Low's Autobiography

Low's Autobiography

Low's Autobiography

Low's Autobiography

Excerpt

There were no artists on my family tree. Great-grandfather Low was a blacksmith in Fifeshire. Grandfather Low was a marine engineer. After doing a stretch of whaling in the Arctic and ranging the South Seas he found in New Zealand what he thought was a good place to live. So he uprooted his family of five, including my father- to-be, from Carnoustie and sailed the lot of them off to the new settlement at Dunedin in the 1860's. Grandfather Low, according to his daguerreotype, had a sad face and dreamy eyes behind his forest of dark beard. My father had a similar eye. So have I.

Great-grandmother Heenan (on my mother's side) had arrived in Dunedin some years earlier--in 1850--from a village near Dublin, with her husband and the twelve survivors of her seventeen children. Great-grandfather Heenan died a comparatively young man (for the Heenans) at 84, leaving Great-grandmother to grow formidably old, with an endearing peculiarity of interrupting church services by breaking out into loud extempore prayers on her own account. By all reports, in her prime she was an indomitable woman. She had to be. Life was hard in the new settlement. The Heenans had to build their own house, boil salt-water to get salt, make tea from manuka scrub, walk eight miles of track to see the nearest neighbour. The Heenans, judging from their daguerreo- types, were an angry-looking lot of people, with their whiskers and riding-boots and tight little mouths. That is where I get my mouth from.

Grandmother Flanagan ( née Heenan) who survived them all, was to me as a child the head of the tribe, a matriarch of aweinspiring dignity gowned in black silk with lace fichu and bonnet. Her husband, Grandfather Flanagan, had vanished into the mist . . .

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