Gran Chapman in 1956

My great-grandmother died when I was twenty.  I remember her well.  She was my mother’s maternal grandmother.  We used to visit her on weekends.  I have many memories of her, the most vivid I think was when she had her gall stones removed when she was close to 80 years old.  She used to keep them in a jar on the mantlepiece and show everyone who came in.  We had to look at them every time we visited.  It used to make me feel sick.

I was always very fond of Great-Gran Chapman.  She had a young outlook, had beautiful skin and a lovely sense of humour.   In my eyes she was always an old lady and I never gave much thought to what her life had been.  I assumed she had lived in that little flat her whole life.  It didn’t occur to me that my uncles were her children and they hadn’t always been middle aged.

Since researching my family, I have learned more about Gran.  She was born in Glasgow in 1886 and married at just seventeen.  At that time she was working as a Biscuit Icer.  The idea of that always makes me smile.  She was 25 when the Titanic sank, 28 when the First World War broke out and 43 at the time of the Holocaust.  Gran also lived through the Second World War, The Cold War, The Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Gran had five children.  The youngest, a girl, died at the age of two.   Gran’s husband was killed in a car accident in his early forties I believe.  She also lost two grandchildren at birth.  One of her sons, my Uncle Bill, contracted polio around seven years of age and had a leg amputated.  He must have been strong like his mother because he lived a full life, marrying a lady who also had suffered polio and had callipers on both legs.  Uncle Bill worked as a watchmaker and I remember he and his wife, Mary, toured Europe in a little mini which had hand controls.  Her other son, my Uncle Harry, went to war.  I believe he was in the Black Watch  and I remember stories about him playing the bagpipes during the war.  He was shot in the heart but had a tin of corned beef in his breast pocket and that took the bullet!   Mum told me he had part of his hip blown off later.  However, he lived to tell the tale.

I wish I had sat down and spent more time with Gran.  I had no idea there was such tragedy in her life.  I only remember her with a smile on her face.

In her eighties, Gran was diagnosed with gangerine in her foot and, ironically, had her leg amputated.  We were visiting her just after her operation when she told one of the young doctors that just because she only had one leg, it didn’t mean she couldn’t chase him down the corridor!   A few years later, she was diagnosed in the other foot and had her second leg amputated.  It was so sad.  I just remember her hugging me and saying “I wish they would just let me go.”  Gran died at ninety years of age.

What a life.  What a woman.

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