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In 1919, when my father returned home to the Suffolk town of Eye after serving his country in World War One, it was to a much quieter home than he was used to. Two years earlier, the so called 'Great War' had taken the life of his beloved brother, Len, and the Tuffs family home, at 27 Cranley Hill, must have been a sad reminder of what once was and should still have been. Perhaps, for that reason, the twenty year old Wally Tuffs found too many thoughts oppressively bearing down on him for he almost immediately left home and signed up to serve his King in Ireland. This occurred at a time when that troubled land was still under British rule and, although I know little of his Irish experiences, I was pleased to discover he stayed for less than a year. The recently published 1921 census found my father living in Eye once again but to my surprise, and perhaps his, he was no longer single, for this time the still young Wally was a married man.
At this point I must emphasise that Peter Tuffs covers much of this time period in his superb book titled, 'Proud To Be A Tuffs.' I have also written extensively on the subject in my various, 'Kens Cosy,' stories and I trust that this new information, gleaned from the 1921 census, does not detract from my own or Pete's earlier words. I have spent much of today re-reading my own writings and constantly checking in on Pete's tome whilst using it as the reference book it has become to me. In addition to that I now have the joy of sharing with all those interested some newly discovered gems of family history, previously unknown or perhaps long forgotten. For this we all have to thank my friend, Roy Staines, who has supplied me with this source of new information, so without further ado, lets travel back to 1921 where we'll find my father living at Langton Green in Eye with his wife, Emma Lily Tuffs.
The marriage certificate shows the couple were wed in the closing months of 1920 and that Emma was seven years older than her twenty one year old husband, Wally. 'Marry in haste and repent at leisure,' is a saying you may be familiar with and if it applied to my father, I know not. I do know that his courtship with the more mature Emma Lily Oakley had to have been recklessly brief for no sooner had he returned from Ireland than he was wed. I have described this time in my fathers life as, 'understandably wayward' and the timeline of close together events support this. His marriage to Miss Oakley (no relation to Annie) was probably a youthful mistake for he had been through a hell of a lot for one so young including the war, the death of his brother and who knows what hell in Ireland. So, the warm comfort of an older woman's welcoming arms would have been hard to resist and in Langton Green he didn't have to.
The still young Wally Tuffs made his living by working for Jesse Smith Builders in Eye. My dads job was then described as a general labourer but in time that would change to that of a gardener, one who would sadly be tempted by forbidden fruit. At this time the future love of his life, the seventeen year old, Ruby Mutimer, was living at 90 Berners Street in the town of Ipswich. It was there she worked as a general domestic servant for two music teachers, an Alfred and Lilian Earnshaw These two were a childless, married couple and it is thought likely that the young Ruby was on loan to them from her long term employers at Thornham Hall in Eye.
Meanwhile, back in Langton Green, Wally and Emma Lily were at the start of what was to prove to be a long on/off relationship but to carry on this bewildering story we need to move forward to 1924. Conflicting recollections clash over whether my parents first met at Thornham Hall or Stayer House, both are in the town of Eye. Both versions have the ring of truth to them and for this reason I have decided not to get bogged down with an unanswerable question on the location of where they first met but to jump to an undeniable truth.....that they did meet....and in the course of the next nineteen months two children were born. These were my eldest brother, Walter Earnest and the first of my sisters, Gladys, just two of the eventual nine children of my parents. (See Kens Cosy no. 41. 'The Walt and Ruby Story.')
It would seem that Wally Tuffs, my much loved father, felt affection for both the women in his tangled love life. Emma Lily was his wife of many years and Ruby Alice Jane was the mother of his two children and they obviously pulled him in varying directions. After fathering his first son, Wally junior, in the March of 1925, Wally senior disappeared from view for what one can only presume was his own self interest. The very next year in the spring and autumn of 1926 there is a record of him living 115 miles away at two addresses in Northchurch in Hertfordshire. However, we know he made at least one appearance at Ruby's door in the early part of that year for in the November she gave birth to her daughter Glady's. How long he stayed around this time I know not but it was interesting to note that on Gladys birth certificate her name is registered only as Mutimer with a line drawn across the fathers name column. In addition I was surprised to discover that my dad and his Emma Lily were still registered as living together as man and wife as late as 1929/30. This time their home was a safe distance from some potentially angry home town relatives, 125 miles away in the town of Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire. Several years had passed since the birth of Gladys and yet he still stayed with his wife while my mother was sadly living alone, far from her two children and far from the man she loved.
There is a framed photograph of the man she loved on a shelf in front of me as I write these words. In it, he and my smiling mother are standing arm in arm outside the home I grew up in. My one time wayward fathers decade of indecision finally came to an end in 1931 when he broke all ties with his past by moving to Surrey. He and Ruby Mutimer are registered as living at 4 Longhurst Cottages in the town of Woking where I once had two shops and an office. I had no knowledge that's where my parents started their life together and if I had I would have made a pilgrimage to Longhurst Cottages to see if I could still feel their presence. Just one year later they moved to Shamley Green and that's where their story, and ours, truly begins. I hope that my surviving siblings take no offence when I describe our father as being wayward, but for ten years of his life it seems he was just that. He obviously had great affection/love for Emma Lliy, which, perhaps, clouded his judgement on what was right and wrong. The important thing is his judgement was seldom lacking ever again and indecision was not a word in the dictionary he used for the rest of his life.
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