v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

May 2, 2013

Dear Simon

I've just come across a letter from you asking me to write up something about Frances and me which might go into the family memoirs. It's a long time since you asked and I've just learned from Robin that nothing is known about us – there seems to be a complete rift between us (which I think Sandy tried to heal) and I've left it rather late to do my stuff. You will find this rather back to front; you must remember I am 92!

Frances is 18 months older than me and Sandy is about a year older than Frances. So I was Daddy's favourite and she was Mummie's useful daughter. It was thought that I would be brilliantly clever and that she would excel in the domestic arts.

For now, the three of us – Sandy, Frances and Jane – were sent to a private school in Chesterfield where it was hoped that we would not pick up a Derbyshire accent. Up till now the three of us had been educated by a governess, Miss Bielby, who did her stuff quite well, though what Sandy thinks about this you must ask him, perhaps he's already told you. Till Sandy was seven we were educated together. After a while my mother asked me how I was liking school and I told her (I was aged seven) I knew less now than when I went there. Frances apparently didn't know or care! So we were taken away from that school and sent to the Junior part of the High School. Mum didn't know or care about our accents, provided they weren't too Midland, so we stayed on at the High School till the time came for Frances to go to Edinburgh to her Domestic Science School and later for me to go to the Cheltenham Ladies' College. This was arranged, I am sure, because of "sibling rivalry". My mother's older sister lived in Cheltenham. All their children were educated there and I think my poor wee Mum must try to keep her end up.

I think from the start they got quite wrong ideas about me and expected me to be a Great Brain and a potential Leader of Girls, which wasn't what happened: (unlike Sandy, whom nobody noticed) I didn't get glowing school reports and wasn't worthy of them. But we weren't any of us, in trouble. Apparently, I wasn't a sprouting genius.

I went through WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) without distinction. The only thing that happened to me was that I got smitten with the theatre, as we had an actor at our station who got up camp concerts and gave me some very nice parts and rather turned my head and it took me some time to get this out of my system.

Meanwhile, Frances had joined the Women's Royal Army Corps hardly aware of what she was doing, and served as a cook for about five years before, in total exasperation, she threw a plate of food at a private (which he caught) and she was up on a charge. But she impressed the officer before whom she had to appear, so she was given a commission and spent the rest of the war in uniform (as an officer).

I think she found it rather a comedown after the war to go back to "civvy street" (which I didn't). I do know that she got a job as a sort of "Mary Poppins" with a French family for a few years and then with an Italian family, so that by the end of that time she was reasonably fluent in both French and Italian.

But meanwhile, what about Jane? Well, she eventually lived through being stage-struck and instead became totally "struck" with the Outdoor Club of Victoria and with everything Gaelic – we spent about 13 years learning the Grammar (never easy in older languages), learning the Hebridean songs and psalms and loving every minute of it. The other people were so interesting – a delightful retired dentist, a teacher from the Orkney's, etc., etc. (You must remember that your Grannie had a largely Scottish and Gaelic background, so all this appealed very much to her.

Then, because of Jane's enthusiasm for hiking and maps, she was asked to join a committee to put together a book of maps, which she agreed to do (this was a much bigger project than she had ever realised – it was to be of hiking trails of Vancouver Island which had been attempted four times already but, until now, had never come off – but did now thanks to Jane's determination that it be not for profit. It is now available on Internet, Google etc.

Now back to Frances – we have not touched on her later years. First, she was a great help to Grannie when Papa Waddell was so frail. He was not an easy patient, going through slowly advancing arterio-sclerosis. Frances would have loved to be a nurse, but wasn't encouraged. Sandy came home from E. Africa briefly to recover from an infection and was rather horrified by things here and tried to get a nurse to help, but she was promptly dismissed by Grannie – they preferred to everything their way – and so they did, until he died in 1950 and Frances had a breakdown. [SW: there seems to be a gap of five or six years here, since my recollection is that Jane did not emigrate to Canada until the mid-Fifties, living with Grannie and working at the County Council offices in Chichester. In a recent conversation (December 2012) she indicated that she was very unhappy during this period but did not hint at the cause] And then a nice old chap in Fishbourne, Chichester, Capt. Rule RN, kindly suggested that Jane should go off to Canada for a while, to which Grannie agreed while Frances came home [SW: from Italy? I remember this being before the divorce while we were living in Basil St.]. So, with a few introductions, off she went — and the rest is history!

I think it was wonderful of Grannie to let me go so easily. Most parents would think they had a prior claim but, of course, Grannie and Grandpa had lived in Seattle on the West Coast of the USA so they understood the way of life better than some other British people would have done. They were married in Vancouver and lived in Seattle for about 15 years [SW: William was born in Seattle]. I was very lucky to be able to go so easily. Actually it was easier living in Canada than in England (or I found it so). But Frances seemed to find life easier in Britain. She came to visit me in Canada briefly, but it was not really a success. She was much too British and European!

Now I must hand this over to someone else to do it

Thank you!

Jane Waddell-Renaud