V11.9 – Ann Farrar Ratcliff

Ann is the graveyard’s oldest resident. Not because of when she was born but because of her age when she died; not only is she our oldest, but she’s our only centenarian, having died at the impressive age of 104. There are many people buried in this grave and at V11.8 whose lives were very eventful and to include her only within their stories would risk her being overshadowed. So here’s her story, on its own…

…although no one’s story exists purely on its own. Ann Farrar was born in 1876 to James and Mary Ellen (King) Farrar of Wadsworth Mill. James was a butcher, just like his father, but changed careers and went into the publican business. He took on the running of the Woodpecker Inn at Shade and spent several years there during the 1870s, but gave up the tenancy in 1881 and went back to the butchering business, possibly to help out his father Henry. But the call of the pubs was too strong and he soon took up the tenancy of the White Lion at Shade. It would be a small bright spark for him in a half-decade that brought nothing but loss to the Farrar family.

James and Mary Ellen had seven children, you see; and within the space of five years most of them were gone. Samuel died in 1879, Mary in 1881, Edmund in 1882, Henry in 1883 and Ernest in 1884. Lastly, also in 1884, James himself died, only 37 years old, and his father Henry also died that year too. Mary Ellen went from having a husband and family to being a widow with two young daughters. Like many widows in her position she decided to carry on at the White Lion, successfully had the license transferred to herself, and she and her older daughter Emily ran the pub together. She died in 1904 and is buried with her husband and children behind the school, in a grave that doesn’t appear on our transcript as the stone is upside down (watch this space…)

In 1896 Ann married Walter Ratcliff, also the son of a publican. In fact the son of rather a famous family of publicans, who variously ran the Golden Lion, Royal George, Black Swan, and other pubs around town. They also raised money by making loans to people, often people who were already spending a lot of money in their pubs like Nathan Ogden, but that’s another story. In fact it really is another story, because they’re at these two vault graves…as for Ann? She and Walter took over the running of the Black Swan and started a family, albeit slowly. By 1911 they had only had two children.

Ann and Walter’s two children with Walter’s grandfather Peter Ratcliff. Photo courtesy of Todmorden and Walsden

The couple first lived at Burnley Road and then Byrom Street, by which time Walter had transferred the license of the Black Swan onto someone else and had moved on to become a travelling salesman in the wine and spirits trade. Ann appears in newspaper accounts in relation to her decorating skills and ability to make sure that parties held at various pubs within the Ratcliff orbit were run properly and food served promptly. In other words, her place was in the house, or in this case the pub. She and Walter seem to have been very happy though.

Ann and Walter, date unknown. Photo courtesy of Todmorden and Walsden

Walter and Ann moved to London in 1922, presumably for work, although from his obituary it seems Walter had poor health for quite some time. He died in 1935 and Ann moved back up to Todmorden to live with her son Jack and his wife Sally.

Todmorden District News, June 28th 1935

Ann herself died in 1980 at the age of 104. And that’s where our story ends, pretty much. The Todmorden and Walsden website has a number of photos of the Ratcliff family on it, and the final one we’ll leave you with here is of Ann and her family on her 100th birthday. On the back row at either end are her daughter Caroline and son Jack. When you think about how Ann lost so many family members at such young ages, to see her sat with her two children who had made it far enough to share this milestone birthday with her really feels like something special…

Photo courtesy of Todmorden and Walsden

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