In memory of my Granma, Rosalind Scollay, part 1.

I’m addicted to the programme Who Do You Think You Are? I could watch them over and over. I wish I was able to download more than what’s currently available online. Watching the new series on BBC1 has got me thinking, I love watching the journeys people make as they discover their ancestors and as they go further and further back. My research is often sporadic and I often get lost down tracks I wasn’t planning on going down. Mixed with my personal feelings, I’m not telling our ancestry like I want to, so now I’m going to take a leaf out of the WDYTYA? book. I’m going to start with one relative, and make my way back.

Therefore, here is the story of my Granma, (granma because when I was younger I always missed the D out and now my granpa still signs his letters and emails to me minus the D so it’s just stayed that way!).

Rosalind Townsend, nee Scollay

Rosalind Scollay was born in Lerwick, Shetland, on the 10th June 1925.

Rosalind’s birth certificate

My mum once told me a story that the registrar wouldn’t allow the name Rosalind as it wasn’t a biblical name, however as it was a name from Shakespeare it was eventually allowed. The character Rosalind in As You Like It is one of my Shakespearean heroines, quick witted, clever, loving, loyal- perhaps those were traits her mother wanted for her? She was often known as Rosie rather than Rosalind though.

Although there were whisperings, it seems my grandmother’s parentage was known to many family members but it was never confirmed to my mother. That is to say when I told her my research, she was shocked yet also not surprised. The official ‘family line’ is that Rosie’s parents were Andrew and Rose Scollay, however records have confirmed that Rosalind’s mother was actually Marian ‘Gracie’ Scollay- Andrew and Rose’s daughter. They were actually Rosie’s grandparents, yet bought her up as their own. We think this was likely because she was illegitimate, it would take away some of the stigma associated with that. Both Andrew and Rosa were illegitimate and would have known all too well how difficult life could be if you had been fatherless/ born out of marriage. To this day, no one knows who Rosalind’s father is. I am hoping DNA testing may help us to identify him in the future.

The birth certificate shows that my granma was born at 17 Quendale Lane, Lerwick. The house no longer exists, but we were lucky to have found the lane on our visit.

Quendale Lane street sign

View from the top of the lane
View from the bottom

The picture below shows the view from the top of Quendale Lane. In the colour part of the picture, to the left of the lane is a car park, and to the left of the car park (not pictured) is the town hall. The top half of the picture shows a view from the town hall. The close proximity of those pictures show us what Lerwick would of looked like for my ancestors, (they moved from Yell to Lerwick around 1915 we think). The gardens in the black and white photo are likely the modern car park, and the lane to the right of the picture is Quendale Lane.

Quendale Lane 1904 and 2019. Black and white photo taken from Shetland from Old Photos by Tom Henderson

It is my understanding that Rosie grew up in a loving household, thinking that Christina and Charlie (Andrew and Rosa’s other children), were her siblings.

Rosie (middle), with her ‘siblings’ Chrissie and Charlie, actually aunt and uncle

In the 1939 register, Rosie and her family have moved to Lowestoft. It was common for Shetland families to move to other fishing ports with the herring industry.

The 1939 Register

There is an error on this record, it states that Rosalind is 25 and Christina is 16. I can only assume that the person taking the record has made an error as Chrissie is definitely older. Charlie is likely not on the register as he was in the Merchant Navy and would of been away.

Rosie is listed as single, seeking work and not presently employed. We can also see that Gracie has got married and is now Turrell not Scollay.

I love this photo of my granma with Gracie and her husband with their first child. They look so similar, Rosie looks relaxed and happy and Gracie looks proud and equally at ease with the pose. Rosie is holding onto Ernest’s arm. They look like a family together.

The redacted line from the register I think belongs to my granpa. He was a solider in World War 2 and lodged with Rosie’s family. He has been telling me his story;

“My group of four were sent to A company of the Regiment stationed at Lowestoft, making up two hundred men who were needed to guard the bridge that spans the main road through the town, also the docks, harbour, Town Hall and anything else deemed of the necessary importance. Now the Territorials are being mobilised, and these drill halls are becoming overcrowded which brings us in contact with a Canadian Captain, a highly qualified Doctor serving in The Royal Army Medical Corps who was not having anything to do with that, who then went about organising for some of us being moved in with families of the civilian population who got paid by the army and also issued with army food rations.

     It was a first class setup. I was put in a house at 50 Church Roada ½ mile from the drill hall therefore I was with the Army during the day and these lovely civilians during the evenings and nights, except for night guards that came at least four times a week.   If there happened to be nights with no guards they invited me to play cards listen to the radio or just talk in general.

     By Christmas 1939 a viscous (sic) flu epidemic hit the whole Nation. Lowestoft was full of Servicemen from all branches, the Military Hospital, like the civilian one, were operating flat out. I went down with it myself so along came our Canadian Captain and asked if I could stay completely isolated until it abated, Army medical staff would attend twice per day to attend to me. The cost of my stay, for however long it took, my landlady would receive double pay. They were so nice I think they would have agreed anyway.

     In a week I was back on duty, it was then I began to speak to the youngest daughter of the household, one Rosalind  Scollay. She was only 14 and I, an 18 year old soldier and shy with it, so it took a great deal from me to ask her parents if I could take her to the cinema. A few weeks after that we went out to buy the family Christmas Tree.

     Not beknown to me at the time my days here were being numbered, yes out of the blue I was ordered back to Bury St. Edmunds. I was soon to find out, I was issued with a ten day leave pass, (that) upon my return the whole depot were confined to barracks and issued with tropical uniforms and equipment to be shipped of to join the Second Battalion stationed on the Afghanistan / Indian border.

     Rosalind and I wrote to each other throughout all my service overseas, we even got engaged by post. 

 Back to England June 1945, I am now 24 and had to ask my commanding officer for permission to be married out of uniform, the age needed in the army at that time without permission was 26- Rosalind was in the Women’s service of the Royal Navy,  The WRNS (The Wrens), serving at The Naval Base in Granton, Edinburgh.

      So, on the 7th of November 1945, Rosalind Scollay and Victor Roy Townsend on a seven day leave pass, neither of us in uniform, were married in St. Nicholas Church in Edinburgh.”

Taken from emails sent to me by my granpa, Victor Roy Townsend.

St Nicholas Church, Edinburgh

Rosalind and Victor went on to have 3 children, my mum Linda and two boys, Roy and Gordon.

My granpa remained in the army and is a survivor from the Battle of the Imjin River, 1950. Rosalind stayed in Edinburgh, but more of their lives together coming up in Part 2.

1 thought on “In memory of my Granma, Rosalind Scollay, part 1.”

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