My Family Roots and Shoots


Memories of a little sister

Cynthia’s childhood memories of older brother, Malcolm Harvey 1936 – 2020. Written for family members across the Atlantic.

I always feel that in some ways we had two different families – the pre-war one consisted of mum, dad and three young boys

Boys at the seaside c1938 Charlie, with Gordon, Brian and Malcolm with friend.

After a lull during the war the family became mum, dad and a boy and girl!

Family photo shoot c1953 Charlie, Win, Brian (home on Navy leave), Malcolm and Cynthia.

Malcolm was born in 1936 and until I came along was the baby of the family.

Charlie, Win and toddler Malcolm.

I’m sure it was a bit unsettling to get pushed out especially as I believe the boys, with dad away, were ‘farmed out’ to various relatives while mum was in hospital as a good ten days was the minimum to be kept in, in those days. It was also the time that he started school and with the war going on there was quite an upheaval.

Gordon, Brian, Malcolm and baby sister Cynthia

There were numerous scares and when the sirens went off, everyone had to rush to the air-raid shelters. We had a small one in our garden but the main community one was at the school opposite. I of course was unaware of most of this but Brian told me Malcolm became very reserved at that time and developed a bit of a nervous tic.
Dad returned home in November 1945 so we were a family with 4 youngsters for a couple of years. I was lucky as the only girl, because I got my own bedroom whereas the three boys had to share. Around 1947 Brian and Gordon both left school. Brian joined the Navy as a boy entrant and Gordon went to do his National Service prior to University. Thus we became the family of 4 as mentioned above and Malcolm got a bedroom to himself!
At that stage I think we were close enough in age for me to be a bit of an annoying little sister and we each had our own friends during term time. One main memory of our childhood however is of our musical evenings. Mum played the piano and we all had our own songs to sing. I’m afraid I have no singing voice and, according to Brian, it was pretty dire! Luckily we had some elderly aunts who would always clap in appreciation so I didn’t realise at the time. Also we could always rely on Malcolm to save the day with first his soprano and later tenor voice. His speciality was “Bless this House”

Our dad was not a one for going away on holiday unless it involved fishing but I do remember, soon after the War, staying near the Thames in a converted bus coach – no proper caravans until much later! While we were there Malcolm became popular as dad had hired a rowing boat and Malcolm got himself a little job ferrying folk across the river. We had one other family holiday staying on a farm near the Norfolk Broads. After that, holidays were spent on fishing days out, usually by the Thames.

Fishing by the Thames

Gordon’s National Service took him to Gibraltar where he met Maribel, his future wife. However they had to be parted for the next three years while Gordon was at University. (They managed to write to each other almost every day! No mobile phones then). In 1953 they were married in Gibraltar as by this time Gordon had joined the Admiralty and managed to get a posting there. Gordon asked Malcolm to be his best man as it wasn’t feasible for any of the rest of us to make the journey. I believe good-looking Malcolm made quite an impression on the young Gibraltarian girls!

Gordon and Maribel marriage in Gibraltar 1953, Malcolm as best man.

It was later in 1953 that I started at the same secondary school as Malcolm. I, of course, was quite proud of my handsome, prefect brother but I think, as a little first former, I was a bit of an embarrassment to him.

Little sister.

The trouble with Malcolm was that he was good at everything. He had passed his exams well, was really good at athletics and games, played the piano and of course had a lovely voice. Soon after I started, a friend told me they had seen my brother out with one of the girls from school and when quizzed Malcolm confirmed the name of his girl friend as Pat Jarman! That is how it all started. Malcolm left school in 1955 and went to Southampton University to get his BSc degree. He continued there to study for his PhD. I was a bridesmaid at their wedding and Pat joined Malcolm as he completed his studies.

Malcolm and Pat marriage 1963

In 1961 they made that important decision to uproot to Canada. I think it was a wrench for all involved at the time but one that was to be the start of a momentous life for many. Sadly in April 1962 my dad was killed by an Underground train on his way home from work. Having just got settled at Deep River and with money a bit tight, he was worried about getting back to the UK, but family here persuaded him that he should remain in Canada. I know it hit him hard.
Of course my mum in particular missed Malcolm a lot, even more so after dad’s death. However one of the highlights of those days was receiving letters. We were all worn out reading about the numerous activities taking place summer and winter as in comparison we lived quite a staid life (and still do!). As time went on Malcolm was able to make visits, often when he was on lecturing tours and some of us have made the opposite journeys.

Harvey Family
Nana with family 1973
Gordon, Brian and Malcolm c2015

80th birthday cake, courtesy of little sister!

Family 80th birthday gathering for Malcolm, with the ‘Sandersons’

The rest you know!!