Dorothy Grimshaw and Sidney James Riches
My wonderful parents ..... by Celia Webber
22/5/12Growing up, we were told of their romantic meeting. As it is now a long time since they both died, I would like to record what I remember being told.
My father, born in 1903, had lived a rather solitary life. He was the only child of strict parents with his mother being particularly ambitious for him. In his early teens, he had showed a talent for music and had been trained as a concert pianist which meant many hours of practice and little association with the lads out in the street. This had left him sadly lacking in the confidence and skills to communicate easily.
After a few attempts at some rather varied lines of work, he made a career for himself by playing on the Atlantic liners going to and from England to New York. He would work hard during the voyage, dismiss himself when he reached the States and then go on tour until the money ran out. This became his life for many years.
In the meantime my mother (born 1910) had trained as a teacher. She had excelled in music and was a good pianist in her own right. To earn extra cash to support her widowed father (who was an invalid) and young sister, she took on a part-time evening job in the Devonia Cafe, entertaining the customers with her piano playing (£1 a week for 3½ hours a night). My father must have been staying in the area and had been told of this young, glamorous pianist and stopped by at the cafe to find out more. He must have overcome his shyness and his brusque manner because they began to get to know one another. My mother was very popular with the local lads and was stringing along a few of them and so she added Dad to the list.
A while after their relationship had started my mother became seriously ill. The house she lived in was 3-storeys high and she had one of the attic rooms. It was unheated and, in wintertime, bitterly cold. When he heard that she was ill, my father bought her a state-of-the-art electric fire. This kindness was the key to her decision to accept his proposal of marriage over and above the others she had received.
My mother brought out the best in Dad. They married in 1934 and, until mother’s death in 1971, lived a happy life together with music playing an important part, albeit rather confusing for us youngsters. Mum would play the soppy, romantic stuff (getting completely carried away) and Dad would play the heavy classical dirges and death marches to accompany himself singing (which was not quite so sympathetically received by my sister and I being, to our young ears, too loud and rather monotonous). With all this piano playing, we were overwhelmed. So much so, that we both refused to learn this skill .... which I now deeply regret.