September 1955

The National Research Council where Cec worked had permanent staff members: Dr Herzberg, the head of the Physics Division, with Alec Douglas, Boris Stoicheff, Don Ramsay, Cec and others; and also Fellows who came from all over the world for 2 years and then usually returned to jobs at home. This meant that an unspoken part of the staffers job was being helpful to the newcomers and making sure their families were getting on well.

Dr. Herzberg and ladies.

For Cyn and Cec, that meant entertaining, and once the summer holidays were over, they held an evening for their friends (possibly wanting Carol to enjoy the people she’d been reading about in Cyn’s letters for the past 4 years, as well as the outfit- Cyn’s skirt was her gift!)

Cec’s camera came out, showing drinks and hors d’oeuvres,

friends and Carol dressed up,

Phyl Douglas and Carol (Grannie to us, Mummy to Cyn.)
Alec Douglas, Joan Stoicheff, and a wife…

ladies smoking elegantly,

physicists chatting happily,

Mrs. Herzberg and Alec, plus a Fellow?
Charlie saying Good Night to his godfather, Boris Stoicheff.

and the children in pyjamas insisting on saying goodnight as part of the entertainment.

Costains: Hosts and entertainment!

July 1955

In July, Carol Ewing arrived in Ottawa, three years after her last trip, to visit her daughter Cyn, Cec, Linda, and meet her grandson for the first time. But hers was not the only visit. Cec got his camera out to record the meeting of the in-laws: his Aunt Lily came up from Toronto- she hadn’t seen them since Linda was 6 weeks old- and Cec’s sister Merle and her husband Dix came from Port Arthur, and they met Carol and the children for the first time. As they were all lovely people, they got on well!

Charlie and Uncle Dix

Carol Ewing is standing, with Lily Costain seated, at the back of the house on Montreal Road.

Lea, Cec’s second sister, had been staying with Merle and Dix with her son because of her health, but has returned to her husband Wendell who was working in Ottawa. So in these family photographs the only one missing is Cec, who is behind the camera.

Adults: Wendell & Lea Atchison, Dixon & Merle Moor, Cyn, Aunt Lily, and Grannie! Children: Daryl, Charlie and Linda.

Both Merle and Dix had university degrees, but at some point decided to get teacher’s qualifications by going to Teacher’s College in the summer in Toronto for a couple of summers. I assume their three sons went to their grandparents in Saskatoon while their parents took courses. We would meet those cousins a few years later. Meanwhile, Cyn took the camera.

Costain Siblings- Cec and his sisters and us.
Family Visit!

February 1955

The big event in my grandmother Carol’s life in February 1955 was the Royal Visit. Princess Margaret, sister of the young queen, was to make an official visit to St. Vincent, and the public would be allowed to ‘meet’ her at a Garden Party. Carol and her sister received invitations to this, and instructions on how to dress and behave (!), attended, I hope enjoyed themselves, and sent the ephemera to Cyn (probably because there was a 3 year old Linda interested in princesses.)

Possibly a new hat would not be considered an unnecessary expense by the Hazell sisters!
I wish I could have read Carol’s letter to Cyn that accompanied these instructions. The final paragraph suggests a backstory!

Princess Margaret must have liked St Vincent, because later she made a home on the island of Mustique, the Hazell’s holiday island that Carol’s brother Fred would sell in 1958!

October 19 1954

Box 330 Ottawa R.R.1

Tues. 19th Oct.

Dearest Mummy,
I have been trying to settle down to write you a long letter for simply ages, but somehow I always seem to be on the hop. These evenings when Cec goes back to work I never seem to get anything done- by the time the children are in bed & dishes washed etc. it is about 8, then Cec goes into work anytime from 8:30 – 9:30 so I feel I can’t settle down to anything till then, & afterwards the evening seems just about done & I might as well crawl into bed & read a little & go to sleep!
Lindy & I want to thank you so much for her perfectly beautiful pyjamas! They arrived yesterday & we are all so thrilled with them – they fit her very nicely indeed – not too big & floppy, but nice & loose & plenty of room for her to grow. She is so tickled with them & had a great time choosing which pair to wear first – the ones with the little animals won & she is wearing those now – I am so delighted to have them at it as it is cold, miserable, wet weather & she just had cotton ones. I had no idea you had got all 3 different materials – they are so sweet that I really can’t tell which I like the best – thank you very, very much for making them & sending them, Mummy dear – they are a real boon. By the way I mailed the batteries & cord last week – hope they don’t take too long – I still think I got the best of the bargain!!

