Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Been thinking about themes for a few posts so here's Wedding Wednesday!
This is a picture of the marriage of my Great Aunt Mary Noella Shaller to Trist William Beale Leach. It took place in December 1937 in Bhusawal in India. He was 36 and she was very nearly 23. Don't they look serious?! I love the 1930s hairstyle on Mary. And the lapels on Trist's jacket!
I have no idea where or how they met but they were both Anglo Indian and the marriage took place in the Beulah Full Gospel Tabernacle, with a missionary in attendance.
Actually Great Aunt Mary - always just known to us as just Aunty Mary and so forthwith in this post - was the only one of my Grandad's sisters to live in the UK after Partition in India. The other two sisters Dagma and Thelma went to Australia and New Zealand with their parents and their own families.
Aunty Mary was amazing when I knew her as an old lady and I am quite sure that she was just as amazing when she was younger. She trained as a nurse (although the marriage certificate gives no profession for her) and had lived through the worst violence of the time around Indian Independence. I remember her stories of being in cars that were attacked on the roads, by angry mobs of people and of the chaos in the hospitals. She had a fabulous memory and very strong opinions on absolutely everything from the price of bread to how the country was being run. Her political commentary during long car journeys could be exhausting...
I never knew Great Uncle Trist. The certificate says that he was a telegraph engineer in 1937 - one of the occupations mainly taken by Anglo Indians under the British. I believe that Aunty Mary arrived in England in 1949 without him - for some reason to do with his application for British citizenship. Trist's family were from Burma and the hold up was connected to this - Burma gained independence separately from India in January 1948. I have a copy of Mary's application and it does say that Trist had applied separately but we have not located a copy of his application - yet another avenue to follow up at some point!
Sadly, Trist died in London only 8 years later in 1957. Mary nursed him all through his last illness, she told me. I do not have his death certificate yet and to my shame, I cannot remember the actual cause of death but I know that he was ill for some time. They had one daughter Annabel and from her, one grandson - who never, of course, knew his grandfather.
Mary resolutely stayed in the same house for most of the rest of her life. It was filled with items that were the kind of things that you remember and look forward to seeing again when you are a child being taken to an elderly relative's house! Unusual pictures and pottery from India, old family pictures and so on. Mary managed well alone (she never remarried) - a famous incident being that she found a burst pipe in the middle of the night so bandaged it up, painted over the bandage to waterproof it and went back to bed! Resourceful and determined would be a good description for her. She did though become a little eccentric. If she phoned you, beware when you answered - she always made it sound like you had called her and had disturbed her... And it was always pot luck if you were invited for a meal - it might be a bowl of crisps and a cup of tea or it might be three gourmet courses!
In her late old age, Mary decided that she was going to go to live in South Africa with her daughter. My father duly made the travel arrangements, sold her house for her and escorted her to Johannesburg. He returned to visit a couple of times in the next three years only to find that she was not at all happy. She missed her routines, her garden, her hospital visiting for friends - all the things that had kept her going and kept her mind agile. So she came back again! And lived until 2009 in sheltered accommodation, doing the garden and looking after "the old people" as she called her fellow residents.
It was a long way and a long time since her wedding day in 1937 but she was a true original and was much loved by the family.