Vignettes
Stories from schoolmates who attended Morgan Academy, Dundee, Scotland between 1948 and 1955 – from schooldays, and from life-after-school.
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One of life's pleasures is getting together with old school friends over a meal to reminisce about the old days, and to catch up on our lives-after-school. Since we're spread all over the world now, it's not so easy to get together – this is an attempt to create a poor substitute by publishing some of the stories we might tell.

Notes for New Readers:
1. New contributions are always at the top – you should begin reading from the bottom of the page since a few of the more recent tales refer to earlier ones.
2. A reminder that when your cursor changes to a hand over words or photographs it's inviting you to click for further information.

We now have 205 anecdotes from 30 different contributors.
Travel Travails – 5
Hugh McGrory
I spoke, in a previous story, of borrowing my friend Ron’s motor bike one lunch time – this was 1958, in London, England. (I had managed to drop the bike, but fortunately without damage…) Ron and I worked together for a firm of consulting engineers – he was also from Dundee and a civil engineer (he didn’t attend Morgan Academy, though).

On the way back to the office after that lunch, I was coasting into the parking area and thinking that I didn’t even have to mention my little accident to Ron, just as I got a little too close to the bumper of a parked car. The bike was a BSA 500 twin and Ron had added a rear rack with two panniers, saddlebags, hanging down
each side. The car bumper caught the bottom of one pannier, right on the bottom seam, and sliced it open along the seam as cleanly as if it had been a scalpel. As I rolled by, the contents of the pannier, assorted tools, spilled onto the ground with an almighty clatter.

So much for not fessing up to Ron… I said I’d buy him a replacement, of course, but a day or two later he said that he’d been able to sew the seam together and it was as good as new.

At Christmas time, we decided that we’d drive up to
our home town, Dundee, to spend the holiday there – we shared the driving and the fuel. We set off mid-evening, and it was freezing cold. We both had helmets and ‘leathers’, so it wasn’t too bad – if not driving we hunkered down as best we could behind the driver to keep out of the wind.

The distance was a little short of 500 miles, so with stops, say 12 hours. I always enjoyed long overnight journeys, especially stopping for something to eat. We used to look out for truck stops (service areas for lorries) with lots of heavy vehicles in the parking area. A 'full english' all-day breakfast (fried eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding, fried bread and baked beans) with a large mug of hot, strong, sweet tea at 3:00 am on a cold day is one of the best meals ever...

In the wee sma’ hours Ron was driving, I was half-dozing behind him. It was pitch black, we were between towns, no other vehicles on the road, making good time – then suddenly we weren’t – we were skidding down the road on our backs behind the bike on its side.

When we came to rest, and established that neither of was hurt much, we tried to get up to see to the bike – and couldn’t! The road was covered in black ice – invisible, but treacherous enough to bring us down. It was so unbelievably slippery, that we literally couldn’t get up – we eventually dissolved into laughter and sat there giggling, with tears streaming down our faces. Fortunately, the bike wasn‘t much the worse for the wear and we were able to resume our journey – very gingerly...

After the holiday period it was soon time to head south again. We were in Northern England, I was driving, when the feel of the bike changed – it wasn’t handling properly. I told Ron I thought we might be losing air from the rear tire, and pulled over to the verge. The tire seemed OK, then we realised that the one of the struts of the rear rack had broken. The load had shifted hence the change to the feel of the bike. So we had to figure out what we could do...

We were on a rural road (this was the late ‘50s remember) and the grass verge beside us sloped up a few feet and was topped by a drystone wall (drystane dyke as we Scots would call it). We looked around to see if
there was any scrap wood or metal around but found nothing. There was a wooden telephone pole a few feet away with two guy ropes supporting it, and as I looked at it one of the guy ropes looked slack. I took a closer look and realised that the wire had broken, and someone had simply pushed it into the dyke to stop it flapping around. Ah-ha – maybe we could jury-rig something with this…

I found that I could bend it, so we took turns working it back and forward until it eventually broke giving us about three feet of wire to work with. We
were able to MacGyver a fix, re-load the panniers and get on our way.

A hundred miles or so later, Ron was driving, he pulled over and said ‘She’s handling funny”. This time it was indeed the rear tire – the bead was damaged and we'd need to get another tire. Fortunately there was a garage not too far ahead – closed, of course – so we pushed the bike there and left it with a note.

We then hitched a ride to the nearest town that had a main railway station – can’t remember which one – and caught the next train to London. With our leathers and helmets we must have looked a bit unusual – like two cowboys who’d had their horses stolen... It was so nice to have a soft seat in a warm compartment – I slept all the way...

Ron contacted the garage, got a new tire fitted, and picked up the bike the following weekend. I offered to go with him, but he knew that I had a regular weekend field hockey match and said that it wasn’t necessary – so I got to freeze my butt off on a hockey field instead…

D' Ye Mind the Carnival at
Gussie Park

Bill Kidd
Hugh McGrory's anecdote about his visit to Epcot and his non-experience of the Soarin' feature set my thoughts to similar experiences from my childhood. Not Disneyland in my case but Gussie Park and its Carnival. Before proceeding further I should make it clear that the use of the word "carnival" in Dundee did not bring to mind the carnivals to be found in Rio or Venice but only a rather down market fun fair! The very
name "Gussie Park" sounded less than posh and I had only heard the word "gussie" in the context of eating an orange. I subsequently learned that a gussie was a young pig and that Gussie Park got its name as the place for parking your pigs! But I digress, that's what happens when you reflect on Hugh's anecdotes.

The machine that was brought to mind by the Epcot Soarer was a funfair ride called the Rib-Tickler. This gave you the experience of being tumbled around a room, being suspended upside-down from the ceiling and being held horizontally from one or more walls, it was the opportunity to be terrified for sixpence and good value as long as you kept your eyes open. Hugh could have enjoyed this experience a couple of hundreds of yards from home and saved himself all the bother of going to Florida.

The Rib-Tickler was a practical optical illusion. It featured a large hexagonal drum that looked as if it was constructed from giant tea boxes that had seen better days. The outside was garishly painted and the inside was divided into six sections painted to depict the floor walls and ceiling of a room with the remaining two sides left matt-black. Inside was three rows of benches each capable of seating around ten punters. When everyone was seated the overhead lights were extinguished and the ceiling illuminated. The benches, which were mounted on a swing, were set in motion. Suddenly the drum began to rotate, slowly at first, then faster giving the participants the feeling that that they were spinning inside the room. Suddenly everything would stop and they were stuck to the ceiling and staring at the floor. The swing would start again and the victims hung on to their benches for dear life. The drum started again but this time in the opposite direction giving further variations of the sensations. After about five minutes everything stopped, the room lights came on and the victims staggered off to find their next thrill.

Gussie Park was a small, muddy patch of land but when the carnival arrived it was packed with all the usual fairground rides. Dodge'em cars, waltzers, motor bikes, kiddie’s rides, swing boats and chairoplanes. Surrounding them were the sideshows consisting of horror exhibits, the boxing booth, the magic show, a hypnotist, fortune tellers, prize shooting, archery and darts stalls, ice cream and candy floss. I remember the
excitement of the bright lights and blaring music as I pondered on how I would spend my half-crown.

Like so many other locations from my childhood, Gussie Park is completely changed. It has now been redeveloped as the Dundee United Foortball Club training ground and known as the GA Arena. It is well
used by other sport and cultural groups and plays a key role in the Dundee United community outreach programme.

Wonderful as this is, I cannot help having a few nostalgic thoughts about the Gussie Park carnival and the Rib-Tickler.

I Skied the Rocky Mountains
Hugh McGrory
In 1969, I was trying to convince the owners of the Canadian consulting engineering company that I worked
for, to agree to install their first computer. I had done the investigative work that convinced me that IBM's 1130 computer was the right choice. I signed up to attend a conference, in Boulder, Colorado, where engineering firms that already used the 1130 would be presenting papers on their experience to date. Two IBM salesmen from Toronto, keen to get our business, decided to attend the conference too.

We got there a day early, and they convinced me that we should spend the day skiing in the Rockies - they were both experienced, I had never worn ski's... We could have headed for Aspen, 170 miles one-way, or Vail, 110 miles, but settled for Arapahoe Basin (A-Basin) about 75 miles away.

We set off in the morning and got there before 10:00. It was a beautiful sunny day, warm, and the snow was quite blinding - unfortunately I had no hat or sunglasses. They took me with them to hire skis, then suggested that I should try the 'nursery slope'. They then showed me where the Pomalift was, helped me into the skis then left me at the back of the queue for the lift while they headed for the real slopes.

For those who haven't skied, the Pomalift was invented by a Frenchman Jean Pomagalski. A-basin was the first of many installations in North America, in 1953. The Poma was cheaper than T-bars or chair lifts to install and run, they offered reasonably high capacity, and were safer - should a skier fall, the tow-bar could be released quite easily. If anyone falls, which happens quite often, following skiers can usually steer around the fallen skier until he or she can get out of the tow-track, or the lift is stopped. While there have been injuries involving Pomalifts, the risk of entanglement, a problem with rope tows and T-bars, is greatly reduced.

So there I was, on skis for the very first time, with no instruction, shuffling along with what felt like ten foot skates on my feet, in a queue that was getting closer and closer to the contraption ahead. The Poma consists of pylons which climb up the hill with an endless cable attached which runs continuously to the top and back down again. Attached to the cable are long poles, each with what looks like a seat, a sort of hook shape covered with a plastic disk on the end.

When it was my turn, I had some trouble maneuvering into position but the attendant helped me line up my skis in the twin ruts that headed uphill. Then, my pole whipped round the corner, he grabbed it and stuck it between my legs from the front. I felt the spring-loaded tension increase and settled down onto the seat for the trip up. When my butt immediately hit and dragged along the ground, I realised that it wasn't a seat, and that I was supposed to stand up all the way. I managed to get upright again without falling off and after a minute or two began to relax and enjoy the ride, the view, and the warm temperature.

As we neared the top, the ground rose up onto a little hill and the tension in the pole eased off - it was only as I went over the hill, felt the tension increasing again and saw the empty poles in front of me whipping around the
end pylon and heading downhill again that I realised why the hill was there - well who knew...

I had a dickens of a job getting the pole out from between my legs finally standing on one leg and lifting the other, ski and all, into the air. I managed it and collapsed onto the flattish space where people congregated before launching themselves downhill. I got back onto my feet with considerable difficulty, still facing uphill, and immediately started to slowly slide backwards towards the top of the ski slope. One or two people looked at me in a bemused fashion as I slowly passed by but one kind fellow reached out, grabbed me then helped me to stop and turn around to face the right way.

The launch area was quite small, and the lift kept disgorging more people, so I had to edge forward with everyone else until I was at the edge. At this point, the 'nursery slope' which had looked OK from below now made me feel as if I was on the peak of a roof and about to slide off...

I had no choice but to go - but, knowing that I had no idea how to stop, I headed across the slope instead of straight down. The surface which looked fine from below turned out to be all humps and bumps carved with the tracks of hundreds of skis. I managed to stay upright, but saw the piles of snow at the far edge of the slope approaching - I'd no idea how to stop, so I simply ran right into pile and fell down. I remember thinking "Ok, use your pole to help you to stand up", so I plunged the pole into to the snow bank. It simply disappeared and stopped with just the handle clear of the snow...

I finally got up pointed towards the slope on the other side, and pushed off - after doing this several more times I managed to get to the bottom.

At that point, I realised that there was no point in repeating the fiasco since I still had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, and really needed to take some lessons. Also, I wasn't feeling very well - hot and headachy, a little dizzy, not sweating but thirsty and a bit sick to my stomach.

I returned my skis, didn't feel like eating but got myself a drink, and then decided to find a seat in the sun and relax until the two salesmen had had enough. I half dozed for a couple of hours or so before they turned up. When they saw my condition, they decided to get me back to the hotel. We had intended to go to dinner together, and they were starving, so I told them to stop when we came to one of those old mining towns that dot the Rockies and cater to tourists. I told them to stop and have a meal while I’d try to sleep in the back seat of the car.

I’m sure they rushed their meal, though it seemed that they took forever, and we finally got to the hotel. I managed to get to my room, threw up, staggered to the bed and slept until mid-morning the next day, missing the opening sessions, but managing to make the lunch.

I described my adventure to the table, and one of the locals said, ”You know you had sunstroke. It’s quite common - people don’t realise the effect of clear skies, a hot sun and no hat, at an altitude of around 11,000 feet! And the worse thing you could have done was sit in the sun…”. Who knew?

In researching this piece I came across the following statement “The Pomalift continues to be a challenge for the skier who’s had little experience with riding a surface lift of any kind.”

In fact, people stand around and watch the lift line-ups so they can see the hilarious pratfalls that occur. Click on the photos below if you’re interested.

The Poma Looks Simple A Smooth Takeoff is Crucial One Approach to the Climb
A Different Technique Taking the Safety Fence Too Chair Lifts Can Also Be Tricky

That was the only time I skied the Rockies – actually the one and only time I ever skied anywhere…

--------------------

See some pratfalls here. (Make sure your sound is on.)

The Scots show how here.

The School Magazine
Gordon Findlay
In a previous story I spoke of John Cooper, a fine teacher of English who had influenced my career. Because of his position, he headed up the small school committee which produced the annual Morgan Academy
school magazine, a glossy production which incorporated news of the school’s academic and sporting triumphs, plus a selection of teacher profiles.

There was always a piece or two about the history of the school, and a large selection of art, poems and essays on various subjects written by pupils. Cooper simply pulled me aside at the end of class one day and told me he had put my name forward to serve on the small team of pupils who pulled all these items together to produce the magazine.

For a couple of months I was absolutely intoxicated with the thrill of it all, as our little team assembled the mass of entries, went out to interview teachers, dug into school archives to discover our school’s history, mapped out the magazine page by page, then met with the printers to see it all come together.

For me, it was like a sudden bright light coming on in my mind. I loved this whole process. It was challenging. It was stimulating. It was exciting, and enormously satisfying. I think I realized right then and there: this was what I wanted to do, somehow, some- where.

I had to become part of the communications world. So a deep and sincere, “Thank you, John Cooper.”

It was my first introduction to the business of putting a publication together. And it was instant love. However, the reality of obtaining a Scottish Higher Leaving Certificate (high school graduation, in other words) meant that you had to achieve a 60% or better in three “basic” subjects – like English, or history, or geography, French, or German or Art, plus the same passing grade in two other subjects in the “hard” disciplines: math, algebra, trig, chemistry, or the like. I had got through in chemistry, but failed (badly) in math. So my first time around in 5th Year was not a success. I had to take a second lap – in 6th.

In one sense it was enjoyable. We had a fairly easy schedule of classes, I was a sergeant in our school Army Cadet Corps, and of course I was a regular with the rugby 1st XV, so school life was – in one sense – a bed of roses. But what made that bed uncomfortable was the thought that, somehow, I had to get a passing grade in math: a monumental task, I thought, for the subject seemed like some obscure Chinese language to me – remote, cold, and incomprehensible. But it had to be mastered, somehow...

I was a Cub Scout Too...
Hugh McGrory
You may remember that Gordon Findlay wrote a story for us entitled 'A Cub Scout' – you can see that story here. It reminded me that I too was once a Cub.

It must have been a year or so after the War that my mother decided it would be a good idea for me to become a Scout. I told her that I wasn't interested – she explained to me that I was... So a few days later, I set out one evening, along Dundonald and Dura Streets, towards the Church which is now known as Stobswell Parish Church (it has had quite a number of name changes over the last 150 years...)

I had some trouble getting in – started with the main entrance on Albert St., but finally found a back door on Dura St. which led into the hall where the Cubs were meeting. The photo shows where that door used to be...

Looking South from the Morgan School Gates towards the Church. Looking north towards the Morgan showing the door that is no more.
Here's what I remember of that evening:

At one point we sat around a pole with an alsatian’s head on it and the dozen or so other boys chanted something weird. I looked around and thought "My mother was wrong – I'm definitely not interested in spending time with this lot..."

I guess, before long, my attitude was becoming apparent, and the man in charge asked me what was wrong. Deciding that lying would serve me better than saying what I really thought, I said that I wasn't feeling too well. He asked if I would like to get some fresh air and I said I would, so he asked one of the senior boys there if he would escort me outside. We went for a little walk along Dura Street, and he asked if I would like an ice lolly. I said I would, and he bought a couple from a little store near the church and we continued our strolling until we finished our treats.

My memory is a little hazy at this point – I'm not sure if I went back in and hung on till the end, or whether I said I felt like going home and took off (I think it was the latter). I still remember though, the kindness of the older scout, the concern he showed for me, and his parting "Hope to see you next week".

"Aye. That'll be right!", I was thinking to myself.

So as I said, I was a Cub Scout – for about an hour and a half...

Gordon said that the church was called St David's, which didn't ring any bells with me, but on re-reading his story, I realised that he said the church was in the Stobswell area. I think he mis-remembered the name – I don’t think it was ever St David's, perhaps it was Ogilvie back then... in any event, if you take a look at the map below, you'll probably come to the same conclusion as I did – that this was the same Scout troop that Gordon enjoyed so much. I wonder if, had I given it a chance, I might have enjoyed it as much as Gordon did...

Gordon, five or six years older than I, may actually have been there that night – I like to think that he might even have been the older Scout who was so kind to me. When he and I finally met over lunch, here in Canada, it was almost 70 years later.

Did You Read The Wizard?
Bill Kidd
Who was the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest? No it wasn't Sir Edmund Hillary as suggested by the record books. Who was the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes? Once again the record books have got it wrong. Any avid reader of the boys' story paper the Wizard would immediately give the correct answer that both feats were achieved at the age of about 150 by William Wilson.
Of course, these feats were achieved with the aid of the Elixir of Life! Boys, particularly those with little hope of emulating him, were avid followers of his exploits. Unsurprisingly, hero worship fell short of following his mode of dress which consisted of bare feet and a black, close fitting, one-piece Victorian swim suit. Certainly not suitable wear for Dundee weather!

