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23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

Tribute by Robin Waddell

Hello! My name is Robin Waddell and I am the eldest – some say the ugliest – of Jane's three nephews. She herself was the youngest of a family of five children – with three brothers and an elder sister.

The family had already felt the heavy influence of [their] Scottish and American heritage, and had then settled in England – but were never fully at ease there§. My father (Jane's eldest brother) sometimes remarked that he had felt conflicted in all three environments. A similar discomfort may have impelled Jane at the age of 39 to leave behind her job and family ties and emigrate to Victoria BC.

Jane's choice of Victoria was not accidental. Her father had emigrated from Scotland to Seattle in 1911, her mother had followed him a year later, and Jane's two eldest brothers were actually born there.

Her father was fully qualified as a naval architect, and readily found employment with the big local shipbuilders, the Seattle Construction and Drydock Company. He superintended the acceptance trials of newly-built vessels in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, just south of the Canadian naval base at Esquimalt, next door to Victoria itself.

Then came the First World War and so the family relocated back to Britain – to England in fact – where Jane was born a few years later in the steel-making city of Sheffield, where her father now had a job as works manager of a steel-mill.

But those happy family beginnings on the Pacific North West coast were surely the decisive factor in bringing her back to this beautiful corner of Canada.

§ (added for OrnaVerum) An everyday example of this was accent. Jane's mother Hannah and aunt Val, brought up in Scotland, had then been sent during their late 'teens to a "finishing school for young ladies" in Derby. Their Scottish accents were subjected to ridicule and the school set to work on them to impose standard English RP. I don't know how well this worked for Val (the elder and tougher of the two sisters), but Jane once related just how difficult Hannah had found this, and how, despite her best efforts, the Scottish accent kept slipping back at unguarded moments, especially on return to England after five years absence in the USA – and to an extent that the family found embarrassing – children can be so cruelly critical of their parents. Jane's father had absorbed a noticeable American accent during his six years in Seattle, and never quite lost it; this too would not have gone down well in the England of the 1920's, and might even have been regarded as an affectation. As the Irish playwright G B Shaw said (via Henry Higgins the protagonist in Pygmalion) at around that time, "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him".