My paternal Great Grandmother, Florence Lilian Carré was born in January 1878 in Brighton, Sussex. I’ve always known her as Granny Newitt.
Here is a sketch that was done in 1878 of “Lily” as an infant. It was drawn by Dorothy Tennant, who is my 1st cousin 4x removed (so 4 generations back). She was also known as “Lady Stanley” as she was married to the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley in Westminster Abbey, but that’s another story for another day. Anyhow, I’m not sure who in the family has the original sketch, as the print that I have is only a copy.
Granny Newitt was the eldest of nine children born to Arthur Augustus Carré and Florence Heath. According to the census records I have seen the Carré family sure did move around quite a bit, from Brighton, Sussex to the Isle of Wight to Weymouth, Dorset to Kent. Her father A.A. Carré was a teacher and a clergyman, so I assume that’s the explanation for the new postings in new cities.
Granny Newitt lived a very long life and in doing so endured her share of loss. Beginning at 10 years old, when in 1888 she lost a brother in infancy, and then in 1902 she yet lost another brother, Arthur Collings Carré, he was only 22 years old (I wish that I knew more about what happened to young Arthur). I’ve added him onto my names to research.
At the turn of the century she was attending college, training to be a teacher. While in Helensburgh, Scotland she met and married John Richard Hill Newitt. Together they had 3 daughters, the middle child being my Grandmother, Margaret. The Newitt family lived for years in Scotland, including in Shandon where they opened a school for boys. Read more about that on my previous post, “The Abandoned Mansion” .
Unfortunately for Granny Newitt the bad news kept coming in. Three more of her brothers were killed during the Great War – Maurice in 1915, Edward in 1916 and Gilbert in 1917. For those keeping track, that would be 5 of her brothers that she had lost at this point. Read more about “The Carré Brothers” in my previous post.
In 1921 her father passed away. I can only imagine that the heartache and loss got to be too much for him.
It’s no surprise to me that on August 26th, 1939 with the threat of another war looming on the horizon, my Great-Grandparents embarked at the port of Liverpool and set sail aboard the Cunard White Star ship “Antonia” for Montreal, Canada. They had not even completed their voyage to Montreal when Germany invaded Poland and the war broke out on September 1st, 1939. Talk about timing.
Here’s an interesting side note. Great-Granny Newitt’s belongings were all aboard the SS Athenia which left Liverpool for Montreal on September 2nd, 1939. From what I could see, she carried 1,103 passengers. The very next day, 200 km off the coast of Ireland she was torpedoed by a German U-30 Submarine and sunk.
I am so grateful that it was only her belongings on board the SS Athenia, as over 90 people lost their lives that day.
Her husband passed away just 5 years later in 1944. She outlived everyone, her parents, brothers and her sisters. Hopefully life for her in Canada was more peaceful. She settled in Oliver, British Columbia with one of her daughters and is buried there at the Oliver Cemetery.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but as a child I remember being a little bit scared of Great Granny Newitt. I was only 3 years old when she turned 100, and in my defence, 100 can look very old. Again, I feel bad for saying this but she always reminded me of Elvira Gulch aka the “Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz”.
I wish that I wasn’t so frightened of her age. I wish that I had the chance to get to know her, to have a cup of tea and talk to her. Had I taken the time to get to know her, I would have surely found her to be an amazing and inspirational women with a sweet smile, a twinkle in her eye and a knack for playing the piano. She was a resilient, well educated brilliant lady who raised three brave and talented daughters.
What I’ve discovered is that perhaps by writing this and in tracing my family tree I am getting to know her better now. Taking the time to remember and learn about her life and journey. I remember that we used to say “Granny Newitt and I knew it too.” She surely had an amazing story to tell.
I mentioned Granny Newitt lived a very long life, she passed away in 1980 at 102 years old!