Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rambling Whispers

While researching the history of my family, I realized I had a lot of dates and places and events, but I didn't have any stories. 
For instance, my maternal grandfather loved to sing to me when I was a little girl living in Montreal. We were a happy family for the most part. Mom and I lived with my grandfather Ovila and grandmother Bertha, and one brother, my beloved Uncle Lorne. My father was in the Army stationed in Stuttgart, Germany with the Occupation Troops, so living with my grandparents made sense. 

But back to my grandfather and his singing. Mine and his favorite song was 'Oh My Papa', I still tear up when I hear it, I'm transported back to a time when everyone was love, for a four year old, life was very good. I used to tell my grandfather, "Listen to me sing," and then I would go stand behind the door and sing my heart out for him, I just didn't want anyone to watch me while I sung, I was very shy. He always called me his 'Pet', even in his letters.

My great-grandmother  Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Williamson also lived with grandmother and grandfather, Bertha was her youngest child and I don't think they had ever lived apart. Lizzie called my grandfather 'Billy', and would sometimes meet him at the door after he came home from work and say, "Dance with me, Billy!" and off they'd go dancing an Irish jig. She used to take a short nap every afternoon, one afternoon she never woke up. She was in her early 80's.

Lizzie was born in Quebec City near or in the Irish Settlement. She married George Burns, a stevedore, and had four children. Edward Albert, William, Ethel, and Bertha. Ethel died of TB. I don't know what happened to William. Bertha is my maternal grandmother. George Burns died the year after my grandmother was born which was 1893. He is buried in the historic Mt. Hermon Cemetery in Quebec City.

Speaking of Lizzie, she would receive a pension once a month and would send my mother out to buy a couple of bottles of Porter (wine), romance magazines, maybe some gum and she would retire to her room perfectly content. One day she was out on the back balcony and spied a hobo relieving himself by the side of the house, she grabbed a basin of cold water and threw it on him, calling him a 'scallywag'!

When my Uncle George was born he was what was known as a 'blue baby', being a home birth, the doctor was more concerned with my grandmother and tended to her instead of my Uncle. Grandmother Lizzie took over and worked on Uncle George until he was well. Because of her heroic measures George was considered frail and was spoiled much to the chagrin of my mother. George grew up to be a hail and hearty man who joined the Royal Canadian Navy at 17 and later the merchant marines and sailed the world.

Lizzie didn't have a lot of use for the Catholics, she called them 'papists'. I wonder if she had to get used to her daughter marrying a French - Canadian Catholic! Her people were Irish Protestants, but she and my grandfather got along very well.