And after the war? What next for Corporal Mustin?
To backtrack a little, and to place him in context, before he went to South Africa, George Mustin was 25 years old, working as a printer and living in Hinckley with his Mother, who had, in earlier life, been the proprietress of a beerhouse in Nuneaton called “the King’s Head”. His Father, a stonemason, had died in 1892, but three brothers lived with them – William (a warehouseman in the hosiery industry), Oscar (a clicker in a shoe factory) and Charles (a joiner). Living next door were his Mother’s daughter by an earlier marriage, Leonora (a hosiery mender), her husband and their two children. This sounds a cosy arrangement, but rather cramped, and may have made the prospect of an outing to South Africa more appealing.
Soon after returning from the war (I doubt he ever left the country again), he married Rose Peto, my Great-Grandmother, and moved to Kettering in Northamptonshire (my birthplace), where he took a job as a foreman compositor with Staples the printers, continuing to work there until he retired in the late 1930s. He died in 1962, at the age of 87, two years after I was born (I have no memory of him, although presumably we met).
More exotically, Rose’s younger sister Gertrude (the very pretty girl on the front left of this picture)
who had begun her career working in a hosiery factory, married one Sidney Brocklehurst, a “prominent local hosiery manufacturer” who seems, like many in Hinckley, to have done quite well out of the Great War. She is the only member of this generation I do remember: a rather grand personage, she would hire a taxi for the day to drive her from Hinckley to Kettering, and remain in it as we children were led out to be presented to her.
The daughter of George’s half-sister Leonora, Doris, similarly married a Major Goode M.C., another “prominent hosiery manufacturer”, and the owner of Cadeby Hall, a sizeable, but now sadly derelict, house near Hinckley. George seems to have stayed there from time to time (as did my Grandfather) and amused himself by shooting game in the grounds. Unfortunately, Major Goode died in 1934, after “an accident cleaning his gun” (a common, sometimes euphemistic, occurrence at this time).
George’s other great amusement (apart from playing draughts and drinking in Kettering’s once grand Liberal Club) does seem to have been cricket. It is not unreasonable to suppose that he watched Northants when they played at Kettering (which they often did between the wars) and may well have driven (he was an early motorist) to Northampton to watch them there as well. In one account I have of him, in his later years ( I have also heard him described as “sardonic” and possessing a rather dark sense of humour), he was “a tall, white-haired old gentleman … [who] sat in his favourite chair with a cigarette or his pipe, and enjoyed hearing the cricket commentary on the radio which was close to hand … In his last years his children provided him with a television, so that he could watch the cricket as well as hear it”. I suppose he was old enough to have seen W.G. Grace in action, and just young enough to have caught the first stirrings of one-day cricket, as Northants beat Leicestershire in the final of the “Midlands One-day Knock-out Cup” in 1962.
Three generations on, I find myself, in a case of, if not quite social, then, at least, physical immobility, sitting, not ten miles away, a slightly less tall, but increasingly white-haired old gentleman, listening to the cricket commentary on the radio. The major changes in the last half-century or so are, I suppose, that, whereas he had to go outside to use the lavatory, I have to go outside to smoke (and I can no longer, of course, see the cricket as well as hear it).
With many thanks to the – to me – unknown family member who unearthed much of the material I’ve made use of in this series of posts, and –
i.m. G.E.M., (1875-1962), soldier, printer and spirit of cricket.