A Much Loved Great Aunt – Elizabeth Sloan McDade Armour

This blog post is adapted from the eulogy of my much loved great aunt Elizabeth Sloan McDade Webb nee Armour which my Mum and I wrote for her funeral in 2015.

Elizabeth, front right, in characteristic hysterics. Frank Webb on the left.

Elizabeth was born in Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital, Rottenrow, Glasgow in 1917. Sadly her mother died days later but Elizabeth had 2 older brothers William and Francis. A family anecdote is remembered of Elizabeth’s aunt on her father’s side going to visit the mother and baby in hospital, only to be told that Elizabeth’s mother had died and the aunt should prepare to look after the baby.

The remains of Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital.

Elizabeth was brought up between her father and stepmother, William Armour and Elizabeth Welsh (her father remarried in 1919), in Kelvinbridge, Glasgow and her aunt, Elizabeth Mulholland nee Armour in Johnstone, Renfrewshire.

William Armour
Elizabeth Welsh
Elizabeth Armour

Elizabeth got up to many childhood pranks with her brothers. For example, she fell into the River Kelvin and William had to fish her out and she and Francis wandered off to Cowcaddens in order to find the cows which to them seemed very logical! They were found by a Police Constable and were not released to their stepmother until she had paid £1 each for them which was a lot of money in those days.

Elizabeth met her future husband Frank Webb on a blind date at a dance and fell in love with and married Frank contrary to her aunt’s wishes.

The marriage of Frank Webb and Elizabeth Armour.

They married in January 1942 in St Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church in Johnstone and were married for 64 years. There was a coffin in the Church when they married and the priest didn’t know what to do first, the funeral or the wedding! Being January there was snow on the ground when they left the Church. 64 years later, after Frank’s funeral, there was also snow on the ground and Elizabeth told her family this was Frank’s last joke.

St Margaret’s Church, Johnstone

Elizabeth and Frank weren’t blessed with children but Elizabeth had 2 nieces and 4 nephews via her brothers.

After Elizabeth and Frank married they were only together for 2 days before Frank went to the Middle East with the army and Elizabeth continued to live in Johnstone. During this time she proved what a devoted aunt she was by taking fresh eggs to her oldest niece in Kelvinbridge.

Frank was very ill with tuberculosis in Switzerland after the war. When his health improved they moved down to Woodford Green, London. In London they both worked very hard in the civil service before being moved to Edinburgh in the 1970s when they took up residence in Longniddry.

Elizabeth was always very accident prone including falling off a London bus and Frank having to get the fire brigade out when she locked herself in the bathroom in Longniddry. She broke her hip at least 3 times and her wrist at least once.

Examples of their devotions to their nieces are a visit to London for their eldest niece’s fifth birthday and taking their youngest niece on holiday with them to Newport, Wales to meet Elizabeth’s nephews. After they retired they both devoted a lot of time to helping those in need through the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and the Society of St Vincent De Paul.

After Frank’s death in 2006 Elizabeth’s health failed rapidly and Elizabeth spent five years in Nazareth House, Bonnyrigg where she passed away peacefully in 2015.

My reason for starting family history research.

Dear blog post reader, this blog post explains why I started family history research 31 years ago.

When my grandfather died in 1990 the whole family were quite shocked that his mother, Euphemia Barr, was not buried in the family plot in St Kentigern’s cemetery, Glasgow.

I then made it my goal to find out where Euphemia was buried.

So, the lady herself ….. Euphemia was born in 1882 in Glasgow to George Barr from Pollokshaws and Margaret McIntosh from Dull, Perthshire.

Euphemia went to Oatlands School and then worked in the Scottish Co-Operative Wholesale Society (SCWS) factory in Shieldhall where she met and fell in love with my great-grandfather William Armour.

Euphemia Barr as a teenager/young woman.

However William Armour is still remembered as a ‘lady’s man’ to this day. In 1903 a SCWS colleague Louisa Milne got pregnant by him but died giving birth to his son, James.

In 1914 Euphemia and William married and Euphemia had 3 children in quick succession, William (my grandfather), Frances and Elizabeth. However Euphemia was not strong at the best of times and died in Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital 8 days after giving birth to Elizabeth (Elizabeth was far stronger than her mother and only died 6 years ago).

William Armour senior, Euphemia Barr and William Armour junior.
The remains of Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital.

My great-grandfather remarried in 1919 to his housekeeper, Elizabeth Welsh. Apparently the social pressure was such in Kelvinbridge that they were practically forced to marry!

Anyway, by the time I got this far with my family tree research, an Australian descendant of Euphemia’s brother Jack contacted me and confirmed that Euphemia was buried in the Eastern Necropolis cemetery with many Barr babies who had died tragically young. We now try to take Euphemia flowers twice a year (excluding global pandemics) and we’ve placed a small monument to the Barr family as no headstone exists.

Euphemia Barr’s grave.

Euphemia might have died over a hundred years ago but I’ve inherited a remarkable collection of her possessions.

I have school-books, laundry lists, favourite poems copied out in her best handwriting, 2 boxes of her postcards and letters including letters from her brother Jack pleading with her to emigrate and her brother George’s job application, newspaper clippings re medication, the last surviving piece of china hand-painted by Euphemia and finally and, most poignantly, the last letters Euphemia wrote to my grandfather during her final days of life at Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital.

Euphemia Barr’s hand-painted china.
Euphemia Barr’s school prize book.
A poem that Euphemia Barr wrote out.

Euphemia might not have survived on this earth for very long but she was a wonderful lady who inspired me to do, so far, 31 years of family history research …..