Family Photograph

Share


The photograph is black and white and was possibly taken about the year of 1900.  It is a photograph of the nine children of the Wood family.  My grandfather George was one of these children.

I feel a great attachment to the photograph.  It is like looking at a still from a movie as I take a peek into the story of their lives.  They are all dressed in high fashion of the day and are posed in the garden having a tea party.

Grace looks to be the eldest and sits at a small table with a cloth draped over it.  She looks very poised with her eyes lowered to the teapot raised in her hand.  She wears a beautiful wide brimmed hat, a sash around her waist and a dress high to the neck with puffed sleeves.  Louie stands to the left of her facing the camera and holds a tray of sandwiches in her hands.  She wears a similar dress but looks more severe in a black hat.  They remind me of Russian Tsarinas.  George sits on a cane chair to the left of her and side on to the camera.  He is very suave and must be about twenty years old.  He wears a boater straw hat jauntily on the back of his head showing off his thick black hair.  He looks assured leaning back in his chair with his legs crossed, teacup in hand and neat black moustache.  To the right of Grace stands Fred, Ida and May. Pretty young Ella sits in a chair smiling at the camera.  A big thick sheepskin rug is in front of the table where the two younger children sit, Marie with a bonnet and Percy with a straw boater.

I have never met my Grandfather George, he died before I was born.  I only have this family photograph and the stories my mother has told me about her father to imagine how he would have been. He died at the young age of thirty eight.

I think how important the photograph is to me to have captured that day when the family was gathered together, documented for me to see two generations later. I have been told the story of their lives and have that knowledge as I look at the photograph.  It is as though I know more about what is to happen to them than they do.  Even though I have never met anyone in the photo the connection is strong.  Their blood runs in my veins.

Graciously they lived, each having their own story to tell, all caught in the history of time.

 

Mother’s Day Remembrance

Share

Gabrielle Morgan

      I walked under the old elm trees. It was a cold winter’s day and the air was sharp. There was no one to break the stillness. I was conscious only of the dank smell of wet leaves underfoot and the sheep and cattle grazing peacefully in the paddock across the creek.

At last it was possible to be myself, away from people.  My thoughts were in emotional turmoil. Watching death creep insidiously through my mother’s body as cancer claimed her was hard to bear. I tried to grasp the inevitability of losing her. She was noble in her dying, never complained.  “Andy’s randy today,” was all she would say when beset with pain.

Continue reading “Mother’s Day Remembrance”

Christmas Mass at St. Joseph’s

Share

"The Journey" - Artist: Michael Morgan

By Gabrielle Morgan

A sense of peace prevailed among the people who seemed to be relaxed and happy after the pre-Christmas rush.  They waited expectantly for Mass to begin which was to be celebrated by a visiting priest from Rome.

Annie, our organist, had not arrived.  I was told she wasn’t well and we must proceed without her.  With a full church congregation, I realised how much we depended on Annie.  She travelled miles by car each Sunday, after already attending Mass at her own Church, to play the organ for us.  Now it was up to me to choose an Entrance Hymn appropriate for Christmas morning, one which everyone might know by heart.  I thought quickly and chose the carol ‘Silent Night’. Without accompaniment, a cappella style, a chorus of voices filled the Church – The Mass became alive.

Continue reading “Christmas Mass at St. Joseph’s”

Padre Padrone

Share
Saverio Marconi played Gavino Ledda in Classic film Padre Padrone

By Gabrielle Morgan

Among the many books on my bookshelves there are some more treasured than others, especially the ones which have been signed by the authors themselves.  I often come across newspaper clippings of reviews that I had slipped between the pages and sometimes I find a lovely card still hides in the jacket with the sentiments expressed by the person who gave me the book as a present.  Now, years later, I find endless delight in coming across these bits of nostalgia which never cease to move me as memories crowd my mind.

Continue reading “Padre Padrone”

“Bonjour!” – Good Morning in French

Share

"Bonjour!" - Artist: Michael Morgan

This fictional story was inspired by Michael Morgan’s painting “Bonjour!”

