Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My nana is 90...

[My cousin Angie recently created a document of my nana's life for her 90th birthday - the text below is directly from that document, and all in my nana's own words]

... I am 90 today, 15th April 2010, and this is the story of my life so far, as told to Christine & Angela...


- I was born on 15th April 1920 on a Croft in Port Nalauchaig, Arisaig.
- Port Nalauchaig is Gaelic for “Port of the Mice”.
- My maiden name was Macdonald.
- I was brought up in Arisaig in the Scottish Highlands by my grandparents, Angus and Catherine Macdonald.
- The name of the house we lived in, Port Nalauchaig, was changed to Cullen View after the renovation in 1937. The name was changed when we had a guest staying with us and he said it should be called Cullen View because of the beautiful view across the water to the Cullen Hills on the Isle of Skye.
- When my uncles did the renovations, we got a bathroom put in. Electricity was put in in 1947 and Granddad’s first comment was “How do we reach up that high to blow out the light at the top of the stairs?”.
- My mother, Mary Ann Macdonald, lived mostly on the Isle of Arran, where she worked in service on a Croft as a housekeeper. I spent my school holidays with her on High Clachalig Farm in Arran.
- I walked about 6 miles a day to St. Mary’s School in Arisaig, sometimes barefoot. That’s the only school I went to. I left school when I was 14 years old.
- Miss Gillies was my teacher – she was a bitch. She gave you the strap for nothing. She’s in heaven now – or maybe hell, I don’t know.
- My head master’s name was Simon Macdonald. He was a Lewis man. (From the Isle of Lewis).
- The nearest Secondary School was miles away in Fort William, so I just stayed at St Mary’s.
- I remember I had an eggcup for an inkwell at the school.
- When I started school, I couldn’t speak English, I only spoke Gaelic at home, you see.
- I attended St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Arisaig. Father McNeill was the priest.
- There was plenty to do when I was young. There was work looking after the animals on the Croft.
- I regularly milked the cows. Fresh warm milk from a cow is lovely.
- We had sheep and black & white border collies, Billy, Bessie and Smart, to herd the sheep and cows. Collies are beautiful and good protecting dogs. Smart was my best dog – a pedigree.
- I collected eggs from our hens. Newborn chickens were separated from their parents and brought back to them when they were big enough to follow them safely.
- I had pet rabbits too.
- Later in life, I still love animals. I remember a black and white collie, Fruchin, and a Labrador, Bracken, both from Arran. Fruchin is Gaelic for “heather” and came from Arran.
- I did a lot of cooking and baking, and made bread in a range oven. We grew our own vegetables and I liked gardening.
- I would walk to Morar where my first cousin, Morag Gillies, lived. There is a lovely beach at Morar with miles of white sand.
- I often walked the 12 miles to Mallaig, and from there I went fishing in the Atlantic with my uncle Angus. We caught mackerel, herring and flounders. I could catch salmon from the boat with a rod, and trout from rivers. The boatyard belonged to the Henderson's. I was always welcome there. Elsie, my step sister, married Duncan Henderson.
- There was time for fun too. I had a Macdonald of Clanranald kilt and I wore it when I danced the Highland Fling and the Sword Dance at the Highland Games in Morar and Mallaig.
- There was other dancing too. I liked the Quadrilles, Eightsome Reels and the Lancers – but best of all, I liked Strip the Willow.
- There were some sad times as well. One Friday, I danced all night with the local boys. They went out fishing on Saturday and were never seen again. The boat sank. The sea feeds you, but it is cruel.
- My mother was from a family of 6 children: Alan, Mary Ann, Johnnie, Bella, Flora and Angus.
- When I was nine Nurse Thompson from Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow brought us a little girl to bring up, Ina Gray, who was 6 months old. Ina’s father had died and her mother could not care for her children. Ina’s brothers and sisters’ names were John, James, Peter, Margaret and Robert Gray. The older children lived with Uncle Alan but Ina was the youngest so Uncle Alan asked if we could take her. Uncle Alan lived in Drumdugh, Arisaig.
- When I was twelve, Nurse Thompson brought us another little girl, Elsie Reynolds, who was 11 months old. Both girls were brought up by my granny, but I did most of the cooking. Elsie married Duncan Henderson from Mallaig, Ina married Eric Hancock from London. Ian and Eric live in Cullen View now.
- I have a half sister, Margaret McIvor, who is eighteen years younger than me. She lives in Arran. Her husband’s name was George. He was from Lewis.
- Katie “Fach” is my aunty. Her maiden name and married name are the same – Macdonald. She married uncle Angus, my mother’s youngest brother.
- In 1940 I had to leave Arisaig to go and work for the War Effort. I went to British Aluminium at Fort William. What a shock that was!
- I drove a ‘loco’ which is a steam tank on wheels. Aluminium powder is mixed with water and boiled in the furnace until it becomes liquid. I transferred this to my ‘loco’ and moved it around the plant to where the ingots were made. It was scary until you got used to it, mostly because of the flames that came out the back.
- My first love was Bobby French, a soldier. He left me for another.

