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Monday, 17 March 2014

Empty Chairs


I included a couple of statues in my blog last week, so now I'm simply going to focus on those chairs in the current prompt. I imagine they were awaiting the arrival of dignitaries for a speech concerning the Jefferson Monument.



Here is a recent photo of an old family heirloom. This sweet little chair is of particular significance to my family history, because it was made by my great great grandfather Adam Cruickshank for his daughter and eldest child Jessie. It's a child's rocking chair, and no doubt Jessie loved rocking in it. Perhaps she protectively guarded it from her seven younger brothers, because it's still in very good condition, and is now greatly treasured by Jessie's granddaughter Joyce.  If Joyce's grandchildren and great grandchildren are allowed to use it, I'm sure they would be carefully supervised!

Jessie Ann Cruickshank was born in Canada in 1856. Her parents Adam and Charlotte had travelled to Canada from Monquhitter Aberdeenshire, but apparently decided that the climate wasn't good for their health, and returned to Scotland for about four years before emigrating again in 1863. This time they set out for the port of Bluff in the far south of New Zealand aboard the ship New Great Britain, with their two children Jessie and William, together with Adam's brother William and his wife Jane and family, and Adam and William's widowed mother Janet Cruickshank, nee Mackie. They settled in the Gore district where Adam became a successful farmer and had six more sons, several of whom helped him to run the farm. A painting of his farm, named Oakdale, by Jessie's daughter Charlotte, who was an accomplished artist, can be found here. My great grandfather Charles Cruickshank, born in nearby Invercargill in 1866, was the fourth born son of Adam and Charlotte.

Adam, Charlotte and family, c. 1870. Daughter Jessie standing at rear, with Charles on his father's knee  The other sons shown here in order of age would be William, George, Adam and baby  Richard, with two more yet to come.

William and Charlotte Cruickshank, with Adam's older brother William.




Adam and Charlotte Cruickshank with their children and their families on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary in 1906. Adam seems to have favoured the same style of 'wrap-around' beard all his life, but it looks more distinctive in white.



Jessie Cruickshank married Isaac Petrie, a master mariner, and she lived to be 101 before passing away in Invercargill in 1957. No doubt she had some wonderful family stories to tell. The second photograph below shows Jessie celebrating her 100th birthday. She's seated, although not on that little rocking chair I'm sure. We were lucky enough to be able to listen to a short recording of a radio interview conducted with her on that momentous occasion in 1956, which very coincidentally happened to be repeated on NZ radio shortly before we were over there. If you'd like to hear Jessie speak for a couple of minutes, just click here, go to the first hour of the program and then if you move the slider along you can pick her up around the 38th minute mark.There were a few more verses of the poem that Jessie was able to recite, which are transcribed in full at the end of a diary of the voyage of the New Great Britain here, but she did pretty well for a 100 year old lady!

Jessie and Isaac Petrie and family outside their family home in Invercargill NZ. Elder son Arnold was killed in World War 1. Elder daughter Charlotte on the far left trained to become an artist at the Slade School of Art in London,and also lived to be 100. Daughter Gladys was also artistic, and she became an opera singer, living into her 90s. Younger son Frank was the only one of the four to marry and have children. His daughter Joyce generously shared these old family photographs with me. 



Jessie and Frank with their first three children, c.1898. Little Charlotte is sitting on a rocking horse here, perhaps also made by her grandfather Adam, who lived with the family in his final years.



Jessie Petrie, nee Cruickshank, on her 100th birthday in 1956



185 Empty Chairs
Last year, after we met Joyce and were able to see Jessie's rocking chair and hear that recording of her voice, we spent a night in Christchurch, the town where I was born, and were saddened to see how damaged the centre of the city was and still is, following the major earthquakes that struck in 2010 and 2011. The installation below is a poignant memorial to the one hundred and eighty five lives that were tragically lost as a result of this natural disaster. The empty chairs placed on the site of a fallen church create a very moving monument to all those people who were killed, much like the white bikes that are sometimes positioned where a cyclist has lost his or her life in an accident. Unlike the chairs in the prompt photo above, these chairs will never be occupied.

