Tombstone Tuesday: another Nicholson in Dysart

Thomas Elder and Annie Nicholson, Dysart Cemetery. Photo: Su Leslie, 2013.

Thomas Elder and Anne Nicholson, Dysart Cemetery. Photo: Su Leslie, 2013

In loving memory of Thomas Elder

Died 12th February 1929

Anne Nicholson his wife

Died 27th May 1946

A simple inscription, and no indication of who placed it there. I know that my great grandmother, Anne Nicholson lived with her son William for a time after Thomas’s death, and was nursed in her own final days by her daughters Elizabeth and my grandmother, Susan. I can only assume that the headstone was put there by the children.

 

 

On growing old together

When, last week, I posted a photo of my great grandparents at their 55th wedding anniversary, both Pacific Paratrooper and theamateurcamera commented on the longevity of their marriage.

Fifty five years married; my great grandparents, Alexander Cruden and Catherine Black.

Fifty fifth wedding anniversary; my great grandparents, Alexander Cruden and Catherine Black.

This reminded me that Alexander Cruden and Catherine Black were actually married for 62 years – until my great grandad died in 1970.

These great grandparents are particularly special to me; mainly perhaps because I knew them and have very fond memories of their presence in my life. When I was little and living in Kirkcaldy, they lived near by. My mother was especially close to her grandad, so I think we spent quite a lot of time with them. My memories are very much a child’s; the smell of the peppermints that great grandad kept a bag of tucked down the side of his chair; the slight buzz of his hearing aid, and the tortoiseshell Alice band my great grandmother wore to keep her wispy white hair off her face.

My baby brother and I with our Mum, grandmother and great grandparents

My baby brother and I with our Mum, grandmother and great grandparents

My great grandparents were married on the 27 March, 1908 in Kirkcaldy, Fife. He was seventeen, she was eighteen. Six weeks later, they became parents when my grandmother was born. Two years later they had another child – my great uncle Stewart. Three more children were to follow – all boys – but not until my great grandfather had returned wounded from serving in WWI. Indeed my great grandmother bore her last child George, within months of her only daughter (my grandmother) giving birth for the first time, to my uncle David Ramsay.

Catherine Black and Alexander Cruden with children Stewart and Margaret. Circa 1912.

Catherine Black and Alexander Cruden with children Stewart and Margaret. Circa 1912.

My mum recently gave me several photos of my grandmother and her brother Stewart. These are studio portraits showing the two young children in a variety of costumes. I don’t know much about the cost of photography in those days, but it seems to me that the family must have been quite comfortably off.

My grandmother, Margaret Cruden and her brother Stewart. Studio portrait probably from around 1914.

My grandmother, Margaret Cruden and her brother Stewart. Studio portrait from around 1915 perhaps?

When they married, my great grandfather was a coal miner. Three years later, in the 1911 census, his occupation is shown as carter.

Later in his life he was the publican of the Fife Arms Hotel in Milton of Balgonie, Fife, and the family also owned a dairy, a chip shop and perhaps also an icecream business – although this is something I have to investigate a bit more as my mother’s story about the icecream shop has always sounded a bit mysterious!

I know that my great grandfather served in the British Army in WWI – and that he was wounded, probably in France, and had his lower leg amputated. My mother thinks that he was a Gordon Highlander, but I cannot find any record of his military service. I know that over 50 percent of the personnel records of WWI British servicemen were lost in the Blitz, and can only assume his records were amongst them.

I do know that as a result of his injury, he spent time in Edenhall Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and Sailors. My mother remembers visiting him there in the 1940’s when she was a child, so I assume he continued to go for some sort of respite care.

Patients at Edenhall Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and Sailors, probably in the 1920's.

Patients at Edenhall Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and Sailors, probably in the 1920’s. Alexander Cruden is in the front row, third from the left.

Some records from Edenhall Hospital have been transferred to the Lothian Health Services Archive, but unfortunately, not records relating to the period of time my great grandad would have been there, so that is a dead end also.

