Monday, October 17, 2011

In Honour of an Amazing Woman; My Grandmother Barbara Renwick

The story of my Grandmother Barbara Caird Renwick

April 03, 1920 – September 11, 2011

My Grandmother Barbara Caird Renwick was an incredible woman whom I admire. She always thought I was crazy traveling all over the world but she lived through the war, married a Canadian soldier and left everyone she knew for a world so foreign and unknown. This was a time when there was no internet, no phones and plane travel was rare. She sailed with her son Bill on the Queen Mary from Southampton, England. She left the bustling cities of Great Britain and a house with two washrooms for the Renwick farm in Keene, Ontario with no indoor plumbing. Today there isn’t much in Keene so I couldn’t imagine what was there in 1946. All this and I am the crazy one?

Barbara Renwick was one of eleven children. She grew up on 78 Leven Road in Kennoway, Fife, Scotland. Her father died when she was young and her mother remarried. They had two sections of terraced houses with two bathrooms to fit all the children.

Barbara often took care of the younger kids and she was a favourite amongst her brothers. She left home quite young to work. One of her jobs was working in a Whiskey factory. When the war broke out she followed her brothers and joined the forces. She signed up with the Women’s Auxiliary Air force and was based out of England. She met my Grandfather while they were both on leave. She was scrubbing the floors of the house when the Canadian soldiers came in. She hated Canadians and she didn’t quite like him at first. She spoke her mind quite a bit and even let the lazy loud American Soldiers have it on the streets of London. She told them off and told them where to go. She loved to go to the dances during the war and she loved Vera Lynn. She however eventually started to date my Grandfather and they got married in a Manse. Her sister Chris was the maid of Honour and her brother Ron was the best man. Billy Smart was the minister. There was no honey moon, they both returned to the war.

She came over to Canada leaving from Southampton on the Queen Mary arriving in Halifax with a band playing greeting the war brides. My Grandfather picked her up in Belleville.

She lived in Keene Ontario and had four children William, Lorna, Ron and Marion. She has ten Grandchildren, nine Great Grandchildren and two Great great grandchildren. (My mother got the numbers wrong by accident)

As kids my brother and I called her Sassy, that was Pierre and I don’t know why. Eventually we realized that was a bit strange and she was just Grandma. She gave the best hugs and always had treats for us. Yet I feared getting in trouble from her because she would tell me she was going to give me a licking, and I thought that meant she was going to lick me.

I always thought I got my feistiness from the Gaudreau side (if you know the Gaudreaus you will know what I am talking about) but perhaps I got some of that from her as well. I know that is where I got my frugality from. I swear her hang bag must have been lined because she always snuck leftovers from restaurants in it. Her freezer would be full of boxes of chocolates that she was saving if my Grandfather hadn’t gotten to them.

Her favourite colour was green, she was Scotch through and through, and she always loved her country and wore her kilt with pride. She loved Pipers and she would have loved a Bag Piper here today. Her favourite trip she went on was to Hawaii. She loved plain vanilla ice cream and fish and chips especially if they were made like in the old country. She loved the littlest Hobo, watching hockey, baseball and curling. She had the best hearing out of anyone I know and used that to aide her nosey nature.

As I grew older she became not just my grandmother but my friend. I loved hearing her stories from when she was young in Scotland and from the farm. I loved the way she would laugh until tears would come out when something was funny and it didn’t take much. She had a great sense of humour, one she shared with her closet sister Ethel. When they got talking her accent was thicker and all they did was laugh.

She loved my grandfather very much and till the very end she made sure he had a dessert to eat everyday for dinner.

Secretly she made fun of him for walking so slow and was certain she could run circles around him even just a few months ago.

I told her I was going to Scotland in October and she kept on saying I was going to the Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. I didn’t know what she meant at the time but I have figured it out in the words of this song. Both my mother and I remember her singing this song.

“Oh! ye'll take the high road and
I'll take the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”

She also loved the song “The Flower of Scotland.” And she will always be our flower of Scotland.

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