Over the course of the 1940s Wilson got involved in World War II! (thankfully on our side), nearly coming to grief during the Battle of Britain when having to ditch in the English Channel and being forced to swim some twenty miles back to the British mainland. After the war he was sent on a diplomatic mission to a sports mad African dictator. Wilson saved the lives of thousands by undertaking to provide a rugby team to beat the dictator's hand picked fifteen. Needless to say, the only British locals available were rejects from part one of their Charles Atlas course! Despite this the British team won by the simple expedient of collapsing every scrum and allowing Wilson to score amidst the confusion. On more mature reflection I have come to the conclusion that the rules applied in that game had more in common with Rugby Railway Station than Rugby School!

Wilson was only one of the fantastic characters to be found in the four boys' story papers produced by D C Thomson. These publications, the Wizard, Adventure, Hotspur and Rover were part of the staple reading diet of those boys who grew up in the 1940s and early 1950s. The stories they contained, even if they occasionally stretched credibility, served to stimulate imagination and often provided an entry point for more fruitful reading. The subject matter was mainly sport and adventure served up in a variety of guises and located on sports field, boarding school, jungle or battlefield. The good were very good and the bad were very bad indeed. The environment was strictly male with only the odd sister getting involved when there was a message to be run or meal to be prepared, remember this was the 1940s!

The only other hero that I can recall who had athletics as his basic activity was Alf Tupper "The Tough of the Track".
Tupper was a gifted middle distance runner whose lifestyle did not meet the standards of the athletics establishment. Alf made his living as a welder and survived on a diet of sweet tea and fish and chips. Despite being regularly diverted by rescuing people from drowning, or from a burning building, or capturing a gang of thieves on the way to an important track meet, Alf usually managed to overtake the "establishment" runner in the final few yards.

School stories were always located in an upmarket boarding school. The hero occasionally being a "scholarship boy" dragged out of his comfortable downmarket state school to suffer from the malign attention of a snobbish group who, sometimes with the contrivance of an evil teacher, tried to bully him. He always found a posh friend and an unexpected talent for cricket that enabled him to take the final wicket or score the winning run against the rival school team whilst at the same time giving absolute proof that he had not stolen the much revered school trophy.

Boarding schools were a fruitful setting for almost any plot that you could possibly dream of. One could easily transport a prisoner-of-war story into a school setting. The boys being the rebellious prisoners with the teachers being the camp guards. There was often a caretaker or groundsman who acted the part of the evil security officer! Stories were often given a sporting theme where the hero was the son of a legendary old boy who had taken all ten wickets at some famous victory in the past. However, the son of the legend couldn't bowl for toffee and found it impossible to convince the old sports master that he was a brilliant batsman until after many issues Son of Legend scored a double century at the inter-schools championship. Stories woven around almost any sport or subject were standard fare at those august seats of learning although there did not seem to be a great deal of learning going on!

Football was another much exploited subject. Football stories always had some peculiarity about an individual or even the team. Characters that come to mind were Limp-along Leslie who overcame his disability by having an exceptional football brain and tactical skills. Baldy Hogan who saved his club by recruiting and training a whole lot of unlikely characters including a Gipsy goalkeeper who would not make any attempt to save a shot that he did not think he could reach.


Finally, there was Billy "Cannonball" Kidd, an incredible goal scorer who went from schoolboy promise to international hero. I must confess that Cannonball was not my favourite character for the simple reason that I shared his name. I went through some years trying to avoid the touching belief of my contemporaries that I shared his skills but found little difficulty in convincing those daft enough to select me for their team. One session was always enough!

The Seabraes
Hugh McGrory
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Seabraes…

The Perth Road, as it leaves Dundee, runs along an ancient beach 60 feet or so above current sea level. For many years there has been a municipal garden opposite the University campus known as the Seabraes. (If the word brae is not familiar to you it means a steep(ish) hillside or road.)

Airlie Place and the University Campus from The Seabraes
So, a hill from which you can see the sea – except that you can’t. However you can see the wide sweep of the estuary of the River Tay, and since the Tay is tidal upriver for some twenty miles beyond Dundee – close enough…)

Some years ago the park (really a parkette) was given a major face lift, but I remember it as it was in the early ’40s.
The Old Seabraes
There was a wide flat area with flower beds and seats, then flights of stairs that led downwards with short paths leading off to the left and right every 15 feet or so, with more flower beds and wooden seats.

The Fife Shore, Railroad Yards and the Tay Rail Bridge
Sitting on a seat at street level you could admire the Fife coast across the wide estuary, and upriver the Tay Rail Bridge. However, if this was too bland for you, you could start downhill, and find a seat overlooking the bustle of the railway main line and marshalling yards.

It was a pleasant place for older folk to sit, and no doubt for young teenage lovers – I wouldn’t know, since I was around three years old when I used to visit the gardens.

At the beginning of the Second World War, both my grannie and my mother worked. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents – not sure if we lived with them for a time when my father was away in the army or if we just visited a lot… In any event my granda and I were apparently buddies, and he used too babysit me.

His name was Frank Ryan, born in Scotland but of Irish blood. He and Gran lived in a house in Wilkie’s Lane, which ran from Blackness Rd, with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on the corner, to Hawkhill opposite the Princess Cinema.

The Buddies – Granda and Me...
The photograph shows Granda acting the clown for the camera in the living room in Wilkie’s Lane. The
other snap is me, on what I always thought of as my Mickey Mouse bike. (In researching for this story I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t, in fact, a Disney product, but rather a Tri-ang, made by the British company, Lines Bros., who in the late ‘40s claimed to be the largest toy-maker in the world. The photo shows that model…)

Apparently, my Granda and I would go out for little trips, with me on my bike – I suspect that on the way back he was probably carrying the bike (and possibly me too...)

If the weather was good, we would head for the Seabraes – down Hawkhill to Balfour St. then I seem to remember a jog through a pend (a pend is a passageway through a building often for pedestrians only, but sometimes for vehicles – usually one-way) which took us out into Airlie Place with the Seabraes across the street at the bottom.

Granda, I’m sure, enjoyed sitting in the sun, watching the river and the trains. It seems that to keep me occupied, and give him some peace, he always brought my bucket and spade along, and he would set me down in one of the flower beds and I would dig them up to make sand (dirt?) castles.

I couldn’t for the life of me find any photographs of the sloping part of the old Seabraes gardens, but this is what the replacement looks like: (notice the green slope to the left where you can still make out the terraces where the flower beds and seats were – you can just make them out on the right hand side as well...)


I have to say I'm not impressed – I still prefer the old people-friendly Seabraes…

A Great Teacher
Gordon Findlay
It was my great good fortune to come in contact with one of the finest teachers I was to meet during my years at Morgan: John Cooper, head of the English Department, who had come to Scotland from England because he liked the Scottish education system which, at that time, made “core” subjects (English, languages, math and physical education) mandatory.

He was a tall, rangy man who (to me, anyway) seemed to swoop down the school corridors with his black gown flapping behind him like a pair of wings (all our teachers wore suits, with long black gowns over them in those days). I was happy that Cooper was my teacher since I was pretty good at English and also, I suppose, because I was anxious to impress him.

I can still remember his signature phrase, which he repeated often: “Think for yourselves. Don’t just say or do what everyone around you says or does. If you do, you’ll just be like everyone else. Is that what you want? Be yourself.” And, unusual for these times, he always set aside ten minutes at the end of a standard period: “Questions and Answers”. This meant that we could ask him anything at all about the topics in the class just ended . . . but also about anything else we were curious about, puzzled at, or angry at.

There were many topics and issues we youngsters wanted to know more about or didn’t fully understand. I can remember we asked some obvious questions. Did he himself like rugby? Football? Did he like Scotland better than England? And: “Where did you grow up, sir?” “Do you have brothers or sisters?” “Why did you come up to Scotland, sir?” “Will you become Headmaster some day?” He patiently answered them all.

The one startling comment Cooper made during “Questions and Answers” time popped out when the subject was war: the topic surrounded us every day; many boys had family members serving in the armed forces, and the war dominated everyday news.

The talk had got around to why every person had a role to play during the war: the front-line forces, the workers in factories who kept them supplied with war materiel, the air spotters who identified the direction and number of enemy planes flying into Britain, the hospital doctors and nurses who tended wounded servicemen.

Then Cooper said: “And the women’s forces.” Then he paused and added: “Although many of them seem to think they’re only there to service the men.”

Those words dropped on us like a bombshell. We all looked at each other. Did Cooper mean what we thought he meant? So finallly some brave soul asked:

“You mean . . . like . . . sex, sir?” Cooper realized he was treading in deep water, but he quickly said: “Yes – that’s exactly what I mean. And this subject is closed!” Our grasp of sexual matters was almost non-existent, but we knew we had broached a touchy subject – and that John Cooper had strong– and unconventional–views on it. The subject was never raised again.

I truly loved every minute of his English class, and for the obvious reason: I was good at it. Even then I loved words, loved discovering new ones, learning them, understanding them, knowing how they could be used in language and in sentences. Each week Cooper set a class test: he asked each of us to produce a piece of original writing.

It could be anything at all: pure fiction, sci-fi fantasy, an essay about a topic we were interested in, thoughts on life – or death; a composition about an experience, a holiday or family life; descriptions of the city and countryside around us, profiles of people we admired, loathed, or feared. It could be poetry if we were so inspired . . . he put no limits on our creativity or imagination.

I can remember writing a piece about the anger I felt at losing a key rugby game and blending those thoughts into a description of a summer storm which swept through Dundee. And I can still recall the adrenalin surge I felt when Cooper told the class he had received “one very fine and quite mature piece” and then proceeded to read my essay out loud to the class.

I’m quite sure my head swelled to twice its normal size. It was shortly after that, that Cooper asked me after class one day if I was proposing to make writing a career choice once I was nearing the end of my education.

Like most young schoolboys, I don’t think I’d given much thought to the prospect of earning a living. But at that precise moment, the idea was planted in my head, and it pleased me.

--------------------

Note from the Editor:
I don't remember a teacher named Cooper. However, since Gordon left Morgan in 1950, Mr Cooper may have left around the same time.

I looked at the 1950 teachers' photo that we have and these two were the only men that I couldn't identify. Can anyone confirm one of them as Cooper, or provide their names?

Feedback:
Pete Rennie says that the teacher on the left above is Mr Melvin.
A Temporary Situation – 4
Hugh McGrory
I’ve always enjoyed watching experts practising their craft (in whatever field) seeing how education, training and experience can make demanding jobs look simple. For instance it can be really difficult to cut a tongue out of a head if you don’t have the knowhow – but when you do…

Between the first and second years of my engineering studies I was again looking for summer employment. One of my fellow students, Arthur (not a Morganite – Lawside Academy) said that he had found a job and that there was another one going if I was interested. I said “Sounds good, what’s the job, and he said “Meat porter in the slaughterhouse”, and I said “Gulp!” That’s how I became a meat porter for three months…

Note: I’ve limited my use of photos in this tale in case the sight of blood and guts might be upsetting to some readers – I have, however, provided some links if you’re interested in finding out how
This, in 15 minutes, becomes this.

The Dundee abattoir was at the corner of Dock and Market Streets. The photos show it as it was originally, and as it is now – a tank farm for Nynas (formerly owned by William Briggs and Sons).


Market St., on the left, runs uphill away from the camera and East Dock St, runs across the photo. You can see window openings in the wall along the front, and these indicate the location of the work areas for several wholesale meat companies (for one of whom we worked). They would purchase slaughtered cattle, sheep and pigs from the abattoir and sell them on to retail butchers.

It took me a few days to adjust to the sound and smells – blood, shit, and grease that permeated the place, and the occasional bellows and squeals of scared animals – but as one does – I adjusted quickly. The process was as follows:

Animals would arrive on trucks (Monday was the big day), and be directed to the pens in the diagonally opposite corner of the site to the one shown in the photos. The cattle were supposed to be handled gently and kept in a calm state. (If cattle are in a state of anxiety or panic, the quality of the meat will be affected – they will have darker-colored meat.) In my experience, the level of ‘gentleness’ varied with the individual drover…

I believe that the animals were inspected on arrival by a vet to detect any evidence of disease or any abnormal condition that would indicate a particular animal is diseased. Any such animal would either be condemned on the spot or be marked for special post-mortem scrutiny.

On the Tuesday, the cattle would be driven from the pens, one at a time, through a pathway that ended up in a tight killing-pen with a space at the end for the beast to naturally stick its head in and look out.

At that point, the ‘killer’ (the term used – the top dogs in the slaughterhouse and earning very good money) would pull a lever that trapped the animals head in a fixed position. A humane killer (captive-bolt) would be placed against the animals forehead and fired, driving the bolt into the brain and causing the animal to collapse (the bolt then retracts).

The killing-pen had a floor which tilted so that the carcass could be ejected to the left or right bleeding-floor, thus enabling two killers to work at the same time.

With cattle, the process thereafter was:

Bleeding: The point of a very sharp knife was stuck into the animal’s throat immediately below the jaw-line and a 12” to 18’’cut made parallel to the neck through the dewlap, trachea, esophagus and jugular vein to allow the blood to flow out. The animals are bled before being dressed to prevent coagulation in the tissues which could make the meat go bad. I noticed that the killer would often grab the animal’s tail, then use a foot to pump its belly – presumably this helped the outflow of blood.

Removal of the head and limbs: The head and lower limbs, are split from the carcass by cutting, sawing or by use of a cleaver.

Skinning: The carcass was positioned on its back, and opened up by means of a shallow cut along the median line of the belly from the cut already made in the throat right to the genitals, and the hide was separated from the belly, sides and legs.

The cut along the belly was deepened and the breast bone sawn open. Beef hooks were inserted into the hind legs behind the tendon that runs from the tip of the hock up to the tibia, and the carcass was hoisted up to hang vertically – the skin was then stripped from the back. The breast and pelvic bones were sawn.

Removing viscera or offal: The midline cut was deepened and all internal organs except the kidneys are removed – they just plop onto the floor in a heap. The anus was cut out, and the offal was dumped out into a cart or barrel to be hauled away.

Splitting the carcass: A cleaver was used to split the carcass through the centre of the backbone and the tail was removed. The spinal cord was removed during this process and discarded.

Final Inspection: A Meat Inspector examined the carcass and either stamped it approved or condemned it in which case it was burned.

Washing the carcass: The split carcasses or halves were washed with cold water using a pressure-washer, and left to dry.

Storage: The halves were then kept in a cooler room at a temperature of around 34 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 24 hours.

For those of you who want to see this process, I looked around to see if I could find a video that showed the process as I remember it. The one that was closest comes from New Zealand – an itinerant killer who goes round farms and slaughters animals for the farmers. If you're sure you want to see it, it's here and shows a very skilled man at work.

As meat porters, we didn’t, of course, kill any animals. We helped to get the newly arrived animals into the
pens and sometimes in herding them, one at a time, to the killing pens; we rolled the freshly killed carcasses along the overhead rails to the cooling room; then, when butchers bought the meat, we carried the quarters to their vans.

A quarter of beef would have weighed somewhere around 175 lbs., though could be up to 200 or more. When I was first told that I’d have to carry these, I figured there was no way! However, once shown the proper technique I was able to handle it – I must say I preferred the smaller quarters though – which most of them were. Here’s how it’s done:

Take a look at the sides of beef above. Imagine that a cut has been made across the carcass between the twelfth and thirteenth ribs – by leaving one rib on the hindquarter it holds the shape of the loin and makes it easier for the butcher to cut steaks. The cut starts about five inches from the edge of the flank, leaving a flap, and stops at the spine. The spine is then sawn through so that the forequarter is hanging by the flap. We would then place our shoulder against the outside of the carcass (so right forequarter to my left shoulder and vice versa). We would then run forward until we were upright, adjust the weight to balance then a colleague would cut the remaining flap and we would take off to deliver the meat to a customers van.

The hindquarter required a different technique. We would stand under the quarter hanging from the rail and hold the spine like we were tossing a caber. Once we had taken the weight, the colleague would use a long wooden pole with a curved metal piece at the end to pull the hook from the tendon – we would let the spine slide down our body until we got to the balance point, swing the piece to horizontal then take off.

With regard to the above two-man process, one of our butchers turned up seriously bandaged one day. He was a butcher whose job was to travel around the surrounding countryside in the firm's van visiting small abattoirs and farms to pick up dressed carcasses. Usually someone would be around at each stop to help him, but on this occasion there was no one there.

He decided he'd do the quartering and loading himself. Everything went fine when he approached a side, made the cut between the ribs, sawed through the spine and had the forequarter hanging from the uncut strip of flank. He then took his (very) sharp knife in his right hand, half-squatted so he could use his legs to help hold the carcass, and wrapped his left arm tightly around the spine and back. He cut the flank and quickly grabbed at the meat with the same hand to steady it. His one error was that he didn't drop the knife and managed to drive it into the palm of his left hand and out through the back...

Some of my other memories include:
    • The pervasive patina of grease that seemed to cover every surface in the place, including our hands and coveralls. The fact that we had cold running water but no hot contributed to this. I usually brought a sandwich or two for lunch, and had to use soap with cold water to try to take the worst off before eating.

    • The fact that the throats of cattle and pigs were cut in the same way – down the neck, whereas sheep were bled using a cut across the throat. There are good anatomical reasons for this – click here if you want to explore further.

    Pigs: Pigs were stunned into unconsciousness, by the use of stunning tongs, before having their throats cut. This worked well on the smaller pigs (though the squeals were piercing and sounded almost human). I remember one occasion when they were dealing with a large boar (probably weighed between 500 and 700 lbs.).

