Recently, my good friends Jack & Mary were down from Wicklow for their annual mini-break here in Kerry, and as we sat in front of the 1950s Rayburn, drinking pot after pot of tea (loose, PG Tips, naturally!), and eating slice after slice of Harrington’s absolutely delicious traditional Irish Halloween Barm Brack (with lashings of Kerry Gold butter and perhaps a spoon or two of marmalade), we chatted about this and that, and it wasn’t long before my recent preoccupation with Peter Grant came to the fore. Mary was fascinated with Peter’s story, and I showed her the precious little scrap of manuscript paper, upon which he had written for my mother, who he called “Yolanda” (her middle name) a “Sketch – An Air (to be varied)” . A note at the end reads: “Yolanda, this is the sketch, it’s far more like one than a finished work on clean manuscript paper. The little tune is almost like a folk tune. It’s very crude at the moment but in the completed work it should be better. As you know it is for orchestra. The tune calls for the oboe and the rest of it for low sustained strings. It will commemorate a memorable evening with Mozart and other things. Peter” . It must have been written when they were “dating” (for want of a more suitable word), when she first moved to London to pursue a career as a ballet dancer, and before they got married, in 1937.
I was explaining to Mary my life-long fascination with Peter Grant, telling her how, when I was about 12, my sister Claire and I went (very shamefully!) rooting through my mother’s old trunks; full of her old diaries, school work, photos and all sorts: all jumbled up, but having somehow survived countless house-moves. We found, what we first thought were our mother’s school books, as she had always told us her maiden name was Grant. But we realised the dates were wrong and they had to have belonged to our oldest half-sibling, also called Rosemary (but more often known by her nickname “Reddy); who very sadly died a few years ago.
We had already figured out that she had been married before, as two other half-siblings were called Pawle, but it was quite a revelation to learn that their was an earlier husband!
We found, during this outrageous prying into mother’s private things, the manuscript, and jumped to the conclusion that Reddy’s father must have been called Peter Grant.
In the last few years I have been going through box after box of these old papers, photos and documents; brought over to me several at a time by my sister Susan. I have been carefully sorting them and scanning them, so that we can all have a copy of everything.
Simultaneously, I have been doing a lot of research on Ancestry.co.uk and other such websites and gradually, but by bit, I have turned an imagined figure, Peter Grant, into a real human being, with a story: a rather sad one in many ways.
In one of Susan’s boxes, we found photos of Peter (which were later confirmed as him by a man and fellow Folk Music collector, Reg Hall, who contacted me via my blog and since met me in London and told me all he knew of Peter and Peter’s character)
Another contained a photo of mother as a very young bride.
I had failed to find a record of their marriage on Ancestry, but after studying the photo it dawned on me that they might have married in Scotland, so I joined Scotlandspeople.gov.uk and bingo!
So we were right! Our mother’s first husband was indeed called Peter Grant!
I have written extensively about him on earlier blogs, if you wish to learn more about him, but the purpose of THIS blog post is to tell you the most exciting news:
Mary took a copy of the manuscript to her friend Harry who put it onto his Apple Desktop and using his Sibelius software, rewrote it, in its exact form, for oboe and strings (violin, viola, ‘cello and double bass)!
He also printed out the brand new, professional-looking “clean manuscript” version!
Mary and Harry, as my niece Danu put it, “are my new heroes”
I’m afraid WordPress won’t allow me to share it here as either an M4A, or the converted file, MWA so, here is a long version, because his air does require listening to a few times to fully appreciate it:
And also there are extra photographs, pertinent to Peter’s life story, in order of events, which will help you to fully absorb the spirit of this long-forgotten man, who was once so special to my mother, and because of this has always had a place in my heart.
I am writing my mother’s biography, in the form of a novel, so that I may have the creative freedom to fill in the gaps, where it is impossible to ever find out what actually occurred. I am shamelessly borrowing this style from my gorgeous Trinidadian cousin, Lawrence Scott; my inspiration to (try) and become a writer!
Peter Grant will be given a large chunk of my book!