This is an expanded version of the entry in the “CHADWICK, BARCLAY & BELL FAMILIES” volume.
Born5: 17/8/1915, Victoria BC.
Parents: Frederick Austin Pakenham & Creina (Henderson) Chadwick.
(She claimed to be born 1916 after Alice was born - no young mother should be over 40!).
Married, 1st5, William Beatty-Chamberlain, Lt RNVR, married 16/3/1941 at St John's Church, Victoria BC. His father was a doctor in the Isle of White. His sister married Wingate of Burma fame. Went to St John's Newfoundland June 1941 on SS Baccalieu. EAC joined him for 1940/41. His parents had new house 1156 Goodwin St, June 1940.
Married, 2nd5, Reginald (Rex) Kirk-Owen, Victoria, BC, 25/3/1949; he died 1959. More about Rex Kirk-Owen
Issue5: Alice Charlotte Kirk-Owen, 3/10/56-14/3/97, married Antony Maitland, author of this text.
Her life, from conversation, albums etc:
When Alice died, she left me with a couple of crosses to
bear: an aging and Teddy, an awkward terrier and her mother. Teddy the terrier
eventually died, but her mother still lives in 2009!
Betty Chadwick/Chamberlaine/Kirk-Owen/Vernon/Thomas, to use her multiplicity of surnames, has been a feature in my life ever since falling for Alice. I am unusual, if not unique, in having given my mother-in-law away in marriage twice: like the proverbial bad penny, she keeps coming back. Betty has the distinction of having binned one husband and killed off three more, Alice’s father having been the second of the four.
I first came across Betty Kirk-Owen at a drinks party given
by the Bayliss’s (Peter was a contemporary of my mother’s and was responsible
for setting me off on my aviation career) to which I had been invited to meet
this lovely girl next door to them. Betty came to the party but not her
daughter Alice who had gone to a more exciting event. Betty was good enough to
ask me to tea, where I finally met Alice – I left about 11 that evening and, as
they say, the rest is history.
Betty has been what might be kindly described as a “character” through her life. When I first appeared on the scene, she was living in Titley with Alice and Richard Vernon (she had not married him by then). She was well known for her ebullient personality, hard drinking and smoking. Her parties were always lively, with a cross section of locals from retired Colonels to local artists. Any problem – have another drink! (Certainly latterly, she would have a stiff shot of brandy in her mid morning coffee). She was even then probably technically alcoholic, but certainly not a secret drinker – drinking was a social activity.
She had a naturally mercurial personality, with strong opinions; once she had decided something was the case, no argument was likely to sway her.
Betty was born in Victoria BC to her father's second wife, his first having died accidentally falling down stairs (Betty with her love of the seamier side of life implicated drink in the accident); he was, by her account an priest of the old style, with an extensive knowledge of the classics – she always seemed in some awe of him, that he could converse in Latin. Her mother was by all accounts an intelligent and strong woman – she must have been to live to 107!
Betty had 2 older half brothers, Jack and Freddy (born 1899 & 1900 respectively). As a pretty little blonde girl, she was the apple of everyone’s eye until her brother, Maurice appeared in 1921, and distracted her admirers. I believe that this was the source of her life long enmity with her brother.
Their life sounded rather Victorian in style: she had a
governess until age about 10 when she went to Norfolk House School, Victoria,
where she stayed until about 16 or 17. I suspect she was not the most assiduous
pupil, life was more fun outside school. She had some further education at BC
university. She did some volunteer nursing before and during the war.
From her photograph Album 1936-39, she served as a nurse at St Joseph’s Hospital, Carnot, Vancouver Island, from at least July 1936-September 1938. This album finishes the day war was declared.
I think she met Rex Kirk-Owen sometime about 1940 (in a streetcar, maybe true, maybe one of Betty’s elaborations!), and may have had an affair with him then. He joined the Army in 1941, and was soon posted away.
She married WBC in a fit of pique (on the rebound from Rex?) in 1941, moving with him to Newfoundland almost immediately after their marriage, she travelling overland by train, he by naval ship through the Panama canal. This marriage was not made in heaven and did not last. She was a Red Cross nurse in St John's for a period between arrival in 1941 and her return to BC later in the war, about the time the Japanese landed on Vancouver Island.
