Enduring Threads: Part3

Reblog with photos:

The Scottish Greats

My great maternal grandparents, Nanna and Papa McFie lived on top of the world, opposite the boundary to the primary school below, and the Catholic school above, in Stewart Street. Papa had been a tailor before becoming a state politician, which he remained for seventeen years, and a coroner for fifty years. In retirement, before his stroke, he could be seen marching down into town, tipping his bowler to one and all. His distinguishing features being his waxed and twirled moustache, a stiff high white collar and a striped carnation in his buttonhole. Nana, softer, would sit in her sunroom on a cane chair that pulled out so that her legs were raised, knitting, sewing or doing embroidery. Her contented round face would light up with pleasure as we approached, her halo of sparse white hair giving her an angelic look. Their garden rambled unattended with a huge pine tree up the back.

Their little electric fire, imitated a coal fire, glowing red attempting to warm the sitting room. Their frugal existence was suspended on The Red Letter Day when they received a letter from the Queen for their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Celebrations for both the royal missive and their special wedding anniversary broke the feeling of austerity in their home.

Nana and Papa McFie, 50 or 60th wedding anniversary?

Nana and Papa McFie,
50 or 60th wedding anniversary?

Bringing up their own children: Chloris, Hector, Mynie, Malcolm and Don; was succeeded by taking in and caring for Janet, Chloris and Brian, children of their son Don and his ex-wife Dawn; as well as Jock, son of Malcolm. Great Uncle Hector made good, following in his father’s footsteps, becoming a Liberal politician.

I didn’t question my mother when she said,‘The McFie men are no good!’ It wasn’t until my cousin Peter did some family-tree research that my understanding broadened. Hector McFie, our antecedent, came out to Tasmania in 1830 as a convict, aged 25. He was a tailor and subsequently married three times. His death was from ‘Fatal Effects Of Intemperance’ as disclosed in the Hobart Town Daily Mercury, Wednesday morning 9 June 1858. This side of our family history was never discussed, as my mother said,

‘I have no interest in the past.’

Considering ancient Hector’s minor misdemeanors, and being forced to leave his home in Rothsay on the Isle of Bute, Scotland, brought about a whole new dynasty on the other side of the world.

Not only was there a repetition of names in these genealogical records, a plethora of Hectors, but also a repetition of career choices: tailoring, seafaring and building, the latter two continuing today.

Taken at Queenstown on the Federal election campaign. Snow fell all the time 2 days, 5 ft in some places. Dame Enid Lyons was the first woman to be elected to the Federal Parliament at Canberra Sept 1943, with H. H. McFie

Taken at Queenstown on the Federal election campaign. Snow fell all the time 2 days, 5 ft in some places. Dame Enid Lyons was the first woman to be elected to the Federal Parliament at Canberra Sept 1943, with H. H. McFie

Hungry children from the state school were fed at Nana’s home during the depression. Vegetable soup was cooked in the copper. My mother would put her hand up to be fed too, but only on the odd occasion would she be allowed to go over the road to her grandmother’s with the others.

‘Look after this and cherish it’, Nanna spoke in her Scots burr as she gave me a little brass dog.  I still have it. ‘It is important to dry between your toes’, was another important message that I continue to pass on.  Visual memories of buckets in the bathroom to collect the rain- water from the leaky roof remain with me as Nanna shrugged her shoulders.  Papa always had sweets for us, often liquorice alsorts. I only liked the liquorice part, stuffing the gooey pastel stuff in hidden places. The twisted clear yellow ambrosial barley sugar was my favourite.

After Nanna died, Papa had a stroke that left him with no speech.

When he recuperated and was on his feet again, we children would torment him, knowing he couldn’t tell our grandmother what we were doing. He’d chase us around waving his walking stick at us, totally frustrated that he couldn’t catch us or speak. Grandma would come out and say,

‘Don’t wave your stick at the children!’

That made us feel guilty and we’d stop our bullying tactics.

Nanna died just before the Queen’s visit in 1954. She’d been so looking forward to the visit, which was celebrated very enthusiastically in Devonport with streamers decorating the way. Even my father was swept up by the hysteria and constructed a stand for friends to gather on to wave their flags. They were sorely disappointed, as the car didn’t slow down sufficiently for them to get a proper look.

