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

Friday, January 9, 2009


Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator. (Confucius)


FROM MY ALBUM - - - - -

My maternal grandparents John Hardie 1873-1962 and Margaret (Maggie) McFarlane 1876-1963.

They were married on 12th July 1895 and had 8 children of whom our mother was the eldest.

All his working life he was an iron moulder in a local foundry, and I can still see him with his black face and hands arriving home from work. I regret not having asked him what his work involved, for much later I had a short spell in the office of an iron foundry and could see the different products being manufactured.

He was continually on piece work, which meant that he was paid only for the items he produced. If a casting, which sometimes involved a whole day’s work, went wrong (not uncommon), then he wasn’t paid.

There’s something I still wonder about. Foundry workers were not well paid, yet he was able to bring up a family of 8, and, what is more surprising, while his children were young, he got someone to build a house for him - a villa type 5 apartment with a very big garden. Now, I know that they were very careful with money and would never spend unnecessarily, but it makes you think!

I have in my possession the cards my grandparents were given when they became members of the local Baptist Church. Grandma joined on 11th February 1891 and was baptised a week later, and Grandpa on 24th January 1894 and was baptised the following week. I think it would be fair to assume that their romance blossomed in the church. He was certainly a very keen member and office-bearer all his life, and I know that at one time he was precentor.

The Baptists of course had very narrow views about religion - no alcohol, no smoking, no whist drives, strict Sunday observance, etc. When their family were very young, Grandma found it impossible to attend church, and she received a letter from the church threatening to remove her name from membership! And this, despite the fact that Grandpa was an office bearer and never missed attendance, twice on Sundays plus the mid-week prayer meeting!!! I don’t know how the matter was resolved.

Both Grandpa and Grandma were lovely people. She seemed to me to be always working around the house, and in his spare time he was to be found looking after his big garden, working in his greenhouse or laying paths. I’m remembering that when I was very small they had hens.

My mother didn’t speak much about her childhood, but on two occasions she surprised me. If her father ever found her sitting with a book, he would ask “Pearl, haven’t you anything to do?” Now, knowing my mother, I’m sure that as the eldest child she would do a great deal to help around the house. The other thing she told me about her father was that he was always serious and never smiled. And then the day came when a pal of his visited, and apparently the two of them sat talking, joking and laughing - and her father was a completely different person. She couldn’t believe it!!!

One final memory of mine. When I was leaving to join the RAF, I visited them to say goodbye. Grandpa came with me to his gate to wave me off, and I was quite embarrassed when he shook my hand and told me to remember my mother and not do anything to shame her.

A haiku -

forty-five years on -
I still see the tender smile
on her wrinkled face


Laurence Alma-Tadema 1836-1912 is another of my favourite painters. Born in Holland, he settled in England in 1869 and was knighted in 1899. This slide presentation of 49 paintings includes most of his well-known works


(Answer below)

I had been retired for a good many years, when I suddenly had the notion to learn Gaelic. Why that language I don’t know, but I was keen to find out if I still had the ability to learn something new, and I thought Gaelic would be as good as any. And anyway, there only 18 letters in the Gaelic alphabet.

Some time earlier there had been a series of programmes on television teaching the language and, as those were now available on video tapes, I thought they would be ideal for my purpose. I found everything very interesting and I was soon caught up in it.

The following autumn I discovered that classes were being held in Kirkintilloch and I enrolled. Our group was quite a mixture, consisting of 3 fluent speakers and about half-a-dozen learners all at different stages. Surprisingly I found that I was every bit as good as a couple who had been attending for some years.

It was during my second winter with the class that I realised I wasn’t gaining much from it, and for a while I continued on my own at home. Unfortunately, with the exception of one or two Gaelic speakers I used to meet on holiday, I had no one to converse with, and gradually my Gaelic studies faded away. Nowadays I can’t remember much of it, but I’ve found that, after an afternoon looking again at my Gaelic books, the familiar phrases all come back to me.

Each night the Gaelic class finished up with us being taught a song, and this clip is of one of the more popular ones. “Fear a’bhata” was written towards the end of the 19th century by Sine NicFhionnlaigh of Harris who sings to her boy friend a fisherman “O my boatman, when will I see you?” The singers here are Capercaille, well known for their treatment of traditional and Gaelic songs.

(Do you speak Gaelic? A little)


Finally, did you hear about the old lady who dashed into W.H.Smith’s, bought a box of 20 identical Christmas cards, hurried home, wrote them and heaved a sigh of relief when she posted them?

Some days later she came across the one card out of the pack that she hadn’t needed. Looking inside it, she was appalled to read -

This little card is just to say
A little gift is on the way


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