“Ella Cruickshank Gartley
(b. Wrightstone, Glass 17th March, 1891 – d. Cleveleys, Blackpool, 13th, April,1986)
Ella, my grandmother, was the fourth daughter of the five born to James and Elizabeth Gartly. Note the change of spelling in Ella’s surname which I was told was due to a mistake by the registrar of her birth. She specialised in psychiatric nursing and it may have been in connection with this work that she met my grandfather, David Miller Wilson, who was described as an Asylum Attendant in the record of his death, a war casualty, on the 18th, March, 1916.
Unfortunately, my mother, Rosalind, was born out of wedlock on the 16th, February, 1916 and Ella left for Canada, leaving her to be brought up by her grannie, Elizabeth, and her aunt, Bella. It is worth noting that my grandfather died the day after Ella’s 25th birthday and a month and two days after my mother was born. Not an altogether happy time.”
This portrait from 1914 and a bible inscribed, on the inside cover, David Miller Wilson were the only two items belonging to her father which my mother possessed. As I have already mentioned, my mother was born ‘illegitimate’ at the farm Backside in Glass, at that time the tenant being her mother’s brother, Alexander Gartly.
David M Wilson belonged to Fife, born at Teuchat’s Farm, Largo on the 4th of April in 1889, and, although coming from a long line of farm servants and ploughmen, was described, on his death certificate of 18th, March 1916, as an ‘Asylum Attendant’ before, in brackets, is added ‘Gunner, Royal Field Artillery’.
Because of the sensitivity of the ‘illegitimacy’ issue I was never given much detail as to the circumstances of his death. All I was told was that he had died before an intended marriage to my mother’s mother, Ella Cruickshank Gartley, could take place. Since my mother’s death I have found out a bit more although gaps in the story still remain.
In Commonwealth War Graves records his death is recorded as ‘Casualty Type- Commonwealth War Dead’ and his death certificate records his death, at Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, as caused by ‘thrombosis of left popliteal vein, twelve days, and pulmonary embolism’. Stobhill Hospital had been requisitioned by the RAMC and cared for up to a thousand wounded personnel at a time. It even had its own small railway station for the transporting of wounded. I have no idea, however, as to the nature of any original injury or where, and under what circumstances, it was received. Indeed, I do not even know if my mother was aware that her father was eventually buried at Kennoway, Fife.
A couple of speculations are prompted by my mother’s birth certificate. First, her mother Ella, who had been born at Wrightstone, Glass on the 17th of March, 1891, is described as a ‘mental nurse’. Given that David M Wilson is described as an ‘Asylum Attendant’ it seems likely that they may have met in connection with their work.
Second, although my mother was born on the 18th of February, 1916, her birth certificate is dated 21st March, 1916. This means it was issued more than a month after her birth but only three days after the death of her father. This suggests that her mother and father were, indeed, intending to marry and it may have been that they delayed certifying the birth till the marriage could take place. Perhaps this would have avoided the inscription ‘illegitimate’ or at least allowed the father’s name and occupation to be recorded. However, after her father’s death, there would have been no point in further delay and so the 21st March date.
I notice, as well, that she was christened by W G Guthrie, Minister of Glass. He is mentioned on page 219 of James Godsman’s ‘Glass, Aberdeenshire- The Story Of a Parish’.
You can read more about Rev W.G. Guthrie by clicking here.
I was told that relatives of her father did express an interest in seeing her and maintaining a connection but this was not encouraged by the grannie.
As already mentioned, Ella emigrated to Canada and left my mother to be brought up by her grannie, Elizabeth Gartly, and her aunt, Bella Gartly. Indeed, my mother only ever referred to her own mother as ‘Ella’, probably since this was how Ella was referred to by the grannie and aunt. This photograph is dated 1916 and was, presumably, taken after my mother’s birth.
Ella settled in Toronto and spent all of her working life there as a psychiatric nurse. I believe she did a lot of private work which I guess was quite well paid and also allowed her to take numerous vacations, both to see the sights in America and return to the UK for extended visits. She never married.
This postcard sized picture was taken on one of her trips to the States and, although the Art Deco border records it as September 1935, Ella inscribed the reverse ‘Taken in Wisconsin State, U.S.A. Aug. 1935’. She was the most scrupulous of all the family in recording details on the backs of photos. Mention of the Art Deco border recalls how much design and fashion had changed in the twenty years between the previous photograph and this one.
Another break of thirteen years or so takes us to this picture, taken by my dad, of Ella, on one of her UK visits, with me on the Prom at Blackpool. Around this time (1948) we still had rationing and so I, in particular, was specially pleased when parcels arrived bearing the sender’s name and address as ‘E.C. Gartley, 188, Melrose Avenue, Toronto, Canada’ for they would certainly contain sweets or ‘candies’, as Ella would call them. By this time, unsurprisingly, she had a strong Canadian accent and the american vocabulary to go with it.
Above all the sweets, however, the piece de resistance, was a Viewmaster stereo viewer with about half a dozen discs containing vividly coloured photographs of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and stills from Walt Disney and Roy Rogers films. One image in particular remains clear in my mind’s eye. It showed the cowboy on a horse rearing up against a cloudless, azure sky of the sort all too rare here. I can see that blue now.
The passport, from which this was taken, was issued on the 22nd of March 1976. By this time, of course, Ella had long since retired and was spending most of her time back here in the UK staying with her sister, Lizzie Benzie Crabtree, who, after her husband’s death, had eventually settled into a flat overlooking the sea at Cleveleys near Blackpool. Indeed, it was in this flat that Ella died in her sleep on April, 13th, 1986. She was cremated at Carleton Crematorium, nearby, five days later.