This photograph is the only known entire family group of Richard and Jane and their four children. Their youngest son William is next to my grandmother, and the eldest son Tom is over on the far right. Richard and Jane had nine children, but infant mortality was particularly high in the South Wales Valleys during the Victorian era, and only these four survived to adulthood. They look proud of their family, and so they should be, because only a generation or so before their families were illiterate, itinerant labourers, who marked a cross for their names. Richard, who had been a collier himself as a young man, ended up with his own small butcher shop, and he and Jane between them produced two teachers - my Nan and her brother Tom, who actually ended up a Headmaster.The other brother William was an accountant. Mary, a real character, wasn’t very taken with learning, and was happy to leave school at eleven, but she was literate and numerate and had her own little shop in Trecynon, Aberdare. The lady seated beside Richard and Jane is Tom’s wife and the mother of their first three grandchildren. The pretty young girl standing next to Tom in the back row is his eldest daughter, who was sadly to die of appendicitis very shortly.
The picture has numerous stories to tell and I am so glad that my own son Tom took the time to sit down with my mother, (not yet born at the time it was taken) and get her to accurately name everyone in it. I calculate that the photograph was taken shortly after the First World War - perhaps as a reminder of how fortunate they had been to all come safely through it. I suspect the picture was taken by my grandfather - also called Martin like myself, who was a keen amateur photographer and who would have already been courting my Nan by this time. What I particularly love about the photograph is how relaxed and happy everyone looks - unusual for the rather stuffy group portraits more generally seen from this era. Another thing that makes it unusual is that it was taken outdoors in beautiful natural sunlight - most photographs from those times were shot inside against a studio backdrop.
Last weekend my wife Judith and I went for a long weekend to Cardiff. We met up with two descendants of Richard and Jane, themselves great-grandchildren like me. It was exciting and a little strange because I hadn’t seen them since I was ten or eleven. They are the children of the small boy in the sailor suit in the foreground. Like myself they were born several decades after both our great-grandparents had passed away.
When I do a quick calculation I reckon there are now something like twenty-four people currently alive who are directly descended from Richard and Jane.