Monday, 24 December 2012

Family tales

Christmas is a time when the same old stories from ageing relatives are trotted out. Sometimes they bear a retelling, sometimes everyone groans and nods off until the tale is done.  This year I heard one that was totally new to me.

One of my father's many uncles, Walter Holland came home to New Zealand from  WW1 with a Danish bride.  From photos it is clear that she always looked straight out of a band box, chic, groomed and fashionable, standing out next to the other aunts and uncles as a glamorous outsider.  She was vivacious, beautiful and socially at ease.  My father adored her, knowing her always as Tante.

Uncle Walter did alright for himself and used to regularly take Tante back to Denmark to stay with her family. The trips ceased during WW2 but as soon as the passenger ships started up again after the war, off they went.
In those days the New Zealand embassy was in The Strand and so itinerant Kiwis of means would often choose to stay at the Savoy.  Here Walter and the gorgeous Tante stayed before travelling on to Denmark.   On this particular trip they were settled in their rooms when there was an urgent knocking at the door whereupon Tante found a messenger with an urgent invitation for her.   There was a ship being launched in the Clyde and to celebrate the reopening of trade routes with New Zealand they would like her to come and launch her.  Tante saw that the invitation was just for her, Mrs Holland and she explained to the messenger that she would love to come up to the Clyde but that she was travelling with her husband and if the invitation could be extended to include him they would be delighted to oblige.

 An invitation that included them both was produced, a Rolls Royce sent to pick them up and take them to the station. On the train there was a delightful reception for them and the ship was launched successfully. Another jolly reception ensued, and on the train back to London the next day Tante was feted further in first class accommodation.  It really was all a rather lovely party.

The next morning Walter and Tante were having breakfast when Tante noticed a couple she recognised at a nearby table and asked Walter if they knew them, as she was unable to place them.  Walter looked over and said "Yes, they are New Zealanders, and no, we don't know them.  That's Prime Minister Sidney Holland and his wife"........

Merry Christmas everyone!


Electro-Kevin said...

In WW2 my grandfather was working for the British Govt in India. He took to womanising and whoring and my grandmother divorced him (and started dating US bomber pilots - she a pretty Red Cross nurse)

Grandfather became a scrap dealer which was actually cover for his real business which was gun running.

He returned to England after trouble with local toughs and the police. We don't know how he made his living after that but whatever it was killed him at a young age.

Merry Christmas to you, Elby and Calfy (and that rather excellent guitarist lad that I met)

Nomad said...

Nice tale, but pretty poor protocol on behalf of the shipyard! The last time I was in Glasgow was in the mid 1960s on the day the QE2 was launched. Milling crowds of rubber-neckers and I have never been back since.

I have, however, been lucky enough to have been invited to lunch on the top floor of the current NZHC at the bottom of Haymarket. Wangle yourself an invitation if you can as the view over the park and all points west is well worth a photo opportunity.

Belated Happy Christmas to you all (inc doggie) and have a prosperous 2013.

Dick McPrick said...

'ee ain't local thart one! Happy new year Lils and yours.

lilith said...

I hope you have all had a good time :-)

I am fending off a nervous breakdown due to overexposure to my mother.

Blue Eyes said...

Great story!

I rather like the "new" NZ building but I do like a bit of concrete and glass!

Happy Christmas and New Year!

beast said...

This weekend I found out that Beasts great grandfathers uncle helped to form Crown Derby as a comapny, he was the Crown!
So now I can add pottery to the list of murderers , philanderers and others in my family

lilith said...

Blue, my father began the story with "...before the Embassy moved to that monstrosity in the Haymarket..."

lilith said...

Genealogy is great isn't it Beast?

So far I have a remittance man, an embezzler, and a suicide amongst my great great grandfathers...