Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Tillie Tells A Tale: When Aunt Bea Came From Canada

My daddy's Uncle Dick emigrated from Govan to Canada as a young man. He was successful in business and married a well to do lady named Bea. They had no children.
Over the years, he kept in close contact with his family in Scotland, sending letters and cards, and during the war we received parcels of food and clothes. I'll never forget the navy blue reefer jacket he sent which had a zip going up the front - something nobody had at that time. It was like an ice skating jacket with embroidered snowflakes on the front and everyone admired it. 

When Dick was about 70, he was planning his first holiday home with his wife to visit the family. One night before their arrival, I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth. As I was about to open the door, I suddenly felt afraid and had a strong feeling that there was someone on the other side of it, an elderly person. After a few moments, I felt silly, opened the door and saw no one. 
The next morning, we received word that Uncle Dick had died. My mother wondered if Dick had got a chance to come and see his family in Govan before he went on his way. 

My granny, who was Dick's sister, wrote to Dick's widow and before long, Aunt Bea decided she would make the trip on her own.
On her arrival in Glasgow, Bea booked into the Central Hotel. My granny was in awe of her and felt nervous about meeting her, so my mummy, as the most confident of the family, was sent to greet her and take her on a tour. 
Bea took her to dinner in the hotel restaurant and ordered steak, a dish none of us would ever have been able to afford. After taking one bite, Bea called for the waitress and said, 
"You see this steak, I could sole and heel my shoe with it". 
My mummy was mortified! Bea was quite a lady, but turned out to be very, very nice.
The following day, my mother brought Bea to visit us all in Govan. She showed Bea her and my daddy's bedroom and invited her to stay. Bea accepted and spent the rest of her holiday at our house.
One day, when Bea was visiting at my granny's room and kitchen in Elphinstone Street, she - unfortunately - had to use the outside toilet. 
On the way home, she confided to my mother, "Oh, I'm so glad that Dick didn't see how his sister was living in that little pokey house. If he had seen that, it would have really upset him. And you'll never guess what she uses for toilet paper - newspaper, cut into squares, hung up on a nail on the door!"
My mummy just kept quiet. She knew that Dick would have been well aware of how his sister was living and that she was probably in better conditions than when he'd left their home aged 20.
After this visit, Bea came back to Scotland nearly every year for a holiday and stayed with my mummy and  my daddy, who she said was very like his Uncle Dick. 

She always said my daddy would inherit her fortune. She lived till in her 90s, and my daddy got his inheritance, which he generously shared out between all of the family.
This photograph was sent to us by Bea, who is the third lady from the left. The reverse of it reads: "We are just going to have a drink - the famous Banana Daquiri in St. Thomas Virgin Islands up in the mountains."


Ellen said...

It must have been such a culture shock for your aunt coming to Govan, Tillie. However, it sounds like your family made her very welcome and she found that special warmth, which existed in Govan people, otherwise she wouldn't have continued with the visits.
Great wee read!

Sandra PA said...

Tillie, it must have been so exciting to have your aunt visit ~ and it must have been a real eye opener for her, too, to see what living conditions were like for Govan folk back then. Sounds like she took it all in her stride, though.
When I tell my kids of what life was like for me growing up, I think it's hard for them to fathom. What I do emphasise, however, is that we did not think of ourselves as poor or deprived in any way. We had a warm home, three meals a day and were part of a loving family. We, too, used newspaper in the toilet and also torn up strips of old sheet for our time of the month needs. We were just the same as those around us, and probably better off than some. I think things began to change when we were old enough to take part time jobs. I was lucky enough to be offered a Saturday job in Hays on Langlands Road and was paid a pound ~ found out later that half a crown came from the manageress' own money! Mum wouldn't take anything from me but said I could save some of it and buy my own clothes. During school holidays, I worked full time and gave her half, and was happy to feel that I was contributing to the family. It couldn't have been easy for my parents during those early years, and it's only as an adult that I can appreciate that, but they did a wonderful job and gave us a happy childhood.