Annie and Jessie (Summer 1947): a memoir.

Jessie and Kenneth with some of their family, 2 years before my visit. Mary Boyd is missing from this photograph. Uiga commented that Jessie would go nowhere without her hat. It was the same with Grandma.

I had a friend once who claimed the she had no relations, except for a sister and nephew. Clearly she had not gone very deeply into her genealogy. I have turned up thousands of quite close cousins, not only in Cumberland or the UK, but from all over the world. One of these unknown relatives was Grandma's favourite sister Jessie. Jessie Broadfoot (b.1869) was the eldest child in Annie's original family and Annie came a year later in 1870. I had heard about Gt. Aunt Jessie often, but until that Summer of 1947, I had never met her. The two sisters led very different lives. Jessie remained in Ross-shire while Annie travelled to England as a children's nurse in the Fawcett family.

Piecing together Annie's life as a nurse has not been easy. One day though, she did volunteer the information that at Scaleby Castle she had looked after a little boy who was killed in WW1. She looked sad and then went into one of her reveries. Despite repeated questions I did not manage to extract a name, but later a plaque in Scaleby Church provided the answer. It read: "Leopold, son of Colonel Malcolm Fawcett & Caroline born 4th Nov. 1889 and killed in action 6th Nov 1917. Buried Beersheba." The little boy Annie looked after then was Leopold. Scaleby Monumental Inscriptions provided the additional information. Leopold's mother Caroline was the daughter of "the 5th Viscount Clifden". Caroline died on 28 January 1891 when Leopold was still a baby and Annie came up to Scaleby, from Northumberland, to help to care for him. One more piece in the jig-saw which is Annie's life.

Scaleby Castle where Annie cared for Leopold George Frederic Fawcett from about 1891-1896.

Both sisters married: Annie in 1896 to Walter Graham, a farmer from Scaleby and Jessie in 1897 to Kenneth McKenzie, a blacksmith from Evanton, Ross-shire. Annie's heart though remained in the Highlands and she visited on the odd occasion. I know this because my mother mentioned that Grandma had had a miscarriage, in the train, on one of these trips to Evanton. It seemed such a dreadful thing to happen that it has remained in my memory. These visits ceased as she grew older, but my mother and Mary McKenzie (later Mary Boyd) agreed to exchange letters full of family news. Annie looked forward to these letters. They were the highlights of her life when I was young. When one of these letters contained the news that Jessie was very ill, it was arranged that Grandma would make one last visit to the Highlands and that I would go with her. It was the Summer of 1947, when Grandma was 77 and I was 15.

Grandma and I took the train to Inverness and then were taken by car to Balconie Street, Evanton. Evanton is a small town between Dingwall and Invergordon.

An earlier view of Balconie Street. Jessie's husband, Kenneth McKenzie had his works here (right of the picture). We stayed at Number 9.

I saw very little of Jessie who remained in her room and did not want visitors, except for Grandma. Grandma went into her room every morning, attended to her and enjoyed her company. Kenneth, however, was sometimes at the breakfast table , eating a very large plate of porridge (with salt but without sugar). I discovered soon that he was a remarkable man. He came from Scoraig in 1896, some say when he was 12 years old and, over the years, established a garage and smithy. There he assembled & sold the Blackrock bicycle, patented a mobile turnip cutter, sold tractors etc. His business eventually became the largest engineering concerns in the Highlands. At his death, in 1954, he is said to have been employing 35 staff.

"Kenneth Mckenzie is remembered as a man of very high principles. 'He was a good man, good for the village - he employed a lot of men' " (Quoted from the Evanton Oral History Project: Kenneth McKenzie's Evanton.)

From the Ross-shire Journal, 1915. Eventually it became Kenneth McKenzie & Sons when Kenneth's 2 sons, Hector Kenneth McKenzie & William Broadfoot McKenzie became partners in the business.

Jessie and Kenneth had 6 children. All of them lived to grow up except the eldest, Isabella. They were my mother's first cousins.

Jessie and Kenneth with baby, Isabella (1898-1908). She died of whooping cough and congestion of the lungs.

It is impossible to give a narrative account of my month in Evanton. What I do retain are pictures in my mind rather like photographic stills.

I remember a meeting with Mary McKenzie, who had brought Grandma so much pleasure, in the past, by writing letters. (She was christened Isabella Mary, presumably after her elder sister who had died, but she was always known as Mary). She was now Mary Boyd and lived in Invergordon.We drove out to Invergordon to meet her.

Her husband was introduced as John and there were two little boys, Kenneth and Grant. Kenneth was about seven and Grant perhaps three. Both boys were wearing kilts. Mary said that Kenneth was going to be a Minister when he grew up. Kenneth scowled, I think because he didn't like being talked about. I asked if Grant was going to be a Minister too and received a definite no. Mary said he already had artistic gifts Grant smiled a lot. He was too young to be embarrassed at all the stories Mary told about him.