Alain Durand missed his native France.  Overcome with nostalgia, he walked along the path in the gardens which were an oasis in the city.  Wistfully, he watched the people passing by and cherished the hope that he might chance to hear the intonation of his own language pass their lips.

It was a crisp day in late autumn.  The sun shone brightly, but there was no heat in it.  Alain was grateful for his coat which he clasped tightly around himself.  He liked to dress well as befits a Frenchman.  He wore a bowler hat which offset his deep red coat with its black lapels.  An onlooker could quickly perceive he was a man of style and expensive taste.

Continue reading ““Bonjour!” – Good Morning in French”

St. Petersburg – Russia

Share

By Gabrielle Morgan

I was privileged to enjoy a cruise on the Marco Polo, Orient Line Scandinavian cruise ship, which docked in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Denmark and the Norwegian Fiords.  The ship is an ideal size for navigating the narrow passage of the Fiords.  It carries 826 passengers and has a much more intimate atmosphere than bigger liners that carry thousands.  The food is superb, staff obliging and friendly and your every need is catered for.  The entertainers are world class.  Interesting lectures are given the day before every port of call outlining the history of the country and outstanding points to visit.

Continue reading “St. Petersburg – Russia”

The Oratory

Share

By Gabrielle Morgan

After years of yearning to see England, I had at last arrived in London. My great grandparents had emigrated from England to Australia in the l850’s, so I felt a strong connection and was eager to investigate the marvels of that immense city.

I set out on foot from Earl’s Court, where I was staying, and headed for the famed Harrods Department Store in Kensington.  A gleaming Rolls Royce graced one of the windows close to the Royal Patronage emblem on the side of the building, undoubtedly setting a tone of affluence and distinction.  I was excited to see the interior of such a renowned and exclusive store.

I wasn’t disappointed.  I roamed around various departments and was tempted by the outstanding selection of goods displayed for the much wealthier than I.  The décor was created to captivate the emotions and indeed lure to buy.  Not to be outdone by the status of my surrounds, I ordered coffee from the gourmet food hall before I set out to walk down the Brompton Road.

It was the middle of the afternoon and I was tired but determined to keep going and not miss any aspect of London life.  As I walked along, I noticed a large, impressive, church building with an Italianate facade complete with columns and high dome at the rear.  A sign informed me it was the ‘London Oratory, Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, built in 1880 – 1884’.

I went into the church and immediately became aware of a tangible reverence, the stillness only interrupted by the people who quietly walked through, all intent on seeking prayerful solace.

A Mass was in progress in front of the High Altar.   I joined the congregation and from my seat in a pew marvelled at all I could see.  Candles flickered in shining gold candelabra illuminating the richness of the religious masterpiece above them. The priest wore a green chasuble, regulated by the feast of the day, as he solemnly celebrated the Liturgy in its original Latin form.  There was an enormous chapel to the right of the High Altar decorated with huge vases of fresh English flowers.  The sculptured Madonna and Child traditionally vested in Cope and Crown indicated it was The Lady Chapel.   To the left of where I was sitting was the St. Philip Altar in front of which lay a wax effigy of St. Philip of Neri dressed in his Eucharistic vestments.

The sweet smell of incense permeated the air as I followed behind a queue of people moving slowly down the red and ochre carpet to receive the body of Christ in communion.  The choir sang a Gregorian chant, and I had reached a somewhat symbiotic state of bliss.  I was no longer in the secular world of Harrods, but dwelt in the spirit of the sublime.

After the Mass, I walked around the church investigating the other magnificent altars dedicated to the Saints of the Church. The simplest being the Calvary Altar, where above a lone prayer table hung a superbly carved wooden crucifix.  The St.Wilfred Chapel contained the altar of the English martyrs and the only known religious painting by Rex Whistler.  I noted the large marble altar in the Lady Chapel had originally been in the Dominican Church in Brescia, Italy and the St. Patrick’s Chapel was decorated with Wood panels painted in 1517-70 by the Flemish painter Frans Floris.

