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The B[l]og

"Kiss of the sun for pardon.

Song of the birds for mirth.

You're closer to God's heart in a garden

Than any place else on  earth."
......................................Dorothy Frances Gurney

Widow of Brigadier Francis Wyld [Tim] SANDARS (d 1986) and of John Griffith O'DONOGHUE (d 1976)

She leaves behind two daughters:

Katharine Susan [Sue] LIDDLE (née O'DONOGHUE)
Margaret Ann [Pegs] WALLER (née O'DONOGHUE)

and two step-sons:

Colonel Hugh Michael SANDARS
Andrew Philip [Philip] SANDARS

Kate (the name we knew her by) may not be that well known to many in the SANDARS family, but her arrival late, (1981-1982), in my grand-father's life was important. For it enabled him to see out his days on his terms surrounded by his dogs, roses, and friends at his home, La Guarida, on the Costa Blanca, Spain. I had the good fortune to spend 9 months of my gap-year helping out at La Guarida during Tim's last year, 1986. In some senses Kate was, for 25 years, the only SANDARS grandmother I ever knew.

In my youth La Guarida had become a firm favourite holiday home and more so during that year. La Guarida is a home originally built by Tim and his second wife Vinny. Vinny passed away in 1974 before ever really calling La Guarida home. Kate retained a life-time interest in La Guarida, on Tim's death, and continued to develop the garden until age forced, in the late 1990's, a move to a flat in Javea (a nearby town).

She chose the buyers, the Foxes, with great care and although adapting the house to their needs, they have done so in such a way that kept its essential character. My family and I had the great fortune to visit La Guarida again in April this year and to enjoy the now maturing gardens and trees. The photos and news of our visit helped brighten Kate's final months

On the veranda of La Guarida stood, for many years a bronze plaque with the quotation by Dorothy Frances Gurney. Kate took it with her to her new flat in Javea. However, one of the last things she did in Spain, before going to a nursing home in Northern Ireland, was to return it tearfully to La Guarida, feeling that was where it belonged. Perhaps she felt the same was true of herself.

[with additions by DLS]

Katherine Violet Douglas was born in Argentina in 1910, [eldest daughter of John Cambell  and Violet (née DANIELL) DOUGLAS].  She went to school in Yorkshire and has told Pegs it was very cold and she got chilblains.   It must have been a good school, because she certainly made the best of her education.  She spent time in Paris, Budapest and Florence. And spoke French and German.   After this she returned to the Argentine, after a time in England living with her parents in their English property at Brampton, in Oxfordshire.   It was about this time between the wars that she met and married [John Griffith] Griff O’Donoghue [27 Mar 1935], in Uruguay, or the Argentine.   I know they were at their farm in Uruguay at the outbreak of World War Two. [The news of the outbreak of the war was delivered to them at their farm by a dashing mounted dispatch rider from the embassy. This Kath later recalled was as dramatic as it was romantic] Griff had been appointed Vice Consul and as such had a special duty: to collect intelligence from the international community, about shipping.   Soon after this they were involved in the Graf Spee incident.  Knowing what was about to happen Kath and Griff went to the Light House at Punta del Este.  Kath told me she remembers taking a deck chair a step ladder, a pair of binoculars and a copy of Jane’s registry of ships.  From there they watched the drama of the Graf Spee.

Over the years I have learned about her past in South America.   The war years were the most interesting, and could be best told about by her extended war time family.   Euan Story & Elspeth Skinner, who were her nephew and niece, and her daughters Sue and Pegs, my wife.  Kath brought the cousins up all together as one family during this time as Bill and Evelyn were back in England helping to beat the hell out of Hitler.

What a job she did, I thanked her on our wedding day; and I thank her again today for Pegs……. and the cousins who I now know.   All of us are richer for having come into contact with her.

Griff sold his business in Uruguay in the late 50s and returned to Ireland where he had bought a small farm with a view over the Heavenly Estuary. (which he wrote a poem about)  Griff loved Malin having been brought up there during his school days, when he had been sent home to his relations, there; for the duration of his education.   Kath did not love it quite so much as Griff;   she found it rather cloudy and wet.   They turned Dromcrowie into a lovely place with a wonderful garden, where Kath grew daffodils [especially white ones for weddings] and sold them in Derry.  

