Season of joy and remembering

It’s celebration season in my family. Over the next few weeks birthdays and wedding anniversaries will keep the card makers in business and provide the impetus for scattered family members to reach out to one another.

Both the Big T and one of my brothers will celebrate birthdays, along with a sister-in-law, two nieces, a nephew and more than a few cousins.

My in-laws will celebrate 56 years of marriage this week, on the same day that would have been my parents’ 60th anniversary. My folks divorced many year ago, but next month we’ll raise a toast to my father and step-mother celebrating their 29th anniversary.

For the Big T and I, the biggest cause for celebration this year is our boy-child turning 18 in a few days.

Black and white shot of the Big T holding the boy-child, aged 6 days. Image: Su Leslie, 1998

That time the Big T got a baby for his birthday. Gayhurst House, Buckinghamshire, England. Image: Su Leslie, 1998

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Looking a bit jaded after his 40th wedding anniversary celebrations, my father in law on the boy-child’s 2nd birthday. Image: 2000, Gray-Leslie family archive.

Our tiny (truly — 2.5kg at birth) baby has become a man. A kind, funny, articulate, responsible and hard-working young man who is sometimes unknowable to me. Yet there are still moments when I recognise the energetic, ever-curious and always smiling boy I’ve nursed, read to, played with and loved with an intensity I didn’t know was possible.

This year will be the thirtieth time the Big T and I have spent his birthday together …

… but, as with most years since we were children, my brother and I will be on different continents on his birthday.

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Big sister, little brother. Kirkcaldy, 1966. Image: Leslie family archive.

I have only one photo of my parents on their wedding day, and they are — mysteriously — right in the background of the shot. I do however have this wonderful newspaper clipping. It’s not the most flattering photograph, but provides a wealth of information, right down to my mother’s going-away outfit.

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Fife Free Times, Feb 1956.

In part thanks to the efforts of the Big T’s aunt (in the gorgeous bronze dress below), we have a wealth of photos of my in-laws’ wedding.

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Marriage of Isobel Joy Dove and Roger Andrew Gray, 1960. Image: Gray family archive.

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Wedding of Isobel Joy Dove and Roger Andrew Gray, Feb 1960. Image: Gray-Dove family archive.

This post was written for the Daily Post Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is seasons.

 

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A force of nature

The boy-child holding court with his great grandmother.

The boy-child holding court with his great grandmother.

Yesterday would have been my gran’s 107th birthday. There was a time when I could almost have believed she would live to 107; she seemed for so long to have such energy and strength. But she died a few days short of her 98th birthday — having moved from her own house into a care home a year or so before.

Margaret Simpson Bissett Cruden (11 May 1908 – 1 May 2006) was the eldest child and only daughter of Alexander Cruden and Catherine Simpson Bisset Black. My great grandparents were very young when she was born; Great Gran was 18, Great Grandad still 17. Margaret had four younger brothers; Stewart, Alexander, James and George, the youngest of whom was born just a few months before my gran herself became a mother.

Gran was born and raised in Dysart, Scotland and lived all her life in Dysart and Kirkcaldy. She married my grandad (David Skinner Ramsay) in 1927, when Grandad was 25 and she was 18. They raised six children; a son David, and five daughters – Catherine, May, Margaret, Elizabeth (my mum) and Sandra.

Ramsay family portrait. Standing (l-r): Elizabeth, Sandra, Margaret, May, David, Cathy. Seated Margaret Cruden and David Ramsay. Photo: Ramsay Leslie family archive.

Ramsay family portrait. Standing (l-r): Elizabeth, Sandra, Margaret, May, David and Cathy. Seated Margaret Cruden and David Ramsay. Photo: Ramsay Leslie family archive.

Grandad was a coal miner, who, in later life, suffered from diabetes. Because of that he had both legs amputated at the knee after small wounds turned gangrenous. My gran was relatively young when she found herself nursing an invalid husband; a role she took on without hesitation and carried out with great love and care until my grandad’s death in 1973.

my maternal grandparents; Margaret Cruden and David Ramsay, Dunnikier Park Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. Photo: Ramsay family archive.

Margaret Cruden and David Ramsay, Dunnikier Park Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. Photo: Ramsay family archive.

After his death, my grandmother left the UK for the first (but not the last) time. She travelled to New Zealand to visit my family and to Australia to stay with her brother Alexander and his family. During the next thirty years she travelled again to Australia, to Zimbabwe while it was still Rhodesia and in the midst of civil war, and to Switzerland to visit one of my cousins. She also traveled extensively around the UK visiting family.

Margaret and Alexander Cruden, Australia c. 1974. Photo: Ramsay family archive.

Siblings, Margaret and Alexander Cruden, Australia c. 1974. Photo: Ramsay family archive.

I only really got to know my gran in my late twenties and thirties while I was living in the UK. We spent hours together drinking tea, eating meringues (her favourite sweet) and gossiping. She was a lovely little barrel of a woman; about 4′ 10″ (1.47 metres), and solid (I definitely take after her). She was quick-witted,  a good story teller and could be very funny, although she also possessed a very sharp tongue — as anyone on the receiving end of it would tell you.

