It is Day 20 of my Mary Stewart Advent Calendar and today I am again looking at Mary’s family background. In my 18 December post I mentioned that Mary was married from Kelloe Church by her vicar father: so was her sister Fredith.

Here’s a reminder of Fredith as a little girl from my 25 November post :

Mary’s younger sister Fredith (‘Fred’), born in 1922. Photo courtesy of Cliff Thornton

Fredith married in 1942, at the age of 20. The wedding was covered in the Durham County Advertiser:



The beautiful Norman church of Kelloe was the setting for the wedding on Tuesday of Miss Fredith E. Rainbow, younger daughter of the Rev. and Mrs F. A. Rainbow, St. Helen’s Vicarage, Kelloe… It is many centuries since there was a marriage in the Parish Church of Kelloe from the Vicarage. The ceremony was performed by the bride’s father, assisted by his son… The hymns “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven” and part of the Psalm 37 were sung…

The bride wore a full-length dress of white lace, a veil of net with a head-dress of orange blossom and old Brussels lace. She carried a sheaf of lilies and wore a pendant of pearls mounted on gold… The bridesmaid… only sister of the bridegroom, wore a pale blue lace dress and carried a bouquet of daffodils… Following the service a reception was held in Kelloe Welfare Hall, and the newly wed couple later left by car for their honeymoon.


Bride’s father to bride and bridegroom, piano, fruit set pepper pots, cheque; bride’s mother to bride, house linen, furniture, dinner set, two tea sets, floor rugs, cheque… members of Kelloe Mother’s Union and members of Church Lads’ Brigade, cash to buy presents.

Wow. I have condensed the description a little and *hugely* condensed the list of presents and present-givers: there are over 70 other gifts listed, including a cheque from Mary. I recognise the names of various of those who gave wedding presents, such as Canon Froggatt (Rev Rainbow had been his curate in Sunderland) – and could Mr and Mrs Stubbs be the headmaster and teacher mentioned in my 12 December post?

I don’t know how the paper got hold of all this information, or how commonly weddings received such coverage but it seems like the wedding was a really important occasion in Kelloe.

I can’t help but wonder how Mary felt about all this. Despite being six years older than Fredith, Mary did not marry for another three years. It was little sister Fredith’s wedding which was the first marriage ‘in many centuries’ from Kelloe vicarage. Women were still expected to marry, settle down and be homemakers. Instead, Mary was a don at Durham University – but only part-time, juggling this work with part-time teaching and war duties – and she knew that her post was strictly temporary until the war ended (when she was to be replaced, presumably, by a returning male lecturer).

I also wonder why Mary was not a bridesmaid. Could she not get time off work on that Tuesday? Was it that the age gap coupled with the fact that Mary had been sent off to boarding schools since the age of eight – when Fredith was only two – meant that the sisters had never been very close? (I assume Fredith was educated in the same way and was possibly at the same school but I don’t know how much time they could have spent together.) Perhaps it wasn’t done for an older sister to be bridesmaid to a younger sister?

Whether it’s on bridesmaid rules or the media coverage of Fredith’s wedding (Hello magazine-esque? Or a charming description of 1940s weddings?), please do get in touch with your thoughts.