I was saddened to read this on Facebook this morning:
Ria Mcfarlane Hannan Reddick
03/11/1921 – 15/06/2015
Our lovely Mum, Grandma & Great Grandma sadly passed away yesterday. She was the last of a very special generation & will be greatly missed by us all.
posted by my second cousin, Fiona Hannan Reddick Smyth.
Ria was my mother’s first cousin, and I only met her twice, but both were memorable occasions.
The first time I met her was in 1966 when I scarpered from South Africa to the UK to avoid the attentions of the Security Police (you can read more of the story of that here), passing through Ian Smith’s UDI Rhodesia on the way. I met Ria’s brother, Willie Hannan, who was then MP for Maryhill in Glasgow, and he helped me find my way through the tangled bureaucracy to get a job to support myself while waiting to study st Durham University.
Ria had been living in Rhodesia but when Smith made his UDI she wanted out, and returned to Scotland, and I went with Willie to meet her at the airport. UDI caused great divisions in the family. Another Hannan cousin in Rhodesia, Betty Stewart, had met Ria there, and wrote to my mother referring to their cousin Willie as a “one-man-one-vote bastard and a sick leftist”. So when I first went to the House of Commons to meet him I pictured a wild-eyed revolutionary, a sort of Che Guevara figure, and was rather disappointed to find that he was very mild and rather conservative, and his main concern was not Rhodesia but getting Britain to join the European Union, which he thought would encourage international peace and understanding.
Here’s what I wrote in my diary on the day I went with him to meet Ria at the airport, 4 February 1966:
I went by train and underground to the West London Air Terminal, where I met Willie Hannan. His sister Ria was flying in from Rhodesia with her two children, and were returning to settle again in Scotland. Her plane was due to arrive at 12:20, and then she was going up to Glasgow with Willie at 3:00. On the way to the airport on the bus Willie told me about his family, and how he had met Tommy (Mum’s brother, who died 2 and a half years ago) when he was in the merchant navy during the war, and he said I looked like him. He also told me of his father, who during the First World War was a pacifist and a socialist, and had spent two years in jail. I told him that Mum had said that my pacifism runs in the family, but did not enquire about the nature of the socialist Sunday School she had said her uncle (Willie’s father) had sent his children to.
At the airport we found the plane with Ria, a South African Airways Boeing, would be late, and we sat having tea and sandwiches, and I told Willie something about the Liberal Party and its policies, and a little of the way in which our activities were hampered by Special Branch intimidation and so on. He said he was not a religious man himself, and I said I wouldn’t have expected it. “Oh, why do you say that?” he asked. “Because so few people are,” I replied. He said he admired John “Honest to God” Robinson, and thought he might be able to accept those views. I then told him how issues in South Africa were sufficiently clearcut to enable one to make a political speech using biblical texts, but that here it was make a political speech using biblical texts, but that here it was not so.
When the plane with Ria arrived at about 1:20 we had to go over to another building for them to get the plane to Glasgow (there are 3 terminal buildings at Heathrow — one internal, one European, and one intercontinental) and there we had tea and talked about Rhodesia. Ria said that she had had a Rhodesian passport and citizenship, and felt that she could not stay after UDI, so had got a British passport on the 9th of November, two days before Smith went mad. Two of Willie’s parliamentary colleagues joined us while we were waiting, and Ria showed us a letter she had had to get from the government giving her permission to resign from her job with Shell Oil. Then Willie and Ria and the children left. The kids were quite sweet — a boy of about 15, called Carson, and Heather, about 12. Both had dark hair, like their mother.
I stayed talking to the other MPs, and showed them my letter instructing me to call at the magistrate’s office for my warning. They wanted to make a copy of it to show round the House, and I resolved to try to get them a copy of a real banning order, which would be of far more interest and value. One of them, the Lancashire whip of the Labour Party, when he heard that I was an ordinand, wanted to know whether my political views arose from my Christian convictions, and was interested in my use of the Bible as a political textbook, or, more accurately, text book. Later, when the two of us were alone together, he said that he himself was a Christian, and seemed quite keen that we should meet again and talk.
I really would like to have known what went on at the Socialist Sunday School, but I got the impression that Willie was rather embarrassed by all that, and had indeed been embarrassed when his father was arrested and jailed as a conscientious objector, and preferred not to talk about it, while I was quite proud to have a great uncle who was a conscientious objector.
Ria’s eldest daughter, Fiona, had stayed in Rhodesia, mainly because she had a boyfriend there, and only returned to Scotland a few months later when she broke up with him, so I did not meet her then.
Fifteen months later my mother came for a holiday in Europe and the UK and we went to Glasgow to meet the Hannan cousins, and that was when I met Ria for the second time, at a kind of family reunion.
We gathered at the house of Willie’s sister Ella (Annabella Buchanan, born Hannan), and there was a whole family reunion there, as two others of his sisters, Ria, who had been in Rhodesia, mother of Carson and Heather, and Tilda, whose daughter Ives Duff and grandson Alastair were also there. Their mother Hannah, who was my mother’s aunt by marriage was there — it was her husband, Tom Hannan, who was twe socialist who had refused to fight in the First World War and gone to jail for it. We talked most of the evening after having supper.
We tried to see Ria when we visited the UK in 2005, but on the day we called to see her she had gone out on a bus trip, so we missed her, and were sad to do so. As Fiona said, she was one of the last of her generation, and I knew her for all too short a time.