Artisans in Industrial Scotland

Jenny Blain.
Copyright © J. Blain 1988, 2005
I My mother's family
  1. Janet Lynch, her parents and siblings and their home life
  2. The Pendleburys and Fishers
  3. The Lynch family
Return to table of contents for further sections.

I My mother's family

Janet Lynch, her parents and siblings and their home life

([Ed note: this section is split in two parts for web presentation: Parents and siblings, and everyday life.]
Parents and siblings:

My parents were born in West-Central Scotland in the early years of this [Ed note: the 20th] century, my father in Gourock, in 1903, my mother in Glasgow in 1905. The circumstances into which they were born were rather different.

My mother's father was Thomas Lynch, described on his marriage record, in 1891, as 'weaving factory warehousemen' (NRH), later apparently a 'tenter' or skilled engineer in a cotton mill in the East End of Glasgow (JPB). On my mother's birth certificate he is listed as 'mercantile clerk': when the cotton mill closed during a depression, Thomas Lynch went to work for William Beardmore's Parkhead Forge, possibly the biggest employer in the East End of Glasgow. He was hired as a cashier, and rapidly became department head, being highly numerate and literate in an age when few people were. My grandmother, born Margaret Pendlebury, was a steam-loom weaver at the time of her marriage. If she continued this work after marriage it would not be for long. My mother was the seventh child of nine, all of whom survived, both parents being aged 35 at the time of her birth. (See Fig 3 for details of this family). [Ed note: tables and illustrations forthcoming later.]

My mother, born Janet Pendlebury Lynch, describes her parents' house as continually open to relatives, friends and acquaintances. Shortly after my mother's birth, the family moved to a largish (for place and period) house in Parkhead. Later they moved to a smaller, four-room flat in Armadale St., Dennistoun, and soon after this move the family size began to be reduced by marriages of the elder children. My grandmother Margaret ran the household, coping with all eventualities, organising food, clothes and children, and still managing to participate in discussion and in music-making. Both she and Thomas were musical, and the Dennistoun flat contained a piano and an organ, my mother learning to play both as a young child. Music and political discussion were common in that household. My grandparents were Labour supporters though not very active ones: my grandmother was however active in the cooperative movement, particularly in the Women's Cooperative Guild, latterly on the organising committee of the Glasgow Eastern branch.

The family's standard of living must have been somewhat above that of most in the East End of Glasgow. My grandmother's household management skills were important here, and my grandfather's wage as chief cashier would be around 'four pound a week when most people had thirty shillings' (JPB). The family ate some meat or fish every day, and were able to provide food for the stream of relatives and visitors calling at the house. Prior to my grandfather's brief period of unemployment, my grandmother had been for some time shopping at the cooperative store, letting the dividends accumulate as a form of savings. When the cotton mill closed, the family had these monetary resources.

In general, the Lynch children attended school until the age of 14 or 15. The eldest, Thomas, won a gold medal awarded by the Glasgow School Board to the 'top boy' in all Glasgow schools, thus occasioning a newspaper headline, Schoolboy wins Gold Medal for second time! as it had been previously won by his father Thomas as a schoolboy at Camlachie school. All four boys went to work in Parkhead Forge, three of them, Thomas, John and George, attending night classes at technical college. Thomas became a draftsman, rising to second draftsman in Parkhead Forge and also himself teaching night classes before leaving to take a job as an engineer with a new steelworks, the Barrow Haematite Company, in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire. He became manager, then general manager of the entire steelworks, before being injured in a traffic accident which led to his death, aged 48, in the early 1940s (JPB). He married some years before leaving Glasgow.

