Jacques Louis Alexis
Jacques Louis Alexis Audcent was born on the 8th July 1912 in a private nursing home, the second of three sons of Louis Felix Henri Audcent and his wife Henriette Marie Angele Ferney. At the time his mother was suffering from Gall stones and he must have been somewhat premature, for he weighed at birth only between 1.5 and 2 lbs, and it says something for the Hospital standards and Staff capacilities of that time, that the little mite survived, his aunt was to comment that he could fit into a pint pot. He was baptised on the 12th August 1912 at St. Bonaventure's Church, Bishopston, Bristol by Fr. John Moran O.F.M. (a Franciscan), having for Godparents, his maternal uncle Alexandre Lemoine and his paternal aunt, Helene Marie 'Louise' Audcent. In his early years, he suffered badly from a squint, but this naturally corrected itself, so that when he grew older, it had disappeared. Right up until his marriage in 1938, he resided with his parents, first at ? Belvoir Road, St. Andrew's Park, Bristol and then later a few doors away at 45 Belvoir Road.
Later, at the age of 11 he was to be confirmed by his Lordship Bishop Burton, Bishop of Clifton, on the 28th October 1923 at St. Bonaventures.
Educated at St. Brendans College, Berkeley Square, Clifton, he first attended their Prep School in September 1921, at which time the headmaster was J. S. Roche later to be followed by F. J. Brannigan, moving up to the Main School proper in September the following year, up and until he left in March 1927. St. Brendans was a Christian Brother's RC School and Jacques three sons were to follow him in attending the same school.
Having left St. Brendans he was sent in October 1927 for a period up to July 1928 to a school in France. This school the ecole Notre-Dame de Boulogne, then under the Director A. B. Bessieres was a commercial school, situated at 1 Avenue de Longchamp, Boulogne-sur-Seine. During this time he obtained a second prize certificate for diligence in classe 4e, dated 23rd May 1928. Whilst in France his maternal aunt Marguerite Lemoine nee Ferney, a professor of pianoforte gave him piano lessons and wanted him to remain with her and attend the Conservatoire de Paris where she taught. She was certain she could train him to be a concert pianist. His wife records that he certainly played beautifully and that she spent many hours listening to him on his mothers baby grand. On his return from France, presumably with much improved knowledge of the spoken language. He then had a short period of private tuition before taking his School Certificate, but despite passing brilliantly in French and Methematics, he failed to obtain the other group passes necessary to obtain his Certificate. He therefore commenced in September 1929 commercial classes at the Merchant Venturer's Technical College in Bristol. Whilst there, he sat an examination set by the Faculty of Teachers in Commerce in Pitman Shorthand, obtaining a rate of fifty words per minute, the certificate being dated 19th March 1930. It was at this time, that he was to meet his future wife Sylvia Peat, the meeting took place on the occasion of his attendance at the Technical College. He was escorted to the College (in late 1929) by his mother, who demanded to see the top man in charge (she was in fact to see a much lesser mortal) whom she then directly instructed to ensure her son applied himself to his studies. Sylvia, who herself had only commenced work at the college on the 7th October 1929, felt somewhat sorry for the young man, and offered him two dance tickets to the "Navigation" section dance. He duly attended the dance with his brother Gerard. Having joined the course, Sylvia found Jacques waiting for her when she came to leave for the night, wishing to escort her home, and in due course they became very good friends, engaged and eventually married.
Following this somewhat disrupted training and education his mother placed him as an apprentice with the husband of her friend Mrs. Bracher, who owned a leather goods shop of that name with three branches, the main shop being situated in Queens Road, the other branches at Clifton; Stokes Croft and Bedminster. He hated the position where he was treated very unkindly as an outsider - the staff responsible at the Stokes Croft and Bedminster Branches considered him a friend of the boss!! as a result of which they gave him all the menial tasks and dirty work at those two shops. Whilst with the Bedminster branch, he entered a competition run by the local Cinema, for the best window dressed to advertise the picture that was to be shown the following week and won the first prize of two cinema tickets. On the strength of this, he got a temporary job, touring the south of England with a companion, dressing grocer shop windows for Lever Brothers and advertising their new cooking fat - a substitute for lard, and the money he earned paid for his engagement ring for his fiancee Sylvia Peat.
