Ex-pat Tony shares memories of mum Flo’s convent schooldays

Florence Evelyn Thomas is first left, back row, on this 1925 photograph taken at Layton Hill Convent. Florence was recognised by her son Tony Whalley who now lives in San Diego, California. Below, Florence at the age of 21 and pictured in 1960 shortly before her death
Florence Evelyn Thomas is first left, back row, on this 1925 photograph taken at Layton Hill Convent. Florence was recognised by her son Tony Whalley who now lives in San Diego, California. Below, Florence at the age of 21 and pictured in 1960 shortly before her death
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Long distance Memory Lane reader Tony Whalley, a sand grown’un who now lives in San Diego, California, admits he was surprised to see a 1925 photograph of his late mother when she was a teenage pupil at Layton Hill Convent, Blackpool.

The picture was used alongside the colourful recollections of Betty Tattersall (nee Hastwell), of Fairhaven, who, having recently celebrated her 100th birthday, is the school’s oldest surviving past pupil.

Florence Whalley (nee Thomas), aged 21

Florence Whalley (nee Thomas), aged 21

Unfortunately, Tony’s mum, born Florence Evelyn Thomas, did not share Betty’s longevity.

Tony says: “Known to everyone as Flo, she died of problems with a cystic liver at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in 1960, aged 48.”

The timing of her death was also particularly poignant for Tony, who says, with personal sadness: “Unfortunately I was away at sea in the Merchant Navy and only arrived home a day after the funeral at Layton cemetery.”

Florence is first left, back row, on the school photograph and after leaving Layton Hill she went overseas for a while, to a convent in Verviers in Belgium.

Florence Whalley (nee Thomas) in 1960

Florence Whalley (nee Thomas) in 1960

Tony says: “After a few months she wrote excitedly to her parents that she had learned to speak Flemish. A little while later she wrote again to say she had actually learned to speak Geordie, as the two girls she had befriended turned out to be from Newcastle.

“We used to laugh about that when I was a kid. I remember my mother introducing me to Mother Campion and Mother Euphrasia who had taught her when she was at the convent. One of them was the convent bee keeper as I recall.”

Tony says: “My mother loved Blackpool, and it was very difficult to get her to leave, even to go on a holiday.

“She was born in Everton and moved to Blackpool with her mum and dad when she was about 10. Her dad, Louis Thomas, was an auctioneer and also what is euphemistically called ‘an amusement caterer’ who ran arcades such as Promenade Pastimes and Sportsland opposite Central Pier. He also had an arcade on South Pier and during school holidays I would work as a barker at the arcades.

“We emigrated to the States in 1968 and it was 1999 before I made it back to Blackpool.”

Tony admits: “It was quite a shock, I had arranged to meet some friends in The Tower Lounge, expecting the soft music of the Palm Court, only to find somebody had turned it into a beer hall, full of drunken day trippers. Well I suppose nothing lasts for ever and perhaps rosy apples will grow again, as they used to say.”

Tony can be contacted by old friends at tonywhalley@tonywhalley.com, and he will be sharing his own schoolday memories in Memory Lane soon.

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