This morning while having my usual Sunday call home to mum, she mentioned that one of the people where she stayed had seen an eye specialist called Lionel Marsden.
Now Marsden is not a very common surname in South Africa, and it jolted my memory because when I was very young my mother had a friend called Ida Marsden, and knowing her would have life changing consequences in our lives.
My memory is slightly hazy because the events happened in 1964, and theoretically they should not have affected me (I was just over 3 years old). My mother and i went to tea with Mrs Marsden and her husband William. While we were having tea Mr Marsden suffered a heart attack and died, falling off the stool he was sitting on. My mother says I still said “Mr Marsden has fallen off the bankie”. The event would drive my mother into depression, and I cannot say what effect it may have had on me. The issue of childhood trauma is not completely understood, and years later when I read some of the consequences of it I was able to connect some of my own behavioural patterns with early childhood trauma. It certainly effected my mother to a large extent and while I will not discuss it here she did end up carrying the burden of it for most of her life.
This however did not affect our friendship with Mrs Marsden, and over the years we would visit her even after she remarried a Scot called “Johnnie”. They were a nice couple and lived in Risidale for most of their lives together. I remember she always used to make rhubarb pie with cream and as a youngster it took quite a bit of getting used to. She also used to make shortbread and other “genteel” cakes and dainties. She was the sort of little old lady who always smelt vaguely of lavender and was surrounded by ornaments, antimacassars, doilies and the trappings of feint Victoriana. She had a very broad Yorkshire accent too. although had lived in Rhodesia at one point.
I am not sure whether the man in these images is of her first husband, or her second (Johnnie), but for some strange reason I have these images in my album and they may prove useful to somebody that is related to the family.
There is another image amongst my collection, and it was taken in Braamfontein cemetery and shows Mrs Marsden, my mother and myself at the Garden of Remembrance in Braamfontein Cemetery.
You just have to love the pearls, horned rimmed specs as well as the mourning black. I was not in school then so I suspect the image was taken somewhere between 1964 and 1969.
Mrs Marsden passed away on 30 March 1976 at the age of 79, and after she died we never saw Johnnie again and our memory of her slipped into the recesses of the mind, only surfacing when rhubarb pie was mentioned.
It is strange to think about someone from our childhood that was not a member of the direct family, but friends of our parents. We know them, but don’t know them, and when they pass on they become a part of our memory.
I do regret not looking for the two sets of ashes at Braamfontein Crematorium when I was there. Maybe one day when I am in South Africa I will look it up.
Mrs Marsden, thank you for your friendship to our family, and the rhubarb pie. I think the last time I ate it was when you made it.
Rest in Peace.
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