For both of them, my older brother and I were the only grandchildren.
The older one, Granny S, moved down to England when I was 5 and we didn’t see her much from then on – only on occasional visits. She developed dementia in her early 70s and grew gradually more confused until her death when I was 18. I don’t feel I really knew her. I never knew at all Grandpa S, who died the year I was born. I feel sad about this.
The plate above was part of her wedding china. One day she was carrying a lot of it through to the dining room on a tray when she dropped it. This is one of the few pieces that survived.
My other granny, Granny C, lived just along the road from us until we moved house when I was 12 – but we moved only about a mile away. She and my grandpa were very much part of our lives. Granny C was an absolute darling. She lived for her family, had the illusion that my brother and I were perfect and loved all things domestic: sewing and knitting and cooking and gardening.
However, she had a sad family background. Her mother was from the island of Arran but left the island, went to work in Glasgow, got married, developed TB and then died when her children were 7, 5 (my future Granny) and 2 years old. Their father got his sister to come and be his housekeeper, but she wasn’t a very motherly person and didn’t give the children much love. Even more sadly, the 2 year old daughter also got TB, was a sickly child and died at 14. Granny C and her elder brother, Alec, were very close. Then their father remarried when they were 16 and 18 and their step-mother made it clear that they were no longer welcome in the house. Alec joined the army and Granny came to Edinburgh and got a job as a sewing maid in a big house.
Alec was gassed during the war. He was never well again and survived only till late 1921.
My granny and grandpa got married in 1921 and Alec gave them a wedding present of two blue and white vases. These sat on either end of the mantelpiece until my granny was an old lady and had a home help once a week – and this cleaner broke one of the vases. This is the other.
Both my grannies seemed like very old ladies to me, with cottage-loaf figures and white hair pulled back into buns. I'm now 57, two years older than my younger granny was when I was born. Strange thought. I'm not a granny yet, nor does there seem any prospect of becoming one in the near future. Fortunately I already have the cottage-loaf figure and the hair will probably be at least grey by the time it happens so at least no one can say I'm not prepared.