100 years. A Long Life
Editor’s Note: Sadly Helen passed away a year after I wrote the post below.
DIND, Helen Mabel. (nee Steel) Passed away peacefully on 27 August 2014.
Loved wife of David (dec). Loving mother of John (dec) and Peter
It was a privilege to have met her and her lovely family.
October 2013. Helen Dind. Formerly Steel. Born 1913.
Helen is William Bellingham’s last remaining grandchild. She turned 100 this month.
Some time last year I found someone on ‘myhistory.com’, who shared a common thread in my paternal line: the Cairnes family. I discovered she was related to the younger sister (Emily Bellingham Cairnes) of my grandfather, Henry Moore Cairnes ( Harry).
They came from a large pioneer family of 15 children raised in Castlemaine, Echuca, and Yarrawonga, from the 1850s onwards. Their parents were William Bellingham Cairnes and Elizabeth Matthews.
You can find out more about their lives in previous posts. There are links which you will find at the bottom of the page. Some will be found under the monthly headings.
On Monday , 8 October, 2013,
I had the privilege of attending the 100th birthday celebration of my father’s last remaining first cousin, Helen Dind, at the Manly Skiff Club, Sydney. It is a fine venue to have such a wonderful celebration. The club is surrounded on three sides with the lapping water of the rising tides, with a grand view of Manly wharf and of course the wonders of the glinting waters of the harbor and the busy comings and goings of the big old ferries provide a never – ending entertainment.
Not that that was noticed too much this day.
I had been kindly invited to attend, and I knew almost no one. I had only recently found this strand of my family, when I discovered a member of an online genealogy group, shared part of my family tree.
As a gift I had collected all relevant family photos , put them on a DVD and provided a link to this blog .
Helen is a tiny woman, though I can see from the deep and tender affection her 2 sons and all the extended family have for her, she inhabits a very large space in all their hearts.
I watched her carefully all afternoon. She seemed to inhabit a state of grace during the whole event; exuding love to all, with the most embracing smile coming and going on her beautiful face. Not once did she seem to withdraw her attention and she was absolutely present, and genuine with each and every guest.
I was soon introduced to her and I explained my connection to her. I said that my father had been close to her older brother Adrian Steel, and that they had spent much time together as children and teens getting into mischief and having adventures of the ‘ Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ type according to my fathers stories. (They remained friends until my fathers death and often visited each other in Sydney over the years as evidenced in my fathers diary.)
I got lots of smiles and was welcomed warmly. I knew she had many people to greet and didn’t press her to see what memories she may have had of my father. As there was only a 4 year difference I am sure they must have spent time together at family gatherings. I hope perhaps to meet her briefly again and see whether she has any stories of those early years.
I got to meet Bob Steel , the son of Adrian and was able to show ( on the trusty iPad) 2 photos of his father and mine as teens from the mid 1920’s.
Both Helens sons, Peter and John, were very welcoming, and everyone seemed to be pleased a ‘Cairnes’ was represented at the gathering! I was introduced to so many lovely people, who all had stories to tell of the family. The speeches given were fascinating windows into Helens long life.
I was not surprised by the warmth and welcome shown towards a strange and new family member by everyone I was introduced to.
At every point of connection I have made in my travels to broaden my family history knowledge , my extended family has invariably greeted my enquiries with kindness , warmth, and often, open affection, even though I was a total stranger. I recognize my father’s extraordinary generosity , hospitality, and openness as something he shares with others in his large and sprawling family.
I also witnessed the love of the wry, and dry sense of humour in the room. One of her sons began his introduction, citing some world events that had happened in the year of her birth- 1913. He wound up by reminding us that it was in 1913 that two great canals had opened….the Panama Canal…..and of course the opening of the birth canal of Emily Steel! – bringing their Helen into the world!
As the great cake was brought forth, the 30 strong assembly was called to song by one of her grandsons, accompanying himself on guitar.
Helen becoming 100 years, had brought a family group together, aged from toddler to centurion. The sense of warm continuity was palpable in the room.
The sun shone, the waves continued to rise over the rocks on the shore, and bump and splash the hulls of the boats that rocked and danced at their moorings.
All was well in those moments, and everyone left happier and I think , more radiant, after experiencing Helen’s beatific smiles.
As I write, I sit here on the 12 hour , 900+kl train journey to Melbourne, where I am about to meet 3 more second cousins, who I have only just discovered.
I can’t wait for the next installment of my family history adventure.
Below are the links to all the other posts