Cyn Meets Cec

Cynthia Hazell Ewing met Cecil Clifford Costain on April 26th, 1948.  Cec was a Canadian student at St. John’s College, Cambridge, on an 1851 scholarship for Commonwealth students, working on his PhD. in Physics with Dr. Gordon Sutherland.  He wrote fewer letters than Cyn although he had traveled a lot more, on the aircraft carrier he served on during the war. [Those letters have already been published- tagged World War 2.] 

Lieutenant-Commander Costain went back to Saskatoon after the war and got his MSc. at the University of Saskatchewan.  He won the 1851 Exhibition Scholarship which enabled him to go to Cambridge, and once again he wrote letters home to the ‘folks’.  And their lives converged.

The circumstances of the meeting made a good story.  Cyn and her mother were sharing a flat at 37 de Freville Avenue in Cambridge, presumably having moved in together with whatever goods and chattels Carol had got from the Newcastle house, and they decided to have a house-warming party.  A friend had agreed to try to bring some extra men along (I seem to remember she had a husband or boyfriend who was a post grad student and could find lonely PhD candidates) because Cynthia had lived with other women teachers in Warkworth House, worked in an all-girls school, and although she certainly seemed to entertain, she and her friends were interested in new blood.  The teachers were not allowed to receive personal telephone calls at work, but Cyn needed to know how many people to cater for, so she arranged with her friend to ring her at school and sound as if it was a business call.  

At break, the call duly came, and the friend told her in a professional tone, “I’ve managed to get you those magazines you were interested in, and I’ll bring them around to your house.  Er, there are two Australian ones and a Canadian magazine.”

“Thank you,” said Cynthia, “I’ll look forward to reading them.”

At the party, the guests were introduced as ‘the Canadian magazine, Cec Costain etc.’ and so were in on the joke, and by the summer vacation, Cec was writing Cyn postcards from his all-male bicycle trip in France, saying, “Full moon tonight.  What a waste” which rather implies they had moved fast and had an understanding already.  They were married the following July, and three years later, pregnant with me, celebrated the anniversary of the party with ‘a little drink and a nice big reminisce before dinner tonight’ as she told her mother.  [Letter dated April 22nd 1951]

In a punt on the River Cam.

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