Friday, October 02, 2009

A Family Six Pack : Part 6 - Miriam Burnett

Miriam Burnett 1901 - 1987

The final installment in my Family Six Pack mini-series brings us to the young lady on the extreme right of the photograph : my Auntie Miriam. She would have been just sixteen years old when the photograph was taken and already working in one of the Bradford woollen mills. The truth is that I know little about her youth and early middle age : she lived at home until she married - and that wasn't until 1942 when she was 41 years old. Obviously - as with many couples at this time - she had a lengthy courtship with her future husband, Frank, as I have pictures of them together a good ten years before they got married. Equally - as with many couples at the time - they never had children.

Miriam and Frank were not conventional in everything they did. In the 1950s they left their native Bradford and set up home in Great Yarmouth a seaside resort close to the Norfolk Broads. They opened a boarding house which Miriam looked after whilst Frank worked in a radio factory. At some stage in the 1960s they moved back to Bradford but within a few years had returned to the south, this time to the new town of Basildon. 

Miriam's husband, Frank, was an eccentric character (even within our family which had more than its fair share). He was an early enthusiast of tape recorders and would spend hours recording the television adverts from the early years of commercial TV. Unfortunately his tapes were thrown away after his death which is a shame as I suspect they would be collectors pieces these days. He would also record an annual Christmas Message from himself and Miriam (and often Peggy the dog) which he would mail to us up in Yorkshire. On Christmas Day the family would gather at our house and it would be played just after the Queen's Christmas Day Message. One year poor Frank died and as these things happen it was between the time he recorded the annual message and the time it was played to the family. I have to admit that my eyes still fill up with tears - of laughter I am afraid - as I recall how we all sat around and heard him utter statements like "Greetings to you all from Frank who is far from home!"

After Frank died Miriam returned to live in Yorkshire. She had a small cottage in the village where we lived and she would patrol the streets with the latest in a whole succession of small rat-like dogs. She was famous for her Yorkshire bluntness and a voice that could carry from one side of the village to the other. Her cottage was near the village bus stop and my brother and I would go to considerable lengths to avoid her. My brother would always tell the story of how one day he got off the bus and, as usual, ducked under the wall to sneak passed her window. As he got further up the road towards our house and began to relax a voice boomed across the Yorkshire streets : "Oy Bugger Lugs, where do you think you're off to?"

This concludes the Family Six Pack Series. No doubt I will come up with some more family history posts before too long. 


  1. vary cool, though i am sad to see this come to an end. the annual christmas mmessage...thats really cool honestly. i imagine it would elicit fond memories and the last would be tough for sure. great series alan!

  2. Very interesting. I like the Christmas message. That would make me tear up too! I used to avoid my grandmother in the same way - like the plague! She was so embarrassing! Thanks for sharing your family stories! ;)

  3. Thanks for that story. I got a good laugh at the end. She and her husband were interesting characters to say the least. I have known so many people like her, that you like them but you do want to dodge them every once in awhile. Bugger Lugs is a great name, I have never heard before, but your description allowed me to relive it right now. You may hear me yelling that out loud just for the shear joy of it. Great writing as usual.... Do you ever wonder why I leeave dots afterwards. I really don't want to leave or even stop talking. Oh, well, must go.

  4. What a great series this has been--excellent in concept & execution. The "far from home" Christmas message is true dark humor!

  5. The Christmas Message was a classic. As we all sat around looking sad it was Miriam's sister Annie (See Part 1) who started the giggling. And once we had started, every phrase the late Frank said turned out to have a double meaning - "I may not get to you but hopefully some of you will come down here before next Christmas!". Within minutes the entire family were rolling about wiping away tears of laughter.

  6. Bugger Lugs. I like that.

    Wouldn't it be fun to listen to Frank's tapes today?

    I enjoyed this series from your family photo, Alan.

  7. Cute about the Christmas message. From afar, indeed! And I just read your additional comments about it here. Very cute. I think Frank would have wanted you to laugh, too.

    The photo of them dancing is very nice! They must have liked the south, having moved away and then back again.

    This was a wonderful series...thanks so much for sharing it! :)

  8. I loved meeting miriam and frank....yes what a wonderful series, I sure hope there is another six pack in the 'fridge' or maybe a case of burnett family stories. I love them!!

    I expect your miriam's frank would have been quite keen on the internet should he have lived so long.

    what is it with rat like dogs that so steal the hearts of old ladies!!

    not surprising miriam and frank didn't have any kids - geez miriam was 41 when she married, methinks it was healthy to stick with ratlike pups!!

  9. Wow I love reading about your family... and it is so amazing that you have these pictures! What a treasure. Your Auntie Miriam sounded like a lovely lady...

  10. Sad to see this series come to an end - dig out another photo, quick!

    As for Bugger Lugs, my previous partner used to call me that as a term of affection, although at the time I thought he was saying Buggalugs which was far more cute... Thanks for opening my eyes to that one..

    Loved meeting Miriam and Frank. And what a great idea to record a Christmas message (rather than send round a letter) - I am sure that Frank would have been smiling as you listened to his last message!

  11. Aww Frank's last Christmas message would have been a little strange I guess. It's been a lovey series Alan, even if you didn't have all the background. Hard working Yorkshire stock you come from!

  12. Anonymous3:25 AM

    I've got a couple of aunties we tried to avoid as kids( 'tis like they had a type of radar or something, ha! ) Enjoyed this series very much, Alan. Cheers and happy Sunday :)

  13. Greetings Mr Bugger Lugs! I Think I would Have Liked Frank.

  14. Anonymous11:03 AM

    I stumbled into News from Nowhere, Alan, and have been spellbound ever since. A great idea and good looks never hurts any blog and this is a great one.


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