Tuesday, 1 June 2010
I have just returned from a parental visit to Northern Ireland, where access to the internet has been very sporadic indeed and half the £1-for-10-minutes public terminals don't work. To amuse myself amidst the dispiriting chaos of my parents' home and lives in which no one is allowed to intervene except for washing up and sharing the driving, I tracked down the family photos, which had rather shockingly been consigned to rot in a broken 30s suitcase in an outhouse, many stuck together or ruined by mould and both maternal and paternal families mixed up to the extent that if there was someone we couldn't identify, they could not even be narrowed down to which side they might be from. Very few were labelled. Luckily 'Mirrie' survived.
'Mirrie' was the glamour girl of my paternal grandmother's family who could have almost been a 30s film star, but became a doomed air hostess instead. Gold-watch deserving readers of this blog may recall the narrative poem I wrote about her here At the time I had no photographs to go with it, so it is nice to put some up at last.
I learned that she was the daughter of Walter and Miriam Gunn. Walter served in WWI and was an ARP warden in WWII, before rising in civvy street to become Manager of Pearl Assurance in Broadgate, Coventry. After their daughter Mirrie was killed in a plane crash - I'm assuming sometime in the 1940s since she evidently lived to be a Wren in WWII, her parents left Coventry to assuage their great grief by running an antiques shop in Brighton, their daughter's belongings locked in the attic having been sent back from the African Cape where she died.
The battered old familial bible states Walter Gunn's date of birth as 12th January 1894, so I will endeavour to order a copy of his death certificate and see if I can dig up some more family information. Unfortunately anyone who might have known the family is likely to be dead and my father has never taken much interest in his family, even before the onset of dementia.
Like Steerforth at Age of Uncertainty, I always think it compounds the tragedy of human loss when that person is entirely forgotten down to the last photograph being disposed of or carelessly allowed to moulder out of existence. Whilst I don't kid myself any of my ancesters had an easy time of it, there is a charm about old photographs and the lost grace and sense of Britishness they portray. Few photographs taken today are likely to be as evocative. In fact I regard old family photographs as the nearest thing to family silver.