Our grandmothers were called Nanny, of Scottish descent and PEI-born, and Grammie who migrated from Northern Ireland in 1928. My own mother preferred to be called Grandie, a cute way of saying she was “grand”. When it came time to choose my grandmother name, I leaned to the name Nanny, after my own who was a fiesty flapper girl with great stories and great taste.
My Grammie was soft, quiet and, except for her amazing shortbread, was rather nondescript. A devout Methodist, she never smoked or drank and was always wearing a demure dress and an apron. I’d thought I had a clear idea about who she was, then after my mother died I came across a large stash of old photographs.
From a Passenger List found through ancestry.com and our old sepia toned photographs, I got to know a very different person from the one I thought I knew. For many Albertans in the 1900’s, exploring the great outdoors was the primary focus of leisure time with many a day spent on horseback or in canoes, swimming, fishing and, above all, picnicking. In all the pictures of my Lilian in Canada, before my dad and his brother were born, she wore pants like the jodhpurs seen above. Since I’d only ever seen her in a dress, the pants shocked me and drove my an interest to learn about her life in Portadown and in Calgary.
At 24 years of age, Lilian Uprichard was still very much a girl when she landed in Canada to marry my Grampa, who’d come a year earlier to secure a job. Not yet married and traveling alone, in the S.S. Montclare she crossed the Atlantic over seven days from Northern Ireland to Canada, then a train from Quebec to Alberta. She married, set up house and birthed two children without family or girlfriends to support and advise her.
It warms the cockles of my heart to see my granddaughter running to me, little legs pumping, calling out, “Gwammie”. I’m so grateful to have found that old photograph and know I’ve made the right choice of names.
Do you have a grandparent name story you would like to share?