Above: Invitation to the Grant Family Gathering in Glasgow in June 2008, featuring a photo of my great grandparents James and Agnes Grant.
I am very grateful to my cousins on Dad’s side of the family, for the extensive research they have done into the Grant family history. Their enthusiasm culminated in this event (above) in June 2008 in Glasgow, organised by Dad’s cousin Doreen Grant and her niece Pat Thomson. Doreen and Pat managed to trace numerous descendants of our great grandparents, James and Agnes Grant, and gathered us all together for this memorable occasion. James and Agnes were married in 1881 and had 8 children, one of whom was my grandmother Alice. Their eldest child, however, was named John Doran Grant, which brings us back to the Dorans.
John and his wife Jessie Steel had 5 daughters, Margaret, Janet, Agnes, Patricia and Doreen. Agnes (“Nessie”) died in infancy, and the same fate was predicted for Janet, born prematurely in 1910 and not expected to survive. She fought back however, and despite serious illness (including scarlet fever, epilepsy and a weak heart) and numerous predictions of her early death by the medical profession, she defied them all and lived a full and active life to the age of 94. When my Dad began to write about his early childhood in Glasgow, Janet was inspired to do the same: like Dad, she had tremendous recall for the details of her early life and was a great story teller. Reading her memoirs recently, I found this reference to the Dorans, with more details of the brutality my Irish ancestors suffered:
“Around 1853 my grandfather, James Grant, was born, in Holywood, County Down, Ireland. I know nothing about his parents or family except he had a cousin, Patrick Doran, who was a lawyer and defended Catholics against alleged charges of breaking the law. When proved guilty their land was confiscated. One night, person or persons unknown caught him, tied him to the tail of a donkey, then beat the donkey until it kicked their victim to death”.
Janet also remembers her Irish relatives whom the family visited in 1920: “Cousins of Dad’s, Mary and Maggie Loughrin, whose brother had been killed in the Belfast shipyards the month before, officially put down to death by misadventure due to boisterous horseplay caused by the holiday spirit the day the yards closed for their annual holidays, 12th July, for the second fortnight in July. A crowd of “Black & Tans” lads had taken the brother and put him into a boiler that had been dried off for the holidays. When they returned later that day to release him, he had lost his reason and died a few days later”. This account corroborates the story of the “Laughlans” as related in my Grandad’s letter. The Loughrin sisters had a shop on the Falls Road in Belfast, where Janet remembered the shillelagh they kept under the counter.
There are happier memories, and I was delighted to read this account of my own Dad’s birth, when Janet was 3 years old:
“Just after Nessie got better and before her relapse and death, my Dad’s sister, Aunty Allie, gave birth to her first child, James. My Aunt and Uncle lived in Calder Street, across Cathcart Road from where we lived in Daisy Street. Mother took Margaret with her, leaving the baby and me with our Dad and went to see Aunty Allie’s new baby. Margaret was given a chocolate biscuit, which she told me about on her return. After mid-day dinner I decided I, too, would go and see the new baby, so I went round to Cathcart Road, stood against the wall just under the fire alarm and waited for the trams to stop coming, but they never did although I stood there for hours, so long, in fact, my parents and neighbours were out looking for me. Eventually, I decided the cars were never going to stop and, as I was now hungry, I would go home. The folk who had been looking for me were amazed when I returned and told them I had been so near they must have passed me several times without noticing the small still little figure under the fire alarm, which was like a big clockface on the wall. So all was well, but I didn’t get a chocolate biscuit!”
Janet herself had a very unusual life, summarised here in the family history compiled by her niece Pat Thomson:
Like most of her family, and my Dad’s, Janet left school at 14, and worked in a variety of clerical posts; she served as a Warden during the Second World War. She had a brief but happy marriage in 1957 to Owen Bogue, an Irishman from Five Mile town, who died suddenly of pneumonia just 17 months later. Then in 1969, when she was 59, Janet was taken ill in a clothes shop on Allison Street, where the Indian Sikh shopkeeper took care of her. They became firm friends and when Jagier returned to India some years later, he wrote and invited her to join him there. Janet and Jagier Chaman were married at St Pauls’ Church in Delhi in 1972. They spent many happy years together, travelling around the highlands and islands of Scotland with their mobile shop, and enjoyed a few years of retirement before Jagier’s sudden death in 1981. Janet was never alone, however, as she was always surrounded by a large and devoted extended family. She was a wonderful person and I have many happy memories of visiting her in her Govanhill flat, and listening to her many stories.
I also have a very clear memory of the first time I met Janet, when I was about 12 or 13 and she came to visit us in London. On first seeing me, she looked as if she had seen a ghost and, catching her breath, said to my dad, “Oh, she looks like Nellie”. “I know she does”, he replied quietly, and nothing more was said on the subject. “Nellie” was my dad’s sister Helen, who died of T.B. at the age of 18. This affected me deeply at the time, as Dad had never mentioned it (and never did again). I wonder about this now, as everyone has always told me I look like my Mum (I do), and I had never seen a picture of Helen – until this photo of my Dad and all his siblings turned up in recent years. It’s the only likeness of Dad’s sister I have ever seen, and I don’t think I look like her, but maybe I did at that age. Still, this is a wonderful photograph, with all of my uncles clearly recognisable in the boys’ cheeky faces! My Dad, the eldest, sits authoritatively in the middle of the group.