A child wore these shoes

25th Apr 2020
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1888 Burnley, England

With COVID19 restrictions curtailing physical travel I opted on a world tour via the collection of items in my library. This week the theme was shoes; to date we have been to Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, Mongolia, The Netherland and Italy. Today finds us in England. More specifically Burnley, Lancashire, England 1888.

These shoes belonged to my great-grandfather. I can only imagine how difficult it was for a child to walk on the cobbles in these hand carved wooden and leather shoes with their iron bases. Can you imagine how hard these must have been on his small feet?

It made me pause to think about the child and the steps he took in his life’s journey. In order to build a clearer picture of this person I went exploring in the trunk my great-grandmother used when she came out to Australia to marry him.

With the aid of letters, testimonials, autograph book, photos and diaries I discovered he had been a weaver in England. In 1912 he came to Australia and in 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. His war diaries are written in pencil and are difficult to read, however from what can be deciphered and with the accompanying postcards it would appear he spent some time in both Belgium and France.  

Back in Australia he became a confectioner

In 1956 aboard the P&O Strathaird he did sketches of his port of calls, Fiji, Ceylon, Bombay, Aden, Arabian Coast, Canada and USA.

These naïve postcard sketches are quite different to his other charcoal works.

As a child I recall visiting his backyard shed where he made toys, I don’t recall the person, but I do recall the smells and sensations. I think the person that was my great-grandfather has been kept alive with mementos that aid in the retelling of family stories.

My son now wears his great, great-grandfathers signet ring and I wonder what he will make of the child who wore these shoes and the steps he took in his life.

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