Robert Anderson ROXBURGH Mary Evelyn ROXBURGH  ROXBURGH Mary Hutchison BELL Mini tree diagram

Helen Anderson ROXBURGH

about 1894 - 16th May 1973

Life History

about 1894


16th May 1973



  • Helen Anderson Roxburgh (1894-1973)

    Always known as Naena.

    I met Naena and Evelyn several times but can only distinctly recall one occasion. So much so, that they are indisolubly one item, NaenaandEvelyn, rather than being two clear-cut individuals. This is not because in reality they lacked identity - very much the opposite as I hope in part to show, but in my mind they are an item.

    Neither married, both for good reasons. They refer, in the course of their notes on other members of the family, to living in various places in Scotland as well as moving to London, but the only place I knew them to live was in Long Wittenham where both of them died and are buried. One sister was tall and stately, the other was short and jolly. I think Naena was the latter

    Naena was an inveterate maker of notes and keeper of diaries. The only years I have are 1918, 1931-37 and 1943, '46 and '47. Some of these are only part complete; that for 1918 is one notebook covering only May 24th - 29th. There must have been others but their whereabouts are unknown to me.

    I should maybe preface what little I know about the two Misses Roxburgh by explaining how some of their possessions came into our hands. They were very close as sisters and, although they did not always live together certainly did so for the last 20 or 30 years. Both made their wills out naming the other as principle beneficiary. Evelyn died on the 24th April 1973, about 3 weeks before Naena who died on 16th May 1973and although Naena was I think aware of the problem was unable to take action in time to avoid dying intestate. There was a particular irony in this as Naena was for many years secretary and more (as will appear) to not only a lawyer, but an Apellate Lord Justice, Sir Leslie Scott. The 'estate' therefore forfeited 40% immediately to the state and the remainder was divided equally between the surving immediate descendants of the sisters. One of the executors was Lord Diplock, an erstwhile colleague or protégé of Sir Leslie's - this at a time when their was a crisis in Anglo-Irish relations and Lord Diplock was in the very process, I think, of establishing the so-called 'Diplock Courts' to deal with Irish terrorists. Clearly dealing with a rather messy intestate estate would have been inconvenient. As one of the beneficiaries (my father Dick Linklater) lived quite close and was able and willing to act as executor most of the final administration of the will fell to him.

    The contents of the house were valued for probate and other beneficiaries notified of the opportunity to purchase items at probate valuation. Whether anyone did so I do not know. We i.e. Dick and Peggy Linklater myself and Robin were able to buy a number of things. It also fell to 'us' to vclear the house raedy for sale. This incl;uded vast amounts of accumulated junk - the sisters were inveterate hoarders and kept all christmas cards etc since the year dot. There was also a considerable collection of papers of all sorts which we carted off lock stock and barrel with a view to 'looking ythrough them later.' Among these papers were Naena's diaries and some letters and other docukments which form the basis of the material for this.

    To date the above vols of diaries are un-read by me. In due course(!) I may be able to elaborate on the following info. What I can say for certain is that Naena from my recollection and also from the evidence of her writings was a keen observer of others, one who enjoyed life to the full, was intelligent quick and witty, and unconventional in spite of being of presumably fairly conventional Scotish upringing and an avowed Christian.

    My knowledge of either of the sisters lives is very limited. However, both sisters enjoyed an active 'social' life as chilren as is tesified by the large numbers of  invitations they received to various childrens parties; Hallowe'en ("Bring mother!"), birthdays, Christmas, fancy dress ("our little guests are coming in the names of flowers. Please wear the one you select") but most are Hogmanay. Most just state what day the party is on but a couple have the year and they are 1903 and 1907. One other insight into their childhood is provided by a set of home-made paper cut-out dolls. These are carefully preserved in tissue paper and, although rather faded with age (as presumably about 100 years old!) are a charming example of children's amusements from a bygone era. (They appear to be the handiwork of a child rather than an adult.) Interestingly, underneath it all both dolls are anatomically correct and detailed down to pubic hair.

    Of the two Naena seems to have been possibly less academic or at least less patient with intellectual rigour, more of a go getter. To this end she seems to have been an able driver and competant mechanic in a day and age when 'ladies' did not espouse such skills. It seems more than likely, and I have a dime recollection of hearing it said, that she served as an ambulance driver in the 1914-18 War. She certainly had a licence of sorts in 1915, but this may only have been a 'provisional licence.

    Late in 1914 she obtained two St Andrew's Ambulance Association certificates; one in Ambulance Work the other in first aid

    Armed with these Naena clearly sought work as an ambulance driver as correspondence with the St Andrew's Ambulance Corps dated 25.xi.1915 shows.

    There is also an undated card from a Dr Isabel Venters introducing ÙSMiss Roxburgh who is anxious to serve with the Scottish Women's Hospitals as a motor driver.ÙT

    Also carefully preserved among her papers along with the above is a slim phrase book titled ÙSEasy Serbian for our men abroad...ÙT It is undated but a quote from the Daily Mail on the front cover is dated Aug 29 1914.

