Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Yesterday, 10 June was an anniversary. Twenty five years since my Nana left this life.

She wasn't too keen on us digging around in the past. I am sure that was mostly because of the secrets she and her sister kept, that buried the hurt from their childhood. But she did share some tidbits with us, and I'm sure she'd be mighty intrigued with all the discoveries we have made beyond that hurt.

Born in Milverton, Warwickshire in 1907 she was the 2nd daughter in her family. Her father was a groom, and later a cab-driver or chauffeur. Her mother had been a housemaid before her marriage in 1901. She never knew any of her grandparents, both of her grandmothers had died when her parents were less than a year old. Her grandfathers both remarried, one even twice more. 

By 1911 the family had grown, with the arrival of a third daughter, and shortly after the census was taken, a son. At some point after this, family life turned to custard. 

There were little bits of stories that we would hear. Her mother had two brothers who had emigrated to the US with their wives and settled in Washington State. Nana knew their names and occupations and she and her sister wrote letters to their aunt for many years. An aunt of their mother had also emigrated to the US, and Nana believed that their own family had intended to join them, but that her father had changed his mind.

Their mother became unwell, today we would mostly likely treat her for depression. She was hospitalised, and their father would take them to visit. These visits became upsetting for the children and for their mother as well as she didn't seem to recognise them after a while. For whatever reason, their father apparently decided it was best to stop the visits and tell the children that their mother had died. This would appear to be around 1915.

There didn't appear to be much support from either family. I imagine it would have been pretty tough to try to hold your family together, hold down a job and deal with your own feelings about your ill wife. The children especially the elder two would have become the housekeepers and carers to the younger children. I'm not sure how long they stayed at school, but I believe they worked as housemaids at some point. If they saw their father driving in the street, they were not to acknowledge him - if they did, they would hear about it later.

Nana's elder sister married and emigrated to New Zealand in the 1920's and Nana followed in 1929 to start a new life as well. Their younger sister joined the Baptist Mission and travelled to India as a missionary while their brother remained in Leamington Spa.

She met and married my grandfather by 1931 and started their own family. They moved a lot as Granddad was involved with the construction of hydro power stations in both the North and South Islands, eventually settling in the Waikato. This part of New Zealand always reminded her of "home" with the green rolling hills.

She loved to garden, read, solve crosswords and was a great knitter. We all had wonderful jumpers and cardigans as children. Family was important, letter writing kept the post office in business, seedlings for the garden were swapped amongst family and friends (thanks NZR buses) and regular lengthy phone calls boosted telephony companies profits. She loved the community camaraderie of hydro village life, played tennis and baked. The best meals were to be had at Nana's - cottage pie and rice pudding. Yum. Learning to make pikelets; standing on the chair by her side watching for those bubbles to pop, so you knew when they should be turned. And the games; we'd play at school - spelling words with the alphabet macaroni, and play that join the dots to make the squares game with her for hours on end. She regularly drove to visit us as our families moved a little further afield, and would help at church with care and craft for the "oldies" when she really wasn't much younger than some of them.

She was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, we miss her.