Friday, November 18, 2011


23 October 2005

Dear Gene
Kathleen Dawn picking blackberries with friends
  I cannot thank you enough for all the trouble you have taken in re-uniting me with the Burrows side of my family. I had to smile to myself when you said that son John had received a negative response from the family he spoke to in England. My own father’s reply when I questioned him was “they are dead. Leave them in peace”. But I was not at peace. I needed to know. Fortunately, with Dad being the youngest child, and knowing roughly the number of children born into the family, I counted back 2 years per child, allowing for a couple that did not survive, and so came to an approximate date of marriage for William Burrows to Alice Rudin  Fortunately, I hit it spot on.
I knew very little about them. As I may have told you , William died when my father was very small, so Dad did not have any stories to relate about him. All I know is that the family came to live in Woodend Fillongley after their marriage and William worked in Arley Colliery, as did most of the men in Crossways Cottages. The Burrows family lived in the end one, number 31. Dad was born there in the front bedroom, as was I. In the same bed in fact. The cottages were all joined with common backyard(known as “the causeway” ) Beyond the “causeway” were fields as far as the eye could see and at the front of the cottages more farmland and a narrow lane with much older cottages and a small chapel.  Woodend was and still is, part of the parish of Fillongley. The Woodend chapel no longer exists. A new one was built in Fillongley, and this was the one that I attended as a small child.
K. Dawn with father, Ernest C. Burrows
Life in Crossways Cottages must have been noisy and busy. All the men engaged in the same work at the colliery, all of similar ages and all with large families. The women constantly washing, scrubbing and giving birth. My one clear memory of No.31 was the smell of steamy bleach. Gran was spotless. Her pot lids shone like silver and hung on the kitchen wall, her coal range gleamed like black satin. Her front parlor had pictures of “her boys” hung around the walls. What happened to them I do not know - I wish I did? For one who never had money to spend on frippery, to me as a child, her parlor was full of  countless little treasures. Tins with pretty ladies on them, an old print of a returning crippled soldier hobbling down a lane towards his wife and child waiting at the cottage gate,  I was quite privileged to be allowed to explore the parlor. My Aunt Gladys’s family which was quite large visited rarely and when they did apparently Grandma Burrows used to cover the legs of her dining table and chairs with old stockings so that tiny swinging feet did not scratch them.
According to some, Grandma was a hard lady. Perhaps life had forced her to be that way.
back-Dawn & Jenny   front-mum, Eileen & dad, Ernest C. Burrows
She never held back in expressing her opinions and in the most colorful of terms. I heard the story that on one occasion she physically attacked the coalman who had inadvertently tipped a sack of coal on a litter of kittens in the coal shed. Despite this side of her nature, it was always Mrs. Burrows you called on in your hour of need. She was the one who was there to aid them with their sick and dying. I’ve been told by various people that no-one could lay out the dead like Alice Burrows.

Kathleen Dawn           Mum, Eileen       Kiri        Lee
To support her large family, she had also worked at the colliery. First in chopping kindling, then working in the office staff canteen. She also cleaned at the local public house. During the war she also supplemented her income by making rag rugs, using old sugar sacks that she boiled and bleached and any old clothing beyond repair. I used to watch her doing this and she would let me sort the colors. I think most of the houses in Fillongley had a rag rug made by Grandma Burrows. I know we did.

 Life must have got a little easier after her children started work. Harold and Walter both worked in the colliery. Thomas became a butcher and William a baker. Both had their shops in Fillongley at one time... My father, determined not to be sent to work down the pit, put himself into an apprenticeship and used to cycle 15 miles each way to his place of work as a tinsmith. The girls all married. I do not remember Cicely at all, but Gladys in Nuneaton with her large family and my favorite, Aunt Alice lived in Leicester. She eventually had a curtain and haberdashery shop just off the market square. I loved to visit her there.
little posy bonnet
 A box would be put behind the huge wooden counter so that I could watch her measuring fabrics, laces and trimmings, and in the back of the shop I would watch fascinated as she pounded away on an old treadle sewing machine, making aprons,  antimacassars,  and cushion covers, etc. When I go into craft shops today, as I often do, I still get that little buzz of excitement that I felt there. I remember being bridesmaid to Alice’s daughter Kath and can still remember the smell of the silk and tulle dress with the little posy bonnet all of which were made by Aunty Alice. (photo enclosed)

Ernest   Eileen Burrows
Alice and my father each shared their mother’s all-embracing passion for life nothing was ever half measure. Wherever Dad was, he filled the room. People either loved him or hated him, but they could never ignore him. He worked as a Union Representative, he even joined the Nazi party until he realized what they were really up to then quickly got out of it.  . He coached the local soccer team. He could not be drafted into the army because of arm injuries he had received in a car accident, so he served his time in the home guard. He would laughingly tell you that he was the only one without a uniform hat, because they could not get one to fit him. Life was never without embarrassment with my father. Several times he ran foul of the law with silly pranks.  One was driving his motor cycle while sitting backwards on it through the village, just to prove that he could. Another was when he attempted to solve a dispute between two village youths who were fighting, by arranging a proper boxing match on the bowling green behind the village pub. This he did without getting a license to hold such a match, and secondly the local men were taking bets on the outcome of it.

