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The Allery Clan

Colourful characters adorn our family tree!  - the chapters for the family history story for our grandchildren On my Dad's side, Cec...

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Impact of a Diary

It was a rainy day in March 2012. I was sorting the memorabilia from my late sister’s estate when I found her 1944 diary. The Universal Diary for 1944 was a tiny journal containing moments of her life as a young trainee nurse in London. I wish I had known of it before she died, I would have asked many questions. Pam and I had a close bond as the eldest and youngest of a large family of six children. She was always delighted when I came to visit her in her one bedroom flat in Emerald, Victoria … and she did try not to smoke when I was in her house. We would talk of times gone by and she would show me her photo albums and recount the days of her youth, but never anything about 1944. I wonder now if that year was too painful for her to recall. She was happy to show me her albums of family, friends and holidays. I have kept some of these for my archives. Among the archives was her birth certificate. I noticed that our Dad was listed as a Chauffeur – something I did not know. Pamela Marie was born on the 9th March 1927 in Kingston, UK.
Being the eldest Pamela was often called upon by our mum Winnie to care for the rest of the tribe. By the time Pam was fourteen, there were 4 other children including John, Patricia and twins Michael and Brian. I did not arrive on the scene until 1945. Pam’s memories stored in poster books and diaries has piqued my interest in this feisty lady for many years. In one scrap book was her certification of Registered Nurse – a profession she continued after migrating to Australia in 1949. In her later years she became a Palliative Care nurse. Pam was very proud of her training and kept her medals in a small trinket box that was also among her favourite possessions. Each one of these small pieces of metal had special meaning for her. I keep them still. In one of her scrapbooks she kept small calendars of life in Surrey where we lived as a family after the war. Pam would spend hours with a pot of glue and her favourite poster books to fill in the minutiae of her life. 
Back to the diary! 
Pam's life revolves around her work her studies and her many boyfriends. First we hear about John, then Alan, then Pat, then finally Doug. Doug was one of the three soldiers from the Welsh Guards who started up a conversation with Pam and her friend Frances, on the grass outside the dance hall. According to the diary note on Sat 5 July, Frances was trying to fight her for Doug's attention. "But I needn't have bothered. He loved me from the first day he met me"! July to September is a whirlwind romance between Pam and Doug.
Diary Notes: 
Mon 7 Aug, I love him so very, very much. Nothing can equal the feeling I have for him. 
Sun 13 Aug, Doug held my hand. 
Wed 16 Aug, Doug put his arm around me and we had our first kiss. 
Aug 21-27, Doug showed me how to do a certain kiss (It was a bit horrible). But he said:'Why didn't you stop if you didn't like it?' I said, 'Because I love you so much. I do I do so very much.' And he said, 'I love you very much.' Oh joy, my happiness was complete. 
We caught the last train home and we kissed again and again. 
 28 Aug, Dad came home!!!! He wanted me to pack some things and come back to Wales with him. Of course I can't. Still saw Doug (I love him). He gave me a really big kiss 'to last for two weeks', he said. He will ring me on Monday. 
We might get married after the war. 
Later in the diary Pam expresses her dismay at not ever hearing from Douglas Humphreys again. Memoranda 
Douglas Humphreys, Welsh Guard (my heart is broken, I just can't bear it, Over Douglas) 

A search for details of Douglas Humphreys of the Welsh Guards at Ancestry provides this poignant post script for the brief love affair he had with Pamela:

Douglas Humphreys, Welsh Guardsman Number 2739486,  
Died 14 February 1945, Western European Campaign, 1944/45.
I wish I had known about the diary when Pam was still alive. And I wish I had been able to complete this vital piece of research and ease her troubled heart. I would have been able to tell her, before she died, that her first love had died during the war and had probably not been able to say where he was being posted. Pam kept her diaries, letters, scrapbooks and meticulous lists of everything, all her life until her death on 27th January 2012 – she had lived for 84 years and was deserving of an OBE – ‘over bloody eighty’.
My latest digital story 'Diary of a Nurse' is about the impact of that Diary.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Whirram Way Chapter Six: The Knowing Tree

Holding the torch high in her left hand, Lisbet Mary stepped through the doorway into the Otherworld. She trailed her fingers across the carved door smiling at the scenes of woodland beauty, and the Faeries with leaves in their hair. She took three small steps forward.