I met Kenneth again in Edinburgh in 1976. He had studied for the Ministry and had become Professor of Medical & Biomedical Ethics at Edinburgh University. I heard too that Grant won many prizes for his art and became an art teacher. I think this may have stayed in my mind because, at 15, I had no idea what life held for me, or about my place in the world.

Another fragmentary memory is about Sundays at Evanton. On the first Sunday after my arrival I discovered that the McKenzies were a very religious family. As well as his attendence at church, Kenneth went to a Gaelic prayer meeting. It was explained that he came from a district called the Black Isle where there were many native Gaelic speakers. Willie Hugh Munro (son of Grandma's sister, Isabella) remembers him as, "A very straight man, oh yes, a religious kind of man, an elder in the Free Church. He worked for 6 days and rested on the seventh day and he was ready for Monday morning. He worked from 6 O'clock in the morning till 2 O'clock next morning. There was nothing spared." (Evanton Oral History Project).

I have retained an image of another of Jessie & Kenneth's daughters, because of a medical crisis which happened while we were in Evanton. This was Meta (Margaret Catherine) and the crisis concerned her son, Nigel. Meta had married Affleck Gray and they had two children, Uiga and Nigel. Uiga was about 10 and Nigel around 5. I saw Nigel only once as he was rushed to hospital. Naturally Meta was very upset, but Affleck tried to calm her with his belief that all would be well. Unfortunately this was not the case and he became critical. I heard that his life was in danger. When we left for home it was still unclear about whether Nigel would live or die.

A recent email from Uiga filled in some gaps in this story. Nigel was rushed to hospital with appendicitis. His appendix had ruptured and he hovered between life and death. Happily, he lived and married an Australian girl and has settled in Sydney. They have a beautiful daughter called Lisa.

A photograph of Nigel taken a year later in 1948. The wound from his appendix operation is still bandaged.

The third sister was Neanie (christened Williamena). She is a background person in my memories. I think she lived locally and helped to run the house during Jessie's illness.

The McKenzie family were very kind to us, and took us on trips all over the north of Scotland. Willie was our driver on nearly all these excursions. I remember particularly a visit to the west coast opposite to the Isle of Skye. I wanted to cross over, but that didn't happen. I have always been attracted by islands.

William Broadfoot McKenzie taken in 1948 the year after my visit. Just as I remember him!

On one of these trips we came very near to the place where my grandmother was born, and met her brother Thomas who was a shepherd, and carrying his crook. I wished I had had a camera. It was like a scene from the Bible. He had agreed to meet us a gate in an unfenced road, as the place where he lived was too remote to be reached by car. My grandmother and he had only a short reunion before we drove on. Grandma was sad after leaving him, because she knew she would never see him again. I was told that the actual cottage were she was born was no longer there. I would like to have seen it.

Willie was single, but his younger brother, Hector had married. On one occasion, Hector was the driver and he brought with him two small red haired girls, (Janette and Moira). I think Uiga came too on the same trip. Both Willie & Hector worked in the garage where they had different responsibilities. Willie looked after the agricultural side; Hector looked after the garage side.

Hector McKenzie with his cousin, Muirden Munro at the BlackIsle Show. Muirden was the son of Annie's younger sister, Isabella. The Munro family benefited too from Kenneth's entrepreneurial talents.

Uiga was around sometimes during that summer of 1947. She remarks about her grandmother, "I remember visiting her in her bedroom with her long auburn hair spread out on the pillows. I'd never seen it down before." The odd thing about this description is that Jessie was nearly 80 and her hair had not gone grey. It reminded me of grandma, at Wall Farm, sitting on the edge of her bed, with her hair down to her waist and saying, "the Broadfoots' hair never goes grey." Hers did - eventually!

The same thing has happened to me. I am in my eighties now and my hair is light brown. My daughters are both in their 50s and they too seem to carry the same gene. It skipped my mother. She began to go grey in her 20s.

The two sisters, both with their hats.

Annie is the garden at the Scar Farm. Jessie's photograph is taken on the beach at Rosemarkie on the Black Isle. Uiga is the little girl in the photograph. She told me that Jessie clung to her hat even on the beach.

They look rather alike, I think.

I have often wondered how Grandma became separated from her original family. Uiga suggests, "Big houses in the north were often owned as shooting lodges and I wonder if Annie's Fawcetts owned a place in Scotland, where she might have been employed before going to London?". This seems to be the most likely explanation. I think she always worked for the Fawcett's although for different branches. In the 1991 census she is recorded as working for a family called Jobling at Longbenton in Northumberland. This puzzled me for a while, until I discovered that the wife's maiden name was Fawcett.

When we returned to Cumberland, Mary Boyd & my mother continued to write letters. They were of even greater interest to me because I knew the people she was writing about. They were no longer simply names on a family tree. Grandma never returned to Scotland.

Marian Foster. April 2013.