Articles, Non-fiction

Secrets Taken to the Grave

In 1988, a pub landlord killed a twenty two year old woman. He was caught not long after and sentenced to life in prison. He died this month, and never revealed where he buried her body. You can read about it here.

This made me think of my grandfather, whom we called ‘Papa’. He was born in 1904 in Oswestry, and brought up by his aunt, while his mother worked.

He never knew who his father was, and it was a stigma all his life. On his mother’s death bed, he pleaded with her to reveal his name, but she refused.

His children surmised his was the doctor whom she worked for as a nanny. It was only when I came to delve into the family history, did I discover this was unlikely.

According to the 1901 census, my great grandmother was a domestic servant to a large prominent family in the town. I think this is where it happened

The Thomas family were well known business owners. Indeed, the brother of the head of the family was the town’s mayor on more than one occasion.

Papa became a journalist and was an intelligent man who eventually became editor of the town’s newspaper. It’s doubtful he got that from his mother’s family, and it’s more likely to have come from his father’s genes. So that would fit.

His mother, Polly, was a meek woman who after a hard life, found happiness and married later in life. She was also a prominent member of her church.

The Thomas family grew in stature and throughout my grandmother’s life, they would have been a large presence in Oswestry. To reveal the name of the father would have brought great shame and embarrassment to all involved.

When she died in 1972, she took her secret to the grave, and my grandfather died without ever knowing the truth.

A sad story which is why the death of Ian Sims made me think of it. The mother of the victim campaigned for many years to change the law regarding the conviction of killers such as Simms. She wanted a requirement for them to reveal the whereabouts of their victim’s remains before being considered for parole. It resulted in Helen’s Law.

Ian Sims refused to say where he buried the girl, probably for a selfish and callous reason. Now he has taken it to his grave, too.

It made me wonder how many others died taking their secrets with them. Many, I suspect. Somethings will just never be resolved.

If you fancy tracing your family tree to help reveal the secrets of your past, here are a couple of books that maybe of interest. Just click on the photo.

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