Maryanne is happily married with two daughters and an old bunny rabbit. Ex-intensive care nurse she has a love of cooking and sewing, together with the creative arts.
I first heard about the new course on memoir and biography at Auckland University from my friend Anne, who had already signed up for it. It was perfect timing, I had been talking to my mother back in England about videoing some conversations with her, so that I could record details of her and my late father’s lives and that of their parents and ancestors. I had been trying to work out the best way to approach this task and the course seemed the perfect starting point.
My mother Patty is 89 years old and is blessed with a clear mind and great recall of family stories and events from long ago. I want to make the most of her memories, before they fade. Sadly, my father Allan died 32 years ago aged only 58, from a brain tumour. Along with the loss of my beloved father, I lost all the stories he had to tell, the treasure trove of his memories.
I am privileged to be the fourth of five siblings from the union of two loving parents, in England, both of whom can trace their families all the way back to the Doomsday book, 1066 and all that. There are some truly amazing stories of the brave and the bold, the good and the not so good, the naughty but nice and the downright scandalous! The ancestors include those of Scottish, English, French, (the notorious Marquis de Sade), Irish, and even ‘Red Indian’ (of the Powhatan tribe, the fascinating Pocahontas,) descent. As the saying goes, ‘true life is often more interesting than fiction’ — fortunes, lands and titles lost on the turn of a card, a secret royal marriage, even an execution for leading a rebellion, are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg of this family tree.
I would like to begin my project with the oral history from my mother, who will be able to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge about her,s and my father’s lives. They both led amazingly interesting lives, full of hard work, talent and sheer genius. I want to discover more details of Mummy and Daddy’s early years and refresh the stories I heard long ago, which are already clouding slightly in my own memory and those of my brothers and sisters. When I have completed that project, I will be ready to write a book for the existing family and the generations to come. Eventually if I have the time and energy, I would like to work backwards through the afore- mentioned truly remarkable family tree, to 1066.
My Great Uncle Sir James Hammerton was a highly regarded author and editor in England, knighted by George V for his services to literature. On the front cover of his memoir, Books and Myself, is a passage from a letter from his friend H.G. Wells who wrote “Many thanks for your most informing book... It covers a very interesting phase of the development of a really popular mentality in England, and I think you get your facts and proportions into admirable perspective.You might so easily have crumbled down into anecdote.” I will never be able to emulate Uncle John’s astounding style and breadth of subject matter, but I can at least try to write with clarity to ensure that he is not left turning in his grave!
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