Suddenly, from behind her, the creaking noise began again, and she jumped forward in surprise as the doors swung shut with a loud resounding THUD. She could feel her heart pounding; her hands were moist; her lips were dry; and she wondered just ‘who’ or ‘what’ she was going to meet in Otherworld.
Lisbet’s eyes grew big and round, widening as she peered at the circular, wooden walls - knotted and rough. Here and there, niches were filled with tiny silver mirrors, small steel swords and glass bottles filled with brightly coloured runes. She thought she could hear the sound of tinkling bells somewhere beyond the room. She crept forward and realised she was inside a large tree, the woody smell both strange but pleasant.

She had reached the ‘Knowing Tree’.

In the middle was a Labyrinth, carved into the hard earth floor. In its centre was a large wooden pedestal. Excitedly, she walked the weaving path of the Labyrinth to reach its centre. She carefully followed the directions on the map – and did not step outside of the path. On the top of the pedestal was Rhaido, the rune for journey, emblazoned in silver.  “The ultimate union: what comes at the end of a journey, when what is above and what is below are united and of one mind”.
She held her breath as she pressed the silver rune!

The outline of a small doorway began to glow and pulsate in the pedestal. The doorway was not much taller than herself – and she reached out to push it open. The light flickered and she felt a tingling sensation as she was immediately transported to a dark cavern. By the light of her torch she could see several iron gates and she could hear soft whispering voices calling out in misery. One of these voices sounded familiar and she moved towards a cell barred by a rusty gate and peered in.
Behind her something lurched forward suddenly and clutched at her hooded cloak with long, sharp talons.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” said a deep gravelly voice.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Whirram Way Chapter Five: The Knowing Tree

Elizabeth Mary reaches the Knowing Tree

“Did I do that right?” she said to the stones.

Listening as a faint rumbling sound began to grow louder, she pressed the final rune on the final stone. She whirled around to face the centre of the stone circle. A blackened, arched stone of granite had risen from the earth, still covered in clods of earth. A darker shadow in front of the stone appeared and the earth slid back to reveal an entrance. Moving closer she could now see a set of stone steps descending into the earth.

Heart pounding, Lisbet Mary moved quickly to the stairway, and breathed in the dank smell from the Faeries well. Hand over her chest to steady herself she cautiously peered down into the dark stairway. “Quickly now!” she heard a whispery voice say in her ear, as the sky grew darker. She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and stepped into the underground realm.

She sneezed as pungent and persistent smells became stronger, the deeper she descended. Trembling, she felt along the nubbly walls to steady her steps and with a sharp intake of breath, she drew back her fingers. There was a different surface here now, smooth in places yet familiar shapes jumbled together.

At the bottom of the steps she found a torch of reeds – striking her flint to spark it alight. She stared! The walls of the circular cavern were all lined with human bones, as far as she could see. Bones upon Bones!

She looked down to see her own footprints in the dust, trailing back to the stone steps, where she could just see the last rays of the setting sun from the world above. That low scraping sound again, stone on stone, made her shiver and turn towards her target as the opening to the Faery well closed her from sight.

“One Thousand steps to the Tree”, Grandmother had said.

Lisbet counted her steps calling each one out loudly and listening to her own voice echo over and over again:
“100, ….. 500, …. 1000”.

Nothing else could be heard, nothing else moved, nothing else could be seen. She was aware of her own heart beat drumming in her ears and she carefully made her way through the outer chamber of the Otherworld. At one thousand steps she saw that the chamber narrowed to a thin wedge shaped opening in the far wall. The Gateway rune was etched into the wall beside another stone stairway leading upward – and she knew she was on the right track.

