I have now more or less reached the end of my search. Although I’d like to discover more about Douglas Gordon Bruce, and the women who loved him, I must admit that I’ve found out more than I’d expected when I started this Mystery Challenge.
(If you’re new to this blog, and you’d like to find out what this is all about, it’ll probably help you to scroll down to the first post about the Mystery Challenge,in which I’m asking readers to help me find out more about the love letters from 1920’s China.)
If you know anyone with one of the surnames listed in the 2 charts below, I would be very grateful if you could direct them to this website – specifically to the Category: ‘6 Degrees of Separation Mystery Challenge.’ There’s just a chance that this might jolt a memory of something relevant they have heard about a great uncle, aunt, cousin or other relative.
Here is a table with the names and dates of people whose descendants and/or friends and relations might be known to readers of this blog. The first chart gives details of Douglas Gordon Bruce and his sisters and their children.
When I’d discovered the death notice in the Times Archives, and found that he had been ‘a loving father and uncle’, my researcher friend told me how to send off to the Government Records Office for a copy of his marriage certificate. As you can see from a previous post,we’d already discovered the name of his bride, and the date of the wedding, but I wanted to know if this was his first marriage, and that would be recorded on the certificate. This document duly arrived in the post, and revealed that he was a bachelor, and his bride, Phyllis Dorothy Slaughter, was a spinster.
The wedding took place on 9th February in 1978 at All Saints Church in the London Borough of Ealing. Phyllis would have her 62nd birthday two weeks later, and DG B was a few months away from 86.DGB was recorded as ‘Director’, and Phyllis, as ‘Book-Keeper’. What did surprise me was the fact that they were both living at the same address, Weymouth Avenue, Ealing, W5, not far from where he grew up. From the photos and letters that I’ve already posted, I would have expected that he would have been married decades before this, though on the other hand, he could have been totally resistant to the idea of committing himself to one woman for the rest of his life!
As for Phyllis, there’s no way of knowing how long they had been sharing the same house, but as she was 24 years younger than DGB, and he was in his mid-eighties, it would have been irresponsible of him if he hadn’t clarified her legal status by making her his wife.
What if a bad bout of winter flu had carried him off, before they could walk down the aisle together as man and wife? I can imagine some of their friends and relations congratulating DGB and finishing by adding, “Better late than never.”
Here is another table of names and dates of other people who would have known D.G.B.
All that is sheer conjecture, and it could be leading me into rather dodgy ground. Although both Phyllis and DGB died several years ago, it’s still not all that far back in time, especially when compared to 1920s Hong Kong. But if any nieces and nephews of either Phyllis or Douglas Bruce (or great nephews/nieces) stumble across this website, I would happily adapt or remove the paragraph above.
It would be great to receive a message from anyone who could give me some more information about the life and loves of Douglas Gordon Bruce.
As I’ve mentioned before, anyone who does this will receive a free copy of Paper Lanterns (or The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society) so do please spread the word to anyone who might be interested. If I do manage to glean more information I will publish it here.
I was about to post my latest (and probably final) information about Douglas Gordon Bruce, for my Mystery Challenge,
when I was suddenly whisked back to the end of June last year, at the Winchester Writers Conference, where the indomitable Director of the Conference, Barbara Large, MBE, kindly invited me to attend the plenary address on the Saturday morning, and say a few words about Novel Press and Paper Lanterns.
I was looking on the Conference website to see if the details of this year’s event had been published there yet, and I was reminded of an interview I’d given in the previous year. Some of the university students had been allocated the task of interviewing delegates from that year’s event.
I had walked out after Sir Terry Pratchett’s address to the conference into the blazing sunshine and was immediately accosted by a small group of young people wielding photographic instruments: Would I be willing to answer a few questions about why I was there, and what advice might I give to other aspiring writers?
When it comes to an opportunity for me to talk about writing in general (and mine in particular!) I’m not likely to turn it down, so I rattled on for several minutes, until I came to a natural ending. The interviewers were university students, and it was their project to make a record of the weekend for the university archives, with special reference to Terry Pratchett.
After that, I forgot all about it, so when I saw the yellow boxes on the left of the screen, I clicked on the one that was labelled ‘Delegates reactions to the 2010 WW Conference’. I started watching with interest, but without really expecting to see myself there.
I have to admit, that I did cringe a bit at the sight of me, jabbering away, seemingly non-stop. But on the other hand, I had to give myself some credit for being able talk off the cuff like that. Watching and listening a couple of times, I was slightly reassured to find that the words I’d spoken then were more or less what I’d say now, nearly a year later, (especially my final comment in the second section, on advice to other writers).
Although I’ve seen myself in action on a screen a few times, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the weird sensation of seeing myself in action, and what I must look like to others. Fortunately, I don’t give that a moment’s thought in everyday life! I was impressed by the clarity and calmness of the other five speakers – I wonder if any of them have had similar feelings.