Yellow crayon, perhaps?

Thank you so much too for your A.M. of the 4th Oct. which came on Sat. – so quick it seems. You were writing about being threatened with a hurricane, which fortunately had passed by, but I wondered if it was the same big one which came up through the U.S. & hit Ontario on Fri. We had terrific winds on Fri. night – trees & high tension wires blown down etc. but Toronto had a terrible time with the rains & floods – nearly 100 people dead. [Hurricane Hazel, October 15th 1954.] Our only damage was in the garden – in the spring Cec transplanted a lot of chrysanthemum cuttings along one side of the lawn & they have grown big & bushy & are just in flower – not particularly pretty (Cec is disgusted in fact!) – pucy-pink single daisy type – but they are so thick & covered with flowers they look very nice. Anyway the wind snapped whole bushes off by the root & we found them rolling around the garden, so the chrysanthemum border looks very moth-eaten now!
You must be having such a busy time over the Bazaar – I have forgotten when it is, but you certainly deserve to have a big success after all your hard work. I sent some “Iron-on” Transfer Patterns by sea last week – I don’t know whether they will get to you in time to be of use or not. Did A. Ettie sent you some nice things for the Bazaar? The parcel postage is awfully high, but how nice that you have 2 new dresses!! What are they like? Talking of dresses makes me think of the “Print Bundle” I sent – I thought you might give a piece to Doris to help compensate for her burgled material, but maybe if A. Moo is buying a piece for her Christmas you think that will be enough.
Charlie, the little pig, is howling his head off. They are having their afternoon nap & he woke & cried & I went & potted him & put cream on his eczema, but he will not shut up! He is really tired too as this morning I took him to get his haircut & he howled all the time of course & exhausted himself! His ex. has been so raw & irritable lately & someone told me a Dr. they knew advised taking children off homogenized milk & putting them on dried skim milk & 4 babies she knew had tried it & it cured the ex. so today I got some dried milk & a big shaker & have begun to give it to him. He gets plenty of fat now in the rest of his food so I don’t think it can hurt him & it is worth trying anything. I have cut out tomatoes & citrus fruits as they made his face blotchy, but it doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference to his legs.
I am glad you wrote to the C. of Justice about the Memorial & said I would agree. As you say it seems a pointless thing to spend so much money on, but there is no point in opposing him & giving him something else to get agitated about. I wondered if A. Annie would write to him about Uncle Field. I had a letter from her about 2 weeks ago – I must reply sometime. I am glad that he left the farm etc. to Arthur’s boy even if he won’t ever farm it himself – much better than to the Australian family & also to Leta & children as after all he knows the rest of his nephews & nieces very little on the whole. I never thought of him leaving me anything till you said he hadn’t & then of course I thought, “Well it would have been useful!” But poor old fellow, he certainly didn’t know me very well.
You were asking about Lindy & Sunday school – well, I have attempted it, but when it came to the point she wouldn’t go! This girl down the road, Pat Tomlinson, is taking her little girl Joanne, & I thought “Oh goody” & was all enthusiasm – & so is Lindy if it is in the dim distant future!! But when it is “today” she gets all scared &, so I haven’t forced the issue. Actually she & Joanne don’t seem to cotton to each other at all, I don’t know why, but anyway I thought I would leave it for a little while & then try again as goodness knows she is shy enough without it getting any worse & I hope she will grow out of it naturally – & SOON! She still howls when even the shoe man comes with new shoes for her & I have to put them on etc. but one victory we’ve had is that she now doesn’t mind getting her hair washed & doesn’t cry over it!