    Whether Naena drove in the Balkans or elsewhere or at all I do not know for sure. What I do know is that the notebook diary covering 24 - 29 May makes only passing references to the war and concerns mostly social chit chat and men. Here is a sample

    I met Mary  [this could be Evelyn, whose first name was Mary but who was certainly later always referred to by Naena as Evelyn or just 'E'.]  and we sauntered along Princess St. with a weather eye for the naval barrage - & by Jove there was some barrage! After 5.30 we toddled into the little old New Café for light tea - scrambled eggs - saw Min & Ad but there was no talent in the place - only one 'chance' & he was the limit. We walked down as Mary has 'flu & didn't wish to go far. She's not very keen on Mr Bunting, Nettie  [?]  Mitchell's 'boy', & when I said I thought the Mitchells were ratrher dead-alive & not real sports she agreed heartily. We simply can't fathom the lack of spirits, of 'devil',  [dare? drive?]  in some girls! Great Scot, you're only a lassie once (unless it's once too often)!

    Mary's trousseau is lovely - crepe de chine undies etc. She said that Kenneth would get some socksif she couldn't wash her 4 guinea nighty! All her London caps suited me which was sad. We discussed our mutual man-eating propensities & decided it was harmless & innocent & we'd grow out of the virulent part in time. What worries me is not the hearts I lay at my feet for you'd need a microscope to see them, but the terrible .... [?] for "fresh blood & young"!! Mary says it was the same with her at my age & there's no harm in it! Thank Heaven for that for if un peu d'amour were taken from me I'd be left behind a broken doll!

    Mary saw an unsuspected letter on the table. "It looks uninteresting" she said, couldn't guess who it was from & finally discovered it was from Willie Kenyon, one of the CanadianMinisters at the last Overseas. He wishes her to write & also any member of the Club, & is, as usual, in love with all the Edinburgh girls hje has had a sample of! All the boys, he declares, are the same - but then hey always are. Oh! the tender hearts & large of our Overseas friends!

    I met Mr Murchison for the first time altho' I've been so often to the house. Poor soul, he is very deaf but seems a nice kindly old dear & smiled away to me quite the thing tho' he'd have no idea who I was. There were two terrible Highland women in, relations of his, and you could see they were criticising Mary hard all the time. The girl was a horribly prim & conceited ape & the old'un was the limit - still I'd rather have had her than the girl.

    Later I went round to Ada's.

    Carefully preserved among her papers is this clipping torn from un undated newspaper. I can only assume from the fact that it is ,arked that either the advert was placed by Naena seeking a position or it was one that caught her eye of someone suitable to employ - but then she would hardly have kept it all those years? No idea of the psaper or date but Nathaniel Pegg & Co were offering at "lowest summer prices" Best Wallsend coal at 25s a ton or Peggs Silkstone at 23s.

    Naena certainly had secretarial skills - shorthand and typing - and at some stage met Sir Leslie Scott. Naena's father was an eminent Scottish lawyer and may have effected the introduction. There is certainly a reference in a letter from Naena to her father dated 2 Dec 1924 in which she wrote "Sir Leslie also said he was so glad and sends congratulations" - on the success of Tukeson. Whenever and however they met, they became life-long companions. Sir L was married but I believe his wife was incarcerated in a lunatic assylum. Sir L had wide interests outside the law, in particular with a love of English landscape and countryside, rights of way and the like. He was an early member of the CPRE. These interests and a passion for walking were shared in full by Naena who treats them frequently in her diaries. His work also brought him and consequently Naena into contact with many eminent people from all walks of life.

    The following letter, dated 5th July 1950 and written to their Aunt Celie, their father's sister, about whom I know nothing) from 'The Red House' in Brightwell near Wallingford, where Naena and Evelyn lived with Sir Leslie Scott. It gives a pretty good insight into their post-war life.

    Dearest Celie

    Evelyn brought me your dear letter of the 27th June, and I was so much interested in all your news. I am surprised that the McConachies' house has not sold, but it was not so well converted as ours, and not so well balanced. I am so glad you saw Flora,and perhaps you may find it possible to go to Pitlochry. You must of course let her come for you and bring you back, if you do go, later on. You must not try, now, to do too much for yourself. You have done that all your life, and it is now your turn to have things done for you.

    I know how you would feel your first Communion alone. I have not been to our church - for one reason or another, except for the Memorial Service - since my darling died. I feel it will be difficult to sit in our pew, knowing that it is not because of a cold, or work, that he is not beside me. And I shall hear his.strong devout voice, saying the Lord's Prayer, and with its rise, as it always did, - when he said "the Power and the Glory", into a deep note of Faith. It must have been like that with you at the Communion Service, seeing our darling Robin officiating, or having him beside you.

    I feel so much for you, although I hove not written much, because, as you know, I have had so much to do, and have been trying to do most in the short time before Florence and Ethel left me. They have been good beyond words, and helped me in word and deed, in every possible way all the time. I hope they will have a good holiday before taking up their new situation - and I think it will not be far from here.

