Stories Written by Harry Civil

To read a story, click on a title below:

A walk in the 1870s. Memories of Bristol in the late 1800's.
The story of 'Sally on the Barn'. A walk to Bath in 1889.
A walk in the Rhondda in 1921. A letter to Dorothy written in 1939.

The stories above were written by my Great Grandfather, Henry (Harry) Civil. He was born on 31st May 1867.  At the age of six, he went to live with mother's sister Ellen and her husband John (Jack) Willshire  - he enjoyed living with them but wrote that they "treated him like a servant" - in the 1881 census they have recorded his relationship to them as 'Nephew' and his occupation as 'Servant (Dom)'.  In 1881, when he was 14, he started work at the Bristol Wagon Works where his uncle Jack worked.  He worked there for about four years before he moved to Fullers Carriage Works.

He married Alice Brooks on 20th December 1890 and their first child, Edgar, was born on 28th February 1892. Seven more children followed, including my Grandmother Alice Maud Mary.  His third son was also called Harry and you can read about some of his WW1 exploits (click here)

In the 1901 census the family were living at 4 Bromley Road, Horfield, Bristol.  His wife Alice died in 1927 when she was 57.  Some years later he married Mrs Venn, she was known with affection by his family as 'Ma Venn' .

He was a skilled craftsman, model builder, collector and taught himself to write - his spelling and handwriting were excellent. During the 1930's and early 40's he recorded a number of his stories and memories - some of which appear to have been adapted from tales he had heard - he loved including them in letters to relatives.  Sometimes, I think you can see his spoken words coming through his writing - e.g. "that done me more good than all the hidings I ever had from my uncle" .  He died in 1940.

This picture of Harry was probably taken around 1900.









Harry’s grand-daughter, Christine recalls the time she was taken to visit him in hospital in 1940. 

…. I have a very vivid memory of Mum going to visit him in Southmead hospital, he was a very sick man anyway and I believe contracted pneumonia whilst in hospital.  It was wartime and Bristol was being heavily bombed, so people didn’t leave their children with anyone but kept them by their sides.  Anyway Mum had gone to Southmead with me in tow and when we got there the nursing staff wouldn’t allow her to take a small child into the ward (Christine was about six years old) – imagine her dilemma, her father (much beloved by her) dying and a small child in tow – what a decision.  Mum sat me on the steps of Southmead hospital and told me to sing songs to myself and not to move until she came for me which wouldn’t be long.

Well, there was an air-raid and the BAC got a battering so whilst I sat there quietly all the ambulances and trucks, anything with wheels on I suspect, came rattling into the yard and there were nurses and Dr’s running everywhere, whilst stretcher after stretcher was unloaded and placed in rows with bleeding soldiers and airmen on them, one man was going from stretcher to stretcher and removing their boots and placing them at the foot of each stretcher.  I don’t remember being afraid or worried by the blood stained nurses and doctors white aprons and coats.  They were all so busy; no one took any notice of me.  Poor Mum must have been horrified when she eventually came to get me.  All goes to show how much a 6 year old can just take in their stride.  I think I was more fascinated than frightened.  

Christine, May 2005

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