Madeleine Shum

Madeline Shum was born on 28th June1884 in Handsworth, Birmingham, the fifth of Walter and Laura's six children. Her sister Gertie had begun work at the local Post Office in Villa Road when she left school and Madeline later joined her there. Madeline learned Morse Code and was employed in the Telegrams department.

In about 1905, Madeline met Albert Thomas Thurman, an apprentice electrician. They became engaged, but it was to be a long engagement as Bert wanted to obtain his qualifications before he married. In around 1910 Bert Thurman qualified as an Electrical Engineer and became an Associate Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. He and Madeline named the day and married on 3rd June 1912, just before her 28th birthday. They began their married life in a terraced house with Bert's allotment opposite. Just over a year later their first child was born, a daughter. She arrived on Monday 9th June 1913.

When the First World War was declared, Bert didn't leave home as he was in a Reserved Occupation. Gertie and Madeline continued to work in the Post Office. After the war was over Madeline and Bert had their second child, a boy they named Bob. On his third birthday, there was a call for Madeline to go to her mother, Laura, as she was very ill. She died the next day.

The following year, 1923, the family moved to a semi-detached house. Around two years later, at the beginning of 1926, Madeline's second son was born. A year later, on 22nd January 1927, Madeline's father Walter died.

Her first son, Bob, remembered that when he was in the Scouts he was due to go on a camping weekend when it started to rain heavily. Madeline refused to let him go. Apparently the Scouts' tents were washed away in the storm. It was not the first time that Bob had been made to stay at home because of the weather: it had rained on one sports day afternoon and Madeline had kept him at home until the rain stopped. Bob afterwards remembered running to the sports field and then being too out of breath to compete properly!

The war had brought many changes for Madeline, not least that two of her children were married and had left home. Her third child, Peter, was to remain living in Poppy Lane until long after Madeline and Bert had died.

Her grandson Michael would sometimes stay in the Poppy Lane house. He recalls that it was painted royal blue outside. Inside, there were two main living rooms on one side of the house. The one in the front was large and had a bay window. In it there was a large table which could be expanded to become enormous. For this to happen there was a handle which only 'Grandpa' was allowed to turn - tempting though this was to young children. Large willow pattern plates were displayed above the picture rail.

The back room was smaller and darker, with a square bay window. It was rarely used; it was kept for best. During the war the large table was kept in the back room and under it was the Morrison Shelter. After the war the Dining Room and the Lounge were changed round. The kitchen was at the back of the house and it, too, had a large table. It was on this table that Madeline used to serve enormous cooked breakfasts. Upstairs there was a separate lavatory which had a round window. The house was heated by three coal fires downstairs - one in the front room, one in the back room and one in the kitchen. There was a large coalhouse outside.

In the garage there was the family Hillman car which Bert drove. Prior to this Bert had had a two tone blue Citro├źn. Madeline did not learn to drive.

Madeline enjoyed playing cards; whist or vingt-et-un. She had amazing luck and rarely lost, even when playing roulette. She used to try to lose so that the children could win, but she rarely succeeded. She would go to Whist Drives and Bridge Drives. Occasionally Madeline would play the piano; even more occasionally she would be persuaded by Eileen to knit something although she did not enjoy knitting. In the evenings she would read the Birmingham Mail, being particularly interested in the "Hatched, Matched and Dispatched" columns. (This was Bert's private name for the Births, Marriages and Deaths Columns).

On Tuesday, 11th January 1966, Bert died of Lung Cancer at the age of 79. He was cremated the following Friday in Sutton Coldfield. Madeline continued to live at Poppy Lane with Peter until her own death seven years later following three strokes within a year or so. She died on 5th September 1971 and she, too, was cremated in Sutton Coldfield. She was 87. She left a daughter, two sons and four grandchildren, one brother and a sister-in-law, a nephew, a niece and their families.