• Sarah von Allmen

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 11.

Week 11 – Flowers.


Naming girls after flowers was particularly popular in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, and unsurprisingly my own family tree has its fair share of girls called Rose, Lily, Violet, Daisy and so forth. When I was about 13, I took a wild liking to the slightly less common flower name Bryony, along with the tree name Rowan - probably inspired by whatever I was reading at the time. More recently I discovered the delightful Welsh name Eiriol (“snowdrop”), which alas is totally unpronounceable here in France.


However, none of the flower names in my family tree inspired me particularly for this week’s blog, and instead I turn to a couple of memories of my maternal grandparents.


First, a recollection of my mother, who told me how her father used to sing “Lily of Laguna” to her mother Lilian (known as Lil). As a child she thought that he had invented the song, with its lyrics “You are my lily of Laguna/You are my lily and my rose”, only realising much later that it was an old music hall song, revived by Bing Crosby and others during the Second World War.


The song lyrics bring me neatly to one of my strongest childhood memories of my grandparents: the roses grown by Granddad at their home in Manley Road, Whalley Range. There *always* seemed to be a strongly scented bowl of cut roses in the hall next to the grandfather clock - although I suppose in reality it was only during the summer months.


This might appear to be a rather banal souvenir, but scents can have very powerful associations, evoking a place (such as the musty smell of an earth cellar) or a person (the cooking of a traditional family dish for instance). My grandparents moved house around the time I finished primary school, and about ten years later I was walking past a total stranger’s garden with a bed of roses close to the pavement when I stopped short at a scent which screamed “Manley Road!” to my brain. Goodness knows what passers-by must have thought, because I carefully smelled all the rose bushes until I found the precise one which spoke to me: a dark red rose which had the exact odour I remembered.


Other flowers have associations for me (Mum’s favourite freesias for a start), but none are quite so powerful as the roses from Manley Road.

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