Sometime after she arrived back in BC, she came across Rex again, he was by then married with two children, a son, Rex and a daughter Jill. That side of the family imply that Betty broke up this marriage – she may well have been the instigator, but to be fair, it takes two to tango.
After she and Rex were married in 1949, they lived away from the scandal in Prince George (North of Vancouver) for a while where Rex had a cold storage business which was not successful loosing several hundred thousand dollars of family money.
This minor disaster, and the friction caused by their marriage led to them fleeing from BC in about 1950 for Toronto by car via California, Mexico and Southern US, Washington etc, staying with brother Freddy in California on the way. Worked in The Whitney Block, Toronto. Lived in 83, Centre Street West, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Nr. Toronto for about 12 months. Sailed from Montreal 25/10/1952.
On arrival in London, they first lived in Norfolk Sq, Holland Street (28A). Rex worked as an engineer for London Council before studying for the Bar. While in his pupilage, he worked late nights for the GPO to supplement their income (trainee lawyers were not paid at the time). After Alice's birth, they moved out of London to a cottage called Tudor Thatch, Oakhanger, owned by John Burton's wife, Jacqueline, who had lived near them in London, and then to Ropley (Hampshire). They later bought Blagdon House, Keevil, Wiltshire, where Rex died. Betty worked for 6 mths in Bath after Rex died.
Also living in Keevil at the manor was the Vernon family.
Betty somewhat later moved to live with Richard Vernon, a friend from Keevil, in a rented house in Bwlch, near Eglwsfach, where they met RS Thomas, who was the incumbent at the time. They moved again to Bryn Gwyn, near Twyn, Wales where Alice grew up. After Alice left Dr Williams School in Dolgellau for Hatherop Castle in Gloucestershire, about 1970, Betty and Richard bought Burcher Cottage, Titley, Herefordshire, which was nearer for Alice's schooling. Here Betty involved herself extensively in the local social scene and was a member of the Hereford sketching club.
I, Antony Maitland, can make an unusual claim: to have given my mother-in-law away in marriage not just once, but twice; she came back each time.
Betty's travels in 1949/52.
Glacier National park, 7/1949.
Vernon, BC, 9/1950: Kirk-Owens lived in Barnard Av, Vernon, before the War.
Trip round N America 1951/2:
Pacific Coast 9/51
Fresno, ca, 9/51
Gulf Coast 10/51
Washington DC 10/51
Toronto - lived off Yonge St, Richmond Hill
Rex worked for Ontario Hydro @ Niagara.
Windsor Ont, Easter 52
Norwegian Cruise 13/9/1989-25/9: Bergen Trondenes, Nidaros, Alesund, Masoy, Tromsdal, North Cape, Bodo,
Married, 3rd5 (1977), Richard Vernon (1900-19/7/1996), of Hilton Park, Staffs & Keevil, Wilts; more about Richard Vernon. Richard was in effect the father of Alice.
Married, 4th5 (17/8/1996, Llanfairynghornwy, Anglesey), Rev Ronald Stuart Thomas (1913-9/2000).
More about RS Thomas
Lived initially with RST on Stonewall Hill, above Presteigne for the winter 1993-4, and then moved to live at Cefn du Canol Llanfairynghornwy, from 1994-98.
Opened Llanegryn Horticultural Show 21 September 1968.
Creina Russell Chadwick’s prayer book to Elizabeth Agnes Chadwick & Reginald Kirk Owen
Aug 10 1947,
Alice Charlotte Kirk-Owen
3rd October 1956,
28A Holland Street,
Alice was confirmed 18th may 1972 at Hatherope Castle School
Acts I verse 8 by the Bishop of Gloucester.
Betty & RS were friends of Kyffin Williams, a well know Welsh painter. He was never married and we used to try and persuade Betty that he should be number 5 after RS’s death.
Address at Betty’s Funeral given by Isabel Maitland
As I am sure you can all calculate, I came late onto the scene in Granny’s life. Anecdotes from each part of her life suggest that her attitude was to squeeze in as much as possible all done with enthusiasm and panache.
