May 9, 2009

Thomasina Allan was something of a family legend when I was growing up.  Through the example of Thomasina, I was taught not to swing on my chair, wander around barefoot, put felt tip pens in my mouth or go outside without drying my hair properly.

According to my granny, Thomasina died from ‘brain fever’ while only a young girl.  Apparently her illness had been caused by a  combination of swallowing a sewing needle and sitting out in the sun to dry her hair.  Thomasina had loved to sit in the front garden and chat to passing friends.  She was a pretty, outgoing young women with beautiful, long, chestnut brown hair.  At the onset of her illness, Thomasina had to be brought in from the garden after a neighbour reported that she was shouting obscenities at passers by.  Her mental and physical health deteriorated rapidly and she died soon after leaving a devastated father and mother behind.  According to the legend, her father cut off her hair and kept it in a glass cabinet so that part of Thomasina was always near him.

As I grew up, I assumed that parts of Thomasina’s misfortunate story were fictitious – anecdotes created to keep me out of A&E.  Last year, while researching my family tree I tracked down the official documents for Thomasina.  Thomasina had died in 1911 at the tender age of 16.  Sunstroke and meningitis were cited as the primary causes of her death.

Thomasina (mixed media) 2009

Thomasina (mixed media) 2009


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