Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Saint Cecelia is the Patron Saint of Music

The caption says "Dot, Kay, Cele, Vera, 1938." No mention is made of the banjo ukulele.

When I was young I learned the McNally sisters' names in order as a kind of poetic litany. Marie, Elizabeth, Veronica, Cecelia, Loretta, Margaret, Anna, Dorothy, Kathryn and Patricia---all Saints, all rather elegant and rather old-fashioned. Cecelia, my mother's name, was my favorite. I can still hear her sisters fondly articulating three syllables, Ce-cel-yuh, when they called her, although everyone mostly called her Cele (as in seal).

Cele and Jane 1949

We found a copy of her Baptismal Certificate that tells us where she got the name. Her aunt Cecilia Donohue Valentine was her godmother. On this copy, made in 1937 when she got married, Cecilia is spelled with two i's but Cele's birth certificate shows it with two e's---Cecelia.

Cecelia McNally Brackman inspired her own namesakes---Ben's sister Edie named her only daughter Cecelia---we never call her anything but Cecelia.

Cecelia in 1947
And Kathryn named her youngest Cecelia. We never call her anything but Cece (as in See-See). We don't have any trouble keeping Cele, Cecelia and Cece straight in family conversations.

The name continued into the fourth generation. Kathy Bentley named her daughter Kristen Cecelia.

The most interesting thing I've learned about the name Cecelia lately is that  it's pronounced something like Chinchilla in Italian. Wikipedia explains the pronunciation of Italian opera singer Cecilia Bartoli's name as tʃeˈtʃilja. It sounds like Chay-cheel-ee-uh to me. The other interesting thing I found in writing this post is the banjo ukulele in the beach picture above. In the family album the picture is so small the ukulele is not noticeable. I would guess that was Cele's instrument. She was, after all, named for the patron saint of music.

A banjo ukulele, according to Wikipedia, " is a four-stringed musical instrument with a small banjo-type body and a fretted ukulele neck. 'Banjolele,' sometimes also spelled banjelele or banjulele is a generic nickname given to the instrument, which was derived from the 'banjulele-banjo,' introduced by Alvin D. Keech in 1917. The instrument achieved its greatest popularity in the 1920s and '30s, and combines the small scale, tuning, and playing style of a ukulele with the construction and distinctive tone of a banjo, hence the name."

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