Ceramic Bowl / Guest Post

Our First Guest Post, from the family of Cat Lazaroff.
This bowl was made by my great-great-grandmother, Jeannette Garr Washburn Kelsey, more than 100 years ago. Jeannette was, according to my grandmother, quite a hellraiser, traveling the world, trying the latest fads. She was also obsessed with our family’s link to the Scottish clan Sinclair, through James Sinclair, the black-sheep son of the Earl of Caithness. James left Scotland to fight in the American Revolutionary War, then worked merchant ships that traveled to Spain, South America, all round the Atlantic.

I’d heard this story from my grandmother and in 1996 went to my first Scottish festival, in Fergus, Ontario. In the Sinclair booth I scanned the genealogy chart for a name from the stories: William, the 10th Earl of Caithness. Couldn’t find him. Was my memory faulty? Still crouched in front of the framed chart, I pulled out my cell phone and called Grandmommy.

“He married a Kelsey? Nope, no Kelseys listed.” When I snapped the phone shut, the kilted man in charge of the booth came forward. “Did I hear you say you’re descended from the Kelseys?”

Somehow I’d managed to come to the one Scottish festival in the world where someone had heard our story. Rory Sinclair not only knew of the disinherited Sinclair son, he’d actually tracked down a copy of Jeannette’s 1904 vanity-published account.

Thanks to that encounter, my Grandmommy and I both have photocopies of A Diverted Inheritance, an odd mix of fictionalized true-love story and supportive research, including letters between Jeannette and various members of Clan Sinclair.

After my grandfather died, I helped Grandmommy move to a much smaller apartment. Among the items that didn’t make the move was this bowl. It’s chipped, imperfect, not exactly beautiful. But inside it nestles a note, written on the back of one of Grandmommy’s business cards, in her own brisk hand:

The bowl is the only one of Jeannette’s ceramics to survive, as far as I know. I’ll keep it safe, and someday maybe I’ll give it – along with my photocopy of Jeannette’s book, and the story of James Sinclair – to another generation.

Cat now lives in Maryland and is a writer.

Comments

  1. Wonderful story! You were so lucky to get the story/book from the kilted man at the festival.

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