Monday, 21 February 2011

Mrs. Bowden and my Nanny

“Nanny” Povey was the  mother of my Dad, Henry John “Jack” Povey.  

Her husband (my paternal grandfather) was Henry George, (or George Henry) Povey.  He was a plumber and gas fitter who ran his business from 12, Robertson Road, Eastville, Bristol.

I never knew Grandfather Povey who died in 1939.  He was riding a bicycle on Church Road, Redfield, Bristol and was hit by a car, sustaining injuries from which he died.  Only my oldest sister Maureen has any memories of him.

“Nanny” had been born in Easton, Bristol. (U.K.)  Her birth name was Sarah Bennett.  Her own father had been a coal miner, back in the days when there were open cast coal mines in the Easton district of Bristol.

As a wee lad I was confused since my nanny was known as “Sally”.  I knew that her given name was Sarah, but I did not know that Sally is a diminutive of Sarah.  I thought that her name was “Sally Sarah“.

Nanny Povey told me that as a young girl she had seen Queen Victoria as the aged Queen  drove in procession through Bristol. 

Nanny had been given a sticky bun and a penny that day  (or so I remember her saying).

My best guess is that this happened during the celebrations for Victoria’s 60th anniversary as Queen.  That would have been in 1897, leading me to believe that Nanny had been born in the late 1880’s.  That makes sense since my Dad was born in 1911.

Thus my Nanny was comparatively young when she was widowed in 1939.  Widowhood led her into comparative destitution, and into great loneliness.  Her one and only child (my dad) was already married by then.

By the time that my memories had begun to form, Nanny was a friend of another woman, Mrs. Bowden.

Mrs. Bowden was a leader at the “Spiritualist Church”  which had a meeting room on Grosvenor St, off Lower Ashley Rd in the Montpelier/St. Paul’s district of Bristol. Nanny would attend various séances, in the hope that her deceased husband would communicate with her.

By this time my Dad and Mum had been “born again”.  As far as they were concerned, “Spiritualism” was beyond the pale.   

They were deeply concerned at Nanny’s involvement in the movement, and they thought that Mrs. Bowden was a very wicked woman.  I remember Dad saying  “there is nothing spiritual about her Church, they are “spiritists”, not “spiritualists”.

In due course Nanny accepted Jesus and gave up spiritualism .  I suspect that my parents badgered into this.

Nanny (she was so beloved to me) died in about 1960.

Since she had been “born again” her funeral was held at our Gospel Hall.  Her remains were buried next to her husband at the Greenbank Cemetery in Bristol. 

Her internment was on a very rainy day.  As was the custom, there were long sermons, both at the Gospel Hall, and at the cemetery.  A Plymouth Brethren Elder - Ernie Cox - preached incessantly at the graveside.  We were trying to shelter from the rain under our umbrellas. I was aged 15 or 16 and I remember that I wanted him to shut up.  It was all too much.

Lord knows why, but Mrs. Bowden’s name came into my mind earlier today  (Feb 21st 2011). 

The remembering of her name triggered  all these memories of Nanny Povey.

It’s all too late but I wish that my parents had not been so judgmental about Nanny and her involvement with Mrs. Bowden and the Spiritualists.

They were not evil people who dabbled with spirits.  They were simply a group of lonely widows (many of whose husbands had died in World War II),  who hung on to each other for comfort and support.


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