The Other Margaret

Whilst scanning photographs in my mother Margaret’s albums I found several pictures of her friend Margaret Mellor, who lived in Herne Bay. They had met when my grandmother Annie took her daughters on holiday to Herne Bay, and they stayed at the guest house run by Margaret’s mother, Charlotte, who my mother knew as Aunt Tot. The two mothers, Annie and Charlotte, formed a close bond, and the friendship between the two families probably lasted from about 1926 until Annie’s relatively early death from breast cancer in 1950.

This is the earliest photo I have of the ‘other Margaret’. On the left is my mother, then her sister Grace, then Margaret, then my grandmother Annie on the right. They are sitting on the Crested Eagle paddlesteamer.

Margaret Whitehead, Grace Whitehead, their friend Margaret, and Annie Whitehead.

The Crested Eagle was built in 1925 and was initially placed on the London to Ramsgate service. She was switched to the East Anglian coast service (London-Southend-Clacton-Felixstowe) in 1932. It is likely that my family boarded her in Greenwich or Herne Bay, perhaps for a trip between the two.

The Crested Eagle was based at Sheerness when she was commandeered by the Navy on 25th May 1940 for the Dunkirk evacuation. On 28th May 1940, on her first return crossing, loaded with her crew and about 600 allied troops, she was tragically bombed by German aircraft soon after leaving Dunkirk. She still lies at the bottom of the sea.

The Crested Eagle. Photograph from a postcard on PaddleSteamers.info where it is credited to the collection of Michael Brown. The postcard was sent from Southend on 9th June 1932, which is probably the same year as my photograph.

The last photos I had of Margaret Mellor, the ‘other Margaret’, were of her wedding in 1946. By then my mother was in India serving as a VAD Nurse, and she was unable to attend the wedding. I was determined to find Margaret’s ancestors and tell them our shared story and show them the photographs. I was delighted to find her daughter Amanda via Ancestry. Although she had seen the wedding photographs, there were two photos in my collection which she had never seen. I have now sent her all the photos I have of her mother, except this one, for which I’ve sent her a digital copy. It is lovely to know that our grandmothers were such good friends, and that thanks to the internet we’ve managed to rekindle a new friendship 70 years later.

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