185 Empty Chairs, Christchurch NZ

              There are a number of stirring video tributes to the people of Christchurch to be found online, for example this one set to the stirring music of Bruce Springsteen, but in accordance with the theme of this blog, here's Don McLean, with his song Empty Chairs.



For more blogs from other Sepians on Monuments, Statues, and perhaps more chairs, just take a seat here


23 comments:

  1. Interesting how you began and ended with chairs and provided a lot of family history in between.

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  2. Very much enjoyed your post. The rocking chair is beautiful along with the stories to follow and how marvelous you have access to a recording of Jessie's voice. I used to record my immediate family opening presents on Christmas mornings. Then, after all the gifts were opened, we'd sit around listening to ourselves - our exclamations of surprise & often odd & funny remarks & laugh ourselves silly. It became a great family tradition. But the greatest thing about it is I can still hear my father's voice & especially his laugh. He had the most wonderful booming laugh. Thanks for sharing such a lovely story.

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  3. Well done Jo. A lovely post about your family (and a chair).

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  4. A fine post. One of the advantages of checking the posts out early, I am discovering, is that it provides some useful hints on how to interpret the theme.

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  5. It always amazes me how much travelling some of our ancestors did before they eventually settled in one location.

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  6. Such a good post, Jo! Loved those old photographs; being able to follow Jessie through all those years was great! Longevity runs in your family...

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  7. A lovely family story between the chairs. You are lucky to have such old photographs.

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  8. Those Cruickshank men surely knew how to grow a beard! My fav picture is Jessie and Frank with the 3 children -- especially love Charlotte on the rocking horse and that she and her brother have pets. So cute.

    The symbolism of the empty chairs is powerful. In Oklahoma City, a field of empty chairs serves as a memorial to the victims and survivors of the bombing of the Murrah Building in 1995.

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  9. You are so lucky to have such interesting and very old photos...sigh.

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  10. Jo, I loved the snap of Jesse on her 100th. I have not seen a bent wood (rocker), it is great. I especially loved the picture of Jesse and the family home, absolutely perfect. Can you tell us who is hiding back on the front porch?

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    1. Sorry no, not sure, but it could be Jessie's mother Charlotte Cruickshank, or maybe it was a housekeeper. Jessie didn't have any sisters, apart from one who died as a baby.I must ask my cousin Joyce about that.

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  11. Oh my goodness, I had forgotten all about that Don McLean song. I had that album. Must have been my freshman year in college.

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  12. What a lovely nostalgic trip with your family photos. I loved the one taken on the golden anniversary.

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  13. That's the first rocking horse I've seen without a head. Nice chair. I too have a chair, the one my father and grandfather used as children.

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    1. I think it sort of has a very little head at the front, but then the handles above are a lot more substantial.

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  14. What a lovely story with photos to go with it. That is a beautiful family portrait.

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  15. What a cleverly crafted post Jo; full of interesting pictures and stories and nicey rounded off with the empty chairs as a stark reminder of lost lives. You are so lucky to have that family heirloom and all the stories of the family to go with it.

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  16. Chairs, chairs, everywhere there were chairs and such a delightful bit of life you bring to them. Great photos as well, especially all those flowers surrounding the birthday girl.

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  17. The chairs remind me of the memorial in Oklahoma City. Very sad.

    And those are all wonderful photos. Real character comes from each. A fascinating story too.

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  18. I thought you were lucky to have that beautiful old chair and then I saw the fantastic collection of photos going so far back, and then the recording!
    Wow - how wonderful to have in your family collection

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  19. Wonderful! What a lovely collection of photos. That painting is impressive too. I would like to see it full size

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  20. A terrific story, Jo, with a neat arc using the chair. I liked Jessie's family portrait with the pets and birds and enjoyed listening to her voice reciting poetry too.

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