    The operator placed the tongs either side of its head and switched on the current. The animal went stiff, while the killer straddled its back. After quite a long time, he turned off the current. The boar shook itself then took off at a run with him on its back. To cut a long story short, they repeated this scenario three times before the boar finally succumbed.

    Sheep: Seeing a rabbi appear one day, take off his coat and roll up his sleeves before performing the ritual slaughter of lambs to ensure that the meat would be kosher.

    I would have liked to stay and see how he did it. (there are strict rules that the rabbi has to follow – for example the throat must be cut in one motion, any pause part way through will render the meat non-kosher). Unfortunately I had other duties to attend to and wasn't able to stay.

Finally, I want to re-visit my first paragraph for those of you who read it and said to yourself "cutting out tongues – what the hell is he talking about now..."

When sheep (actually lambs) were killed, the heads were cut off and thrown into a pile – by the end of the day it could be quite large, and the heads were simply taken to the furnace and burned.

The experienced porters had a sideline going – cutting out the tongues and selling them to butchers.

Once I'd been there a week or two I was allowed to take part in this sideline – and this brings us to how to cut out a tongue... If you were asked how to do this and had no experience, you might open the mouth as wide as you could, then reach in with your (very) sharp knife and try to cut across the tongue without taking off any of your fingers. That doesn't work very well! You see,
This isn't a Tongue... This is!

Here's how it's done: You stick your boning knife under the point of the chin and cut the flesh down either side of the jawbone as far back as you can go. You then reach in and pull the tongue out so that it hangs down the neck (rather like a Colombian necktie...)

You then firmly press the blade against the bone and run it along each of the V-shaped edges of the jaw. You bump into bones at the end of each, and sever them exactly at the two cartilaginous joints.

So there! With my newly acquired skill I made a little extra pocket money – I also remember taking a lamb tongue home to my mother who cooked it up (not sure how), but it was delicious...

An Even More
Temporary Situation

Bill Kidd

Hugh's tale of his short time as a bus conductor put me in mind of an incident in the equally short bus conducting career of my friend the late Charlie Dixon. Many of you will remember Charlie from school. He was a likeable fellow – friendly, intellectually impressive, but rather height challenged – much closer to five feet than six… (see him, front right, in the photo).

Charlie spent several summer vacations working alongside me in Lindsay's photographic processing establishment. However, the lure of Mammon in the shape of Dundee Corporation Transport Department wrenched him away from a life of holiday snaps!

I guess that Charlie's induction into the world of public transport would have followed along the lines so graphically described in Hugh's anecdote. After gaining some experience Charlie was allocated one Friday evening to a 'Special' service. This consisted of a double decker bus going from the Caledon Shipyard to the City Centre.

His driver told him that it would be very busy with thirsty shipyard workers who had just been paid and would be anxious to slake the dust of a long hard week. It was impressed on Charlie that there must be no standing upstairs and only twelve were allowed to stand downstairs. The final word of warning was that on no account was he to abandon his platform. With these instructions in mind the empty bus drew up in front of the works entrance of the Caledon about 4.55 p.m.

At 5.00 p.m. the huge gates opened and a flood of eager passengers descended on the bus. Charlie stood firm and asked the intending passengers to form a queue, the response to this request would have been familiar to King Canute, and a tide of people flooded on to the bus. It quickly became clear from the fact that there was a line of people standing on the stairs that all the upstairs seats had all been taken. A quick look at the downstairs deck showed that this too was full.

With great courage Charlie told the horde still trying to board the bus that it was full and that some of the excess would have to get off the bus and wait for the next one to come along. Somehow, just after that, Charlie found himself off his platform, standing on the road, hearing three bells ring out and seeing the bus moving off in the direction of the City Centre!

It must have been a pitiful sight to see a disconsolate, uniformed bus conductor, complete with money bag and ticket machine trudging along Broughty Ferry Road in the direction of Shore Terrace. I understand that the Transport Manager was not best pleased that the fares had not been collected before the bus was hijacked.

We now have two tales that illustrate why the experiment of having students as bus conductors was not a great success and I have a sneaking suspicion that the complete withdrawal of bus conductors followed soon after!
--------------------

Dr Charlie Dixon was a Senior Lecturer in the Mathematics Department at the University of Dundee and worked there for over 47 years, retiring in 2000, which made him one of the University's longest serving members of staff. Charlie was a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher and was the students' perennial favourite. He was an avid supporter of extending access to University to those who might not have considered further studies, was the founding member of the University's Schools Liaison Office and the first Dean of Students for the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Sadly, Charlie died suddenly in 2009. He was active to the last, and is recognised by the creation of the Charlie Dixon Award. These awards, given
to mathematics students from the Dundee area who have shown exceptional dedication to their studies, represent a fitting continuation of Charlie's lifelong efforts.

The Terrorist
Hugh McGrory
I mentioned in a previous story how, in 1974, I went on a business trip to Europe with a colleague, David. He was an American professor of engineering based in Pittsburgh and we were visiting national engineering computing centres in France, Holland, Germany and the UK.

While passing through London (heading for the Genesys Centre at the University of Loughborough), David said that he’d like to see the Houses of Parliament. I’d never been inside, despite the fact that I lived in London for a couple of years and worked only 15 minutes from Big Ben, so we decided to see if we could get into the Commons gallery while Parliament was in session.

Question for you – think back over the last 50 years – which decade saw the most deaths from terrorism in Western Europe? In fact, it was the '70s – 1974 (with about 410) was third highest after 1988 (440) and 1980 (425), and just ahead of 1972 (405) – and this was London, and the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ – don’t forget the IRA… So, in those days, though security wasn’t as tight as it is now, there was a serious societal awareness of the issue.

I also mentioned that every time we entered a new country, David sailed through immigration while I always had to undergo an enhanced security check – I guess I matched too many items on their profile (looked like a Turk, had an Irish name…?)… If you’re interested, you can see that story here.


I don’t remember the security procedure in any detail – I’m sure there was one – but it certainly wasn’t rigorous (nowadays it’s ‘airline standard’). We entered through St Stephen’s Entrance into the Porch (12 on the plan above) and through it to St. Stephen’s Hall (11). Originally St. Stephen’s Chapel, this magnificent room was actually the first House of Commons.

Hover your cursor on any photo for description then click for a bigger version.

In St. Stephen's Hall there were four rows of seats awaiting us, two rows against the outside walls and two back-to-back down the middle. David and I settled close to the far exit against the south wall (on the right).


We waited to be called into the Central Lobby (when the group in front of us was departing from the chamber), not saying much since we were both quite tired from our travels, just relaxing, admiring the room and its accoutrements and studying the multi-cultural group around us.

I casually noticed one man who sat at the end of the row facing us, closest to the exit we’d soon be passing through, with a briefcase at his side. A few minutes later I noticed that he was no longer there – but his briefcase was.

I looked at the case, looked around for him – no sign – then back at the case. At that point, I began to think of scenarios ranging from “he’s gone for a pee” to “BOOM!!!”

I hoped it was the former – truth be told I was feeling a bit like peeing myself at that moment! I then thought of possible courses of action – the first, and my preferred one, was to do nothing, since in all likelihood it wasn’t any cause for concern – no one else seemed to be reacting.

At the other end of the range was to shout “Bomb! Run like hell everyone”. At best, though, that would probably cause quite a few broken limbs, concussion and perhaps even deaths – and how dumb would I feel when the bomb disposal guys opened the case and found two egg sandwiches…

I decided it was better to be embarrassed than dead, so I devised my plan – I would tell David we had to leave, giving him a quick reason why, then walk quickly to the door we came in (at the far end from the bomb) and tell the security people. I nudged David who was dozing and started to explain when, half way through my sentence, the bomb went off and we were both killed…

Actually, as I spoke, I saw, over David's shoulder, the guy come back and sit down. Panic over! I can’t even remember what he looked like.

What would you have done, back in the day?

A few minutes later we were called to file into the Central Lobby (10), then a sharp left through the Commons’ Corridor, (17), the Commons’ Lobby (16) and into the balcony of the House itself (15).


After more than 40 years, apart from the 'terrorist' and the over-the-top architecture, the main impression that stayed with me is that the House of Commons is way smaller than I thought it would be…

My First Car
Ian Gordon
In early 1962, I was a young C.A. in South America trying to learn a new language, trying to understand how big American companies did business and put their numbers together, and trying to have fun in an exhausting 7 days a week work schedule. (Don’t know how we put up with such conditions for relatively poor salaries – but such were the times!)

In any case, after I had amassed about $1,000 in savings – there was nothing to spend money on – I decided to invest my dough on a real asset, an automobile as my American friends called it. I soon discovered there was no real value in an automobile. However, I reckoned that to get in with the American group I needed to turn up at events (mainly boozy parties) in my own real car, and not in an old battered taxi. So I went car shopping.

There were very few used car lots in Medellin, Colombia at the time, but every used car workshop (of which there were hundreds) had a car or two for sale. Cars ranged from genuine guaranteed 100% original parts to mongrels with assorted reconditioned parts. With my true auditor’s zeal I did discover my dream car, with the right precedence… a 1948 Buick Roadmaster, owned previously, I was assured, by two young American gold prospectors whose cash assets did not last long enough to continue prospecting. I was also assured that the automobile probably needed a touch-up here and there, but could be mine, as is, for $1,000.

Putting things in perspective, I would like you to imagine the picture of me with my new automobile. Pete Rennie describes how his car was too small for him. Well, I was then about a foot smaller than Pete, and my Buick Roadmaster was about twice the size of Pete’s Morris Eight. Some people used to think it was a driverless vehicle when I passed by, and I must admit I had some breathless moments when making sharp turns on Colombia’s mountainous terrain. Some of my friends called the car “Big Bertha,” which I think was unkind, but perhaps understandable.

I had an unfortunate start to my social life as a car owner. I invited a sweet young socialite called Maruja to have lunch with me on one of my few days off. Our venue was to be a new restaurant called El Punto de Vista (The Point of View) situated halfway up a very large mountain, about one hours drive away – quite a test for Big Bertha. However, the dear car huffed and puffed its way up the winding mountain road and took us to our destination without fail.

Unfortunately, the interior temperature in the car became almost unbearable, even with the windows open. It seemed to be caused by an unstoppable blast of hot air emanating from the over-worked engine and blowing into the front right seat, occupied by Maruja… who had turned a violent shade of beetroot by the time we arrived. The lady did not take it well and rushed immediately to the restrooms on arrival. Everyone in the restaurant, including close friends and relatives of Maruja’s, stood and gasped “Esta muy mal?” (Is she very bad?) Maruja returned in a few minutes, acknowledged her friends with a brief nod and ate a light lunch. She never spoke a word to me.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. After its gallant efforts to get up the mountain, the beleaguered engine of the car would not turn over. Now, starting a car in Dundee was relatively simple and we had all done it many times. Just hold the clutch down while you get a push from the back and release it at the right time. But here we have a mountain road to push down and no clutch to release.

I wasn’t about to get into that huge vehicle and let it run downhill without an engine – but I had to! I got a push out of the parking lot, put the car in neutral and hoped the engineers in Detroit had thought about this situation. The engine caught at my second attempt – and my heart started beating at a normal pace again. The people in the restaurant actually cheered as I returned to pick up Maruja.

I learned a lot in my time with Big Bertha. The car you see above is in very good condition and recently offered for sale for $23,000 U.S. Bertha was not in very good condition, but she taught me, and many other owners, that having your own car has given us a freedom of movement, and action, that we would never otherwise have had. We may lose that freedom when the driverless car finally arrives!

A Temporary Situation – 3
Hugh McGrory
In a previous story I told of losing my temporary bus conductor job early in the summer - fortunately I, and several other schoolmates, were lucky enough to find work in the Smedley factory on Clepington Road in Dundee.
As it was then. Photo taken from railway bridge on Clepington Road. Burnett's Bakery on right, Kerr of Balfield's Dairy on left, Smedley's buildings in the background. The path behind the fence led to Kingsway at the Ice Rink.
Smedley’s opened in this location in 1933 as a fish cannery. It converted to vegetables and fruit, such as peas, raspberries and strawberries. Such products are of course seasonal, and for us it was the pea season.

I knew nothing about canning, and was ignorant of the process which takes a green pea from field to table. The steps are:
    1. Harvesting
    2. De-vining and shelling
    3. Shaker/cleaner for washing
    4. Sorting by size
    5. Blanching (parboiling)
    6. Can Filling (peas topped with brine)
    7. Capping and crimping
    8. Sterilising (in a pressure cooker)
    9. Cooling
    10. Labelling
    11. Packing
    12. Transporting.
We were assigned to tasks involved in steps 6, 7 and 8

Hover your cursor on any photo for description then click for a bigger version.

Some of us were in the loft – this was where boxes of new empty cans and lids were delivered, opened, and the cans and lids put onto separate gravity-driven rail systems. The can rail did a vertical 360 degree turn on the way down so that the cans would turn upside down and any loose material that might have got in would fall out.

The cans were delivered to a machine where they were filled with peas, then transported to the brine station, on a horizontal conveyor, for topping up. They then went through a machine which added the lid and crimped it into place, and then onto the pressure cooker for sterilising at 100°C.

I was initially assigned to the steriliser – my job was to stand there wearing heat-resistant gloves and make sure that every can going by was upright. This was to ensure that any can that had fallen over was removed; since it would inevitably jam the cooker (didn’t happen often).

This machine was about 40 ft. long by 5 ft. high and 20 ft. across. The conveyor went in, and then doubled back multiple times so that the cans followed a snake-like path, the distance and speed calculated to give the correct exposure to the heat to ensure proper sterilisation.

At first I thought that I had lucked out by getting an easy job, but that feeling wore off after about 20 minutes – it was soul-destroyingly boring! After some time had elapsed, I felt a smack on the back of my head. It was one of the foremen passing by who wanted to make sure that I was awake. I was really pissed-off at the time, but I needed the job – and, to be honest, I couldn’t swear that I was actually awake…

A machine which filled the cans was nearby, and at a break, I spoke to the kid operating it (a stranger) and asked what the job entailed. He told me and asked what I did. Long story short we agreed to switch jobs – that was, I’m sure, a no-no without a foreman’s permission - but I don’t think they could tell one of us students from another…

As you can imagine, the various pathways for cans, lids, peas and brine were synchronised, and the worst thing that could happen was that one of the lines would develop a fault of some kind and have to stop. There were red buttons around at strategic points to be used in such emergencies to stop the particular conveyor – and of course all of the others. It would also cause lights to flash, horns to go off and foremen to come running.

The inevitable happened, and it turned out that, at the pressure cooker, a can had been allowed to go in sideways, and jammed. This was a major issue, since it meant that the top of the cooker, which consisted of heavy plates bolted to the chassis, needed to be taken off piece by piece until the blockage was located.

This was bad enough, but remember that the plates were being heated from below at more than 100°C. This meant that the whole line was down while we all waited for the beast to cool down enough to let the foremen/mechanics get on top and start the process. In fact they started too soon, no doubt being pressured by the next layer of management, and before long they had taken on the hue of cooked lobsters. But we all got a few hours of relaxation before the line finally got back into action.

I felt sorry for the kid who had taken over the job from me (but, in truth, was so glad that it wasn’t me). He disappeared – I don’t know if he was fired, quit, or moved to another area (my time was yet to come…).

Looking at the incident, it was easy to see that the disaster was inevitable. In the first place, the conveyor was badly designed – it was ridiculous that they needed someone to stand on guard for cans which had toppled over!

Secondly, given this flaw, they should have arranged for operators to rotate in and out of the job frequently so they didn’t fall asleep or die of boredom – no one could have done that job well!

Back at the can filler, I felt I’d mastered the machine after an hour or two, and the days and weeks became long and boring, with an enervating sameness – until they weren’t…

I was standing at my post, thinking about whatever, when I got hit on the head with something, then another – for I moment I thought one of the guys was throwing peas at me, until I looked up just as an avalanche of peas came down on my upturned face. I dashed for the red button and everything ground to a halt. (On the plus side it was nice and quiet…)

To understand what had happened you need a brief explanation: the peas ready for canning appeared at my station from a conveyor belt about 15 feet in the air and were deposited into a large hopper – funnel-shaped, rectangular at the top end, say roughly 6 feet square, then tapering to a round spout at the can filling end some 10 feet below.

At the top end, it was divided into two halves, 3 feet by 6, separated by a paddle which could be moved from side to side by pulling chains. This allowed the peas to fill up one side, then be diverted to the other side so it would then fill up. I just forgot to pull the chain and it had overflowed…

To make matters worse, the full side was so stuffed with peas that the paddle wouldn’t move no matter how hard I pulled on the chain (as I stood in layers of slippery wegetables rapidly becoming mushy peas…)

Very soon, of course, a foreman appeared, with a face like thunder, and we finally had to get a tall ladder and climb up to ladle peas from the full to the empty side. We eventually got the line going again; I didn’t get fired, but my dreams of a job for life standing by that machine were irretrievably dashed… Perhaps just as well, since, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't my fault, Smedley’s Dundee factory closed down in 1972. In its heyday it employed more than 700 people.

Then
The company has been sold several times since then, and the Smedley name, once so ubiquitous has all but disappeared from the shelves of the UK. However, the original 1924 Smedley Canning factory in Wisbech, a small town in the Fens of Cambridgeshire, and now known as Princes Foods is still in the canning business. Apparently, Smedley’s beans and peas are available at the local LIDL, and Smedley’s tomato soup can still be found at the Co-op.

Now
In researching this story, I came across a piece written by a man who, as a teenager, had worked on the line in Smedley’s Wisbech factory. The following excerpt is pertinent:

“Very often my job was to sit next to a line of small rails on which freshly sealed tins of food rolled along flat stretches or long bends, or up and down steep slopes, to some mysterious destination where I suppose they got on to pallets or lorries.

