Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bessie (Bee) Sutherland

Chapter Thirteen

Bessie (Bee) Sutherland

A schoolgirl's memories of her Grandmother — 1922 to 1937.

My granny was 'the sweetest little English lady you could ever wish to know' so said my mother of her mother-in-law many times. My earliest recollection of Granny was the day my brother John and I skipped along the footpath to the Maternity Home to see my mother and the new baby. I was four years old. Granny and Aunt Ann had come to look after us. Granny was dressed in black from head to toe and wore a veil on her face — to hide the wrinkles she told me. Aunt Anne wore brown. I remember them both as if it were yesterday. Sometimes other members of the Havelock relations would come with her to our place. They loved having their tea cups read. My mother used to say it was all nonsense, but they thought she was pretty good. On August 19th it was Granny's birthday. Mum would cook a lovely dinner for her. Afterward the birthday cake with numerous candles would be lit. Granny's white hair would shine in the candle light. When I was nine years old I was given a bicycle. This enabled me to accompany Dad to Havelock North on Sundays after lunch to see Granny and Aunt Ann. They lived in a modern bungalow with a large back section. The largest walnut tree with the biggest nuts grew there. Sometimes I would see Nancy Hallett picking them up. I think she used to keep an eye on the old ladies. Next door was the village fire station with a vehicle containing pump and hoses drawn by horses when in action. After afternoon tea Dad would give Granny some pound notes for her to put in the pocket made especially in her corset. I think this idea must have been the forerunner of the travellers money belt of today.

On two occasions I accompanied Granny and Aunt Ann to Taihape to see my Aunt Isobel, Granny's only daughter. We left Hastings at 7am in an open tourer with side curtains flapping. The car bumped up and down on shingle roads until mid-day when we stopped at a very pleasant farm house where tea and fresh scones were served. It was good to stretch our legs after the long drive but worse was to come. We forded a stony river, crawled around Gentle Annie and in the glaring sun crossed the Blowhards. We were all very pleased to see Gordon Durrant waiting for us at the cross road. The return journey to Hastings did not bear thinking about that evening.

After the 1931 earthquake it was decided that Granny and Aunt Ann should give up their home and part company, Aunt Ann to Alice Warren's and Granny to our place. It was a big break for them but Granny was getting very forgetful. She was then 81 years old. She enjoyed good health and enjoyed her meals but could not be left alone. We had a gas stove to boil the kettle. She liked making a cup of tea between meals and wouldn't turn the tap off properly. If my mother was in the garden she would wonder what the old lass was up to. She wasn't interested in handwork as was Aunt Anne, so I guess the days seemed long for her. Granny was 88 years old when she died — she had lived with us for seven years. She was an unassuming old lady, was very rarely "vexed" an old saying of hers when she mislaid her glasses. Her husband, Johnnie Sutherland, whom I never new, was buried in Palmerston North so that meant a long ride in the hearse, which unfortunately broke down at Waipukurau. Another hearse from Hastings was called for making the burial arrangements an hour late.

We all missed "old Gran", the little white-haired old lady who loved to stand at the front gate and pass the time of day with whoever might have time to stop.

Ray Nicholas
Te Awamutu

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