It’s not always a good idea to start family stories at the beginning; it can often be more intriguing to start elsewhere. Having said that, a life story told in weekly blog instalments has scope to get a little confusing if it doesn’t follow some kind of chronological order. So, at least for the time being, let’s follow convention and begin at the beginning, on a winter’s day on the cusp of 1870-1. In a room over the North Bridge Inn, Emmeline Collis is in labour.
The North Bridge Inn stands in Frog Island, beside a lock-gate on the Leicester Navigation. Horses clip clop their way along the towpath, pulling barges laden with coal on their journey between Loughborough and Leicester. And on the road outside, carts and pedestrians arch over the canal bridge as they head into town.
In December 1870, licensed victualler John George Collis – always known as George – and his wife Emmeline have lived here for only a month; 1870 has been a busy year for them: in July they’re running the Sir Thomas White pub in Russell Street, by October they’ve moved to the Red Lion on Highcross Street, and then finally in November they swap licences with John Cooper for the North Bridge Inn. Such energetic hopping around – finishing at Frog Island – is reported in a series of newspaper clippings, ending with this one from the Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury on 19 November 1870: