experienced plenty of the horrors of war during his relatively short time there.  He was awarded the British War and Victory Medals.

After returning to England, he went back to retail.  My Mum believes that he and Elsie used to run a small general purpose shop.  On his retirement from the shop, he worked in the gardens at the Wilkinsons sweet factory in Pontefract, where they grew liquorice for their Pontefract cakes.  (As a brief aside, Pontefract is one of the few places in the UK where liquorice can successfully be grown, and was renowned as a worldwide centre for liquorice!  Apparently Wilkinsons is now known as Monkhill Confectionary and they continue to preserve a small garden of liquorice plants.)

George, who is pictured here at my Mum and Dad's wedding in 1963, died in Ackton Hospital near Pontefract on 11 March 1964, aged 77.

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