Violet was the second last daughter of Agnes and Alexander Fraser born July 3, 1899 at Garden Hill like the rest of the children. Her daughter, Joan, was the writer of one of the memoirs passed onto me by a second cousin. Like her other two sisters, she was an accomplished pianist. Her father Alex, on his death-bed, asked her to play for him every day. When Agnes, her grandmother and Alex, her uncle, refused to let her study music in London, she decided she would never play piano in that house again. She earned money by playing for silent films in the cinema until her brother-in-law, Cecil Jeffares taught her to sing and perform in musicales. It wasn’t until she got her own place that he and Agnes her sister, lent her a grand piano to play on.
Cecil’s brother, Fred was a friend of Violet’s brother Alex . After training as a mechanical engineer with the Great Southern Railway, Cecil went to work for the British Colonial Service on the Gold Coast in Africa (Ghana). He married Violet on April 30, 1929, then they returned to Ghana. When Violet became pregnant, she had to return to Dublin because white children could not be born in the tsetse belt. A daughter, Joan, was born at Feldberg.
It was 6 months before Cecil could return to Ireland. When the depression hit he lost his job but then found work in Cork running a Church of Ireland men’s club. Joan contracted a disease from the rats that infested the little apartment where they lived so the family moved back to Feldberg. She had memories of being wheeled about in a large stroller when she was ill. A brother, Ian, was born there in 1937. Later on, Violet and Cecil were able to buy a house in Sandymount, Dublin but when Ian developed asthma they returned to Feldberg once more. The air was better there. When they had found another house, Alick and Sophie asked them to stay and help with Agnes who was around 80 at the time. I previously talked about the difficulties Violet had with her mother treating her like a maid when she returned.
The family at that time also included Uncle Charlie Waugh who lodged at Feldberg for about 20 years. Charlie met the family during the First World War and had lost his wife in childbirth. He was a pleasant man and shared Alex’s passion for field hockey and cricket. They had many long conversations about the games. In his room, he had an old army chest which had been converted into a desk, a source of amusement for the children. Charlie worked at Guinness Brewery where he met a lady and became engaged. He left Feldberg in 1943 leaving his desk to Ian, Joan’s brother.
The house at 42 Westfield Road, also had another inhabitant, Polly, the African Grey Parrot. Joan describes her ,
” Polly, the African Grey Parrot, would also get into the act. She mimicked Granny perfectly, it was almost impossible to tell the difference. Polly was a great talker and mimicked many sounds – such as, running water, dishes being put down, bicycle bells, doors closing, calling the dog. Dad had brought the parrot back from the Gold Coast (Ghana) on one of his leaves and Polly lived until 1956.”
When WWII broke out the family had to adapt to the shortage of supplies.
“During the Second World War it must have been very difficult to arrange the cooking for 7 plus in the house. Gas was rationed (for cooking) – one half hour in the morning – 1 hour at noon and one half hour in the evening (5-6 pm). We had a hay box. A big box packed with hay, with holes in the hay to receive 3 saucepans, and then covered with more hay and closed. If food was brought to the boil and then put into the box, it continued cooking. Also there was the sawdust box to cook on outside. This was a square tin box with a hole in the bottom, through which a pole was set upright (the box stood on bricks). Then the sawdust was packed tightly around the pole. The pole lifted out (carefully) and the sawdust lit from underneath, through the hole.
Petrol (gasoline) at that time was also non-existent for private use (only for public transportation). So people put their cars on blocks for the duration, and, either rode their bicycles, took at bus or train, or even had ponies and traps. The ponies living in the garages and backyards. Being 7 in the house, tea was no problem, sugar was very scarce and coffee was on the black-market. When we could get coffee, Mum added to it, by roasting shredded carrots. To heat the house, we had some coal and lots of turf (peat) for the fires. Sophie was lucky to be working in the Brewery, as she could buy a great quantity of turf brickettes from them. These were only produced by the Brewery then, and threw out great heat. The majority of people had to cut their own turf and dry it to keep themselves warm. There was no central heating in Irish houses then, but fireplaces in every room. The bedroom fireplace was only lit if you were ill, consequently one rushed to undress and dress in the frigid cold. The cars and vans were driven by gas – stored in balloons on the roof of the vehicle. A very funny sight!! I don’t know what the big balloons were made of, not rubber, but some other material.”
Sophie, the youngest Fraser child was born August 20, 1901. Like her sister Violet, she had aspirations to go on stage. She won many contests and a chance to go to London but like Violet, was prevented from doing so. She took a job in the engineering department at Guiness Brewery where she spent her working life. Adele Crowder describes her in her memoir:
“I discovered that Sophie always had tea downtown with some of her friends who also worked at Guinness’ brewery. Then she cycled home, slept for half an hour, had high tea and went off to play badminton or go to the pictures. On Saturdays she did a superb baking.”
Because the house was crowded, Sophie had to share a bed with her mother. From Adele Crowder:
“When I was about nine, in 1935, I stayed at Feldberg. Alick, Sophie and Charlie Waugh (the lodger) all went off to work early, Sophie after having had breakfast in bed with Granny. They shared a double bed. Granny then settled down to read a novel for an hour or so, tut-tutting over Sophie’s taste in novels (Forever Amber perhaps?). The rest of the day she steamed about, doing chores or walking to the shops in Terenure or Harold’s Cross. In totally impossible weather she took her exercise by climbing up and down the shelves of the airing press, sorting linens and mending.”
Around 1956, Alex inherited 50 acres of land near Harlockstown in County Meath and the family moved there. It had come from John Bates who felt bad about his brother Walter not paying back the money he owed to Agnes. Alex built a house there and commenced raising sheep. Sophie took early retirement. She was kept busy looking after Agnes who had broken her hip and her brothers Artie and Roy. Alex and her also learned how to drive a car, Joan stating that Sophie scared the life out of her when she drove around.
Sophie started visiting Joan in Canada at this time and eventually moved there to be cared for. She died in 1989. As stated in another post Alex died at Meath in 1964 which would be the same year as Agnes his mother, if she did indeed live to be 104 as the memoirs say.
I believe you can still find 42 Westfield Road, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, known to the family as “Feldberg” at Google Maps. If you click on street view you can see that it is a semi-detached house. It looks like it has a new front on it. Street viewing old addresses is one of my favorite genealogy activities!