My great aunt Wendy Wood (my father's mother's sister) is probably the biggest "character" in the family, but she has some serious competition. Born in England, of strictly English ancestry, she became a prominent Scots Nationalist. (One of her great aunts, Alethea Wood, MARRIED a Scotsman named Ross when she was in her 50s. That is the only Scottish connection we have found on her side.) Wendy repeatedly claimed to have a grandmother named Ross, but it was a fantasy/fabrication.
She was born, Gwendoline Meacham, in Maidstone, Kent, in 1892, where her father was a brewery chemist.
A few years later, her father became the brewery manager for Olssons Brewery in Cape Town, South Africa, and the whole family moved there. She had a number of adventures associated with the Boer War, and with accompanying her father on visits to the Boer farmers who provided the raw materials for the brewery. These included finding a black mamba (poisonous snake) in the bed, and the unintentional betrothal (by exchanging hats) with a farmer's son. The family was friends with Baden-Powell, and she joined the early Boy Scouts, along with her brother.
As a teenager, she was was sent to boarding school in Tunbridge Wells (outside London), run by Scottish schoolmistresses. This is where she became infatuated with Scottish culture. At the same time her sister (my grandmother, Meena, 6 years older) was living in London and studying piano. Meena moved in Bohemian circles, and was friends with George Bernard Shaw, H.G.Wells, Yeats, Eric Gill and others. After one evening with Meena and her friends, a young protege of GBS insisted on accompanying Wendy to the station, where she was catching a train back to school. While there, he bought two round trip tickets to Paris, and tried to convince her to go with him. Finally, when she was on the train to Tunbridge Wells, he handed her a box of chocolates, and, as the train started moving, he said: "Even if you won't go to Paris with me, thanks for a lovely night". She spent the trip back to Tunbridge Wells under the disapproving gaze of her fellow passengers.
She trained as an artist, and worked as both an artist and an author. Before WW I she married a Scotsman, Walter Cuthbert, and had two daughters, one of whom lived to be over 100. After WWI they separated. She moved to Edinburgh with her two daughters and she became very active in the Scottish Independence movement. This is when she started calling herself Wendy Wood, to emphasize her artistic heritage- her mother's father was the sculptor Samuel Peploe Wood, and his brother was the painter Thomas Peploe Wood.
In the 1930s, at a demonstration celebrating the Battle of Bannockburn (the last MAJOR victory of the Scots over the English, in the time of Edward I), she looked up and saw the GIANT Union Jack flying over Stirling Castle and decided it had to come down. At the time, part of Stirling Castle was open to tourists (6d admission), and part was an active Army Barracks. She and her followers marched through the tourist entrance, refusing to pay the "saxpence" (Scots shouldn't have to pay to enter their own castle), and barged through the gate to the barracks, to the dumbfounded stares of the soldiers. They climbed to the top of the tower, and took down the Union Jack. Wendy pulled a similarly giant Royal Standard out from under her skirt (so clearly premeditated), and ran it up the flagpole. She put the Union Jack under her skirt and walked off. The Union Jack ended up under her carpet, but Eric Linklater wrote a roman-a-clef in which the clearly-based-on-Wendy character flushed the flag down the toilet. She sued him for libel (thereby keeping the Scottish Independence cause in the news) and eventually settled out of court for a farthing damages.
In the 50s (McCarthy period) she flew to New York to raise money for the cause. On her passport, she crossed out "United Kingdom" and wrote in "Scotland". When they landed in NY, she was asked to remain in her seat while the other passengers left. She thought "Now I am done for!" for mutilating her passport. But it turned out there was a pipe band on the tarmac to greet her. In New York she asked for a "large Manhattan", thinking it would be a club sandwich. She also thought some of the trash cans were post boxes, and almost got arrested for jay walking.
When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, Wendy was adamant that she might be Elizabeth II of England, but she was only Elizabeth I of Scotland. Wendy was part of a group that went around "paint bombing" anything that said "E R II". Eventually the authorities stopped putting ANY royal insignia on the post boxes.
We left England when I was 2, so I knew her only from family stories, until I was in high school, when we visited. I had heard that there were Union Jacks under the carpet on the stairs. Walking up and down, I thought "there may be flags, but there is carpet padding as well". When no one was looking I pried up a corner, and it was literally over an inch thick with flags that Wendy had taken down of "buildings where they didn't belong". No padding at all.
A couple of years later my sister visited and said "Janet says there are flags under the carpet on the stairs."
"Och, it's nae just the stairs. There are flags under the carpet in the dining room and the living room tae."
In 1972 (at the age of 80) she held a hunger strike for home rule, and she died in 1981, aged 89.
She was NOT involved in the theft of the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey, but wished she had been.
She wore the same clothes almost every day- a pleated skirt in Ross tartan (women DON'T WEAR KILTS, they wear pleated skirts) with a white blouse and a green jacket, and a green cape when it was cold.
(made minor edits to the first paragraph for clarity)