John the second son was according to my mother

a fine chemist. Glasgow Corporation built him a laboratory in which to carry out his experiments on top of Transport House
He became second chemist in Beardmore's, taught classes there, and had hoped to become first chemist, but 'reconstruction' of the firm intervened and in my mother's words, 'all the higher-paid people were paid off'. He was employed for a while with Alexander's bus company, but again lost his job owing to an amalgamation with another firm, who had their own chemist. At this point an acquaintance spoke to Glasgow Corporation, pointing out that John Lynch's skill should not be lost to Glasgow, and the laboratory was built for him, where he worked until his death in the late 1950s. The fourth son, George, became an engineer in Beardmore's, then moved to Pitch Lake in the West Indies: a firm there had apparently applied to Beardmore's for a recommendation of an engineer. During World War II, while involved in engineering work for the war, he died of pneumonia. He married in Glasgow, during the 1930s (JPB).

Donald, the third son, had some kind of disability, possibly as a result of childhood injury. My mother said she

never liked to ask my mother about it, but he never did anything academic like the others.
He served an engineering apprenticeship a Beardmore's and must have been employed there for some time (JPB). I do not have details of his later employment.

The Lynch daughters also left school at around 15;

in those days that's when you left school, 14 or 15 (JPB)
Like the boys, the elder girls did well at school, as did my mother, winning prizes: about the younger girls, Mary and Ina, I have little information. Marion left school to help her mother at home, at a time when her mother was unwell. She also did office work for a time, and during World War I became part of the 'was effort', making munitions and earning more than office workers could,
but my mother began to get worried because she saw her skin going yellow and her hair getting greasy, and decided that was enough, so she stopped and came home and just helped my mother in the house after that (JPB) [1]
Marion however had some dressmaking training, provided by a friend who taught dressmaking, which would supplement skills acquired from Margaret Lynch, and may have worked at this trade for a time until her marriage to Jimmy Robertson, manager of the Clydebank Labour Exchange. They were given a corporation house in Clydeband, to be near the exchange, and in later years several other memhers of the family lived with or near Marion and Jimmy, Marion appearing to take over Margaret Lynch's role as the central figure in the family. I have memories of visiting this house as a child.

Peggy did office work, studying shorthand and typing at night school. She worked first for 'Carsons the chocolate people' (JPB), later for Parkhead Forge where she was quite often her father's typist and also undertook telephoning duties for him. She probably stopped work on her marriage to Bobby Alexander, a well-known footballer whose loss of an arm in an accident had caused his early retirement. After her marriage, Peggy lived in a Dennistoun flat fairly close to her mother's, and I can remember visiting her there as a small child.

Janet, my mother, the third daughter, worked as a reporter for two Glasgow papers, first the small Argus, then the larger Glasgow Eastern Standard. She had left school at 15, at a time when she was unwell and her mother was following medical instruction to let her 'run wild'. She did continue her education through the cooperative movement and its 'Comrades' Circle', eventually winning a cooperative movement scholarship to a summer school at Oxford University. I shall return later [Ed. in the original paper] to a consideration of her work, marriage, and children.

Mary, the fourth daughter, two years younger than my mother, stayed with her parents until their deaths, as did her brother John. She had some training in hairdressing, possibly acquired from a friend, but may never have practiced this. Later she worked for the Singer Sewing Machine Co., although in what capacity is unclear. In her late 30s she married one Alec Miller, who had been previously married and divorced, and they lived in a house in Armadale St, along with her brother John. Miller apparently started drinking heavily, Mary became very thin (my mother believes she may have been beaten) and John felt unable to interfere, although my mother's phrasing of this episode carried the suggestion that Miller was partly living off John's salary. Marion however did intervene: it is her account of the situation, as told to my mother, that is used here.

Marion said, 'I was frightened Mary was going to die, she was so thin.' (She) said to them, 'Look, take all your belongings, pack his clothes and leave them outside the door and let him know where he'll find them, have all the doors locked, just see he's no keys or anything like that, and you two come and stay'. (JPB)
From then on Mary and John lived in the Clydebank house with their sister and her husband. As a young child in the 1950s, visiting the house, I knew there was some particular reason for them to bet here, but always felt I shouldn't ask about it.

The youngest Lynch child, Ina (Thomasina), married Cecil McMichael when fairly young. I have no information about her work prior to or after marriage.


[1] Yellowing skin was a common complaint among munitions workers filling shells with ingredients including sulphur.

Go to section on Everyday Life
Return to table of contents.