Sepia Saturday #7: The Matriarch of the McNeils

othermama

“Other Mama” (taken around 1947. )

6cottage

“Up home” — The House on Cottage Street (taken by Kat in 1989)

Alice Gouthreau McNeil, my Great-grandmother.   She married Neil. F. McNeil and she gave birth to six daughters, Mary Lucy (known as Lucy), Mary Josephine (who became Sister Agnes Eucharia), Sarah Catherine (Katie – my Grandmother), Clara, Marguerite (known as Margie), Anne (called Annie) and Matilda (called Tillie), as well as three sons, Malcolm, Stephen and James.

I’ve heard talk of her over the years as being the sweetest, kindest, most loving person anyone could know.  My mom and her siblings referred to her as “Other Mama” since they not only loved her enough to call her that, but spent almost as much time “up home” at her house at 6 Cottage Street in Glace Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, as they did at their own home at 9 York Street. They headed there after school-mornings, for their lunch and enjoyed family dinners at the big wood table in the dining room on Sundays.

I can tell by the restrained smile and the slight twinkle in her eyes that she was a good woman.  By the way she’s dressed up, I think this may have been a photo taken before going to church, perhaps at Christmas since she has a corsage. I love the way she wears her hat so jauntily in this photograph and the corsage that testifies to the love of nature and flowers that she passed on to her daughters, especially my Great-aunt, Clara.  Clara  lived in the house on Cottage Street long after “Other Mama” died.  Clara kept the most beautiful garden of sweet peas and tiger lilies and other pretty flowers.  I never met my Great Grandmother, but I felt her presence while sitting at the dining room table in that house and whenever I strolled under the lattice archway or bent to smell a rose in the garden.

She died in 1950 at the age of  78. My mother’s voice fills with wistful emotion when she speaks of her.  She left an indelible impression and I wish I had known her.

Sepia Saturday is ordinarily coordinated by my very good friend, Alan Burnett of the News From Nowhere blog.  As he is on a well-deserved cruise-vacation with his lady-wife, I am pleased to assist him by posting all participants of this feature for the next few weeks.  Please advise me in a comment if you wish to be included in the links’ list below.  Thank you.

WILLOW OF WILLOW MANOR

MARTIN H. AT SQUARE SUNSHINE

LEAH AT THE WEATHER IN THE STREETS

L.D. BURGUS AT LARRY’S PHOTO A DAY

BENCH WITH TONY ZIMNOCH

STEPHANIE AT STEPHANIE SAYS

BETSY AT MY FIVE MEN

CYNTHIA AT MUSE SWINGS

LETTUCE AT LETTUCE-EATING

FIRELIGHT AT THE KEEPING ROOM

MERI AT MERI’S MUSINGS

KIMY AT MOUSE MEDICINE

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28 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday #7: The Matriarch of the McNeils

  1. She looks lovely Kat and it is interesting to think of dreeins up for Sundays or church-much rarer now I think. I loved reading about her and her beautiful garden. Have a great weekend!

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  2. What a lovely woman your great grandmother must have been. I love the fact that the table was a place, rather than just an object of furniture. We have a plain wooden table that my mother remembers as her air raid shelter during the war. I grew up with it and, since my grandmother's passing, I have it in my home. Stories like yours are so special. Please count me in for Sepia Saturday. I'll be posting first thing tomorrow.

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  3. Thanks, Petra Michelle. Feel like taking part?Willow – Got ya up now! I look forward to your post.Sarah – I know. We don't make the effort to dress up much now do we. Shame. Talk to you soon!Will do, Martin! Thanks for your wonderful comment. I anticipate a fascinating post from you, as always.

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  4. Hi Kat!Just wanted to let you know I updated my post on the bible study and have included links so you can watch a free sample video of what the DVD's look like and other information. Would lurve to see you plugged into something like this with me or right in your own church community. Blessings!Janeen

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  5. That is a neat story about the other momma. The sweat peas and tiger lilies were my grandmothers favorite too. They probably came from a neighbor lady and she shared her with anyone who asked. That house is certainly typical of it's day. I like old architecture and the study of the how and why they were built the way that they are.Thanks for doing the Sepia Saturday for us.

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  6. Wow…long life and 9 children! I love this picture…what a sweet woman. Yes, dressed up for church, I suppose. I've posted my sepia, Kat…thanks for covering for Alan! 🙂

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  7. Hi Kat! I just read all the way back to your lovely cow memorial which made me tear up. What a diverse and wonderful blog you have. I am definitely going to try the curry. Yum! Your 'other mama' sounds like a wonderful lineage to have come from. And from a time where it seems like extended family had so much more importance and solidity than now, or so it feels…

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  8. What a wonderful idea for a series of posts, Kat.I'm late for this week but please include my name for next Saturday.Although I don't know if my post will be up to the standard you've set here.

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  9. Hello, Poetikat! Thank you so very much for stopping by my first Sepia Saturday Post (1/16/10). I have managed to add another one this morning…Wow! I did it! I very much enjoyed this post about your Great Grandmother McNeil! Isnt't it marvelous when we have the stories & sentiments to go with the faces? Well done!There are some McNeils in my family as well! Nova Scotia is number on the list of places in North America that I will see before I die!

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  10. your post is wonderful and is such an inspiration I really have to start giving myself more time for sepia saturday!just put one up by the way. I'm looking forward to coming back and reading all the others that you have linked…. I was doing some other time travel earlier today as feagin and I went to see the book of eli – although lets hope the future doesn't look like that movie!

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  11. What a lovely lady to have in your past. I liked her hat very much. I wondered if the neck of her coat was beaver. These are fun for you, I can tell. I feel sorry that I can't participate. My aunt informed me in no uncertain terms that I must not use family photos on my blog. I honor her.

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  12. It was so nice reading your story about your great grandmother Alice. My paternal grandmother was also an Alice and lived to the grand age of 96!She does indeed wear her lovely hat jauntily and with pride. I love your description of how you felt her presence when walking in what seemed a beautiful garden. Is the house still in your family?Jeanne x

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