The following is written by my father:
HELENA MARY STEWART nee LANG - My grandmother, always known in our family as MINNIE... memories by my father.
"I don't think I ever saw her dressed in anything but purple - purple skirt, stockings, blouse, cardigan - shoes and coat I can't remember but purple was the effect she had on you - and round her neck a light purple band of cloth, a sign (I was told) that she was a widow. She used to visit my mother, and her grandchildren too, at Magdala Crescent regularly - possibly once a month - coming over from Glasgow by train, escorted always by her other two daughters, Auntie Jenny and Nat (whose name, Helena's version of 'aunt', I turned into 'Gnat' when I was about 12). Jenny was tall and loud-voiced and a bit frightening to a small boy, so (G)Nat was my favourite - but they were both good for half-a-crown every visit if I behaved myself. On arrival Minnie always sat in the big basket chair in the dining room (I suppose she also sat in the upstairs drawing room later on but my picture of her associates her with that chair only).
"They always arrived in time or else early. This was because Minnie had (by this time in her life anyway) a great anxiety about missing trains. As a result they used to arrive at Queen Street station in such good time for the train that on occasion they caught the one before. With today's shuttle service they'd have caught the train before the train before the train they'd meant to get, but service was I think hourly in those days.
"When we stayed in Glasgow you would be wakened by the sound of rushing water at about 6 am (or was it 5 am - I forget). I'm not sure we didn't also hear strange gasping noises, for this was a cold bath she was taking. At some stage in her life she'd been persuaded that cold baths were healthy and she kept the habit up till she was about 80, when, having had a fairly mild bit of heart trouble, her doctor ordered her to stop - which she reluctantly did. We were told that on one occasion Nat and Jenny had been awakened by the usual sounds, got up and discovered it was only 2 am. Minnie had misread her clock.
"Minnie and my aunts (once they'd retired from work) had a regular routine, going up town every day (except Sundays) and having coffee at Wendy's. Morning coffee at Wendy's was the thing with Glasgow 'Society' I gathered. Even after they moved out to Jordanhill they still made their daily trip - by bus, no longer by tram as in the 'good old days'. At least some mornings there was also Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, Great Western Rd, as Minnie was a devout church member. She did many jobs at the Cathedral, running the Synod breakfasts for many years for instance. Latterly, even up to the day she died, the morning trip up town ended with a visit to the Cathedral where she had the 'task' of dusting one of the side chapels (a job kindly made for her by the provost since she liked to feel she was still doing something for the church.
"I remember a kindly, gentle soul, but the fact that I don't have many clear memories of her is probably due to her always having been accompanied by my two aunts, who tended to give the orders, and make the conversation and the fun, and who tended to exclaim 'Oh, mother!' when poor old Minnie got a bit muddled over something - which became gradually more frequent though she was still pretty compos mentis at her death, which occurred during her afternoon rest after her usual trip up town, in her 96th year."CMB 2003
My aunt (my father's sister), spoke to me about her grandmother Helena Mary Lang, "Minnie". The following is not her exact words, but an adaptation of what she said:
"The name Minnie originated with her youngest daughter, Hester. My first memory of Minnie was that she always looked the same! She used to pay Claud and me day visits in Edinburgh from Glasgow, along with my aunts Jenny (Janet Stuart Kennedy Stewart) and Nat (Jean Hester Fellowes Stewart), her daughters. They all loved each other very much.
"Minnie, although Presbyterian in background, became a pillar of the Scottish Episcopal Cathedral St Mary's in Glasgow, due to her husband who was a Scottish Episcopalian lay reader there.
"She was lovely, sweet to everybody, and particularly fond of me as her only grand-daughter. She even took my side on the issues of wearing shorts at weekends, something my mother was not so keen on. One year when I was taken on holiday to Blair Atholl, I was very disappointed at being there, so Minnie took me to Benderloch.
"Minnie was very fit, and took cold baths every morning at the same time. She swam in the sea at Lochranza on summer vacation.
"She was musical, played the piano and sang nicely, and would sing to her children. She was fond of Beethoven sonatas. She also played chess most evenings with "Hapa", my grandfather. She also liked to go out for coffee at James Craig restaraunts in Glasgow. Minnie was always very well dressed, as was my mother. Minnie was very punctual. Occasionally, she got on an earlier train than the one she had originally gone for. She was a British Israelite, though not fanatically so. She didn't seem to have major passions.
"My mother told me that Minnie's mother (Janet Stuart Lang, nee Kennedy) was a severe, stiff old lady.
"Minnie gradually became more frail, and couldn't make the journeys to Edinburgh any more. She died in her house in Glasgow of old age."HB 2003
My name is Alasdair Broun and I was born and brought up in Scotland, son of a clergyman and a freelance journalist. I took up genealogy as a hobby when I was 17 and I went on to write a PhD thesis in philosophical psychology ... more >
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