1. Introducing Grandad

Charles Gordon Parkin

My grandfather, Charles Gordon Parkin, was born in Kirkby, Nottinghamshire on 1 December 1897.

Grandad’s birth certificate

A Note on Kirkby

The registration district in which grandad was born was Basford.  The town is referred to locally as “Kirkby”. This is pronounced with the second “k” in contrast to the better-known town in Merseyside. Since the 1950s, it has been formally known as Kirkby in Ashfield. Prior to that, the part where grandad lived, close to the Summit Colliery, was known as East Kirkby although there is also a village in Lincolnshire by that name. Even before that, it was known as Kirkby Folly.

Particular About Hyphens

I recall grandad being very particular about whether Kirkby in Ashfield had hyphens or not, However, I cannot remember which way round it was! Both forms seem to be used. In his 1955 and 1956 diary, he refers to the formal name change from East Kirkby to Kirkby in Ashfield. There, he spells Kirkby in Ashfield without hyphens. So, this is the format I have tended to use when spelling out Kirkby in Ashfield in full. However, there are some exceptions, for example, when quoting someone else. But, I have mostly just referred to Kirkby in line with local usage.

Known by His Middle Name

Although his first name was Charles, grandad was always known as Gordon. This was a common practice at the time. It was also a feature of other characters who appear in his diaries. For example, two of grandad’s brothers are referred to as Leonard (or Len) and Cyril. Their full names appear to have been John Leonard and Thomas Cyril respectively. Similarly, his older sister is referred to as Olive. Her full name appears to have been Alice Olive.

Common Names

This practice, and the fact that several characters have the same name, e.g. Alice, Barbara, Bert, Gordon, Jim, John, Leonard, Margaret, Olive, Willie etc., make it difficult to always be sure who is being spoken about in the diaries. It is also sometimes difficult to cross-reference characters appearing in the diaries to public records, e.g. of births, marriages and deaths. This is further complicated by common surnames, such as Smith and Jones, variations in spelling and grandad referring to both his and grandma’s parents as “mother” and “father”. In addition, it appears that grandma made some diary entries and sometimes she referred to grandad in the first person and sometimes to herself.

Grandad’s Parents – Henry and Sarah Parkin

According to a family tree compiled by grandad, his father, my great grandfather, Henry, was born, in Ripley, near Belper in Derbyshire in 1861. His mother, my great grandmother, Sarah (nee Lander) was born in Denby, also near Belper, in 1862. They were married in Denby, on Christmas Day, in 1882.

Sarah Parkin – Grandad’s mother

Grandad’s Wider Family

The family trees I have do not give details of their brothers and sisters. However, according to details of their wedding and a family tree that grandad constructed, Henry’s father was called James Isaac and Sarah’s father was called James. Sarah’s mother was called Emma. Among mum’s papers was a photograph of grandad’s great grandfather who is identified as Mr Kirkland and who I assume was Emma’s father. The back of the photograph reads “This photograph was taken after Mr Kirkland my great grandfather was dead they propped him up in a corner.

Grandad’s great grandfather Mr Kirkland – apparently taken posthumously
On the back of the photograph, grandad has written “this photograph was taken after Mr Kirkland, my great-grandfather, was dead. they propped him up in a corner.
Family tree constructed by grandad in December 1961. This part shows his side of the family

Move to Kirkby

I am not sure why, or exactly when, grandad’s parents moved to Kirkby. Based on places and dates of birth, it appears to have been sometime between when their youngest daughter, Eva, was born in 1895 and when grandad was born in 1897. A newspaper article at the time of grandad’s mother’s death stated that they moved to Kirkby in 1897. This was confirmed in a newspaper article at the time of grandad’s father’s death.

Starting a Shoe Business

Henry made and sold shoes, initially from a wooden hut at the junction of Portland Street and Low Moor Road. When the diaries start, he has a workshop and shop in Station Street in Kirkby in Ashfield. It seems he may also have had other shops, for example in Pinxton. 

Grandad’s Siblings

For some time, I thought Grandad was the youngest of five children.

John Leonard

John Leonard (Len) was born in Belper District on 17 April 1889. He married Ethel Mary (Mellar) in 1913 and, by the time the diaries start, they are living away from the family’s home. For some time, I thought they had a son called Gordon. He appears in grandad’s early diaries and is recorded in a family tree prepared by mum, see below, as Len and Ethel’s son. 

Thomas Cyril

Cyril (Thomas Cyril) was born in Belper District on 1 December 1890. This meant grandad and Cyril shared 1st December as a birthday. When the diaries open, Cyril and grandad are sharing a room and working together in Station Street. Cyril married Minnie (Robinson) on 2nd July 1915, as recorded in grandad’s diary.

Alice Olive

For some time, I thought grandad’s oldest sister, Olive, was Sarah Olive and was born in Belper District in 1894. However, she was in fact Alice Olive and was born in Belper District on 10 June 1884 making her the eldest of the Parkin siblings. When the diaries open, she is also married, to John William Smith. They have a son, also called Leonard, who is sometimes referred to in grandad’s early diaries as “Lalla”.

