Mary Whitaker Reid (1889 - d.)

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Managed by: Harriet Burns
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About Mary Whitaker Reid

From her memoirs on visiting Russia in 1913: I was at school in Dresden and one of my friends was an English girl Mollie. At 18 Mollie married an Englishman Edward Reynolds who lived in St Petersburg. The day my father offered to let me travel for a year and said I should make a list of the places I wanted to see - of course Russia was given a place on my list. I went by ship up the East coast going ashore at all the ports. At Suez, a number of us caught a train to Cairo where we spent a wonderful day, rejoining our ship at Port Said. From here, through a very rough Mediterranean to Naples were we disembarked... we went up Vesuvius, visited Pompeii, the Blue Grotto and Capri. Then parted from the ship and went to Rome before leaving for Heidelberg in S Germany. Dresden. I left via Berlin where I was met and put on another train for the frontier. Arrived there, we all had to leave the train because the Russian gauge was wider than the German. We were herded into customs shed which was guarded at the entrances by enormous Russian soldiers with fixed bayonets. Our passports were taken from us and one felt ones lifeline had been lost... The next move was to follow the queues that were lining up - as all the notices were in Russian - I found myself in a queue for sleeping compartments, but as I already had mine, I then moved to another queue which was for the refreshment room. At last our passports were returned to us and we got on the train - I must tell you that before I left Germany, I was warned not to speak to anyone not to accept a letter or parcel from anybody - I also wore around my neck in a little crocheted purse four 5 pound notes with which to buy myself out of a hole, if I should get into one, which I fortuitously didn't. Bearing all these instruction in mind, when I was shown to a table for two in the dining saloon and a gorgeous Russian officer as put at the table and began a conversation. I acted dumb and pretended I didn't understand! What a waste!... The city of St Petersburg can be seen a long while before arriving as it is so low...My friend Mollie was there to meet me and my first impression was of wide, empty, cobbled streets. We transferred to a suburban stations for Tsarskoe Selo, where my friends were staying. Its almost the same distance between Cape Town and Somerset West - 30 miles.

(If any proof is needed for the extravagance of Russia's Imperial rulers, then it can be found in the fact that, in less than two centuries, the Romanov Tsars established not one but two suburban estates - at Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof - that, in terms of grandeur and excess, outstrip even Versailles. What is more, at Tsarskoe Selo, the 18th century saw the construction of two vast and truly exceptional palaces, both surrounded by extensive landscaped gardens with diverse and fascinating decorative architecture.)

The line to Tsarskoe Selo is a single one and when the Tzar and family travelled on it, soldiers were stationed every few yard to guard it from sabotage. My friends gave me a great welcome and our number was shortly augmented by Mollies father, a London merchant, her brother, an Indian judge and two English girls. Mollie had written to say they spent the mornings in the baths - I had no bathing costume but thought to buy one, however, I found everyone bathed in the nude and they were unobtainable. Like a prude I bought some navy ? and piped it with red and covered myself but the reaction at the bathes was great, when I turned up in it - the other women asked Mollie whether I was deformed or had a disease! She replied that I came from South African and felt the cold and they accepted this explanation... Two subjects were taboo - the royal family and politics...

My fathers name was Alfred Wallace Reid and my mothers name was Mary Eleanor Bridge but she was known as Whitaker as her mother remarried when she was six and brought her to South Africa. Her own father was an only child and she had no relatives except her mother's brother a retired sea captain who kept a ? and had two daughters - Florrie and Ethel Jones.

She had a devoted friend, a Miss Herst, who accompanied her to South Africa and after whom Uncle Harry is named.

There were soon children of the second marriage and when I was one, my grandmother died. Grandfather got a housekeeper out from Scotland to look after his family a Miss Robertson and afterwards married her. Doris was the second child of this marriage, a son having died in infancy.

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Mary Whitaker Reid's Timeline

1889
December 3, 1889
1916
April 26, 1916
Age 26
East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa
1917
February 6, 1917
Age 27
1918
August 9, 1918
Age 28
East London, Amatole, Eastern Cape, South Africa
1953
October, 1953
Age 63
????
????
Somerset West, WC, South Africa