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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008



To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent — that is to triumph over old age. (Thomas Bailey Aldrich)


AND SO ANOTHER IMPORTANT ANNIVERSARY has come and gone - the signing of the Armistice ninety years ago at the end of the first World War. Although I wasn’t alive then - we called it the Great War, it seemed to be very much in people’s minds when I was small. I have a national newspaper which was issued on the day I was born, and it’s surprising that a fair amount of news in it either directly or indirectly concerned the war. My parents frequently referred to it in general conversation and my father often spoke of “when he was in the army”. As a very young child, I thought he had been in the Salvation Army for that was the only army I knew.

I particularly remember that, if I was given a toy that was “Made in Germany”, that was bad, but if it had been made in Britain that was good!

My father was among the many local men who volunteered as soon as war was declared, joining the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He fought in France and a sniper’s bullet got him in the shoulder.

And that’s really all I know of his time in the army. I very much regret not having asked him for his full story, but, as so often happens, it’s only when old folk are gone, that we think of all the things we might have found out about their life.

I once asked my father what was the happiest time of his life, and his reply surprisingly was “my time in the army”.

This is a photo of him, probably taken in 1915, when he would be 22 years old.



I was 10 years old when we moved to the semi-detached house in Northbank Avenue. The street we left was one of contrasts. Bisected halfway down by Oxford Street, the upper part where we lived consisted of well-kept tenements, 4 villas near us, a primary school, a church and 2 more private houses.

My pal Andrew lived in one of the bigger tenement houses across the road. He was one of a big family, and each time I called to ask if he was coming out to play his mother, having answered the door, would go off to fetch him. That was when his siblings one by one would peep out from the kitchen door to inspect me, each head appearing at a different level.

The lower part of the street, which stretched down to the main road, had a picture house, a bus garage, and a small hall which may have been used by British Legion members. Quite a few of the houses were of the room and kitchen type with outside toilets, and the families who occupied them seemed to have a large numbers of children. I was inside one of those houses only once, and that was when I was teenager. I had to deliver a message to a semi-professional musician who lived there with his wife and 3 or 4 children. Where they all slept I don’t know, but Bob’s double bass took up valuable space in the bedroom!!!
There were two “sweetie” shops, one of which was really the living room of a house. Another one was used by a shoe repairer for his shop. We children had a morbid interest in the fact that he had just one leg and got about on crutches. A member of the Salvation Army band, he taught his two sons the trumpet and when they grew up both were well-known locally as dance band musicians. The younger one for a while worked in London with some of the country’s top dance bands.

I must say a little bit more about our picture house. Of the two cinemas in the town, the one in our street was the least attractive. The films shown there were often unknown and the brightness of the screen seemed to dim every twenty minutes or so. Of course you must remember that in those days it took years for new films to come to a local picture house. However that didn’t stop many folk being enthusiastic cinema-goers, and, with each picture house changing their programme every two days, it was possible to see a different show six nights a week!!!


This picture “Soap Bubbles” was by Elizabeth Gardner 1837-1922 who married the painter William Bouguereau



There used to be occasions when Americans visiting Kirkintilloch asked to be directed to the Duggan’s Dew distillery, and were disappointed to find that no such place existed.

In fact there was - and there still is - a popular whisky in America called “Duggan’s Dew”. The makers had taken the name from a series of short stories published in the Saturday Evening Post. Written by Guy Gilpatric 1896-1950, they featured Colin Glencannon, a ship’s engineer on a tramp steamer who with his dog Mary had come originally from Kirkintilloch. He was very fond of a drink, his preference being the whisky made in his home town, and there was always a mention of “Duggan’s Dew” in the stories. I believe a 39-episode series based on his adventures was produced for TV in the late 1950s but information about this is scarce.

The author himself had an adventurous life. An airman in the first World War, he became a stunt and test pilot, and took part in a number of films. In one film he had to crash a plane, but another “take” was needed, and he had to do it once more - with another plane, I presume. Incredible!

You can read one of the Glencannon short stories by accessing this site -


Instead of a music clip this week I thought you'd like to see this video of a very young polar bear called Knut



No one seems to know how many blogspots there are on the internet. Covering every possible subject and topic, it appears that this is something that's here to stay. In April 2005 it was estimated that there were 50.75 million worldwide.

I started my first blog Wise Men Say in February 2006 and the following month began the MyHaiku site which continued till last July. I very soon discovered that few people knew what a haiku was, and I've always been hoping that my efforts might create an interest.

I'm especially enthusiastic about my new HAIKU HOMESTEAD site, and would like to make a suggestion. Compose a haiku, send it to me and I'll publish it on HAIKU HOMESTEAD (anonymously, if you wish).

and finally -

this verse has three lines
and seventeen syllables -
is it a haiku?


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