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.  

2363483

Sign J.R S.

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

No. 5 Company,

3rd Holding Batt.,

R. Signals,

Saltram-on-Sea

25-6-39

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

Love

Bobby

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.

Preparations

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

Sheedys

Snaps from summer with friends.

Nancy
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.

Wedding Announcements

Transcriptions of the newspaper clippings above, June 1914:

Matrimonial

The marriage of Dr. J.M.G. Ewing, a Government District Medical Officer, to the youngest daughter of the Hon’ble J.G.W Hazell of this island, which was solemnized at St George’s Cathedral yesterday, caused a flutter of delightful excitement among their immediate relatives and friends who constitute the leading social circle in the colony. The wedding party was comparatively small, but a large and fashionable gathering in the sacred edifice witnessed the entry of the happy young couple into the joys of married life; and this afforded ample testimony of the goodwill entertained among various sections of the community, towards Mr. J.G.W. Hazell and his family.

The Bride, charmingly attired in a lovely robe of white bijou satin and carrying a bouquet of chicken daisies and tube roses, was escorted by her father, and had, as her bridesmaids, the Misses Mildred Hazell, Joyce Hutchinson, and Millicent Simmons who wore very pretty dresses of mauve silk crepe de chine. The mother, Mrs. Hazell, wore an elegant black silk dress and bonnet, and the other ladies who were guests were equally representative of fashion’s artistic features.

The bridegroom, also a centre of attraction and the happy recipient of sincere congratulations, was accompanied by Mr. F Birkinshaw who filled the favoured office of bestman.

After the service, which was fully choral, the party drove off to Windsor House where the reception was held, and subsequently went away to Grand Sable for the Honeymoon, carrying with them many greetings and good wishes, which we heartily echo, for their future happiness.

Wedding Bells

St George’s Cathedral was today the scene of a fashionable wedding, the contracting parties being Dr. J.M.G. Ewing, the popular medical officer of No. 1 District and Miss Enid Carol youngest daughter of the Hon’ble J.G.W. Hazell and Mrs. Hazel of Windsor. The Sacred Edifice was tastefully decorated for the occasion, and long before the wedding party arrived, the church was filled with the friends and well wishers of the bride and bridegroom. Punctually at the hour fixed for the ceremony the Bride who looked charming in a dress of white satin Charmeuse trimmed with Lace and Orange Blossoms, arrived leaning on the arm of her Father. She was attended by Miss Millie Hazell (cousin of the bride) Miss Joyce Hutchinson, and Miss Millie Simmons (nieces of the bride) tastefully dressed in mauve crepe de chine trimmed with Lace and Orange Blossoms each carrying a bouquet of white lilies. The Service was fully Choral, Appropriate Hymns being rendered, The Nuptial knot being tied by the Venerable Archdeacon Turpin. Mr. F. Birkinshaw performed the duties of Groomsman. The party consisting of members of the Bride’s family, Mr. P. Verrol, the Archdeacon Turpin, and Rev. Dr. McPhail, after the function, drove to Windsor and was entertained at a recherché luncheon by Mrs, Hazell, The presents were costly and numerous, Dr. and Mrs. Ewing left later in the afternoon for Grand Sable House, the Country seat of the Hazell. We wish the happy pair long life and prosperity.

Hazell/Laborde/Melville Genealogy

Hazell Family Genealogy

(as written by my mother in a scrappy notebook and interpreted by me.  I include (nasty) little details that were part of oral family history that she noted in the list in square brackets.)

Two Hazell brothers came from Liverpool to Saba with their wives.  Went from Saba to Bequia where they settled. 

Hercules Hazell b. 1749 in Saba d. 1833

Elizabeth Simmons 1785-1848 (I’m inclined to think these are the dates of her marriage and death)

m.

|

Hercules Hazell

m. 1809

Eliza Gregg, his cousin, daughter of Mary Hazell

|

John Hercules (seven children in total, the rest apparently not relevant)

m. July 25 1840   Married in Bequia.

Jane Anne Arrindel [Her father had slaves and when they did something he didn’t like he stamped on their feet.]

John was drowned in Mustique 1886.

|

John Gregg Windsor Hazell 1848-1915 (again, one of 7 children)

m. 1872

Marion Laborde

|

Alfred Gregg Hazell (Uncle Fred) (one of 12 children, dates to follow)

m. 1914

Mildred Ince

|

4 daughters, Jean, Brenda, Peggy, Patsy- my mother’s cousins.  (Not sure why my mother’s list had Fred, the youngest son, in the line of succession, but he was the one who inherited the business, having stayed in St. Vincent.)

The 12 Hazell children of JGWH and Marion Laborde:

Georgina 1873 (Auntie Gee)

Arthur 1875 (Uncle Artie?)

Blanche 1877 (Auntie Bee)

Ethel 1878 (Aunt Ettie)

Cyprian 1880 Died in infancy?

John Louis 1882 Died as a young man?

Muriel 1884 (Auntie Moo)

Trixie 1886

Willie 1888 Died 1918 in WW1, Loos I think

Doris 1890 Is she the one who died in 3 days of a stye?

Fred 1892 (Uncle Fred)

Carol 1894 My Grandmother

Laborde Family

Jean Dupin Dauphiné Laborde came to St Vincent in 1751.

m. 

Marie

|

William Danger Philipe

m. 1770

Marie François Guilleampré La Croix

|

Maxime (3 children)

m. 1787

Marie Francois La Croix

|

Horatio William (5 children)

m.

Georgina Melville

|

Marion Laborde (6 children)

m. 1872

John G.W. Hazell

Note: When Marion married Jack, her sister, Wilhelmina Maria, came with her and lived with the Hazells all her life, never calling her brother-in-law anything but Mr. Hazell.  She was known as Aunt Min.

Melville Family 

John Melville

m. 1715

Margaret Ochterloney?

|

Alexander 

m. 1747

Anna Duff (1st wife)

|

Alexander b. 1758 (one of 7 children). Graduated from U. of Edinburgh 1778/80 in Medicine.  Joined British Army and during the Revolution served in America then he 

m. 

Lady Elizabeth Spencer in Virginia and came to St. Vincent and settled.

|

Dr. Alexander Melville (one of 8 children)

m.

Margaret Jane Cox 

|

Thomas b. 1797 (0ne of 8 children)

m.

Sarah Rebecca Lyte

|

Georgina 1821-1868 (one of 4 children)

m.

Horatio William Laborde 1821-1891

|

Marion (one of 6 children)

m.

John Gregg Windsor Hazell

|

12 children

Now, here are the family tree diagrams Cynthia and her Hutchinson cousins Basil and Ina, maybe Monica too, put together in Ottawa toward the end of the century. Cyn was clear about her own generation, but the third generation is scrappy, and their children mostly missing. As we get into the 1950s, maybe the letters will help fill in the blanks.

Hutchinson Family Tree 1
Hutchinson Family Tree 2
Ettie and daughters
Fred and daughters