GRANNY KATE’S APOTHECARY

GRANNY KATE’S APOTHECARY

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I woke in the wee hours of this morning, to the understanding, It was time to tell HER STORY

Not the fluffy, sugar coated version, but the deep raw reality of the woman and her powers of endurance.

It is time, no matter how hard it may be for me to write and for some to read … it is time

I can only share ‘MY’ recollections, and they are mine to share, for she can not speak for herself

It is uncertain of exactly how old I was when she first came to live with us, and why. However, I feel it could not have been a matter of choice, unless, she did it for us, her grandchildren.

Let me introduce you to Catherine Mochan, her courage, her wisdom and her strength

She was a tiny sparrow of a woman, skin weathered by a lifetime  of wind, rain, sun and snows

Hair turned silver, but still carrying strands of former glory, back ramrod straight. A voice creaky with lack of use

She simply “arrived’ one day, her bundle on her back

Her bundle was what appeared to be an old table cloth which held all her worldly possessions, her wealth was held within her head and heart

My father was her only living child and in the early 1920’s the scandal of being an unwed mother must have weighed heavy on both of them… I can only image  the torment of them both

For me her coming was like a ray of sunshine,  she filled my mind with wonder, excitement and the joy of learning ‘different’ things   … secret things…. Don’t tell your father things

As accustomed as we were to his violence and anger, it was not seen as unusual the manner in which he treated his mother…. Many would have said different…. The reality is … no one did

Over time she developed cataracts in both eyes, until the milky film rendered her blind,  and this was his weapon

I remember him holding lighted matches close to her face, ‘to prove’ she could see, often singeing her hair and eyebrows… not a sound did she make

During her last year, she used to step from one foot to the other,  we were to learn on her death that she had diabetes, or sugar as it was called then, and her leg was gangrenous almost to the knee

I remember him kicking her and yelling at her to ‘dance Kate dance’, he never called her anything else.  He would clap and kick while she stepped as quickly as possible from foot to foot

I cannot begin to imagine the pain, physical, mental and emotional that she endured, and all in silence.   She would not hear a word against him , no matter what… and the what was a huge betrayal

We were due to leave for Australia , but, she was not coming.  Granny Kate, was to be left alone, homeless, with only her bundle.  I can only imagine the fear and anguish that she must have endured and again in silence

She passed a few weeks before we set sail, after suffering a stroke,  they took her from the house ‘feet first’ and she never returned

We laid her to rest on April 12 and sailed on May 4

But let’s speak of her legacy , the wisdom passed to those to young to understand at the time, but teachings that have stayed with me all of my life

And as I reach the age she was on leaving, I feel the need to give her some recognition

How she managed the wild bunch that were her grandchildren defeats me, in all honesty, we were as far from angels as it was possible to get

Granny Kate would take care of the little ones, and there was always another little one.  Mother and us older kids  would be out on the ‘spud’ fields either planting or picking, in all kinds of weather. I was around 7 and a late starter to work, because I was ‘poorly’

Every week she would take one of us to the Post Office to collect her Bounty  [pension].  This was a rare treat, being allowed to spend a small amount, we would stop at the Sweet shop on the way back, to purchase an ounce of  Twist … a foul smelling pipe tobacco, that resembled a stick of liquorice. And a chocolate for whoever was with her, she always told us how she would buy us everything, ‘When her ship came in’, and we believed her

Other times she would go hawking door to door, selling paper roses, my mother made by gaslight, or flowers and tins and pegs made by my father. Carrying whatever goods of the day in her bundle on her back.  Often mother went with her, she had a bundle on her back and a baby tied in a shawl to the front

Granny Kate was the only person to call me Maggie, until I reclaimed the name in my 30’s

I have such memories of her, some joyous, some that cause me shame to bring to mind

One cold , sleet filled day I was out hawking with her, she needed our eyes , she sold Old Moore’s Almanacs early each year, even though she couldn’t read a word

As it happened, she chose the streets around the church, where rich people lived, in reality they were normal working folk, who were bringing up families and paying mortgages. But to me they were so much more than mere mortals

Seeing a girl from school answer the door, I did a runner and hid behind a wall, leaving her to call my name over and over.  Even when the girl abused and insulted her, I never moved until the door was slammed and Granny Kate had somehow found her way down the path and out of the gate.  That memory has haunted me all the days of my life.  She said not a word of reproach, just held my hand

But there was more joy than sadness

I recall a day when we headed out to Jenkin’s farm, to collect the milk.  This entailed a walk down the road and across the fields to the milking shed, a walk where she ‘talked’, showing me the flowers and herbs that grew along the hedgeways.. … little did I understand how much this learning was to gift me

Anyway this day, a bull had escaped, and was running wild,  I remember her shouting Run Maggie Run, while waving frantically at this bull

One of the farm helpers came running and Granny Kate ran, scooped me under her arm and ran into shelter.  Now being I was almost as big as her this was no mean feat.

The good things are what stay with me most, and the sadness for what she endured

And it is why I created Granny Kate’s Apothecary

To share her teachings, that were delivered in such a down to earth , matter of fact manner

To stand up and beside her, to recognise and honour the woman she was

It is my hope the spirit that lived within this tiny scrap of a woman, finds peace and joy in the knowing she was loved and is remembered.

My products are my way of honouring her gift, her, strength, her fortitude , her courage, and her ability to survive

Now, I need to draw on that strength to face my personal battles, and I can knowing she walks with me

I feel her close to me and maybe, just maybe in this venture of mine … Her ship has finally come in


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