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Monday, 15 September 2014

A Tribute to my Mother Jean




My dear mother Jean Margaret Cruickshank passed away on 19 August 2014, after about a year of rapidly deteriorating health. She has featured quite frequently in my blog posts here, because she was the instigator and owner of many photograph albums and scrapbooks documenting her life from childhood onwards. I'm very lucky to now have these albums and have included many of the old family photographs from these collections in my blog over the last twelve months or so. It's great to be able to give them an 'airing' after all these years of being filed neatly away.

Jean was born Jean Margaret Morrison on 21 September 1926, the third child of John Morrison and Mona Forbes. As well as her older sister Pat and older brother Ken, three more sons would be born to John and Mona. Four of the six children including Jean were born at the Morrison family home at 2 Aylmer St, Christchurch NZ. They were a close and happy family, although that happiness was marred by the death of son and brother Ken in World War 2. Jean was the last surviving member of the family.

Young Jean did well at school, coming Dux of her class in her final year, as did her older sister Pat. Their father John was a lawyer who had educated himself at night school after leaving school aged 14, and he greatly encouraged his two daughters in their academic achievement. Jean subsequently obtained a degree in teaching and completed a course in speech therapy. She  then worked with deaf children in Christchurch for some time before marrying Ian Cruickshank in 1950. Jean and Ian spent a year in England where Ian had a research fellowship, and then when he obtained a position as a research scientist in Canberra, they moved from New Zealand to Australia in 1956, with their small daughter and baby son. Another daughter was born in Canberra.

After working for 26 years as a teacher and speech therapist in Canberra at Koomarri School, a special school for developmentally disadvantaged children, Jean retired with Ian to the Central Coast of New South Wales in the early 1990s. The weather there was much milder than Canberra in both summer and winter, and they were able to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle, make new friends and have fun with visiting grandchildren, while still keeping in regular touch with many old friends from Canberra and NZ, incuding several whom Jean had known since beginning high school and others whom she had met at college. Over the years Jean had also became life-long friends with a lady who was one of her original students when she first began teaching teaching deaf children in Christchurch in 1948.

Jean was a keen cook and her children and grandchildren always looked forward to her special treats, especially at Christmas time, when she made her signature dishes, such as bacon and egg pie and grasshopper pie, together with large batches of NZ favourites, for example kiwi crisps, Afghan biscuits, gingerbread, shortbread, chocolate fudge cake, brandy snaps, bumblebees and meringues, to name just a few.They also liked having fish and chips and feeding the pelicans with Nan at The Entrance, and the fact that she always carried a bag with peppermints which she called pep pills for car journeys with her grandchildren. Claire her oldest grandchild has fond memories of 'Nan's fabulous yellow Daihatsu Charade', which became Claire's first car after Jean upgraded to a newer model.

 After Ian passed away in 2000, Jean set up an annual science prize in his name at his old high school in Rangiora NZ, where he had originally been inspired by his science master to pursue a career in scientific research. She continued to enjoy life and to participate fully in lots of local activities, such as croquet, ten pin bowling, and various groups at her local church. She was a committed member of a Central Coast peace group. She attended computer class and learnt to email, Skype and text and was thus able to share photos and keep in regular and instant communication with her wide-spread circle of family and friends, now distributed over several continents. She also travelled overseas quite regularly.  We lived about an hour away in Sydney, and virtually needed to make an appointment if we wanted to catch her at home for a visit! Sadly her health began to decline however, and in April last year she moved down to Melbourne to a nursing home near where we now live, because she was no longer able to look after herself independently.

 I've posted about Jean's childhood, for example here and here, about her siblings Pat, Ken and Graeme. about her college days and past boyfriends and about her wedding, honeymoon, early married lifeexcursions and celebrations with friends. I've also written several times about the year my parents and I spent in Cambridge from late 1953, for example  here and here , and about our early family life in Canberra, ACT, here and here. If Jean didn't feature in a family photograph, it was probably because she was behind the lens taking the shot.

