December 1, 2023


The fine suplement crafters

I can’t throw out my great-grandma’s scrapbooks about the Royal Family

This 1st Particular person column is penned by Morgan Dick who lives in Calgary. For a lot more information and facts about CBC’s To start with Individual stories, make sure you see the FAQ

A century-aged steamer trunk sits in the corner of my property office environment. Each individual as soon as in a whilst, I will distinct away the papers I’ve stacked on top rated. If I’m sensation particularly nostalgic, I will crack open the lid and pull out 1 of a dozen scrapbooks. Leafing via the web pages, I’m generally struck by a familiar encounter: the Queen, then regarded as Princess Elizabeth, sporting bouncy curls and the cheeky grin of an eleven yr old.

Like the trunk, these scrapbooks belonged to my terrific-grandmother, who died a several decades before I was born. When they fell into my dad’s possession, he appeared inside expecting to uncover household photos. Nope! Rather than document her very own life, Excellent-Grandma Fleming had stuffed just about every scrapbook website page with newspaper clippings about the Royal Family, some dating again to the 1930s. Her determination to the monarchy reveals a ton about her.

A single scrapbook chronicles King George VI’s tour of Canada in 1939. There are very carefully trimmed photos of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret petting their favourite corgis. You can find also a Calgary Herald supplement marking the loss of life of King George V and the accession of his eldest son, Edward VIII, who would later grow to be the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. (My fantastic-grandmother didn’t clip any articles about that as I suspect she thought him a quitter.)

Morgan Dick inherited this trunk that contains numerous scrapbooks on the Royal Spouse and children from her good-grandmother. (Morgan Dick)

As to why Grandma Fleming (as practically every person in our family calls her) adopted the royals so intently, I can only speculate. The monarchy was one thing she carried across the ocean when she immigrated, like her Scottish brogue or the steamer trunk alone, a hefty picket affair with rusted buckles and tattered leather-based straps. 

Annie Fleming arrived in Canada with her spouse and children in 1905 at the age of 10, settling on a farm in Springbank, Alta., on Treaty 7 territory. Widowed early in lifetime, she didn’t have any organic kids and as an alternative chose to undertake my grandmother, Margaret, who as an adult adopted my father. If you will find these kinds of a thing as adopted descendants, then Annie Fleming remaining a long trail of them across the rolling landscape of her picked out residence.

My father remembers her as a feisty female and a organic storyteller. She cherished Queen and state and was appalled when the federal federal government retired the Canadian Pink Ensign in 1965 in favour of a new Canadian flag. Possibly this devotion to the monarchy introduced her comfort and ease as she eked out the challenging existence of a homesteader. 

Annie Fleming shakes hands with then-Calgary mayor Ralph Klein in 1984 during a ceremony in which she was regarded for her purpose as an Alberta homesteader. (Submitted by Morgan Dick)

If I am currently being trustworthy, I’m not absolutely sure how to experience about it.

Lots of of Grandma Fleming’s clippings have come unglued from the scrapbook webpages. I transform them around and examine tales about the looming Globe War (“Japanese girding to battle Russia” “Britain to ration bread”), and I are unable to help but feel she was on the lookout in the wrong route, deciding upon to keep in mind the improper points.

Then there’s the elephant in the space: colonization and its lots of evils. The British Empire was created on plundered riches and the subjugation of Indigenous peoples and people today of colour. Even though I admire the Queen on sure degrees — I are not able to visualize carrying out the exact task for 70  years — the environment might’ve been a much better location had her ancestors kept to their possess castles.

Which begs the question: why do I continue to keep this stuff? Will my personal fantastic-grandchildren experience obliged to maintain it? These scrapbooks are much like the monarchy by itself. They’re dusty and irrelevant, but no one can appear to be to get rid of them.

A assortment of Annie Fleming’s scrapbooks rest on the trunk that came with her from Scotland. (Morgan Dick)

Perhaps I am not so diverse than Grandma Fleming. No, I you should not spend my time snipping newspapers. But I viewed the marriage ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from commence to complete, and isn’t that fundamentally the 21st-century equivalent? With so a lot going terribly in the globe, it’s tough not to indulge in the diversion of a royal appreciate affair and family drama. 

But my attachment to the newspaper clippings is a lot more than just a responsible pleasure.

When I flip by these scrapbooks, I imagine Grandma Fleming sitting down down at the kitchen desk with a bracing cup of tea and 1 of her famous shortbread cookies. It’s possible the radio is on, or it’s possible she’s buzzing a tune to herself, a nursery rhyme from her childhood in a faraway put. She hunches in excess of a newspaper, wielding a pair of scissors in the same callused, hardworking arms that tuck my father into his mattress at evening. 

These scrapbooks are her record, and mine.

So, with all thanks regard to their majesties, this just isn’t about them at all.

Do you have a powerful particular tale that can bring knowing or enable some others? We want to hear from you. Here’s more info on how to pitch to us.