We note that in 1934 his brother Bernard commented in his letters that Jacques "had been booted out of Brachers, which was no doubt a benefit, as the work didn't suit his character". He then took up a position selling hoover vacuum cleaners. Hoovers, were a hardnosed outfit, much like the modern double glazed windows firms. If one did not sell so many of their vacuum cleaners in a week, they charged the saleman for the hire of the demonstation model - it was a most degrading job for anyone to have. Jacques was never a good salesman of the type required, and he left Hoover owing money which he then had to pay back. He then undertook a Bakers round just for a week. He followed this up with a position with the Crestalite Lamp Company of Bristol, marketing their new invention, which meant lodging in Gloucester where he stayed in Tuffley Avenue. During this time he would cycle from Gloucester at the weekends to see his fiancee Sylvia in Bristol, and she would cycle part way back with him on the Sunday evenings. The Company, however, closed down after only a short time.
In the event, there was a response to an application for work made by his brother Gerard, from Ever Ready, a very reputable British Company. Gerard was unable to attend the interview as he was on holiday in the South of France, touring with friends, (his friends were a married couple who eventually persuaded Gerard to join go into business with them after the war - see his biography) and so Jacques went along in his place. He obtained the position and spent some happy years working for them. It must having been during these years that he assisted his father with his entomological studies by drawing the microscopic pictures for his father's publications, which assistance was acknowledged in the introductions.
It was as a result of this job with Ever Ready, and the salary earned that he was able to finally marry, despite further delay caused by his mother presenting him with a bill, which had to be paid of £200, for his keep when he was out of a job, and which included, shirts, flannels and other presents he had been given for his birthday and Christmas from her. Despite all the odds, a decision was made to get married, and the he and his fiancee Sylvia Constance Peat found a flat to live in after they were married, being the Top Flat at Glendower House, Clifton Down, and they took possession of the flat on the 2nd June 1938, to be followed by their marriage at St. Bonaventure's Church on the 11th June following. Sylvia was the youngest daughter of Horace Ernest Peat a Customs and Excise Surveyor and his wife Alice Humphrey, and she and Jacques had been engaged and attached for nearly 9 years, the marriage celebrated by Fr. Bernard Cooney O.F.M. Jacques had for best man his eldest brother Gerard, and Sylvia's bridesmaids were her good friend Mary Lilian Jones and her elder sister Muriel Florence Peat. Aged 25 he still resided up to the date of marriage with his parents at 45 Belvoir Road, St. Andrews, Bristol.
Following their honeymoon the young couple moved to Glendower House, Clifton Down, Bristol to start their married life. Their first two children Anthony Edward and David Bernard, twins, both being born on 2nd March 1939, Anthony at 6.30 in the morning and David at 9.55 at Bristol Maternity Home, (these times are important for Genealogical purposes, for under English law Anthony was the eldest, but under French Law David was the eldest). On the birth of the twins, Jacques and his wife were sent personal congratulations and a generous cheque from the Chairman of the Ever Ready Company for whom he worked, then a Mr. Goodfellow.
Later because of the war and the bombing of Bristol, the family moved to 42 Charlton Road, Shepton Mallet, Somerset at least before the 14th April 1941, for on that date he was accepted as an Honorary Member of the British Legion Branch at Shepton Mallet. Jacques wrote his will initially on the 5th October 1940 in the presence of Mr. S.H. Bennett, Branch Manager of the Min. of Labour, and his wife Catherine, who lived at 6 Hill Road, Clevedon in Somerset. He left the whole of his estate to his wife Sylvia, and should she have died to his two sons Anthony Edward and David Bernard. He then modified his will twice by initialled written amendment, the last time in 1949, by the additon of the names of his two other children Paul Jacques and Jeannine Louise. Sylvia must have returned to Bristol for the birth of their third son Paul, for he was born on the 18th August 1941, in the same Bristol Maternity Home as his elder brothers.
