We hope to bring you a series of articles over the months to come, introducing just some of the many interesting people to be met in the Falklands. We'll begin with Kitty Bertrand.[1st August 2006: sadly Kitty is now living in the hospital and is frail]
Kitty Bertrand is a great character, full of fire despite her years and fascinating to talk to. I visit her when I can, and she always comes up with new anecdotes of life in Camp, where she grew up and spent much of her life.
Kitty has kindly allowed me to use some of her lively sketches to illustrate Camp life as it was during her day; some aspects remain unaltered or very similar, so I have used her sketches with my own comments to make up Camp Life.
Kitty's mother Gladys Bertrand, who was born at Roy Cove on West Falkland, travelled to the UK for a visit when she was a young woman. Here she met her future husband, Herbert Milne Napier. Kitty laughs when she recalls how they met. It seems that a handsome Scotsman in his Gordon Highlander uniform winked at a pretty young miss when they met on the Gosport ferry - pretty young miss promptly dissolved in a fit of the giggles - and the dashing soldier (intrigued by a reaction other than the demurely downcast eyes and maidenly blushes he'd expected) decided to pursue the acquaintance of this refreshingly natural young lady, who eventually became his wife.
Kitty was just 18 months old when she arrived here in the Falklands, on the first anniversary of the Battle of the Falklands. The few lodgings available in Stanley at that time were all chock full of Campers, in town to celebrate the occasion. As soon as they could, the young family sailed across to Roy Cove. Herbert was taken on as cadet (trainee manager) on this large sheepfarm, then owned by Bertrand & Felton in which company Gladys was a shareholder - but this didn't work out well. ("Never work with or for relations" warns Kitty, with feeling).
The Napiers soon shifted to West Point Island. Here Herbert learned the ropes of sheepfarming, and Kitty has happy memories of this time. She also remembers fondly her years on Carcass Island, owned then by Jason Hansen, to which place the family moved when she was just six years old.
Here a 16 year old governess was employed, but the young Kitty far from resenting this change in her life has good memories of this girl, since she shared her love of horses. Indeed horses have played a major part in Kitty's life, as they did in the lives of all Campers until quite recently -see Camp Life. (Nowadays they are used more for pleasure than work, though there are exceptions of course.) She recalls with fond memories a Highland garron that was imported from Scotland especially for her. Her beloved Jock was grey, with the distinctive eel stripe common to many Highlanders. Together he and Kitty shared many an adventure - and he also got her into trouble more than once, since she had chores to do but much preferred to be out riding her beloved pony, usually bareback...
When Kitty was 16 and her brother Roddy just 6, the family moved back to West Point Island in order to manage the farm for Alice Felton, daughter of the owner. After just a year Gladys Napier bought the island, and to this day it is owned by Kitty's brother Roddy and his wife Lilly.
Kitty met her future husband, Cecil Bertrand, when they both helped draft some sheep on Carcass. Cecil was born in Argentina, living in Patagonia until he was 18 when he left to work in Chile, on a sheep station near Punta Arenas. In 1928 he'd moved with his family to work at Roy Cove, where Cecil and his brother Erasmus (Rassy) worked until moving to Carcass.
After a prolonged courtship (Cecil had married and had two daughters by this time, and things weren't straight forward) ) he and Kitty were married in 1948, in the Stanley Registry office.
Cecil then skippered the Islands' last trading schooner, the Porvenir, for several years, while kitty remained at home. This ship carried stores and occasionally passengers, while the larger vessel the Fitzroy carried wool and passengers too. Travel in those days meant waiting for a chance and grabbing it...
Kitty and Cecil bought Carcass Island while they still lived on West Point, but later sold it to Rob McGill who owns the island to this day. The Bertrands also owned the Foam. She was built in Denmark, and is now based in Punta Arenas, Chile, where one of Kitty's stepdaughters lives.
Retiring to Stanley in the early 80s, Kitty found life a bit tame after Camp. She carried on with her spinning, which she had enjoyed over the years, but is now finding this difficult due to problems with her hands. She still owns a wheel though, and hasn't admitted defeat. Kitty is nothing if not a fighter. She misses Cecil, who passed away in December 1985, and spends much of her time reading. She's a particular fan of Agatha Christie's detective novels.
Do please check out Kitty's lively images of Camp life. She's a great character, and her humour as well as her keen powers of observation come out in her work. These sketches were first published in the 1991 edition of the Falkland Islands Journal, from which I had to scan them as the originals have gone missing, and copies may also be seen at the Museum. They are copyright Kitty Bertrand.