Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kathleen Marie Nidd nee Todd

My grandmother, Kathleen Marie, was born to Robert and Ellen Todd on 22 April 1915 in Invercargill.  Baby photographs in a solid oak frame show a happy, pretty little cherub sitting in a bathing bowl.  She was the only daughter in her family, although her mother used to speak of an earlier daughter who died a few hours after birth, born prior to Kathleen.

Kathleen had three younger brothers - Bob, Jack and Murray.  Bob became a builder, married Irene and had three daughters, Anne Marie, Christine and Susan.  Jack became a doctor, married Judith and had two daughters, Elizabeth and Kathryn.  Murray, an English professor, married Barbara, and had three daughters, Ann, Margaret and Sarah.  

Kathleen was schooled in the South Island as a little child, and later found out that she attended school with cousins on her father's side.  Her mother was Catholic and her father's family were Irish Protestants, so they weren't a close family and she never realised that some of her school mates were also cousins! 

Later the family moved to Wellington.  Kathleen's father worked for the Railways and her mother had been a school teacher.  Kathleen's father was the more domesticated of the two and was the one who would cook and take care of the children to a large extent.  During the depression when he lost his job, Kathleen's mother returned to work as a teacher. The family lived in Island Bay. 

Kathleen played piano and was awarded her intermediate piano exhibition by Trinity College of Music on 22 May 1931.  She was trained by Mrs Ethel Mackay and performed with other students' of Mrs Mackay at the Town Hall Concert Chamber on multiple occasions, for example in aid of the Red Cross Society on 24 September 1936 and ironically in aid of the New Zealand League of the Hard of Hearing on 29 November 1939.  Her earliest recital may have been at the Masonic Hall on 10 December 1928, when she was only 13 years old.  Often Kathleen seems to have played piano duets with Miss Joyce Banks.  

Kathleen was always a social butterfly.  She is recorded as having attended many dances and social events. Because socialising a huge part of who she has always been I've listed the instances I've found of her out and about - often with her best friend Adelaide Gill.

On 23 September 1935 Kathleen and Adelaide were at a very enjoyable "midnight party" held in honour of Miss Phyllis Kerruish who was leaving for Australia.  Apparently Miss Kerruish, looking lovely in an ice blue frock, was presented with a handsome etching as her going away present.

Kathleen and Adelaide are also recorded as having attended the Wellington Younger Set Club's All Hallow's Eve party held on 30 October 1935 at the Tararua Tramping Club's Social Hall.  Apparently: 

"The walls...were draped with yellow and white, these pale shades making an excellent background for the black and red silhouettes of witches, devils, pumpkin faces, pixies and all the other insignia of Hallowe'en.  Lights were dimmed and shaded with orange globes upon which were painted grotesque faces in black. 

The guests who arrived in all manner of national and rustic costumes, were blindfolded at the entrance, and were initiated by shaking hands with the hostess (whose hand was none too smooth having served duty as a scrubbing brush).  Wet sponges and other dubious articles also played unexpected parts in the initiation ceremony.  Dances were interspersed with items and Hallowe'en games, "ducking apples," in which one was required to take between the teeth one apple floating in a tub, causing much amusement."

Kathleen was again at an event, this time a "Hard Up" dance party held by the Wellington Younger Set Club, on 25 March 1936 - the theme being "It's not the rich what gets the fun!"

Then on 23 April 1936, the Wellington Younger Set Club celebrated the opening of their Clubrooms in the Newport Chambers, Courtney Place with a dance and a fencing demonstration.  Again, Kathleen and Adelaide were in attendance. 

On 8 June 1937, Kathleen was at the State Advances and Land and Income Tax Departments combined annual dance at the Mayfair Cabaret.  The report says that Cabaret was decorated with "garlands of gay flowers and bunches of fern leaves".

On 19 July 1938, Kathleen attended the St Mary's Old Girls Association Ball which was held at St Francis' Hall.  There was dancing downstairs, and bridge upstairs for those who didn't wish to dance - and it was a good opportunity for girls to get their pretty frocks out.  

In 1938/39 Kathleen met Lieutenant Willam Thomas "Pat" Nidd, who was a cousin of her good friend Adelaide Gill and was staying with the Gills.  

On 24 April 1939 the engagement of Kathleen and Pat was announced in the Evening Post, Wellington.  They married on 6 August 1940 at the Church of St Francis de Sales in Island Bay.  Adelaide Gill was the bridesmaid and Bob Todd, Kathleen's brother, was the best man.

On 28 August 1940, the Evening Post records:

"Third Echelon Officer Married
Miss Kathleen Todd, who was married recently to Lieutenant Nidd (third Echelon) was guest of honour at a pre-wedding gift afternoon given by Mrs A.S.D. Rose and Miss E.H. Kierwan in a private lounge in the Midland Hotel.  About sixty friends, including brother officers of Lieutenant Nidd, attended another party given by Miss A. Gill, the bridesmaid, in honour of Miss Todd and her fiance." 

