920 People

It’s a bit inhibiting writing about people who are still alive; but it’s no easier writing about people who are dead, as checking the facts is a lot more straightforward when you can ask the people themselves.
So this set of recollections will grow rather slowly, and the presence or absence of this or that person shouldn’t be taken as a sign of special fondness or hostility. They will turn up when they’re ready, and will appear in alphabetical order of surnames.

The elusive Higgs family

It has always surprised me that my mother said so little about her family. She had a brother, who died before I was born, and there are photographs of him, and of course I knew her elder sister for many years. But I know nothing about her parents or possible aunts, uncles, cousins or others.

I have been making fitful internet enquiries, in particular because I know my parents used to visit Canvey Island; and if there was a family connection this was more likely to be on my mother’s side.

On my father’s side the family was firmly established in Tottenham. My grandfather’s family originated from Cambridgeshire. On the other hand my grandmother had an accent which in retrospect seems to me to have been from rural Essex, which would include Canvey Island. On yet another hand, her maiden name was Sleet, and I haven’t (yet) encountered any people called Sleet living on the island.

Canvey Island 1933 - Mrs pollard's bungalowThe photograph adjoining is described on the back, in my father’s handwriting, as “Mrs. Pollard’s bungalow 1933”. Following this up is not easy, as a large percentage of the Canvey population seems to have Pollard for a surname. In fact the author of a major report on the severe flooding which occurred in 1953 was a man of that name.

More helpfully, I’ve also found a disproportionate number of Canvey people called Higgs, which was my mother’s maiden name. Maybe it was Mrs. Pollard’s maiden name too.

I was only six years old when the flooding occurred, so either I didn’t hear about it at the time or else I was too young to understand the gravity of it; also 1953 was Coronation year which was a much more cheerful topic of conversation. I have seen a list of the 39 people who were killed in the flood, and there was nobody called Higgs or Pollard (or Sleet) among them. But many more than 39 people were traumatised by the experience and many were made homeless. Mrs. Pollard’s bungalow does not look particularly robust and if flooded it would surely have become uninhabitable.

One of my cousins is working on the King family history, but the Higgs side of the family has apparently died out completely. Maybe we shall never know their full story.


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