By the light of the torch fire, she spread out the ancient map on the bottom step of the stone stairway. Blinking as she peered at the ancient symbols etched in black on the worn, leather surface; she wished her grandmother was here.  She glanced up at her own shadow dancing in the torchlight and shivered. Lisbet whispered the words from the map as she climbed the winding stairs.

Climb the winding stairs
Find the niche beside guarding doors
Reach inside and find the key
Turn and the Otherworld is yours.”

At the top of the stairs were two heavy oak doors, barriers to the Otherworld. Stepping up closer, intent on her task, she whispered the lines again. With small trembling fingers she now reached into the niche and her fingers closed over a small metal key. She walked toward the Faery doors and inserted the key in the lock, struggling to turn it. It took all her strength. The lock was long unused.

Her skin prickled with excitement as she heard the creaking of the hinges and the huge carved doors swung inwards in front of her. A large round room lay beyond. Shadows grew and shrank as she waved the torch from left to right, and she turned to face the open doorway. A waft of woody smells delighted her senses, and she took a deep breath.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Whirram Way Chapter Four: Wisdom of the Stones

Elizabeth Mary Day [Evans] B: 1786 D: 1867
Gx4 Grandmother

It was a crisp autumn evening when Lisbet Mary began her journey into the Otherworld. The four brown hens were busy clucking their way through the fields and she herded them into the kitchen garden and scattered the seeds for them. They were greedily feasting on these as she latched the garden gate and walked towards the grove beyond the fields. She looked back at her grandmother’s farmhouse, now shuttered and bleak, and gathered her best woollen cloak close around her neck.
She had on her Sunday best clothes – “Grandmother would approve of these”, she said. “You must look your best, or the Faeries will think you ill-mannered and rude.”

Marching along the well-worn path to the grove, she smiled as she remembered Grandmother’s words. Lisbet had been to the stones before, and she knew them all. She had felt their craggy faces many times. Hidden from the roads by the grove of Oak and Rowan trees – these grey sentinels had become her friends. There was no-one in her village who she called a friend. Even the neighbours called her ugly names and walked away from her, sneering and jeering rudely, behind masked faces.
Lisbet had waited for that special moment at dusk when the ‘jack-o-lanterns’ flitted over the marshy ground, shining their phosphorescent light to reveal what mostly stayed hidden in darkness. Just when the moon began its heavenly rise, was the safest time to start. She waited for the right time to find the entrance to the Otherworld.

Now it is time”, she whispered, as the sun began its descent, sending out speared flames of gold across the darkening sky. The skylarks and the robins stopped their even’ song and she listened carefully as the earth held its breath! Lisbet loved this magical time when the ending light shone directly into the circle of stones and illuminated the old markings.

Lisbet stepped into the stone circle and paced her way round each of the sentinels once, then twice and on the third sweep, stopped to place her hands gently on their faces, tracing their marks and feeling the light tingle in her fingertips. She was following the ancient way, the way that many before her had practised, and remembering what she needed to do.

She knew the runes and their meanings and how she was to press them. The order was important – press them wrongly and the Otherworld would remain hidden – press them rightly and the entrance through the Faeries Well would be revealed. Twelve stones, twelve paces between each one and twelve runes on each. The right way to reveal all, was to press the one ‘key rune’ on each stone in the right order. Only those with the ‘gift of knowing’ could lead her to the stones and only the one with the ancient map can find the Knowing Tree!

