Thursday, 12 April 2012

Decadal Anniversaries

For some reason we seem to think that if an anniversary has a zero at the end of it, then it has some extra significance. So today is a 'double' for me. 90 years ago my great uncle John died on this day, 12 April 1922. He has always been a rather shadowy figure for me. I have never known much about him, though as the youngest of six siblings he gave the notice of both his mother's death in 1906 (Elizabeth Smith) and his father's, my great-grandfather's, Crawford McIlhagga, in 1907. John was employed as a Clerk, never married, and died at the age of 42. There are three things that shed a little light on him. For some reason he gave himself the middle name of Stirrit. Where did that come from? It is recorded on his death certificate, though of course not on his birth certificate. Second, his death must have occurred unexpectedly, and perhaps in mysterious circumstances, as it was the subject of an Inquest on 13 April 1922. The post-mortem said he died of natural causes. Unfortunately I have not found a record of the Inquest despite having searched both Court records and the local Newspapers. Third, I have found a ship's passenger record of a J. McIlhagga who was single and 'English' on a vessel which arrived in London on 26 August 1898 when John would have been 19. There is no one else to whom I can apply this record, and the intriguing thing is that he boarded the ship at Bombay, India.

My second 'zero' anniversary is for my own late wife, Kate (Catharine Anne McCrae) who died ten years ago today. The year she died I planted some trees in her memory on the Isle of Mull, and I have done the same this month by the River Tweed in Northumberland where she died. Interestingly and appropriately I received through the post this morning a contract from a publisher for a book in which the author wants to include a 'poem-prayer' she wrote, entitled Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses. It reads as follows:

Each occasion
we glimpse them:
that turn of a head,
that smile,
the way she walked,
his sense of humour,
each time
a knife turns
in our heart.

In time,
through the windows of our tears
we see them
and smile.
In time we let go of sorrow.
In time
beauty and music,
remembered places,
bring solace not pain.
In your time,
God of all time,
may what we have sown in pain
be reaped in joy.

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