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Norah Brennan

My grandparents, George Frederick and Norah Bourne

The Brennans were seafaring people, fishing from Grimsby, and Norah Evelyn Brennan was born on 13th June 1903 in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, the eldest daughter of William and Sarah Brennan, née Betmead. Norah was, as was tradition in those days, quickly baptised at St Andrews, Grimsby, known as the Fisherman's church (Andrew is their patron saint). That was a Church of England church, demolished in the 1960s but Norah said that she went to a convent school. She kept her faith without overtly practising until her death in 1979. I have the crucifix she was given as a girl.

Norah's mother was from Lowestoft in Suffolk, where William and Sarah lived for a while as they raised their family. William died during the second World War in 1942. There are family tales around his role in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 and his encounter with the captain of a German U-boat. Sarah died in Canada in 1978, where a number of the Brennan family had emigrated after the war.

Norah remained in England, finding her way to Letchworth where she met and married George Frederick Bourne in 1929. They had two children, Audrey and Michael. Audrey was my mother and I have happy memories of growing up in Letchworth and spending a lot of time with my grandparents, George and Norah. I stayed with them for a while when mum was paralyzed. "Nanna Bourne" was much loved by me and my cousins. She would have us all round the table on Sunday for a roast and 1966 was especially memorable because she took us all to the Costa Brava for a week. Nanna was quite fond of a beverage and on that holiday I remember she kept herself cool with Bacardi and Coke. There were many more memories of that trip, not least my mother's encounter with the Spanish police, the football World Cup and plenty of banter with the Germans who were in a nearby pension. We went again the following year but not after, as my cousins and I moved up to our big schools and beyond.

George died of a blood clot one stormy December night in 1970, having battled progressive paralysis of his legs for a few years. Norah succumbed to what I think was cervical cancer almost ten years later.


Name DoB PoB DoD PoD
Norah Evelyn BRENNAN 13th June 1903 Cleethorpes 28th May 1979 Stevenage
flowchart TD
  classDef female fill:#fcc
  classDef gentie fill:#fff
  WHB(William Henry Brennan<br>1872 -- 1942) --- WHBSEB["m. 1897"]:::gentie
  SEB(Sarah Elizabeth Betmead<br>1878 -- 1955):::female --- WHBSEB
  WHBSEB --> WJB("William Joseph Stephen Henry" <br>1898 -- 1974)
  WHBSEB --> HEB("Harold Edward" <br>1901 d.)
  WHBSEB --> NEB("Norah Evelyn" <br>1903 -- 1979):::female --- GFBNEB
  GFBG(George Frederick Bourne<br>1907 -- 1970) --- GFBNEB["m. 1929"]:::gentie
  WHBSEB --> EMB("Elsie May" <br>1905 -- 1983):::female
  WHBSEB --> JGB("Jessie Georgina" <br>1907 -- 2002):::female
  WHBSEB --> SLB("Sarah Lorraine" <br>1914 d.):::female
  WHBSEB --> KB("Kathleen" <br>1916 -- 1993):::female
  GFBNEB --> AJB("Audrey Joyce"<br>1930 -- 2020):::female
  GFBNEB --> MWGB("Michael"<br>1937 -- )

Last update: February 4, 2023