Monday, 3 September 2007

About My Uncles -- part 2

I have just returned from a wonderful twelve days in Newfoundland. I felt a real sense of belonging while I was in that rugged island. Perhaps it was the fact that I too came from an island and was going to another island, a unique place in this vast country. But, more than that, Jamaica and Newfoundland have much in common ... they gave us the cod which we make into our salt fish, and we gave them the rum, which they made into their Screech. The cod fishery in Newfoundland is no more, but that connection still remains.

But back to my uncles. The younger three, Rodney, Lucius and Julian, unlike their three older brothers, all married, two of them somewhat later in life. My Uncle Rodney was born in 1896, a little less than two years after my mother, and the two of them were very close. Rodney was both my godfather and my favourite uncle.

He was a sugar technologist by profession and this took him to various sugar estates on the island. Here is his entry from the 1940-46 Who's Who Jamaica:

Before Rodney married Marjorie Nash he was engaged to be married to Olive May, a teacher at St. Hilda's Diocesan High School in Brown's Town. I remember meeting her once when she came with Rodney to our home at 5 Holborn Road , and I distinctly remember that she told my mother that she should send me to St. Hilda's when I was old enough to go to high school (I was then at the Cunningham's Preparatory School on Surbiton Road). The realization that this would mean leaving my home and my parents to go as a boarder far away in Brown's Town terrified me. Some time after that Rodney informed the family that his engagement had been broken off. My mother was quite upset about this for a while, whereas I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that I wouldn't be heading off to parts unknown to boarding school.

Looking back now, I see was that I was somewhat unfair to Olive May.Thanks to Donald Lindo I now know more about her and also have a couple pictures of her. She was born in Portsmouth, England, in 1917 and received her B.Sc in Mathematics from London University, as well as a Diploma in Education from the University of Hull. She came to Jamaica in the late 1930s and began her teaching career there at St. Hilda's.

I don't know how she met Rodney ... he was probably working in the area at the time. It is unfortunate that their engagement did not last, and I never knew the reason why, but I rather think that the disparity in their ages and temperament may have had something to do with it. From what I've been told Olive was a lively and adventurous woman with a brilliant mathematical mind, but she was also twenty-one years younger than Rodney. I hope that they parted amicably. At any rate, Rodney married Marjorie Nash in September of 1941 in Sav-la Mar. I was a train-bearer at this event. Marjorie's sister, Hazel, was bridesmaid and my Uncle Owen was bestman.

Here I am standing in front in the middle. I must say we all looked pretty solemn, except for the bride and groom who are looking lovingly at each other.

Olive May married Leslie Kensett, a British Army officer, in 1945. They returned to England, but the marriage was not a success and Olive came back to Jamaica where she resided until her death in 2000. She taught at St. Hugh's High School in Kingston, where she was much loved and was Head of the Math Department, until she left to go to Queen's High School for Girls in 1958 as Head of the Math Department there. She was universally loved by all her pupils and renowned as an excellent teacher. Looking back now I feel that she had my best interests at heart when she suggested I be sent to St. Hilda's, but I was only six at the time and didn't want to leave my family.

Rodney and Marjore were happily married for twenty-eight years until her premature death at age 59 in 1969. She had been a diabetic from her early twenties, as a result of which they had no children. I loved her dearly and still miss her. I plan to write more about both of them in future posts.

In my next post I'll write about my remaining Smedmore uncles, Lucius and Julian.


Judith said...

Fab as ususual, great photos, the train-bearer is adorable!

Anonymous said...

Happy memories of your 3 younger uncles.. They were always courteous even to a small girl.really enjoying reading about your family.. Diana

patricia said...

Great Uncle Rodney really was a sweetheart, and he made great liqeurs. And how did he end up being in the Who's Who of Jamaica? All this information that I never knew about. And I have never seen that wedding photo of Rodney and Marjorie before. They really do look happy. Where did you get it?

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
My uncle Victor