These notes are transcripts of a series of conversations that I had with my mother in law, Eileen Hogan, whilst in France in the summer of 2016.
Here are two of the audio files from the original conversations:
My father, John Joseph Ennis was born in Ireland 1904 and lived in County Kildare. After my father’s mother had died, he came over to England aged about six in about 1910 with his father, Patrick and the three children. I don’t know the reasons why they moved.
My grandfather Patrick worked on a farm in Leicestershire somewhere. A lady looked after the children and my grandfather later married her and they had another child Michael. When she died my grandfather married again and they had a child, so my father had three siblings and two half siblings, with some years between them all. The last wife outlived my grandfather. My father never seemed to want to talk about his family, so I don’t know if there were things he knew that he didn’t want to disclose, or whether he just didn’t know.
At some point my grandfather moved to Lancashire, I don’t know for what reason. He had a nice bungalow just outside Southport, where he bred Airdale Terriers. After he died we didn’t have much contact with Michael, although Tony got in touch with him many years later.
My father trained as a plumber in St Helens and where he met my mother. At some point they ran a shop, which may have been connected with plumbing.
Tony was born whilst they were up north, but I am not sure if Brian was as they moved down south to Kent, between Folkstone and Dover although I don’t know what his job was, but they moved where the work was which was probably plumbing.
From there they moved to Dunstable in Bedfordshire where I was born on August 1st 1937. When I was eighteen months old in 1939, they moved to Luton, where he started his own plumbing and electrical business. They lived there for ten years until 1949 when they moved to Kenya.
My mother Christine struggled quite often with the constant moving. She was from a close family, the eldest of four girls – her siblings being Marjorie, Dorothy and Marie. Her sister Marjorie and her husband Joe had moved down from St Helens to Luton to live near my mother and father so Marjorie and my mother were very close. Unfortunately Marjorie died from septicaemia when she had her first child (also called Marjorie), which was devastating for my mother. Her husband Joe was devastated at the lost of his wife and wasn’t sure he could cope with a new baby. My father asked Joe if he could adopt the baby girl (I hadn’t been born then), but Joe said he would prefer his sister to look after her, which is a pity as she didn’t have a very happy upbringing. When my father came over from Canada in 1983 for Pete and Donna’s wedding he was determined to find the child (Marjorie), and went through all the phone directories until he found her and went to visit her.
My father got the job in Kenya through the Markham family who owned a big estate and had a business in mining, the Markham Main Colliery in Armthorpe, on the eastern edge of Doncaster.
My father had originally been given the job by Mansfield Markham of modernising the plumbing in the bathrooms of the big house at the estate. Mansfield’s brother, Sir Charles Markham had came over from Kenya on leave and wanted to open up a Kyanite mine. (Kyanite is a rock that can withstand very high temperatures which they were using to make bricks for use in kilns. Kenyan ‘Tsavorite’ are brilliant green gemstones from deposits near Kenya’s famous Tsavo National Park.).
Sir Charles mentioned the proposed mine to my father and asked if he would be interested in a job in Kenya, even though it was mining, not plumbing. I think he saw someone in my father who could turn his hand to anything.