Married Life

- I met my husband at a dance. His name was George Wishart Small Douglas. He was born in Edinburgh on 6th February 1920.
- George had lovely blue eyes.
- George was a Commando in the Cameron Highlanders, and was billeted at Rubanna Lodge, which belonged to the Nicholson family.
- The nicest tartan you can get is the Cameron Highlander’s Regimental Tartan. It is yellow, red and green.
- I came to Edinburgh to marry George. We were married on 10th June 1942 at Richmond Church, Craigmillar. The Minister’s name was Mr Hutchison.
- My family treated me as an outcast because I married out of my faith.
- On my wedding day I wore a royal blue costume and a wee hat with a brim.
- When I came to Edinburgh, I first worked in the Royal Infirmary at Lauriston as a cleaner. Later I worked in the Rubber Mill, where I made rubber piping.
- My mother-in-law, Catherine Douglas, was a lovely woman who looked after me. She was a nurse and delivered all my children at home, except for my last one, Margaret. I could not have managed without my mother-in-law.
- My father-in-law was a butcher. His name was Reginald James Douglas (same as my son).
- Our own first house in Edinburgh was in Waverley Buildings in 1942, near the Magdalene Chapel in the Cowgate. It was a big change from the Highlands! Reginald, George and Alan were born in this house.
- After that we moved to 4 Broomhouse Gardens East where all my other children were born.
- In 1960 we moved to 94 Stenhouse Street West where I lived for 27 years.
- Through the years I have also lived in Hailsland Park, Murryburn, Calder Grove and Calder Drive and in 2006 I moved back to Stenhouse Street West – where I now live with Felix, my cat.
- I had one child every year for a long time. In the end I had ten children, although one, Helen, died when she was five years old.
- George and I grew our own vegetables. I loved having a garden.
- George worked as a butcher with Munro’s and later as a bus conductor. We managed fine.
- Redgie and his wife, Eleanor, emigrated to South Africa. I don’t think I’ll see Redgie again on this earth.
- For years I made a dumpling at Christmas for each one of my family. I made them to my granny’s favourite recipe and everyone wanted one. I also made all my own black bun, shortbread, etc. I was good at scones too. I don’t bake any more as I no longer have a cooker.

My Children

- Redgie, being the first born, was the favourite. He was a good laddie.
- Dode was a lovable rogue. He spent Christmases in Soughton Prison because he liked their 3 course dinner.
- Alan was clever at school. He brought home certificates.
- Alex was very shy and quiet except when he burnt my bed with his cigarette.
- Helen died when she was 5 of silent Pneumonia. She was a tomboy and stood up for everyone.
- Anne was a blue baby at birth. We had to rush her to the hospital to have her blood changed. Anne was George’s favourite.
- Eddie has his trade as a stone mason. He was the first to buy his own house.
- James loves animals and birds. He used to leave home with a carrier bag when he got a row – but only went as far as the car park where he’d hide behind a car for a little while, then come home again.
- Christine looks after everyone – just like my mother-in-law, after whom she is named. She looks after me day-to-day and I really appreciate it.
- Margaret was the only one born in a Hospital so that I could get sterilised straight afterwards. Margaret was a sweet bairn.

Retirement Years

- Tom McFarlane worked as a train driver and had a dog called Dusty. He had a car and took me all over. We also went to France once and got stranded and had to spend a night in the railway station! He had a life-long railway pass.
- My pal, Archie Cameron, was from Fort William. I went to the same school as him. We met again in the Club 85. He was my close friend. He died of cancer.
- Felix, my cat, protects me. She has a boy’s name, I know. I got her as a kitten from my granddaughter, Amanda’s cat. The wee thing looked like Felix the cat from the television and I didn’t realise she was female until the vet told me. It was too late to change her name then. Felix is a great pal to me. She sleeps with me and if I get up to go to the toilet during the night, Felix sits at the bathroom door and waits for me, then sees me back to my bed. She’s rare and warm, just like a hot water bottle.

Did You Know?...

- I panic unless I have my keys, handbag and walking stick near me at all times.
- Whisky is the “Water of Life”. The Gaelic word for whisky is Ish-kabe.
- My favourite colour is light blue.
- We always washed in the sea, and I don’t really like hot water. Cold water is healthier.
- Autumn is the best season – it is the shooting season.
- My favourite music is Scottish Music. I particularly enjoy Kenneth McKellar, Andy Stewart and Alistair McDonald.
- I wear a silver link bracelet. Eddie bought me that from his first week’s wages.
- We were fed porridge twice a day, for breakfast and dinner, and I now hate hate hate porridge!

[All this text, as collated by Angie, has been shamelessly pinched from my cousin Steven's blog
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Remember the LibDems?

It's easy to forget, when pottering round your Facebook pals' pages, reading the usual blogs or following your favourite twitter feeds, that politics is more tribal than anything in this country which doesn't involve a Sky Sports presenter. Cocooned in our little online world, it's all too simple to allow yourself to believe that the world outside the 'net reflects the (largely) left-wing consensus which informs web communication (in my online world, anyway).

