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Mary Begg

Born 14 May 1894
Married  30 Oct 1914 to Colin Rowntree
Died   11 Nov 1967

Two Children
Michael Rowntree 
b.07 Nov 1915  d.10 Jul 1942
Paul Rowntree 
      b.27 May 1920  d.11 Sep 1999

Mary Begg's Childhood Photograph Album

Photographs of Mary by Sam Begg

Mary's Paintings, Drawings and Designs

Mary Begg, the only daughter of Sam and Ada, was brought up at 23 Fairfax Road, Bedford Park in Chiswick. We have one reference to her meeting up with Colin Rowntree as mentioned elsewhere with a rather blunt invitation to dance. There are some photoghaphs of Mary when a young girl and bearing in mind that she married Colin before the age of twenty one, it will be noted that Colin selected for himself a stunner, and ensured that he had secured his catch before immediatley leaving for the war.

Mary stayed on with her parents but obviously had been left with the task of finding a house albeit with the help of her inlaws Fred and Mary Anna Rowntree at Hammersmith Terrace.

Letters suggest that by January 1915 she had taken on the rental of Picton House on Strand on the Green, Chiswick despite the gentle pressure that she should choose further downstream nearer Hammersmith Terrace.

She had her first child Michael in November 1915. Her letters to Colin describe the work that decorators had to do and the help with items that Fred was giving.

Shopping at Liberties for linoleum of a specific design and for carpets was all on the agenda.

In February she had sent Colin her plans for the garden and reported in letters over the next few years on the work she has done in it . It would seem that Mary did not move into the house but stayed with her parents until Colin came home however she went there often and by Feb 1917, it was referred to by Michael as his "Strand on the Green Garden".

Life at this time must, from a domestic point of view, must have been very unsettling. Colin was not a regular soldier with a career planned out for war, he volunteered to do the FAU work on the basis, probably that the war would be "over by Christmas". His getting married and then going off to France can only be explained by the short term vision of the war. Mary found a house, early in 1915 and got pregnant, all with a view of settling down to the life of an architectís wife. In June 1915 she suggests that they rent out the house to Willy and Ada Cruikshank, Colinís cousins who were to get married soon and may be in need of somewhere to live for the summer. Again short term thinking.

There is this strange feeling one gets from letters from home during the war. In hindsight we know what a devastating episode in human history the whole thing was but for those involved at the time, it may well have been seen, initially as a quick adventure, with the boys going out to do an instant sorting out job.

Some of Maryís letters during the war indicate expectations from her husband that would be reasonable under normal circumstances but suggest that she had no idea of the trauma he was experiencing in the field.

Having said that the people at home were growing aware of the problems. Letters refer to Maryís motherís, having women from the workroom to tea and the upset when one of their husbands or family was killed or injured. Also the Begg family handed over one room of their house to the workroom women as they lost their work space elsewhere.

In one letter she offers to buy the adjacent jacket called a cuirasse for Colin, suggesting that she could line it with leather.

At the age of just 21 years old, Mary must have had hopes for a more fun life. Not only was she a beauty, she was talented artist, a keen observer of nature, as well as managing things on a domestic front by herself. During the war she, just as most people must have done, lived as normal a life as possible and in one letter we have a very clear description of a time on holiday in Cornwall.

She, during this period, was doing art work and seemed to enjoy flower painting but it is interesting to note her ambivalence regarding having a baby and so having to share Colin with another being.

 

Letter from Perranporth June 28th 1915

Dearest Colin

I got your long letter here on Saturday many thanks. I am writing now by the open window. The tide is high and only about 30 yards from us. It retires in to the dim distance apparently miles and miles away. At low tide there is an enormous stretch of sand, 3 miles long and nearly a mile wide. A great change isnít it. Most of the houses here are fairly new, about the same size I should think as Lizard Town. The country inland is nice. Valleys branching off one from the other. Some nice little cottages covered in roses. We walked inland in the rain yesterday evening and picked flowers out of the rain soaked hedges. There are high cliffs in parts, in between high sand dunes which I love. At midday today it was glorious. It looked as though it wouldnít rain again for a month. This evening we were driven home by it. We had a bathe this afternoon, but the bathing is very poor. But altogether we are very pleased with it, with our rooms. It suits us very well just now. I find it very hard to remember to be as staid as I should. I think perhaps you had better not expect many letters. I never can write when I am away. But of course I shall expect more than ever! I donít believe I shall get any flowers drawn either.

Much love from Mary.

This is included as it was written while a few months pregnant and gives an interesting description of the area.

Another such letter is itself of interest:

"Do keep you moustache until you come home and let me see how funny you look." -Feeling tired and stupid but no cough she had before coming away . Looking fat and brown.

Living on honey and cream. Been to St Agnes

Description of St Agnes ..

We went by the cliffs and saw some of the finest weirdest coast that I have seen. Very wild, it was and just alive with gannets. St Agnes itself is rather an eerie place. A big mine close to the sea (some of the deserted ones are right on the edge of the cliffs in most weird situations.) The streams run thick grey with stuff from them and discolour the sea for about a mile out. Then there is pretty fertile valley and then the "town" away up on one side - we couldn't find it for ages, till two women, who said they were going to the "teahouse" conducted us. The Teahouse turned out to be the dentists, but we got a good tea that we were very much in need of. St Agnes is quaint - it's glorious. It was very much more important some time back. I always think these places are rather fascinating. There is a quaint weird old burial ground right away from the church with some funny old carved slate tombstones, the most striking now are to three little girls all dying with a few days, (small pox I suppose) and one erected by his shaft mates to a man drowned in the mineshaft. That must be a ghastly thing, when the sea breaks in. Did you see the poems they are so fond of in the death notices in the local papers when you were here. They make you think of Mrs Adeln's book - "We have lost our little Annie etc"

Some of the "killed in action ones", I afraid , are very funny.

The country inland here is lovely. Very pretty valleys and nice very well kept cottages and lovely gardens with gay wild flowers. One thinks at first that the cottages must be inhabited by artists or such like people, but it is not so. And yet the children are not half so well kept as further north. Ö

"Do you suppose you will get leave soon"

It would seem at that time that the Flint Family, parents of William Russell Flint, were living in the neighbourhood and often visited Mary and her Family. Sam Begg got to know William Russell Flint while they worked at the Illustrated London News and encouraged him to work in colour. It should be noted that Sam was 26 years Williamís senior. Mary was touched to receive little sketches from William when he and the family dropped in to visit. William Russell Flint was commissioned as a lieutenant and rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Air Force.

As the war dragged on, the tone of the letters changed and we see signs of Colinís impatience that Mary is not writing enough letters. She must have had her hands full with looking after Michael and watching over the "new house".

There is no evidence that Mary moved into Picton House until Colin returned home after convalescence from the Flu in 1919.

In 1920 on the 27th May, Maryís second child, Paul, was born and the family stayed in Picton House until they moved, in about 1925, to Brandsby in North Yorkshire and then in 1927 the family moved to Stonegate, York.

During that time in Chiswick, Colin had a holiday without Mary and with the Rowntree family in Scotland, probably 1921 and maybe Mary felt that she could not manage the two children away from home at that time.

The detailed information drawn from two letters from Colin at this time is include in the section

The Meeting of the Clans - Scottish Holidays.