At the commencement of World War II, because of his age, the fact that he was married with young children, and that he also held a reserved occupation, Jacques was not called up immediately into the Army, and was only conscripted on the 4th March 1943. He had asked to be able to join the Intelligence Corps, just as his elder brother had done, but was told that he could change once he was in the Service. In the event, as No. 14555427, and following his basic training which was completed on the 15th April 1943, he was transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers on the following day and trained in radio technology, passing the following Army trade test, Tel/Mech (Fld) Class III.
He tried on a number of occasions to join the intelligence corps where his perfect french and family connections could prove of value, and even hoped to help the war effort by parachuting into France as an Agent. However, in the event, he was never actually given the opportunity to be assessed and served his whole term in the army dealing with tank communication repairs and installation, based in England, rising to the rank of Acting/P/Sergeant.
His period in the army was relatively uneventful, he had little time for the incompetence of many officers - and the only anecdote that I remember that him telling me (dba), was his description of his anti-aircraft duties at one of the stations where he was sent. Apparently, there was a rosta of men to man the anti-aircraft guns when the german planes flew over. The officers had never bothered to provide any training to the NCO's or their men on how to operate the guns, and my father relates that in all the time he was there, no one managed to even send a shell into the air at the aircraft before it had flown over, let alone getting close to hitting one. In his last post, he was very happy, for his officer was somewhat of a ne're do well, and for the first time allowed him to get on with his training duties completely free of interference, which proved the more sucessful as a result. In 1946, he used his design talents to design a menu including a cover for a celebration of the Central Tank Transit Workshops 1944-46, which menu included the rear page for Autographs, one copy in the family possession is full of Autographs of those present from the dinner and dance.
On the 2nd October 1946, he was granted his Release leave from Slough, Bucks where he was a member of the 12 Vehicle Group REME, and passed that same day to Guildford Military Disembarkation and Dispersal Unit, leaving them on the same day. Presumably he left the army on the 2nd October although the last date for his dispersal leave was indicated in his Soldiers Release Book as the 27th November 1946.
At the end the war Jacques' Godmother Helene Marie Louise Audcent (known as TaLouise), who had inherited the family home in Clifton Wood, did decide to return to Paris and join her sister who resided in her own home at 12 Rue St. Bernard, Paris Arrondisement 11. At what date she left England is not known, but we do know that her sister Marguerite left very soon after Armistice day, on the 15th May 1945 to return to her home in Paris.
Just a few months before he was to leave the Army, in fact on the 15th August 1946, he had written to his Aunts, asked them directly if there was any possibility of them considering selling the family home 'Corazon', 3 Clifton Wood Road, Clifton, and expressed his desire to own it whilst also setting out thoughts as to re-arranging the internal layout of the property (changes which were in fact made). It is clear from the text of the letter that Sylvia his wife and the 3 boys had already moved in to Corazon by this date and were living there, no address was given for the Aunts, but it is presumed that both of them had already returned to France by that date.
1947 was to be an eventful year, for their last child and only daughter Jeannine Louise was born on the 7th June 1947 and they finally purchased the Corazon from his Aunt Louise by a Conveyance dated the 18th August of that same year.
Following war service, he had returned to Every Ready as a travelling salesman and representative. But having greatly increased their sales, his company was taken over by an American Firm and his area was taken from him and divided into two parts, thus he lost much of the hard earned goodwill that he had worked for. Many of his colleagues were sacked, and a new manager took over. It was while he was at Every Ready that he met his good friend Thomas Stanton Whish in 1947, and Tommy, as he was known, and his wife Avis were to remain good friends of both Jacques and his wife Sylvia all their lives. Tommy had started his own shop called "Garnet Radio". It was soon after this meeting that they both became founding members of the Bristol Branch of the Television Society.
Jacques himself decided to leave Every Ready and to set up in business as 'The Clifton Radio Repair Service' occupying the lower ground floor rear room, (level with the garden) of 3 Clifton Wood Road, using the skills that he had learnt in his years with the Army, and was well placed to take advantage of the sudden interest and increased ownership of televisions.
