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THE FAMILY OF HAROLD MURRAY  Harold was a bit of a lad. Perhaps it was because he was the only growing boy in a family of girls. He may have been a bit too self-confident, knowing that he was the heir to his father’s successful business in Manchester, but he developed an easy going way, a generous heart and a big sense of humour.   Three stories are remembered about his youth. 1. Like a young Nicholas Nickleby, he objected to canings in school and ended up thrashing his schoolmaster. Harold was expelled in disgrace from a private boy’s day school in Southport, and his father decided to keep a close eye on him. So, at the age of sixteen, he started to train as a gentleman’s tailor, travelling by train each morning from St. Luke’s station to Manchester, and doing the ten-minute walk to the shop in Piccadilly. 2. Harold bought a bicycle and became a keen cyclist at the turn of the century. One summer he had a bet with a friend that he could cycle to France and back in a week. Around 1900 that was a big challenge, but Harold decided to make a spectacle of it.  A photographer turned up on the day he left home, and a photograph was printed in the Southport Visitor under a caption “Local boy cycling to Paris.” Harold won his bet and was back at work in seven days time.  It was his first trip abroad and regarded as a great adventure. 3.Despite the fact that Harold was definitely one of the boys, he had a kindly streak, and took interest in May Travis, a lame girl who wore an iron on her leg and hobbled along to keep up with her energetic brothers Will and Frank Travis on Sunday School outings. Harold and May were friends from childhood days and stayed as such throughout their lives. Harold Murray and May Travis were married on 22 May, 1907 and a big reception was held at their large family home in Ash Street, where all the families and friends gathered. When James Murray died in 1911, Harold inherited not only the tailoring business, but also his father’s two streets of little houses in Chortton-on-Medlock. He collected the rents each week, and although they were poor properties, always kept them in good order.He was regarded as a kindly landlord, often prepared to give people time to pay their rentand ready with a gift for the children when they had birthdays. He kept a strict eye on the behavior of his tenants, however, and would not tolerate drunks or those who got involved in brawls. Harold developed his property business and eventually this brought in more money than the tailoring. He acquired some blocks of flats, but in order to ensure that he maintained them well, with good working tenants, he let one of the flats to a woman who kept an eye on things and let him know if there was any trouble brewing. If Harold was ill, his brother-in-law Stanley Harrower would collect the rents for him. Stanley remarked on how concerned the tenants were for Harold’s welfare, whenever he was not well.. He said that they all spoke well of him, and this was encouraging, for these were poor folk, living in little Coronation Street type houses. Harold and May had two daughters, Margaret (always called Peggy) and Jean. Peggy was a chubby, friendly, dark haired girl, with a great sense of humour and very laid back –unflappable in fact. Jean was much more emotional and highly-strung. She was slim and fair and grew into quite a beautiful a young woman. They both attended ballet classes as children. Peggy retained an interest in ballet all her life, although it was Jean who was the more elegant dancer. As the railway networks expanded and suburban stations were built jn rural areas. Many business people began to move out of Manchester into the surrounding coutryside, In the 1920’s Harold and May had a large detached house built in the growing district if Heaton Moor between Manchester and Stockport. It stood in Parsonage Rd, and they called it “Oak Gates”. There was a stable in the garden, and they acquired a pony and trap, which May used to drive to the shops and sometimes to Stockport street market to buy fresh vegetables. Their pony “Beauty” was a great favourite with the children. Later, Harold bought a motor car, but the trap remained the favourite transport for May, who loved to drive it around the county lanes in the summer. The girls attended Fylde Lodge Girls High School; in Heaton Moor. When they left they both went to The Manchester School of Art, as they showed an inclination for this type of work. Jobs in this field were not plentiful though, so Harold was prompted to set up another business, which he ran alongside his other enterprises and called “Murraycraft”. The girls hand-painted lampshades, magazine covers and boxes depicting regency period ladies and gentlemen in rural surroundings, and Harold developed a network of sales outlets in shops around the area. Harold sold the tailoring business, and concentrated mainly on his property dealings. Some of this property had been left to his unmarried sisters, Clare and Ethel, and Harold was always scrupulous to look after their interests. On 15 May 1937 Peggy married William Hodson (Bill) at St. Paul’s Church, Heaton Moor. Bill had been a fellow art student and was now a school teacher in Fleetwood. where they set up home. Shortly after the wedding, Harold, May and Jean moved to a smaller house, which he designed himself to be suited to the needs of the family. Called “Greenridge”, it was a semi-bungalow built in the fashionable arts and crafts style. All the living rooms were on the ground floor, which was for convenient for May, who could not climb stairs without great discomfort. The loft area above, however, contained a large art studio and a visitor’s bedroom, with dormer windows overlooking a grassed garden and orchard. An unusual feature was the underground garden-shed hidden beneath a green mound. This came in very useful after the war broke out, when it was converted easily into the family air-raid shelter. In 1938 Jean married Gustav Daniels, a company accountant, who worked for a manufacturing company in Uttoxeter, near Derby. They established a home in Mickleover. The following year, the second World War broke