My grandmother, Elsie Vera May GRIGG kept an autograph
book between the years 1926/1928. She was an auxhillary nurse at Netley Hospital, Hampshire, and later also at the Royal National
Hospital, Ventnor, Isle of Wight. In the photo above, Elsie is with fellow
colleagues at the RNH circa 1927, with Elsie on the extreme right. The majority of the book is made up of
scribblings from patients in her care at the RNH; but it also includes some intriguing pieces.
Elsie's father died
when she was just four years old in 1911. Her mother found herself alone in Shrewsbury, Salop with four children
- the youngest being born on the day that Elsie's father had died. I imagine Elsie's mother's first aim was to travel back
down south to her family. Perhaps things in London were not too good, as she then made the hard decision to give
up her two eldest children, Reginald, 8 years, and William, 6 years. They were both sent to Percy House School, Isleworth.
After 1915 the school was closed and the boys went on to Military Schools, and on 15 Jan 1919 they both joined the regular
Army. A family story suggests that Elsie's mother found work in Southampton as a Nurse circa 1912, and presumably Elsie
followed suit as soon as she was able, about 1919.
worked at Netley Hospital around 1926, where she seems to have started her autograph book. She then made the crossing
to the Isle of Wight and got a job as an Auxiliary Nurse for the Royal National Hospital, Ventnor, in blocks 7 and/or 8. Before
leaving she filled the remaining pages in her autograph book with rhymes and illustrations by the patients, nurses and doctors
of the RNH creating a humorous window on life in the hospital, which it must have been far from on occasion.
On the front of her autograph book Elsie calls herself
Elsie Vera 'Veronica' May Grigg. She was around 19 years old when she
started the book. On the back cover she has a poem written in 1928:
"The glow of dawn for glory,
The hush of the night for peace
In the garden, at eve, says the story,
God walks, and his smile brings
This next one, on one of the first pages in the book
seems to be from an advertisement by John Noble Ltd of Brook Street, Manchester; perhaps indicating a trip to Manchester by
Elsie prior to 1926. It obviously caught her eye:
"In Queen Victoria's golden reign,
when ladies wore long tresses,
They came to Noble's with a swish,
and bought their Sunday dresses,
And even today when locks are shorn,
and knees appear in fashion,
Noble's firm is sure to please,
what your passion
Though long or short, though
thick or thin,
though round, oblong or oval,
Well suit you with the greatest ease,
just tell the world we're
Another entry near the front of the book is a toast
from a wedding, of a Miss K Brown at Chelsea Mansions, London. Presumably Elsie attended this wedding in London and perhaps
Miss K Brown was a cousin. It is called 'A Toast from Mother':
"Here's health to the Bride
likewise, the Bridegroom,
Here's health to the company,
in the room;
Let the single get married,
Here's health to the couple
that's married to-day!"
When Elsie worked in Netley she recorded the names and
birthdays of the Ross family:
"Frances Henrietta Cicely ROSS (Mrs)
Henry Genge ROSS (Mr)
Robin Henry Samuel ROSS - 31 Jan 1906
Bernard Richard Llewellyn ROSS - 12 Feb 1907
Eric Louie Genge ROSS - 10 Feb 1908
Arthur Frederick ROSS - 30 Jun 1909
Elizabeth Mary ROSS - 12 Dec 1914
John Leslie McKenzie ROSS - 13 Oct 1916"
It is interesting to note that my father shares John's
birthday and has 'Genge' as a middle name!
Further on in the autograph book there is a scribbling
from a PC David Fawcett of West Street in Ventnor, a touching farewell to a pet cat, a limerick from Elsie's step father George
Boyce about a young girl of Kilkenny; and a drawing by Elsie of her siblings
Vera and Joan entitled 'Sewing Time'.
A lovely pen portrait of a girl with a twenties hairstyle
by a T Hodgkinson in Nov 1926, could possibly be of Elsie herself. Later on in the book she tries to copy it unsuccessfully
The following verse says
'love Nan, 2 Nov 1929' which probably means it was written by Reginald James Arnold's sister Nancy:
"Oh ! Let me kiss your hand" said Reggie,
with looks of burning love.
"I can remove my veil," said Elsie,
quicker than my glove."
Another scribbling, this time from a FKD on St Andrew's
Day 1926 in Fenchurch Street, London. There are also illustrations and poems from 1926, Netley Abbey, Hampshire by an MG Neal.
Who was he I wonder? His illustrations have the look of a professional illustrator about them.
A Nurse Hamel, of Ba
Lanli, on 1 Jan 1927 lets slip something that was later scribbled out. "Here's
to (Cecil A Mayo) and you dear! May all your troubles be little ones". I seem to have found the reference for his birth:
FreeBMD Births Mar 1903 Mayo Cecil Arthur Shaftesbury 5a 197
A Mayo seems to have been an old flame, that Elsie might almost have married; having met him some time before
her husband Reginald. I wonder, was he a doctor? A letter from her grandmother Elizabeth Harriet Grigg confirms
an engagement, but not the gentleman's name, and is dated 20th March 1928:
"My Dear Grandaughter, you must excuse me being so long
writing, your Aunt Gladys told me you wrote to her to tell her you were engaged. You must excuse her not writing to you, she
never writes to anyone, she has no time, she has another baby boy now, he was born 16th November. He is 4 months old, his
name is Norman Lawrence Derick Catton. I had a letter from your brother Willy on Monday. I am just answering that. I have
not heard from your mother since a long time before christmas, nor from Reggy, they have soon forgotten me you see! Your grandfather
has not done any work for 8 years, and we are old age pensioners, but I have managed to have saved up before we got so bad
off, but not a lot, so I thought I should like to go to Southampton to see your mother. I would not have gone if I could not
have paid well for all I had, and for me and your mother going out together, it cost me 6 pounds. It will be a long time before
I can save to go again. I am not able to walk very far now. I was 80 years old the 29 September, but I should love to see
the place where you are. Thanks for telling us we could be put up there. It would be lovely if we should be able to come.
I must now close. Trusting this will find you quite well. Believe us to remain, your ever affectionate Grandmother & Grandfather."