This pictures shows my grandad, Thomas Barrow Starr, and my grandma, Florence Starr, when they got married in 1919. My grandmother’s previous husband had disappeared in the First World War.
My grandad himself survived the war, quite by accident. In 1914, every man jack wanted to be in the war “that would be over by Christmas”. To join up meant going down Middlesbrough. On hearing that grandad had walked from Portrack to Middlesbrough to get recruited, the recruiting sergeant asked “don’t your feet hurt”. On being told “just a bit” my grandad was marked down as “flat feet”, unsuitable for soldering, as the recruiting station was overwhelmed. This kept him safe, even when, later on, conscription came in.
My grandad had wanted to get into technical education in Stockton, and although he passed the entrance exams his family could not afford the fees. Accordingly, the rest of his life was spent labouring. For a time, he worked on a cogging steel mill at the Malleable, which must have been the reason he became quite deaf.
I only knew him in his last ten years, when his lungs were so bad, he was permanently on the sick. The last job he had was with lime kilns at the Malleable works, which must have been deadly. His working days finished when one day he arrived home at 17 St Anne’s Terrace, Portrack, only to hang over the garden gate, absolutely exhausted. Each day of the rest of his life, he would walk to the end of the street and stand in the alcove of the Portrack Pub, with his cap and long overcoat, out of the wind. What a waste.
Photograph and details courtesy of Fred Starr.