It’s frustrating not to know more about my great grandfather’s military service. While he was only one of millions of men worldwide who served and suffered, the impact of his injury must have continued throughout his life. I remember his prosthetic limb – my great grandmother used to hide it when he annoyed her, while he would turn off his hearing aid and ignore whatever she was saying.

Of course it was not only my great grandfather who bore the impact of service. My great grandmother was left with two small children to raise alone, not knowing when – or if – her husband would return.

As a child I found my great gran a bit intimidating, but she was also an amazing woman. Her own mother apparently died when Catherine was a child, although I’ve not been able to find a record of this.

Alexander Cruden and Katherine (nee Black); my great grandparents with my at my christening.

Alexander and Catherine at my christening.

My mum talks about her gran travelling daily from home to work in the chip shop as pillion passenger on a friend’s motorbike, and of being unafraid to deal on the black market during the war to make sure family and friends were provided for.

She sounds like an astute businesswoman and someone who fiercely protected and looked after her family – raising a grandson when the boy’s parent’s marriage broke down, and looking after my mother and her siblings at times as well.

On the face of it, my great grandparents’ marriage sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Pregnant teenagers – parents before the ink was dry on the marriage license, separated for several years by war, a permanently disabled husband, five children spread over 11 years, the stress of another war in which three of their sons were in military service … any one of these would be considered sufficient for divorce these days. But instead they stuck together for sixty two years – eventually dying within months of each other.

su and tony

I know times were different then – divorce was expensive and difficult to obtain. But I’d like to think that Alec and Cath were happy; that their sixty two years were about more than endurance.

I like to think that not just for their sakes, but because it gives me hope for my own 27 year relationship with the Big T.

Tombstone Tuesday: a Nicholson in Dysart

I’ve spent a lot of time in Dysart cemetary this last week and have now visited the graves of my grandparents, two sets of great-grandparents and my older brother.

I also found this headstone, of my great grand uncle David Nicholson, and his wife Mary Ann Warry.

The inscription is simple:

“In memory of David Nicholson died 16th January 1946 and his wife Mary Ann Clementine Warry died ? November 1934”

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Tombstone Tuesday: the Black family in Kinglassie

In Kinglassie Cemetery, Fife:

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“Erected by William Black in memory of his father and mother. James Black who died ??? 1897 aged 77 years and Caroline Goodall widow of James who died ??? 1901 aged 67 years.”

James and Caroline were my 3x great grandparents. They lived their entire lives within a small area of rural Fife; raising five children, including my great, great grandfather Alexander Black.

Before her marriage, Caroline worked as a domestic servant. Towards the end of her life, the census records her – aged 67 – working as an agricultural labourer.

As was usual for the children of the poor, the Black children all began work at an early age; my 2x great grand aunt Christian Black was a factory worker at age 12. William, who is responsible for the headstone, became the village blacksmith, while my great, great grandfather Alexander left Kinglassie and became a coal miner.

Seeing this headstone – the first of several I’ve found on my trip to the UK – was really quite special. The cemetery is barren and treeless and lies beside the B921 overlooked by the towering blades of the local wind farm. The headstone itself has toppled over and is unadorned, but it’s very existence is testimony to a son’s desire to honour his parents. Amongst my largely invisible ancestors this tangible symbol of family means a lot.

Weekly Photo Challenge: escape – some faces from the Scottish diaspora

Weekly Photo Challenge: escape – some faces from the Scottish diaspora

Two little boys - born one day apart - who share the same great, great grandparents. One branch of the family in Australia, one in New Zealand, united for a summer barbecue in Victoria, Australia.

Cruden decendents. Two little boys – born one day apart – who share the same great, great grandparents – Alexander Cruden and Catherine Black. One branch of the family in Australia, one in New Zealand, united for a summer barbecue.

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge Word is escape, and for family historians it’s hard not to think about escape in terms of those ancestors who left their homelands for opportunities in other parts of the world.

I’m a Scot; and if any nation could be said to have populated the whole world, it’s us. Continue reading

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!