Two letters written from Grannie to Grandad Lane, one from either end of their son’s life. The first is written in 1921 from her family home at Ness where she is staying with their baby boy, who, she writes “is going to have his very first birthday away from his daddy, is not that sad?” It seems her husband is at home in Liverpool seeing to some business. It is without doubt the most passionate love letter I have ever read, and I would never have imagined my prim, prudish grandmother capable of such intense passion. She tells him that being away from him is like “our premarriage and war days over again … I used to feel I could just die for love of you … I couldn’t go through it again I would have to come to you if we all three had to die.”
As well as declaring the love that “burns brightly in my soul”, there are more mundane references to practicalities and the weather, and observations on wee Murray’s progress: ” You know, dearest, if I did not love as much as any woman loved a man our baby would not be such a sweet lovely darling”.
Years later, of course, they were parted, permanently. The second letter was written in 1942 just after the devastating loss of her son at sea, during the war. The letter accompanied a note of condolence that one of Murray’s naval colleagues had written to her, which she has been thoughtful enough to send on to her estranged husband. She writes:
Some kind lad has written this letter to us to my comfort and my torture, I cannot help thinking that perhaps you the father may like to read it – also his own last dear letter to us received after the fatal news. The light of my life has gone out with him, I weep and call on his name but – It is a source of comfort to know his dear body is at rest in a grave and his spirit with the Lord and that we shall see him again to be together forever.
Please return the letters as soon as possible, they will be my most cherished possession till I die.
These letters turned up in our attic in a suitcase that had belonged to Grandad Lane. The suitcase also contained letters written to him by my mother and her brother, after he had left them. My mum never mentioned these letters, and I can only imagine how she must have felt when she found them after his death: to know that, despite everything, he had kept these letters with him all his life. That he kept this love letter from Peggy is especially poignant (no letters from him to her have survived; she may have destroyed them). Perhaps he was not so hard-hearted after all. Perhaps he always wanted to come back, but felt unworthy of her. We’ll never know. (I also have letters that he wrote to my mum in his last years, when they were back in touch, thanking her for visiting him in hospital and signed from “One who has loved you since the first time he saw you, Father.”)
Peggy’s letter mentions her son’s grave, which she never got to see. Nearly 70 years later, I did; and that’s another story…