Four generations: My christening, with my mother Elizabeth Ramsay, her mother Margaret Cruden and Margaret's mother Catherine Black, with

Four generations: My christening, with my mother Elizabeth Ramsay, grandmother Margaret Cruden and great grandmother Catherine Black. c. 1961. Photo: Ramsay Leslie family archive.

She really was a force of nature; a matriarch who spend almost 80 years looking after her family. She is remembered with great love by a global tribe consisting of not only myself, my siblings and cousins, but our children and the children and grandchildren of Gran’s brothers — who still speak fondly of their “Auntie Maggie.” She had 17 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and was great, great grandmother to two newborns by the time she died.

David Ramsay and Margaret Cruden with grandchildren Margaret Ladyka (back), Ian and Sandra Ladyka (front left and centre) and Robert Guthrie. The baby is me. c. 1961. Photo: Ramsay Leslie family archive.

David Ramsay and Margaret Cruden with grandchildren Margaret Ladyka (back), Ian and Sandra Ladyka (front left and centre) and Robert Guthrie. The baby is me. c. 1961. Photo: Ramsay Leslie family archive.

My son only got to meet his great gran once; he was very young, but claims to remember her (she told him off, so I’m not surprised it stayed in his mind).  I’m sad that she died two months before we were due to go back to the UK for a visit. My son was eight by then and would  have enjoyed another encounter with that feisty, four foot ten force of nature.

This week’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge theme is forces of nature.  I think my gran qualifies. You can find out more and see other bloggers’ interpretation of the theme here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

My parents' wedding: left to right my paternal grandfather David Leslie; my maternal grandmother, Margaret Cruden; Dad's brother David; my dad, Ron Leslie; my mu, Elizabeth Ramsay; my mum's sister, Sandra Ramsay.

My parents’ wedding: left to right my paternal grandfather David Leslie; my maternal grandmother, Margaret Ramsay (nee Cruden); my dad’s brother David Leslie; my dad Ron Leslie; my mum Elizabeth Ramsay; my mum’s sister, Sandra Ramsay.

I’ve chosen this photo for the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge because it’s the only photo I have of my parents at their wedding; a day that changed their lives forever.

My mum and dad are of a generation that did not live together before – or instead of – marriage. They met, got engaged, saved for a wedding and for the things they’d need for a home together while both were living at home with their parents.

Hours after this photo was taken, they spent their first night together. I think my mum said they had their honeymoon in Stirling, but I realise I don’t actually know. For me, growing up in a much more permissive generation, this bit of information has never been important.

My parents were married for 27 years. They raised three kids and grieved for a fourth who was stillborn. They emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand and spent most of their married life away from the support – and perhaps interference – of their families.

Mum and Dad divorced in 1984, and my dad’s been married to his second wife for almost as long as he was to my mum.

When I was growing up, I can remember a white album of photos of my parents’ wedding; each page separated by crisp film-like paper. I don’t remember all the photos, but I know there was definitely one of my mum with her father and another of my parents cutting their wedding cake. The album has gone; my mum said she took the photos out and threw the book away during one of her house moves.

While I am grateful to have this photo; it also makes me sad. My parents – who are the “star attraction” of the day – are farthest away from the camera. My dad looks happy in a slightly punch-drunk kind of way, but my mother’s expression is unreadable. My grandfather, David Leslie, in the immediate foreground seems to share my mum’s expression, and in fact the only people who look like they are having fun are my mum’s mother, Margaret Ramsay (nee Cruden) and my dad’s brother (also called David Leslie). My aunt Sandra, at the far end of the table looks like she’s realised she’s missing out on something.

The only other photo that seems to have survived of that wedding is this one:

My parents' wedding: left to right, my maternal grandfather, David Ramsay; my great aunt, Elizabeth Forbes and my great grandparents, Katherine and Alexander Cruden.

My parents’ wedding: left to right, my maternal grandfather, David Ramsay; my great aunt, Elizabeth Ford (nee Elder) and my great grandparents, Katherine and Alexander Cruden.

My grandad Ramsay, on the left, looks happy – although you can’t really see his face. He had five daughters and my mum was the fourth he’d walked down the aisle. Next to him is my great aunt Bessie. She was my paternal grandmother’s younger sister, and, being a widow, seemed to accompany my similarly widowed grandfather David Leslie to family events. Closest to the camera, and looking like they were enjoying themselves are my great grandparents – my mum’s mother’s parents. Alexander and Katherine (nee Black) – whom I’ve written about before – were married for sixty two years, until my great grandad’s death. Knowing that my ancestors all seemed to have large families, and also tended to stay in the same area all their lives, I can’t imagine how many weddings my great grandparents had been to by the time Mum got married. Perhaps, more than anyone else, they’d got the hang of it!