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Auntie Nancie Letters No 2

Uncle David has four letters from Auntie Nancie which, although apparently incomplete, contain a lot of interesting family history memories. They are undated, but probably written in the 1980s. Written on pages torn from reporter – style notebook, the letters were out of order. I have tried to link them together but can’t guarantee total accuracy. The punctuation and spelling is mostly Auntie Nancie’s. She uses exclamation marks nearly as much as I do!!!

This is letter No 2

transcribed by Ruairidh Greig 9 Nov 2008

London House
35B Fore street

Dear David,
Sheila sent me all the papers you sent to her concerning the Family Tree that you are drawing up – there must be hundreds of us!!
I am sorry I have been so very long in sending the names and dates you want, David, bur here they are at last.
I have been writing down all I can remember about Grandma and Grandpa Urquhart – mostly about Grandma’s side though, as she talked about herself more than Grandpa did – to me anyway!
You may have heard most of it from Sheila, David &Co in GY.already, also I expect Christine has quite a lot of stories, as her Mother was the eldest and was born in Peterhead.
I wish Mother had told us more about ‘Grannie Urquhart’. – Grandpa’s Mother – she lived, with them in Grimsby I know, and from what I can remember she was very much loved by Mother and the rest of the family who would use Grannie’s room as a ‘hven’ when Grandma Urquhart was on the rampage - ! She was rather a ‘tartar’ it seems and I aghered from Mother’s remarks that Grandma resented Grannie being there, and Auntie Nell once told me that Grandma would make disparaging remarks about Grannie’s obvious gentility and also the fact that she had made her children speak nicely – ‘Where will that get them she said? I do remember being surprised when I was at Auntie Nell’s once because Jessie Jewitt - a relation (cousin I think) – daughter of Grandpa Urquhart’s sister Auntie Lottie Jewitt, who had been Charlotte Urquhart. Well Jessie was scrubbing through the house for Auntie Nell, she was a dark haired person rather like Helen Kydd and when she was kneeling I can remember she had big pink Bloomers on! Bit she had a lovely educated speaking voice and nice manners too. I remember being most taken with her and was sorry after she went when Auntie Nell told me they were not very well off at all and Jessie had to go out scrubbing to make some money - so probably a posh accent hadn’t got them far as Grandma’s family eventually landed – all with good educations and professions. I think Grandpa’s sister Great Aunt Lottie Jewitt married a PUBLICAN-!!! I gather that was nor looke upon with plearure by Grandma and Grandpa Urquhart & Co, being staunch Presbyterian & later Congregational Church-ites. We never had much to do with that side of the Family – snobby things that we were!
But the other sister of Jessie (Elsie Jewitt) redeemed herself by marrying a Bank Clerk and eventually became a Bank managers wife too – queening it over the Society of Spalding – I once met her daughter Jean North – our second cousin – very nice and beautifully ‘finished’ in Paris I think. I was most impressed! One up for the Jewitts!!! I wonder where Jean North is now.
Strange how as children we were all so close and now have grown so far apart with our various families that we scarcely ever see each other except at Weddings and Funerals. I suppose the same thing happens in most families though.
I have often wondered what life must have been like at 240 Welholme Road when all the family was there – seven girls and two boys – Uncle Roy by that time having disappeared off to Hull- he was the traditional ‘Black Sheep’ of the family – only spoken of ion whispers – I remember him coming to see Mother once- her brother and she didn’t even ask him in what had he done to warrant such treatment, I thought at the time-? She said afterwards- “He is not welcome in my house!”
I do know that he lived with a woman called Alice in Hull and had a dark-haired son, I think called David and a rather lovely titian haired daughter with hair like Elspeth, called Helen - she was at Grandma’s once with her Mother and I was ‘shooed’ out by Grandma who treated them as if they had the Plague! I was quite mystified at the time because the girl looked nice. I think dear old Auntie Siss kept in touch with them for years by letter and sent them money occasionally – also cast off clothes too. I wonder what happened to the red haired Helen – she was about my age too.