When a tin fell off the rails or caused a 'traffic' jam, I was supposed to wake up from my drowsiness and start frantically to throw the derailed tins into a large metal tub, then place them as soon as possible back on the rails for them to resume their journey. I understand why the bosses did not check our professional expertise or our IQ before they hired us.

I remember Ivan M., a Czech guy, who was sitting close to the rails some distance from me. One evening, he nearly fell off his chair because watching those tins in the din of the factory had put him to sleep.”

Schooldays
Gordon Findlay
Most of my schoolday memories have long since faded away. I’m left with little cameos . . . episodes or incidents which for some reason remain implanted in my memory.

I can remember my pal Eric Dargie (who as an adult emigrated to Australia) coming to our side door in the
Eric on the left and Gordon on the right flanking
Jake Anderson in the School Rugby Team 1949-50.
morning, so we could walk along Shamrock Street together to Morgan. Sometimes we were joined by Jimmy Partington who had the worst stutter of any person I can remember.

Poor Jimmy. To be saddled both with this affliction and a three-syllable, three hard-consonant name like Partington was just plain cruel. Even telling someone his name took a superhuman effort on his part: face reddening, lips twisting, eyes bulging, he would try desperately to get out the letters of his name . . . “P-p-p-PAR – t-t-t-Ting-t-t-t- TON”, the last syllable blurted out like an explosion from his contorted face.

One thing I do know: I was not a particularly bright student. Adequate would be the word. Not a bad all-rounder, but deplorable in mathematics and the sciences. Just could not get my head around the complexities of algebra, trig and geometry. It might as well have been Greek.

And of course, being the youngest, I had to follow the academic trail blazed by my two brothers ahead of me. David had been pretty good in the mathematics-oriented subjects. Oldest brother Morris had been a star in all these subjects – a fact I was reminded of forcefully and frequently by Mr. Peden, head of the mathematics department.

When I landed in his math class, it didn’t take Mr. Peden long to discover that this last in the line of Findlays was not cast in the same mould as my brothers. I was quite simply, a dunce in math. A memory which still stings after all those years is this: a math problem is presented in class. Everyone begins to solve it. I am at a total loss.

When time is up Mr. Peden surveys the class and decides that a little bit of light sport will liven his day up. “Let’s see if Findlay has the answer, shall we?

Well, Findlay—speak up!” I would get to my feet and for a few agonizing moments I would mumble some gibberish until Peden tired of my ineptness and barked: “Sit down, Findlay! You don’t have any idea, do you?” And I didn’t.

Fortunately, I was strong in English, decent in history, geography, adequate in German and French. But I really lived for English class because for whatever reason, I simply began to enjoy putting words together, and have had a life-long love affair with them.

Always found it wonderful to find and learn a new word to add to memory, couldn’t wait to start on a free-style English composition, almost wore out an edition of Palgrave’s “Golden Treasury”, the famous anthology of English poetry. I was stirred by the use of language in that book . . . Matthew Arnold, Tennyson, Rosetti, Coleridge, Thomas Hardy, Kipling, and of course, one of the most famous Scots of all, Robert Louis Stevenson.

A Temporary Situation – 2
Hugh McGrory
Actually, this should probably be entitled ‘A Very Temporary Situation’.

Around 1954, I was looking for a summer job, and, like quite a few of my classmates, heard that the Dundee Corporation Transport Department ('DCT') was hiring students as temporary summer staff. Those were the days before one-person crews, and the bus and tramway system in Dundee had a driver and a conductor for each vehicle.

Quite a number of us applied and were hired. We duly reported en masse to the Bell St Bus Depot for indoctrination. As you can see from the photograph, this was a huge hanger of a building, and we were gathered into a large room where our duties and the administrative procedures were described to us. We were provided with uniforms though I can’t remember anything about how, nor can I remember whether or not we were provided with hats - I have no memory of ever wearing one...

Old Bell St Bus Depot A Real Dundee Bus/Tram Conductor
We were also provided with our ticket machine and spare rolls of tickets, and our shoulder bag for collecting fares and dispensing change – I do remember this experience. There was a table at the side, of the room when we entered piled high with bags – a few brand new, but most in various stages of dilapidation.

Being the smartest guy in the room, I positioned myself close to the table so that at the end of the session when they told us to grab a bag, I was in the first wave and was able to snag a brand new one. Pretty smart, huh? Well actually, no – No, No, No! Can you figure out why…?

I really don’t remember all that much of my time as a bus conductor – just a few vignettes:
    • I had been allocated to a bus (as opposed to a tram), a ‘double-decker’. We were on the Barnhill route which meant a trip due east from the Shore Terrace Hub in the centre of town to the eastern boundary at Balmossie Street then turn around, return and repeat.
    Shore Terrace Bus Service Hub circa 1950
    I met my driver the first day, a nice enough fellow, though he didn’t seem enamoured about being lumbered with a know-nothing student.

    • It was on that first day that I realised the problem with brand new money bags. They were very sturdy, made of cowhide about a quarter of an inch thick, with three compartments that basically didn’t want to open. By the end of the day the cuticles on my left hand were raw and bleeding. Ok, maybe I wasn’t as smart as I thought…

    • I do remember a couple of times the driver pulling over between stops for no apparent reason. He later explained to me what was going on…

    It seems that the bus had a semi-automatic gearbox (this is often called a pre-selector gearbox, where the driver can move the shift lever to indicate the new gear he wants, but the gear doesn’t actually engage until he depresses the clutch. This is supposed to give a smoother change.) Apparently, for some reason, the clutch would, on occasion, spring back aggressively, and as he said “bloody near breaks my ankle.”

    • One of my duties was to check that all passengers got on and off safely, and to bell the driver to let him know that it was safe to pull away. On one occasion I rang the bell, and he just sat there. I tried again – nothing. Why the heck wasn’t he moving? One more time, then I see him turning round in his seat, giving me the stink-eye. I didn’t know what he was telling me until a helpful passenger said “The traffic light is red” - and then so was my face…

    • The bell at the rear platform, which was my station, was a push button, but there was also a strip which ran the length of the roof of the downstairs compartment down one side of the aisle, nicely colour-coordinated in green and white, the signature look of the DCT. This allowed the conductor to bell the driver while inside the compartment collecting fares, and passengers to signal that they wanted to get off at the next stop.

    I remember one trip when a Morgan school girl got on the bus. She was very pretty brunette, a year or two younger than me (first name Gloria), and I decided to ‘chat her up’. The bus stopped, and I checked we were good to proceed, then reached up to the roof strip, belled the driver then shifted my attention from the bell to the belle.

    I then realised that we hadn’t moved, so I reached up again – nothing. The driver turned around in his seat and looked at me with a raised eyebrow. All of the passengers on the lower deck were trying to figure out what was going on. I spread my hands to indicate that I’d tried, then demonstrated by doing it again – at the same moment as I realised that I wasn’t pressing the bell but the matching decorative strip on the other side of the aisle. So the bell was unpressed - and the belle wasn't impressed.

    Mr. Cool had done it again...

    • One last memory... The bus was very full - passengers were standing on the rear platform (see photo (a London bus but the same type - Dundee actually bought some of London's cast-offs). Passengers on the platform was a no-no, but often done. It was raining and we stopped to pick up several more people. At the back of the line there was a middle-aged man frantically looking through his pockets. I asked him if he was getting on, and he said that he'd come out without any money.

    I told him to get on anyway, then, remembering the indoctrination I'd just completed, I told him that I'd need his name and address. (The dreaded Inspectors (see photo) who moved around the various routes just might turn up unexpectedly.)

    We got to the Town Centre (Inspector free) and he asked if I had a pencil. I told him to forget it (I figured it would probably have cost the Town five bob to collect the tuppeny fare anyway).

    I enjoyed the job - it wasn’t boring, the money was good, and there was opportunity for overtime – too bad that I got fired after two weeks. No I didn’t do anything wrong, the Corporation fired all the students! Union and management were gearing up for a power struggle over upcoming attempts to move to one-person crews, so the Union complained that
    we were taking jobs from their potential members - and management caved.

    Damn - so we were all back on the job market!
My Morris
Pete Rennie

Recent tales of cars have inspired me to write a brief tale of my first:

Having recently graduated from Art College, gained my first salaried employment and, of course, passed my driving test, my thoughts turned to the purchase of a car.

I went to see my old school chum Bob Barnett now well established in the motor trade. I was not disappointed for Bob had exactly the vehicle of my dreams! It was a black, four door, 1947 Morris Eight Series E’ registration ESC 634 and came with the guarantee that it had only been used by two old ladies for shopping!
It cost me £65 and I drove it away along Riverside Drive even though I had never before been in a car on my own. To make matters worse the lady driver must have been quite small since the driver’s seat was as far forward as it could be and my knees were nearly touching my chin. I made it home after a nerve-wracking drive through the city centre where I was able to examine my purchase at leisure.

As with Sandra Dow's car, it had a hinged windscreen (which was stuck shut) and semaphore indicators (which sometimes needed assistance to appear!)

Also there was no spare tyre! I was so entranced at being the owner of a car that I was able to overlook these 'minor' deficiencies. I looked forward to distant horizons – without a lot of thought as to how I might return home. In truth, the car was a heap – but it was my heap!

One day I drove down to Broughty Ferry and I got a puncture! I managed to get down a side street and found myself outside the Fire Station. I decided to ask for help there and one of the firemen obliged.

He produced a jack, jacked the car up and together we got the wheel off and I was able to get the puncture repaired and drove off quite happily.

Several weeks later I was driving along and heard a strange grating sound from the rear of the car. I stopped to investigate and on lifting the carpet at the rear seats I discovered a tear in the metal floor. I realised that my helpful fireman hadn't positioned the jack properly.

I decided to have a word with Bob about this without, I must admit, revealing the circumstances! Bob was not best pleased to see the car again but grudgingly agreed to have the tear welded. The repair was done and I drove off guiltily – but secretly satisfied.

Newfie, eh? – 3 of 3
Hugh McGrory
The Avalon Peninsula

In my previous story, I was continuing my journey southward in search of the Avalon caribou herd.

The Avalon (see the map) is a large, almost-an-island, peninsula that makes up the southeast portion of the island of Newfoundland. Despite being small in area compared to the rest of Newfoundland (less than 10%) the peninsula is home to more than a quarter of a million people, about half of the Island's total population, according to the Canada 2011 census.

The round trip I'd embarked on is known as the Irish Loop (see the map), round trip from St, John’s is about 200 miles. Back in the 1500s, Europeans, particularly from France, England, Spain, and Portugal crossed the Atlantic to fish for cod off the Avalon coast to feed Europe's growing population. By the 1700's the Spanish and Portuguese had been pushed out, and the French and English fought over the abundant resource until 1815.

During this time communities around the Peninsula grew from small seasonal stations to year round settlements. Beginning in the early 1800's, large numbers of Irish began settling year round and caused the regions demographics to be changed forever. By the mid 1800's, unlike other parts of Newfoundland, the great majority of settlers in this area were Roman Catholic and of Irish descent – hence 'The Irish Loop'.

The area is home to many animals, coyotes, beaver, lynx, mink, muskrat, otter, red squirrel, fox, snowshoe hares, weasel, the odd black bear, whales, seals, moose and, of course, the object of my interest, caribou.

I had seen photographs and film of vast herds of thousands of caribou in their grazing grounds or migrating south before winter, and since the Avalon herd numbered around 6,000 or so at the time of this story I had high hopes of seeing them.

I travelled south on Hwy 10, and shortly before I’d have to turn west along the bottom of the peninsula
I saw an animal in the distance to the east. I stopped the car and got out for a closer look – it seemed to be a single doe, further away than the one in the photo. With my small camera it seemed pointless to take a photo so I decided to wait until I found one of the herds. But it was ‘My First Caribou’ – a good omen to have seen one so soon…

I stopped at a small store and asked if they could tell me where I might
find caribou, but the server and the few customers weren’t very helpful and didn’t seem to have any suggestions – more on that later... So I continued west, then north on Hwy 90.

I kept scanning the land on both sides of the road, but as I got further and further north I came slowly to the realization that ‘My First Caribou’ was also ‘My Last Caribou’… I never did see another one!

Looking back later, I realised that my expectations were rather ridiculous. If you were a caribou with all that open space, would you hang out near roads…? In fact, the south east third of the island is referred to as The Barrens, and the central portion of the Avalon Peninsula has been designated The Avalon Wilderness Reserve to protect the most southerly caribou herd in Canada– it covers more than 400 square miles.

In fact, the south east third of Newfoundland Island is referred to as The Barrens, and the central portion of the Avalon Peninsula has been designated The Avalon Wilderness Reserve to protect the most southerly caribou herd in Canada– it covers more than 400 square miles.

A rolling plateau, the area is dotted with boulders that were left behind by melting glaciers more than 10,000 years ago. The landscape pattern consists of, usually stunted, almost pure stands of Balsam Fir, broken by extensive open heathland, ponds, rivers, and bogs.

So if you want to see the caribou, you really need to visit the Reserve (as you'll see from the map, I just drove all the way around it...) To do so, you are told that you should observe certain guidelines:
    • obtain an entry permit
    • let someone know your route and expected time of return
    • travel light and leave no trace of your passage
    • carefully plan your clothing, footwear, and equipment
    • take a compass and appropriate 1:50,000 topographic maps
    • note that if you take a cell-phone, coverage will be spotty, though it is possible to make calls from some hilltops
    • read and abide by the rules and regulations which are:
      • Carry your entry permit (and other applicable permits) with you while in the reserve.
      • Camping in one location is restricted to a maximum of 10 days.
      • Pack out everything you bring in, including cans, glass, and other refuse.
      • Snowmobiling is not permitted in the reserve.
      • Keep dogs and horses under control at all times when in the reserve.
      • Outboard motors are restricted to Cape, Mount Carmel, Franks, Bloody, Blackwood, and Southwest Ponds or other ponds accessible by road and must not exceed 6 hp.
      • The use of ATVs for game retrieval is not allowed in the reserve.
      • Aircraft must fly above 300 m, except during take-off and landing.
      • During some seasons, open fires may be prohibited. Contact your local office of the Department of Natural Resources to determine if open fires are permitted. Completely extinguish fires before leaving
So getting back to my rather cool reception in that little grocery store on the tip of the peninsula, I think they looked at me – dressed as if I had just nipped out to get a pint of milk, and expecting to see hundreds of caribou grazing by the roadside – they simply wrote me off as an idiot 'come from away' and not worthy of their attention… Having said this, though unlikely, it wasn’t altogether out of the bounds of possibility that I might have gotten lucky…

I never did see another caribou, but I recently came across a video, a 1980 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary film telling the story of Mike Nolan, a fur trapper turned wildlife officer, who played a huge part in saving the Avalon caribou. The survival of this herd is a North American conservation success story. The herd had dwindled to only a few dozen animals by the early 1960s, but it rose to a high of six to seven thousand animals in the early 1990s (when I was there). In 1998, it numbered around two thousand animals.

If you’re interested, you may see the video here. It lasts about half an hour, but you could skip to about minute 22:00 to see the part of interest to this story.

D'ye Mind Korky the Kat?
Bill Kidd

How many of us can pass a Dandy or Beano left lying about somewhere without picking it up and flicking through it to see if it retained any of the characters that we remember from our childhood. If it is a Dandy, hang on to it, it may become valuable! The last printed edition was issued in December 2012 and was replaced by a web only edition. The printed version lasted 75 years but the web version ended after only six months.
First Edition Jul 30,1938 First Edition Dec 4, 1937                Last Edition Dec 4, 2012
Recently a Beano First Edition sold for £17,300. In 2004 a Dandy First Edition sold for £20,350.

Today's Beano is nothing like the version that we grew up with. Big Eggo the ostrich got up to all sort of unlikely antics on the cover page of the Beano while Korky the Kat risked at least one of his nine lives on the
front of the Dandy. During the war years these comics were published on alternate weeks in order to save paper. At the height of their popularity during the forties and fifties it is believed that their weekly circulation peaked at an astounding two million copies.

In their early years both the Dandy and the Beano were innovative in that they replaced having text along the bottom of each
picture with speech bubbles that were an integral part of the illustrations. Many of the illustrations were printed in solid colours and the characters were instantly recognisable. Right from the beginning the somewhat anarchic story lines were attractive to children that were expected to behave well at all times.

Perhaps one of the most important effects of these comics was that they encouraged children to read, this was particularly true of the earliest editions because they also contained stories in text only.

I have a clear memory of many of the characters featured in these comics. How many can you remember?

One of my favourites was Desperate Dan whose diet of cow pies must have played havoc with his arteries! His phenomenal strength could either get him into trouble or help the citizens of Catcusville out of many a tight spot. He smoked a pipe and was not averse to lighting it by bending the post of a gas street light to use in place of a match. Dan is now immortalised, sans pipe of course, by his statue in Dundee.

In the Beano one of my favourites was Lord Snooty and His Pals. This strip featured Lord Snooty, appropriately dressed and an assorted group of rag-a-muffins who got up to all sorts of adventures under the disapproving eye of Aunt Matilda.

During the war I can remember one storyline where Hitler had invented a ray that caused snow to fall over the UK. This led to the gang having a wonderful time sledging, snowman building and snowball fighting. I have no idea what it did to the war effort!

At the risk of being accused of racism I recall another wartime character Musso da Wop (He is a big ada flop). This was a satirical view of the competence of our other arch-enemy, Il Duce, Benito Mussolini.

There was a fair bit of violence involved in many of the comic strips of both publications. Teachers, wielding the cane, parents chastising children with slippers, dentists pulling teeth with pliers and vandalising property were only a few of the activities that you certainly wouldn't find in any present day children's publication. Living in such a society I sometimes wonder how we survived!