Since I last wrote not much has been going on. Cec of course is still going back most evenings & this past week was the first in ages that he hadn’t gone back some of the time. I don’t know if I told you in my last letter that we were having Chris, our Danish friend, to spend a last weekend with us. He is so nice that we were very sorry to see him go – particularly as he just loved being here & would really have liked to stay. We were sorry he didn’t find a nice girl as he is so easy & good in a house & sweet with children, but he didn’t have any dates, & no girl in Denmark as far as we know. He will be in England now I think – he is spending about 4 days there. The weekend here was kind of queer! To begin with it poured with rain & was wet & cold & miserable. Then on the Sunday just after we finished a late breakfast the entire electric power went off, which is just disastrous for us – no furnace, no oven, no fridge, no water (electric pump)! You can imagine! I couldn’t even wash the dishes & I wanted to make a cake, & I had a duck to roast & stuff for dinner & an apple pie to make! Well, by 1 p.m. it still wasn’t on, so Cec trotted out in the rain in the back & built up stones & made a little fire! We heated soup & milk for the children & I got them fed & to bed, then soup & coffee for our lunch & I made sandwiches, so at least we didn’t start! The wretched power didn’t come on till 3:30 & of course then I had to 1/2 kill myself to get everything done – at least, I never did get that cake made!!
We were at Lee & Jim’s for bridge the Friday before & they are both looking very well now. Lee’s baby is due the end of Jan. or beginning of Feb. so she is showing now but she’s feeling fine – the first 3 – 4 mths she was miserably sick & nauseated & lost weight etc. but now she is all right. You know they are a funny couple!! For the past 2 years they have been talking of buying a house & they have money borrowed from relatives for a down payment. They have looked at houses uphill & downdale – one week they decide to build & look at lots & house plans & talk to builders etc. – then next week they decide to buy an older house & answer ads & go to estate agents & put names down on lists etc. Long before Pete & Lu began house hunting they were at it, & very busy too- going to see houses on weekends & in evenings, but always some little thing was wrong, till we all got just sick of hearing about it! The last thing was they thought they’d get the builder of Pete & Lu’s to build them one the same & they were looking at lots etc. & now it has all fallen through & they have signed a lease on the apt. for another year! It will be crowded with the baby I’m sure, & although it is not too much housework for Lee it is a 3rd-floor apartment which means stairs up and down & baby carriages to get up & down etc. I don’t know – people are queer, aren’t they?!!
Lu was out here one evening with another Sask. girl called Willa Woods. They were on their way to a butcher in a little village called Orleans. (Remember my letter with the postmark? It is the place where we nearly bought that house in March) about 3 miles past us, so I invited them to come & have coffee afterwards. (Incidentally, I go to this butcher too– they are good & v. reasonable!) We had a good chat & I think Willa is going to buy my silk dress from England – she looks very nice in it & took it home for her husband to see!
Al & Betty McNamara were here to dinner a week ago on Friday. Al has his PhD. from Sask. now & is finished there, but instead of working for Pete as expected has taken a job at N.R.C. which annoyed Pete as it was through him & for him that Al got a job at Sask. & could go there. However it doesn’t concern Cec & me so we keep out of it! The Dept. Al is in is at the N.R.C. on Montreal Rd. so it’s very close to us & they have been lucky enough to get an N.R.C. house close by at $40 a month- just for one year & a few disadvantages like no heat except for an oil stove in the living room, but for a young couple with no children it gives them a nice start. They will be quite close to us & were moving in last week so I expect we will see a bit of them. Al isn’t so shy & I like Betty so they will be a pleasant acquisition to our social life!!
Last Monday was Thanksgiving here & we had a roast chicken & a delicious lemon chiffon pie. We had no guests which seemed seemed strange, as we usually have someone in to share the celebration, but it was quite fun to be just by ourselves & Charlie sat up at the table too & thoroughly enjoyed himself. Now he goes to each chair at the table & says “My place? My place?” & is quite crestfallen when we say “Your place” & lead him to his little table!

