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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Doorsteps: family gatherings and stories of love and loss, and of then and now

I didn't really think I had many photos of people framed in doorways or porches, but on closer examination my mother's albums come to my rescue again.  I could single out just one, but I'm not good at choosing, so will include a few of them here.

Here are my grandparents Mona and Jack Morrison on the porch of their weatherboard home at 2 Aylmer St Somerfield, with their two oldest children Patricia and Kenneth, in about 1925. My mother Jean was the next child to arrive, being born the following year.

Kenneth Forbes Morrison, the baby in the photograph above, enlisted and became a pilot in the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Aged only 19, he was a Flight Sergeant in the 78th Squadron RAF, but tragically Ken and all his crew were killed when the Halifax he was flying was shot down over Wuppertal Germany on 25 June 1943. Sister Jean was sixteen, and has told me she remembers the day they received news of his death as if it were yesterday.  The crew members' names appear in one of a large number of books of remembrance maintained for all those RAF members who have died in conflicts worldwide. These books line the walls of the RAF Church of St Clement Danes, London, and are well worth a visit.

 The second photo was taken just in front of the Aylmer St porch, and shows Jack with his father Daniel and brother Arnold, who must both have come down to Christchurch for some occasion. Daniel and his wife Mary Bridget Morrissey emigrated from Cork in 1875 with their first baby daughter,changed their surname to Morrison,  and had another fourteen children in the district of Canvastown, Marlborough NZ. Daniel began his working life as a messenger boy in Cork, and retired as a much respected company secretary of a local cheese factory. A large brood indeed, but in those days babies just happened, and four of the Morrison children died in infancy. Of the remaining sons, Bill, the eldest, was a farmer, and three of his brothers became lawyers, including the two above, but missing from any future family gatherings would be their brother Austin Lindsay, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme. On Sept 9th 1916 he wrote his last letter home: 'If anything should happen to me try and bear it Mother, as cheerfully as possible, just for my sake.  I can't write any more, there is a great deal I would like to say but don't know how to; I send my fondest love to all and hope to meet you all again.  Farewell now Mother mine, with fondest love from your son Austin.xxxxxxxx. '
Lest We Forget
Next are three photos taken when Mona and daughter Jean visited Mona's sister Ruby and her husband Will in about 1935. Will Berry and his son Jack posed in the doorway of their Invercargill home.

The Invercargill home to which the arched doorway is attached
A couple of charmers: Jack, right, with his older brother Doug, still in the doorway
 Sadly Jack [John Waldwyn Berry], born in 1920, was to be killed in 1943 in Italy. The report from the Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database records that "[At] 8:00 am on 21 November 1943, Corporal Berry and two others crossed the Sangro River. Arriving on the further bank, Berry left his men behind and went on alone to the foot of a cliff. He left his gun and then, apparently, climbed the cliff unarmed. He did not return, and nothing more was heard of him until months later when his grave was discovered near Chieti, Italy". So there was to be equal heartbreak for sisters Mona and Ruby,  mothers of cousins Ken and Jack.

On a happier note, here are my paternal grandparents Oliver and Myrtle Cruickshank, standing in the alcove of their home in Rangiora NZ, in 1949, and then no doubt one of them has taken a shot of their son Ian and his fiancee Jean in the same setting.  Jean has captioned the photos accordingly.

Mr and Mrs Cruickshank
'A future Mr and Mrs'

The Cruickshank family home in Park St Rangiora. Granddad Oliver was a keen gardener.

Back in the Aylmer St porch a few months later, we see Mona and Jack again, all dressed and ready for the wedding of their daughter Jean to Ian Cruickshank on 22 April 1950.

Here too are  Aunties Bess and Flo, two more sisters of Mona, also set to go to their niece Jean's wedding.

 Finally, here's a doorway photograph taken in far off Turriff Aberdeenshire, ancestral home of my Cruickshank ancestors. During the year spent in the UK in 1953/4, my parents visited the mothers of all the crew members who had perished with Ken. We also called in on some relatives like my great great Aunty Kitty in Margate, as discussed in  a previous post, and also my great grandfather's cousin, George Morrison Cruickshank, who ran the chemist shop in Turriff, where we stayed in a flat above the shop for a few nights.  Pictured in the doorway with a small yours truly are George, born 1874, and his daughter Janet, born 1919.

 Amazingly just a couple of weeks ago another Cruickshank descendant in Invercargill NZ showed me this 'matching' postcard that George had sent to her family back in the 1920s. On the back George wrote that it showed him standing in his shop doorway, with his little daughter Janet standing on the kerbside.

High St, Turriff, 2003. 

 The Cruickshank pharmacy in Turriff is still run by Alan, one of George's grandsons. We met him there but didn't think to pose in the doorway.

For more doorstop gatherings and reflections, go to Sepia Saturday 203


  1. Your mother's photo album certainly came in handy with some wonderful pictures. The one of the Berry brothers, Doug & Jack, is especially poignant. Two handsome happily grinning fellows, but even so many years later, knowing one didn't make it much beyond the photograph is still so sad a thought.

  2. Yourre right about that pair of charmers, You just can't help smiling back at them.

  3. A lovely tribute to so many of your family and your title " stories of love and loss" says it all - a very evocative choice of words. It was so sad to read of young Kenneth shot down In the war and then the poignant letter written by Austin just before his death on the Somme. .

  4. So sad that so many men died before their lives really began. I especially like the photo taken in the shop entry way.

  5. A post that show how small the world is really but such a shame that war figures so tragically in the story.

    1. Yes, New Zealanders were not backward in patriotically answering the call to defend the mother country, and even those born and bred in NZ would refer to England as Home.

  6. Isn't it funny how, when you look, you discover you have far more doorway photos than you thought you had. So often the doorways are the unsung background filler

  7. Oh, how sad! The loss of two of your doorway men to war...when will we ever learn?

  8. a lovely display of doorways and sad but commemorative family history; I read every word...Even the photo atop your blog speaks "magnificent doorway" I understand the tragic loss of George all too well because my father, a WWII pilot and his entire crew went down in the Atlantic 4 months before my birth, no trace ever found either.

  9. An appropriate end to 'Remembrance Day' week with some great photos and words

  10. Aww.. Austin's letter made me want to cry. I agree with you on Jack and Doug :) The auntie with the purse had poise like Queen Elizabeth's.


  11. My thoughts echo all of the above. Charmers. So many losses. The poignant letter from Austin ...

  12. That first shot is so very lovely. And I love the one showing the shop windows.

  13. I love the architecture of the Invercargill home. Some day you must take us through the front door!

  14. Oh dear all those fine young men lost - it’s very fitting that your post should lead to them being remembered. Some fine doorway poses as well!

  15. A lovely post for those lives lost. Great photos, of such happy times. The shop window which appears like a book store, is very inviting!

  16. Goodness Jo! A wonderful collection of family stories and photos. The bit I found most fascinating was that your parents visited all the families of the crew members who were shot down with Ken. What an amazing thing to do.