Aged eight, dressed as a Brownie, I walked with the whole school to the oval. My classmate Lynette Holman presented the Queen with a bouquet, as Lynette’s father was the Council Clerk. The cortege went up to Bell’s Parade, Latrobe, where they had a toilet especially constructed for Her Royal Highness, in which she was sick. Afterwards the toilet was auctioned.

My maternal great-grandmother, Nanna, was Hannah Elizabeth Chapman before she married Henry Hector McFie in 1892. When I returned to Devonport with my two daughters in 1975 I moved into the Chapman home at 50 Wenvoe Street. The two last Chapman maiden ladies had died; they were cousins of my grandmother. They loved the view of the river and ocean in the distance. Ivy had been a pharmacist at the local chemist shop, and Chappie, as we called her, was a seamstress.

Mynie and Chloris with their mother Hannah, (Nana)

Mynie and Chloris
with their mother Hannah, (Nana)

(Great) Auntie Mynie, my grandmother’s sister, lived up in Hiller Street. She married John Donohue who was the editor of the local newspaper, The Advocate. He had six children when she married him, and they went on to have two more. Jane was nine years older than me, and Hector seven. The other children were grown and gone, though they continued to visit.

Auntie Mynie’s pastries were renown afar for their lightness. When Uncle John died she made ends meet by growing flowers and making and selling wreaths from home.  She also helped with the Scouts’ catering business. It was amazing what Auntie Mynie could produce out of her very old Moffat oven. Sometimes there would be six pavlovas sitting there, waiting to be delivered.

Even though Mynie was fourth generation Tasmanian, her Scottishness was unwavering. She had Scottie dogs on cushion covers, Scottish ornaments, a silver thistle cruet set and Scotch thistles on her dinner set and teacups. She introduced us to peppermint liqueur in lemonade, the fresh bubbling smell of peppermint tickling our noses. Unlike her teatotal sister, my grandmother, she also liked a drop of Scotch whisky.

When I was very young, a quondam story is retold; I broke a bottle of perfume in their bathroom. Auntie Mynie could never wear that scent again, as the smell in the bathroom was overpowering. She loved giving me cheap perfume for birthdays; I’m sure it was payback time for my mother, but I loved it.

Taking our first trip across the Mersey, Auntie Mynie took Clive and me with her own children and Miss Marshall for a picnic to East Devonport beach. We had their liver and white spaniel Nip with us, who was later killed by snakebite.

The house in Hiller Street expanded like a piano accordion, accommodating many and squeezing out contented visitors who exuded Mynie’s warmth, with confirmation of their right place in the world. Playing Solo was a regular activity; she even played with the dreaded dragoness, Engel Holyman, who most people were scared of. Though I didn’t know Engel well, her reputation went before her and I was surprised later to find out that we were distantly related. (Nanna McFie’s mother’s sister married a Holyman.) When Engel ordered wood, Jane related to me later, they told the deliveryman,’Tell them to pay before you drop!’

The Holyman family was known in the aviation industry; they were all keen fliers. When Engel died she wanted her ashes taken up in a plane and scattered. The family dutifully did as requested only to return with the ashes stuck to the wet plane.





21 thoughts on “Enduring Threads: Part3

  1. Brigid Holmes (Sale)

    Hey Barbara….read your memoirs by just typing my Mother’s name into Google!!!! “Engel Holyman” and yes I did fall out with her and I do think she was a very dominating mother,,,I just loved the expression you used “Dragoness”, and I remember those solo parties well and I was asked to take a part if one of her visitors did not turn up!!! I remember Christopher so well and I have looked at his website too….wonderful and you are Brenda’s daughter?? My daughter-in-law remembers you all (“Louella Turner”) She and I were discussing all our past in Devonport today and the people we knew….what a small world….I am linving in Queensland now for the past 3 years. Cheers Brigid


    1. bkpyett Post author

      Brigid, forgive me for not seeing your comment. I’ve had months away from my blog. It is so good to hear from you. Yes, I am Brenda’s daughter. I’m relieved you were not offended by my mention of your mother in that way! Having joined a writers’ group I realise what a novice I am. Still one has to start somewhere. I’m sorry, I’m struggling to remember your daughter in law, Louella. I’m sure if I saw her, I’d remember. Hope you are enjoying living in Queensland. Christopher is painting Robert Richter QC at present and loving it. He says ‘Hello’ too. ❤ Barbara