Her own grandmother had taken Lisbet to the stones, each year at Beltane, ever since she was old enough to walk. Her grandmother had shown her where the ‘key runes’ were on each stone and explained their meaning. She gave her the ‘ancient map’ and told her how it had been passed down from grandmother to granddaughter for centuries, and that at the age of seven, she would be ready.
The stories excited Lisbet and she was eager to be seven, eager to be ready. She knew she was being taught important lessons and she concentrated hard when Grandmother Elizabeth was speaking to her, in her soft whispery voice. She already had the ‘gift of knowing’ –  she had been born with a caul covering her face – and was always seen as special, and treated differently by the people of her village. There were dark stories too; caution for the ‘knowing child’ - the truth about the Faeries well and the entrance to the Otherworld.

You will only be able to reach the Otherworld when you are old enough to press the key runes in the key stones, in the right order and in the right time,” her grandmother said. “Only then will you be able to begin your journey as a wisdom warrior, as I have done before you.”

Lisbet often sang her grandmother’s Knowing song – she missed her so. “I will find my way back to you, Grandmother. I can be your brave, wisdom warrior. Wait for me!”

Lisbet sang her song and completed her third circuit of the stones, pressing each of the twelve key runes, in the right order!

“Listen for the wisdom of the stones
The clattering, chattering runes of old
And the silent, brooding stones left standing
As they wait, and wait, for travellers bold"

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Whirram Way Chapter Three: Mary's Quest

Mary Ann Evans B: 1833 D: 1911 2x Great Grandmother

Mary, George, Lettice and David, along with all the other labourers’ families lived in their neat little cottages in the Row, and it was in this cottage where Mary’s next brothers were born. John then Richard, just two years apart. Next came Thomas and William – they were not born strong and only lived for three short years each.

The late 1830’s were not kind to the Evans. Mary was the only light that brightened up their lives and gave them hope! She had the way about her! She had indeed been here before!
………”You are needed, your way begins, Look inward, the gateway is open”….
Mary first heard these words on the wind waking her from sleep – the night of the raging storm. When Mary stirred, rain was in the air, but not yet here – just that familiar metallic smell and the sound of the rushing wind through the trees in the woods. She slipped quietly from her bed, her bare feet flinching on hard cold slate, and tip toed to the window. She unlatched the window shutter without a second thought of fear and pushed the window wide. Gazing out she searched for her moon! Was it there? Yes! The moon glided into view from beneath the blackened swollen clouds, and she smiled. 
She shivered there in the cold waiting for the moon to rise and the rain to begin its rattling on the roof. She did not know where the gateway was waiting and why she was needed, but she knew she was ready. Seven years old and strong in the way, Mary, was ready!

She shuttered the window and slipped back into her bed as the rain began to lash the house in fury! She must wait for daylight – the signs would be there.

Morning whispered in with the last of the storm clouds painting the reddening sky with streaks of grey. Her family still dreamed on, but Mary was awake. She dressed in her warm breeches, shirt and hooded woolen cloak. This was the beginning of her task, her quest, the beginning of new journey, a destination still yet to know. 

Mary had grown strong and independent, just like her mother before her, and she was trusted to come and go from the house, into the woods and sometimes beyond. She had timed the round trip from Fountain Row, through the woods, along Dew Street and into the High Street – she could do that in an hour or so. She had been to Treffgarne, many visits to her grandmother, and had timed that journey for two hours including time for tea and a story or more.

She looked now at Lisbet Mary, a mother herself now, still slumbering in her basket near the fireplace. The old scarf had grown grey and prickled now but was perfect for the latest new brood of kittens beneath the sleeping cat. Mary knelt down beside the basket and ran her fingers over the fur of the little tribe. The cat opened her eyes and began kneading the scarf in that contented way, purring all the while. Mary then knew what her quest was about, or who?

Memories of another black day came flooding in unbidden, as Mary set about gathering what she would need for her journey. She remembered the words bellowed by Lord Magistrate Hugh Owen Gwynne in the Guildhall on 13 June 1837.

“Elizabeth Mary Evans you are hereby charged and proven of witchcraft visited on the good people of Treffgarne. From here you be taken to the Castle deep – no light for your nights in prison save that of the moon, no warmth for your solace save that of the sun. Your head be shaved, your feet be shackled, and may God have mercy on your soul!”

