Busy On Eve Of Birthday
Toronto Woman, Aged 93,
Recalls Knowing Royalty
"Come in" said a cheery voice.
The owner of it, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth MacQueen, 210 First avenue, on the eve of her 93rd birthday, sat sewing together bright colored wool squares that fashioned the gayest of afghans.
A member of a family of 21 children, 14 girls and seven boys, she was born in Northam, County of Hampshire, England, daughter of a master mariner.
Children in those days didn't have the good times they have now. There was little if any chance of an education.
She was but twelve years old when she took her first position in a Home for Incurables (really a soldiers' hospital) at Highbury Barn, South London, and under the very distinguished patronage of her late Majesty Queen Victoria.
KNEW QUEEN VICTORIA
In recalling those days, Mrs. MacQueen said:
"Yes, we saw her often and she gave some of us a gold cross with the words 'For Good Conduct' inscribed on it. I lost mine in fire some years ago, also a lot of my papers. Queen Victoria thought a lot of her soldiers and was very nice to all of us there. I used to see her too at Cowes, when she went driving in her donkey chaise."
Mrs. MacQueen produced a still-beautiful black taffeta cape which, as she put it on, by request, had a truly regal effect. "It belonged to Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. A dress of Her Majesty's also was given to my mother by the Lady-in-Waiting." As she spoke she produced a photograph of herself taken in the dress.
At the age of 25 Mrs. MacQueen married a mariner who was later lost at sea. They had seven children, three of whom are alive today, one in Toronto and two in St Thomas.
Reminiscing a little, Mrs. MacQueen said she had taken a position as stewardess and thus had travelled a great deal—plying between Southampton and South Africa for some time. Then she had had charge of 100 girls whom she brought out to Canada to be placed.
SHOOK HANDS WITH KAISER
Her memories included such personages as Kaiser Wilhelm II., who used to visit Southampton on his yacht, at times.
"I was considered an expert laundress and had charge of his linen," Mrs. MacQueen recalled. "When he stayed for some time, I used to have to do up 200 shirts and 1,000 linen collars in a week for him. Besides that, he liked his handkerchiefs done up in piles of a dozen which had to be tied with broad blue silk ribbon. Yes, he shook hands with me and I don't think it perhaps was as much his fault as that of his war party that brought on the war.
"I remember Toronto years ago. I have been here now for thirty years.
"Yes, I knew Timothy Eaton— he was a good man, and we spent hundreds of dollars there, my husband and I, years ago, when we lived on a farm. It has been interesting to watch the store grow."
Asked what she thought of modern life to-day, the pleasant-faced, sturdy little woman hesitated.
"I don't think much of things. For one thing, people drink too much.
"I haven't anything against young people to-day at all, but I do think they are cheeky to their parents and try to tell their mothers to do things they have no right to expect.
THINKS END IS NEAR
"There is a feeling abroad that makes me think we're nearing the end of the world—that Christ will come and He will settle all disputes then. The world is not the same at all to-day.
"What do I attribute my many years to?" she asked, and answered with one emphatic word, "God".
He has brought me through many trials but He has spared me. If I have any message for people now, I'd tell them to keep active, not to sit idly with their hands before them.
"I go out every day and I have many friends. On my 90th birthday I had a cake with 90 candles. I shall have a cake for my 93rd, and I'll have a few candles at least on it. Some friends are coming in, she said, and gave a happy, excited little laugh. "I hope I can get them all in this room."
Walking over to a crystal vase, she brought a magnificent red rose for the visitor to admire.
"This rose," she said, "was given to me yesterday by Rev. Dr. J. G. Inkster. It was his birthday, you know, and I was attending the Women's Bible Class in Knox Church, which meets on Wednesdays. Someone, I think, told him about my birthday coming, and so, when a child presented him with a bouquet of red roses, he very kindly gave one to me.
A NONAGENARIAN'S DAY
"On Sundays I fairly live in church," she related, smiling. "I don't think I could live if I didn't hear the Gospel preached. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at Bathurst and St. Clair. I go at nine a.m. on Sundays and they have a prayer meeting from 9.30 to 10.30. From 10.30 to 11 we have a good speaker, and Sunday school from 11 to 12. In the afternoon I often go to a Bible class in the United Church on Parliament street. So, you see, I have made a host of friends.
"I spend my time crocheting and knitting, read my Bible, go for a walk or see my friends each day, and I always say my prayers night and morning. Did I tell you that I have 18 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren?
"There was a lovely city nurse looked after me when I was ill and I see her frequently. She tells me there must be some work for me to do in the world yet since God has spared me so long." There was a serenely happy expression on her face as she spoke.—