When I was a young boy, Dad and I would occasionally go to St Peter’s Cemetery, Dalbeth in Glasgow’s East End. Other Dads would take their sons to the football, or go for a fish supper. Maybe a trip to the swimming. But those activities were of no interest to my father. He couldn’t swim anyway.
Headstone And Scythe
I was five years old when I first visited my Grandfather Thomas Sherry. (1901-1955)
Thomas Sherry was a faded headstone lying in an overgrown unloved graveyard. Sometimes, Dad would use a scythe to hack away at the overgrowth.
Thankfully, the custodians of St Peter’s saw the light and in the 1990s a programme of tending to the Cemetery began.
The scythe has long retired. Later in life, I learned that the scythe belonged to my other Grandfather, Patrick Coyle (1905-1985) We still have it, rusting away in storage.
Dad would also use a tin of masonry paint and an artist’s brush to fill in his father’s faded name on the stone. He did this up until 1991 as the stone was finally professionally cleaned.
Dad’s Memory Brickwall
We used to ask Dad about our Grandfather, and usually, he would mention that his Father was a coal miner from Longriggend. On other occasions, he would cut short the inquisition by stating that he did not know his Dad. The reason given his Dad was a quiet man, and children did not start a conversation with adults.
My Mother never met her Father In Law as he was dead by the time she met our Dad. However, her Dad knew Grandad Sherry as they worked at Beardmores, in Glasgow’s Parkhead.
When Mum introduced Dad to her family in the late 1950s my Grandfather Coyle asked Dad if he was Tommy Sherry’s son. Dad confirmed this and Grandad Coyle replied with ” Ah worked wie him. He wiz a quiet man”
My Father was fourteen years old when Grandad Sherry died. Dad never willingly brought him up in conversation. There were no photographs of Thomas Sherry. There was nothing that he owned handed down.
I and my brothers did not recollect other family members talking about Thomas Sherry, And that included our Grandmother.
So, for decades, my Grandfather Thomas Sherry was a weather-worn headstone with his name fading away. Nothing more.
Thankfully the benefits of family tree research helped partially build a picture depicting the life of Thomas Sherry and I would like to share with you what I have found so far.
Thomas Sherry 1901-1955
On the 24th of February at 6 pm, Thomas Sherry was born at 23 Nimmos Row, Longriggend. The ninth child, he was the youngest son of Arthur Sherry (1857-1918) and Jane Mallin (1860-1944).
Born into a poor Catholic mining family, who worked in the local mines, Thomas made his Census debut at five weeks old in the 1901 Scotland Census.
Thomas and his family would live in the Longriggend area during his childhood. However, the 1911 Scotland Census records the family residing in the nearby village of Greengairs.
By the time of the First World War, he and the family are in Glasgow where he stayed at 55 Calton Street, Tollcross. Thomas was the only son not to serve in the War as he was too young. He was lucky. That being said his brother Patrick (1898-1917) enlisted in November 1915 by lying about his age.
Researching helped get back in touch with my cousin whom I’d never seen over thirty years. We spoke about our Grandfather and my cousin mentioned her Mother recalled that during World War 2, Thomas was desperate to go and fight. But his line of work was a reserved occupation so that was a closed-door.
During the 1920s Thomas appears several times in the records. He was as a witness to his brother John‘s (1896-1947) marriage to Agnes Lyle Stewart (1893-1941) which took place at St Michael’s Church, Parkhead on 28th May 1920. What I found strange about this marriage record is that the surname is recorded as McSherry.
Until the release of later Scotland Censuses, Electoral Registers come in handy to find Thomas during the 1920s. In 1924 he lived with his Mother at 55 Calton Street now named Dalness Street. His brother James (1884-1962) lived at number 69.
Thomas Sherry Marriage To Jane O’Donnell
Thomas stayed at Dalness Street until his marriage to Jane O’Donnell (1904 -1991) on 3rd August 1928 at St Michael’s Church, Parkhead. He met Jane at a Catholic Dance.
