LIZZIE BENZIE GARTLY (b. Wrighstone, Glass,11/11/1888. d. Hambleton, nr Blackpool, Lancashire, 3/7/1992)
It seems natural to start my biography of Lizzie Benzie Gartly with this Merit Certificate from Beldorney School since it is the oldest item I have of hers.
It is also worth noting that, while she gained this certificate in 1901 aged 12, by 1902 her sister Annie Gartly, older only by a couple of years, had, according to Godsman (ibid p250), taken up the position of assistant teacher in the same school.
Annie was born on October the 12th 1886 so, in May 1902, would not have been quite 16. Perhaps this was not so unusual under the pupil/teacher system. Godsman also mentions that by this time Miss Tocher had resigned to be succeeded by Miss Mable M Duguid and that pupil numbers were around 40. I guess that they would all have been taught in one classroom by Miss Duguid with Annie helping out with individuals and small groups, much like a teaching assistant today.
I am less sure about including this rather creased postcard photograph in the story since, despite ‘Miss L Gartly, Wrightston, Glass’ and the other names ‘Maggie, Lizzie, and Bella Aug 1908’ on the reverse, I fail to see any particular resemblance between the women in this picture and those in the photograph of the five sisters reproduced near the start of this family saga. Still, I estimate that the five sisters photo must have been taken, at the very least, ten years later and people do change. They change but are, surely, still recognisable. Others may, perhaps, see similarities where I see little.
There is no doubting, however, the very complimentary nature of this reference for Lizzie Gartly written by the Medical Superintendent of Huntly Cottage Hospital, dated 13th November 1913. The only obscurity here is the signature of the aforementioned Medical Superintendent. Again, others may be able to decipher it where I have failed. I guess that this letter may have been instrumental in gaining Lizzie a position in Glasgow’s Western Infirmary for I have a couple more, equally complimentary, letters from two doctors associated with that Infirmary dating from 1916.
Lizzie, on our left, with a colleague in uniform from around this period. I am not sure of the sequence of events here but I know that Lizzie spent some time in Ireland nursing members of the British military during the struggle for Irish independence. She told me more than once that they were under instruction not to leave the hospital in uniform since they may well experience, as representatives of ‘occupying forces’, some antagonism from local people.
What is certain is that by 1920 Lizzie was a Sister in Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Service at No 1, Military Hospital, Canterbury, Kent.
This picture dates from this period and shows a ward with wounded patients, staff and uniformed visitors.
I suppose that, having lost her youngest brother near the end of WW1, Lizzie may have had an added motivation to do something to help these casualties.
Below are nine entries by soldier/patients from a notebook which Lizzie kept when a Sister at the Military Hospital in Canterbury. Four contributions are from Royal Hussars and four from the ‘Buffs’. ‘Buffs’ being the colloquial term for the Royal East Kent Regiment, them being in Canterbury makes sense. To which regiment the ‘K nuts’ belong is not clear but I am grateful to them for the details of the hospital which I would not, otherwise, have.
I have selected the note from Pte H Smith for a frame of its own due to its elegant, copperplate script; although the one from Pte E T Powers is equally good.
In this photograph
Lizzie is the nurse standing, The absence of cropping and the informal composition leads me to think that this may have been an amateur photograph. Perhaps taken by one of the staff of colleagues relaxing in an, otherwise, unoccupied ward.
A jump of seven years, a change of costume and we find Lizzie
in Blackpool dressed for her work as a masseuse. I think the move to Blackpool may have been to do with an aunt already being there. She mentions this in an interview with a local newspaper on the occasion of her hundredth birthday.
I do remember her mentioning friends named Butterworth, the husband being quite senior in the police force. If this is the connection it would also go some way to explaining how her eldest brother, James Gartly, became a policeman in Liverpool. Incidentally, ‘Betty’ was always how she was known to me so I will now start calling that.
I believe it was while based in Blackpool that she met her husband, to be, James Edward Crabtree.
They were married in 1932 and this pair of street photos is the nearest thing I have to a wedding picture of them.
These are valued pictures
and they were always on display in a double, folding frame.
This was James’s second marriage. His first ended in divorce, with his ex-wife leaving him and their son, Will, who by this time would have been twenty. In addition, with Betty being forty-five and James fifty-five, a low key marriage may have been deemed more appropriate. There may, indeed, never have been a traditional wedding photograph. On the back of each of these pictures the photographer is identified as Remingtons of Torquay and Paignton
. Perhaps they were in Devon for their honeymoon.