On Friday Cec & I got Anne our Dutch woman to babysit for us & went to see James Stewart in a thriller called “Rear Window”. It was very good & we enjoyed it & enjoyed having a little outing. In addition, on Sat afternoon Margie & I took off & went downtown for tea & a spree so I have really been stepping out!! We went just to look, but Margie saw a very nice dress & little jacket reduced from $15 to $10 & it was just what she wanted so she tried it on & it fitted her beautifully so she bought it & I had to lend her $5.00! If Willa buys my dress, I too will go shopping!!!
On Sun. Lea Atchison phoned to see if we were doing anything & she & Darryl came over for dinner & Wendell came later. Lee seems a bit better but the situation is very difficult. Mrs. A. has always been a very possessive domineering mother & now her husband is gone she can hardly bear Wendell out of her sight. She has a very bad heart condition which she holds over him & I really feel sorry for the poor fellow. Lea is agitating of course for them to get a place of their own & the mother begins having heart attacks at the mention of it, so what’s to do? He has a job as salesman for some book company but it is on commission so that isn’t very steady, but he works very hard at it. Lea thinks she will nurse again & really I think it will be best as she sits there, doing nothing, bored stiff & she and Mrs. A. getting more & more on each other’s nerves.
It is getting near midnight so I had better go to bed – Cec is at work & I don’t know when he’ll be in. I still have some letters of yours to answer so will try & write a long sea letter soon.
Hugs & kisses from Lindy & Charlie (took him to get his haircut today – howled of course but looks very sweet).
Lots & lots of love from us all – Cyn

P.T.O. A Charlie story- One day Bunny, our (big) pussy, was feeling playful & jumped at Charlie’s arm & nipped it- Charlie didn’t mind & just pushed her away, but Cec scolded Bunny who went & lay down on the floor. So over trots Charlie, lies down beside her & says to Bunny “Say ‘Sowwy!’ Say ‘Sowwy!’”!!
A Linda story- yesterday morning I was getting Linda up & hugged her & said “Oh you’re sweet” so Lindy gives a big grin & says “I’m sweet as sour medicine!” We have such beautiful, clever, children!!!

Just a note about the Ewing family that Cyn mentions in this letter:
Her father, Gordon Ewing, or J.M.G.E. as she sometimes refers to him, was institutionalized with dementia after her mother had left him and come to live with Cyn in Cambridge, and although both Cyn and Carol had since left England, they remain connected through lawyers and money matters. Apparently he wants to spend money on some sort of Memorial and they agree not to oppose it.
A more serious matter is that one of Gordon’s older brothers, Field Ewing, who had run the family farm in Ireland, had died. Cyn had had a letter from her Aunt Annie, but is not sure her father will have been told about it. Cyn is happy that the farm will go to ‘Arthur’s boy’, a cousin who seems to live locally, rather than her cousin Leta who also lived in Northern Ireland but had married and had her own life, or the Australian cousins that they had lost touch with. And she acknowledges that she has had very little connexion with her Uncle Field since visits in her childhood, and letters!
However, in the 1980s, the Australian cousins got in touch! A Mr. Ewing started exploring his family’s roots, and through the Irish descendants, got Cyn’s name and actually came and visited her and Cec in Ottawa, and, I think, Leta in Ireland. Cyn gave him her Ewing heirloom tea cup and saucer- the one I thought ugliest in her collection as a child, and was cavalier about breaking while dusting until I learned its Victorian history- she had it mended- and he gave her the Ewing genealogy he had worked out after he added her children to it. When Cec and Cyn visited Australia in 1990 or 91, they visited his family and enjoyed the connection to her distant cousins, but I was in Vancouver, Charlie in Ottawa, both of us working, and we did not keep up the connection, and sadly, I can’t find the Ewing genealogy either.

Costain Genealogy #2

Elida Eakin Costain, 1st left.

