Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Never to be forgotten

John McKelvie was my mum’s fiancĂ© and her one true love …always in her thoughts till the day she died.

He had volunteered for the Air force as soon as war broke out, much to mums annoyance and after training, was given the dangerous position of rear gunner. He was soon told of his promotion to sergeant and that he was to become an instructor, reducing the chances of flying missions. This being the case both John and Mum felt more confident of their future and they dared to think of marriage plans, maybe on his next leave.

At the end of June 1940 Mum was informed that he was missing in action …. from the 17th …she was devastated but did not give up hope over the months that followed, often walking where they walked together and praying for his safe return, imagining him being a prisoner of war.

At the end of December the grave news came that he had been killed on the 17th June and buried on the 24th, at St Nazaire. Mum told me that he had been thought to have been on the troop ship ‘Lancastria’, when it was bombed and sunk, so had actually survived some conflict in the air before hand.

This was all that she knew … and I certainly had never heard of the ship and its sinking … so when I was reading and transcribing mums notes and memories, that I had persuaded her to commit to paper a few years before her death, I did some research.

He was on the list of those lost on the ship and probably was below deck in line for a direct hit. It is a tragedy that was hidden from the British public, for fear it would damage moral at a difficult time ….a Churchill cover-up. There is a book well worth reading….The Sinking of the Lancastria by Jonathan Fenby ….. if you are interested …. but facts that should be known are that if you add the number of dead from the Lusitania and those from the Titanic, together, you still have not reached the suspected total of lives lost from the sinking of Lancastria and this occurred only two weeks after the well documented, Operation Dynamo…..which every one knows as the evacuation of the troops from Normandy beaches.

John may not hold any ties to me but I do not want him or the Lancastria, forgotten …. so this LO will proudly sit within my FH album as a reminder for any that look through, in the years to come..

My Great Grandmother Isabella Ritchie nee Crombie

Isabella Ritchie ...nee Crombie.
…know as Granny Crombie by my mum.
Born the 7th daughter/eighth and youngest child ….7/8/1841 in Collessie
Died 2/11/1920 in Cupar
This is my Mums memory of her, when she was three …. in her own words….
…..She looked so grumpy and rather frightening, sitting in the basket chair by the range, dressed head to toe in black. Her black bonnet, which was tightly tied by ribbons under her chin, remained on her head through out the whole visit. Mother tried to persuade me to come out from under the table but to no avail. After some time Granny Crombie produced some paper, which she then twisted into cones and filled with sweeties. It was mesmerizing watching her make these pokes from my place of safety, but finally I allowed her to coax me out. To my surprise she spoke to me with a soft and gentle voice and her face no longer looked grumpy ….
Her son William wrote about her, soon after her death in 1920 .... I am so lucky to have the draft of his article … these are some snippets that give some insights into her character.
…She was by nature secretive, reticent and very reserved. She enjoyed a few select intimate friends of her own choice but during the years of the war she seemed to discard her local friends, …..
…..From her long weekly letters to me- often running into four foolscap pages with several post scripts in order to use every inch of the paper, she seemed to have assumed the responsibility of a statesman. She was so serious and critical on political and military matters and would discourse also on local affairs, industrial unrest, cost of living, shop bargains and prospective Cupar marriages …..
…Her sole literature was her Bible and her newspaper. Her greatest luxury was to peruse this journal from cover to cover …
….It might surprise the citizens of the country town to know that she knew and could name nearly every man woman and child in Cupar because everyone was obliged to pass and re-pass her turret window …..
…. She loved to admire nice looking people as they strutted across her ‘stage’ and remark upon them. She was amusingly critical about the modern ladies fashions in dress, millenary and manners …
It is interesting to me to read the first three words of description of his mother as it could be describing my own mum. … and the fact of having a tiny number of select close friend is me and mum to a tee. …obviously a family trait.
Hope you feel you know her too.
Take Care