Mary had been in the hall that Friday, clutching her mother’s skirts and peering at the crowds of Treffgarners, Prendergast and St Mary folk milling and glowering at them. As they heard the verdict the crowds cheered and jeered loudly. Fingers pointing and hands covering mouths whispering; tears from her parents and cries of Mercy, Mercy – her final memory of that day. There was no mercy that day for Eizabeth Mary and no joy for her family. All in shock!

“No quarter given. No evidence presented. Just bitter unjust accusations based on ignorance. All she had tried to do was save them from their own black hearts – shine a light where none had shone before – her last act bringing their wrath. Unfair. Not true.” she heard her mother repeating.

 “What last act? What was her crime? Why are they taking Grandmama away?” Mary asked her mother, desperately trying to understand. 

She knew only that she would be lost without her. 
“I will find her when I am big, Mama!” And she wrapped her arms round her mother’s neck, breathing in her pain and sorrow.

Three years had passed since that day! Lettice still grieved for the loss of her mother, not allowed to visit nor send her anything to ease her punishment. A bitter time only brightened by the birth of her two sons John and Richard, just two years apart. Playmates for George; two more littl’ns for Mary to care for. Three long years – avoiding the people – the ‘good people of Treffgarne’, no, the blackhearts of Treffgarne! Blackness and sorrow she meted out on those she knew; her mother’s neighbours, no her mother’s jailers.

Mary knew only that she should stay away from Treffgarne, she did not know of her mother’s bitter vengeance. She did not understand why the crops turned black, or why the milk from their cows became sour or why her grandmother was not there to show her the way! That was then!

Now on this grey morning Mary thought of her brothers now sleeping in the big room, and her parents in their own room and of her grandmother languishing in her prison den. Mary was strong now, strong in the way and at the age of seven, shining and sure, she was indeed ready.

The cat glanced up just the once – as Mary gathered her rucksack, crossed the dimly lit room and clambered out of the window and gently landed in the soft earth of the garden below.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Whirram Way : Chapter Two - Lettice's Song

