Remembering Nan


Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She passed away many years ago, but in so many ways she is with me everyday.

Until I was quite grown up she did not have any other name for me than ‘Nan’. But as I grew I learned that her name was Christina, named thus in honour of her Danish heritage.

She was born in 1912 – the same year that the Titanic sank – and saw an amazing amount of change and hardship in her time.

Nan lived through two world wars and a depression, but she was always cheerful and focused. She had high standards and I learned early lessons about excellence from her.

Her generation was deprived of many material benefits. A smart woman, her education was truncated by the Great Depression and the need for every able bodied person in the family to work for the good of all.

In spite of that she read voraciously and, in later years, often took me to the library on her daily visits. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on the floor in the children’s section of the public library in Waterloo reading books.

And I remember listening to her stories of visiting Rockdale library with her own grandmother. They would travel in her grandmother’s horse and carriage, and her grandmother wore button boots with a long dress.

Nan once told me how wonderful it was to her that she had gone from travelling in a horse and carriage like that to watching the moon landings. Her view was that she’d lived in an amazing century, and loved it that she had seen so much change and innovation. Her examples included: radio, cinema, TV, space travel, and air travel. She loved new ideas and gadgets and I’m sure would have been actively using social networking technologies like Facebook to keep in touch with people.

She lived a simple life, raising two children alone after the second world war, often working in jobs such as office cleaner and shop assistant. One of her favourite jobs was cleaning the studio & office of John Laws‘ (the well known radio personality) – he used to give her flowers on her birthday.

Nan was one of that generation robbed of so many opportunities by the Depression and World War II. As a result she amassed little financial wealth during her lifetime. But she was rich in love and affection. I owe her greatly for many of my achievements over the years. It is a great pity that she did not live long enough to see her grandchildren achieve remarkably well.

Recently I remembered that Nan always kept a string bag inside her handbag, & now I’ve resurrected this idea as part of my #livelocal efforts. Even now she still manages to inspire me in various ways.

Author: Kate Carruthers

Kate Carruthers is Chief Data & Insights Officer for UNSW Sydney, and is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science & Engineering. She is certified in information security and is currently undertaking postgraduate studies terrorism and security. Kate has extensive experience in senior roles in ICT, marketing, data and digital; and is a member of the NSW Government’s Data Analytics Centre Advisory Board. Kate is currently working at the intersection of data analytics, AI, ML, privacy, cyber security, and data protection.

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