2 Sep, 2020

Family notes …

On top of a bookcase, until recently, stood this:

Obviously it’s an accordion. I have known it all my life. It belonged to my father. He played it well. Memories of Christmases and other times when relatives would visit, are dear to me.

If anyone read my blog entry of 7 July they’ll remember how astonished I was when visiting Uncle Jack in Australia. He was my father’s half brother. My grandmother had died a few days after Dad was born; his father, grief-stricken, had emigrated to Australia leaving the baby, my father, in the care of his widowed sister. In New South Wales my grandfather married again and they had a son, Jack. My father never knew his own father, and by the time I visited Jack the two half-brothers had never met. Yet there was Uncle Jack, playing an instrument. Of all instruments to choose, it was an accordion. He also held his cigarette in exactly the same, rather unusual, way that my father did. It was a little unnerving, especially after Dad had died; Uncle Jack resembled him not only in looks but also in movements.

So this accordion has been with me all my life. I don’t play it but I have taken it down occasionally – actually about once every five years! – to check that it’s still intact. And indeed it is. Everything works and it makes a good sound.

Given my situation, recently I’ve been opening a few old boxes of “stuff” that have been stored away for decades. To my delight, among old papers, was the receipt for the accordion, and here it is:

What is fascinating is that my father, Walter, had used the surname of his aunt, the woman who looked after him when his father emigrated. She was Ellen Manning, and there on the paper is the name Manning. I remember he told me that for years she had wanted him to adopt her name rather than Peace, or combine them as Peace-Manning, but he’d refused: he stayed with Peace. And that’s what makes this, for me, rather interesting. If you look carefully – click on the image – you can see that for this purchase he added a P: Walter P Manning. That was never his name and now, more than 80 years on, there’s no way of knowing why he did it. Perhaps his aunt had given him the money and he was honouring her. Maybe there’s a more devious reason. Anyway it’s a tiny mystery that can’t be solved.

It’s not on my bookcase any more. Given my condition again, I’ve been looking for happy homes for a number of things. Dad’s accordion now has a perfect home. It’s with my godson Chris, who had already taken up the concertina. Couldn’t be better.

4 Comments

  1. It’s a lovely honour to hold this beautiful instrument, with its brilliant provenance! Another nugget I love is the little brown envelope, still uncrumpled from 1936, with neat pencil: “Son’s accordion bill”. I intend to play it each Christmas – even hopefully a (far simpler!) version of “Fugue For Peace” composed by another follower in this blog community..

    Reply
    • A lovely story David. Elizabeth’s family in Ireland have several good Accordionists and Concertina players. Some very enjoyable impromptu concerts with the obligatory glass of whiskey. According to the ONS £23 in 1936 equates to about £1600 in 2020. Its must have been a very exciting purchase for him.

      Reply
  2. Lovely story, David! I was thinking the same thing about the price of the accordion. It will have been a very expensive item in 1936. Most working men earned about two pounds a week so it approximates to almost a quarter of a year’s salary. I’m not even sure that the calculation says it all because the average working man lived very much hand to mouth and didn’t have disposable income in the way we think of it today. It must have been a valued treasure – and it’s wonderful that it still is!

    Reply
  3. That’s lovely David bit of family history too and to my notes for my 2 great-nephews

    Reply

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