I went on to ponder the wonder of the Chapels of St. Mary Magdalene, St. Joseph, The Sacred Heart, Blessed Sebastian Valfre and the Seven Dolours Chapel with a black and white study of Our Lady of Sorrows.  The paintings and statuary in these chapels were breathtaking and small lighted candles indicated the devoted who had prayed before them.

By the time I left the Oratory I was overwhelmed with the impact the visit had made upon me and before I left London I was to be drawn back to experience these emotions three more times.

I wondered at myself devoting so much of my valuable time revisiting the same place when I could have explored so much more of London.   Somehow the atmosphere in that Church answered all my needs.  I was lifted out of the secular into the divine.  Harrods with its enticing array of goods was merely a mirage compared to the wealth of inspiration I found at the Oratory.

I later discovered The Oratory is the second largest Catholic Church in London and is home to the priests of “The Congregation of The Oratory of St. Philip Neri,” or as they are often referred to as, the “Oratarians.”

The Church is dedicated to the memory of St. Philip Neri, a zealous priest, ordained in Rome in 1551.  Philip believed that music had the power to uplift the spirit to the divine and to that end he gathered together a small group of laymen for worship introducing them to the love of melody and song.  The Italians used the word ‘Oratory” to describe these gatherings.  The numbers grew to such an extent that Pope Gregory XIII gave him and his followers the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella which later became Chiesa Nuova.   Then Philip formed “The Congregation of the Oratory” with a group of priests and brothers.  The Oratory became one of Rome’s famous centres for sacred music.  Some of the greatest musicians of the time gained inspiration and musical opportunities from the Roman Oratory.  And to this day the “Oratarians” continue the tradition of St. Philip of Neri with serious devotion to worship and song.

There could be nothing finer than hearing Palestrina, Mozart and Bach echo through your heart within the walls of the London Oratory.  Glory Be to God!

(c) Gabrielle Morgan

That Day…

Share

By Gabrielle Morgan

Often a day can be quite remarkable.  That day for me was the day I went in search of the village of my ancestors.

I was alone in England, my first visit away from Australia, when I set out from London by train for Penzance, the southern most point in Cornwall.  It was a seaside resort where quaint old granite stone houses have been withstanding the Atlantic gales for centuries.  The old buildings and mysterious alleyways in the town were a reminder of the smuggling and plundering which had gone on there centuries before.  It was easy to visualise those earlier times and sense the hardship people must have suffered.

The Benedictine monks had built a priory in the twelfth century on a small offshore island, now known as St. Michael’s Mount.  It later became a castle and was the scene of many military sieges.  A boat took me out to the Mount where I braced myself against the strong wind to climb the steps to the door of the castle.  Looking back to the mainland, where all the small stone cottages from previous centuries still remained, I was transported in time and once inside the castle, I was completely entranced by the history within its walls.

The antiquity of Penzance enthralled me and I was tempted to stay longer, but the day arrived for me to investigate ‘Luxulyan,’ the small village where I believed my ancestors originated from.  At home in Australia, I had studied this spot on a map and was intrigued to find out what it would look like in reality.  So, I packed my suitcase to leave the B. & B. where I was staying and after a lengthy chat with the proprietor who provided me with a vivid picture of Cornish life over the preceding few hundred years, I departed Penzance by train.

To negotiate my journey to Luxulyan involved three train connections, and as it was the weekend, a wait of two hours at St.Austell station between trains.  However, not to be put off by the look of amazement on the Porter’s face when I told him my destination was ‘Luxulyan’ or by his comment,

“What are you going there for?  There’s nothing of interest there.”

I proceeded on.

I had intended to make a return journey to St. Austell in one day, but due to the long wait between connections this idea now seemed unlikely, so I enlisted the help of a kindly girl in the bus depot outside the station.  I told her I wanted to visit the town of my ancestors and would like to find accommodation for the weekend.   After three phone calls to establishments that were all booked out, she managed to secure accommodation at a B. & B. said to be situated at the top of a hill overlooking the town.

Eventually, after a seemingly endless wait, I was seated in a two carriage train which wound through the magical woods of Luxulyan Valley.  If Robin Hood had popped out I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised.