The choice of a character's name could even have a bearing on one's nickname at school. Characters that appeared regularly such as Hungry Horace, Keyhole Kate, Dennis the Menace, Pansy Potter, Roger the Dodger, Absent-minded Alfie and Meddlesome Matty were often a convenient starting point for renaming a teacher or fellow pupil.

Many adults, possibly Moaning Minnie’s, frowned upon our weekly comic, saying that they were a bad influence, that they stopped children from reading 'good' books and encouraged bad behaviour. There may well be some truth in this but I don't believe that two million kids can be wrong and we didn't turn out too badly did we?


Newfie, eh? – 2
Hugh McGrory
Kiddy Viddy

Pronounciations vary, but this is how most Newfie's say the name of the village and lake of Quidi Vidi (no one seems sure of the derivation of the name). The photo shows the village in the foreground and The Gut, the channel that leads to the Atlantic, and in the background, Quidi Vidi Lake.

Quidi Vidi is a picturesque old fishing settlement of around 600 people thought to have been settled first in the early 16th century. It's well worth a visit, since it has the genuine feel of a typical Newfoundland
outport – a small group of houses around a sheltered harbour clinging to and protected by surrounding hills. It has one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America, Mallard Cottage, which was repaired in
recent years and is recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada.

I enjoyed my visit to Kiddy Viddy – and here's two more reasons to visit – it has a brewery, and, amazingly, is situated no more than a mile and a half from downtown St. John's.

Heading South

The following day, I set off south from St. John's on my trip to see the Avalon Peninsula caribou herd. Almost immediately I diverted east to visit Cape Spear. Not that there's much to see, mind you, but it does
let you say that you've stood on the most easterly spot of Canada and the USA. After this brief diversion I resumed my journey south.

After driving for some time, a sign for a restaurant ahead extolling the view from its location reminded me that I was hungry, so when it appeared, I stopped for lunch. It was a pleasant place with decent food and
good service, and a great view. After I ate and was paying my bill, I said to the waitress that I had a suggestion for the owner. She said "Tell him yourself."

With my usual sparkling repartee, I responded "Huh?"

"He's sitting at that table in the corner", she said.

So I went over and said hello, and made my point as follows:

“I like your place – the food was tasty, and the waitress was friendly – I'd certainly come back – but you need to do something about your windows. When I’m sitting at the table, the only way to see the view properly, is to lay my face sideways on the table or stand up…”

He sighed. “I know – the horizontal bar gets in the way.”

If you look at the couple dining by the far window you'll see the issue.
“Why don’t you go after the architect and get it changed – and I'd suggest at no cost to you – it’s pretty significant after all!”

He sighed again and said “I can’t.”

“Howcum?”

“Well during construction I visited the site, saw the first window being put into place, didn’t like it, and told them to turn them all upside down.”

We looked at each other for a moment, I said “Oops!”, and left to continue my Great Caribou Hunt.

To be continued...

The Beach at Arbroath
Gordon Findlay
Our gang of kids had one favourite place: the beach at Arbroath, about 16 miles east of Dundee. Arbroath was graced with one of the longest and most beautiful beaches on the east coast of Angus, and since it had
a direct rail line, getting there was fairly simple for us. We would load up with sandwiches and Barrie’s lemonade, our towels and bathing suits, and off we went to the Dundee East railway station to catch the train to Arbroath.

There was still a bit of romance about rail travel back then: the trains were steam-powered, belching black smoke into the air, and the windows of the compartments rolled down, so you could sit with the rush of the wind blasting in the window, smelling the hot, sooty smell from the engine up front and taking turns leaning out that window, yelling at other kids in the streets and parks we passed, and all of us getting an early start on our lemonade because it was a treat to have a whole bottle each to drink.

Once arrived at Arbroath station, it was a quick walk down to the dunes, across them, then down to the endless beach and the chilly North Sea (although I don’t remember ever feeling it was too cold to swim in; we just dashed in and out the whole day and let the wind and sun dry us off).

Arbroath beach had one other huge attraction: the friendliest, most active sheepdog we had ever seen. It seemed to live on the beach and was always racing around it looking for cheerful company. As soon as we’d arrive, the dog would magically appear and come racing over the dunes, as excited to see us as we were to see it. Endless hours of chasing balls, sticks thrown into the sea, or just rolling in the sand with us.

Naturally, we called him “Rover.” None of us had a dog at home so we all loved this exuberant, happy-go-lucky dog which seemed to live on Arbroath beach. He wore a leather collar, but no identification tag on it, so obviously he belonged to someone in Arbroath.

We shared bits of our sandwiches with him and he didn’t seem to be fussy . . . whether it was a basic jam sandwich, a cheese bun, a wedge of apple or a couple of carrot sticks: he ate it all gratefully. When we left in late afternoon to catch our train back to Dundee, we’d troop back across the sand dunes with “Rover” romping alongside us, but as soon as we reached the nearest solid path or road that led to the station, he’d stop and just stand there and watch us leave, tail wagging, his tongue hanging out.

Never, ever followed us along the road. Perhaps he’d been trained to stay on the beach; we never knew. He was just “our” dog for the day.

Newfie, eh?
Hugh McGrory
Sometime in the 1990s I attended a Conference of the CSCE (Canadian Society for Civil Engineering) in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I felt very much at home on the island, perhaps not too surprising considering that fully two thirds of the half million residents of Newfoundland and Labrador identify their ethnic background as English, Irish or Scots.

At the end of the conference I decided to stay an extra couple of days – I wanted to wander around St John’s a bit more and enjoy the harbour, the colourful houses, and Kiddy Viddy. I also had it in mind to see the caribou herd on the Avalon Peninsula.

The Harbour

I can’t claim to be a sailor, though I have done a bit here and there. Those of you who are real sailors and have been out in stormy weather will know well the wonderful feeling when finally making it to a sheltered harbour.

The photo below looks out over the heart of St. John's towards Signal Hill (you can see Cabot Tower on top, the location where Marconi received the first transatlantic telegraph message, from Cornwall, England, in 1901), and shows the north-east end of the magnificent harbour and The Narrows, the exit to the
Atlantic. The Narrows runs almost due east, and if you were to sail out along the line of latitude you'd end up very close to Saint Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire in Brittany, some 2200 miles away. Can you imagine braving the journey from Europe to North America through ocean storms to finally arrive at the Narrows and the safe harbour of St. John's – it must have been a wonderful moment for countless sailors over the centuries.

The part of Signal Hill overlooking the Narrows is called The Battery – from the location of the cannons which protected the entrance to the harbour. The hotel I stayed in was the white building high on the hill (top left in the photograph), and had a great view down the length of the harbour.

I walked up the road from the hotel to the top of Signal Hill, then took a set of steps which drop about 150 feet to a path that runs along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean dropping another 200 feet or so. This path called the North Head Trail, rounds the hill and heads back along the north shore of the Narrows about 60 to 80 feet above sea level. The path ends amongst the colourful houses of The Battery shown in a photograph below.

The Stairway The North Head Trail
Looking Back Along the Trail The Battery – End of the Trail


I took my time wandering along the trail, it wasn't very busy – a few people behind me and the occasional person or two coming the other way. When I got to the Battery I followed the streets back up to the hotel – probably spent about two and a half hours altogether. The 'Looking Back 'photo above is misleading in that it suggests that some climbing might be involved – in fact it's simply a walk along fairly flat paths. If you’re ever lucky enough to visit St. John's I highly recommend it.

The Houses

One of the charming aspects of the city is the brightly-coloured houses. The practice isn't unique to Newfoundland, of course, and can be found in many places around the world – it does seem to be particularly prevalent in colder climes, though:
Hover your cursor on any photo for location then click for a bigger version.

It's suggested that people who live further north, being more exposed to cold, rainy, shorter days, like to brighten up their environment. In St John's, one theory says that the practice springs from the Portuguese
dory fishermen who fished off Newfoundland's shores for some four hundred years. These men had one of the hardest jobs ever conceived, rowing out from a mother-ship in one-man dories for 12 to 16 hour shifts, long-line fishing for cod.

Their boats were painted in a buff colour which apparently made the best contrast to the grey/blue of the sea. Some Newfies came into possession of some of this paint – somehow – and began to use it for the exteriors of their houses. This gradually morphed into other colours.

There are now many colourful streets in St John's referred to collectively as Jelly Bean Rows – Victoria Street which runs up the hill from the harbour and downtown is a good example. Sights worth seeing.

Victoria Street.
To be continued...
Kingoodie Quarry
Jim Howie
Many of you will know that the hamlet of Kingoodie is just west of the village of Invergowrie which is just west of the city of Dundee. The quarry there produced large sandstone blocks for hundreds of years. The fine-grained bluish stone could be polished to a high sheen and was sought after for building purposes. The nearby Castle Huntly was built with Kingoodie stone.

The location of the quarry - a few hundred yards from the banks of the Tay River meant that the stone could be easily trucked to a pier and loaded on to barges for transport. Kingoodie stone was used for engine foundations, and for the construction of London’s East and West India Docks, and Dundee’s Victoria Dock and Esplanade.

The quarry was last worked in 1904, and was soon water-filled. The Dundee Courier recently ran the picture on the left below showing the in-filling of the quarry in 1973 - the second photo shows how the quarry looks today.

My relationship to Kingoodie began in 1970, the morning I walked along to Soutar St. and found that the garage for my Cortina Estate car had been broken into and my car was gone. Of course, I reported this to the police. Some time later they contacted me - they had good news and bad. They had found my car - underwater at the bottom of the quarry. They found another car or two there as well... I eventually heard what had happened:

A couple of lads who worked in a jute mill in the West Port area had 'clocked on' for their night shift, to provide themselves with an alibi, and had then taken off again. They stole my car, drove downtown then up the Arctic Bar pend (a narrow street off the High Street). They then used the car to ram the rear doors of the DPM Reform Street café. They stole a safe then transported it in my car to a lock-up near Balgay Park where they broke into the safe. They then put the safe back in the car, drove to Kingoodie, ran the car with safe into the quarry, then returned to work.

The police figured out somehow who they were, arrested them and they, and I, had to appear in court where they were duly convicted. Apparently they had pulled off other 'heists', and the police found swag behind the bath panels in a flat in a Dryburgh multi-story tower.

My car was written off, of course, but a pair of sunglasses in their case survived and were returned to me. I still have them.

A Cortina MK 2, Estate 1.6 The Survivor

Travel Travails – 4
Hugh McGrory
Airlines!!! Moving targets – everything always seems to be in a state of flux!

You’d think that to get from Toronto to Dundee would be a simple no-brainer, but, as I’ve mentioned before, on various trips I have passed through Detroit, Chicago, Montreal, Newark, New York; and Amsterdam, Belfast, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Glasgow, London, Manchester, and Paris. My latest round trip: Toronto-Frankfurt-Glasgow-Munich-Toronto. So I can add yet another city to the list…

The KLM Frankfurt to Glasgow flight, is a short one, and the valiant stewardesses work very quickly to hand out drinks and sandwiches then collect the debris – if you don’t scoff your sandwich, you lose it…

On my latest trip, when they arrived at my row, I asked for a glass of orange juice and a glass of water. They handed them to me and at that moment the plane flew into turbulence. Most of the liquid from both glasses sloshed out onto me, and I ended up with an OJ-soaked right thigh and a water-soaked left.

After a few minutes when things settled down, they handed me a bundle of napkins and I headed to the toilet – I dropped my trousers and, with napkins on the inside and the outside of the wet areas, I wrung as much liquid as I could from each leg. Fortunately the wet areas were from mid-thigh down to my knees, so my underwear escaped the deluge…

I was wearing trousers made for travel, and I was surprised to find that when we got into the terminal, my pants were dry, and – bonus – no stains…

This incident reminded me of an earlier trip – more than thirty years ago – sitting in a plane on the tarmac waiting to roll away from the gate, and the pilot announces that they have a minor electrical problem and the maintenance crew were going to replace a unit so there would be a delay of about half an hour – and they wouldn’t be able to put on the air conditioning. It was mid-summer and very hot outside, and, since the doors were closed, the heat mounted quickly…

Just as we were all feeling quite miserable, the captain announced that we were good to go, the a/c came on, the engines started and we took off. Once the seat-belt sign was switched off I stopped one of the stewardesses and asked her something. We chatted briefly, and then she said, “You look rather warm – how would you like a large OJ?” I said “That would be great!” A minute or two later, I see her coming up the aisle, with a glass in her hand – I pull down my tray and begin to salivate…

She got almost to my row – I was in an aisle seat – tripped, dropped the glass which caught the edge of the tray closest to me tilted over and landed, upside down, in my lap. Tied down as I was, I couldn’t do anything, and there was silence as I looked at my lap then at her, and she looked at me and then at my lap. She was extremely apologetic of course, but it was an accident and could have happened to anyone – you can’t get mad, can you?

She got napkins and I did the best I could to mop up – the plane was full, so I couldn’t move to another seat.

I said to her “Would you ask the Captain to come see me, please?”

She looked apprehensive and asked “You want to make a complaint?”

I said “No, I want him to change pants with me…”

When I got home, about ten hours later, damp, stained and sticky, I immediately headed for the shower. As I stripped off, my wife, who had brought in some fresh towels, looked at me and said, “You look like you've had your dangly bits dyed.”

I said “No – flavoured!”

Even I was Once a Boy
Bill Kidd

A recent inter-generational family discussion led me to thinking about present day childhood in comparison to my own experiences during and immediately after World War II. The first thing to strike me was the enormous amount of freedom that I had from the time that I started school. After getting home at four o'clock, until it was time to go in for our evening meal around six o'clock, I could go out to play with other local children. As there were very few cars around we were free to use the street as our playground.

We played all sorts of games, most of them involved chasing around and catching whoever happened to be “it” while in others the chaser was the “it”. When we tired of this the boys and girls went about their own specialist occupations. If there was a suitable ball available the boys played variations of football such as “Five and In” or “Keepie Up”. If no ball was available then an old tin can was used as a replacement. The girls with their skipping games using one or sometimes two long ropes were much more skilled than the boys.

If one or two balls were available then a suitable wall was used for throwing and catching games such as “Capie Clappie”, this game involved a complex ritual of special throws and physical movements as the ball or even balls bounced against the wall. All these girls' games were played to well established chants setting out the next movement or action(1).

During the war there was no street lighting and in the middle of winter our outdoor activities were severely curtailed, it was not only in cricket that bad light stopped play! However the government gave us some help by having double summertime which meant that we only had to abandon our street games for December and January. As Winter gave way to Spring we were again able to go out to play after tea. This was the time for other games such “Red Light”, a variation on “I Spy”. This game involved the “it” person having to guess something in a shop window (unlit). The other players stood on the other side of the road and they could take a step forward every time a wrong guess was made. When the correct item was shouted out the successful guesser chased the others and whoever was caught was “It” for the next round. If a car came past during this game positions on the road were supposed to be resumed where they left off. You can imagine the great opportunities for cheating in this game!

Summer, particularly during school holidays, was a magic time, then children exercised their freedom to the full, usually leaving the house immediately after breakfast, retuning for a midday meal and then out again until tea. If the weather was good the local parks were a magnet, particularly if there was a pond where minnows could be fished for with a net and a jam jar. If it rained then we congregated in a close and had competitions to see how many steps we could jump down. Such activities were not always appreciated by the adults residing in that particular close. Residents who were particularly nasty to us may even have had their doorbell rung and not found anyone there when they answered it.

During term time there was a well established season for various games and pastimes. One week everyone was making match guns from a piece of kindling, hair grips and the rubber ring from a lemonade bottle. These devices fired spent matches and were used in games of cowboys and indians. The ammunition was garnered from the gutter where they had been jettisoned by the ubiquitous smokers. There were many more matches than there were cigarette ends as the scarcity of tobacco and the absence of filters meant that many fag ends were retained for re-rolling!

Just as suddenly the match guns were set aside to be replaced by another 'must have' piece of equipment. One such game was “Pinner”. This game required two pieces of steel about a quarter inch thick and around one by one and-a-half inches in size. To find such treasures meant haunting the local engineering works and pleading, “any broken files” or scrounging any other suitable piece of metal. The game itself was simple. It could be played as solitary pastime as you walked along the street. This consisted of throwing one pinner ahead of you and trying to hit it with the other from as far away as possible. The more common, communal game, was to throw your pinner against the bottom of a wall, then your opponents tried to win your pinner by hitting it with theirs. It was imperative to establish before a game started whether or not it was for “keepers”, many long-standing feuds started by failing to do this!

After a few weeks of pinner mania the game was suddenly no longer fashionable and was replaced by yet another fad that in its turn had a similarly short season. While these important boy's games were the main events in our social life we still continued to play other better established street games that needed accessories like chalk for marking the play area and an old boot polish tin to use as a marker.

We were never bored and always imaginative. We would re-live what we had seen on the cinema, perhaps waving an imaginary sword and making “Z” motions like Zorro. If the main fare that week had been Hopalong Cassidy it would be an imaginary horse and a pointed finger pistol. These tales of derring-do would be incorporated into our more organised games with swords made from splitting a bit of loose fence from the backyard of someone else's tenement or, as red indians, fastening the pigeon feathers found in the street and backyards into our hair!

No, we weren't perfect, teachers could and did inflict corporal punishment and we usually took heed of any adult who scolded us. There were very few toys available so we treasured them. Sweets were rationed so we didn't eat too many of them. If we had any sort of cut that became infected we were packed off to the doctor clutching half-a-crown to pay for the consultation.

Can I compare my Dundee childhood to the one that present day children enjoy? No I can't, nor should I! Our material situation and living conditions are now way beyond what we could even have dreamt of in the 1940s. At least some credit for this must be given to the generation that I grew up in and I am sure, that given the opportunity, the current generation when they get to my age will be writing a very similar story.

We did have fun!

(1) One version:
"Capie, clappie, rollie ower backie,
Right hand, left hand, touch your toe,
And through you go, and a big birlie-o."


