Mary Elizabeth was my maternal great-grandmother. I was privileged to know her for the last 13 years of her life. She was a lovely lady, and respected by all the family.

Her early life is a total mystery to all of the family. She was born in Sunderland, England in 1889 or 1892 - we have never been able to say for sure as her birth certificate was destroyed in a fire at the record offices. It was said that she had married at the age of 15, lying about her age, but there has never been any definitive proof of that.

She was a strong woman, and fiercely proud. She could not read or write, but this did not hold her back, nor did it mean that she could be cheated out of money by unscrupulous shopkeepers! She could count!

She must have had an arduous early life. Family stories tell of her working in the local glass works from the age of 8. When she married Andrew Hunter, he worked in the Sunderland ship yards, but when work became scarce, he left his wife and young son to find work several miles away in Blyth. He eventually found a house and was able to bring his little family to live with him.

Orphaned

Mary was allegedly orphaned at an early age, but because of the lack of documentation surrounding her, it's been difficult to corroborate this. I made the mistake of not speaking to my great aunts/uncles while they were still alive, and now have no-one to tell me anything of her life. I do know she was pregnant when she married, as her first child was born six months after her wedding. On her marriage certificate, her father is listed as John Metcalf, but not deceased so I wonder if this was really her father, or possibly a relative who had taken Mary in when her parents died? I will probably never know the answer to this.

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