After the birth of my sister, he was the only man in England with half a moustache, as he was obliged to shave half of it off because of  a bet he had with another local man whose wife had managed to produce a son. This had been the object of the bet - a son. My poor sister had to live the first couple of years of her life known as Billy Burrows.

Fillongley Parish Church  Dad's stone under big tree
Dad was always getting a group of 10 or more of the local children, me included and hiking them over the fields. He knew Fillongley like the back of his hand. The brooks that had the most sticklebacks, the names of all the wild flowers, the trees, the birds and where they nested (you were only allowed to look, never to touch), where to find chestnuts, hazelnuts, cobnuts, wild strawberries. In fact, on one occasion my mother was amazed to find a small local lad at the door asking if Mr. Burrows could come out to play.

Heather Parish Church, UK
Life was never dull with my father. He could be unreasonable, opinionated, obstinate, but always loving. Whether these are Burrows traits or Rudin traits, I do not know but I am thankful for them. They have opened my own eyes to a world that is full of magic and color. Another thing my father taught me was the need to prove the basis of my argument, and argue we did, frequently. Once to prove a point I showed him that according to my encyclopedia, I was right. His response “They’ve printed it wrong”.
You could never expect Dad to back down. The only person I ever witnessed who was able to do this was his mother Alice. On one occasion when I was about 8 I ran away from home. My mother had given the last sweet to my sister and I was upset. So up to Grandma Burrows I go. Now this was about a mile away. My parents must have been
Lincoln City
frantic. By the time they had searched the neighborhood and finally thought of Crossways cottages,. I was all snuggled up with Gran in the front bedroom.  When the knock came at the door, Gran opened the bedroom window, told Dad they should have more...........sense and to clear off till morning.  My champion.  Dad meekly trudged off and I was returned the next day with a mild ticking off.
Dad always found causes like raffles to help some unfortunate girl who had found herself in a predicament, or dictating letters that I had to write supporting the character of one of his workmates to had run into a spot of bother. Even after he had retired he took under his wing two male neighbors. Getting their coal in, lighting their fires, fetching their newspapers and bread, sitting a playing dominoes with them  Once they passed away, Dad seemed to go into a decline. My wonderful sister Jenny  supported my mother in his care and there were many difficult years for her and my mother who may I say, must be the one woman that I admire most in all the world.
I had gone over to the UK to be there for Mum and Dads Diamond wedding Although Dad was not well, he was aware of  the day and joined in the celebrations. . I came back to NZ knowing that he was getting worse and six weeks after getting back here my sister phoned to say that she thought I should be there. Six hours after her call I was on my way.
Dad was in hospital in Nuneaton. He seemed alert, so much so that he recited a list of all the people who had lived in Woodend, Crossways cottages and the number of the house that each of them lived in. Cousin Pauline Aunty Gladys’ daughter was an attendant at the hospital so she visited him frequently too. As sick as he was, he would hold the floor, relating all the goings on in the ward and making us all laugh. But he wanted to go home to Fillongley.  The doctors were against it, but as usual Dad persisted.  So home he went.
Blue Bell Woods near Fillongley,UK
With the magnificent help of all the services put into place by the British Health system, Dad was able to spend the next couple of weeks in his own home surrounded by family, to be part of the everyday life that went on there. He was contented and when he finally passed over,  he was far from alone. The doctor who came later said “It was dignified”.
Mind you, Dad still had a joke up his sleeve. He failed to appear for his own funeral at the expected time.  They had to bring him from the funeral home in Bedworth , to his home in Fillongley, and then to the Fillongley Church.  We were all in a dilemma and kept pacing up and down the path looking out for him. When he finally arrived nearly an  hour late, we discovered that there had been a gas explosion in a road in Bedworth and that they had had to make a massive detour around Nuneaton that  would also have taken him past Crossways cottages into Fillongley and naturally, past them again on the way back from the church to the crematorium in Nuneaton.  Typical.

Gladys Burrows & brother, Ernest C. Burrows
I feel privileged to have been part of this family. Ordinary folk, living ordinary lives, but facing extraordinary obstacles with fortitude and good humor. It has stood me in good stead for my own life, which I will not go into right now - it would be too much to digest at one sitting.
Kindest regards to all our Burrows descendants in the USA
  Cousin Dawn

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