In old age, Mrs Katharine Isobel Ellis Hill (1905-2005) looked back to the golden times before the First World War broke out ... when she lived with her parents and her brothers in the little hamlet then called Nunthorpe Station, and they went to visit her father's parents in Coatham ...
Her memory of the end of those happy times was very vivid and painful:
|King's Head, Newton-under-Roseberry|
On Aug 4th 1914 my godmother had a picnic for the young people staying with her & about 12 of us walked 3 miles across the fields, climbed Roseberry, had tea at the King's Head & walked 3 miles back.
As I ran across the last field & the others went away I crossed the road & saw my father in his Territorial Uniform (khaki) vanish round a bend on his motor bike – I called after him but he did not hear –
I rushed into the house & asked why? & someone said,
"There's a war with Germany, so be a good girl."
I never see that corner of the road without seeing my father on his way to Ypres & the Somme. 7 weeks later Duncan was dead; our house was closed for the duration & I was parted from all my little friends, pets, the garden (& all sense of security forever) & the servants who were old friends.
|Katharine's brother, Duncan Stubbs|
But to return to life before the War ...
|7 Trafalgar Terrace, Coatham, in 1904|
Her grandfather John Richard Stubbs, had grown up with the open hospitality of his mother and her neighbours in Boroughbridge.
Her grandmother Ellis Macfarlane grew up on the west coast of Scotland, in Helensburgh. Her father Duncan Macfarlane was a Canada merchant; her mother Mary (also a Macfarlane) was the "lovely little girl" mentioned in Three Nights in Perthshire; with the description of the Festival of a 'Scotch Hairst Kirn' (1821).
This little book, several times reprinted, recounts the author's visit to Mary's childhood home – Ledard, "a large, beautiful farm-house" near the head of Loch Ard.
Mary's father, Donald Macfarlane, had himself taken the great Sir Walter Scott to inspect the nearby waterfall, which Scott described to great dramatic effect in Waverley and Rob Roy.
(Sir Walter hasn't been in fashion in England for many years – this post on Louis Stott's literary blog will put you in the picture).
The book describes the harvest festivities, with plentiful accounts of the food and drink:
sweet and ewe milk cheese, some of the delicious trout for which the neighbouring lochs are famous, basons of curds, with bowls of sour and sweet cream, and piles of crispy oatcakes, together with rolls and butter.
So we can imagine that, with that sort of family background, food played a significant part in John and Ellis Stubbs' daily life.