Mr. Cool – 3
Hugh McGrory
Like Gordon Findlay, I had great fun with motor bikes in my late teens. They’re wonderful rides, and, for kids with limited resources, relatively cheap to buy and to run – and what a difference they made to our mobility compared to our faithful and trusty push-bikes.

Having said that, you have to use them with care and be very conscious of safe/defensive driving techniques. Flying along through the slipstream is one thing, but coming off and hitting another vehicle or a wall before contacting the ground never ends well for the motorbike or its driver.

In his story ‘Damn Cassies!’, Gordon Findlay told about coming off his 350 cc BSA motorbike in Princes Street, Dundee, and the price his bum paid in a fall that, in fairness, wasn’t his fault. It reminded me of one of my ‘adventures’…

It was in 1959, London, England. I was meeting a friend for lunch at a pub a few miles from Victoria St where I worked. A colleague and friend who also worked there, Ron, had a BSA 500 cc twin. We had shared the driving on a winter trip from London to Dundee and back (close to 500 miles one-way), so I asked him, if I could borrow it (he had used it that day to come to work). We didn’t get a long lunch hour, and he, recognizing the time constraint, said “Sure".
This was probably the model, though Ron's had a windshield,
and a carrier over the back wheel with dual canvas panniers.
One thing about riding larger motorbikes that is worth mentioning at this point, is that they don’t feel that much different from smaller bikes – when moving – but when not under power, they can be very heavy and ungainly to move.

So off I set… London at noon is always busy, but I made good time through the traffic and the pub soon hove into sight. It was a pleasant day, and the patio outside the pub was crowded.

My friend didn’t know that I would turn up on a motorbike, and so, as I approached, and as one does, just before cutting the engine I gave the throttle a blip so I could make a dramatic entrance – and I certainly did!

The roar of the engine had the desired effect, and all heads turned towards me as I drew to a stop and put my foot down to steady myself in preparation for sliding off the saddle and parking the bike. The idea is to coast to a smooth stop, put your left foot down to the ground, swing your right leg over, then slide the bike backwards so that it's an angle to the kerb/curb, kick the stand down with your right foot and lean the bike on to it – all in one graceful movement.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed that the road had an unusually steep camber down towards the gutter, and instead of my left foot meeting terra firma at the moment I expected it to, it was still about six inches above. So I and the bike continued to tilt to the point where recovery was impossible – I landed on the pavement with the bike on top of me… Could I have made a worse impression – oh yeah – I could!

Lying on the ground with the heavy bike trapping my leg and one of the hot exhaust pipes trying to get at my leg through my pants, I realised that I didn’t have the strength to lift the bike. There was a bit of a delay while I lay there futilely trying to get my leg out before a couple of guys at a nearby table took pity, got up and lifted the bike off me.

Fortunately I wasn't hurt, and the bike wasn't dented – unlike my ego...

Mr. Cool had done it again!
Winter in Dundee
Gordon Findlay
Unless you lived in the hilly north, winter in Scotland was fairly benign, thanks to the effect of the Gulf Stream which loops up the west coast and gives the UK a fairly temperate climate. In Dundee, snow fell of course, but it usually didn’t lie around for long, so sledgers (tobogganers) had to get out early if they were to enjoy the best of the snow. Within five or six blocks of us, we had some decent steep roads (Mains Loan, Dalkeith Rd.) and they were always a focus for sledgers.
Snow-clearing equipment was virtually non-existent; it was confined to a handful of snow ploughs which kept the downtown part of the city clear; the rest of the city just waited for the inevitable thaw, which almost always showed up in a couple of days – thanks to the warming efforts of the Gulf Stream.

My only vivid memory of whirling down that snow-packed steep road was the following. My brother David and I had set out with our own batch of friends to sledge down this road on a Friday evening. A decent snowfall had blanketed Dundee, and it was quite cold, so the conditions were good. The hill was packed with youngsters like ourselves, some of us on good, store-made sledges, others on home-made devices, and some others just sliding down the hill on bits of cardboard or dustbin lids.

I think I was with Colin Barclay and Bruce Davidson, and the three of us got in line with the crowd and were soon flying down the hill, over and over again. David had gone off with his pals and was doing the same.

Well, my little crew soon got a bit bored with just sliding down the hill. But we had a bright idea. We went off to the side of the hill and made a small pile of snowballs. As the ranks of tobogganers came sliding past
us, we took aim and let fly. It was huge fun, trying to hit a moving target – and when we scored a hit (great cheers from us!) they were flying past us so quickly that it was almost impossible for them to see where the offending snowballs had come from. All accept one group.

In our enthusiasm for this great new sport of snowball target practice, we got carried away. We poured a barrage of snowballs at one toboggan before we realized that it was filled with larger, older kids . . . and of course, that was the one we scored multiple hits on. They were not amused. No
sooner had we cheered our three bulls-eye hits on the figures going past us than they instantly slewed off to the side, stopped, saw us – and came pounding up the hill bent on revenge.

We were terrified. We might have been 9 or 10 and these kids were 11 and 12-year-olds – very angry 11 and 12-year-olds. We fled – raced up the hill with our hearts pounding and the threatening roars of the pursuing kids in our ears. It was no contest. They caught up to us right at the top of the hill and the next thing we all knew was that we had been thrown down on the snow and were about to be pummeled for our transgression.

And that was the precise moment that David showed up. Calm and steady as always and tall for his age with an athlete’s build, he had noticed the commotion at the top of the hill, had spotted me and my pals being tossed around, and had come over. The exchange went something like this:

“Don’t hit that lad!”

“What’s it’s tae you? He hit me wi’ a sna’ ba’ so Eh’m gonna bash him!”

“He’s my brother. You hit him then I’ll hit you – and I’ll REALLY hurt you!”

Dead silence. Angry stares exchanged. But David was a quiet but towering presence, and his two pals shouldered in beside him as backup. My assailants muttered darkly, but in the end they picked up their sledge and walked away, glaring back at me and my pals. David mildly admonished us, suggested we stick to sliding downhill – and went off to enjoy himself again.

We'd been saved. And although it happened seventy years or so ago, the memory of it still shines in my mind.

A Span of Memory
Hugh McGrory
As a civil engineer, I always get mildly annoyed when I hear things like “it was a cement beam”, or “he crashed into a cement wall”.

Cement is a powder made, usually, from crushed limestone.

For use in construction it’s mixed with aggregate (sand, gravel, crushed rock), then water is added. The ensuing chemical reaction turns this paste into a strong solid known as concrete.

As an analogy, when flour is mixed with various combinations of salt, sugar, skim milk powder, butter, yeast and water, and the resulting paste is heated, it turns into the solid we know as bread.

So there – and if you’ll use the word 'concrete' when appropriate, I’ll refrain from offering you flour and jam with your tea.

Now that I've got that off my chest, to my story…

My first job after university in the late ‘50s was in London, England, for a civil engineering consulting firm. One of the jobs the company had, in partnership with another large consulting engineering firm, was the design and supervision of construction of the Forth Road Bridge – the suspension bridge, of course, not the new cable-stayed structure.

The three magnificent bridges across the River Forth a few miles west of Edinburgh. The photo
shows the northern approach road to the first (1964) road bridge – the one in the middle.
As a very green graduate, I was still trying to figure out which end was up, and had only a very minor design role for one of the bridges on one of the approach roads. I don’t think my work was actually used for the final design, though I’m still not sure of that, a point which is significant to this story.

A few years later I was back in Scotland, and when driving to a work site on 22 June 1962, I heard on the radio that there had been an accident. By the time the story registered on me I had only gotten the last bit of the story. A bridge under construction on an approach road to the Forth Road Bridge had collapsed and three workmen had been killed. They had driven under the partially-constructed bridge in a site vehicle just as the deck collapsed.

I immediately began to worry. Was it the bridge I’d worked on? Had I made a mistake? Had I gotten those poor men killed and ruined my career at the same time?

The next few hours were seriously tense for me – I kept listening to see if I could get more information. Then, around noon, the black cloud over my head lifted when I caught the phrase “on the north approach road”. My work had been on the south approach.

My thoughts then turned to Gordon who had been at university with me. He was a Resident Engineer on the North approach. Perhaps some explanation of terms here would help:

When a client, say the government, wants to have a bridge or some other type of structure built, it may hire a consulting engineering company for design work, and for the supervision of construction.

A construction company may then be hired to carry out the work – often known as the Contractor. The person supervising the actual construction work on site is an employee of the Contractor and is known as the Site Engineer (or Project Manager). The Resident Engineer, also on site, works for the consulting company that did the design, and is the client’s representative to make sure that the work is done properly and to approve progress payments to the Contractor. This was Gordon’s role.

Given the collapse of the bridge, the questions, as always, were, what happened, who was responsible, and how can we learn from what happened so that such tragedies can be avoided in future?

Some further explanation:

The bridge was being built of reinforced concrete. (You could refer to this as a concrete bridge as opposed to a steel bridge – actually a reinforced concrete bridge.) Concrete has high compressive strength i.e. when a load squeezes it, but it has a relatively weak tensile strength i.e. when stretched. To make up for this weakness, concrete is reinforced with steel rods (known as rebar, for reinforcing bar) – hence reinforced concrete.

So, picture this bridge being built. First the abutments are constructed – the walls at either end which retain the soil under the road behind them and also act as the supports for the bridge deck. The process involves setting up formwork, wooden frames in the desired shape for the component – abutment or deck – then the rebar is fixed in place and the concrete mix is poured and vibrated into posiition .

Over time, the concrete mix hardens and gains strength to become the concrete we’re familiar with. It’s important to allow the concrete to set until it reaches the appropriate strength. This is managed by creating test cubes from the concrete and crushing them. In construction projects, the aim is to allow the concrete to cure until it reaches the required strength before ‘stripping’ the formwork – don’t wait long enough and the concrete may be too weak to handle the load – wait too long and the costs mount up needlessly…

From memory this is what happened (I tried to find the accident report for this story but was unable to do so):

The bridge deck was being constructed in sections working from one of the abutments and gradually approaching the other. So scaffolding would have been set up then the formwork built on top (something like the photo below) and the concrete poured.

At a certain point, when the concrete had cured to the desired strength, the scaffolding would be removed. Somehow, partly through this process, four workmen drove under one of the original sections from which the scaffolding had been stripped, and the deck collapsed just at that moment. The concrete had not cured long enough and was too weak to carry its own weight. One of the men survived.

You may find this video interesting. In terms of the inquiry the issue would be ‘how did this happen’ – and this was when I worried about my fellow graduate Gordon.

As it turned out, however, I worried needlessly. Records showed that Gordon had written to the contractor noting this issue as a deficiency and asking that the problem be rectified. Thus he was not singled out for blame and went on to a long career in engineering.

Gordon will feature in a future story...

Jo-Anne
Sandra Moir Dow

Hugh's story about his first car brought back fond memories for me – we had just such a Morris 8 when I was growing up. Dad had bought it (her) in 1937 when my brother was a baby. The previous owner had had the exterior repainted all black but it still had the red interior trim. Her registration was YJ2868.

During the war she was off the road and stored on bricks – that’s the way she was when I knew her first. We called her Jo-anne – 3 speed synchromesh gears, semaphore indicators and a 6 volt battery.

Our front windscreen could open up forwards, and Dad had to do this one day when driving through snow – the one wiper couldn’t cope, and with no heating was too frosted to see through.

Dad taught me to drive in Jo-anne and eventually I passed my driving test in her. She towed our first caravan too. Dad always let me have a turn driving and on one holiday while going south through Wigan-Warrington I was losing control of the steering, being accused of bad driving, lost my temper, stopped the car and demanded he get out. We found a front tyre punctured. The traffic around us was surprisingly tolerant.

I remembered when Dad came home from serving in the RAF during WW2, he rebored the engine of the car. Although he was a professional journalist, he’d been trained as a mechanic while serving and worked on aeroplane engines. Both my brother and I thought (and hoped) that Jo-anne would fly when he completed this... Iain and I got to “help” a bit, and I sliced a finger taking off a piston ring.

I can find that scar still!
Avril Wilkinson’s family had a Morris 8 too and we used to join together for picnics. Theirs was the green version, like Hugh's, with reg. YJ2688. The funny double-take looks we got going along together amused us all. The photo was taken by Avril at Monifieth beach.

Sadly she and I are the only survivors of our respective families.

A Temporary Situation
Hugh McGrory
I don’t usually bring this up in conversation, but I spent some time in a mental hospital in my late teens – only a few months – and I was actually more ill when I left the institution than when I entered it… However, I recovered well and went on to university. I look back on my time in the hospital as a brief but eye-opening experience.

I wasn’t there because I had psychiatric problems – not schizophrenic, not depressed, not manic depressive, and I didn’t have an eating disorder (although I know that some people think that the Scots diet actually is an eating disorder...)

I wasn’t particularly anxious or subject to panic attacks, no substance abuse (though I admit, there was some drink taken, on occasion...)

I was not mentally ill. That’s my position on the matter, and I’m sticking to it no matter what any of you, who know me, may think. In point of fact, money was the reason for my being there – I needed some! I wanted to contribute to my parents’ household as they supported me heading to university later that year.

That’s why I became a ward orderly in a mental hospital. This was in the summer of 1955, the few months between leaving school and entering university – it was my cousin Frank, who’d just completed his first year in Medicine, at Queen’s College, who told me that he’d got a job at the hospital and that they were still hiring. Like most Dundonians, I knew almost nothing of this institution known to most of us as Westgreen.
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It had its origins back in 1820, in Stobswell – actually at the junction of Albert and Cardean Streets – when the Dundee Lunatic Asylum was established as part of the Dundee Infirmary.

In 1875, Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter and the asylum became the Dundee Royal Asylum for Lunatics. When opened, the hospital site was in the countryside, outside of Dundee, but the city was growing rapidly and the Stobswell area was becoming built-up. The Board of Governors wanted to find a site further from “the cold, damp air of the mouth of the River Tay” and purchased land at Westgreen Farm, considered a “pleasant and healthy site”, between Liff and Camperdown. The new hospital opened at the site in 1882 and was known as the Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum.

Westgreen when it opened. The men's wing was to the left and the women's to the right.
And never the twain shall meet – I don't remember ever seeing one of the female patients.
Operations were transferred to the National Health Service in 1948, and in 1959 the Asylum, along with Gowrie House, and the psychiatric wards at Mary- field Hospital were amalgamated to form the Dundee Royal Mental Hospital. In 1963 the name was changed again to the Royal Dundee Liff Hospital and it finally closed for good in December 2001.The property was sold and converted into a residential development known as West Green Park.
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Over the years from the opening of the Dundee Lunatic Asylum at the beginning of the 19th century to when I got my job there, the care and treatment of the mentally disturbed in the UK changed drastically. In the beginning, asylums were really prisons, with many inmates chained in crowded cells. Sometime mittens were used to prevent the inmates from scratching or attempting to induce vomiting, and strait jackets were used to hold their arms against their chest.

This began to change around the mid 18th century with mental illness being recognised as a disease, and various types of treatment being tried and conditions becoming somewhat more humane.

Some of the treatments seem quite barbaric today - arsenic, various tonics of dubious content, blood-letting, leeches, dunking a patient's head in a tub of cold water, removal of teeth and large intestines, induction of fevers, sleep therapy, hypothermia.

During the period before and after the Second World War, several treatments were in vogue:

Lobotomy

This barbaric operation was based on the idea that much mental illness came from the frontal lobes of the brain, and that by sticking a knife or needle into the brain and separating much of the frontal lobes from the
rest of the brain patients would improve.

This is the procedure that ruined the life of John F Kennedy’s sister, Rose Marie (referred to as Rosemary). The story is a tragic one. If you’re interested you can read about it here. If you have a strong stomach you may see one terrible method of carrying out this procedure here.

I don’t know if lobotomies were carried out at Westgreen while I was there, I doubt it – but the first ever lobotomy carried out in Britain was at Mary- field Hospital, Dundee, in 1946, and the procedure
was carried out in Britain for a further 30 years. The successor procedures are used very sparingly today, and only for some very specific, individual problems, like depression, OCD or chronic pain that have proven intractable.

There are only two centres for such psychosurgery in the UK, one in Wales and the other at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. See more information here if you're interested.

Insulin shock therapy

Also known as insulin coma therapy (ICT) was a form of treatment in which patients were repeatedly injected with large doses of insulin in order to produce daily comas over several weeks. It was introduced in 1927 by Austrian-American psychiatrist Manfred Sakel and used extensively in the 1940s and 1950s, mainly for schizophrenia, before falling out of favour and being replaced by neuroleptic drugs in the 1960s.

I know from personal experience that this treatment was in use while I was there. One day I was told to assist one of the nurses with a patient in one of the single hospital rooms. The man seemed sound asleep, and when I asked the nurse he said that he was in an insulin coma.

He had defecated in the bed and we had to clean him up. That is to say, the nurse and I stripped the bed, then he attended to the patient while I took the bedclothes to the sluice to clean the shit off before sending the bed clothes to the laundry. (I learned through such experiences something that I suspect all mothers know – use cold water, for that task not hot…)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Also known as electroshock therapy, and often referred to as shock treatment, is a procedure in which seizures are electrically induced in patients to provide relief from mental disorders. It was first conducted in 1938 and is the only currently used form of shock therapy in psychiatry.

ECT is often used with informed consent as a last line of intervention for major depressive disorder, mania, and catatonia. A round of ECT is said to be effective for about 50% of people with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, whether it is unipolar or bipolar. Debbie Reynolds daughter, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), told Oprah a few years ago that she had regular (every six weeks) ECT sessions, and found them very helpful.

Not long after I began work at the hospital I was told to report to a room where there was a patient on a gurney with a doctor, a nurse and another orderly. The patient had a rubber mouthpiece inserted in his mouth then electrodes like small earphones were placed on his temples. I and the other orderly were told to stand on either side of the patient and hold down an arm and a leg.

