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Friday, 9 September 2016

Great Aunty Flo was a tailoress





My grandmother Mona Forbes had two older sisters, Flora and Bessie, more commonly known to the family as Aunties Bess and Flo. Flora Euphemia Forbes born in 1888 was the elder of the pair by just a year, and she was nine years older than my grandmother, with two other Forbes children being born between Bess and Mona. Flora was a tailoress, and the photograph below shows her at her place of work, second from left in the middle row.  It looks like the gentleman on the right could be in charge. The boy next to Flo looks quite young, and perhaps he was wishing he could be outside rather than working, but on the other hand he would probably have been pleased to earn a wage. Most of the  staff look reasonably happy to be there and hopefully they enjoyed the work they did. It seems likely that the photograph was taken some time between 1910 and 1920.


Unfortunately I don't know the name of the tailoring firm that Flo worked for but it was in the business centre of Christchurch New Zealand. I've just discovered what looks like a very interesting collection of almost 2000 photographs of the Christchurch region inthe period 1880-1920 taken by a photographer called Steffano Webb here at http://natlib.govt.nz/items/22740240 and this photograph below of the premises of this Christchurch ladies' and gents' tailor James Olds is part of that collection. Perhaps this was where Flo worked, perhaps not. I may never know.


In subsequent years the aunts spent much of their leisure time helping their younger sister Mona care for her six children. They lived in the same street just a few doors away so they would have done plenty of child-minding and they often accompanied the family on outings. Bess had her own business as a dressmaker and she and Flo made clothes for the Morrison family as well as for themselves. The little snap below was very faded, but I think it shows the aunts with three of their charges, including my mother in front, who looks like she was not wanting to be photographed that day in the early 1930s. 


Here are Aunty Bess and Flo in their sixties, celebrating the christening of their great niece in 1953. They would no doubt have been happy to help my mother with her family too, had she not left New Zealand not long afterwards, firstly for a year in the UK and then to live in Australia permanently. Neither Bess nor Flo ever travelled to Australia and sadly I don't think that my mother was able to return for a visit until after Flo died in 1959. I was too young to know my great aunts but I heard lots about them from my mother, who no doubt missed their help when she had to cope in a new country while Dad spent long hours at work. His work took Jean away from family, but both he and she remained staunch New Zealanders at heart.


For more Sepian contributions on the theme of work and play this month, click and go to Sepia Saturday #343
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