Updated: Oct 27
My grandmother Mary Skidmore Drysdale was very close to her cousins Christina Norah Anderson and Henzey Barratt Anderson. Both girls were creative, Henzey, born in 1907, a musician who played piano professionally and Norah, the youngest, a teacher and talented watercolour artist. Although Christina was her first name she was always called Norah by family and friends. In my search for family information she has been the most difficult to find, and this usage of her middle name has been one of the reasons.
While researching Norah and her art I discovered that Gartcosh, where most of my family seem to have been born, was also home to a very well known artist John Quinton Pringle. Norah died aged only 41 years in 1950, at Christchurch Hospital near Bournemouth although her death certificate records her home address as Gowanlea, Gartcosh. It’s likely that she moved to live with her sister who was a silent film pianist married to George Arthur Patterson a timpanist in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, perhaps to help with childcare or because her ill health was diagnosed early and life in the south of England would have been more therapeutic than Gartcosh, where her mother Henzey (Skidmore) Anderson was also in poor health.
She was extremely well loved as I heard her mentioned many times throughout the years and she must have been one of the most popular girls in the family as she was either a witness or bridesmaid at three weddings. Firstly, aged 19 on 20th October 1928 at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Gartcosh to her sister Henzey at her first marriage to widower George Arthur Patterson. He was 30 years old and lived at 1 Eastgate. Henzey lived at 1 Mowbray Avenue, perhaps with Norah. Their daughter Henzey Norah was born in 1929. George Arthur died on 25 February 1947 when Henzey Norah was just 17 years old. Norah was bridesmaid to my grandmother’s half sister Jessie Blincow to Tom Garrett in Dunoon, in 1938. She was also a bridesmaid, aged 30 years at my mother’s first wedding in 1939 to Ken Bates, again at St Andrew’s Church. Memories of her seem to have just vanished and no one it seems even has a painting or piece of jewellery that may have belonged to her.
She was creative and very fashionable as the photograph here shows, which is one of just a few I have, probably taken in 1929. She is with three children, her nephew George Patterson and my mother Dorothy and her brother Leslie Moffat, playing on a beach, possibly in Bournemouth. Norah looks like she is holding a small black Bakelite cigarette holder, some were encrusted with diamonds, and very popular with the movie stars of that era.
Tae find Norah wus no easy
She used her middle name ye see.
Christina Norah wus her name
But she wus cawed Norah at hame.
Born in nineteen hundred an nine,
This lass wus a great - aunt o’ mine.
Norah and Henzey, her big sis,
Wur creative ah tell ye this.
Oor Henzey played the organ for
Thon Silent Movies folk adore
An Norah painted wond’rously
Her flowers wur a sight tae see.
Vivacious, arty, full o’ fun
Norah wus loved by everyone.
She wus bridesmaid time an again
An wus sought efter by young men
But, as a teacher, couldnae wed
Ur she would lose her job it’s said!
A “Marriage Bar” wus used back then
(Fur men wur oan the dole ye ken).
Authorities thought it wus fine
Tae make married Teachers resign.
Some wummen married secretly
Ur wur engaged eternally!
Thon rule made me feel sad an cross
Fur those like Norah an their loss
O’ married life an family
Aw robbed o’ how their life could be.
It seems unco unfair tae me
That there wus nae equality.
Oor Norah didnae keep sae well
An died young ah am sad tae tell.
Rheumatic Fever played a part
By causing damage tae her heart.
Ah wish ah’d known her huv tae say
Folk mind her fondly tae this day.
Poem by Lynne Noreen Arrol 2023
At home in Gartcosh I wonder if she ever met the respected artist John Quinton Pringle (1864 - 1925) who also lived there and painted local scenes en-plein air. I like to think of her seeing him working outside on his easel and encouraging her to take up painting with watercolours. Initially he trained as a watchmaker then became an optician’s assistant working in Glasgow but this did not stop him following his dream of painting alongside the 1880’s group of artists known as the Glasgow Boys. In the evenings he studied at Glasgow School of Art and more than likely met with Henry, Crawhall and Guthrie who all followed the French Impressionist style of rural landscape painting, as well as the printmaker Muirhead Bone. Gartcosh would have offered him the artist lifestyle compared to the tenements of the east end of Glasgow where he was born.
His peers must have appreciated his style of work as collector William Meldrum owned at least three pieces, including work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Meldrum’s son James and his wife Eva went on to donate his oil painting ‘Poultry Yard, Gartcosh’ to the National Galleries of Scotland and a pen, black ink and watercolour drawing ‘Backyard, Bartholomew Street, Glasgow’ to the British Museum in London. In addition a painting produced in Shetland ‘The Window, 1924’ was donated to the Tate Gallery. I never appreciated prior to this research that Gartcosh had been home to such a respected resident from the art world and hope that one day the community there might recognise this in some way, perhaps naming a new street after him. Congratulations Christina Norah, I would never have found John Quinton Pringle if I hadn’t been searching for any pieces of your work, but instead came across his.
Copyright, © Lesley Ann Parker 2023