Jean Court: Home and Family (Part 1) – Writing Lives

Jean Court: Home and Family (Part 1)

‘Then father had a stroke on hot summer day whilst painting the outside of a house and died; exactly on my fourth birthday.’ (p. 1)

Jean Court introduces us to her whole family in the first page of her memoir. She talks of a time before she was born. We are shown her mother and father’s relationship, as well as her grandfather’s disapproval. We have an insight into her grandfather’s ambitions and personality within the first paragraph of the text.

When his wife died wife in her thirty ninth year, Jean’s grandfather ‘was desolate, and although she had borne him a son and two daughters none of them were interested in the business.’ He ran a news agent shop, although Jean claims ‘he was a dreamer’ (p. 1) and still wanted to pursue ‘his political dream.’ He ended up letting out the shop and the house for ‘the sum of ten shillings a week’ before Jean is born (p. 1).

Jean’s father was born in Kinsale, Ireland, and was a ‘jack of all trades’. Her grandfather did not approve of him and ‘refused to allow the newly married couple to occupy his house’ so after two years of moving to and from ‘bug ridden rooms’ the couple, Jean’s mother and father, emigrate to Canada (p. 1) .

Kinsale Town, Ireland

     ‘They had a rough time, but nevertheless they stuck it out for seven years,’ (p. 1).

Jean’s mother and father struggled in Canada, but continued to raise their children there until Jean’s father tragically died from a stroke. ‘Never mind if you’re stony broke – come home,’ Jean’s grandfather wrote in a compassionate postcard, insisting her mother returns to her roots. Shortly after Jean’s fourth birthday, she, her sister Mary, and her mother emigrated back to Gloucester Place, Bristol to begin the rest of their lives.

Jean lived in a small house with her grandfather, mother and sister. She goes into specific detail of the house interior, giving the presumption that it was small but ‘very sturdy’ as she claims she never remembered ‘any dampness anywhere’ like some houses may have been in this time (p. 1) .

On their arrival, Jean and Mary were not approved of. The locals ‘objected to our Canadian accents,’ although Jean goes on to say, ‘eventually though we were accepted. We were like a little community in the lane’ (p. 2).  Jean speaks of her and Mary’s initial trouble, but it seems to soon be resolved.

Jean writes of a baby doll she receives for Christmas with hand knitted garments: ‘it had been lovingly dressed by my two godmothers,’ (p. 3). It seems that Jean and Mary never went without and had a supportive, loving family surrounding them. ‘No one would have the patience to knit for a child like that these days’ (p. 3) Jean reflects, revealing the changes she had seen in her own lifetime. How many children receive this kind of homemade gift today?


188 COURT, Jean, ‘Living in the Lane’, TS, pp.11 (c. 10,000 words). Brunel University Library. 

Kinsale Town Ireland. [IMAGE] URL:



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