One of the many privileges I have experienced through chasing my great aunts story was meeting 88 year old, Dr Rosemary Hill. It was a few weeks ago now but with “time” being the elusive creature it is, it has taken me until now to write about her.
As a friend and mews of Elva, Rosemary delighted me with some of her stories and Elva anecdotes and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with her.
What intrigued me most however is that with my father having been resting peacefully for some years now, Rosemary has unwittingly provided me with a much needed bridge between Elva’s time and now.
I have mentioned in previous posts and interviews that my father believed Elva to have been born before her time and until meeting Rosemary, I unquestioningly took his view as gospel.
Elva was already 70 when I was born so we barely overlapped but Rosemary has helped reconcile this inherited belief and for the first time, I find myself, not necessarily disagreeing with my father, but recognising the other side of the coin.
I have no doubt that if Elva was starting her artistic journey today, her brilliance would have flourished within the canons of digitisation, and the opportunities to combine her artistic and photographic skills would have been grabbed with both hands; but that in itself does not mean she was born in the wrong era. If anything, I now feel that her legacy is merely relevant today in a way that it wasn’t at the time. The only discrepancy, is that time has marched forwards and attitudes have changed.
As a nation we are quite rightly reflecting on and celebrating the brave people who fought for our freedom and Elva’s war work provides a poignant record of life on an RAF base, but these paintings only became of interest when they were discovered in 1974. Following the war, people wanted to remember the fallen, but equally, with the rawness of their experiences, there was much they would have been happy to forget. Now, with the centenary year of the RAF and The Great War, the pain endured by so many is diluted through generations, and it is through the work of artists like Elva, that we are able to better imagine and understand the struggles of those before us, thus appreciating their sacrifices.
History is important for all tomorrows. We can learn from those who inspire us from the past and I feel privileged to have Elva in my ancestry – without Elva, I would personally still be pondering life without a creative outlet.