Soon after their marriage, Pat went away to Northern Africa, to war.  Pat returned from war in 1943 and in July of that year, Kathleen accompanied him to Southbridge, where his father and family lived.  By this time, Pat was a Captain.  

On 23 July 1943, Pat was welcomed home to Southbridge along with other returned servicesmen, by a six hundred person strong Southbridge Town Hall meeting.  Pat spoke on behalf of the soldiers.

They returned to Wellington, and on 19 October 1944, their son, Michael John was born.  He was followed four years later by Jennifer Mary on 12 October 1948.

Kathleen worked doing secretarial and personal assistance work for several employers, including ICL in Wellington, where she worked directly for Mr Hartrick.  She used to recall early in her career being sent by the company she worked for (Woolworths I think) to Court to take down notes of a case where a former employer was being tried.  She often used to talk about how awful it was seeing him being "sent down" at the conclusion of the day.

Kathleen loved beautiful things, and would save money to buy lovely figurines from Kirkcaldie and Stains Department Store.

Kathleen and Pat had a dairy for a time in Brooklyn, after Pat left the army and then bought 74A McAlpine Avenue, on the Brooklyn Hill opposite Central Park.  They called the house "The Glade".  At the time it was among other villas of a similar vintage, but by the time they left, forty years later, it was dwarfed by a huge Council apartment block. 

They bought a beach house at Te Horo beach and would go up there every weekend to relax, socialise and white bait.  I vividly remember many many holidays up there staying with them, and convalescing from chicken pox there when I was about eight - the sea breeze was meant to be good for chicken pox.  Nanna and I would go on huge long walks along the beach.  One day we walked all the way down to Peka Peka beach.  

We used to go to Mass a lot with Nanna and Grandad, and I remember one Christmas period where, with Sundays, Christmas, New Years day and various deceased family anniversaries, we seemed to go virtually every day.  I remember Jacquelyn and I being naughty, fidgeting and fighting in our seats, and Nanna bribing us with an ice-cream after Mass if we behaved.  Nanna and Grandad only had a small fridge with an icebox at the beachhouse, and so if Nanna bought icecream for pudding after lunch in Otaki, it would be half melted by the time it got brought out for pudding - Nanna would make us eat the whole carton of it! 

Nanna and Grandad walked the Milford track and they travelled overseas several times - Nanna loved Hawaii.  

Nanna had a fabulous appetite and ate a lot for a little person! She was also a chocolate addict and used to joke that she couldn't open a packet of chocolates or she would eat the whole lot of them - she wasn't lying either! 

Photo of Kath Nidd with great-granddaughter Jaime Myer
Feilding, c2000

Nanna was always social and I also remember as a very little girl handing around bowls of chippies or cheezels at her many drinks or dinner parties.  She always made an effort to be made up and to have her hair done just right.  She had lovely red hair, and curls. She was always a flirt and loved male attention.  She loved being the centre of attention and used to drive us crazy as she got older, wanting us to stop and all watch her opening each and every Christmas present.  She always used to save the paper too - carefully opened an laid out flat for future use.

Nanna played bridge and loved going to the Opera, the Ballet and the Pictures.    She never learned to drive - her father told her she was too "highly strung" to drive, and so she would walk all over Wellington - this no doubt contributed to her excellent health for many many years.  She still belonged to a walking club in Island Bay in her early nineties and only went into rest home care at the age of 93.

Nanna was a Pink Lady, volunteering at the Wellington Hospital, well into her 80s.  She was often running errands for people decades younger than she was. 
Nanna is in the newspaper photograph below on the far left.

She was a very vibrant, active, social person, and she is now 96 years old.  She is tiny, weak and a mere shadow of herself.  It's sad to say but I'm hoping that in the next few days, she'll go to sleep, dreaming about all the parties and dances she went to years ago, the lovely frocks, the admiring young men, and she'll just not wake up from that.

There's a photo on her wall of her, my Grandad, Uncle Bob and Uncle Jack, their wives, and her parents.  I often think how strange for her, looking at that photograph, and knowing that she is, effectively, the sole survivor of a happy group.  Adelaide died long ago of a brain tumour.  It must be lonely being old. 

RIP Kathleen Marie Nidd nee Todd 22 April 1915 - 2 May 2011. 
Funeral took place at St Francis de Sales Church, Island Bay at 11am on 6 May 2011.  Service conducted by Fr. Geoff Broad.
Followed by Private Cremation.
Kathleen's ashes are to be interred with Pat at Makara Cemetery.

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