Francis and Sarah Lacey had another seven children after arriving in New Zealand, making a total of fourteen. Their twelfth child was Grandad Dale’s grandfather, Ernest Alfred Lacey (my father, his son, was called Alfred Ernest Lacey).
When he was 24, Ernest married 19 year old Rubina (“Ruby”) Gibson in the Primitive Methodist church in Eltham, in Taranaki. All we know about Ruby’s background is that she was born in Christchurch and that she was of Jewish ethnicity. They must have moved north quite quickly, because their first child (my father, Alfred Ernest) was born in Whangarei, where the family eventually settled.
I can barely remember Grandad Ernest (he and Nana separated in the early fifties and he died in Auckland in 1955), but I certainly remember my Nana Ruby. Everyone who knew her would agree that Ruby was a right “battle-axe”!!! She was extremely dominating (presumably, that’s why Ernest left), ruling the family with an iron fist.
My favourite story illustrating this happened not long after her two eldest children were married. When the two couples arrived for a weekend visit, Ruby ushered the “boys” into one bedroom and the “girls” into another. And the shocking thing is that the newlyweds all agreed to this arrangement. None of them dared challenge the matriarch!!!
The saddest Nana Lacey story relates to her only daughter, Freda (the picture shows Freda and Ruby at their home in Whangarei).
All the children (except my Dad) had a form of congenital deafness and my Auntie Freda seemed to be most affected by this. Although she was a very competent businesswoman (she owned and ran her own photography shop), Freda was as quiet as a mouse and was totally dominated by her mother.
When she was in her fifties, however, Freda met a man called Spencer. All of her siblings thought that Spence (as he was called) was a really lovely man, and a plot was hatched to help them “elope”. Even as middle-aged grown-ups, they were all still so frightened of their mother that no one considered the possibility of just telling her that Freda had met someone nice and was going to marry him!!!
So, a date was set and arrangements made to secretly whisk Freda away. But, sadly, when it came to the appointed day, Auntie Freda just couldn’t do it. She loved Spencer, but couldn’t bring herself to defy her mother. They couldn’t really continue their relationship in secret, so, in the end, Spence gave up and left town and Freda continued living with her mother.
A story of broken hearts from a different time!!!
Despite all this, I liked Nana Lacey. Yes, she was slightly terrifying, but I can remember lots of kindnesses and laughing, too. Because of that fondness, when she finally died in 1973, I drove all the way from Wellington to Whangarei to attend her funeral.
The family matriarch was dead. An era had ended.