The increasing ownership and rental of Televisions, and the new role of Television, in society, in entertainment, documentation, news and communication enhanced the status of those concerned in the new technology and the Television Society, was very soon given a Royal Charter and renamed The Royal Television Society.
He undertook work privately for persons, and through the introductions made for him by his ex-Ever Ready Manager supplemented his income by undertaking repairs on behalf of a major Bristol rental company Duck Son & Pinker.
He purchased, using his wife's legacy from her Aunt, Constance Humphrey, a small, former first aid post and later a shoe store known as "The Birdwell Shoe Store", situated at Birdwell on the main road through Long Ashton, Somerset, near Bristol, and set it up as a shop firstly selling electrical goods and then bicycles and parts. He entered into a mortgage in the sum of Three hundred and fifty pounds with an interest rate of 5% per annum, by deed dated 14th October 1952, with the former owner of the Shoe Store, Mr. C.R.C. Hodgson, this said deed witnessed by Philip Bateman of 33 Cromwell Road, Bristol 6, a Bank-clerk. Moving his repair equipment to the new shop he then spent many years running a business, which cannot really be said to have been successful. His earnings were so low, that in all his working years in the business, he never once earned enough to pay income tax. The shop was regularly broken into, being made of timber, and despite his many attempts to make it secure, including the use of metal plates and bars, that in the end, it was uninsurable.
His son Anthony joined him, to finish his apprenticeship in Radio and Television engineering, and spent some years in the business, but he held the view that his father did not charge enough, and was not a businessman, and he finally left and joined Radio Rentals as an Engineer.
A building developer called Bollom did attempt on one occasion to cheat Jacques out of his land, for his little shop sat in the way of the possible development of a field at the rear, and would have been the means of access to the site. In the event Jacques was given some free help from a friendly Lawyer and was able to frustrate the developer's intentions. He also suffered competition, for John James, who had a huge television rental chain, came and bought a shop in brand new premises located nearby, but found himself unable to entice Jacque's customers from him, and was finally forced to close down within only one year of opening the new shop.
He continued to work, until he suffered a very serious heart attack on the 12th May 1976. It was clear that he could no longer continue, he was not fit, the house in Clifton was too large for him and his wife, and they set about selling the business and the family home. He had already found a prospective buyer for the business for when he retired, and the new purchaser together with his son Tony managed to keep the business running during his illness, and then took it over immediately Jacques decided to retire.
He was also fortunate in finding a buyer who was very impressed by the unaltered historic features that still existed in the family home at 3 Clifton Wood Road, and the house was finally sold on the 29th October 1976 having been in the family for close on 90 years. Jacques had never had the money to 'modernise' the house, other than providing electricity and a bathroom within the house. Accordingly he received, sufficient monies for both, including a good sum for the exceptionally fine furniture that had remained primarily from his mothers estate, that he and his wife were able to purchase outright a nearly brand new bungalow at 8 Greenway, Watchet, Somerset, and still have money to spare to pay off any debts and place some into savings.
Perhaps we should spend a little time considering Jacques' hobbies. He was a keen fisherman, more interested in the peace and quiet the sport gave him, than actually catching fish, having said this he still brought home the odd trout. A member of the The Avon and Tributaries Angling Association for many years, it is noted that his good friend Tommy Whish was for a time the Hon. Auditor, and an old friend of him and his wife, Thos Deas was an Honorary Member. His other great interest was playing Bridge, which really came into its own when they moved to Watchet.
They moved to Watchet, into their new Bungalow, which was much easier for his wife Sylvia to keep clean, and they settled down to a relatively peaceful life. Interested in the Conservative Party, later Jacques got involved in the proposed twinning of Watchet with St. Renan in Brittany, France, and later still he helped in the local museum, and spent regular evenings playing bridge with his friends.
