Fragile Treasure

Oh I’m on a roll here. Two posts on consecutive days.


Some of my cousins and I have been posting old family photos on FB and trying to document as much as we know of the history because we’ve already lost so much of that. In my case, I need to double and triple check anything that I THINK I know of family history, because little mum was rather fond of ’embroidering’ family history, when she wasn’t just making it up out of whole cloth.

So in a sense, what I and my cousins know of our shared antecedents could be regarded as the fragile treasure of the title. Each previously unseen photo. Each tentative date or skeleton of a story.

Nadie is always saying to me ” I hope you’ve got that labelled” or “I hope you’re writing this down”

so Nadie, this is for you:

My gorgeous maternal grandfather, Roy Williams, had a twin sister Elsie. They were born on Christmas Day, 1890, and there doesn’t seem to be many photos that we can be sure are Elsie, mostly because she died as a very young woman. I’m thinking 1915, but I need to check that… and this is one of those bits where I have to question what I think I know, because Mum always said that Elsie died in childbirth, having her son Edwin McLaughlin.

Maybe one of my cousins knows whether this is correct, but certainly what I do know, is that the photos of Edwin as a toddler all show him with either his father, or with his Nannie, my Great Grandma Gertrude Henrietta Adams Williams. No signs of Elsie. So maybe Mum was correct.576286_10200863080927628_1583406655_n


That’s Elsie on the left, with my great aunts, Gertrude Alice in the middle and Doreen Constance on the right , taken at the family home in East Camberwell, we’re guessing around 1900-1902, as Do was born in 1894. Tell me you don’t just love the cabbage-tree hats, pinafores, lisle stockings and button-up boots!

and this is Elsie on the day of her wedding to Roy Edwin McLaughlin in 1914


541617_10200863081447641_1594588875_nwhich is what leads me to the title of the post.

Elsie’s wedding veil.

My treasure.

It’s unbelievably fragile and foxed, thanks to its being stored in plastic for goodness knows how many years before I got my mitts on it.

In fact, though I hate remembering this, the very first time I picked it up, my finger went right through the netting which is so brittle I’m not sure how it is holding together.

You may all be assured that since 1994 it has been living in archival tissue, in a labelled box, and rarely ever coming out into the clear light of day. [ and did I just hear a collective sigh of relief from all my embroiderer/quilter friends ? ]

This week it did, because I wanted to photograph the embroidery for my cousins

and I thought some of you might like to see it as well.





Each corner is different: the net embroidered in fairly heavy cream thread,

542765_10200863726663771_545099070_n which has a slight sheen and is probably equivalent to modern 6-strand embroidery cotton.

and so I continue to preserve this whisp of century old embroidered lace, the tangible expression of the fact that Elsie was a living breathing woman, who loved, was loved in return, and then lost.


17 thoughts on “Fragile Treasure

  1. Margaret says:

    It is beautiful, are you thinking of replicating it ???

  2. Marcie says:

    Lovely work, I wonder if she embroidered it herself?

    • catsmum says:

      See, this is the stuff that no one knows anymore … buggerit

      I’m thinking that it probably was done by her or an immediate family member: the embroidery is quite heavy for something as ephemeral as a wedding veil [ although that may have been ‘fashion’ ] but also when you look at the designs, the corner with the leaves seems to me to be in a totally different style to the other three corners … and I’m not sure that the bow was designed by the same hand as the two florals either.

      but I don’t – and can’t – KNOW.

      • catsmum says:

        Postscript: an elderly relative is of the opinion [ still nothing concrete though ] that the veil is possibly the work of the bride’s mother, my great grandmother Gertrude. Apparently she could do “just about anything with a needle”

  3. VAl Groombridge says:

    truly beautiful and such a delight to have such an heirloom, your grand daughters will just love to know all about it in years to come….

  4. Peg Utting says:

    Simply goreous, what beautiful embroidery our mothers and aunts produced.
    For interest, who or what is just behind Dorothy in the photo?

    • catsmum says:

      Hi Peg – a HUGE dog.
      btw I found those photos of you girls from the first WAAAFs again so will be posting them soon. Will need you to identify peoople if you can.

  5. gpcox says:

    Outstanding photos and post, congrats.

  6. Rosemary says:

    Such a beautiful veil and so lucky to fall into your hands so it’s properly cared for. I have a jet beaded cape I inherited from my grandmother (it belonged to her aunts so my great grandmother’s generation). I’ll take a photo and send it to you.

  7. Maria says:

    Beautiful post, beautiful veil, beautiful photos.
    You are so lucky to be the curator of these wonderful things. And even better you have now immortalized Elsie. :-). She is now floating out on the web forever. Maybe it will bring a connection or more info from someone who knows

    • catsmum says:

      well, since last night I have had it confirmed by my lovely geneology-mad friend Margot, and just now reconfirmed by cousin Katti, that Elsie did indeed die in 1915, So she was only 24 when she died, poor little thing

  8. Chris says:

    What a treasure. Beautiful, sad story 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

  9. Lynne says:

    What a lovely post and what a fabulous treasure — I’m glad you got your hands on it in time!

  10. Rhonda says:

    From The Argus, 25 September 1915:
    McLAUGHLIN. – On the 10th September, at Randwick,
    Sydney, the wife of R. E. McLaughlin – a
    son (Edwin Albert).
    McLAUGHLIN. – On the 22nd September, at Rand-
    wick, Sydney, Elsie, the dearly beloved wife of
    R. E. McLaughlin, and second eldest daughter
    of Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Williams, Eelundie,
    Moorhouse street, East Camberwell. 24 years of

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