It is the premise of this blog that in the twentieth century LETTERS kept a wide-flung family together.  Cynthia and the women of the family on the Hazell side did write letters and keep in touch with the day-to-day events of their lives, probably because they had done this in previous generations- the colonial outposts of the empire looked to England and the family was wealthy enough to have the leisure to write at length, and visit, even in different countries.  I’m not sure that this was true for farmer families in North America, who moved across the continent in the hopes of a better life for their children, and who lived in a different economic bracket. Elida Eakin was born in Nebraska but must have moved in the 1890s or 1900s, because she and her immediate family lived in Ponoka, Alberta, in Canada, where her first 3 children were born.  Her husband, Henry Costain, moved from Prince Edward Island where he had grown up, to the West before World War 1, and married and lived in Ponoka before moving his family to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the 1920s.  Elida kept in touch with her immediate family in Ponoka, Henry with his, but the familiarity with the more extended members of his Costain family in P.E.I. was lost- something that wouldn’t have happened if he had continued living there and had bumped into distant cousins as one does in a small community.

I’m sure Elida wrote to and occasionally visited her sisters; my Auntie Merle did the same with her cousins but they were not as close as the Hazells were. The Costain children knew their aunts and uncles who visited occasionally, but not the P.E.I Costains.  The families were as large, but it was a different culture; a busier, more hard-working lifestyle; and letters were probably infrequent and concerned with the major events of life, rather than minutia.  Also keeping in touch seems to have been the business of the women of the family rather than the men- certainly Cec’s letters indicate this- I doubt he ever wrote much to his aunt or cousins.  Both Cyn’s parents were the youngest of 12 children, but on her father’s Ewing side, she seems to have been in touch with only 3 or 4, and a couple of cousins.  (There’s a distant Ewing cousin in Australia who visited Cyn and went to Ireland, and sorted out that genealogy- I assume some of Gordon’s generation, or earlier ones, moved to America and Australia- and she gave him the ‘Antique cup and saucer’ listed in her Wedding Present List as coming from Uncle Jim.) When you look at the wedding presents on Cyn’s list, there were gifts from aunts, uncles, and cousins- 9 Hazells, 6 Ewings, 2 Costains, and the 1 Eakin aunt.                                                                                                                                                    

So I know very little about the Eakin side of my father’s family, having only met one of his cousins, Evelyn Abbott.  This rough sketch is all I know of my grandmother’s family- any corrections welcome!  

June 25 1939

As the Ewings were preparing for the summer trip to New York, Cynthia got a letter from Bobby Sheedy, the younger of the brothers next door she’d grown up with, so different in tone from his letter of 3 years before, that it is hard to believe it is from the same person.  Now in the British forces, Bobby’s letter suggests that there was discussion amongst the family and friends in Newcastle (and probably New York and St Vincent too) about Carol and Cynthia staying in America because of the approaching war.  


Sign J.R S.

4th A.A. Brig. H.Q. Signals,

No. 5 Company,

3rd Holding Batt.,

R. Signals,



Dear Cyn,

As you know you hinted about leaving England when I was home on leave, but somehow I didn’t take it in. I hear from Mother that there is a possibility of your leaving in the near future.

You know what I think about that: it’s unnecessary for me to say it in words. However, the decision rests with you. I should hate to advise you to take any course of action which afterwards you might regret.

The main purpose of this letter is to find out if you’re going, and if so when.

If you have decided to go I must see you before you leave. Once you get out there, it’s unlikely that you will ever return. Somehow I didn’t think of it seriously when you told me in the car on my last night’s leave. I suppose I was too busy thinking of myself.

Please let me know the position as soon as poss,

Yours in haste



P. S. In the event of your not going I shall wait until my next leave.

P. P. S. I’m still at Staithes, the one-eyed fishing joint 15 miles S of Saltram. People hospitable, place dead and alive.

Only the second postscript, added on the top of the first page, sounds like Bobby! I don’t know what Cyn replied to Bobby, but I do know that her father had booked a return trip for the three women going, and that nowhere in the entire Travel Diary is there a hint that it is anything but a fun and exciting holiday to her.  Nor is there, however, much introspection or mention of feelings- much more a daily record of events, with evenings of ‘talk’ mentioned but not described.  I’m sure the relatives in New York tried to persuade them to stay where it was safe, and indeed, the younger cousin Peggy did, leaving her berth back on the Queen Mary empty.  Her home was in St Vincent, and I assume she returned to her father in the West Indies with the aunts who had come from there for the New York reunion. But Cynthia and Carol returned to England to do their bit, and Bobby would see Cyn again when he was on leave.

