She was born in 1886, in Maidstone, Kent, England, to English parents. Her father was a brewery chemist and manager, and both her parents were serious amateur artists. When she was about 8 her father was hired to be a brewery manager at Olsson’s in Cape Town, South Africa, and the family moved there, by ship. Each year they traveled, by ship, for their holidays, either to England, Scotland or Italy (where her parents took painting holidays).
When she was a teenager, she was sent to London to finish her training as a concert pianist, at the Royal Academy of Music (she made her solo debut, and won two gold medals, and never played a piano seriously again). She was a member of the Fabian Society, and the Theosophical Society, and was friends with H.G. Wells, G.B Shaw, etc.. This is when she probably first met my grandfather, Jack. In 1907 she married the musician, composer, and collector of Irish folk songs, Herbert Hughes. A year later she had her first child, Pat (later known professionally as “Spike”) Hughes. He later gained fame as a jazz musician, as a music reviewer, and an expert in opera.
By 1912 her marriage with Herbert had fallen apart (though they did not divorce until 1922), and she had no real source of income. She moved, with Pat, to Sicily, where the cost of living was much lower, and she could support herself and Pat on a small stipend from her father, and the money she made from making and selling wooden toys. She later moved to Fiesole, outside Florence, and made frequent trips between England (where Pat was packed off to boarding school at age 5 or 6) and Italy. In 1915, after the outbreak of World War II, Pat and Jack Gunn (who would later become her second husband ) travelled through war torn Europe to join her in Fiesole.
Not long after, she decided that mainland Europe was not a safe place to live during a world war, and she and Pat sailed to South Africa, where they lived with her parents for a year or so. The trip took three or four weeks each way. They travelled quite extensively in South Africa.
While the war was still being fought, they returned to England, and she began living with Jack. Tiring of the occult, they dabbled in Buddhism, and became interested in psychoanalysis. Jack resumed his career as an Egyptologist, making frequent trips to Egypt, and she accompanied him on some of them. In 1922, when Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered, they were living in Berlin. In 1924 Meena was studying under Freud in Vienna, and a year or so later she was studying under Sándor Ferenczi in Budapest. This was the one subject which maintained her interest, and she was still a practicing psychoanalyst into her 80s. She and Jack were married about 1926, in Beirut Lebanon.
Jack was working at a “dig” in Saqqara, Egypt. The site included the remains of 4 thousand year old workmen’s houses, and it was easier to put a roof on the existing mud-brick structure, than to build new housing, or live in tents. By 1928 they were living in Cairo, where Jack was a curator at the Egyptian Museum, and her second son, Iain, was born there. Of course, northern Europeans did not stay in Egypt over the summer, so each year they travelled either to England or Europe. Iain remembers celebrating his second birthday (May 1930) in the Alps.
In 1931 Jack was appointed curator of the Egyptian collection at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, in Philadelphia. But Meena did not like the American summers, so she returned to England, with my father, each summer.
In 1935 Jack was appointed as professor of Egyptology at Oxford. Although he had a strong “public” school education, he had never attended University, so they had to give him an honorary MA before they could hire him as a professor. The whole family moved back to England.
Meena remained in England, except for holidays in Europe, until the 1950s.
Meena and Jack were divorced in 1940, and Meena remarried, to neurologist Alex Grey-Clarke (who died of meningitis a few years later) about 30 years her junior.
In the late 1950s Meena traveled to Vancouver (west coast of Canada) to visit Iain and his family, and then moved there (in her mid 70s) in 1960, just as Iain moved to Yorktown, New York, (east coast of the US) where he went to work for IBM research.
In Canada, she was living in a small, run down, house on a farm owned by a Mennonite family. She had approximately 20 un-house-trained, unfixed, Pekinese dogs, and at least one dead puppy in the deep freeze. The owners apparently believed they were doing “God’s work” by looking after this eccentric old woman.
In 1965 she decided she wanted to live nearer Iain's family, living in an “in-law apartment” for a few months, and then she bought a house of her own, in Lake Peekskill, a summer community. This meant that the water lines were above the frost line, and the water was shut off all winter. She dealt with this by asking her (mostly schizophrenic) patients to bring gallon milk bottles of water with them when they came for their appointments.
After 3 or 4 years, she (in her 80s) moved to England, but there was a 6 month quarantine for dogs. After about 6 weeks she decided that the dogs were miserable without her (really she was miserable without THEM), and changed plans, moving back to the Mennonite farm outside Vancouver, and became a Canadian citizen. She suffered a stroke, and died there in 1973.
British Columbia, Canada, Death Index, 1872–1992 Transcription
First name(s) Lillian Florence
Last name Gunn,
Death date 6/2/1973
Province British Columbia
GSU microfilm number 2050138
BC microfilm number B13325
Record set British Columbia, Canada, Death Index, 1872–1992
Category Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records
Subcategory Civil Deaths & Burials
Collections from Canada, Americas
This record was previously hosted on mocavo.com
↑ England & Wales Civil Registration Birth Index 1837-1915, ancestry.com: Lilian Florence Meacham, Oct-Nov-Dec 1886, Maidstone, Kent 2a 696.
↑ England Select Births and Christenings 1538-1975, ancestry.com: Lilian Florence Meacham, baptism 7 Oct 1886, Maidstone, Kent, England. Parents Charles Stephen Meacham & Florence. FHL Film Number 1835480.
↑ British Columbia, Canada, Death Index 1872-1990, ancestry.com: Lillian Florence Gunn, age 86, died 2 Jun 1973, Coquitlam. Registration Number 1973-09-008212. BCA Number B13325. GSU Number 2050138.
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Meena by comparing test results with other carriers of her mitochondrial DNA.
However, there are no known mtDNA test-takers in her direct maternal line.
It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with Meena: