My Granny

I am in Scotland and so I was going to write about some of the things I have seen but I have just learnt that my grandmother died in the early hours of this morning Australian time, and so this post is for her.

She had a beautiful name, my Granny, so beautiful, that I named my daughter after her, Elizabeth. She was born in 1927, Elizabeth Enid Burnes, the daughter of a Sydney patent attorney of whom she was particularly fond and who had a fairly colourful family history himself. His ancestry included a convict (this is where the Burns comes from but was originally spelt without the ‘e’) as well as a well-to-do South African-German trade representative. Her mother was of Irish descent. She had one brother.

I spent a great deal of time at my Granny’s house when I was growing up and I enjoyed these times very much. She was a true matriarch and loved having her family near. Many large family gatherings were celebrated at her place and she loved these occasions. I remember them with fondness too and was envious when I moved away and could no longer be a part of them. Now I am sad that they are gone forever. They were always spirited and exuberant even though speckled with the obligatory family argument.

Before I left Brisbane for Christchurch, I lived near her and used to spend quite a bit of time at her house. We’d have a gin and tonic together and some good conversation. Granny had her wits about her until the very end and was always an entertaining conversationalist. I missed those afternoon sundowners with her very much when I moved away and I think that she did too.

Granny lived at home right up until the end. She would not have tolerated anything else. When asked once by a friend why she didn’t move into a retirement village, she said, “Because I hate retirement villages and I hate old people”.

She was a staunch atheist. Once when some Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door and my Grandfather was politely hearing them out, Granny stormed in, told them to “piss off” and slammed the door.

Granny was clever. She had a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. This was fairly rare for women of her generation.

She had very good taste. Not many grandchildren can say they are happy to accept clothes from their grandmother and not only like them but also wear them. I can say this about my Granny. She loved art and accumulated an impressive collection of paintings over the years. There were always beautiful things to look at in her house.

When I was much younger, 5 or 6, she smoked cigarettes. She used to send me down the road to the local store to buy her cigarettes. The shop keeper knew her and knew that I was buying cigarettes for her so he always obliged. How times have changed! My granny gave up the habit not long after this time though and never smoked again.

Granny loved animals. Her house was always home to a number of cats or dogs or both. They were always part of the family and never sentenced to a life outdoors, away from people. She was kind to animals.

There was a certain disarray or disorderliness to her home. But I always found this very welcoming. A lounge was meant for sitting on and sharing conversation on rather than to be kept puffed, clean and unused. You could turn up at Granny’s house unannounced and she was always delighted to see you. It didn’t matter what time of day or day of week, she was thrilled to have company and there would be the promise of a comfy chair, a stiff drink and good conversation. This is how I shall remember her. Always.

She leaves behind 6 children, 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grand children. I hope I’ve counted them all!

27 responses to “My Granny”

  1. Dear Rachel, what a beautiful tribute. Thank you. We’re all heartbroken and will miss her dreadfully – it’s the saddest day of my life. What a character she was! It’s been a day of tears and laughter sharing the stories and memories. Lots of love, Susie xxxooo

    1. She was a truely amazing character, Susie. I know her death was not so unexpected but it does not make the loss any easier especially knowing that we will never hear her voice again. Or hear her laugh again and I know how much she liked to laugh.

  2. I’m sorry to hear of your loss. She sounds like a wonderful woman.

    1. She was a wonderful woman. Thanks, dropscone.

  3. Thanks, Rach, that was such a lovely post. Xx

    1. Thanks, Caroline. Wish I could be there with you all.

  4. I am so sorry for your loss. My grandfather was a grand old man. He used to say that he did not mind the the thought of dying only of not having lived. He made sure that he lived every day. It sounds as if you’re grandmother did the same. commiserations and Regards, Graham

    1. Your grandfather’s philosophy is good. I hope I do the same.

  5. Rachel, you have written a lovely eulogy for Granny. I also found her to be full of wit and humour at all times, and very accepting of life and people however she found them. She had a good and long life and she must have felt and enjoyed the affection of her grand kids.

    1. Thank you! As her granddaughter I can vouch for the fact that she did enjoy having grandchildren and she spent lots of time with us, especially when I was little.

  6. Condolences, Rachel. It’s coming up to the first year without my Mum, whatever is said doesn’t make it any easier.


    1. I’m sorry to hear the first anniversary of your mother’s death is drawing near. She lived in Christchurch didn’t she? That must mean she was there for the earthquakes.

      1. Yes, she was there for the quakes, kept me up to date with the destruction and changes to the city. I haven’t been there since 1996, she said I wouldn’t recognise it now.


      2. I replied, but it has vanished. Yes, she was, she kept me up to date.


      3. That’s weird, now both are there…

      4. She was right, Christchurch is unrecognizable. There’s a short video online of what the city centre looks like today.

      5. Thanks for that link, the most extensive views that I have seen; Mum was right, it’s hard to recognise.


  7. I’m sorry Rachel. That was a beautiful post and you can tell from it what a wonderful lady she was. Lots of love xxx

    1. Thanks, Frances. She was a wonderful lady and lots of people are going to miss her very much.

  8. This is a beautiful portrait of your Granny. She sounds like one of those people the world should never have to lose.

    1. Thanks, Denise. It was good for me to write about her in this way.

  9. Rachel I feel for you as you are already feeling a sense of loss at having to leave England.
    My Nana died at 89 30 years ago and I can still hear her voice, so rest assured they never really leave you, but they do leave wonderful memories. I think you had a great relationship that helped mould the person you are so thanks to your Granny.

    1. This is so nice to read, Lorraine. I hope I can still hear Granny’s voice 30 years from now. I did have a good relationship with her.

  10. So sorry to read this about the loss of your dear Granny Rachel. She sounded like a lady full of vim and vigour and a great deal of character. Not to mention what a beautiful name 🙂 I love that you used to share a gin and tonic with her! Also the story about the JWs coming to her door, love it!

    My dear Granny lived to be 94 and died while I was still living in the States. I didn’t know it then but I would be moving back to the UK permanently when my marriage broke up one year after that. I can fully understand how you felt when you moved away, missing out on family gatherings with Granny at the centre. I felt the same when I moved to the States away from all my family.

    This is a beautiful tribute to your wonderful Granny and my thoughts and prayers are with you…

  11. I am deeply sorry for your loss. I also had great moments with my grandmother so I think I can relate. She also smoked when I was young. Would you believe she did it the odd manner back then, inverted. The local cigarette’s lighted end was inside her mouth.
    We need those memories so we will not forget.

    1. Thanks, Belsbror. These memories will live on I am sure.

  12. […] of the Night aria (Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen) from Mozart’s Magic Flute. My Granny liked this opera too so this is for her as well. In fact, is there anyone who does not like […]

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