Tuesday, May 15, 2012

grave post - Heather

I find it interesting that some people decide to write an obituary on their headstone. 
It certainly makes it easier to look up further information. 
Well, sometimes. This week, for Taphophile Tragics, we are still in St Mark's Cemetery in NOTL.

The March 28th, 1946 edition of The Acton Free Press notes that many friends here regretted to learn of the death last week of Mrs George Heather at the KW [Kitchener-Waterloo] hospital. She was the organizer of the Duke of Devonshire IODE and in the years since had been a welcome visitor and speaker at the meetings of the Chapter on several occasions.

Mrs Heather had worked with several war charities in England and Canada in both the first and second world wars and she organized the Red Cross in Kitchener during the Boer War and became the first secretary.

According to the London Gazette which provided various rankings of officers from the War Office, it was reported that George Abraham Heather, Gent. was to be Second Lieutenant as of August 1895 and Lieutenant in 1897. He is listed as a Captain while on board The Victorian in March of 1902 when he set sail for Southampton. The ship stopped off at St Lucia, St Helena and Gibralter before reaching Southampton  where it was due to depart again by mid May with some of the 10,000 more military personnel. His name also shows up in a google search as being on the shipping list for 1901, but it was another very long list and I gave up searching for his name. There was another Heather, a Lieut, listed who may have been a brother as it seems to be not such an usual name. By March of 1909, George A Heather, of the Duke of Connaught's Own Sligo Royal Field Artillery was granted the honorary rank of Major.

He was born in Ireland, in what was the largest parish in the county.
But it is his wife's many activities and accomplishments that adorn this headstone.


During WWI she did hospital work in England and Scotland. At her wedding to Maj George Heather back in 1918 in Seven Oaks Kent, 200 wounded Canadian veterans formed an arch of crutches as the couple left the church.

In recognition of her work she was made a Fellow of the Royal Empire Society and was made a vice president of the League of Mercy by Princess Mary.
And at the Silver Jubilee of King George V, she and her husband were among the guests invited to go to St Paul's Cathedral and lunch at St James Palace.
~Acton Free Press
With all of her commitments, it makes sense that she would not be willing to emigrate to the UK and that her husband might follow her to Canada. How his career fared after the end of WWI is unknown but at age 50, and having endured The Great War and The Boer War, he may have been ready for retirement. Both seem to have been very career oriented and married late in life (which explains the absence of children!). But how they ended up choosing Niagara-on-the-Lake as their final resting place is a bit of a mystery that I could not uncover.

(as a guide for everyone, but mostly the Australians........)
the purple bubble shows roughly where Niagara-on-the-Lake is located. As you can see it is very close to the border with the US (Ontario and New York). Acton is located where it says 'Halton Hills'. And Fergus, where Williamina was born, is a bit to the right of where it says 'Woolwich'. Ireland is far, far away off the upper right corner.

26 comments:

  1. That was one busy lady. The things you can do when you have no kids.

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    1. and she seemed to have quite a wide spectrum of interests - which included girls in the Guides.

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  2. A remarkable woman, perhaps Niagara-on-the-Lake held a special significance for this couple?

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    1. I imagine it must have. I gather she (they) did a lot of travelling with all that she was involved in.

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  3. It's so interesting to be able to find out some part of the lives of people from their gravestones...

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    1. it is a nice touch to be so informative!

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  4. Wow, what a fantastic monument full of so much information. Mrs Heather sounds like she was a wonderful person.

    Herding Cats

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    1. if I hadn't found that one newspaper article, I don't think I would have had much to add!

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  5. Mrs Heather sounds like a well respected and well loved woman.

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    1. she does. and they seemed to have loved her in Acton. I found no other obituaries.

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  6. For once the wife does not get short shrift on a gravestone.

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    1. exactly! I found that a little odd, but generous. I wonder who designed this stone and decided what to have written on it? It may have been the Major, but his wife died before him, yet is listed on the bottom half.

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  7. I thought it was going to be a romantic story about a young woman named Heather. It turned out to be something quite different.

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    1. I hope you weren't disappointed!
      anyway, I think the idea of those wounded soldiers making an arch of crutches is so incredibly touching.

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  8. What an interesting story, great read! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Some people really do lead interesting lives, don't they?

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  9. If this stone was engraved today, it would cost a pretty penny with all that wordage. I think that's why more people don't do things like this anymore. She did have a full life though and certainly a story worth reading!

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    1. You may have a good point there.
      Although I have noticed that the death notices in the newspapers, where you pay by the line, are getting longer and more detailed, but I guess that is still cheap in comparison to a stonemason.

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  10. wow, amazed how much you could find out! i often give up after a few searches...

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    1. I may have to start giving up sooner, too - this takes up so much time and other important activities are getting neglected :)

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  11. Replies
    1. yes, and I didn't even read it all when I was there - digital photography is great for this!

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  12. Indeed, digital photography means one never has to remember it all! And I sympathise with the time it takes to research. Happens to me each and every week. Character trait, I confess.

    Now that is interesting that she died first, yet is listed second. And who would have designed and prepared all the info on the headstone. It is a most handsome headstone.

    It all seems romantic. The crutches very much reminding me of Hemingway's Farewell to Arms of about the same era. And yet ... and yet ...

    Something is missing. Something is cold. Something is a bit bleak. Here are two people who did not marry until they were in their 50s. And Wilhelmina in particular, so very very keen to be involved, to be everywhere. Boer War, WW1, WW2. Men would have been everywhere.

    Could it be that she was more concerned with appearance than with reality? I know, I know. I am making a harsh assessment. But history can do that.

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    1. It is interesting that you have taken a different view from that of admiration for this woman's diverse interests and involvement.
      I do, however, feel that a headstone should be less of a list of accomplishments than a statement of love for who lies beneath.

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  13. A very informative headstone indeed! And what do you mean especially for the Australians? We know our geography :-)

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    1. that was actually included for Julie who mentioned somewhere about needing to get a map to familiarize herself with this area...

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