Why spend five days on the Isle of Wight in chilly March? Two reasons.
First, it’s wise to avoid the holiday season, starting in April and ending in September when, to add to the population of 132,000 on an island 23 miles by 13, an extra 2.6 million ‘mainlanders’ ferry across Spithead or the Solent. That’s twenty times the number who live there, competing for ferry space, road space and any-place space.
Second, my own, less practical reason was driven by a visceral need to commemorate my grandparents’ deaths who died within a few months of each other in 1958, but I learned that no memorial was placed on their grave. For much of 2021, I had been attempting to correct this, corresponding with the council and stonemasons. From the former, I acquired ownership of the gravesite, but only until I am 116 years of age; from the latter, an inscribed granite tablet installed on the grave. In addition, two kind friends on holiday last year tried to inspect the site, but without a grid map of the graves couldn’t find the exact spot. In the end, the Friends of Newport & Carisbrooke Cemeteries helped by sending me a photo of the grave, so I knew what I was looking for.
On Sunday the thirteenth, after depositing Verity at her own cosy holiday cattery in Clophill, the Sunday drive down to the Island was without incident. Until Thursday, home was to be Dairy Cottage at Luckington Farm, Carisbrooke the village which we approached in the time-honoured way by driving up narrow windy lanes and through two fords.
Monday morning was taken up with paying respects to my maternal grandparents, Elsie and Ernest. Mum said that her dad was always in fine health but pined to death for his wife; they are together at the village cemetery known as Mount Joy, a high, sweeping elevation gazing on to Carisbrooke Castle. Armed with the grid map provided by the council’s bereavement services, I strode about the cemetery without success until I asked the only other human if she could help. ‘Better’n that,’ she said pointing, ‘why not ask those men over there?’ And over there, working on a grave, were two men whose van displayed the name of the very firm that had laid the stone the previous week. They helped me find the spot, only a few yards from our parked car. The photos cannot show my choking and tears when I first saw their grave and its stone:
Ernest & Elsie Gale
Laid to Rest 1958
Ernest Wilfred Gladstone (yes) Gale was born in 1887 and served in the Great War as a sapper, ‘Cooked for 25 men,’ said Mum, ‘at the Battle of Ypres.’ A bricklayer by trade, as well as working at Quarr Abbey and Parkhurst Prison he built the family house in Alvington Road in about 1923. Known to my brother and me in the 1940s as ‘Dee Dee’, Elsie May Grist was born in 1892; the 1911 and 1921 censuses record her occupation as ‘home work’. No photograph of either of them survived the peripatetic life of their daughter’s marriage to a career soldier.
A few days later, I walked on my own to Mount Joy and stood for a minute or so at their graveside. My thoughts were those of contentment that the chapter was now suitably closed.
(Thanks to Suzanne for help, support and photography, and to Tony and Richard for diligent reconnoitring.)