The Sheedy brothers in less serious times.


In 1939, Europe was preparing for war in different ways. Germany had been moving for years. England had young men in military training, Bobby Sheedy being one of them. And ordinary citizens, with uncertainty ahead of them, prepared for the last summer of fun before the war.

Young Cyn

Cynthia, her mother, and a young cousin, Peggy, were going to visit their family in New York and see the World’s Fair in the summer holidays. Other family members were coming from St Vincent, there were new family members to meet because the Hazell descendants were marrying and a new generation had started. So the Ewings made preparations, Cynthia getting a passport, her father booking them tickets on the R.M.S Mauretania to New York and the Queen Mary home again, and after the school year ended, packing began. Cynthia bought a sturdy blank book to be her travel diary.

Dr. J.M.G. Ewing, my grandfather

It wasn’t until I heard Stephen Page, formerly of the band The Bare Naked Ladies, talking on the CBC about his depression and bipolar disorder that I realized my jerk of a grandfather had been mentally ill. We now know more about mental illness, and I hope are more sensitive to it than former generations, but it had never clicked for me that the black holes and weeks of icy silences created by my grandfather in his home meant he was suffering as well as his family. We also, in this age of attempting to address the damage caused by residential schools in Canada, realize that events from 100 years ago affect generations today.  All the more power to my mother (and grandmother) then, for living with a mentally ill father, yet surviving and shielding her children from its effects.

My grandfather, Dr. Gordon Ewing, was born in the Victorian age, the youngest of twelve children in a professional family in Northern Ireland. He became a doctor like his brother John, (and I think his father and another brother) and served in the colonial service as a doctor in the West Indies where he met and married my grandmother Enid Carol Hazell, also the youngest of twelve, a gentle, sheltered, loving woman quite a few years younger than he.  Their daughter Cynthia was born in St. Vincent in 1915, but The Great War separated the two: after Gordon became a physician on board ships in the merchant navy, Carol returned to her childhood home in Kingstown where she and her daughter remained until the end of the war. Then Gordon became a schools doctor in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carol and Cynthia joined him in England.

My grandmother was not a forceful woman and found herself unprepared for her life in England, although she had gone to school there, and had a valued friend in her former headmistress, Miss Lefroy.  She had to look after her daughter and her household without the wealth, family, and help she had known from childhood, and although she had servants, she was not effective in managing them, doing household shopping, or living in this new dark, cold, country. Her 4-year-old daughter wasn’t impressed with the change either, and remembered the disillusion of realizing the ‘lovely surprise in the morning’ promised her was this unfamiliar man sharing her mother’s room. So life may not have been rosy for Gordon, with a small child he considered spoiled, and a wife not successfully coping with her new responsibilities.  One can hope that there were happy times as well.  Diagnosis at this point with only secondhand stories to go on is uncertain but I assume from what my mother said that he suffered from depression. He would go into black silences for days, which naturally affected the household. The reason my mother characterized him as a jerk to us is that at the same time as he was putting his family through the guilt, uncertainty and misery of his gloom at home, he could be jovial and outgoing with friends outside the house: “joie de la rue, doleur dans la maison”.  It wasn’t until I heard Page talking of putting a good face on it that I recognized what my grandfather might have been feeling, while his wife and daughter thought he could have helped his behaviour and was punishing the household. 

He loved, indulged, and educated his daughter, but controlled her.  She wanted to go to university and read English, but he told her she was to get Domestic Science qualifications because that would ensure she always had a job.  Until she was old enough to be admitted- 18, I presume- she did a secretarial course which also was of value to her in the future.  She did enjoy the cooking, and did an extra year in High Class Cookery at Northern Counties, but he insisted she go into teaching as a career rather than the nutritionist/demonstrator field she would have enjoyed more.  Cynthia was small, only 5 foot, and when she started as a Domestic Science teacher in Sunderland, her students towered over her, and she couldn’t understand their Geordie accent!  She did well, but I don’t think she enjoyed teaching the way I did.

