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3:44pm on Saturday, 29th January, 2011:

100 Today


Last year, I mentioned that my maternal grandfather would have been 100 years old, had he lived. Today, my maternal grandmother would have been 100 years old, had she lived. As it was, she made the best attempt to reach 100 of all my grandparents, dying 8 days before her 89th birthday in 2000. This was probably due to the fact that, alone among my grandparents, she didn't smoke.

Here she is at our wedding in 1985 (from the same picture as the one of my grandad, next to whom she's standing):

That's just as I remember her, even down to the glasses. I could recognise her from the photograph I found last year of her when she was young, but if I close my eyes and think of her it is, of course, the old lady version I see, because that's how I always knew her.

She was the youngest of 11 children, and was a twin. They were born too soon, and neither she nor her sister was expected to last the week. As her sister was the stronger, she was christened Irene Rose Wighton, in case by some miracle she pulled through. The doctor estimated that my grandmother would die within three days at most, so she was christened Annie Frankland Wighton — Mrs Frankland being a friend of my great-grandmother. As it was, both twins survived and lived to old age.

The most important thing I remember about my grandmother was her kindness and gentleness. She would do anything she could to help those who needed help, even though she didn't have much herself, and she never had a harsh word to say about anybody. Everyone who knew her liked her.

I wouldn't say she was particularly intelligent, but she was very thoughtful. When we were kids, my brother and I would go and stay with her and my grandfather for a couple of weeks over the summer holidays, and we loved it. She would cook these really, really good meals using a "range" — basically an oven that was part of the same unit as the coal fire that heated the living room in their (small) house. She made these teacakes and we'd toast them fresh — I adored them! Forty years on, I can still bring their taste to mind. Ah, happy times.

She left England only twice. Once was on a day trip to Edinburgh (quite emotional for her, as her parents were Scottish and she regarded herself as Scottish, despite her Yorkshire accent). The other was a trip to Paris that I took her on, along with my mother. I wanted to repay her somehow for the holidays I'd spent at hers when I was young, and Paris by train was the result. She was pretty much overwhelmed by it, as was I by her reaction: we took a ride on a bateau mouche, and when we passed the Eiffel Tower she asked what it was..! I suppose, growing up as a servant girl in a small village in Yorkshire, the Eiffel Tower wasn't something that she was really likely to come across, but I'd have thought she'd have seen it on TV or in movies in later life. Apparently not, though. She knew the name, just not what it looked like.

My grandmother lived long enough that my own children knew her and remember her. I like that: I'm glad that my kids know they had someone so sweet and good-natured in their family.

Oh well, I must remember that this is a blog, not a biography. Check out 27th May for grandparent #3's 100th.

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).