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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