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© Rob McGibbon, 2013

A Prayer for Olive Higgins


At 4.45pm on 25th February, with Peggs at her bedside, Olive dies.

 

 

25. February

25th February. Evening


An entry in the journal at the Mother House of Our Lady of Sion.

The young sick girl at the Institute has died; but, with her father’s permission, she was able to fulfill her wish, and she was baptised under condition.

In the morning, the ceremony of the Ashes.

The parents of Mademoiselle Marthe Ricour, who was a student at our Saint Ouen Institute, are bringing their daughter to us. She is entering Postulat and taking the name of Sister Marianne II.

 

In certain religious circles, to die so soon after baptism is considered a blessing. To die  in such purity of spirit is a gift from God, something to celebrate and to give thanks for. In fact, the last rites would not be required…

OliveDeathCert

1am, 26th February


Olive’s Death Certificate

The 25th of February 1914, at 4.45 pm: Olive Hilda Higgins, born at New Cross, London, England, on 10th November 1897; the student daughter of Thomas Richard Higgins and Martha Emma Jones, a married couple xxxxxxxxxx,  single, living with her parents at Margate, England.

The English girl died whilst living at 61b Rue Notre Dame des Champs xxxxx xxxxx xxxxxx  as declared by Edouard Jeanmonoed, 29 years, xxxxx, resident at 13 rue Done, on 26th February 1914 at 1 a.m, and witnessed by Charles Reibel, 50 years, a merchant. They sign this document along with us Xxxxx and Xxxx deputy mayor of the 6th Arrondissement of Paris.

 

26. February

26th February


Preparations begin to take Olive home. A train from Gare du Nord to Calais, a steamboat to Dover, then on to Margate…

27. February

27th February. Home


Olive is back home at The Patch, with its sweeping view of The Oval, its lawns and bandstand, and on to the promenade and then the broad expanse of dark sea…

Envelope3

An Envelope


A free post envelope to send off for General Accident assurance that came with the diary was kept by Olive, but appropriately re-directed

Cutting:1

27th February: DEATH OF MISS OLIVE HIGGINS


Preserved within the pages of Olive’s diary was this newspaper clipping, which had been carefully cut from the middle of the fourth column on page eight of The Thanet Times. This weekly broadsheet had covered many events in Thomas Higgins’s life since he had arrived in Cliftonville to build and run The Hydro Hotel.

Two heavy circular watermarks graze the newsprint: the indelible stains from tear drops.

The loving preservation of this cutting ensured that one day Olive’s story could be told.

On the same page, in the bottom right hand corner, Olive’s death was announced in the Births, Marriages and Deaths column.

‘HIGGINS: On Feb 25th at the Institute Notre, Dep. [sic] Champs, Paris, Olive Hilda, the beloved and only daughter of Thomas R. Higgins, of the Cliftonville Hydro Hotel, Margate, aged 16 years. Her end was most peaceful.’

28. February

28th February. Olive’s Funeral


Saturday morning.

The cortege starts out from The Hydro, taking Olive’s coffin along Eastern Esplanade, then away from Cliftonville and down to the railway station at Margate. Additional privately allocated First Class carriages have been attached to a train of the South Eastern & Chatham railway company to take mourners to London.

The train makes a special stop at Hither Green, where the mourners disembark and the coffin is carried to a hearse. Relatives and friends from the Higgins family’s London roots in New Cross and Deptford join the funeral procession and follow its slow journey to Ladywell and Brockley cemetery. An extra carriage is laden with a vast array of colourful floral tributes. Amongst the flowers by the coffin itself are ones shaped as crosses and wreaths with handwritten messages…

“A token of devotion from heartbroken Dad”

“To my darling Olive, in ever-loving and happy memories, from Peggs (Mums)”

“To my darling sister, from Frank”

“To darling Olive, from Eileen”

[‘Much rushing + hurrying by Dad + Peggs, leave at last amidst luggage + Eileen’s tears…I just noticed a little girl exactly like Eileen, wonder if she ever feels like me. I pity her if she does…’]

 

The cortege makes its way through the ornate iron gates at the Ivy Road entrance of the cemetery where even more people are waiting at the Ladywell chapel. The service begins at 12.30pm.

Later, the mourners follow Olive’s coffin down a path to the Brockley part of the cemetery and to the Higgins family grave in the shadows of low trees. A large, greying marble gravestone – half its length engraved with lead-filled lettering, the lower half clean and empty – rests to one side of the opened earth.

Thomas Higgins has already attended three funerals here since he purchased Plot 1330 20 years earlier. In late March 1894, when he was only 30, he buried his six-week-old son, Victor Thomas, who had died suddenly. In 1899, Thomas’s elderly mother-in-law was laid to rest and, only three years earlier, he had stood by this grave once again after his wife and Olive’s mother Martha had died from breast cancer at just 47. Now, Thomas must watch as his beloved daughter Olive is lowered into the same ground.

“…Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”

 

 

OlivesGrave1

The Headstone


The Private Grave of Thomas R. Higgins of Deptford 1894

 In Loving Memory

        of

            VICTOR THOMAS

            The Beloved child of

         Thomas R. and Martha Higgins

                Who died 17th March 1894

                Aged 6 weeks

            Lord Thy Purpose We Cannot See

          But All Is Well That’s Done By Thee

         Also of   AMELIA JONES

               Grandmother of the above

         Who died 10th March 1899 Aged 75

         Love by all. Her end was peace

         Also of   MARTHA EMMA

         The beloved wife of Thos. R. Higgins

         Who died 3rd October 1911, aged 47

            Peace Perfect Peace

         Also of   OLIVE HILDA

         The beloved daughter of the above

          Who died at school in Paris

         February 25th 1914, aged 16 years

         She ever lives in our loving

              and happy memories

      Also of   ELIZABETH MARY HIGGINS

         Who died at Mentone* Feb 21st 1930

         Ever remembered for her goodness

         by her devoted husband and Frank

      Also of  THOMAS RICHARD HIGGINS

         Who died at Bournemouth

         11th January 1946, Aged 81 years

 

Sir Maurice Abbot-Anderson died from pneumonia at home in Bath in 1938, aged 77

Lily Meagher died in 1939, aged 57

Frank Higgins died in hospital from heart failure in 1967, aged 76. He left three sons…

*spelt incorrectly. Menton, South of France.