No one in our family ever had any pieces of magnificent jewellery but even the most ordinary piece has its story.
My mother always wore her wedding band and engagement ring. The diamond in the ring wasn’t big and the band was plain but they were what my father could afford in 1947. As she got older and her fingers were thinner, she kept losing them, one or other or both. Luckily, the staff at her residence kept finding them. Eventually, they encouraged me to keep them.
After, when I would visit my mother, she would look at her hands and the freshly done nails and say, “You have my rings and I want them!” She thought her hands were naked without them and nobody would know she was married.
“I really want them!” she would say.” She would tell others that Mary had her rings in a Birk’s box in her bureau drawer.
I bought her costume jewellery replacements. She had stories for those too. One, a ‘diamond ring’, she said a policeman found on the street and gave it to her. That one disappeared. Another set she said was her grandmother’s and she was sad when they were thought to be lost. Even a couple of days before she died she still said to me, “I want my rings!”
When we divided up her jewellery there was a large blue glass pin in the shape of a flower. None of us remembered her wearing it or even seeing it before. I gave it to my cousin Sharon. When her brother died recently I looked for pictures of him. There was one when he was a new baby being held by his Grannie, Beatrice Raguin and she was wearing that pin. So now Sharon has something that belonged to her Grannie.
Beatrice Raguin also had a thistle pin, silver with topaz coloured stones. She belonged to a sewing group where all the other ladies were from Scotland. She was French Canadian although born in Greenbay, Wisconsin. So as to fit in, she bought the pin and told everybody she was from Aberdeen. My mother gave me that pin.
Minnie Eagle Sutherland, my other grandmother worked for Ryrie Brothers in Toronto as a jeweller. I have a stick pin that I think she made. It has a spiral of gold on the top with a tiny diamond and a pearl and now rests in a tiny rectangular box. It might have been a wedding present for her husband as she didn’t work after they were married. There is also a picture of a Union Jack made out of stones and on the back it says made by Minnie Eagle. Unfortunately, we don’t have that piece of jewellery!
Dad did give my mother a few other pieces of jewellery. He once bought her a silver bracelet at the Tower of London on a business trip to Britain. He said the intricate metalwork reminded him of her tatting. She gave it to me because I could also tat.
Mom was right. Her rings are in a Birk’s box in my bureau drawer. We haven’t yet decided how their story will continue.
“If you weren’t in uniform you weren’t doing your part.” This was a quote from a veteran on Remembrance Day 2017.
My father, Donald Sutherland volunteered for service at the beginning of WWII but was twice rejected for medical reasons. He had to sit out the war working as an accountant and serving in the Blackwatch reserve.
“ Dear Mother, I had my medical test today. It went fairly satisfactorily except that as usual, my heart was a little fast and I have to go in again Thursday am to have a recheck. They do everything under the sun to you and it takes about an hour and a half. Everything else went well and I suppose I’ll be accepted if my heart steadies down next time. I am supposed to go to bed very early on Wednesday night to soothe my nerves. I just expected to have the interview today but they buzzed me right through the whole works, Love Don”
Donald graduated from McGill University in the spring of 1939. He had just turned 22 and he and all his classmates expected to find jobs and begin their adult lives but war was on the horizon. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, three days later Britain declared war on Germany, followed by Canada a week later. Personal lives were put on hold as young men volunteered for military service.
With his new commerce degree, my father had begun working for Ritchie Brown and Company as an auditor Once war was declared, he signed up for the McGill Canadian Officers Training Corp (C.O.T.C.). The McGill C.O.T.C. was quickly expanded from 125 to more than 1,400 cadets and 50 instructors. The need for a drill hall spurred the construction of the Arthur Currie Gymnasium. New recruits were trained in map reading, military law, organization, administration and upon completion sent to a branch of service in which they could best contribute their talents and skills.
In August of 1940, he registered with the Dominion of Canada National Registration Regulations expecting he would soon be in military service. He went in for his medical examination without a thought and was rejected. He later tried again.
Twice he received a certificate of rejection from the Canadian Army. The doctors said he was not able to do strenuous work because of his high blood pressure and mitral valve insufficiency. He also received a rejection notice from the Airforce because that application wasn’t completed.
With his second rejection letter from the army came an Applicant for Enlistment badge and card to identify him as an applicant who had failed to meet the minimum medical standards. The lapel badge was to be worn to show the public he had volunteered.
He served in the Black Watch Reserve to the end of the war. As a reservist, he was a part-time soldier while he continued at his day job. He trained raw recruits at camps in Mount Bruno and Farnham, Quebec and garnered high praise from his commanding officer. The battalion’s modified trooping of the colours was written up in the Montreal Gazette, pointing out Lt. D.N. Gatehouse and Lt. D. Sutherland, bearing the flags.
I can only imagine how my father felt, staying home, receiving letters from all his friends serving overseas, while he travelled in Canada auditing company books and marched in Montreal.
2017 was the 100th Anniversary of my father’s birth and in his memory, I wrote this story. This is a companion piece to my mother Dorothy Raguin’s war service https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/4470
Letter from Donald Sutherland to his mother Minnie Eagle Sutherland July 28, 1942.
Letter from Major D.L.Carstairs to Lt Gatehouse and Lt. Sutherland July 19, 1942.
Black Watch Stages Colourful Ceremony – The Gazette, Montreal July 20, 1942. The full trooping of the colours was not done in wartime. According to other newspaper clippings my grandmother saved, he marched in a number of parades and ceremonies.
Served under Lieut Col. H.A. Johnston 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Black Watch.