Almost no-one is a Tory or a Republican, no-one objects much to a bit more taxation in return for a state which looks after the weak and the poor, and everyone thinks that far too many Americans are borderline bonkers.

It's comforting. It's warm and snugly and reassuring. If every one of the hundreds of people you interact with online is to the left of Billy Bragg, then surely the majority of the real world is the same - after all, one is a merely a sub-set of the other, isn't it?

Well, no. Obviously not, when you come to actually think about it. For a start, my online world is in large part composed of Doctor Who fans, genre tv aficionados and lovers of children's books, with a further sub-set of writers, illustrators and other creative types and a last group of people working in academia and social services. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that most people I talk to online are opposed to the racist, homophobic, little Englander Conservative Party. But most people aren't writers, illustrators or social workers - they're brickies and lorry drivers and shop keepers (and writers and illustrators and social workers too, naturally), and there's no particular reason to believe that that utterly non-homogeneous mass will ever vote en masse for the most left-wing party in any election.

So, you know, the Tories got most of the vote in England, Labour got nearly all the vote in Scotland and we will soon have a Tory government, led by old Etonian Dave Cameron and his gaggle of oily creeps and sneering snobs. The less well-off in Britain can expect to get shafted every way from Tuesday over the next few months and it's our own fault for so many people believing the Tory lies on immigration and the suitability of Gordon Brown to lead in particular.

Well actually, that's not quite true. It's not entirely our fault. A large part of the blame looks like it'll soon be lying at the door of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.

I voted for them, I must admit, just as I voted for them at the two previous elections. I've always voted for whatever party has the most inclusive, most socially aware, most left of centre manifesto. And that has, recently, been the LibDems as the Labour Party tried to prevent leaking support by pandering to the undecided middle classes, wooing the natural Tory voters with pseudo-Tory promises. In a landscape in which the traditional left and right are so close together, the presence of a genuinely socially sensitive party was a god-send for people like me and it was that, as much as the ridiculously American party leader debates, which caused the Lib Dem approval ratings to jump in the weeks of the campaign. To quote Johann Hari from last week "the gap between Labour and the Tories is far too small - but people live and die in that gap" - and for a few weeks it genuinely felt like the LibDems had moved into that gap.

Not any more though. One of the most disappointing aspects of the election result and actions since then has been the rather sad scrambling on Lib Dem activists to claim that the actions of Nick Clegg are fine, that anyone who expected a centre-left manifesto to translate into the actions of a centre left party was deluded and that if any voter feels betrayed by Clegg they're being absurd or stupid or just don't understand the Great Liberal Way. Best - or worst - of all comments I had aimed at me - 'Nick Clegg said he'd talk to whichever party got the most votes so he's fooled no-one' as though this country has been engaged in a national presidential election - what the leader of the party says in some speech is of considerably less importance than what the party manifesto said and on which basis you vote for your constituency MP.

It's patronising and insulting and frankly counter-productive - if activists want to make sure that the LibDems never again trouble the political commentators post-election result, they need only antagonise the many, many voters who switched to their party on the basis of promises which, it's now clear, Mr Clegg has no intention of keeping. There is literally no way that the Conservative leadership can agree to PR or any real electoral reform - Cameron can't even promise a referendum on PR, since he'd be out on his ear quicker than Lord Tebbit could call him 'a commie lapdog' and thrown into the same locked cupboard that that notorious Tory grandee declared would be the best place to stick Clegg while "the big boys sort [the forming of a government] out". Even intelligent and thoughtful posters like Alex are coming out with statements like "we will be going in[to negotiations] saying "I think you'll find that we got 23% of the vote and you got 36%, so we'll be splitting the power 40:60 if you don't mind" as though that were in any way at all not the sheerest fantasy. Mr Clegg will bow the knee to Mr Cameron in exchange for a cabinet seat or two, a small, largely irrelevant say in the big boy games and the chance to be remembered as the last Liberal leader to have any part to play in the formation of a British government.

Because he will be the last if he decides that he should shore up the Tories, a party he knows the majority of his party view as anathema. He will be the last if he yokes the LibDem wagon to a party which failed to defeat a tired fourth term government, fatally wounded years ago by the decision to go to war under Blair, knocked flat on its back by the expenses scandal, and then kicked round its recumbent near-corpse by the world-wide economic meltdown. He will be the last and he will deserve to be the last for throwing the poor, the needy and the weak to the Tory dogs. He will get everything he deserves since he'll be no better than his Conservative masters.

Of course it's not too late to step back - and if the Tories give Clegg as little as they hope to give the unemployed and the poor then that's likely to be a very small amount indeed. Maybe he'll get himself away from the edge in time - let the Tories form a minority government, then watch as the essentially decent people of this country recoil in horror at full-blown Toryism in action.

Don't allow your party to be used to detoxify Toryism, Mr Clegg, or lend a false air of decency to a party completely without it. Be remembered as a man of genuine integrity, leading a party of genuine change - or as the lackie of the party of privilege, jumping into bed with whomever offers him the most pocket change to do so.


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