In the summer of 1939, Cynthia went on a visit to the New York aunts and cousins. I had not heard of Cynthia’s American trip as anything but a holiday, but from the disapproving hints in Bobby Sheedy’s letter, obviously other possibilities were considered, perhaps because of the attitude of the American Hazells towards the up-coming war. [Letter dated 25-6-39]  She had a wonderful time- her three New York cousins, Millie, Marguerite, and Mona, were a bit older than she was, and married or approaching it, but that only gave her a pattern to follow.  Her passport shows she entered New York NY July 25, 1939, and there’s a stamp for Niagara August 1st, so she did visit Canada however briefly.  And, like Their Majesties visiting Canada and the USA that summer, she returned home again to face the long dreary sad war.

When the Second World War approached, gas masks distributed, preparations for children being evacuated made, Gordon discussed the possibilities with his family. There was his family in Ireland, and Hazell relatives in the West Indies, Canada, and the USA, and should England be invaded, the idea was that Cynthia would drive her mother (with petrol hoarded for the eventuality) across to the west coast of England, get to Ireland, and go to the New York cousins.  He, Gordon, would not be there, as he wanted to do his bit and, I think, joined the merchant navy as a doctor again, although the idea of a man who hadn’t practiced since 1919 offering medical services to anyone gives you a sense of the desperate straits England was in.  Still, I had the impression, obviously along with Cyn’s friend Bobby who had, with his brother Denis, grown up next door to the Ewings, that “Rolling Stone Ewing, alias ‘Gordon the Con-man’” … setting out once more for distant lands’ wanted to get away from home and would enjoy himself.  [Letter dated 18-4-40]  Teaching was a reserved occupation so Cynthia could not join the forces as she wished to do, but had to continue teaching; evacuate for a time with her school, share fire duty with her colleagues at night, which meant staying awake and patrolling after a day of teaching; and in later years, after coming back to Newcastle with the school, return for a cold meal cooked at noon by her mother (who got to do all the queuing for rations) waiting congealed on the dining-room table for her after her commute.  Sometime before the war ended Gordon came home; Bobby and too many others of his generation did not.  

The war was like six years of pause in life with little changing for my mother- except perhaps her relationship with her father.  In 1944 Cynthia managed to transfer to another teaching job in Cambridge, left her parents’ home, and started life on her own.  And, I think, Gordon’s mental state deteriorated.  Three years later, his wife Carol left him to live with Cyn in Cambridge, and then within a year or so, he seems to have been institutionalized.   He had hardening of the arteries of the brain, and so the mental illness had now combined with a physical one and he was cognitively affected- positive proof of this to his family in the North of Ireland was his conversion to Roman Catholicism!  Cynthia thereafter only ever refers to him in letters to her mother as ‘my father’, quite a change in tone from the 14-year-old writing to Darlingest of Daddies 20 years earlier.  She visited him when she went to Newcastle to see friends, and then after her wedding to say goodbye before she and Cec left for the US and Canada, but he never met Cec, and she never saw him again after emigrating, although she wrote and sent goodies and occasionally got a reply.

Snaps and Certificates


Snaps from summer with friends.

Bobby, Cynthia, & Dennis. A bit older?

Carol maintained her friendship with her former headmistress and teacher.  The Ewings had a dog and obviously Miss Lefroy and Miss Hull did too!

Miss Lefroy and Carol Ewing

Of course it was not always summer.  In chillier times, the Ewings wore furs. 

Cynthia & Carol
Street scene: Carol & friend.

And hats!

Street Scene: Cynthia and friends.

Sometime in the 30s, Carol’s mother, Marion Hazell, whose draft will has already been posted, died in St Vincent, and her sister sent her photos of the gravesite.  Two crosses now, for both her parents.

On the back: Carol. Our dear Mother’s resting place the day she was laid to rest.
On the back: A Harp, it does not show up very well, Rev. Thrower sent it from the Sunday School Teachers and pupils.
Hazell monuments

And certificates! School, College, and Career.

1932 School Certificate
1936 College Certificate
1936 Probationary teaching certificate.
1938 Final teaching certificate.

