Her husband, John Hannon was a boilermaker and died early, leaving her with five sons and a daughter to bring up. Another son died as an infant.
Uncle Johnny was the eldest, he was a dapper chap who always reminded me of Fred Astaire. He liked to dance and was married to a small attractive lady. They lived in a small rented cottage in Wakefield that had a Victorian cast iron kitchen range.
Uncle Joe was next, a bluff Yorkshireman of wit and devious ability. He got a job once in maintenance at the Fire Station and was asked to leave when officials discovered that not only had he painted his own council house a delightful shade of fire engine red, but was offering the same colour of paint to his neighbours. I liked my Uncle Joe.
He was not a keen gardener and had a simple way of maintaining the back lawn. He covered half of it with a sheet of lino. When the grass of the exposed half was long, he dragged the lino over it to kill it, exposing the dead half to the sun and weather, allowing it to recover.
We had one particularly deep and insightful conversation when all the brothers and my mother gathered at the old Wakefield Workhouse, which had been converted into what I believe was called the Central Hospital, where my Uncle Austin was dying. It was a horrendous place that wreaked of its appalling history.
Joe invited me outside to walk in the sunshine away from the others and reflected on life and Austin's passing. He reminisced and told me stories of his past. Said he'd not had a bad life, although money had always been tight. I was surprised when he eventually got round to what he wanted to say: "I'm frightened of dying."
I made the usual responses about everyone had to go sometime but he was disturbed.
Austin died within the hour with everyone standing round the bed. Within months, Joe was on the same ward, fear in his gaze, but trying not to show it, as he waited his turn to die.
My Uncle Austin was a boilermaker. He was not the brightest tool in the box and not particularly interested in the birds and the bees. Sex seemed to pass him by; it was perhaps something that was unmentionable and unnecessary. He was engaged to my Auntie Doris for 18 years, an arrangement that suited him until my grandma told him it was about time to get married.
My Auntie Doris had been an attractive girl in her youth and still liked fun, if you know what I mean. It was rumoured she had more than a passing knowledge of the Batley rugby league team, during the few years she and Austin lived in the town.
Austin's mind did not age well. There was the night he sat up in bed, struggling with his pyjamas, his arms outstretched.
“I think I've had a stroke,” he said to Auntie Doris. “I can't move my arms.”
“You daft sod,” she said. “You've got them down the leg holes of your pyjama bottoms.”
He developed Alzheimer's and would occasionally escape and head for the local Catholic club where he had would plonk down an old fashioned penny and ask for a pint of Tetley's. Someone would invariable say, Poor old soul. I'll get that, before the steward phoned home and Uncle Eric would go and collect him.
Not that Austin was all that daft. He worked the trick enough times for people to become wary of paying for his ale.
Uncle Eric was my favourite. He had a brilliant sense of humour and a sharp intelligence that should have taken him into higher education. He was offered a scholarship to Wakefield Grammar School (a prestigious place of academia) but the family were too poor to send him. His mother's priority was finding enough money to buy her children food and shoes, not education.
He joined the Post Office telecommunications departments and, when war broke out, the army put him in signals and sent him to North Africa where he faced the enemy from the top of a telegraph pole. He had driven into the desert, found a breakage, climbed the pole and was mending it when two Arab gentlemen on camels arrived and pointed rifles at him.
“Come down,” they shouted.
“No,” he said.
The stand off lasted until the Arabs got bored and rode off. Uncle Eric then climbed down, drove back to Cairo and soothed his nerves with several beers.
Uncle Eric was good at drinking beer. He retired early from the Post Office with a decent pension and made his living horse racing. His friends were bookmakers and he was shrewd at betting. He didn't make a fortune but he made enough to live on. His pub of choice in Wakefield was The Redoubt and, on one memorable night, he arrived home to the Lupset estate council house where he lived with my grandma, Auntie Doris and Uncle Austin, in a taxi, drunk as a lord.
He couldn't get his key in the lock and banged on the door until a bedroom window opened.
“Let me in,” he shouted.
“No,” came the reply.
“Because you live next door.”
Uncle Ken went into retail and was manager of the shoe department of the Wakefield Co-op. Then he met Sheila Robinson who, at that time, had been Eric's girlfriend. Eric didn't seem to mind that she preferred his brother. Ken and Sheila were married. She was the daughter of a well known sweet confectioner in Wakefield with several shops and they ended up running one of them.
My mother was the youngest of the family, although my grandma had previously had another boy who died as a baby.
Growing up as a child, I remember the house in Cheapside where I was born and where my grandma lived for many years until they moved to the luxury of a council house in Lupset.