Bell of Coleraine

Anne Elizabeth Jaffray, nee Bell

My Grandmother Anne Elizabeth Bell was born in September 1894 in Campbeltown Scotland, where her father was serving as a customs officer at the time. The family moved back to Coleraine, Northern Ireland a few years later where she was brought up with her older brother and sister. My grandmother died in 1972. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, training as an opera singer. She graduated in 1918 and performed in concerts in London and Croydon. She also had a part in Il Trovatore at the Old Vic. She met my grandfather, Robert Stuart Jaffray at a concert in 1918. He fell in love with her and they married in 1919.

 

  Her mother was Fanny Jane Knox who was born in 1859 at Pettigo, Co. Donegal. She married James Bell, my great-grandfather, in 1888. She died in the 1920s in Coleraine.

 

Anne Elizabeth had two children - my mother Mary, and my aunt Frances Anne Elizabeth. Although she led a comfortable life in a large house in Whyteleafe with servants and a full social life, I think she rather resented the fact that her career had ended with marriage. During the Second World War, she drove an ambulance in London and later she went to Greece with the Ambulance Corps. A picture in the family archives shows her meeting Queen Elizabeth, the Queen's mother.  My Grandfather was an invalid in later years, and Granny led an independent life after the War. She wrote books, bred corgis, and became a model, working for an agency that supplies character faces. This page contains a wedding day photo, and the other shows her in Ambulance uniform, meeting the Queen (Queen Elizabeth, mother of Queen Elizabeth II - Granny is third from the right) and another from her days as a mature model.

  Anne Elizabeth (I use both names because she used the first of her names professionally, but she was Elizabeth in the family) had a sister Lucinda (b. 1892) and a brother William James Knox (b. 1890), who was killed in action in France in 1918. I visited his grave a few years ago and was very moved at the sight of so many graves for so many brave young men.