This unremarkable looking diary is one of my most valuable possessions, not for any monetary or artistic value, but as so often said on the Antiques Road Show, because its value lies in the story.
The diary was written by my grandmother Lucy Summerhayes at that time a nurse/midwife and missionary living with Jack, her doctor husband with baby Ida a few months old at Dera Ghazi Khan on the banks of the Indus river in the Punjab, later moving to Quetta in Baluchistan, both now in Pakistan but then part of India. The short extract illustrates the salient features of her life, a strange amalgam of British Raj social life: playing golf; current hobbies, developing photos; missionary work preaching and teaching, lots of church services in English and Hindi – and a terrorist attack! All that in two days. Not the typical life of a young mother in Britain. And there’s a great deal more such as the horrendous trek when six months pregnant with her second child back to DGK from Fort Munro, their summer quarter in the hills where all the British went to escape the heat. A three-day journey in a ‘dandy’ or a cart on appalling roads, camels dying on the way, kept waiting in for half an hour in the desert moonlight, almost fainting during the last 14 miles.
In 1907 the Summerhayes family returned to England and in the following autumn arrived in Thame where Jack became a local GP, living next door to the County court aka Museum for the 16 years. This diary is precious to me not only because of the remarkable story it tells but for the fact that it has survived intact for over a century while it stayed in Thame before moving to Sussex, Dorset, Cornwall, Suffolk before finally returning to me in thame. A slice of family history and a glimpse of the long-last world of the British Raj in NW India. Only the terrorism remains unchanged