Elisabeth Agnes, or Betty as she was known, was born in the town of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada on 17th August 1915. The year of her birth had in fact, until quite recently, been noted down as a year later, 1916. This discrepancy was only uncovered recently when my father was undertaking some family history research. When he questioned her about the year difference, Betty turned to Daddy and said “well, no young mother should be over 40!” A neat reversal of her birth date by a year meant she was 39 when Mummy was born! Betty remained in Canada for her school days and young life before moving to London with Rex Kirk Owen, her then husband, in 1952. Granny may have left her home country behind when she was relatively young but she successfully retained her distinctive Canadian twang for ever more. They settled into life in England, with Rex studying at the Bar. After mummy’s birth, in 1956, they moved out of London to Hampshire. Initially renting a cottage, they soon bought Blagdon House in Keevil where they remained until Rex died, three short years later, in 1959.
After this sad moment in Granny’s life, her tough survival attitude kicked in. Not to be defeated, she dusted herself down and soon found friendship and ultimately marriage with Richard Vernon. Richard was a kind, gentle country loving man who became my mother’s father in all but name, known fondly as Uncle Richard. They, with mummy, moved away from Hampshire to North Wales where Granny’s love of this part of the world began. They spent ten happy years near Towyn until practicalities required them to leave and move just over the border to Titley, in Herefordshire. Here Granny involved herself extensively in the local community and social scene. As a child, I can remember large Christmas drinks parties, Lent soup lunches and the annual attendance at the local Point to Point and Hunt Meets. Life at Burcher Cottage continued in this vein for over 20 years until Richard’s death in 1996. During this time, Granny was not wholly occupied with the social whirl of the area but was also dedicated to looking after her daughter, my mother, during her illness. Granny tirelessly gave support and practical help during this difficult time.
By the mid 1990’s, Granny was a woman in her 70’s. One would imagine, therefore, that life would start to slow down. Not a bit. She found herself in a whirlwind romance with the poet RS Thomas. Leaving Herefordshire behind, they returned to North Wales to live firstly in Anglesey and then to the local village of Pentrefelin. They married in 1996, on her 81st birthday I may add, and Daddy believes he may be one of few to claim that he has given his mother-in-law away not once but twice – to both Richard and Ronald!
Granny played a large role in the formative years of the life of me and my brother. When we were small, she used to collect us from school and the parcel shelf of the car was always so full of delicious treats that she quickly earned the title of “Snack Trolley Granny”. She was a devil in the kitchen too. Historic roasts on a Sunday, butterscotch sauce, Angel cakes and brandy butter at Christmas.
In the school holidays, Granny would whisk Ollie and me off to stay in Tenby in West Wales or to the Basil Street Hotel in London to give our parents a well earned break. These trips were always full of generous treats and fun activities but there was never any doubt about who was in charge. Granny! Any step out of line and firm granny made a brief appearance.
Trips away were not limited to the confines of the UK. In fact, Granny was rather more adventurous than that. Quite regularly, even when she was in her 70s, she would disappear to a far flung part of Europe. I remember her returning from Albania in the mid 80’s when it was far from being the most stable country. She happily recounted to us that she had returned from the trip with barely a thing left in her suitcase having given clothes and cosmetics to women she had met who had nothing. Carefree, generous and adventurous indeed she could be.
Much of what Granny did was finished with a jaunty twist. Her rather traditional kilt skirts were topped off by a quirky beret and a slick of red lipstick. If you looked closely at home, little details hinted at her charming eccentricity - ribbons tied around the TV remote control, corners of cupboards, and walking sticks so they were easy to find; and a bizarre collection of alcoholic drinks from herby Chartreuse to the angostura bitters to make her famous drink, Pink Gin. Even the type of cigarette that Granny smoked was more colourful and exotic than others. An annual Christmas request was a packet of the brightly coloured cocktail cigarettes made by Sobraine. In fact, one artist painted her and entitled the piece “Sobraine, So Beti”. Impressively, this twinkle and original personality never went away. In the nursing home we did not make trips down the lane in a wheel chair but in her “chariot”; she would tell me she didn’t want to eat too much so that she could keep “her girlish figure”; and when Christopher first met her she surreptitiously asked him to pop some gin into her plastic beaker.
Finally, I leave you with a thought from Winston Churchill, perhaps less serious than such a situation demands but certainly in keeping with the carefree, slightly naughty livewire Granny was – “I am ready to meet my Maker, Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter”.