Jottings of my Life in Tyrone, Ireland – A Beloved Grandmother

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A Beloved Grandmother, Gardening, “Dear Peggy” 

I previously mentioned something about grandmother not liking fortune tellers, but how kind and considerate she was to us youngsters. She gave us the run of the house and, as long as we behaved ourselves and I am afraid sometimes we did not we could go anywhere we liked and we tried to be very careful not to have her disturbed.

She used to take trips to Dublin or London to do her shopping, and would give mother a trying time. She thought nothing of spending day after day trying on lovely costumes. This would occupy all the mornings and then they would have lunch and return and spend whole afternoons choosing more stylish apparel. Some of the first-class shops would serve afternoon tea to their customers; this, of course, refreshed their clients and them in better spirits to continue their purchases. When Grandma returned home, everyone would be thrilled with expectation because, not only was she dearly loved, but also, she had a knack of ordering beautiful presents for all of us, and each of the servants would receive some substantial token of her thoughtful nature.

I will never forget how she enjoyed dancing. She could trip the light fantastic even in her eighties as gay as any of her grandchildren. I often watched her going through the old-fashioned dances, while she tucked up her skirts and displayed her beautiful little feet. One of her favourite dances was “Sir Roger de Coverley,” and the dashing manner in which she would go through the “sets” would do you good to see.

I remember, when we were little girls, how we enjoyed sleeping in her room and hearing her sing such quaint old-time songs as- “Annie Laurie” and “Nancy Lee,” and one, the title of which I forget, with words to this effect:

 “It is quite time to marry when a girl is sixteen.

 It was Willie that told me and it’s plain to be seen.

 On Saturday night when I’m free from all care,

 I will finish my dress and put curls in my hair.

My heart’s full of joy and I’m frantic with glee,

 For the very next Sunday my wedding will be”!

Gardening – Grandma’s Hobby

Thinking or writing of flowers has always reminded me of Grandma as gardening was her greatest hobby. No matter how cold or warm the weather seemed, she always enjoyed being among her shrubs and flowers. She hardly ever remained indoors for lunch; much preferring to have a little food and a glass of sherry brought to her in the garden about noontime. Her maid saw to it that she was comfort able in her garden chair with the little table beside it. One of the gardeners would always be on hand to take her suggestions on grafting roses — an art at which she was exceedingly skilful. Her favourite trees were the Moss Rose and the Maréchal Niel. She was also knowledgeable on how other plants should be grown.

One result of her untiring study of horticulture was her wonderful display of fuchsias – and what a tremendous variety was to be seen each year! Grandma called them her babies, and when she went to any part of England, she would search every conceivable place to locate another variety. And when found, it would be a real worry to her for fear the plant would not be properly guarded on the home journey.

Another of her special cares was a beautiful rock garden. It had been arranged by her daughter, Nora, who died when she was only about twenty years of age. There were wonderful rock formations with exquisite ferns, from the tiniest to the largest varieties, displaying their fronds to admiring guests. The pathways were covered with white sand and bordered with mosses of every shade of green. She also had a century plant that flowered at rare intervals, so that its coming into blossom was a great event — Grandma saw it flower three times.

I often thought what a pity she could not remain in this world for a long time to come, and grace it with her brilliant wit and charming personality. Because she was kind and considerate to her own relations and friends, and ready to encourage the best that was in us, we looked up to her as our “Fairy Queen and Grandmother”. Her lovely and clever ideas about flowers, trees and shrubs were unending. What a glorious world this would be if there were more like her. Growing old gracefully and living to a great age, she was beloved by all of us.

Grandma and “Dear Peggy”

I must now relate a little incident with a really human touch. As the years went by, Grandma’s thoughtful solicitude for “dear Peggy” was remarkable. Peggy was one of the cooks she had had in her girlhood years, and as time went on, she gradually got too old to attend fully to her duties in the kitchen. Although there were others now superintending the cooking, Peggy delighted in assisting to the best of her ability. No one could persuade her to retire on a pension and live in peace for the rest of her life, so she puttered around among the crowd in the kitchen. Quite a number of our friends knew her, and for the sake of old times, and the affection they had for her, they, when visiting us, would never think of leaving without enquiring for her and wishing her to have a little token of their regard. Several of her family were in service around our home, so Peggy was happy and contented. ‘

Grandma, too, by this time was getting on in years, and she always asked if Peggy was comfortable and if she had whatever she wanted. No matter how much entertainment was to be attended to, Peggy was never on any account neglected. Even after retiring for the night, she would ring the bell and enquire if Peggy needed anything. A few years went by and her old retainer was taken ill with the grippe, which was then prevalent in that part of the country. Of course, grandma ordered every possible care to be taken of her, and then she, too, was taken down with it. ‘

This caused a lot of anxiety on account of Grandma’s advanced age and the doctor ordered that she should be kept perfectly quiet. But even in this very trying illness, Peggy was never forgotten, and she continued to order little titbits and stimulants that she thought would benefit her. Now, Grandma, after a couple of weeks, was getting on so well and her recovery so rapid that the nurse allowed her to stroll around her room and out into the corridor.

Having left her one day for just a few minutes, the nurse, on returning, was more than surprised at not seeing her patient anywhere. So, she called on the house maids who helped to make a thorough search, and they, knowing that Grandma was anxious about her old cook, went into her bedroom, and there they found her sitting on the bed in the most deplorable grief. She told the nurse, who assisted her back to her own quarters, that when she saw the room, all tidied up, and no Peggy in bed, she suspected at once that her faithful friend and servant had passed on to another home.

My mother told me that, when Peggy died, Grandma was not told of it for fear it might prolong her illness. My brother said that the funeral was arranged just as if she were one of our family. Her body was laid out in the drawing room, and groups of old-timers attended-the funeral service at the church, and each member of the family who could go helped to take turns in carrying her coffin down the avenue before allowing it to be placed in the hearse.

Read more about  Elizabeth’s Grandmother – Honoria Kane here

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About this record

Written by Elizabeth La Hiff Lambert

Published here 23 Aug 2022 and originally published 1979

Page 0089 of the Athenry History archive.

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