Friday, 30 March 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 14: 'The Maiden Aunt'

Week 14 Prompt: 'Maiden Aunt'

My Auntie Tib is my maiden Aunt.  Her real name was Isabella Macintosh Pearce. She was an IMP just like me !   Tib or Tibbie is a Scottish nickname for Isabella.

Auntie Tib was born on 08 November 1899 at home in Miller St, Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, Scotland. This is in the area called The Border Country on the River Tweed and close to the English border.

Family photo of Sarah (Ray), Bill, & Isabella (TIbbie) Pearce, C1906, Scotland

The Pearce family emigrated from Scotland in 1912 and Tibbie was 12 years old when they sailed on the ‘Demosthenes’.  Father - Francis George Pearce wanted to give the family a new start in a new country and applied for land to grow an orchard in the irrigation areas of Victoria.  He was given a block in Orrvale and eventually, when the family next door walked off their land he was able to add that block on as well.

Although life was hard work, all the families in the orchard areas became very good friends helping each other out in difficult times. There were socials, concerts, a debating society, young peoples’ clubs, church groups, sports and plenty of home-made amusements.

On their new block, the family lived in a tent until the two-roomed house was erected.  Tibbie and her sister Sarah (Ray) managed to complete schooling taking correspondence lessons from Melbourne High School and were passed as Sewing Mistresses.  Tibbie worked at the local country school (Orrvale) teaching for a few years.  She then worked as temporary relief school staff taking charge of small country schools. Always Tibbie was to return home to the orchard to help out in her holiday periods.

In 1922 Grandad Pearce died when he became sick and developed pneumonia. Tibbie returned home for a while to be with Grannie Pearce.  It may have been at this time that she had a suitor – a local man.  A boy whom she had known at primary school whose family had come from America. The family myth is that Tibbie and he got engaged but her brothers did not think he was suitable for their big sister and somehow warned him off. 

In the thirties, TIbbie changed jobs and worked as a Sub-Matron in the Presbyterian Children’s Home in North Melbourne.  This gave her a taste of nursing and she enrolled in training. On completion, she also did the Midwifery course.  Tibbie joined the Melbourne District Nursing Society and practiced midwifery with them for 3 years.  She said these were some of the happiest days of her life, as she made so many friends.

Tibbie’s siblings all married apart from George the youngest – he was in the militia and was called up for World War II. Sadly he was killed in New Guinea on the Kokoda Trail in 1943.  His death was announced in the paper the same day as the news arrived that he had been awarded the Military Cross.

After the war, and her son’s death, Grannie Pearce was not managing so well, so Tibbie resigned her position and came home to care for her.  Of course, Tibbie helped out on the orchard as well, but she was able to fit in local community activities like CWA, Sunday School teaching, playing the organ at church, etc.  I think at this time that she was also working as an Infant Welfare Nurse.

In 1954 Grannie Pearce aged 84 years, died, and Tibbie’s brothers Bill and Jim arranged an overseas trip for her to visit all the relatives in Scotland and Canada.  Though the families were spread around the world, they had kept continually in touch through the mail.  Tibbie decided to lengthen the trip to over 2 years and nursed in a hospital in Saskatchewan in Canada.

On her return, Tibbie bought a block of land in Kialla over the road from her sister Ray.  She busied herself planting native trees and encouraging the birds to her home.  The gum trees grew tall and she loved to listen to the magpies and join in whistling the chorus.  Late in her life, Tibbie went overseas with a niece and husband and visited ‘a dear friend’ who we believe was her ex-fiancé.  She said they had a lovely time, that it was wonderful to catch up after all this time, but she was glad to get back to her own home on return.

Around this time my father, her brother Bill donated land to the Infant Welfare group and they built an office and centre.  It was named ‘The Isabella Pearce Child Centre’.

Once she could no longer manage her little block Tibbie moved into the ‘Miller Homes’ in Shepparton.  She gave up her car but could still get around utilizing the bus stop out the front of her cottage.  Tibbie was never left out of things.  She took it upon herself to become the Matriarch after Grannie Pearce died.  All the nieces and nephews visited her and took her to places and to family gatherings.

I remember my Auntie Tib as a very strong-minded woman with a Scottish accent.  She was intelligent and knowledgeable about so much, being very well read.  She had very fine frizzy hair that she braided and tied around her head.  At night she would put her plait into rags and wear a night bonnet on top.  My mother told me that she had a soft spot for my brother Bill as he suffered from eczema when born and Auntie Tib was always telling Mum how she should be treating him, etc.  Until one day Mum refused to visit and demanded that Dad speak to her about her intarusive 'help'. He explained that Mum was the boy’s mother and knew what was best for him.  Things cooled for a while but then came right again.  Auntie Tib always kept in touch with my brother, writing regularly to him when he as at boarding school for 7 years.  She also attended his graduation from University just like a proud mother.

Tibbie was the keeper of our family history and was very involved in the local Family History Society.  She was a keen writer and poet.  She also interested my brother Bill in genealogy and research.  He passed it on to me.

We all loved Auntie Tib and remember her fondly, but I still feel very sad for her missing out on the chance of a married life with her fiancé and struggle to believe that her brothers would do that to her.

Auntie Tib was almost 91 when she died 26 September 1990 in Shepparton, Victoria.  (She always said she hoped to see in the new century)

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