Today is the birthday of our first daughter Fiona. My mum always called her ‘The first Nowell.’ You may wonder why if you are not of my generation, N-o-w-e-l-l was the way we always spelt the Christmas Carol which by the way was 2006 Carol of the year. When I was a girl all the Hymn and Carol books spelt Nowell this way. (None of the abbreviated ‘Noel’ that we see today.) Back in the day I researched the word Nowell in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and it said that Nowell meant ‘Holy Night’. So, the title made complete sense to me because it was referring to ‘The first holy night’.
When I met Doug he told me that his name was actually pronounced No-well but as no one called him that he just didn’t bother, so we let it be. Most people called him phonetically Noll, or Noll’sy and many thought his name was actually Knowles. Then nearly thirty years ago Doug’s nephew Terry got on our case about us putting up with not being called No-well. He was such a purist on the subject and so passionate that we were quite convinced and agreed to make the switch. It was fine with new people we met but others tended to roll their eyes when we told them, some were even quite unpleasant. Today we accept anything, even ‘late for breakfast’, our Doctor calls us Mr & Mrs Nowl (as in owl), we don’t have the heart to correct him.
Fiona, who is now married with three grown up daughters, is not a Nowell by name any more. However, she will always be our ‘First Nowell.’ And when Christmas comes I will sing heartily ‘The First Nowell’ even if they don’t get the spelling right.
Fiona and I at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London last year
Footnote: When we moved to Melbourne in 2011 guess who we discovered lives in the next suburb?
Answer? A lapsed Nowell-ite named Terry. He had not even told his two children but now it’s payback time because they have decided they should be No-well’s