Eva Emma

Finally, Eva (Eva Emma) was born in Belper District in 1895. When the diaries open, she is still single and living with the family.

Parkin family circa 1903 – Olive, Leonard (Len)  and James (Jim) (back row) Henry, Cyril and Sarah (seated middle row) Eva and grandad (front row). This photograph was taken by A&G Taylor who were described as photographers to the late queen. They had businesses in Barnsley, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

James Henry

However, in the newspaper article relating to grandad’s mother’s death in 1930, it implied that she had six children and that one, James H Parkin, had been unable to attend the funeral as he was living in Canada.

It turns out that he was James Henry Parkin and was born in Belper in 1887. He married Annie Marie Higham in the first quarter of 1906.

James/Jim in Grandad’s Diaries

From February to April 1914, grandad does refer to a James, e.g. “James came over on his motorbike”. He also refers a lot to Jim and to Annie & Jim. They “came over” frequently between 1914 and 1918 and, at one stage, grandad says “Jim & family came over”. It seems Jim may have worked in the family business but, in March 1920, “Jim started work at the Summit”. He is last mentioned in 1922. Jim gave grandad a flute in March and, in April, grandad said “in the morning Jim and I went to Nottm by motor”.

Gordon and Ethel

The newspaper article refers to James and Annie’s children as Gordon and Ethel, the same names as my grandparents. So, it seems Gordon was James and Annie’s son and not Len and Ethel’s. This explains some entries in the diary, e.g. “Jim and Annie came over & fetch Gordon back” and, in May 1918, “gave Jim my silver albert and locket for Gordon…” It also explains why there are no mentions of Gordon after about 1918. I don’t know precisely when James and his family went to Canada but presumably it was sometime after 1922 based on the diary entries above. It was certainly before 1929 as there was a Christmas and New Year card among mum’s papers from Gordon to grandad posted in Canada in December 1929.

Family Photographs

Grandad with dog circa 1903. This photograph was taken by W Ashton of 307 Alfred Road, Brightside, Sheffield
I am not entirely sure when this photo was taken or why but the four children at the back could be grandad, Len (back), Eva (front) and Cyril in circa 1902 so this could be King Edward VII’s coronation
Family tree prepared by mum showing grandad’s side of her family. This does not show grandad’s brother James Henry and also shows Gordon as Len’s son which is not correct.
New Year Card sent by Gordon Parkin, James and Annie’s son, from Canada at the end of 1929
Wedding of John Smith and Olive Parkin in 1905 Back row – James (Jim) Parkin, Leonard (Len) Parkin, Unknown [but looks like John Smith’s brother?], Cyril Parkin  Middle row – Annie Higham, unknown, John Smith, Olive Parkin, unknown Front row – unknown (probably Cyril Smith), grandad, Eva Parkin
Wedding of Annie Higham and James (Jim) Parkin in 1906 showing Leonard (Len) Parkin, unknown, Cyril Parkin (back row) Unknown, Annie Higham, James (Jim) Parkin, Olive Smith (middle row) Unknown, grandad, Eva Parkin (front row)
Photo of wedding of Leonard Parkin and Ethel Mellar in 1913 showing Cyril Parkin, Olive Smith, James (Jim) Parkin, Annie Parkin, John Smith, grandad (standing at back) Leonard Parkin and Ethel Millar (seated). I am not sure who the boy reclining at the front is. It could be Gordon Parkin (Jim and Annie’s son) or Leonard Smith (Olive and John’s son).

A Mother’s Letter

Also among mum’s papers was a letter which seems to have been written to grandad by his mother. The reverse of the letter identifies it as dating from 1 August 1913 and as having been opened while at Dinnington. It seems grandad may have gone there with his brother Jim and his wife Annie but I don’t know any details of this trip as it precedes grandad starting his diaries in 1914. The letter appears to read, “My Ever Dear son Gordon. Just a line to let you no (sic) we shall be please to see you back although I know you are all right with Jim and Annie still I shall be please to see you at home again so shall be please when it is Sunday. So good night and God bless you from your ever loving xxxx Mother xxxx.

Letter to grandad from his mother dated 1 August 1913


The diaries also contain a great deal about Joe and I was beginning to think he might be another of grandad’s brothers. However, he does not appear in any family tree that I have. In addition, in 1917, grandad’s diary states that Joe’s aunt visited from Cauldwell. In February 1918, grandad refers to Joe taking some tablets of his for “his father”. So, it seems pretty plain that Joe and grandad were not brothers. However, their precise relationship only became clear to me much later into my exploration of the diaries, see Chapter 10.

Types of Diaries

Grandad used a variety of diaries during this period. His first, in 1914, was a gift from his sister and was a Letts diary as was his 1918 diary. He used a Collins Ruby Diary in 1915 and this seems to have been purchased from Henfrey Stationers and Booksellers in Kirkby. His 1917 diary was the first time he used a complimentary product from a shoe company, in this case, Allen and Caswell of Kettering.