OPINION: The fragile veil my mother never wore

OPINION: I hesitated a while before taking up the scissors, reflecting on the bittersweet history of the wedding veil spread out before me.

Long ago, in 1928, my father had presented the veil to his bride-to-be, then a girl of 16.

"I was tremendously thrilled," recalled my mother in her memoirs.

"It was a beautifully fragile handmade Limerick lace veil...a vision of beauty in its frothy and gossamer loveliness."

But mum never wore the veil. Just before the scheduled wedding, my father's father died suddenly and the undercurrent of friction with his family, who were opposed to the marriage of an older man (my father was a widower of 32 with two small daughters) to a young girl, finally blew up, meaning the eventual wedding was a quiet affair with only two witnesses.

My mother wore a flapper dress of green satin with a dropped waistline and handkerchief points - but not the cherished Limerick lace veil.

Over the years the veil was removed from its box to be worn in the weddings of friends and related family. It adapted readily to the changing styles and many are the photographs of brides with the beautiful long embroidered train spread around their feet.

My mother loved it. When it was taken out she would run her fingers under the delicate embroidery and say how lovely it was.

I wore it and so did my sisters and sisters-in-law, then it was granddaughters who wore the veil and each time it was carefully washed in alum, as the prevailing knowledge dictated, and folded away in its box.

But the veil was becoming more fragile and had to be handled with great care.

An under-layer of tulle was added to reinforce it but little did anyone guess that the alum wash was a major cause of the deterioration, which was revealed when we tried to donate it to a museum's bridal exhibition, unsuccessfully because of its poor condition.

As the eldest daughter, I became the veil's custodian when mum died at the age of 96.

It can never be worn again and at last my sisters and I decided, not without regret, to cut it up and give each female relative a sizable piece to do with it as they wished.

Now something wonderful has happened. The veil that tore families apart also has the power to bring families together.

Emails have been circulating to relatives not contacted in years, around Australia and beyond to overseas.

We've swapped addresses and caught up with cousins and extended family, and photos of teenagers last known as babies have been flying around the internet.

Even some appointments have been made to meet up at some time - and suddenly there is a whole network of people all talking together and remembering...

Next week the pieces will be posted far and wide to our family, but for now, as I take up the scissors, I am sure my mother would be happy to know that her veil's legacy is binding the family together.


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