  2. auntyuta

    In the year following her succession to the throne, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip embarked on a 6-month grand tour of the Commonwealth. During their 58 days in Australia, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited 57 cities and towns across all states and territories, except for the Northern Territory. . . .
    I googled a few things about The Royal Tour. It is said that it was the biggest single event ever organised in Australia. An estimated 75% of the population turned out to catch a glimpse of their beloved Queen. . . . ”


    You mention in 1954 you were eight years old. I find it interesting that you include events like the Royal Visit in your memories. I tried too to write down some of my early memories. When I read some time later what i have written down, I usually make a few changes. Personally I am not ambitious as far as publishing is concerned. I am 80 now. If some of my descendants find what I have written in any way interesting, they can get it published if they so wish. I would not mind if they make some changes as far as my writing style is concerned. I think the main thing is that I collect as many memories as possible. And of course it is great to have a lot of information about the family tree!

    I love all your photos, Barbara. They are very precious. And I am sure nearly every photo can be the background to some interesting story. I am especially interested about your personal relationship to all these people. Maybe you can describe in a bit more detail how you related to everyone and who was most important in your early life? Your school years, what you learned, what you loved doing, how you spent your holidays. I am sure, if I continue reading more about your Enduring Threads, I’ll probably find out more about your life.

    Why did you call it Enduring Threads?

    Cheerio, Uta

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bkpyett Post author

      Auntyuta, I was so thrilled to find your comment. You point out about the detail. In fact I did consider dividing my story into Childhood and Adulthood. It could be an on going task to the end of my years!! I have not revisited it for some time. I did make a copy of the complete thing for my three children, and only one of them has read it; plus my daughter in law, who is very encouraging. I did remove some things she thought might be offensive to her husband, Simon. though I doubt he’ll ever read it. I called it ‘Enduring Threads’ as my family have been a constant support throughout my life, particularly my mother. My present husband, Christopher, also turned up throughout my life: through childhood, my partner for my first ball, meeting at Christmas when we both returned to D’port to visit our parents, and for other important events. Now we have been married for 15 years, our anniversary is at the end of this month. So the threads of friendship have been an important part of my life.

      I was interested that you looked up the Royal visit! Not being a royalist now, I was fascinated that such a large proportion of the population turned out to see them.

      I do enjoy reading your experiences too, so I hope you’ll share more of them! ❤


      1. auntyuta

        Thank you so much for this response, Barbara. What you say about ‘enduring threads’ I am sure makes for very interesting stories. You say you made copies for your children. That reminds some time ago I started making some copies for my children and they did not seem to be very interested in what I had written. But somehow they are always interested in old photos. They say they always look at the old photos that I publish.
        It is a good idea, I think, to have divisions, like “Childhood’ and ‘Adulthood’. I agree, to work on it is an ongoing task. We are never going to get bored, this is for sure. To be able to write about things is very rewarding. And to do some more work on it after some time is a rewarding task too, I reckon. I am sometimes surprised when I read a few years later what I have written earlier. It sure brings back some memories that otherwise I might have forgotten already!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. bkpyett Post author

        I am glad that you are continuing to write your memories, too, Auntyuta. I have phases where I get stuck into it. At present I’m sitting on another story, that should be sent off to the editor to see what she thinks… I do like having projects. I agree with you about your kids, the photos interest my children too. Thanks for your input, as it does spur me on!


  3. bkpyett Post author

    Thanks Hilary for your feedback. I guess what I’m trying to portray is my childhood being surrounded by so many relations, with a close knit community. Then the contrast of being exposed to total isolation after my marriage. Can you glide through the many characters?


  4. hilarycustancegreen

    Your description of Nanna and Papa McFie was exactly like the photo. You have some stunning photos there. I have to confess that I got a little lost at times among all the characters in your story.


  5. bkpyett Post author

    My cousin, Peter, sent the photo by e-mail last night, so it is as it is, spots and all. May ask my son, Simon, to have a look and see if he can doctor it. As far as the beginning, I shall wait and see what the editor suggests… Thanks for your suggestions though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ChristineR

      Your’re right, the editor will know best. And Simon will find it a breeze to fix the photo, just taking the harshness out of the spots will still leave the character.


  6. ChristineR

    Barbara, this is so much better than the other two, forgive me for saying! It flows along nicely. I recommend thinking about lightening the spots on that wonderful wedding anniversary photo (on a copy). I take it back about beginning you story with yourself, grandparents do make a good start when written like this.


      1. bkpyett Post author

        At least you have those beautiful younger shots that he took of you, to remember those days!
        Anyway, I believe your photos now give you character. ❤


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s