23 November 2010

She had no children. She had many.

Jasia of Creative Gene has encouraged everyone who has contributed to the Carnival of Genealogy to write an entry for the 100th edition. I think I've only contributed once but have read other's contributions more often more often than not finding the Carnival interesting.

The topic for the century edition is "There's One in Every Family." The challenge for me is the standard set by people like Brenda Dougall Merriman. I take consolation that sometimes numbers count more than quality.

Marie was my aunt. As a genealogist I should be precise. She was my first cousin once removed. She had no children. She had many.

Born in Lancashire in the midst of the Great War she was raised, often in poverty, mainly by her mother. That was a lifestyle common in many a seamen family. Life at sea with a family to support was one that Marie's cousin, my father, who'd followed his uncle to sea, tried for a few months after WW2 and found wanting.

Marie trained as a teacher and took one of her first jobs in the Channel Islands. It was a small community in the days when discipline in schools was the watchword, and kids knew it. Settling into a happy routine didn't quite happen. In June 1940 Germany occupied the Channel Islands. Marie, her mother and sister, barely escaped to England, allowed just one piece of hand baggage each.

Then things turned grim.

Her father, an Irish national, was the captain of the Irish-registered "Kerry Head" in August that year when it was attacked by a German aircraft in neutral Irish waters. There was damage but ship and crew were saved. The ship was repaired and continued in coastal trade.

Then, in October, amazingly, the same thing happened, but with dire consequences, ship sunk,  all 12 crew lost.

Marie and her sister Elsie found work in village schools in Devon. Afterwards she took a couple of teaching assignments in the US, one in Baltimore, enjoying the stimulation of a different environment. When the opportunity came she jumped at the chance to teach at the Texaco school in Trinidad where she eventually became head teacher, enjoyed international travel and a cottage on Tobago. She took particular pride in the school Christmas concert in which she collaborated with a talented colleague in producing original songs for the production.

In retirement she and her sister, already terminally ill, returned to the UK. She travelled including visiting in Ottawa, studied, earned the degree of which she had long dreamt, and volunteered in a local charity shop and at her church.

One of the last times I stayed with her at her home in Dorset was in 2001. I timed it so I could be recorded as a "visitor" in the census that year. Will future genealogists make the family connection?

In her Carnival contribution Brenda gives her view that "Part of the family history fabric for me is to see a pleasing characteristic or skill appearing in one generation after another as a recurring sort of genetic inheritance." 

When I look at the array of teachers like Marie found in my family tree it seems Brenda must be onto something.


Jasia said...

Thank you for participating, John! Terrific article!

CMA said...

John, I really enjoyed your story about Marie. What an interesting life and a special person.

Nancy said...

Marie sounds like she was an adventuresome and determined person who accomplished much in her life. Thanks for sharing her story.