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© Rob McGibbon, 2013

24th February

Paris is over-run with a huge carnival to celebrate Mardis Gras. Thousands of people in masks and colourful costumes parade through the streets with the crowds enjoy street entertainers and festival stalls. Music and dancing fill every quarter of the city throughout the day and long into the night.

Thomas Higgins prepares to leave for Margate, but Peggs will stay with Olive. She has remained at her bedside throughout and has been lightly ticking off in pencil the days on a calendar inside the preliminary pages of Olive’s abandoned diary.

11th February… had a fairly good night, feel a bit better this morning, don’t get up till 8 o’clock, talk to Mlle whilst I am dressing she is nice, she always cheers me up, last night she gave me a tangerine to eat in bed. practise + study till déjeuner, go upstairs to watch gyms in the chicken-run! never seen such funny gyms in my life! no wonder the girls are short + stumpy! had a ripping letter from Norah with heaps of home news!  Ah! it makes me long to be there!! Never mind, tomorrows Thursday. go to painting in afternoon but head aches so, so stop at 3 o’clock and sit in Salle d’etude reading + talking to american girl, same sort of evening do fancy work, am not to get up till 8 again in the morning, have a good night, bar waking up once or twice, always feel more cheery when am going out the next day!! + its the carnival in a weeks time nearly, so must buck up a bit!!!!!

25th February. Ash Wednesday

Thomas Higgins leaves for England, content in the knowledge that Olive is well and will make a full recovery. She is being looked after by Peggs.

In the morning, the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion attend mass and the distribution of the Ashes ceremony. They accept the cross of ashes on their foreheads…

“Rappelons-nous que tu es poussière, et à la poussière tu retourneras….Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”





The silent days

Someone, most probably Peggs, has lightly ticked the days of the calendar in the preliminary pages of the diary from the date Olive first fell ill…

A Baptism Before Dying

Olive’s health suffers a sudden and catastrophic relapse. A priest is called to her bedside and, according to her wishes, Olive is baptised.

With time so short, it is conducted only with holy water “sous condition”, the term used for the briefest of ceremonies that occur in an emergency.

“I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

A Prayer for Olive Higgins

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



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…

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.


26th February

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

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…

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