When the train pulled into Luxulyan, I struggled out of the carriage with my suitcase and dragged it along the gravel platform.  Remembering the Porter’s words, I was relieved and agreeably surprised to see some quaint stone cottages across the road from the station.  A taxi was already waiting for me. The driver, a very pleasant English woman, chatted easily as we drove into the village along the most picturesque street I had ever seen.  The cab wound around past the old village pub and along a hedged lane which stretched up a hill to the gate of the B. & B. where it stopped.  I stared at the charming two story granite stone house before me.  It was situated in an extraordinarily beautiful countryside where cows and sheep grazed peacefully in the hedged meadows sloped against the hillside.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“Are you sure this is the place?”  I asked the taxi driver.  “There is a notice on the gate; it says, Christian Retreat Centre.”

“Yes, this is it.  They take in B. & B. guests too,” she answered cheerfully.

At that moment, the owner of all we surveyed appeared at the gate.  He was a charmingly polite Englishman who introduced himself as Robin.  After he picked up my suitcase, he ushered me into an adjoining modern house on the property which was designed to be in complete harmony with the original thirteenth century stone farmhouse where he lived with his wife. This new house I was to have entirely to myself.  It was furnished completely to my taste and had a glassed in sitting room overlooking the valley.

Robin told me he had invited a lady named Constance Rowe to meet me and that she may throw some light on the whereabouts of my ancestors’ graves.  While I settled into my new surrounds he went to fetch a tray of tea and home make cake for me to share with Constance. The lady duly arrived and I found her to be an extremely interesting and pleasant person.  As we sipped tea together, she told me her husband was a history professor who had published a book two inches thick on the history of Cornwall.  We enjoyed each others company so much I felt sad when she had to leave but was buoyed by her offer to drive me to the church grounds on her way home.

We wandered around the church graveyard looking at headstones with inscriptions worn with age.  I had almost given up hope of finding a Treleaven ancestor buried there, when I suddenly came across an old stone with the inscription, “Mordecai Treleaven of this Parish who died March 9th, 1887, aged 60 years.  His end was peace.”

I was elated.  I had found a Treleaven grave in an idyllic setting, right under an oak tree in the prettiest spot in the world, beside the parish church of St. Cyriac and St. Julitta, built in the 1500’s.  In that churchyard, I experienced a familiar closeness to my surrounds hard to describe, rather as if I had been there before in my deeper subconscious. I belonged, connected to the soil, the freshness of the air, the oak trees and the solidity of the aged stone buildings of Luxulyan.   I realised that without knowing it, I had always sought to replicate that special sense of place in the country areas I had chosen to live in Australia.

I reluctantly left Mordecai and walked past the high stone wall of the vicarage and headed up the steep hill to my temporary home.  The hedged road was only wide enough to take one modern day car.  On the way I passed a two storey stone house that Constance had pointed out to me as being the oldest house in Luxulyan.  I decided to go in to ask if the resident might happen to have known the Treleaven family descendants.   To walk into a stranger’s house was not something I would ordinarily have done, but as my stay was to be short I felt compelled to do this.

I followed the pathway leading to the back of the house and peered through a window in passing.  An old lady sat alone at a wooden table sipping a plate of soup.  I hesitated, not wanting to disturb her, but continued on past a beehive to arrive at the back door.  When I knocked the old lady opened the door and welcomed me in after I explained I was an Australian visitor.  Inside the house I felt as though I had gone back into a time capsule of the past.  The only evidence of modern day living in the sparsely furnished room was the family photographs of her children who had long since migrated to America.  The lady was very friendly and enjoyed talking about life in Luxulyan, but didn’t have any knowledge of the Treleaven family.  I was surprised about this as Constance had told me there was a “Treleaven Farm” in Luxulyan to this day.  After I left the lady’s house, I felt I had experienced a very special glimpse into a life still untouched by modern day concerns.

