v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Tribute by James Waddell

This is a celebration, right? So let's go. Everybody has their own Jane, I guess, so this is one of many. She had many facets and every one of them twinkles.

Her parents come from Glasgow and Callendar next door. Her parents marry in Seattle, but return to England in 1916, where Jane is born the youngest of 5 as Robin has said.

Imagine a donkey with a basket on each side, 2 sisters in one, a brother in the other. It doesn't balance.

During her adolescence the family is shattered by the death of her middle elder brother who catches polio during military service between the two wars.

Jane goes to Cheltenham Ladies College, studies Latin and Greek.

The war comes. Jane serves in the WAAF in southern England, meets people from far away. She later works in troop entertainment and after the war becomes assistant stage manager in Stratford. Has doubts about the profession after hearing a conversation between two actors about a floral bouquet: one flower is not quite enough, but two is just one too many, don't you think?

Down the corridor in her lodging house another determined young lady named Margaret Thatcher is practising her first speeches.

Jane works in a local government office in Sussex until the attack of family claustrophobia Robin has described. The family fuse blows and she strikes out afresh. The travel agent tells her: Miss Jane, if you go over there, you are just never going to come back.

Jane emigrates to Victoria. A clever move, given the parental history. She leaves her chattels behind. In my parents' house, she becomes a record player. I listen to the Beatles on her.

Her first job in Victoria is in the Sheriff's Office, then in Government House with the Ministry of Agriculture until retirement.

Jane studies Gaelic, feels Scots at last, and becomes a proud naturalised Canadian. She also hits the trails, more of that later. In England, we get strange telegrams from afar: Please send. But what does she want us to send? The sleeping-bag, dear boy.

Occasionally Jane appears in Europe on a state visit. She checks out the progress and gives advice to my wife to be. Now, don't you ever iron his shirts. No Canadian wife would ever iron her husband's shirts. At 70 she marries Maurice Renaud, of French ancestry, and they enjoy a great decade. We don't know about his shirts.

Maurice is older than Jane, so when he passes away Jane soldiers on alone in the James Bay apartment, then decides to go to Douglas House.

International phone calls become simple and cheap, so Jane gives us ironic lowdown on the family history. The relationship tightens up again. You ring up and it goes like this: Do you know what time it is? / Sorry Jane. / It's OK, I can't sleep and I'm taking my pills, you might as well go ahead.

Or it goes like this: How are you doing, Jane? / Oh, uh ... We don't want to talk about that, do we? When asked if she wants to come back to Europe in advanced old age, she replies: No, I guess I must paddle my own canoe. And she did, thankfully without suffering for too long at the end, able to stay at Douglas House almost up to the wire.

Independent, like many women emancipated by the War, she was also the last of her generation in the family, and a powerful, mysterious example for our own.

So we thank the Woman Upstairs for the privilege of meeting Jane.