My mother and father inherited a small cottage in Wales in the 1970s which was formerly the home of my Aunty Gracie. Gracie lived with her sister Mary, in the house for many years, almost all her life. I remember the place well with it’s black cast iron kitchen range in the quite dark back room, usually lit even on the warmest days. We always went to visit the two sisters when we were on holiday in what was my father’s home town. We were allowed to view the parlour: the front room, but not allowed to go into it. I don’t think that they ever really went into it either.
Mary was a little scary for us two small boys as she wore an eye patch, the thought of what was behind the patch did nothing for our nerves. Mary always gave us a penny when we called, pre decimalisation.The other scary item was a glass dome in the hall way which contained stuffed birds. They stared lifelessly at us.
Mary died first and not very long afterwards Gracie. They left the cottage to my father and mother and they loved it. It was no longer scary to us and held only pleasant memories. I was given the glass stuffed bird dome and had it for many years, I brought dried flowers from the Amsterdam flower market ( I used to visit Amsterdam now and again in the 70s, I had an agent there! Yes, I had an agent! ) and put them in place of the birds. Like the birds they gathered dust in the glass dome for quite a few years.
My parents eventually got around to going through a trunk left in the attic of the house. There they came across a collection of baby clothes and what might be called christening robes. It appears that Gracie had fallen pregnant in around 1915. These clothes and robes were intended for the baby. It’s speculated that the baby died. Gracie, then a respected local schoolteacher was shipped out of the town to Ludlow in Shropshire where she was able to teach again. She eventually came back home to Wales but not for a number of years.The event was never spoken of to either my father or his father.
The father of the child, it is presumed, was a soldier, possibly and most likely from the village. There were several postcards of First World War soldiers in the trunk, not all the same man. They had pleasant messages to Gracie written on the backs or were blank. I wonder if the father ever knew he was a father, or if he ever survived the War and then the Flu Pandemic of 1918.
So Gracie had a secret. The only evidence remaining is the christening robes, three of them. Two in cotton and one in what I think is lace. They have been in a cupboard for years now, but we’ve decided to ‘release’ them back into the world where they may be either used or further appreciated. They have gone to our local hospice charity shop where they will try to raise some much needed funds for them from their eBay page. The Robes date from at least 1915 and may well be older than that. They were sadly unused, but kept carefully and are still in excellent condition. I did not want them to spend any longer in a cupboard, they’ve been hidden away for long enough.
I felt that I also needed to get Gracie’s secret out there. I hope she and her sister Mary would have approved. They were both lovely people.