On my return to my new found paradise, Robin’s wife, Maggie, had prepared dinner in the main house equal to any meal you would be served in the grandest hotel in England.  It was presented with great delicacy and taste.  In conversation, I discovered their Retreat Centre was the result of their passion to provide a home for people seeking Christian Fellowship and prayer; a haven for people needing a break from mainstream living, where they would find solace and peace in a homely and loving atmosphere.

As I lay in bed that night covered by a pretty pink flowered doona in the cosiest, prettiest room I had ever been in, I knew it had been worth while to cross the world from Australia to be there.  I smiled to myself as I thought of the words of the train Porter; he obviously hadn’t discovered my nirvana.

The following morning was pouring with rain, but the view through the wide expanse of glass windows in the sitting room was unsullied.  Somehow, the heavy mist enhanced the picture post card scene of black and white cows grazing in the green hedged meadows.  Robin appeared to advise me that breakfast would be served in the main house.  I was speechless when I saw the presentation before me.  Every kind of breakfast food, followed by eggs and bacon, toast and coffee, all amazingly presented with a perfection rarely encountered.

Despite the rain, Robin was delighted to drive me to Lanlivery, the next town, where we visited the Church of St. Brevita.  There, under the flagstones inside the church lay the graves of the Treleavens.  The Treleaven name was also inscribed on the church bell.

My excitement was great, to actually be in the very church where they had worshipped so long ago.  To feel the atmosphere and space that was their world cannot be described, except to say, I felt a new comprehension and sense of the importance of their lives.  They were now entwined with mine, their purpose somehow linked with mine.

I will go back one day to my hamlet of heaven.

© Gabrielle Morgan

On His Departure

Share

You were departing, leaving me.  As you walked away a sharp awareness came upon me.  The world around me was merely a stage.  I headed for the coffee shop in order to settle my feelings by doing something deliberate.  Surrounded by people bustling with trays and animated chatter brought an everyday ordinariness to grasp.

I drank the coffee feeling a strong sense of aloneness.  A familiar struggle started within me, one where I tell myself I must cope with being alone, alone I must be, alone from all these people surrounding me, a huge void that I must conquer and I summon all my strength.

At quarter to seven I hurried to the observation deck.  You were in that odd looking capsule ahead of me.  Mankind had set against me with metal and engines; they had made the power to separate you from me, pluck my soul and leave me spent and empty.

I watched the plane fly out.  It was a rare, fine morning, the hills clearly defined against the blue sky, the air was fresh; a perfect day.  A childhood chord pulled in me, a reflection of my first recollections of the splendour of early mornings.

Continue reading “On His Departure”

H.W. – A Lonely Man

Share

I watch your intense gaze mirroring your emotions,
Feel a sorrow that life cannot always answer our deepest
desires.
Wasted hours seem to flee us when our souls are yearning,
unfulfilled,
But days pass, and new consciousness arrives.
Aloneness can be treasured, not misused.
We are what time has made us,
What is present and past is now.
Something deep in me is casting my destiny,
And I am following alone.
Sometimes I glimpse fulfilment, overpowering in unerring
joy,
I cannot help but follow without compromise
To find the essence of all truth – my God.

George – A happening on an Australian beach

Share

Gabrielle Morgan

It was Sunday.  People stood outside the church doors, passively chatting, smiling and generally exuding their clean, well-groomed ordered appearance; too well clothed, for the day shone hot, laying bare the cream brick building and the strip of green grass.

Dominique and Lisbeth searched the faces in the crowd of church goers.  Jim was not among them. Lisbeth had hoped she might see him there.  It was hard for her to accept that he had said they must part.  She wanted to speak to him again.

They drove away from the church, passing gardens with sprinklers sparkling on fresh smelling lawns and lazy people, listless in the sun with no motive for movement.

They stopped the car outside Jim’s house.  He had been there, now a stillness remained, like a life lived and finished.  Yet, the eye perceived serene order and new life pulsed slowly on, unrelenting in the sureness of itself.  Jim had been all to Lisbeth, now he had left her and she couldn’t resist the impulse to be close to where she had known him.

Continue reading “George – A happening on an Australian beach”