Saturday, April 2, 2011

Not Happily Ever After

Mementos of the Marriage of Hugh Christian Blair and Marion Nicholson. Handmade - as their wedding was on the cheap.

Hmm. Mrs. H Blair. When a woman got married back then she not only gave up her surname, but also her first name. Officially speaking.

I have calling cards for Marion that say Mrs. H. C. Blair. These were likely used before her husband died in 1927. In her professional capacity, as a widow, she used the name Marion A. N. Blair.

Well, once again I went through the Nicholson memorabilia, looking for a certain document and found one I didn't know I had: Marion and Hugh's marriage contract. I had only guessed the date of the marriage, using an invoice for a wedding cake on October 9, 1913. Then I found these butterflies. Well, the Marriage Contract has the same date.


The contract is interesting in that it shows that Marion brought nothing to the marriage but her clothes and wedding gifts. (There's a big space in the contract to list other things.)

Then it shows that Hugh promises to give all the household furnishings purchased from now on, to Marion, "as a simple celebration of the marriage". And also to leave any insurance to her, UNLESS, there is a separation FOR ANY REASON and all this is deemed void.

I get the impression that this contract was forced on Hugh and Marion by his family, to protect them. She certainly gets nothing out of it.

As it happens, Hugh Blair died in 1927 after a lengthy illess. A liver issue. I have letters speaking of his illness. Edith writes that his eyes are as yellow as egg yolks. (I have stories told by my mother in law who was 10.) and I have documents supporting what she talked about.

Apparently, when Hugh was dying, Marion did everything to keep his family away, as she knew they would force him to sign away his share of the business. But she went out one day and they got him to do it.

I have two copies of a letter written by Hugh to Marion saying that this is only a temporary business decision and that she is still provided for.

Then I have a letter from Clayton Hill, the brother-in-a law stone mason, just before Hugh's death, relating to the potential purchase of a plot for him in St. Andrew's cemetery in Richmond. (Something made Hugh so angry he decided not to be buried with his family. Alas, he died too soon and is buried on Mount Royal.)

Then I have an obituary printed in the newspaper, that leaves out the names of Marion and family as mourners. (A letter Herb writes to Margaret asks about this.)

Then I have a letter from the Blair Bros. claiming that Hugh has exhausted all his insurance and that no money is due her.

Then I have a letter from a lawyer claiming that she has a good case against the firm but to pursue it would be too costly.

Then I have a letter from the Masons, the Melita Preceptory and Priory, saying that they are going to give her kids allowances from the Knight's Templer Orphan fund.

And, yet, apparently she never complained. She just went back to work and rose to be the President of the PAPT union. And she got hell for this too, for her job, in many people's eyes, was to get remarried and not get a job.

Had she been a man, there's no end to what she might have accomplished.

Funny, I have a letter from her brother, Herb, 1907. Marion is teaching in Sherbrooke, he's at the bank, working as a clerk. This is the year the Nicholsons are disinherited by a spinster Aunt who had a house and about 3,000 in the bank.

"And now that my house is to be given to someone else, " he writes "I will have to give up all hopes of ever being rich and look at it as a lost fortune."

He would spend the next few years getting into debt and making his family crazy with anxiety and it would be Marion on her teacher's salary, who would bail him out, no thanks from him.

(This is the story told in the Nicholson Family Saga, on another blog.)

Sometimes I wonder if she got married because of a fear that she'd forever be bailing out her family, what with her brother being so irresponsible.

Largely because of Herb, Norman would have no money to give her 'a proper wedding' - so this mean little contract, I guess.

Hugh married Marion anyway, against his parents' wishes. I also have a friendly warm letter from Hugh's father, Hugh Purvis, to Hugh in June 1913, that never mentions Marion or the upcoming wedding.

Apparently, they didn't attend the wedding. But, for the wedding, they did provide the couple with a Family Bible which I have on hand.