MY LIFE STORY
by Mrs. Hilda Eliza Fee
The following narrative tells how Eliza Maria OAK was left to raise her two brothers after their parents died: I will begin by telling you a little about my mother first. She was English on both sides. She was born in the year 1845 in a little town called Topsom [Topsham], in Devonshire England. I am sorry to say my grandmother died very suddenly and my dear mother was left with her Father and two brothers. My mother was attending High School [Secondary School] at the time of her mother's death so was obliged to leave school to keep house for her father and two brothers. Her father was a ship's carpenter on land. My mother was only 15 years old when her mother passed away. Her eldest brother was thirteen and her baby brother under a year old. He could not walk and she had to be a mother to him, also look after her other brother that still went to school.
Much to my mother's sorrow, she lost her father and she was still young - only 19 years old. They were left orphans, so she gave up house keeping. Her eldest brother went out to work. He was 17 years old and she put her little brother, not quite 5 years old, in an orphan school for a few years, but she still looked after them until they were old enough to take care of themselves.
My mother went out to a place of service to work. They were rich people. She was head cook and she stayed quite a few years in this gentleman's family. There were a lot of servants, also a butler. Mother had a young girl under her. All mother had to do was the cooking. After it was all done, she had nothing else to do. The other servants did the rest - dished up the dinner, waited on the table, and then washed up the dishes. Mother had the rest of the time to herself until next meal. After that was over, she had the rest of the evening to herself. From there she left to get married.
Mother was 28 years old before she ever thought of getting married. Then one day she met my father which was her first cousin. After she left service, she went to Southampton to see her Aunt which was her father's sister and there she met my father. They fell in love with each other. My mother's name was Eliza Maria Oak and my father's name was William John Shinkfield. His mother's name was Hannah Oak, before she married my Grandfather. His name was William John Shinkfield. (I will go on with my story).
My mother was married in Southampton to my father who was a sailor, his name William John Shinkfield, in the year 1873. They were both 28 years old. My mother Eliza Maria Oak, who is now Mrs. William John Shinkfield. Her birthday 27 of Aug. born 1845. My mother was a month older than my father. His birthday was Sept.26th 1845. They were married on Christmas day 1873. My eldest brother, Robert John Shinkfield was born on the following Boxing day Dec.26th 1874. They were married just one year and a day when my brother arrived. Nice Christmas box for them, what do you say (ha, ha). Mother had 5 children, 2 girls and 3 boys - Robert 1st; James 2nd was dead when born; 3rd child a girl, Elizabeth, died at 19 months old; next 4th child a boy, Lewin James, died at 2 years and a half old; then came the last one, a girl, myself Hilda Eliza born June 14th 1881. My brother Lewin James died when I was 6 months old.
All my mother's children were born in Southampton, all but me and I was born in Cardiff, South Wales. Mother was on a visit and was staying with her youngest brother. Both her brothers were living in Cardiff and both married there. She had not seen them for a few Years so went to visit them and Poor little me arrived before her visit was over. I was six months old before she went home. She lived in Liverpool, England where I should have been born. Oh, well I suppose I am none the worse for being born in Cardiff.
And, Oh dear, much to my sorrow when I was six years old, she went back to Cardiff, took my brother Robert and myself, back to Cardiff on a visit to see her two brothers again. She thought so much of them, especially her youngest brother Robert, and she never went back to Liverpool again. My father was away at sea when we left so when he arrived home she wrote and told him to sell everything and come to Cardiff. She made up her mind to stay there as she wanted to be near her brothers. So my father did and came to Cardiff and made it our home there. He still went to sea, but he never liked Cardiff, neither did my brother or myself but poor mother did. She sure loved her brothers."
Hilda Eliza (Shinkfield) Fee began her story in 1946 and got this far by Jan.1953 and no further. According to the Oak Family Tree, as compiled by Rebecca Ferguson of London England, Eliza Maria Oak's parents were - Lewin James Oak and Jane Tapper who married in 1844. Her brothers were Lewin Thomas Oak (bap.ll Aug.1847), William James Oak (bap.18 Apr.1849) and Robert John (bap.l9 Feb. 1860). Maybe William James Oak died before Eliza Maria was married. Eliza Maria's father, Lewin James Oak was brother to Hannah Elizabeth Oak who married James John Shinkfield (not Wm John as Hilda said earlier). Eliza Maria's paternal grandparents were Robert Oak and Mary Salter of Topsham, DEV. Her great grandparents were John Oak and Hannah Burge also of Topsham, DEV.
I calculate that Jane Tapper Oak, Eliza Maria's mother, likely died in 1860. Her father Lewin James Oak likely died in 1864, if Hilda has her mother's age correct at those times of death.
This life story is in the possession of Hilda's son, Arthur Fee of Courtenay B.C. He gives this further information
"My mother, Hilda (Shinkfield) Fee, had a cousin, a Petty Officer on the Titanic, who was drowned with the crew. Also another cousin, who was a guard at the aueen's palace, who later became a body guard for the Royal Family. My mother's Aunt that raised her (Anna Shinkfield Murray) was Captain Murray's wife. His ship was the Santerant, which sank in a fog, hit by a ship called the Drummand Castle. It took full blame for the accident. Drummand Castle was travelling far too fast and not sounding her fog horn. Almost all my mother's family were seafaring people. Her great grandfather was a Captain on a sailing vessel who left Liverpool. About a month later his wife woke in the middle of the night and saw her husband standing at the foot of her bed, who slowly sank out of sight. The next day, when she reported to the ship's office, they were very concerned. They told her, they feared her husband had drowned. Over the years they had many similar reports, and all were not good. His ship and crew and all his passengers were never heard from again. The year and date I do not know. The name of the ship, I would very much like to know." -BM