Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Monday, October 20, 2008



No one grows old by living - only by losing interest in living. (Marie Beynon Ray)


I remember the September day in 1937 when our town made the front page of the national newspapers.

We were all shocked to learn that 10 young tattie howkers (potato pickers) from Ireland had lost their lives when fire broke out in the bothy where they were living. They were the male members of a group from Achill in County Mayo.

This is Achill Island

The girls, some of whom had brothers and cousins among the dead escaped, as they had been accommodated in a separate building. The cause of the tragedy was never really known.

I REMEMBER the summer evening in 1940 when a company of the Free French Alpine Chasseurs arrived in our town. They, along with others of the Allied forces, had been forced by the Germans to evacuate Norway, and we saw them looking absolutely exhausted coming along the road.

Many of them were billeted in a church hall near where we lived, and quite a number of the local families would invite one or two of them for tea. We got to know one soldier quite well, Marius Reviglio. He had been a lift attendant in Nice and so his English was fairly good.

We were surprised to see how easy-going the French soldiers were in comparison with the other nationalities. I don’t think it occurred to us that, after their Norway experience, they would be entitled to a complete rest.

On one occasion when Marius came to us for tea, he told us that he had to meet an officer at a certain time. When it was time for him to go, he was still drinking tea, and we pointed out that he was going to be late. You can imagine our surprise when he replied “Ze officer, he will wait”.

I REMEMBER that the little music group we had while at secondary school started off as a trio with Douglas and Andrew on violins and myself on piano. We held concerts in each other’s homes and relatives were pressurised into attending. I don’t recall if there was an admission charge or perhaps a collection, but I know that we sent donations to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Later we added another violin played by Archie and we had a number of “outside” engagements including a church dramatic club’s productions, when we provided the pre-curtain and interval music.

The Minister in his vote of thanks rebuked us, half in fun, half in earnest, for playing “Anywhere on earth is Heaven when you’re with someone you love”.

I REMEMBER the day in June 1965 when the Queen and Prince Philip came to Kirkintilloch.

At that time I was on the staff of the Town Council working in the Burgh Chambers. When we learned of the impending visit, many of my colleagues announced that they weren’t really interested and wouldn’t go to see them. And I felt much the same way.

However, as the big day grew nearer, members of the staff including myself were asked to assist in the stewarding of the many schoolchildren who would be attending.

And guess what happened - everyone of us, including the most anti-royalist, suddenly became enthusiastic about the whole thing. The event passed off very well indeed, and the Queen and Philip were their usual charming selves. And we were just as excited as the school children!!!



The Jaap family about 1888
Back row: my grandfather John Armour b1868, Walter b1866, Richard b1870 and Robert b1872
Centre: Andrew b1875
Seated: George b1834, James b1878 and Jean Armour b1841



In the back court behind tenement buildings stood the wash house. Inside there was a boiler heated by a coal fire and either a sink or washing tub where the clothes could be scrubbed by hand. Having been washed, the clothes were squeezed through a wringer and then hung out to dry. Of course if the weather was bad, you might have to dry your washing indoors. In the kitchen/living room there was a pulley suspended from the ceiling, which could be lowered by ropes and, after the clothes had been hung, raised again.

Jean tells me that she personally hated washday, for often her mother would keep her off school to fill up the boiler with water, make up the fire and light it, and fill the two tubs with water from the boiler.

Each family had their own particular day for using the facility, and there could be trouble if someone had hung out their washing on the wrong day. Can you imagine two women battling it out in the back court, washing being flung everywhere, scrubbing brushes flying. And faces at every window, enjoying the show!!!



“The Order of Release” by another of the Pre-Raphaelites John Everett Millais 1829-1896



As a white candle
In a holy place
So is the beauty
Of an aged face.
As the spent radiance
Of the winter sun,
So is a woman
With her travail done,
Her brood gone from her,
And her thoughts as still
As the waters
Under a ruined mill.
(Joseph Campbell 1879-1944, Irish poet also known as Seosamh MacCathmhaoil)


Finally, here’s an amazing clip of two brilliant jazz musicians, Stephane Grappelli 1908-1997 and Django Reinhardt 1910-1953 playing “J’attendrai”.

Both are excellent of course, but I was astonished at Django’s guitar playing. When a young man he was seriously injured in a caravan fire and lost the use of two fingers of his left hand. Watch how he does a jazz improvisation using only two fingers. Astonishing.


No comments: