50.59 – Hannah and Catherine Pearson

This plot marker confused us, and still confuses us; is C.M.P. Mary Catherine Pearson? If so, why would it be in an 1878 row? Would they really have gotten her initials wrong? Well…if you’ve seen the “aged 42 yeabs” stone in the private area, you know that all sorts of errors can be made in stone. Really obvious ones too. So two of this stone’s three initials being transposed doesn’t fill us with too much distrust; and her daughter’s death in 1878 lends further credence to the theory. Since there’s no other way of knowing who’s here, we may as well remember these two people in this stone’s story, and if we’re wrong hope that whoever IS here forgives us.

Mary Catherine Hey was born in Ireland, or Eccles, or Manchester, depending on which census you consult, in about 1831. She would alternate between using Mary and Catherine in different records for most of her life but for the sake of connecting her with this stone we’ll refer to her as Catherine. Her father Thomas was by her account a watchmaker. Her whereabouts are unknown until 1854 when she appears living at Bridge Lanes, then listed as part of Heptonstall, and is getting married to her (regrettable) husband John Pearson at St. Thomas. Catherine was working as a factory operative at that point and John was a plasterer. A good plasterer, too; he would later be listed as a journeyman plasterer, indicating that he was talented, and that probably went some way towards keeping him in work even when he was self-sabotaging his way through later life.

John and Catherine moved to Todmorden and settled at Hanging Ditch, first on what’s now Longfield Road and later on Wellfield Terrace, in the 3-to-a-back-to-backs that were demolished in the 1970s. The couple had eight children all told, the third of which was their daughter Hannah.

John liked a drink and seems to, at least from circumstantial evidence, not been the best husband. In the 1870s and 1880s, right up to his death in 1884, he appears again and again in the newspapers for drunkenness, fighting, and debts owed – one to a butcher which had been allowed to sit for nine years before the butcher chased it, and which took four years to enforce the repayment plan on. Catherine took him before the magistrate in 1874 for throwing a pot of hot tea over her and threatening her because she wouldn’t tell him how much money their working children brought home in wages. Gosh, we wonder why?

Todmorden District News, July 24th 1874

In the same edition of the paper John placed a notice essentially announcing that they had split up and he would no longer be held responsible for her debts. The irony is not lost on us.

John moved to Toad Carr, then Littleborough, then back to Todmorden and Swineshead Clough in Walsden. Catherine stayed at Wellfield Terrace with her eight children. Sadly eight would become seven in 1878, when Hannah (who had been working as a throstle spinner) died suddenly at the age of 18. Her death registration says her death was due to complications from a cerebral embolism that she had suffered two weeks prior to her death, or at least that she had been paralysed for two weeks prior to her death. Embolisms are caused when a blood clot from somewhere else in the body lodges in the brain and causes a loss of oxygen to the affected part – only 15% of people who suffer cerebral embolisms are under the age of 50, so Hannah was unlucky indeed.

Poor Catherine, 24 years of a terrible husband but still considering herself lucky to have all her children…the worst that could be said until then was that her son James liked a drink and had some quarrels with his sister Mary that made their way to the magistrates (before James’s wife made them settle their differences out of court). Hannah’s loss will have hurt in many ways. The loss didn’t make John change his ways, and on the 1881 Census Catherine went so far as to give her marital status as “widowed”.

John died in December 1884 and is buried at Christ Church, although we don’t know where. Is he in this plot? Perhaps. The plot marker’s initials indicate that Catherine purchased it, so the question is whether she was willing to put him in here with Hannah even though he’d been a poor husband. Was he also a poor father? That’s a good question, and the answer might give us more of a clue whether he’s in here or not. Also knowing whether she’d be obligated as his wife to put him in this grave in spite of her personal feelings would be helpful. When Catherine died in 1889, though, it’s almost certain that she was buried in this plot. After all it belonged to her! Her initials (or near enough) are on it.

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