James and two brothers owned a long established and successful blanket manufacturer, William Crabtree and Sons, in the Dewsbury Moor area of West Yorkshire. As can be seen, from the letterheading on this notepaper dating from around 1950, the medallions indicate that the firm was an exhibitor at the Great Exhibition in London’s Crystal Palace in 1851. How long before this the business had be in production I cannot say.
I have ‘pasted’ on to the notepaper three views of one of the mills which I took in the mid 1950s. My memory of this is vague but I do think it more likely that all three views are of the same mill, Westfield or Car Top. What I do remember, once inside the building, was the deafening clatter of the looms. The mills’ days were numbered, however, and production did not carry on much into the 1960s, if at all.
In its heyday, the firm afforded its owners and their families a very comfortable lifestyle. Among the leisure activities permitted was foreign travel, when this was the preserve of the relatively wealthy. I am 99% sure that this postcard shows James’s mother, and perhaps a sister feeding pigeons, in St Marks Square, Venice.
It is addressed to Mrs J E Crabtree, James’s first wife Nellie, at a house called ‘Colville’ which is identified as his son’s birthplace in the birth certificate of 1912. One small puzzle is that if ‘love to you both’ refers to James and Nellie why is there no mention of the son, Will, who would have only been eight months old in March, 1913.
Another postcard memento of the ‘grand tour’ but now from Switzerland.
James’s mother is in the carriage but her companion, this time, appears to be a maid. However, if we look towards the end of the train of sledges, we see one shared, in a rather familiar manner, by a man and a woman. The woman, I’m sure, is the ‘sister’. A holiday romance? This card was, perhaps for understandable reasons, never sent so the only information to be gleaned from the reverse is that the photographer was a K. Weber of Luzern-Gutsch Engelberg.
I guess that the photographers, both here and in Venice, must have taken the pictures, processed and printed them, in postcard format, fairly quickly so that the subjects could pick them up and send them to family and friends before they moved on. Not quite a ‘selfie’ but getting there.
James Edward Crabtree (born c.1877) as a young man.
He had quite a range of interests at this age, including watercolour painting, wood carving, photography and motoring.
He often told me, in the 1950s, of his escapades with a friend, whom he once got to cover himself with a bed sheet, while he took, by means of double exposure, this ‘ghost’ photo in a local graveyard.
There was quite a trend, using the various tricks afforded by the photographic process, producing ‘ghost’ and ‘spirit’ pictures in the early years of the 20th century. James did his own developing and printing and recalled clearly using a large, glass-plate camera.
On similar occasions he would reminisce enthusiastically about his Di Dion-Bouton car. Here he is at the wheel with Nellie and his mother as passengers.
I remember thinking at the time, being used to automobiles called ‘Ford’ and ‘Morris’, that ‘Di Dion-Bouton’ sounded a very exotic name for a car. Apparently, in 1900 this French company was the largest manufacturer of cars in the world. According to Wikipedia, in 1904 they produced 40,000 handmade engines, mostly for other manufacturers, and 2000 cars of their own. James’s car resembles the model Q although most of the images I have seen on Google were without the door.
With James’s family background sketched in, I can continue with the married lives of himself and Betty (Gartly). Here, probably taken by Betty, is James sitting on a rock by the river Deveron near Huntly, Aberdeenshire.
Travels in the 1930’s certainly included trips to Scotland to visit Betty’s mother, Elizabeth Gartly, and other relatives in the Huntly area. Indeed, there are many photographs from this period of Betty and James at various well known Scottish beauty spots.
This is one of the most effective, showing them with the Bow Fiddle Rock, Portknockie, in the background. On looking at these two pictures more closely now I can see that James, especially, looks much more youthful than he does in the street photo from Devon, which I reproduced some time back. It appears that my previous speculation that that picture might have been taken on the ‘honeymoon’ seems very wide of the mark. Much more likely that the ‘honeymoon’ was in Scotland, in the early 1930s, shortly after their marriage in 1932.
Whatever the truth is here, returning home from travels meant returning to Moor End House, Dewsbury Moor.
This was to be Betty’s home for the next thirty or so years. It was a large house built into a hillside between the towns of Dewsbury and Heckmondwike in the West Riding of Yorkshire. About two thirds of it are visible in this picture but a further third extended behind the trees to our right.