out. The Manchester Blitz brought devastation to the city centre, but Murray House survived and so did all the little houses. Harold’s sister Elsie and her family were worried by the bombing in Burnage, and after one terrible night, when a house in a neighbouring street was destroyed, I recall Gus and Jean calling round to see if ours was still intact.. My parents decided to try to move to a safer place, but no suitable one seemed available. There was no bombing in Heaton Moor, as there were no military sites near there, so Harold said he would look out for a property nearby. A sudden opportunity house occurred at the next door to “Greenridge”. The woman who owned it died, and the family who inherited it decided to sell, but the market was flat and Harold bought it for the absurdly low price of £500, at an auction where he was the only bidder. No one had been able to go inside the rather shabby old property because the tenants living there, did not want to move and would not let anyone in to look, but Harold knew the house. It had been soundly built and only needed redecorating, and a bit of modernization. He did one of his kindly acts, and sold the house to my parents for the price he had paid, so brother and sister became next-door neighbours in 1941. By then, Bill was an sergeant in the Education Corps, and had sold the house in  Fleetwood. Peggy was living with her parents again, but Jean’s husband Gus had not passed the medical examination, so they were still living near Derby. One wonderful day, I remember Harold calling over the fence to give us the great news that the Americans had joined the war. Eighteen months later he was well aware of the fact , for two of them were billeted at “Greenridge”. Sgt Mac was a big friendly guy, who took Peggy out to the pictures, and was always happy to chat to anyone who was around. Sgt. Cairns was a reserved individual, who we never got to really know. They both moved on a few days before “D Day”, when the invasion of Normandy started. We all watched the progress of the war closely after the allied landings. There were maps of France and Germany on the wall and pins showing the positions of the opposing armies, but the war came home to us with a vengeance one Saturday afternoon, when the news broke about a terrible explosion at Uttoxeter. A policeman knocked at Jean’s door to tell her that her husband was missing, and a few days later, it was Harold who had the grim task of identifying the bodily remains. An ammunition dump had accidentally exploded on a Saturday morning, creating a great crater and wide area of devastation. The building where Gus worked was completely destroyed. The tragic thing was that he would not normally have been there on a Saturday, but was doing voluntary overtime that day. Jean came back home to live with her parents. Her life seemed to have closed down and tragically she never really recovered her old composure and self confidence. Bill came home at the end of the war, obtained a teaching post, and later became a lecturer in Art at Salford Technical College. But Bill was an epileptic, suffering from controlled bouts of “grand mal” and the changes of them having a healthy child of their own seemed remote. In 1946 they adopted a baby girl called Jennifer. Peggy remembered meeting the mother briefly before the handover. She was in the WRENS, and the child’s father was undisclosed. Continuing with his enterprising ways, Harold had a house built for them in Northendon, another one in the Arts and Crafts style. Rumour had it that Bill felt a little patronized, but could hardly object to this generous gift at a time when money was short. Harold helped another family member. His cousin, Evelyn Tear’s son, Ronald, had served in the Royal Artillery being involved in the Libya campaign and later with the British 1st Army in Italy. He had started an apprenticeship as a printer before he had been called up, but when Rome fell, the army took over an Italian newspaper press and started to publish its own paper. A call went out for printers and Ronald was quick to respond. He completed his apprenticeship in this post. When he was de-mobbed, he came home to face disaster. His young wife, who he had married hastily on embarkation leave, was living with another man. Harold befriended him and provided a small printing works, so that Ronald and another printer friend could set themselves up in a small way. Throughout the war Helena had kept in touch with the family, and it was Harold who paid the fare for her to come back into the family fold. Her paid for her passage to England, and met her with May and Edith off her ship, when it docked in Southampton. Generosity should have been Harold’s second name, but he could, sometimes, make the mistake of playing “Father Christmas” a little too frequently. It sometimes caused a little resentment. In his old age, he was devoted to his granddaughter, Jennifer, paying for her private schooling and buying her a car for her eighteenth birthday. On 22 May, 1957, Harold and May entertained all the family to their Golden Wedding Celebration held at “Greenridge”. Our last glimpse of a happy, united family was on that summer afternoon. The next few years saw a sad deterioration. Harold began to suffer from dementia, and eventually his business affairs were transferred to his daughters, and finally sold. Harold died in the early 1970’s and May a few months later. Jennifer grew into a pretty, engaging but light-hearted girl. She married a second cousin, Geoffrey Crighton, who was a town planner. (Geoffrey was the grandson of Harold’s mother’s sister, Louisa.)  There were two children, Jane and James, but sadly the marriage did not last. After the divorce, Geoffrey married again to Angela Simpkins, but Jenny did not discipline herself, became a recluse at her home in Woburn Sands, and died there in 2002. By then her parents, and her aunt Jean had all died, and so the story of this branch of the Murray family was closed, but a building in Piccadilly, Manchester, still carries the name of Murray House.                                       ------------------------------------------------
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