|In loving memory of John Fingal Smith. Born Prince Edward Island 1846, died Cranbrooke, BC 1936. A faithful lover for 18 years and a devoted husband for 31 years.|
This particular time, his brother Robert had also turned up on the scene and had also noted the same deficiency in the wine. With neither brother consulting the other, each of them added a bottle of whiskey. Then came the visit of Mrs. Fingal Smith, a visit that was not out of the ordinary. Both women shared a love of music, and my Grandmother was in possession of a fine piano which she had brought over from Ireland. Visiting was informal by old country standards, and Mrs. Fingal-Smith, a generation older than my grandmother, lived nearby on 14th Avenue, near Baker Street, and was a frequent visitor.
At the start of the visit, my grandmother’s visitor announced that she was feeling a touch liverish. My grandmother proffered the usual solution to such problems, Would you be after having a bit of tonic, then? After a small tot of the home made brew, Mrs. Fingal Smith pronounced on its success, I can feel it doing me good. The various versions of the family story are not in total agreement about the final tally of glasses imbibed before Mrs. Fingal-Smith allowed as how she was starting to feel quite queer. Something odd seemed to have happened to her legs, and her head - well, everything was spinning.
One of the nearby children was immediately dispatched to fetch Mr. Fingal-Smith, who arrived post-haste with his horse and carriage to cart his poor wife home. As my Grandmother would always say in her version of the tale, she was definitely indisposed.
That was the sum total of what I knew about Mrs. Fingal-Smith until the spring of 2003, when I was at the archives in Victoria, which in turn lead me that summer to the graveyard in Cranbrook to seek out the enigmatic inscription that she had engraved on her husband’s grave: A faithful lover for 18 years and a devoted husband for 31 years. Initially with I read this with my feminist, late 20th century sensibilities, and was totally off track. It turns out that the story behind this grave marker is a love story.