John Waterworth

A sad story now. Chris’s dad’s mother, Isabella, had Chris’s dad out of wedlock in 1918 and suffered real opprobrium for it from the judgmental folk of Bacup. She was “damaged goods” and no man wanted to “take on” the bastard child of another.

But in 1944 she met and fell in love with John Waterworth. He was also “damaged goods” — he had had polio and used callipers, so no woman wanted to “take on a cripple”. But Bella loved him and he loved her. They married in late 1944.

Six months later, John slipped on the steps to their house after a rain shower. His callipers cut his leg. Penicillin had been discovered but was reserved for our troops or those that could pay for treatment. John was neither a soldier nor rich.

The wound got infected. The infection turned to gas gangrene. He very rapidly died. They had been married six months.

She buried him in a cheap plot behind her parents’ rather impressive monument in Bacup cemetery.

At some point since then, and probably after Bella’s death in 1970, the stone cross on the grave in front of John’s fell — or was pushed — backwards.

Perhaps this undermined his much simpler memorial? Or perhaps there was another reason that his gravestone fell forward and shattered upon the fallen cross? The plinth is still there, but the broken stone has long ago been tidied away.

I feel bad for my step-grandad-in-law (is there such a thing?) being left unmemorialised. I looked into getting a new stone. £600+. Ouch. But perhaps I could save up?

It wouldn’t matter though. The council will only accept gravestones from people who hold the deed to the grave. Bella, I assume. But she died in 1970. Her son Harry? If he had indeed held the deed, it was lost when he died in 2001. No new stone can be provided without it.

John Waterworth will remain without a headstone for the rest of eternity. Everyone he ever loved, perhaps everyone who ever met him, is dead. Once Chris and I are gone, he will be forever forgotten.

Until then, and despite being born 30 years after died, I will keep remembering him.

Sleep well, John Waterworth.

Originally tweeted by Dr Jamiebear 🐻 (@thisisrjg) on January 11, 2022.

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