This lovely postcard-sized pen and ink sketch of a cheeky terrier peeking over a ledge (windowsill? balcony? verandah?) bears the legend “Teneriffe 1889” and what appears to be a Fry signature. Closer inspection however (with the aid of a magnifying glass) reveals the “signature” to read “Gypsy Fry,” presumably the name of the little dog. Given the date and place, it is fairly safe to assume this to be another example of Margaret Fry‘s artistic accomplishment. The Frys owned an estate in Tenerife to which they would retreat for the British winter, as Margaret’s husband suffered from tuberulosis; he died and is buried there.
“Gypsy” was evidently a popular name for Fry family animals. I was delighted to come across this photograph in the archives, with a caption that enables me at last to put a face to the woman whose hundred-year-old artwork I have been enjoying so much:
Assuming “M.J.F” stands for Margaret Jane Fry, this is the lady herself, seated sidesaddle on a mare named Gipsy at “LLyn Derw Woods” (sic). Llwyn Derw was the Welsh home of Margaret’s family, the Horman-Fishers.
It is hardly surprising that Margaret was able to paint and draw so well. Ladies of her class developed these skills as a matter of course, having little else to occupy their time. So I think it is time to move away from the aristocratic side of my family history for a while, and pay some attention instead to my working-class, socialist roots, of which I am far more proud. The Usmeum may be full of fascinating artefacts from the richer seam of my maternal grandfather‘s family; wealthy people, after all, have so many more possessions to leave behind them. But I feel compelled now to turn the focus back to my parents’ lives. Lives which may have been materially poorer than those of my mother’s genteel ancestors, and yet were so much richer in so many other ways.