James’s son Will was still at home in the thirties and in this photograph, probably again by Betty, Will is on our left with James in the centre and my mother, Rosalind, on the right. Teddy, the dog, completes the group. I never met Will, despite spending regular summer holidays at Moor End.
By my time, the forties and fifties, he had made a career in the Army, for a while he was stationed in Germany, and, as far as I know, never got involved in the family business.
It was on one of my holidays in the fifties, when I was fourteen or so, that I painted this small watercolour of some ruined buildings at the back of Moor End.
One of the buildings, however, had been maintained as a garage but, as can be seen, the entrance to this garage was rather narrow. This meant that, when a new car was being considered, the first question was ‘How wide is it?’. By this time, Betty did all the driving, James having given up. Perhaps if he had still been driving something would have been done about the garage entrance, allowing for a larger car.
The new A30, a perfect fit for the garage, with Betty and my mother standing by.
I painted the previous watercolour sitting on the steps in the background. They led to the ‘table tennis room’. What was remarkable about this room, however, was not the full size table-tennis table but the existence of a ‘speaking tube’ which ran from it, within interior walls, to the kitchen in a relatively distant part of the building. This tube had a mouthpiece at either end with a whistle inserted in it. If someone in the kitchen wanted to tell those in the table tennis room dinner was ready they blew in their end, the whistle, at the other, shrieked and quite a clear conversation could ensue.
This is one of the last, if not the last, picture I took of my great uncle James sitting in the front garden of Moor End.
Within a year or two he had died unexpectedly and quite suddenly of a heart attack while delivering blankets, part of a wedding gift, to the daughter of close friends. A clipping from a local paper reporting his death on the 2nd, August, 1959, aged 82.
Betty remained at Moor End House for a couple of years, joined, for at least some of the time, by her sister, my grandmother Ella. In the early sixties, however, she decided to sell it for, what appears now, a very modest £6000.
Nevertheless, this would have been a fair price at the time, when the average wage was about £13 a week and the average house around £2500.
She moved to a bungalow in a beautiful Lancashire village called Poulton-le-Fylde. Always up for a new venture, however, she then went, on her own, at the age of 77, on a round-the-world cruise taking in Australia and America. In Sydney she was shown the sights by Esmond Kalson, who was a year or so older than me and had lived with his parents across the street from us in Osborne Place, Aberdeen. He had emigrated to Australia and took this picture of Betty, with the beach resort of Manly in the background, in October 1965.
By 1970 she had moved again, this time to a flat overlooking the sea at Cleveleys, by Blackpool. She remained there until her move to The Conifers Nursing Home, at nearby Hambleton, around 1986. When I visited her there, despite failing hearing and eyesight, it was clear that she was mentally very alert. One of her oft-repeated questions was as to the current price of petrol. When I replied about twenty pence a litre she would clasp her hands in mock prayer as if to say ‘God help us!’.
The next three illustrations all relate to Betty’s one hundredth birthday.
First is the telegram from the Queen.
This is followed by a cutting from the local ‘Evening Gazette’ of Monday, November 14, 1988 showing her celebrating with the Mayor and Mayoress of Wyre and the matron of the home. The article mentions that she began her nursing career at the age of 16 in Glasgow. I am not sure about this. I always thought it was Huntly (see the reference from Huntly Cottage Hospital above). She certainly spent time in Glasgow, after Huntly. I have references from two Glasgow doctors, dated 1916, to prove that.
The third illustration is simply a clearer print of the previous ‘Evening Gazette’ photo.
Betty enjoyed another three birthday parties at the Conifers, in 89, 90 and 91 before dying, aged 103 on the 3rd July 1992. She was buried in the same grave as her husband, James, at St John’s Church, Dewsbury Moor.
I could not resist ending Betty’s story without including this photo taken by my dad on one of her visits to the Huntly area, this one around 1946. It captures her typical high spirits. She is ducking down at the back, I am appearing rather obstreperous at the bottom but who are the other two women?
A great frustration at my age, when the previous generations have all passed away, is that there is no-one on hand to ask and who can say ‘Oh! that’s so-and so’. I must have sifted through dozens of negatives and prints where this has been an issue. In the present case the name ‘Nellie Cockburn’, possibly from Rhynie, comes to mind since she was spoken of often. But I can’t be sure. I assume the girl on our right was a daughter, going by the strong facial resemblance. But who really knows? (Editors Note: If you know the identity of the two people in the above photograph do please contact us by clicking here – or add your comments in the form below. Thank you! )
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