The story goes that Thomas asked her for a dance, but Jane was reluctant to accept as she couldn’t dance and was only there to accompany her younger sister. However, he offered to teach her.
Thomas and Jane would briefly live with her parents at 88 Dunbar Street, Parkhead then onto their first home at 65 Glenpark Street, Dennistoun after the birth of their first child, a daughter.
Two more daughters were born at Glenpark Street during the 1930s. By 1934 Thomas and his young family resided at 237 Appin Road. He fathered two more daughters at this address. During this period of his life, Thomas was a Coal Miner.
In the 30s, my Grandmother lost two sons, both only surviving a short time. I have never found any record of them and if anyone out there can help me I would be most grateful.
My Aunts have spoken about these baby brothers, one was born on Valentine’s day and my Grandmother would refer to him as “Her Valentine ” Apparently my Grandfather took each dead baby away and they were laid to rest in a pauper’s grave.
In the 1930s the Sherry family were a close-knit bunch, and my Aunts recollect Thomas visiting his elderly Mother every Friday night after work. Usually, on a Sunday the family would get together for a meal. This included some of Thomas’s siblings alongside younger nephews and nieces.
The family lived on Appin Road until the late 1940s, when they moved to the new post-war housing estate in Springboig at 104 Tynecastle Street. A three bedroom prefab with internal toilet. My relatives would live in that house until the Autumn of 1987.
The Musical Thomas Sherry
My Aunts recollect a happy home, with Thomas being quite musical. He was a good singer, could play the piano, accordion and penny whistle. Dancing was another talent, and when the children were younger he would draw a chalk circle on the floor and dance with his children. Or ask them to sing for him and Jane.
They remember a man who never swore or raise a finger towards when they misbehaved.
My father was part of this family entertainment, and would often sit on his Dad’s knee when Thomas would play organ in the lounge. Dad was musical too and could play a number of instruments, which included the piano and accordion.
An example of Thomas’ quiet nature was that he would usually not start a conversation. You had to go to him. The living room was his domain when he came home from work, whilst my Grandmother and other family members would sit in the kitchen.
He was active in the Labour Movement. When I met my Aunt a few years ago, she recalled that if he found out a neighbour did not vote for Labour, he would knock on their door and ask them why. So much for the quiet man…
Thomas Sherry In His Final Years
In his final years, Thomas was still working long hours stoking and maintaining the furnaces at Beardmores Parkhead Forge.
However as the 1950s wore on, one of his arms seized up due to Arthritis and he refused to step down from his role because he would not break a promise to whoever it was that helped him acquire work at The Forge.
In 1955 took ill at home and Doctors diagnosed Colon Cancer. His first Grandchild was a few months away from being born and knowing that he was in a bad way, Thomas was desperate to hang on to see her.
The cancer metastasized and Thomas passed away at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary on the 19th April.
Cancer refused permission for Thomas to meet his first Grandchild. Born nearly four months later, she would be the first of sixteen grandchildren.
I am Grandchild number sixteen.
If You Don’t Ask…
If I didn’t research my family history, what you have just read would not be known to me and my brothers.
In 2014/2015 my brother and I visited some of our Aunts and asked them about our Grandfather. When my brother asked why we never knew anything about him, an Aunt replied: ” You never asked before son..”
I am glad they shared their memories of their Dad. I am also forever grateful to my eldest cousin for sharing some of her Mother’s recollections of our Grandfather.
What was clear from our Aunts is that our Father took Thomas’ passing quite hard. Looking back now we wonder if he found his Father an emotionally difficult topic of discussion.
This post is lengthy. Perhaps it has been too personal.
But I felt it was necessary. Both as a kind of tribute to my Grandfather and to share his story with other relatives interested in learning about Thomas Sherry.
My Grandfather is no longer a faded headstone. Learning about parts of his life has been one of the best moments of my genealogy journey. There is more to find out about Thomas Sherry.
But I need other relatives to help me fill in the blanks.