Harry NIALL 1892-1974

My grandfather was Harry Thomas NIALL who was born in 1892 and he was a very special person in my life.

The fact that I was the only girl in my generation could have had a little to do with it but our relationship was memorable.  Grandpa had several strokes in the last years of his life and sadly Grandma referred to him as a vegetable in front of him.  I confess to doing rather a lot of yelling that day and told Grandma to never enter the room again when I was visiting Grandpa.  I was living in Adelaide and Grandpa was in a nursing home in Cronulla, Sydney so I didn’t get to visit him very often.  I didn’t want Grandma to spoil a single moment.

I was so upset with what Grandma had said.  I was sitting on the floor beside Grandpa’s wheelchair holding his hand trying to comprehend this very special person who couldn’t speak and according to Grandma didn’t know anyone.  He wasn’t silly!  He couldn’t speak but he also didn’t want to have to listen to Grandma!  Suddenly I felt a gentle squeeze of my fingers.  I looked up and I knew he recognised me.  He struggled to say something but all that came out was b-b-b-b-b-b-b .  It had to be something that would mean something to me and that he hoped I would work out.  I wracked my brain and suddenly I knew – BREAD !

I shouted out “BREAD” and he nearly broke my fingers he squeezed them so hard!

I remember the day so well – Grandpa and I got into trouble with Grandma because of a loaf of bread and a game of cricket!  I think I was about four years old – a very grown up young girl – or so I thought!

My family was moving to Adelaide where Dad had been transferred with Peter’s Ice Cream and Mum, my brother and I were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Newcastle.  It was a Saturday morning and Grandma yelled out “Hen – we need some bread for lunch”.  Hen was her nick-name for Grandpa whose name was Harry.  Anyway that demand meant a trip to the bakery – any trip out with Grandpa was always full of excitement so we walked hand-in-hand out the front gate with Grandma yelling after us “don’t forget your hats”.  I still remember Grandpa muttering under his breath “yes dear”!  [A standard answer whether audible or not].

As we strolled down Scholey Street Grandpa said “You haven’t been to a real game of cricket have you?”  “Yes Grandpa – with you”.  But he explained that he meant a REAL game of cricket – not local cricket.  I lost track of the number of hours I had sat on Grandpa’s knee listening to the radio – TEST matches – while he explained the details of fielding positions, different bowling styles, in fact anything and everything to do with cricket.  It was a passion we shared.

Grandpa had an idea – instead of going to the local bakery, we could catch the train to Broadmeadows and go to the bakery there.  Why?  Simple – the touring English [Grandpa would have said Pommie] test team were playing their traditional warm-up game against the NSW Country 11 at Broadmeadows.  We could just go past the ground on our way back from the bakery to the train.

I’m glad Grandpa was so clever – he bought the bread before we went to the cricket so we didn’t starve while we spent the whole day there.  Unfortunately the rest of the family had no bread for lunch but they weren’t worried about why we were missing – Grandma had worked it out by then.  She had the rest of the day to prepare for our homecoming – a bit after 7.00 pm – and boy were we in trouble.  Did we care?  Nope!  We’d had too much fun.  We were sent to bed without our dinner or supper.  Because I was so little I was allowed to snuggle up with Grandpa [Mum understood what a big day we’d had].  We laughed and chatted and giggled for ages – the whole time Grandma was chastising us very loudly from 3 rooms away!

I relived every moment of that day with Grandpa in the nursing home – he knew that if I worked out that he was trying to say BREAD the rest would just flow with wonderful memories … and it did.

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