I was pleased to see a pleasant man I’d had a conversation with, the evening before. He’d told me a little about his published book and it sounded very entertaining, but I’d forgotten all about him and his writing till I saw him on the video, so I was pleased to hear the title of his book, ‘Vet in Prospect’ and was able to find it on Amazon. I was delighted to hear that he’d landed a three-book deal as a result of attending the conference.
As you can see from the start of the video, he is not the only writer who has owed his success to this Conference over the last 30 years. I would heartily recommend this event to anyone who is serious about their own writing. There’s always a wealth of useful and encouraging information. Above all, it’s great fun!
If you’re new to this blog, and you’d like to find out what this is all about, it’ll probably help you to scroll down to the first post about the Mystery Challenge,in which I’m asking readers to help me find out more about the love letters from 1920’s China.)
Today I’ll be posting the last of Bessie’s letters to Mr Bruce – It would be nice to think that he had followed Bessie’s advice, and had married her friend Margaret, but in my next post I’ll explain why I’m pretty sure this didn’t happen.
I’ve learned quite a lot about Canton and the Shameen district from various websites. The view of Canton comes from this site, and the map of Shameen, from here.
And I’ve ‘borrowed’ the 1920s postcards below from a wonderful postcard site – there are lots more there, if you’d like to see more. The second one below would have been somewhere near to where Bessie had stood and waited, hoping to catch sight of Mr Bruce.
And the steam ship in this photo could have been the same as the one where Bessie’s husband, Jimmy, had discovered that ‘something was going on’ between her and Mr Bruce
Here is the transcript of Bessie’s final letter. I found it very moving, and I’m sure that many people would be able to identify with Bessie, standing outside the building in Shameen, hoping to see the man she loved, one last time.
Bruce dear, it’s quite true that a woman can kill her conscience much deader than a man can kill his. Otherwise I shouldn’t be writing to you today. If one has a dead heart, a dead conscience more or less doesn’t matter.
I’m at the Canton Hospital with the kids. They have just had their tonsils and adenoids removed. Poor little wretches. Jimmy is crying for water which he can’t have. You can’t imagine anyone crying for water can you?
I have been in Shameen twice lately. Monday I was in the playground outside your window for a long time – it was awful. And yesterday I saw Bing to speak to – did he tell you?
I am a dutiful wife now. Forever, I think, except for such a slight deflection from the path as this, and I’ll admit there is a certain amount of self-satisfied pleasure in duty well done. And not only that – trite as the sentiment may seem – it is pleasurable to see another person happy.
I would like to tell you all the details of that Thursday evening and the next morning, but what’s the use. Things could have resulted so differently but they didn’t so there is an end to it. Did Margaret tell you that he mutilated my “family album”, the one we straightened up, remember? Removed forcibly every photograph that contained your physiognomy.
But he overlooked that one of David and you on the top of the boat (Kongmoon), so I at least have one of your ears and a little bit of your gurgly old pipe.Isn’t Margaret a good sport and a dear? I don’t know what on earth I’d do without her.
I do wish that you would convince her that you never liked me at all and that you really set out to marry and save her from her present fate. I mean I wish you could do it. Really I do, dear. Because you’ve got to marry somebody, sometime, and it might as well be a somebody who would furnish you with enough excitement to keep you from being bored to tears.
I am so glad you went to see Margaret while we were in Hong Kong. Because she told me lots that you said, and it helped. And she keeps my love letter for me so that I can read it over now and again. I love it. There’s nobody in the world but you could write such a dear one. But I suppose I must let it go too after a bit – when I’ve learned it all by heart perhaps. Of course I’ll write to you when I get home, nothing could stop me if I thought you wanted me to but it is a desolate thought that I’ll never have another word from you. You spoke of how long it would take us to get over this. I hope you won’t take long – and I hope I never get over it. It’s very unmaidenly, or at least unmatronly, for me to admit all this, I’m sure. When you don’t realise what you’ve missed in life until it’s too late to have it, what matters it how brazen a hussy one becomes.
The six weeks left to me in China are creeping by. I didn’t know days could be so long. Do you believe in the much hackneyed mutual telepathy? Two or three days ago at the tiffin table little Jimmy asked when you were coming again and that night he insisted on including you in his prayers. Well I include you in mine, such as they are. The best love I have – the only one with a thrill in it – is yours. Please keep it until you get a better; that better one is waiting for you somewhere. That sounds like “Mother to her wayward boy”. It isn’t – it’s just because I don’t know what to say or how to say it so I rave on just to be in some sort of communication with you. But I can’t go on forever because my babies are requiring more and more attention.
This is my last letter to you for the present and it’s my good-bye too, and I’m heartsick Bruce dear. I never knew I would care so much. My dear. My dear, why did you come so late?