Lettice Evans [Day] B: 1808 D 18913xGreat Grandmother

It was dark and wet in Friar’s Lane as Lettice hurried down past the old Priory walls and into the back alleyways on her way to Shut Street.
Another dark ‘Whirrham’ call from a soul in need and she knew that a young woman was in trouble. She knocked on the door of number 55 and pushed it open, calling out “Hallo!” as she entered. In the darkened space she smelt the bitter tang of mildew but was warmed by the sight of a fire in the hearth. An old blackened kettle was steaming on the hob and the soft moans of a woman in pain drew her attention to the figure on the bed, an old iron cot, in one corner of the room. 
The woman began to cry and groan as Lettice came inside and shut the door. She took off her damp cloak and hung it to dry near the fire, placing her bag and basket on the only chair in the space. She took one look at the young woman on the cot and saw the fear in her eyes. ‘A first one?’ she asked. The woman nodded her head, tears streaming down her face, her hair plastering closely and the look of despair in her eyes.
Lettice reached for her old leather bag, peering into the blackness for the small vial of berries she had picked and dried last summer. “You need the soothing of the Rowan berries”, she said as she took out the vial and the small wooden cup from the bag. “What is your name, lass?” she asked as she carefully poured a measure of the berries into the cup and filled it with water from the boiling kettle.
“Ehedydd”, said the young woman.
Stirring and blowing the steam from the cup Lettice brought it to the woman and held it carefully to her lips, cradling her head as she sipped the sweet elixir. “Here take this my lovely lass, it’ll help with the pain!” Ehedydd’s sobbing slowed and her breathing returned to normal, but she clung desperately to Lettice’s arm and there was wild alarm in her eyes! “Your baby will be safely born here tonight, do not fear!” she whispered.
Her mind delved deeper into this certainty as she remembered her calling and her teachings from her ‘Merlin’. She knew that the Rowan berry elixir would calm the nerves and ease the pain of childbirth as it had done for many before her. She herself had ‘sipped of the Rowan’ when her own daughter Mary was born. Her own sweet Tuesday’s child – full of grace.
She whispered again to Ehedydd, as she laid out her birthing tools; the clamp, the scissors, the cloths, the bowl and the swaddling clothes. “Let the Rowan ease your pain and soothe your mind”. 
This young woman in labour was the last of those that Lettice would attend –  she did not know that for sure – just a warning voice in her mind to take great care of the child to be born this night. She carried out the tasks in preparing for the child’s passage into this world and dreamed her dreams whilst soothing the fears of her young patient. Hours went by as the labour pains quickened and the cries of pain focussed their actions. “In a few more pushes, your baby’s head will emerge.” Taking a deep breath the woman bore down and pushed her baby’s golden head out with nothing more than a heavy sigh! “Pant now!” Lettice told her as they waited for the next wave of pain.
She looked down at the ‘caul’ covering the baby’s face and told Ehedydd “This child is one of god’s chosen”. Not letting the woman see her frown she prepared to receive the child as the final push heaved the rest of this little girl into the world. 
Ehedydd was spent as the baby burst out in a bloody rush! She took one more deep breath and then slumped back onto the cot, her face now ashen where once it had been ruddy from exertion. “A very special child!” said Lettice as she clamped and cut the umbilical cord. “the child who is born on the Sabbath Day, is bonny and blithe and good and gay!”
Ehedydd did not hear those words, she died without a murmur, leaving her blessed infant in someone else’s care!
Lettice looked up and cursed loudly ‘another damned soul lost in childbirth’!
Removing the caul gently from the face of the infant, Lettice gazed upon this ‘faery fae’ – her eyes wide in amazement! The bluest of pale blue eyes blinked as the child smiled briefly – or was that her own imagination! 
She set the precious caul aside in the bowl, being careful to not fold or crease it. She then wrapped the child in the white shawl – a significant colour for this young girl – and walked to the doorway, opened the door to see the pale pink streaks of dawn painting the sky. The rain had ceased and the puddles were reflecting the sparkling dawn; she breathed in the sweet smell of her new charge. “I will call you Swynwr! Come away with me, o human child” she whispered to the little girl sleeping gently in her arms.
Lettice gathered her cloths, potions, and other things, returning them to the leather bag. She laid the child gently into the basket and covered her with her now dry cloak, wrapped and placed the caul in the bowl at the other end of the basket. She then attended to the dead mother, removing the afterbirth and discarding in the hearth, cleaning her body and combing her hair, she gently laid her out for the undertaker. All the while she sang:
‘Come away with me, o human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand’
“Soon the otherworld will be greeting you, my little skylark, lovely lass! I’ll take good care of your little faery fae, Swynwr.”
The last thing Lettice did was to make a bouquet of dried birch, cypress and elder for her safe passage. She tied it with a black ribbon, and placed it in the hands of Ehedydd arranged in prayer upon her chest. “Mistress Morgana will know I have been with you this night – god speed you on your journey to the Otherworld”.
The sky was reddening deeper now, a shepherd’s warning she thought, as she hurried back down Shut Street, past Fountain Row and onto the main road back to Merlin’s Bridge. “I’ll need to find you a wet nurse my lovely lass, if you are going to have a chance in this world.”
The early Sunday bells of St Mary’s were ringing out a knell, three times two, as if they already knew that one more soul had been dispelled.

Note from Author:
The place names in this story are from my own Welsh Heritage, however, the rest is fiction. My imaginings of the 'Knowing' skills of my great x 3 Grandmother Lettice Evans.

