I’ve used the Dundee Royal Infirmary and
the Howff as illustrations for this section, along with an old favorite
nursery rhyme of mine, because they seem to represent the span of life in
Solomon Grundy was
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday.
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday.
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
And that was the end
Of Solomon Grundy!
I doubt if anybody in our family other than
my brother was born at the DRI, but I remember going there on three
occasions. One was as a little girl, maybe about 9 or so, when I had
tonsillitis. I was so excited because Dr. Elizabeth McVicar, who’d been
our family doctor since before I was born and had her "surgery"
in Tay Street, had sent me over for an assessment to have my tonsils
pulled. I was so excited because I knew this meant as much ice cream and
jelly as I wanted to eat. Now, you need to understand that ice cream and
jelly (not jam, but "jello") was a real treat for children like
me because we had no refrigerators in our homes. I could hardly wait! I
remember my mother taking me to the hospital. I remember my happy skips
and hops as we rode the bus down there. And I also remember my wails of
anguish when the doctor decided I no longer had tonsillitis and no need
for an operation. I never got my loads and loads of ice cream and jelly.
And I still have my tonsils!
Another trip was to get my head bandaged,
just like a wounded soldier, round my face, chin to crown. My mother and
Granny had some serious fights all through my growing up years. I remember
a couple of occasions when I was young and my mother packed up my brother
and me, put our belongings in my old pram, and we moved into
"lodgings" for a while. But those never lasted very long, and
pretty soon we'd be back at Hill Street. I think I must have been about
five on this particular occasion. We were in lodgings: I don't remember
much about inside the house except that it only seemed to have a few
rooms, but I do remember the "back green." My brother and I were
out playing in the backies with a couple of other kids. Someone had taken
some corrugated iron, like you sometimes see on shed roofs, and leaned it
against some bricks to make a kind of a slide. And, there we were, sliding
up and down. I had my turn, and my brother wanted to slide an old heavy
flat iron down it and he told me to move. I could be contrary as a little
girl - some of my friends might say I haven't changed too much in 50 years
or so - and I told him I wasn't going to. My brother again told me to move
or he'd slide the iron down on me. I said I wasn't going to. And so he did
slide the iron down on me. Right on to my head. I remember blood pouring
down my face. I don't remember how we got to DRI, or how quickly we got
there, but I do remember getting bandaged up as I said, chin to crown. I
remember liking the dramatic effect of the bandage but not liking it being
around my chin because I couldn't open my mouth very far to talk. Would it
surprise you to know that shortly after that we were back living with my
Granny in Hill Street?
The last trip I remember to the DRI was
when, as a young teenage girl, a few of us were coming home from Church -
the young folks meeting was called Mutual Improvement Association then -
and we were playing hide and seek in the tenement closes on the way home.
Can you imagine, teenagers and still acting like children and having fun!
I can picture Xochitl and Adriana doing something like this. Anyhow, I ran
up this lovely dark close, planning to scare my friends - it was probably
Mary Snee, Pam Fiskin, or Kathleen Roy. But I tripped at the end of the
close, in the dark, remember. After I limped home, my granny told my
mother to take me to the DRI. Sure enough, not broken, but a sprain bad
enough to warrant a ride home in the ambulance afterwards. But it still
didn’t make up for the ice cream I never got!
As far as the Howff is concerned, I believe
we have family members buried there. I had my wedding reception lunch in
the Breadalbane Arms across the street. I wish now I’d spent some time
at the Howff, looking up names, but this may be something I might be able
to do still, thanks to genealogy resources on the Internet. The Howff is
one of the oldest cemeteries in Dundee, with a history dating from when
Mary, Queen of Scots gave it to Dundee in 1564 from land of the Greyfriars
Monastery which was founded by John Balliol’s mother. The Howff was
closed for burials in 1857 and is the last resting place of many famous
Dundonians, including the last man buried there, a George Duncan who was
the town’s MP from 1841-1867.
I remember in the early 1960’s when the
cemetery to the North of the Howff, known as the "New Howff" was
ploughed up and turned into a car park. The bodies were removed and placed
in mass burials somewhere else in Dundee. My granny was really upset at
that, because we had "people" there. But I suppose that’s
progress when the dead make way for the living. And as I write this, I
realize more and more how much "alive" those ancestors were to
my Granny, and I feel fortunate that she made them also "alive"
and real to me. As a genealogist I certainly hope my children and their
children keep some space in their lives and memories for the dead.
As part of our search for ancestors, I must
look up the City Archives and try to find out the burial listings, not
only for the Howff, but for the Eastern Cemetery and the Mains Cemetery.
My Uncle Eric, who died when he was a young boy of a kind of a polio
related muscular disease, was buried in the Eastern Cemetery on his
sixteenth birthday, a few days after his death. I remember my mother
me out there regularly to lay flowers on
his grave. It seems such a long way away from Hill Street. I remember my
mother telling me there were others in that grave, but I can't remember
who they were. I know we’ve also got some people in the Mains Cemetery -
and I need to find were that is. My granny had a photograph of Jessie
Hacket Beat McIntosh's headstone with family names on it. Somewhere,
somehow, that photo was lost, but at least I kept my notes.
And as I talk of memories fading, photos
lost, and cemeteries concreted over and turned into parking lots, I hope
you, my children and my readers, understand that this and the other books
I’m trying to write for you is to keep our family history alive and a
part of us in some kind of contact with each other down through the
generations of time.
I wonder which child of a child will find,
or even read, this volume after my death - which is, hopefully, many years
away - and wonder who this woman Charlotte Marie Alvoet was. If you do,
maybe you’ll find me within these pages. Who knows, maybe I’m looking
over your shoulder as you read this and trying to touch your spirit to
understand that although I will probably never know you in this life I do
love you and want all good things to come your way.
Did you know that "howff"
also means "dump"? – Scary thought, eh?
"Midden" is a kind of dump, too – but that’s not to mean
funeral procession is the same as the "hens mad march to the midden."
And if, by all of this, you are totally confused, find a Scot to explain
the above to you.