Toddler Jean with her big sister Pat and older brother Ken who is wearing a sailor suit, c. 1927
(Note the connection to this week's prompt)

Jean  in Christchurch with her father John Morrison and baby daughter, 1953.

Jean reading to six of her nine grandchildren, March 1988

Gingerbread baking with NZ granddaughter Velella, Xmas 2010

Jean enjoying a family lunch with four of those same grandchildren from the previous photo, together with a couple of their spouses, and mine. Former baby Laura who was sitting on her Nan's knee above is next to yours truly, 4th from left. October 2013

We are planning a memorial service for Jean next month, to be held at the church she regularly attended on the NSW Central Coast, and I'll be including some of these photos in a reflective presentation on her life. 

This coming weekend on Sunday 21 September in London proud new parents Claire and Jonny are having a naming ceremony for Jean's little namesake, her second great granddaughter Isabelle Jean, and I'm lucky enough to be able to go over there and take part, together with our other daughter (the baby in red), aka Aunty Laura. Sadly Jean did not get to meet either of her two great granddaughters, born in 2013 and 2014 and who live far away in Canada and England respectively, but it seems fitting that the chosen date for Isabelle's naming ceremony is also Jean's birthday, on which she would have turned 88. 

Here is a selection of photos of Jean that have previously featured in this blog. 

Thank you for everything Mum.

Much loved and greatly missed by all her family and friends.

Forget-me-not photo, taken by Jean's daughter Louisa, in her garden

Vale Jean

Friday, 12 September 2014

Hanging out with friends

The casual poses of the men in the prompt photo made me think immediately of this photograph of my Uncle Ken and his NZ Air Force mates. I've featured it before so I will just refer you to what I said about it back then, in my tribute to Ken which you can find here, if you didn't already read or don't remember it. Ken is on the right, smoking not drinking, but I think there's a similarity all the same. Suffice to say, all four were killed in World War 2.

I haven't found a lot of casual photos in my albums, but the next one sort of fits the bill. The label just says 'Cass, 1945' which does not mean much to me, but I think these men could be Air Force trainees, possibly out on some exercise in the Cass area in Canterbury NZ, because they look to be wearing khaki. My lanky father Ian Cruickshank is on the far right. He and another fellow are pulling on a rope, perhaps as a way to manoeuvre a pile of wood? The others less than helpfully have their feet up on the pile, and generally look either cheerful or bemused. Conscription was in force in New Zealand during World War 2, and while Ian was at university and luckily didn't have to serve overseas, he did serve 133 days within NZ in the Air Force before being discharged in 1945. He was 21 when the war ended, a year younger than Ken would have been, had he not been killed 2 years earlier.

To even things up between the sexes, here are a couple of my mother and her friends, one at the beach and one more formal at a wedding, but still having fun. Again these photos are from the 1940s.

Jean standing above her friends, who are skylarking on the rocks and sand at Piha Beach near Auckland NZ.The girl on the right has something in her right hand, but it's not a bottle or a cigarette packet, I'm sure.

Let them eat cake! Jean is at far left, and the bride Margaret is second from right. The lady in the centre could be her mother, because she looks older and is not named in Jean's album. The other three were good friends of Jean, and I think Colleen, the lady in front on the right, is the same person who is wearing shorts in the other photo. They all look to be enjoying a happy occasion.

Here's a fun link to finish, even if it is an advertisement for Irish whiskey :

Pretty short and sweet from me this week, but for more poses, casual or otherwise from other Sepians, just  click here.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Itinerant artists and street perfomers I have known

I have no photos of monkeys, itinerant or otherwise, and was almost not going to post this week, but then the concept of itinerant workers made me think of my uncle Graeme Morrison and another more distant relative, Jon Petrie,  both of whom were accomplished artists who painted for their living at certain times.  
Jon Petrie was a son of Frank Petrie and grandson of Jessie Petrie, who was the sister of my great grandfather Charles Murray Cruickshank.  I've written about Jessie previously. Jon worked in various parts of the world as a photographer and columnist, but he was also a mural painter, and I understand that he would not infrequently offer to paint something for the hotel or place he was visiting in return for his accommodation.  Here is an example of one of his works, which was painted in situ at the Reef Lodge, Sigatoka, Fiji. This establishment doesn't appear to exist any more, so presumably neither does the mural.