The doctor pressed the button and the patient went rigid, lifting his body up from the bed. He seemed to stop breathing for 10 or 15 seconds then the rigidity began to subside while at the same time he went into convulsions – vigorous spasms that slowly subsided. When they stopped, the patient seemed to fall into a natural sleep.

The reason we were holding his limbs was to prevent any damage – apparently during one of their first uses of the procedure at the hospital, the patient broke an arm. I know that also, in the early days, Westgreen was reprimanded by the Hospital Board for carrying out ECT procedures in open wards. If you’re interested, you can see the modern method here – it uses anesthesia, a muscle relaxant and oxygen, none of which were used in 1955.
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As a new, temporary staff member I was allocated to Ward B, a hospital ward, as opposed to a Day Ward. There was more scut work in the hospital ward and they could also supervise us more closely – so not unreasonable. While the day-to-day experiences of more than sixty years ago, have faded from my memory, a few snapshots of people and situations remain:
    1. Sitting on the edge of a comatose patient’s bed speaking to an old fellow in the next bed – there was only about eighteen inches between the beds – when I hear the nurse-in-charge tell me, brusquely, to get out of the way while he and another nurse checked on the patient on whose bed I was sitting. They then said that the man was dead – I hadn't noticed!

    2. A family consisting of a father and two sons, with a female member, either the mother or a daughter, in the women’s side, all long-term patients. The father was admitted to the hospital ward soon after I started work there with cancer in his left lower jaw bone. To begin with it looked like a large ulcer on his cheek, but it progressed very quickly. (I understand that cancer in this location is difficult to diagnose, and so the poor man must have been late-stage before anyone realised it.)

    Over a couple of months, the cancer opened a hole in his cheek and ate through the bone. When he asked for water, we had to gently turn his head to the right otherwise it just ran out through the hole.

    It was so sad to see his two sons come to the window of the ward and try to catch a glimpse of him. He died while I was still working there.

    3. One visiting day, meeting one of the teachers from my primary school who was visiting her brother – a short-term patient. I’m not sure, but I think he was suffering from some kind of depression. (While I was there, I can’t remember ever exchanging words with a doctor, and the nurses very seldom told us anything about the patients. The little I did learn came from the permanent orderlies.)

    4. The patient who was in a bed with railings around it –like a large version of a cot for a new baby. This fellow was provided with a constant supply of old newspapers and spent his days tearing them into smaller and smaller strips. He wore only a gown which was made of what looked like canvas.

    5. A catatonic patient who lay all day in the same position – on his back with his hands by his sides. If you were close, to him or spoke to him his eyes would respond to the stimulus but nothing else.

    6. The hospital ward got quite a few patients who were suffering from what was called, in those days, senile dementia, a term that’s not used today. I remember a nice old fellow who came to us with huge bed sores – some of them as big as the palm of my hand. They were treated with gentian violet, and so he had huge purple patches on his back and the backs of his legs.

    He still had a good sense of humour, and we would chat together. From time-to-time I would tell him, jokingly, that if he didn’t behave himself we’d send him to Westgreen, and he’d say ‘Nah, laddie that’s one thing that’ll never happen to me.” He died a few weeks later.

    7. There were some long-term patients who functioned at a high level and were given positions of minor trust – if it had been a prison they would’ve been ‘trusties’. As I left one day, I saw one of them, ‘Davy’ cutting the grass, but he was running back and forward with the hand mower, at full speed.

    The next day I was told that he’d made a break for freedom. I asked if they thought it would take a long time to catch him. They said “Oh we caught him – we found him after about half an hour, a mile down the road waiting for the next bus.”

    8. One day about two hours before my shift ended, I was given the job of keeping ‘Wullie’ interested. He was going into a manic phase and was known to become obstreperous to a greater or lesser degree. The staff had arranged some other beds around Wullie’s in one of the bow windows so as to hem him in and I was told to sit on the ward side of Wullie’s bed and try to keep him calm. He said to me “So they gave you the job of keeping me busy did they?"

    What I’d would’ve done if he’d become violent I don’t know – but he didn’t. We chatted for the rest of my shift with no issues.

    Next day when I reported for duty to the ward, I saw that one of the bay windows (see the photo) had been smashed and was covered with plywood. They told me that Wullie had decided to make a break for it and had thrown a chair at the window. I asked if he’d escaped and they said that they’d caught him before he got through, and he was now sedated in a side ward.

West Green Park homes today, showing the former Ward B – Wullie's bow window on the left.

____________________

When I said that I was sicker when I left than when I went in, I was being quite literal. A couple of weeks before my planned last day, I was tasked with helping one of the senior orderlies to make beds. I remember he got quite annoyed with me because I wasn’t working hard or fast enough. I told him that I wasn’t feeling well and he wasn’t buying it. I got through the shift then headed for home where my mother took one look at me then put me to bed and called our doctor’s office for a home visit.

Next day we got the verdict – at eighteen years old I had chicken pox! I remember being very embarrassed at having this childhood disease. I was supposed to be taking my girl-friend, at the time, to see a film that night. When I called to say I wouldn’t make it she wasn’t there and her mother kept asking what was wrong with me till I finally told her – then she started to laugh – thought it was hilarious – I was black affronted…

(A few weeks later, I had to visit the home of the senior orderly. He lived not too far from me in Lochee, and kindly agreed to bring home my final pay packet since I didn’t have time to go back to work after I recovered.

To his credit, he said “I owe you an apology. I was pretty rough on you – I thought you were malingering. When I learned that you really were sick I was embarrassed that I’d treated you that way.” I thought that it was big of him to apologise.)

Looking back later on my experience at Westgreen I guess I had two ‘takeaways’:

1. What a lottery life is, and how lucky I, my family and friends were to have been born ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ whilst those poor patients, almost all through no fault of their own, had such tragic lives.

2. How adaptable I, and by extrapolation humans, are. We seem to be able to adjust to new situations very quickly.

On my first day at the hospital, in my new tan-coloured shop coat with the two master keys which opened all the doors in my pocket, I remember being very nervous, and when allocated to one of the day wards, I tried to stand with my back to a wall. I’m sure my air of unease was apparent to staff and patients alike and probably explained why one of the young, mid-twenty, patients decided to show me who was boss. (Later, he was one of the sons who used to visit their father at the window of the hospital ward).

He began to shove me around, and while I was trying to decide how to deal with this (what to do – run, hit him, call for help…) a couple of the regular orderlies appeared, grabbed him, shoved him into a side room and punched him a couple of times in the abdomen. He never bothered me after that. (I suspect the two orderlies had been told to keep a close eye on the students for the first few days.) But in a few days, I had acclimatised – the place became simply my normal work environment, no longer scary.

One final memory that has stuck in my mind after all these years – on one of my last days there, I was on the late shift, it was near sunset, and many of the non-hospital patients were taking the air in the courtyard on the south side. I was standing at the stone balustrade looking out over the fields, one of which, in the middle distance had a small herd of cattle.

One of the long-term patients, about six inches shorter than me, Wee Davy, born mentally deficient, now middle-aged, came over and stood beside me quietly, and we surveyed the view in companionable silence. Finally he turned to look up at me – he had no teeth and a squinchy wee face – and he said in a voice of wonder "Coos, b’fuck!”

I said “Right enough, Davy”, and we went back to our mode of silent, comfortable, contemplation and watched the sun go down.

I'm sure that, as the self-centred teenager that I was, it never occurred to me at the time, to think that, in a few weeks, I'd be off to University, while Wee Davy would still be there – for the rest of his life.

D' Ye Mind Comin' Hame
fur Denner?

Bill Kidd

As I laid aside my knife and fork alongside the remains of our Saumon en Croute and took another sip of an excellent Premier Cru Chablis I reflected on how much our eating habits had changed over the course of our lifetime. Yes, I had been dreaming but as I awakened, the memories of how we shopped, prepared and consumed our food came flooding back.

During the war and its immediate aftermath meat and groceries were rationed. Everyone had a ration book, straw coloured for adults, blue for children under fourteen (I think) and green for under-fives. Each individual had to register with a butcher and a grocer, as the price of rationed items was regulated the quantity of the ration was expressed in monetary terms.

Wartime weekly ration for an adult.

Some non-rationed items such as offal and sausages could be sold to registered and particularly, favoured customers. Eating out to conserve one's rations was curtailed by a five shilling (25 pence) limit on the price of a meal. It always seemed strange to me that bread was not rationed until a year or so after the war ended. It was only when food rationing finally ended in 1954 that our eating habits began to change.

The Scottish tradition was for three substantial meals per day. A cooked breakfast with bacon and eggs; dinner (lunch) around midday, this was usually the main meal of the day consisting of soup, meat and potatoes rounded off with some form of dessert; the final meal, taken at the end of the working day was high tea consisting of a single cooked dish, perhaps fish or macaroni followed by bread and jam tea-breads and cake. Before retiring for the night a light supper, perhaps cocoa and biscuits for children or welsh rarebit and tea for adults. Although this pattern of meals was the ideal it could not be followed by every household, perhaps for financial or work related reasons. Maintaining such a pattern of meals was predicated on two major factors that only barely exist in our current society, mother stayed at home all day and father worked close enough to come home for dinner each day. During the war years in many homes the traditional pattern of meals could only be maintained at weekends.

I retain a clear memory of the shops that we were registered with. The butcher, whose premises sported a sawdust covered floor with large carcasses hanging on hooks fitted to the wall on the customers' side of the shop. On the counter there could be a tray of potted hough, some white or black puddings or even sausages. Behind the counter was the butcher’s block on which a series of bits of mutton, beef or pork was carefully cut in accordance with the ration allowed. No one seemed to mind very much if we brushed against one of the hanging carcasses or even brought our dog into the shop. Hygiene was not very high on the list of priorities during these years.

The grocer's shop was very different, here there was a great deal of bustling about by the shop assistants as they ran about filling brown bags with sugar or lentils or any one of the myriad of dry goods dotted around the store. The great skill of using wooden paddles to remove a sliver of butter from the big lump that lay on a marble slab and then pat it into an attractive shape before wrapping it in greaseproof paper. The cheese was cut using a wire and similarly wrapped. All of these items were carefully weighed to ensure that you were buying the correct ration. A few tins, perhaps of cold meat, salmon or fruit were dispensed and the relevant points cut out of the ration books. If the family had a "book" which was paid monthly the shopping might be delivered by a message boy on a bike otherwise it was everything into the shopping bag, pay at the cash desk and carry everything home.

Even today we Scots are not known as a race of vegetable lovers! Our local greengrocer sold potatoes, carrot, turnip, onions and cabbage pretty well the whole year round. In summer he added lettuce, radishes, spring onions and sometimes tomatoes to his repertoire. He also sold in season eating apples, cooking apples (which he occasionally disguised as toffee apples), plums, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants, most of these were used for jam making rather than to grace the table.

In the City Centre the posh greengrocer (Dryden’s?) displayed all sorts of exotica such as capsicum (peppers) and zucchini (courgettes) that the Italians were rumoured to eat, mushrooms (that we were warned against in case they were poisoned), asparagus, cucumber, green beans and several other items that we could not then put a name to. Vegetables were incorporated along with ham bones into soup or were simply boiled to a taste-free state, served and eaten without ceremony or pleasure.

Today, things are very different; we enjoy a vast range of foods imported from all four corners of the Earth. We now accept cuisines from all over the world and our towns and cities are served by restaurants that reflect this. Most of our food is now purchased ready packaged which enables us to serve ourselves in supermarkets.

Supermarkets in even the smallest towns have an all-year-round range of fruit and vegetables that would put even Dryden’s to shame, and sell Indian and Chinese foods as a norm. How we travelled from the limited post-war bill of fare is a miracle of current marketing and economic progress that is not unconnected to the courage needed to try something new.

I wonder who the first person to eat an oyster was, and did he or she get a medal?

First Love
Hugh McGrory
They say you never forget your first love, and I think that's probably true for most people. I hope this doesn't embarrass anyone, but my brother Mike and I had the same first love. Those of you who know that my brother is seven years younger than me are probably wondering how that could happen. Was he 16 and I was 23 – or was I 16 and he was 9? Well neither actually – though she was quite a bit older than him. You see – oh wait a minute – you're thinking it's a girl I'm talking about! No, no, no – our first car...

I worked in London after university for a couple of years and didn't find the need for a car, but I then returned to Dundee and began thinking of saving up for one. This was 1961, and you may remember some of the cars that were popular then (unfortunately all outside my price range):

Austin Healey Sprite Ford Anglia Ford Consul Classic
Jaguar E-type Morris Mini Morris Minor 1000

Then one day, my boss mentioned that he was selling his old vehicle. The car was the same age as me – a 1937 Morris 8, 2-door, 4-seater saloon. I grabbed it – can't remember what I paid for it – 40 or 50 quid maybe. While she didn't have the post-war look, with her running boards and semaphore turning signals, she had been well looked after and ran well. I could throw my field hockey kit onto the back seat or squeeze in some teammates for away games – easy to repair. My first car, 918 cc, 24 HP, and top speed 60 mph with a following wind – green and black, just like the one in the photo – and I loved her.

In the meantime I got married and my wife became pregnant with our first child. We lived in a flat in a large house at the bottom of Ellieslea Road a stone's throw from the Yacht Club where so many of us have enjoyed group lunches over the years. One Saturday we were heading up East Kingsway – the plan being to drop my wife off at her parent's place in Lochee, then back along the Kingsway to Forfar road for the afternoon hockey game.

As we climbed the hill, the engine, which had always been a little smoky, began to belch out black fumes, I mean really huge clouds of it. We obviously had a blown engine, but those simple little four-stroke engines were tough, and she was still running, albeit rather roughly. There wasn't a good place to stop so we continued for a half mile or so. At that point time was of the essence. I saw a bus stop coming up with some people waiting, and getting great amusement from this old banger blowing large plumes of smoke. They didn't laugh so much when I pulled past them and stopped, enveloping them in the cloud – and keeping the engine running.

I dropped my heavily-pregnant wife there to get a bus along Clepington Road to Lochee – a not-very-pleased-wife I remember, understandably – then limped along to the sports ground about a mile away in time for the match. I got the car towed to a garage and they told me later that one of the pistons had split in two. When they pulled the engine block, the piston fell off the connecting rod and landed on the ground in two pieces. Fortunately, it had stayed in place, presumably the piston rings had kept it together, and it hadn't destroyed the cylinder.

Once the new baby, our first girl, arrived the two-door wasn't the most convenient, and I decided to buy the little Morris mini van that I've written about before. (The van was really convenient for throwing the baby in her baby basket in the back, plus the pram, the bags with nappies and dresses and baby powder and... This was just before seat-belt legislation came in, and we never thought about how dangerous it was!)

When my boss heard that I was about to sell the car he asked if he could buy it back. I would have been happy to agree, but had to tell him that I'd promised it to my wee brother – who says he paid me £25 for it. It was his first too, and he says he loved her as much as I did. He remembered the registration as EJO 108 (Oxford).

Mike remembers driving it up to Killin, where we were living, for a visit, and while driving through rain having to reach out of the side window and flick the wiper which kept getting stuck.

He also remembers an occasion when he was driving the car full of fellow drunken revellers down a hill somewhere out near Kellas or Tealing and had to stand up to apply the brake hard enough to manage to stop just before the field at the T junction end of the road) thank heaven for the hydraulic 8-inch drum brakes front and back).

His wife remembers a time when the car was making a strange noise, so she was sent into the back with the seat removed armed with a long screwdriver to hold against the differential to see if that was where the noise was coming from.

Ah, good times...

Now, if you'll indulge us, my wee brother and I are going to take a walk down memory lane with these photos of a car, exactly like ours was, except with blue and black trim instead of our green and black. Those of you who remember the days when you could lift the bonnet/hood, recognise all the components and do many needed repairs yourself may wish to join us...





A Wonderful Machine
Gordon Findlay
Can you remember that feeling when you had bashed holes in both the toecaps of your shoes? When you could feel the stone pavements of Dundee through your feet? When you stood in a puddle and you could feel the water oozing between your toes? In other words: when you absolutely HAD to get a pair of new shoes?

The tedium of being dragged to the shoe store by your parents was sometimes offset by the thrill of standing on an amazing machine, looking down, and seeing the clear outline of all the bones in your feet, encased in a pair of new shoes.

It was the Pedoscope, and I remember it stood against the inside wall at Alex. Potter & Son, where I and my brothers would be taken to be freshly shod. I’m pretty sure at that time, Potter’s shoe store was in the Murraygate, and I have two distinct memories of the place: the comforting smell of fresh leather – and the thrill of standing in that fluoroscope in a brand-new pair of shoes.

I must admit I rather enjoyed the whole predictable process. Being seated by a sales person. Taking off an old shoe and being thankful my mother had had the foresight to change me into good (unholed) socks. Then a series of boxes piling up, each with a shiny new pair of shoes curled up inside. Selection being made (always a pair of stout black brogues) and the pleasure of feeling your stockinged feet slipping into firm new leather. And then – oh joy! – being led over to the magic machine to see the blueish picture of my feet encased in new shoes.

It’s incredible to think that back in the late 1940s and ‘50s shoe stores all around the U.K. and elsewhere in
the world, used low-density X-rays to show feet in new shoes. The Pedoscope itself was a simple box affair around 4 feet tall, with a slot where you put your feet. You leaned down and put your eyes to the viewing scope – and there were all the bones of your feet, showing clearly, as well as the outline of the shoes they were in, plus the stitching around the edges.

There was a viewing port in the side of the machine as well, where the sales-person could look in to make sure that the shoes were a good fit. And, of course, for the fussy buyer, this process could stretch over several pairs of shoes, with unprotesting feet being subjected to those harmful X-rays several times over. But in those days that machine was state-of-the-art. I mean, who was going to
argue that the shoes “felt a wee bit tight” when the Pedoscope showed everything fitting in perfectly, with lots of room all round?

