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Granny had few worldly goods, but a wealth of goodness

Although she, frequently, described herself as ” a poor, lone woman”, in our family, my grandmother was better known as Amazing Grace. Long before Women’s Lib, the late Grace Jamieson was an independent woman, capable of meeting any challenge head-on. Her inner stength, coupled with an abiding faith in her Lord guided her through a life marred by tragedy.

My grandmother was one of four children born to Thomas and Jane Hutchings. She grew up in the rural community of Fairmount, near Elmbrook and, at the age of 18, became the bride of Albert Jamieson, who was almost 20 years her senior. An orphan, he had been adopted by Robert and Mary Ann Jamieson, when two years of age. He had spent his life, working on his adoptive father’s farm and, consequently, possessed few worldly goods. Since he and his new bride were unable to afford a home of their own, they began married life in the farm home of Albert’s parents. Shortly after the birth of their daughter, Mary Ann, it was decided that Albert and Grace needed a home of their own. The couple purchased a small Chuckery Hill farm owned by Robert Jamieson, who had agreed to hold a mortgage on the property.

Just 15 months after the arrival of her daughter, Mary Ann, my grandmother gave birth to a second child – my mother, Violet. Despite two babies to tend and a long list of farm chores, granny still found time to bake bread, cakes and pies to sell at the Picton market, every Saturday morning. In addition to her own household responsibilities, she assumed the role of local midwife. A skilled practical nurse, she also helped to care for the sick and comfort the dying.

Seven years after my mother’s birth, my grandparents welcomed their third child, a son named Robert, for his grandfather. It was not long after the arrival of their son that Albert was diagnosed with a serious heart condition. Concerned for him, my grandmother assumed greater rsponsibilities on the farm. She began to shovel out the cow stable, a heavy chore for a woman of her small stature.

When her husband’s condition quickly worsened, it was agreed that the farm must be sold. My grandparents bought a house on The Commons (Hill Street) in Picton, sold off their livestock and prepared to move. Only days before they were to take up residence in their new home, my grandfather died suddenly, leaving granny alone to raise the couple’s young family. Undaunted. she supervised the move to Picton and began to look for work.

She placed an advertisement for boarders after setting up a cot for herself in the hall, in order to create a second spare bedroom. Two young men responded to the ad, one of them an employee at a Picton bank and the other a young sailor named Jimmy Haylock, who would one day marry her youngest daughter Violet.

While the income from two boarders was helpful, it was not sufficient to run the household. Granny continued her search for employment and, in the years that followed, found a number of casual jobs. She worked at the Picton Seed House, did wallpapering, cleaned for several well-to-do Picton families, cooked on a steamboat, and sometimes, found work as a practical nurse. Shortly before my birth, she took her first permanent job in the laundry of the old Picton Hospital on Hill Street. Granny worked there until she was 70, the age at which she became eligible for the Old Age Pension.

Just a few months after her retirement, life dealt her a cruel blow. Tragically, her oldest daughter Mary was killed. A woman of great faith, granny became the rock for the rest of her family. It was she who gave comfort during this dark time. Her strength carried us through and helped all of us to cope with Aunt Mary’s violent death.

Despite the many misfortunes that dogged her life, granny’s faith in her Lord never waivered. She read her Bible, daily, and thanked Him for all that was good in her life. Although her home was modest and her possessions few, she remained quick to share them with others in need.

Our family home was directly across the street from my grandmother’s house. As a child, I ran back and forth between these two households so often that they became as one in my mind. I delighted in the fact that granny often invited me to have supper with her. An excellent cook, she usually allowed me to choose the menu. Invariably, I asked for chicken dumplings or pancakes. She happily obliged.

As she grew older, my grandmother often followed up her supper invitations with the unsettling words “You won’t always have granny’s house to come to.” With the wisdom of age, she realized that one day I would look back and remember our many suppers together and wish for a return of those happy yesterdays.

When she decided to leave her Hill Street home and enter a retirement residence, granny took her usual no-nonsense approach to this unhappy milestone in her life. After telling my mother and uncle of her plans, she placed a FOR SALE sign in the window of her sun porch. Upset by the knowledge that granny’s home would soon be owned by strangers, I surreptitiously added the word “PUPPIES” above her sign. Several days passed before she discovered my handiwork.

A short time afterward, granny sold her house and moved to Rest Haven the new retirement residence that had just opened in the former Picton hospital. She would spend the remainder of her days in the building where she had worked, for so many years.

I visited my grandmother, regularly, at Rest Haven and sometimes took her for a Sunday drive. A newly licensed driver, occasionally, I became disoriented when travelling the rural roads of the county. On one of my outings with granny, I lost my bearings and had no idea of where I was. I only knew that we had passed through Demorestville earlier in our drive. When I finally confessed that I was lost, it was Amazing Grace who informed me that I was in Bethel.

Granny remained at Rest Haven for 11 years. She was just two months away from her 90th birthday when she passed away, following a brief illness. She had no money or worldly goods to bequeath to the members of her family, yet all of us were richer for having known her.

Filed Under: Margaret Haylock-Capon

About the Author: Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon.

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