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The Proposalspacer
The Proposal. November 1934

Beatrice sat gazing in the mirror as she applied a dash of lipstick. A feeling of wellbeing flowed through her veins. Her life had taken on a new meaning these past three months. Until now, nursing had been the love of her life, but recently another much stronger love had taken over, a love in the form of a gentle Scotsman; her ex patient whom she now called Bill. No longer did she miss the taunting of her dad and brother Peter when she dabbed on her lipstick and face powder, ready for a date.
Instead she now applied it with a definite purpose.

She was off duty today and Bill was taking her on a picnic, to be followed by a trip to the cinema. Her bobbed hair, brushed vigorously until it gleamed, remained unruffled as she pulled on her favourite dress. The dress was made out of tan crepe de chine, a material that clung softly against her body. She loved the cool feel of the blousy sleeves and the swirl of the full skirt that barely covered her knees. Her mirror image smiled back at her as she danced a few steps in her matching single strap, tan coloured court shoes.

Not a suitable outfit for a picnic, she could hear her mother snap. But she didn’t care one iota. Bill would call her his bobby dazzler so nothing else mattered.

The day was perfect, just not enough hours to enjoy. Beatrice had to return to her quarters sooner than she would have wished, as she was on an early shift next morning. She knew the penalty was instant dismissal if student nurses were caught entertaining boyfriends in their rooms, so she stood on tiptoe to give Bill a soft, lingering goodnight kiss.

But just as he bent down to meet her lips, he reactively pulled back and quite out of the blue said in his broadest Scottish, ‘Ginger?’

Beatrice wondered what was coming as he only used this term of endearment for her on special occasions.

‘Ginger, have you told your parents we are getting wed?’

Beatrice was shocked.

‘Of course I haven’t you silly old thing. You haven’t asked me yet.’

‘Well you don’t think I have been taking you out all these weeks for nothing do you?’

And so, following Dad’s unorthodox proposal, the battle of getting parental consent began, even though Mum was nearing twenty five years old.

She never spoke much in detail to me about this particular period of her life, but I have no doubt she initially met stormy opposition as she was marrying out of the faith. The wedding was eventually arranged to take place ten months after dad ‘popped the question’.

They married in a place called Firozpur, an inland town near Lahore, which as far as I am aware had never been the hometown of the Mason family. Dad refused point blank to change his religion, but in order to wed, he conceded to the pressure of the Church and made a vow to bring up any children born of this union as Catholics. Because he refused to convert himself, he told me he was not allowed near the altar during the ceremony and was treated as a total outsider.

William Turnbull Lowey, born Greenock Scotland on 15th October 1908 married Beatrice Mary Mason, born Meerut India on 26th March 1910 at Firozpur India on 7th September 1935.

The Roman Catholic wedding took place at 11.00a.m.

The bride wore a full length plain white dress and a veil intertwined with orange blossom.
The groom wore an off white tussah silk suit.

The bride was given away by her father.

camera Pic 1. The Wedding day Group Photo
Pic 2. The Happy Couple

Her seventeen year old brother Basil was best man. Her other brothers did not attend. Michael was at school. John Bill and Peter were in the army somewhere on the North West Frontier.

Also in attendance were the bride’s mother and a couple of male work colleagues of the groom.

No other family members were there, nor were nurses Jean Waterloo and Pearl Pedroza.

A small reception was held. Wine cake and sandwiches were served.

Wedding Presents. Mum remembers receiving a bed cover, a quilt, a recipe book from Aunt Aggie, a set of fish knives and forks from a casual friend and money from her parents.

Suttee: How different Mum’s wedding was to the colourful Hindu weddings and practices of that time. She once told me that she had stood on the bank of the Ganges several times and seen a young Hindu widow throw herself as a sacrifice on her late husband’s funeral pyre.

It is hard to think these victims were not much more than children, having been married of to men many years older than themselves.

The Hindus had a different word for the act (prasati) and the victim (sati), but in common European usage suttee means both act and victim. Suttee was first recorded in the third century B.C; it became illegal in 1829, but clearly carried on for many years.

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The Story of Beatrice Mary Mason. Written by F. J. Louis | Copyright © 2009