O is for Ostracism

April 17, 2014 at 9:46 am | Posted in Family History, Psychology, Society, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


It was some time in 1914 when Teddy and Hannah first met as they walked along the grimy back lanes of Oswaldtwistle to the cotton mills where they both worked. Teddy would have been 21 years of age and Hannah 19 or 20.

Unknown courting couple, early 1900s

Unknown courting couple, early 1900s

I imagine them eventually saying hello, as you do when you see each other every day, possibly even twice a day. I suppose they started chatting as they walked, gradually learning more about each other, and coming to look forward to those early mornings and late evenings.

I know that they came to care for each other. Teddy did everything he could to get Hannah to go out with him. He was trying to court her, but she was adamant that it wasn’t possible. There was a reason for Hannah’s reluctance that had nothing to do with her feelings.

Hannah was a weaver in the mill, an occupation higher than most jobs. Weavers often made better money that other mill workers. She was the daughter of James, who also worked at the cotton mills. However, James was an engine tenter, an overseer in charge of the steam engines that operated the machinery in the mill. As such, he was of a higher social class. He was also a Catlow, originally de Catlow (from the Norman Invasion), a family of once-wealthy landowners that could trace its presence in Oswaldtwistle to at least the 12th century.

James Catlow and family in 1916. Hannah is third from the right, behind her father.

James Catlow and family in 1916. Hannah is third from the right, behind her father.

Teddy was the son of Peter Thompson, a coke burner; burning coal to make charcoal. It was a dirty job and left to the poorer people to perform. Teddy himself was ‘just’ a labourer. They were working class people and as such were looked down upon by most of the better off.

Although Hannah cared for Teddy, she knew she would greatly suffer from her father’s disapproval if she went out with him. Even talking with someone like Teddy would have angered that proud man, let alone admitting that Teddy had asked her to marry him.

Teddy was very upset at Hannah’s rejection, which he could neither understand nor accept. The Great War had broken out at the end of 1914. In early 1915, distressed at the social norms that separated him from Hannah, Teddy volunteered and joined the British Army. He arrived in France in June 1915.


In 1919, aged 25, and with four years of hell in the trenches behind him, Teddy returned from the war a more determined man. Hannah was 24 and still unmarried. Teddy renewed his pursuit of her and she eventually gained the courage to defy her father, who had told her she would be ostracised from the family if she married the man she loved.

They married in July 1920. True to his word, James Catlow never spoke to her again. He also forbade his other children from having any contact with their sister. It wasn’t until after James’s death four years later that any contact was resumed. Even then, it was not too cordial – James had done a good job on several of the family.

However, in 1932, Teddy and Hannah’s son Ernie (my father) was invited to be a pall-bearer at the funeral of his cousin Walter Catlow. Ernie also became friends with his cousin Miriam Catlow, a friendship that lasted until Miriam’s death in the late 1990s.

The only known photo of Teddy & Hannah together. 1947

The only known photo of Teddy & Hannah together. 1947

That’s how my grandparents (Dad’s parents) met and married, and stayed happily married too, until Teddy died of cancer in 1950, aged 57.


Have you come across anything like this in your family? What happened in the end?


© Linda Visman  17.04.14  (623 words)





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  1. Another lovely post Linda, a snippet of a previous time. Documenting these stories will keep them alive. Have you thought about a book for these? 🙂

    • Thanks, Linda. I have been going to write a book about Dad, but it may be better to put together a collection of family stories instead – more manageable. 🙂

  2. The tragedy, courage and joy of our lives. Such a human story Linda.

  3. I have known many families that make such sad choices. Especially when it comes to mixing or race, culture or religion… when we deeply love the members of our families we should respect and love the ones they choose . Great pics and good story to share #AtoZchallenge ☮Peace ☮ ღ ONE ℒℴνℯ ღ ☼ Light ☼ visiting from http://4covert2overt.blogspot.com/

  4. What an amazing story Linda. Well told. Lucky you have that photo!

    • Thanks Debbie. Yes, and I didn’t know about it until just a couple of years ago. 🙂

      • After all this time, it is lucky the story did surface!

  5. Yes, I have seen marriage in defiance of parent’s wishes, but I’m afraid that there was no happy ever after conclusion.

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