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.’
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…”
The Private Grave of Thomas R. Higgins of Deptford 1894
In Loving Memory
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.
RM writes: I have written or typed Olive’s name probably thousands of times since I first began researching her life in 2001. In all that time, I have never worked out an anagram of her name. It never occurred to me. Then, on 19th December 2013, I was urgently writing a pitch to a newspaper for me to write an article about this story. I was deeply unsure whether I should, but I finally decided to go for it and began writing a synopsis. Moments after beginning, I looked at some notes, then back at the screen and Olive’s name had changed to “Love”. I am pretty certain I did not cause that typo. I’m shamefully rubbish at typing, and don’t touch-type. I have to look at the keyboard. Yet, until that time, I had never made that typo of her name. This has always been a story about Love, with a capital, so it seemed a most poignant reminder. Oh, and the newspaper rejected my pitch! [4/3/14]
Little Gidding, T.S.Eliot