Stay tuned for further stories from the 'Knowing Tree'.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Whirram Way: Chapter One - Mary's Song 1

Part A

The bells of St Mary’s rang out that day in May 1833 when Mary Evans was baptised, and the sky was whitewashed clean. There was a bustling and a jostling as David and Lettice carried their first born towards the altar for the blessing, there were many others doing their duty that day. Little Mary remained still and quiet in the Vicar’s arms, her pale blue eyes focussing on the droplets of water as they fell towards her.
‘She’s b’n here a’fore, I can tell!” Said her grandmother as she received the white clad infant from the Vicar.
‘She’ll be right in the world; you mark my words.”
Lettice smiled softly as she watched her daughter’s baptism, glancing to the back of the church where she knew her own mother would be standing! Sudden tears were joyful and sad, all at once, and she looked now upon her auburn-haired child, as radiant as any young mother should be.
“My own sweet Mary, my Monday child so fair of face, I pray you will be kind, gracious and Safe. One day you will meet your namesake, your gran, Elizabeth Mary and things will indeed be right in the world.”
Lettice grew thoughtful now and remembered what her mother had sung to her whenever she was sad.
“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
Lettice had learned that knowing the Way, was her burden, not a gift. The Whirrham Way, her family trait – strong in the maternal line – she also knew would be passed on to Mary.
Lettice and David made their way out of the church, beaming with pride, so pleased to be celebrating this first big event in their first child’s life. There would be many more children they thought but this small bundle had already made a huge impact on their lives.
This child’s safe arrival, long awaited these past five years, renewed her faith in the Way.
“You were both too young! God will grant you a child when the time is right Lettice,” her mother had said.
Lettice had miscarried two infants but had taken extra care in this pregnancy! Later she was to lose two more children, but this was yet to come! Tears now as she considered what the future might hold for her little changeling! Her fairy fae born in May!
When Mary was born, she had the caul, and it was said then she would ‘have the gift of second sight’! Elizabeth Mary took this as an omen, of bad things to come and she wanted to keep the caul hidden away. She was afraid for her granddaughter!
May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.
David knew his child was an innocent and destined for great things. Angry words had spoiled that happy birth day, in May. Yet collusion between the grandmothers enabled Elizabeth Mary to attend the baptism, even though relegated to the small apse at the back of St Mary’s. Lettice was content that both grandmothers were there that day but vowed to persuade her husband that there was wisdom in her mother’s caution! She had seen firsthand how prejudice and fear had made her mother’s life a real struggle in the small community.
Not everyone saw the ‘fae’ as blessed or gifted. A few unenlightened towns folk were suspicious and often would call out “witch” or “devil” to her on the market days, even though Elizabeth Mary tried not to be noticed, covering her head and shoulders with a shawl. This had been so for many years now, and Lettice had learned the wisdom of silence.
Keeping her own gift hidden was her only solution – but that had taken its own toll – and she often regretted her decisions based on fear. Lettice knew the ‘way’ and practiced in secret – the healing, the foretelling and the guiding. She vowed to pass these on to her Mary. She did not regret her love for David and gave thanks every day for her marriage, and now for her first-born child.
Mary learned to walk, to talk and began to understand the way as her mother taught her about the world. As young as 12 months Mary could walk for long periods before tiring, and she knew the names of the herbs in the garden, the birds in the trees and could recite these often. Mary would sit for hours in her favourite part of the kitchen garden where the cabbage butterflies fluttered, and the fairy dust motes sparkled when she squinted in the sun. She laughed as the tiny insects and bugs crawled over her hands as she played in the dirt.
By the age of two Mary quietly independent and fearless would run to the edge of the woods behind their cottage, looking back over her shoulder and listening for her grandmother’s call. The trees were bigger, gnarly and greyer in Fountain Wood, and many of the town folk would not enter at twilight fearing the shadows of this ancient forest. Mary held no such fear and would dance among the trunks of the trees, laughing and talking to them. She would run her hands over the knots and ridges of their bark, looking for signs. 
“Any Signs of fairy activity?” Grandmother Elizabeth Mary would ask.