In 1980, he accompanied his son David to Paris and Chateaudun, to assist him (with his knowledge of the french language) in researching the Audcent family. The visit was a very happy one, looking back, the two of them achieved a great deal, for barriers of officialdom crumbled for them both. In Paris, an officious Senior Officer in the Maritime Archives finally gave in and granted special permission to permit investigation in the military records, unfortunately these did not prove of great interest. Whilst in Paris their cousin Jean Jacques Lefebvre gave them the use of his flat at 23 Rue de Rhumkorf, Neuilly, Paris. At Chateaudun, much to the Mairie's dismay, for a senior Lady official attempted to stop them from investigating the Registers, their rights were vigorously demanded and numerous photostat copies of documents were finally obtained. In that same city, again other Authorities, were in the first instance unhelpful, but were finally persuaded just to get rid of the tiresome Englishmen by providing information that would lead to the tracing of many of the more recent members of the "Audecent" family and whose records indicated a list of the various alias's historically used by the family.
Whether more by luck or judgement, the combination of a bold forceful young Englishman with his more elderly father who spoke old fashioned but good french, seemed to overcome all the official obstacles. Whilst at Chateaudun, the two of them visited Chaussepot, at Courtelain, to see the family de Kish de Nemesker, the Marquis and his two sisters, whose Governess had been TaDaisy (Pauline Marie Marguerite Audcent), Jacques aunt, who had also run the household for many years on the death of her employers wife. Jacques had visited a number of times before with his wife, as had his children Paul and Jeannine, but this was to be his last visit.
Jacques and Sylvia's life at Watchet was one of tranquillity and peace, and they were to be joined later by her sisters Muriel and Evelyn who moved to live close by at No. 10 West Street, Watchet.
The presence of the sisters gave him a role as the only man among the three women. He ended his life surrounded by numerous women, and his generosity and kindness in helping all and sundry was much appreciated by everyone. All in all, he was able to carve a real niche for himself in the local community. He took over much of the cooking at home. Perhaps he felt that he was living on borrowed time, for freed of many concerns by his move, he probably spent his last years happier than ever before. In these last years, he made frequent visits to his children, and on two occasions managed to stay on his own with his son David and family in Downley, where he settled in very happily, content to rest, just watch and join in the children's activities.
He was a fond grandfather and his death albeit at the age of 72 came a little too early for him to take the fullest pleasure in the achievements of his grandchildren. He and his wife did manage to attend as proud grandparents, their eldest grandson Geoffrey's graduation at Birmingham University on the 12th July 1984, (just one month before Jacques was to die), in the absence of his father and mother who had been unable to attend. The photograph of the event quite clearly shows the special pride he had in Geoffrey's achievement.
The pace of life must have suited him for he lived for a number of years after his major heart attack, before he died suddenly on the 10th August 1984 at Taunton Hospital where he had been urgently taken, of an aneurism of the aorta artery. He was cremated at Taunton Crematorium, his funeral being well attended by friends and relations, and his ashes were given to his wife Sylvia, who retains them to this day (2007).
All in all Jacques had a very hard life, my mother, his wife, makes the point that my biographies make both him and his great grandfather Hippolyte Henri Pinot de Moira seem miserable, and she points out that both were in fact happy with their lot. Contented and intelligent, making the best of what fate had given them. As a result of the blows received during their lives, their characters were strengthened. She says that it could be because both had wives with peasant blood in them!!
I make no apology for my biographies, I am not in a position from documents to know what state of mind people were in, but, it is interesting, that if one reads many of the biographies of our forebears, they found honour and regard in public duties, and there are innumerable instances where they suffered great losses and hardship when involved with business enterprises. I certainly did not intend to make any of them appear as miserable beings, but there is no doubt that they both received disappointments and frustrations in their lives. Perhaps genetics, do have an important bearing on the capabilities of an individual. Certainly, Mother would be in the best position to know my father's mind, but he did complain to me on occasion how disappointed he had been with his lot, and it is common knowledge that he would, given the opportunity, have liked to have become a Surgeon. He might like to have known that the last ancestor of ours in history with that occupation was Jean d'Aillebout, Chief Surgeon to Henry IV of France, born around 1531 and living in 1593, probably died in 1594.
If my father had only thought of it, he had good reason to take some pride in his career, arising from the fact that he was the first of the family at large ever to break into new technical ground with his career. He was, and had to be, up-to-date with the latest technology of the time, and his example was to be followed, by his son Anthony and his nephew Michael Audcent. He was, it could be said, the first true 'technologist' in the family!