The Earthquake

by Cynthia Costain

Carol stood on the verandah looking down the narrow dusty road which led to the town, hoping for the sight of the maid coming back from market. If she didn’t come soon dinner would be late and her husband would be cross. He’d had a long ride this morning to the Leper Asylum and he would be hot and tired when he arrived home, not inclined to be tolerant of her poor housekeeping.

Being married to the “young Doctor” with a house of her own in town and a new baby was really quite fun but it was difficult to remember all the things that had to be done. The servants were new and had to be told everything; what to cook for dinner, how much to buy, how long it would take to cook, and how did she know? Thank goodness that Mary Sam was a good nurse and when the baby cried took care to carry her out of earshot when the master was at home. Perhaps if Cook got ready a cold rum punch to serve before dinner it would help.

Her neighbour came out into her garden and Carol waved.

“Isn’t it hot?” she called. “There isn’t a breath of air.”

“Yes, and so still,” said her friend. “I don’t know what has got into this dog today. He keeps following me around and whining- go on Robbie – lie down and behave yourself.”

They strolled to meet each other at the low fence to continue their conversation and at that moment there was a terrible loud thunderous noise like a hundred great trucks roaring down the hillside, rushing past them and down to the sea. The earth heaved and Carol staggered and would have fallen if she hadn’t clung to the fence. Mabel Sprott stood trembling on the other side, her eyes wide with horror. Suddenly she turned and ran back to the house shouting “Wake up, Carol! Get the baby and servants out!”

Cynthia Ewing

Carol turned and ran across the garden calling to the maids while she stumbled up the steps and into the baby’s room. Cynthia was awake in her crib and began to cry as soon as she saw her mother, while Carol picked her up and dashed outside. The servants came crying and panic-stricken as another shudder shook the house and one of the tall palm trees by the gate wavered and fell. Cries and shouts came from all around as people scrambled to safety. A man called out, “Don’t stand under the trees!” As they huddled in the garden another voice screamed, “Fire!” and towards the town they saw flame and smoke coming from behind one house.

“Cook, did you light the coal pot?” asked Carol. “Yes’m, I had it all ready for master’s dinner.”

“Then run and see if it’s fallen over. Call the gardener to bring water from the cistern and make sure that every cinder is put out.”

Confused cries and shouts continued, but from the road Carol heard the sound of sobbing and through the gate came running the maid Francey. They called to her and Carol said, “Come on Francey, we’re all here and you are safely back.”

But her market basket still clutched in one hand she broke into more sobs and panted out, “Missus, Missus, I hurried – I really hurried – never stopped to talk to nobody – but there was a great noise and the houses were falling down and the mountain was falling down and I fell down and cried! But I got up and ran down the road and then in front of me the road cracked right across! I like to die! But I just give one big jump over in case the devil come out and ran all the way back!”

The cook patted her and consoled her until she calmed down and Carol said “You were a brave girl, Francey.”

Nothing more seemed to be happening so gradually they ventured back to the house. It seemed that no great harm had been done as far as Carol could see: pictures fallen and broken; vases of flowers spilt and one cupboard overturned; and cooking bowls broken. As they found later many houses had much more damage with walls cracked, or ceilings and roofs fallen. Stores in town had their big windows shattered, and many people had been cut with broken glass and hurt with falling debris and trees. In this catastrophe the natives’ little palm-roofed houses survived better than some of the bigger stone buildings and there were not many serious casualties or fires.

The Doctor was very late for dinner that day. He had been riding along the road to town and his horse had become very restive and unmanageable, so he had dismounted and was trying to calm the nervous animal when the earthquake occurred. His impression as he looked along the road in front of him was that it was undulating and rippling like water. As he led the horse back home he found rocks and earth still tumbling down the mountainside, trees across the road in places, and water pipes fractured, with water was gushing into pools everywhere. As he came in sight of the harbour he was just in time to see a towering tidal wave sweep across the bay and into the town carrying boats, cargoes and bodies up onto the land.

The aftershocks were not severe but St. Vincent had suffered another natural disaster.