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Elsie's Autographs

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elsie_rnh_sepia.jpg

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.

Elsie 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 release!"

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,
John Noble's firm is sure to please,
no matter 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 Noble!"

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,
here in the room;
Let the single get married,
without delay,
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
Charles Arthur Frederick ROSS - 30 Jun 1909
Grace 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 herself.

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,
"much 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

Cecil 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."

There are some poems about Ventnor which go hand in hand with her liaison with Cecil. They suggest that Elsie, already having moved from Hull, to Shrewsbury, and then to Southampton in her short life, saw Ventnor as rather quaint and countryfied!

The following information was accompanied by coats of arms torn from headed paper and the back of a matchbox/cigarette box (?). As it happens, it is a valuable piece of family information on her brothers that she could have so easily not written about:

"Reginald Arthur Victor Grigg (25 years)
Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt 1919-1921
India 'Deccan' 1921-1926
Retired from army aged 24 years
7th Dragoon Guards (Princess Royal's) 1919-1926"

"William James Henry Grigg (23 years)
Sailed to India from BAOR Germany
On the Printz Ludwig for 2 years
arrived on Huntsend
2nd Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
(Coat of Arms One and All)"

Ironically, Elsie died at Netley Hospital in 1979, returning to the place where she had worked in 1926.

from Elsie's Autograph Book circa 1926 - 1928
*updated Sep 2008:SMW

Page Surname Forenames Date Place
80  'Basil' Jul-27 RNH
44/45 E E K Dec-26 RNH Block 8
43 F K D 30-Nov-26 (Fenchurch Street - London)
22  'George' (Derby)
24 K M A 1926 RNH
53/54  'Les' 1927 RNH
87  'Lydia' 1926
27 M A Cl----d 02-Jan-27 RNH
25 M D S RNH
87 M J B RNH
31 M M L 1926 RNH
29  'Maud' RNH
35  'William' 1927 RNH
38 Arnold Nancy Sylvia 02-Nov-29 Ventnor
18/70/72 Arnold Reginald James Ventnor
30 Boyce George
46/47 Brown Maurice J 22-Nov-26 RNH
8 Brown Miss K (Chelsea Mansions - London)
11 Bull Betty A 08-Dec-26 RNH Nurse
36 Card B L 03-Nov-26 RNH
60 Clatworthy Seymour W 30-Apr-27 RNH Block 8 (Dec-26 to May-27)
84 Cottingham F W RNH Block 8 (Haywards Heath - Sussex)
76/77/82/83 Doe A B RNH
74 Dord Wally 07-Nov-26 RNH
59 Drane S A Dec-26 RNH
61 England C A 30-Nov-26 RNH Nurse
26/73 Fawcett PC David 18-Nov-31 (West Street - Ventnor) (born in Grimsby)
6 Fitzpatrick Ellen Ventnor
86 Flack George 16-Feb-27 RNH
51 Fogerty Beatrice V 01-Nov-26 RNH
71 Gecjehin G M 1927 RNH
9/49/85 Hamel 02-Jan-27 RNH Nurse (Ba Lanli)
21 Heaton C A RNH (125 Yates Street - Derby)
4 Higgs E W 10-Dec-26 RNH Block 8
10 Howard Reg 1927 RNH
42 Kline George J 26-Nov-26 RNH
19 Lancom Frankie 04-Jan-27 RNH Block 8
63/64 Mayo Cecil A Sep-26 RNH
48/50 Neal M G 1928 (Netley Abbey)
2 Noble John (Ltd) (Brook Street - Manchester)
23 Oldham Denis 17-Dec-26 RNH Block 7 (died 15-Jan-27)
3 Parsley L G 03-Nov-26 RNH (Cambs)
41 Ritchie D J 'Dudley' 05-Nov-26 RNH
14 Ross Bernard Richard Llewellyn 1931 (Netley Abbey)
14 Ross Charles Arthur Frederick 1931 (Netley Abbey)
14 Ross Eric Louie Genge 1931 (Netley Abbey)
14 Ross Frances Henrietta Cicely (Mrs) 1931 (Netley Abbey)
14 Ross Grace Elizabeth Mary 1931 (Netley Abbey)
14 Ross Henry Genge (Mr) 1931 (Netley Abbey)
14 Ross John Leslie McKenzie 1931 (Netley Abbey)
14 Ross Robin Henry Samuel 1931 (Netley Abbey)
16 Rush V RNH
34 Taylor Mary RNH
37/39 Thodgkinson Nov-26 RNH
33 Tilbury L F 'Leslie' 29-Jan-27 RNH
13 Warnes C A Nov-26
15 West Raymond RNH (Burton-on-Trent)
67/68 Whittington C F 'Cyril' Nov-26 RNH
7 Willford K Reg 16-Mar-27 Ventnor
55 Williams  'Nora' 1927 RNH Nurse
5 Wilson F L 03-Nov-26 RNH
78 Yaward Reg 1927 RNH