Here's another of his paintings, this time of boats somewhere. Boat owners would no doubt also be interested in a painting of their prized possessions, but this may or may not have been painted for that reason.

Below is a snap of my Uncle Graeme's studio, which he built in the back garden of his parents' family home in Christchurch New Zealand, c. 1951. That may be Graeme sitting on the step, together with his mother Mona and his sisters Pat and Jean.

The caption to this newspaper clipping describes how Graeme would pay his way when travelling in the USA, by painting houses and then offering to sell them to the owners. I'm not sure if he painted them first and then asked the owners if they would like to buy them, or if he painted on commission, but it could have worked both ways. His mother noted at the top of the clipping that they got a great surprise to find the photo in their local Christchurch paper, the Star, one night in the late 1950s.

Graeme and his wife Ann settled in California but at one stage in the 1970s or 1980s  they decided to return to NZ. To do this Graeme held a garage sale to get rid of his remaining artwork, so my mother who happened to be visiting them at the time bought the following three paintings and drawings.  They subsequently returned to California, where Graeme passed away in 1988. Consquently his family have very few paintings, but hopefully some of his work still graces the walls of some attractive Californian homes.

Street performers in the family
Our son Kim taught himself to juggle at age 10 and it wasn't long before he became quite skilled at juggling balls (5/6), clubs, rings, knives, fire torches etc. His older sister Claire picked up the balls soon after, and little sister Laura did likewise a few years later. Our other son Strahan took a while longer but now he too can juggle 3 balls quite well. It's very good for coordination and even I could do the basic juggle at one stage. So here for your entertainment are a few collages of family juggling shots from the 1990s in various guises and locations. Kim sometimes earnt himself pocket money by busking at Circular Quay on Sydney Harbour. He and Claire joined a juggling club in the city where they learnt club passing, numbers and all sorts of complicated juggling tricks.

Unicycling seems to go with juggling, so that was the next skill to be mastered, and then came unicycle hockey, which looks chaotic but is fun to play and to watch.

We even attended a week long juggling convention in Las Vegas in January 1996 while on holiday there (photos on left of 3rd collage). Some of the artists who performed nightly at the hotels would come and join in with the amateurs after they finished their acts each night. The three centre shots were taken at Darling Harbour in Sydney, where Claire and her brother earnt money teaching juggling to passers-by at a juggling booth during a couple of school holidays. Top right is a line-up with cousins in Paihia NZ, although only two of the kids could actually juggle at this stage, but the others had fun trying! Kim showed his school mates how to unicycle and Claire had a few jobs as a juggling clown at children's parties. These days Laura is a primary school teacher, and she occasionally brings out the unicycle and balls to give the kids a demonstration, but otherwise the clubs, knives, rings, diabolo and unicycles are here in the shed or attic, just waiting for the next generation to come along and have a go, whenever the time is right.

Performing and busking, 1996. B&W photos taken and developed by yours truly.

Now for more performers, artists, monkeys and other entertaining takes of all kinds on the topic this week , just click here.

                          ps. I'm not sure that moneys can really juggle, but here is one that makes a pretty good attempt!  

And finally, as a couple of people have expressed an interest in my Uncle Graeme's shed painting, which has been hanging on my wall ever since my mother gave it to me in the 1980s, here is another one that you might also like, which my brother owns. Neither are for sale, sorry to say. I understand that Graeme's children don't have any of their father's work, so perhaps I will leave mine to one of them.