You say in your letter to Sheila that you can’t remember much about Grandpa – ‘Davie’ as Grandma called him. We of course saw much more of him and loved him greatly, he used to comer down to Theddle and swim with us – turning head over heels in the sea, to our delight, he used to wear Uncle Jimmie’s Emmanuel College blazer and a white panama hat and Uncle Jim’s binoculars slung over his shoulder. He would sleep outside the Bungalow in a bell tent when he came on his own. He loved Theddle as much as we did and would organise games on the beach and play with us too. We called him the ‘Great White Chief’. At Christmas, when we all congregated at 240, we would have Scottish Country dancing in the big kitchen with the table pushed back in the window. Grandpa played for us on his concertina and would show us the steps too – he loved to dance – Grandma bought him a new pair of dancing shoes only the year before he died.
He would stand in the middle of the room playing all the intricate tunes of ‘Petronella’ the ‘Eightsome Reel’ Strip the Willow, the Pin Reel and many others too and often dancing them at the same time. And he refused to wear his false teeth - saying ‘Och, Damn the things’, they were kept in that glass cupboard on the sideboard in the kitchen.
I remember too Grandpa and Grandma sitting together at the head of the table in the kitchen eating porridge, each with asmall bowl of milk in front of them into which they dipped the spoon of porridge to cool it off before putting it into their mouths. The old way of eating porridge I suppose. I had to have mine with the milk poured all round it.
We lived there for a time after the first war because houses were so scarce and I slept with Auntie Wynkie who had the front bedroom. She was a darling. I have very fond memories of her indeed. Grandpa would be up first and would bring us all tea in bed and me some puff biscuits with butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar on them. I used to lie snuggled up with Auntie on Sunday mornings when she hadn’t to get up to go to school (she taught at Holme Hill School) and she would let me comb her hair and dress it with coloured ribbons, which she kept in a big bag with a drawstring top which hung on the side mirror of the dressing table.
I adored Auntie Wynkie and spent more time with her that with Mother, who had just had Sheila, I would be about four then.
Grandpa would swing me round and jump me up and own on his knees and sing “Toodle oodle oodle do.She’s as sweet as Honey dew.” And he was the only one who could stop Sheila crying – I do remember that!
Auntie Sissie once told me a story about old Grannie Urquhart - Auntie Nell was a baby then and they had acquired a little basket work push chair in which Grannie pushed the two of them along the pavement – Auntie Sissie said Grannie could never get the pram down the curbs so she being about three would hop down and manoeuvre the pram down each curb for her and hop back in to be pushed !!! A pram was a very new innovation then I suppose. That would be well near a hundred years ago and they were probably still in Peterhead.
Imagine David – they all came down to England – Grimsby, going by ‘stage’ to Aberdeen and then coming down on the train and the furniture by fishing boat.
Grandma once told me that the first house they took was infested by ‘Bugs’ so they moved straight out again into another. What ever must it have been like in those days? Little hovels near the docks with no sanitation!!
I remember Mother saying that when they moved into Welholme Rd theirs was the first flush toilet in the street and everyone came to visit them to try the wonder. Auntie Nell told me about her wedding which was the first in the family except Uncle Roy’s to a bar maid years before- hence little Roy-.
She said she went to the church in a horse-drawn carriage all decked with white ribbons and after the wedding Grandpa went out into the front garden and threw pennies to the assembled crowd outside – quite the little laird !!
He must have been a sweet character with his blue eyes and curly brown hair.
Do you remember the shed at the end of the garden? – Grandpa had all his ledgers and tools from his trade of coopering there – he gave Sheila and me a ledger each I remember in which we drew pictures for years – they were so thick with fine paper. He wrote a beautiful hand too.
Another thing sticks in my mind – the stone bottle of ‘Muck’ some kind of home made beer which was kept under the kitchen table where they ate. And the gas light coming down from the ceiling on a stiff pipe – didn’t it make a lovely bubbling noise too? Perhaps you don’t remember it, I can’t remember if they ever had electricity because we used to go to bed with a candle even after Grandpa died – I was twelve then and Sheila & I often slept at Grandma’s to keep her company.
How frightened we used to be when sent up with the ‘stone pig’ hot bottle to put in the beds – creeping up there expecting to meet the ghost of Uncle Jimmie any minute – all the coats seemed to clutch at us as we passed – how glad we were to get back in the bright kitchen again.

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Owner/SourceRuairidh Greig
Linked toNancie Urquhart MILLER

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