    As I say, I feel so terribly for you, and more than ever, if possible, since the same terrible loneliness has fallen upon me. The dear man's presence forever withdrawn, and the dear man's clothes taken away from the house, and from the pegs on which they hung, in the passage. I can never believe it when I go up and down, many times a day, and they are not there. Dear Celie, I know with you, and so does Evelyn, that the lonliness and the longing are sometimes quite unbearable. In both our cases, too, it happened so suddenly - not any time really to prepare for our loss. But all the time my darling was ill, I had a dreadful sense of fatality. And when I brought him home, and had him beside me, I felt I had been wrong, and we had the most wonderful afternoon of joy and peace. Then the dreadful new symptom began. It seems so cruel that we were separated for those three weeks of isolation - which did nobody any good, and only gave him added suffering in keeping us apart, and he in a place where he didn't like the food and could see nobody. He bore it all with his wonderful goodness and patience, and was brave and cheerful all along.

    As I think you know, if I have not told you, Leslie and I have waiting for more than 25 years to be married. We promised one another so long ago. We have been so lucky in being able to be together without causing people to talk, and, although we could not live together as man and wife, in every other way we were entirely one person. His dear sisters knew for years, and wanted so much that we might be married, in due course. We both took the Christian view of marriage, although condemning nobody else, and, even if there had not been other reasons of expediency, could never have taken the line of divorce. We were perfectly happy in each other, and utterly and eternally bound to each other.

    I tell you this, because it is your right to know. Robin knew, and of course Evelyn. But, as Leslie's legal wife is still alive, till she is dead I do not talk about it at all, except to the very intimate people, who have known for years.

    It is very difficult to face life without him, as you must feel with our darling Robin - and life without Leslie and Robin is going to be very bleak and without colour. You and I feel the same, that our hands as well as our arms are empty. We have lived entirely for .a dear man for so long - work and play and thought and every idea and everything shared - that the emptiness of life, coming too so suddenly, can scarcely be realised. We have no place in the world, we feel, because we are really only a part of a person - it is like a very big amputation. That we do have a place in the world, I am sure of. But It la .difficult to be a complete person, and will be, for a very long time to come.

    I have been so busy, and Bveiyn has been helping me, as well as Florence.and Ethel and Leslie's sisters. That has made time pass, but also tired me extremely. I have made a good clearance of all the paper; we promised to look through.together - and .were looking forward to going through. It would have been so wonderful to be able to do this, and talk over old times and past friends, and, as I was always.urging him to do, to get in touch with .old friends who week by week were slipping away. Evelyn helped me to clear the studio .- a task which would have been quite beyond me alone - and it tried us both very much. Poor Evelyn was quite broken .down in .the evening after doing .it - the first time I have .seen her completely break down, although she tells me she has cried much for Lesli,e. She has felt our double loss intensely and the shock to her of hearing of .both agonising.. happenings over the telephone at the hospital has been very great. I think she will feel it for many months, and probably it is not spent yet by any means.

    The one thing that causes a light to break in, is the possibility of getting a house. Mary Radford was over here yesterday, for the day. She has helped me so much over his dear clothes, which we are giving away. After tea she and I saw a house about 4 miles from here, in a village, which is just what I want. Evelyn is coming to see it on Saturday, and the Potters. But it is too dear, and I fear we cannot buy it. I shall have a very good income, but not capital - there will not be much disposable capital in the estate at all. The shares from which I get most of my income are.not allowed to be sold,and the rest of it is in a capital annuity. So I shall have to raise money on mortgage to buy a house at the figure wanted, or at all. I have the furniture and the pictures and anything I like to take in the house - books, all silver, anything. But 1 don't want to sell any of it, at least at present. The people want £7000 for this house and property, and that at mortgage interest, means a big outgoing every year, apart from-any redeeming of the loan. If I could borrow at 3 per cent. I could afford it, but not at 4 or 4Ùa (the latter is the bank rate of interest on loan). I think it would be a good investment for any mortgagee, and would fetch nearly as much in the future, but it is a lot.

    We are trying to sell our own home for £8000, with the 2 cottages, but it is a more difficult proposition, as the house and garden are both large. A few have enquired but nobody has made an offer yet.

    On Monday I go to stay with Agnes Eyston for, probably, a week. She says I can go back to her when I want to. I have had many invitations to stay with people, but at present must be here, for selling the house, putting things in order, and looking for a house for Evelyn and myself. My address from Monday for a week will be c/o The Lady Agnes Eyston, Hendred House Wantage, Berks-hire Telephone East Hendred 203.

    This is a longletter, with a lot of sorrow in it. But it will be a long time before there will be much else than sorrow in our lives, dearest Celie.

    With much love


    I think you are wonderfully brave.

    Naena and Evelyn moved from The Red House to The Grange in Long Wittenham where they spent the rest of their lives with a housekeeper and dozens of cats.

    Finally, also carefully preserved in waxed paper in an envelope without further explanation as to where, when or why, is this.

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