A keen gardener always.  Kath had a great interest in ancient history, and in Malin made a study of the Barrows.   A linguist of some expertise she taught Spanish in Derry.

Holidays for Sue and Pegs and then all there children are full of happy memories, at Dromcrowie.  Her grandchildren often stayed with her there and all of them loved her for providing that permanent continuity in there lives.  Kath saw to it that they had their own rooms.

Army life for me made it difficult to give the children the security of that permanent home.  Thank you Kath for that and allowing me to take Pegs off to the Shannon, while the children were too small. Alan worked in Ireland after leaving Kenya and I too was stationed here for a while, so Kath saw a lot of her grandchildren. We all adored her.

In the late 70s they moved to Spain and lived in Denia in a flat they bought over looking the sea.  The grandchildren now growing up, again enjoyed staying with them.   Sadly Griff died in 1976.  She had many friends in Spain, and was lucky in that her brother Sholto and his wife Chris also lived in Denia. Also living there was a cousin Bill Story, father of Euan and Elspeth the children she had brought up during the war.   It was natural for all these relations to choose a Spanish speaking country to settle in. We all enjoyed their company, and their Latin approach to partying.  Kath was always the leader, teacher and educator of our children, on their many visits to Spain.   Pippa my youngest loved her visits and travels in Spain with her Granny. Celia and Robert both stayed in her flat.  We have all benefited from her influence.

After Griff died in 1976 Kath used her Language skills to help the peoples of all the North European families now retired and living near by.   She wrote a short history of Denia and district from pre-Christian times to the present.   She helped people with form filling and legal matters, and all sorts, where speaking the language tipped the scales.

Kath married Tim Sandars in 81/82, and was devoted to him, looking after him; in his last years.   Tim’s house outside Denia was in a lovely position but in a ramshackle condition.   She set about turning it into a valuable property, with a very beautiful garden.  

Kath was a keen Bridge player and was a leading light in organising people to get together for Bridge. Tim was not well for a few years before he died but she gave him love and care to the end.  His family got to know her well as they came out to visit and to help with Tim.  His grandson Daniel in particular was a great help to Kath at this time.  Thank you Daniel.  Daniel is here with us today.  Tim died in 1986.

At about this time, her sight was beginning to fail, and after Tim died she had to give up driving as it was becoming very hard on her battered little car.   She found it hard playing cards, but had special large format ones. She had to sell the little house and move to a rented flat in Javea. Friends remained numerous and there was a constant flow of people between bridge parties and visits to the opera.   Organising coach trips to Alicante were a regular part of her life.  She was always surrounded by interesting people young and old, it made no difference.

A wonderful mother to Sue and to Pegs, and mother in law to Alan and I. I can't ever remember a cross word from her.  She could of course be cross. She was once heard to tell off a farmer who had run into her on the road to Javea, so sever was the rocket that he admitted to the police man, that he was in the wrong.   At the time I am not sure if her car was licensed or fit for the road.   It is just as well she was so fluent in the local dialect.

Kath loved the loudness of life in Spain.   The louder the music, the bangs of rockets, and fireworks, the glamour of the carnivals, and lots of Spanish all taking very fast and loudly, was the spice of life to her.    Among her relations in Spain I found it difficult because the conservation switched from English to Spanish, when they could not get the words out fast enough. Living life to the full and with her many friends and relations; she could never refuse an invitation.   Always interested in what they were up to.  We remember Lunch in Africa on her 90th Birthday.

It was on this occasion staying with Ann and Malcolm Davidson, that the visit to Tangier was planned.   Ann and Sue heard the weather forecast; and then came round to our rooms in the early morning to say:  we better not go, and it was decided, not to wake Kath, and we would all have a late breakfast.   Kath was told last; and told us all we were rather wet: and so the decision was reversed.    Off we went and the day was a great success.

Kath had a fall in 2002.   So she gave up the flat in Javea, and moved to Ballycastle in North Antrim.    She has been visited by many friends and relations.  Sue living near by, in Dervock has been on hand.  This was near her old friends from Ireland back in the 70s, and all her grandchildren have been able to see her from time to time.   The tennis tournament has been a highlight in her year, with a lot of her grand children, and great grandchildren visiting her at this time.   Only this year she was to be seen by friends young and old at the wall by the courts.

 We are very grateful to Jean and Pat who looked after her so lovingly these last few years, at Glenchesk Court.