My feet apparently survived their occasional dose of X-rays, but I wonder if anyone else has memories of looking at their feet in that shoe store’s magic machine?
____________________
Note:
Advert in the Dundee Courier, 3 Sept. 1954:

“SCHOOL FOOTWEAR - Shoes by “CLARK” and “ STARTRITE” expertly fitted with the aid of Pedoscope X-ray.
Junior Dept., Second Floor,
POTTERS, MURRAYGATE, DUNDEE.”

The shoe fitting fluoroscope was first shown at a shoe retailers convention in Boston in 1920, and became a common fixture in shoe stores during the 1930s, '40s and '50s. In the UK, the Pedoscope Company of St. Albans was the largest manufacturer. In the early 1950s, estimates placed the number of operating units in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada at 10,000, 3,000 and 1,000 respectively.

By the early 1950s, a number of professional organizations had issued warnings about the continued use of shoe-fitting fluoroscopes, A few years later various US States began to ban their use. The machines continued to be used in Canada and the UK to a limited extent, at least until 1970.

Over the years of use, many shoe salespersons put their hands into the x-ray beam to squeeze the shoe during the fitting. As a result, one saleswoman who had operated a shoe fitting fluoroscope 10 to 20 times each day over a ten year period developed dermatitis of the hands.

Apparently there was one reported case of a more serious injury linked to the operation of these machines - a shoe model who received such a serious radiation burn over time that eventually her leg had to be amputated.
____________________
PS from the Editor
I remember, very well, having the same experiences Gordon had with the Pedoscope, though it was in the large DECS (Dundee Eastern Cooperative Society) store in Peter St. (Actually I never heard that store called anything but the 'Sosh' (local corruption of 'Association'), and I always thought of Peter St. as a 'pend' not a street...)
Soarin'
Hugh McGrory
About 10 years ago, we decided to spend Christmas in Florida taking grandkids to Disneyworld – with three generations of family and in-laws there was about a dozen of us. The weather was quite warm – in fact on Christmas Day it got up to 26 C or almost 80 F mid-afternoon.

I have always preferred Epcot to The Magic Kingdom, and made sure that we allocated one day for a visit. Of course when we got there we all had a look at the list of exhibits/attractions and the site plan to figure out who wanted to see what. We agreed on where we'd all meet for lunch, then split up into groups. My wife, Sheila and I wandered around for an hour or three before heading for the restaurant.

At lunch, everyone recounted where they had been and what they had seen, and the consensus was that the 'must see' was Soarin' – this seems to be generally agreed by all who visit the park. Soarin' is a ride which simulates a flight in a hang glider. Now I've never been keen on amusement park rides, roundabouts, roller coasters and the like – it doesn't take much to give me a queasy stomach, so I wasn't too sure about this. I was told that I was being silly, and that we had to see this – "definitely the best of all the attractions in Epcot".
    For those of you who haven't experienced such a ride (there are installations also at Disneyland in California, in Shanghai, and in Tokyo), I'll try to set the scene – conceptually rather than in detail:

    There is an IMAX 80 ft., concave, 180-degree dome screen which shows movie scenes, shot from helicopters, of magnificent locations from around the world – the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China etc. So imagine that you're sitting in this cinema which has three rows of seats, one behind the other, each row being broken up into three sections each of 10 seats – so 90 people in all. The seats in each section of ten are joined together along the row, and have high backs attached to a roof like an airplane wing which juts out about four feet overhead.

    The lights dim, and the first row of seats glides forward and upwards (everyone is strapped in by seat belt) – the second row moves out and up behind the first, though not as high, then the third row does the same.

    The reason the rows move forward is so that each person is now surrounded visually by the screen to
    create an 'immersive experience'. The reason they move up is to provide a clear line of sight for the rows behind – if people look up they can see the dangling feet of those above them.

    This brilliantly simple arrangement was conceived by Mark Sumner, a mechanical engineer, or Imagineer as they call them in the world of Disney. You can see how this design came about here.

    (If you'd like to experience this ride – from queuing up to the final credits, see it here.)
But back to the story. Sheila wanted to go Soarin', and persuaded me not to wimp out, so we set off through
the heat from the SE corner of Epcot around the large lake to the NW corner to find the attraction. When we got there, the lineup was huge, and the signs told us that the wait would be 60 to 70 mins (the ride lasts a little under 5 mins). We looked at each other and said "I don't think so!"

We decided to head back to find some of the family and see what they were up to. When we did, and told our tale of woe, they said "Did you book for later?" We said "Book?"

(I must say that The Walt Disney Company has honed its crowd handling over the years, and is
pretty good at it. It turned out that they have what they refer to as Fastpass. At the busiest attractions, like Space Mountain, Expedition Everest and Soarin' you can insert your ground admission ticket into a machine and make a booking for a later time.)

So we traipsed back to Soarin' and duly got two bookings for about three hours later. At the appointed time, we showed up at the attraction for the third time that day, and as we approached, we could see that, while the line was smaller, it was still substantial. Signs directed us to the Fastpass line, and as we walked by I'm sure I could feel the stink eyes from the people lined up – though that may have been my imagination...

When we got to the entrance, we were admitted only to see another substantial lineup, but again we got the royal treatment and joined a small line of perhaps twenty or thirty. The show was just about to begin and the young attendants were squeezing in the last few by saying things like "Do we have a single? Please come forward." A minute or so after we joined the back of the queue they asked for a twosome, no one else was interested so we were in. They showed us to our row, and we in settled beside the eight people who were already seated in that row.

We assumed we'd be "in the air" in minutes after they seated us in our row, but no... We sat for a while and
studied the set-up which was indeed impressive. Then a few of the young attendants (university and college students) suddenly appeared before us and said that they were going to lead us in a singsong! Can't remember what the tunes were, but the kids weren't very good singers, and we, the crowd, were rubbish, so it was excruciatingly embarrassing for everyone for about five minutes.

We assumed that the machinery had broken down, and they were stalling while repairs were made... WRONG! The next announcement was something like "We have to evacuate the building. Will
everyone please move to the sides of the theatre where staff will guide you to the emergency exits."

There was no panic, but everyone walked quickly and before we knew it we were in a courtyard at the back of the building and were directed back to the main concourse. We learned later that it was a bomb threat, presumably a false alarm. Each of Disney's theme parks apparently has their own bomb squads. They're kept busy every day checking out backpacks etc. when people set them down then move away.

Well that was several hours of our lives that we never got back. So if any of you have actually experienced the ride maybe you could tell us what it was like...

My Gran and Grandfather
Jim Campbell
My memory box was stirred by Hugh’s account of his Gran’s ‘but n’ ben’ residence in Clepington Street. I have memories of my own paternal Gran living in similar accommodation at the bottom of a tenement in Crescent Street. Only, as I remember it was really a single room which had a “bedroom” comprised of a wooden partition.
Tenements at the bottom of Crescent Street (on the left) where it meets Princes Street.
My Grandfather was a full-time soldier in the Black Watch serving in both the Boer War and the Great War. I understand that he was hospitalised for some reason after his service and that, while there, a fight broke out between two patients. Grandad attempted to separate the combatants and suffered an embolism as a result, and died. Apparently his widow was granted a pension of 6d (sixpence) per week to bring up her family consisting of my father, his three brothers and a sister.

4th (Dundee) Battalion Black Watch after Battle of Neuve Chapelle, March 1915.
Of his brothers, two went overseas – one, Malcolm, to Canada and the other, Finlay to Western Australia.
(I am guessing that the YMCA (“British Boys for British Farms”) had some involvement). The youngest, John, became a boy-entrant in the RAF and sister Betty joined the Navy as a Wren.

One of my main memories of these days is of an occasion when, as a result of the Second World War the two migrants found themselves reunited in that Crescent Street ‘hoose’.

My Canadian uncle had gone to the (outdoors, of course) toilet and left his holstered revolver on the back of a chair. Somehow yours truly managed to
remove the revolver (probably the standard issue Enfield No. 2 Service Revolver shown here) from its holster, but it was too heavy for me and I dropped it on the floor with a clatter.

Can you imagine the panic that resulted?!
____________________

Notes:

1. The YMCA’s 'British Boys for British Farms' programme was a forerunner to what would become Farm Institutes and Agricultural Colleges. Writing in the Derby Telegraph in 2014, Jane Goddard wrote how the BBBF "was seen as a means of introducing “townies” to the way of life in the countryside, help provide employment both before, during and after the Second World War and boost the country’s agricultural production."

With the support of the National Farmers Union, the War Agricultural Committee, and the Ministries
of Agriculture and Labour, the YMCA helped set up 14 centres across the country. Between its inception in 1932 and the scheme ending in 1968, more than 20,000 boys between the ages of 14 and 16 took part.

The boys were provided with hostel accommodation and given work and training on the land for up to 12 weeks, before moving onto farms, where they were monitored by a YMCA Field Officer for a further year.

The BBBF scheme was highly thought of in agricultural circles, promoted by schools, colleges, employment agencies and social welfare departments. In 2014, an article in Farmer’s Weekly reflected on the success of the BBBF movement. Writer, Nick Fone, explained how the boys had been given basic training in all aspects of farming. Many were then placed in Commonwealth food-producing nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These were nations which had lost millions of young men in the First World War and been left with a critical shortage of manpower. While some young men struggled to adapt to working on the land, ‘most settled, set up new lives and a good number went on to farm in their own right.'
____________________

2. The Battle of Loos, September 1915, had 45 Scottish Batallions taking part. Not since Culloden had so many Scottish soldiers been in the field at the same time. Sadly it was a tragic defeat for the Britsh. More than 60,000 British troops were killed or wounded, nearly twice the number of German casualties.

The Germans called it ‘Field of Corpses,’ with one regimental diary recording, “Never had the machine gunners such straightforward work to do, nor done it so effectively. They traversed to and fro along the enemy’s ranks unceasingly.”

When Dundee’s Own, the 4th Battalion, arrived in France in February 1915 the strength was 900. By the time the order came to go ‘over the top’ at Loos its numbers had already fallen to just 423 fighting men.

Exposed as soon as they mounted the parapet, the beleaguered 4th suffered horrific losses. Out of 20 officers 19 were killed or wounded and 230 of the 420 men who took part in the attack were killed or wounded. They had advanced too far too fast and were an easy target for machine gunners.

The losses had a profound effect on the city. Hardly a household was unaffected by the loss, not a family left untouched by the men’s sacrifice. Dundee’s Own – the fathers, sons, friends and workmates in the 4th – was so reduced by the Loos it had to be amalgamated with the 5th.

Today, the Loos Memorial and Cemetery commemorates all the lost from the battle, including 20,000 men with no known grave.

Each year in Dundee on September 25 the beacon at the top of the city’s war memorial on The Law shines to remember the battalion’s heroic dead.

Meh Gran 3
Hugh McGrory
Sometime in the late '50s, our Gran had a close call – she was very nearly killed by a city double-decker bus.
The old photo, taken in the early years of the century, shows Lochee High Street looking north – it hadn't changed very much 50 years later. You can see, in the distance, a church spire with clock on the right-hand side of the road, and it was in front of that church that the incident occurred. Gran had walked south down Bright Street (see the street plan) past the school and church until she reached the second church (the one with the spire), then prepared to cross to the west side of the High Street.

Cars were usually parked on both sides of the street, so she would no doubt have stepped out onto the road and stood at the corner of the end-most parked car to wait for a gap in the traffic.

The bus meanwhile was coming from the north-west and making the right-hand turn to go south on High Street. The buses usually came round that corner quickly, 'fairly wheeched roond' as people described it. The street plan shows the path of the bus in red, and the blue cross indicates where Gran and the bus met.

To jump to the end of the story the bus driver was charged with, and found guilty of dangerous driving. Gran was one of the witnesses called to court – in fact the star witness... The local paper, the Dundee Telegraph (known as 'The Tully'), reported that Mrs
The horse and cart in the right foreground looks exactly how my Uncle Jock looked delivering jute bales from the docks.The bag hanging down at the rear between the wheels is probably a canvas nose bag for giving the horse a feed during the day.    
Ryan had told the magistrate that the bus had 'skriffed' her coat, and had actually left a smear of dirt behind.

It was that close – had Grannie been just an inch or two further out, she would have been hit by a vehicle weighing 200 times more than she did and travelling at about 40 mph.

D'ye Mind Gettin' the Courier and the Tele' Delivered?
Bill Kidd

Some weeks ago I produced an anecdote reminiscing about the smells that wafted around various parts of Dundee. Some days later I got a very nice message from Gordon Findlay whose earlier anecdote had inspired me to put pen to paper. One of the things he said was that I should have included the smell of the D C Thomson newspapers being printed. Alas, a few days later I heard of his passing, and in reflecting on what he had suggested, the ubiquity of D C Thomson products in Dundee life during our early years sprung to mind. So, if the Anecdote Committee pleases, here is the result of Gordon's suggestion!

One of my earliest recollections was looking for the "Billy and Bunny" cartoon that appeared in the Courier
each day and of pestering my mother until she read to me the rhyming story printed below the picture. Like many Dundee homes we had the Courier delivered every morning and the Evening Telegraph every teatime except Saturday when the Tele was swapped for The Sporting Post. The reason for this was because the Post had the football results and it usually arrived before BBC Scotland got round to broadcasting them! When my father had finished checking that he had not won £75,000 on the pools I got stuck into the only other thing of interest in the publication, Dixon Hawke
the private detective who clearly had a contract with the Metropolitan Police to solve a baffling murder case every week.
There were other daily newspapers of course but only the Courier and the Tele could boast that it had Dundee in their title and they reigned supreme in the city with a circulation that would make current newspaper proprietors green with envy.

The Courier's full title was Dundee Courier and Advertiser and it fulfilled its advertising role by devoting its front page to advertisements for jobs such as Tenter; Potato Roguer; Armature Winder; Clerkess and Lorry Second Man – sorry ladies but that's what it said! The odd bits and pieces so necessary in the 1940s could be found in the miscellaneous sales columns. Items such as musical instruments; Tea sets; Bicycles (gents and ladies) and all sorts of domestic appliances marked as "unwanted gift" could be yours by applying to the box number under which the item was displayed.

The daily newspapers in the D C Thomson stable were complemented by several weekly offerings – the best known of these was the Sunday Post home of the "Broons" and "Oor Wullie" not to forget the second team
of "Nero and Zero" and "Nosey Parker". What other newspaper could have a columnist who wrote under the pseudonym of Francis Gay?

The Sunday Post was at one time the world's most read newspaper within its circulation area, being read by about 90% of the potential readership and this was confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Weekly News and The People's Journal were the other weekly offerings popular in Dundee. The Journal, although it carried little actual news, was the nearest thing that Dundee had to a "local" newspaper. It served up a diet of Dundee themed features, concentrating on local worthies, events and the City's history.

It usually carried a large photograph of a Dundee scene. Most importantly it featured a pen and ink illustrated story, my favourite was "Black Bob", the sheep dog that rather suspiciously mirrored the adventures of Lassie!

The Weekly News was a Scottish rather than a Dundee paper. Nevertheless it was fun to read, I particularly enjoyed the "Fun an' Games with Andy James" football stories about people with inventive names.

I still smile when I think of Alden Dunn, the aptly named centre half, Willie Signim, the club manager, the winger Wan Fittit, and the goalie, Dinny Drapitt.

Perhaps it was as a result of local news being covered by the Courier and Tele that the Dundee edition of the People's Journal ceased publication in January 1986. It is the only one of the four Thomson weekly newspaper publications circulated in Dundee not to survive to the present day. (The Journal was replaced by The Dundee Extra, a free weekly newspaper).

Of course the newspapers dropping in our letter box each day were not the only manifestations of the ubiquity of D C Thomson publications in mid 20th Century Dundee. There were the boy's adventure comics the Rover,
Wizard, Adventure and Hotspur, each having a garish cover and four narrative stories of derring do on the sports field, battlefield or boarding school. They also had advertisements for "stamp approvals", model aircraft kits and magic things like "seebackascopes".

In the late 50s girls were also catered for with the arrival of Bunty, Judy and Misty but being a boy I was unaware and had had little interest in what girls were reading.

I do believe that before then a non-D C Thomson publication known as Girls Crystal made an occasional
appearance in the house but it was beneath my dignity to look at it!

There were of course other weekly publications on offer from Thomson’s for female Dundonians. The People's Friend, aimed at the more mature ladies, offered a mixture of romance, home-making, good and uplifting advice. Having recently read a Friend in the doctor's waiting room I can confirm that it has changed little over the years.

For the younger housewife there was Woman's Weekly, seemingly a less uplifting and more advice-
oriented version of the People's Friend. For the younger and more romantic ladies there were Secrets, Red Letter and Red Star Weekly.
These publications were similar in appearance to the boy's adventure comics but I am told that they provided less violent and more romantic fare!

For children of all ages the Dandy and Beano were a source of regular entertainment. "Korky the Cat" and "Big Eggo" provided the cover stories for many a year and inside, a host of memorable characters comes to mind, too many for today's anecdote but they just might provide the basis for a future trip down memory lane...

Meh Gran 2
Hugh McGrory
Another memory of my Gran:

It would be too strong to say that our Grannie had an addiction – maybe "a guilty pleasure" is a better description. It was never mentioned, but, as a kid, I remember from time to time that Gran would take a hankie from her sleeve, or the pocket of her 'peenie', to blow her nose, and thinking to myself how 'clorty' it was and wondering why she didn't get a clean one...

It wasn't something I thought much about, just one of life's little mysteries, until one day in the early '60s I dropped in to see her. She was quite old by this time, and close to being 'aff the legs' and she asked if I would go down to the local newsagent/tobacconist and get a tin of something, the name of which she wrote down for me. When I got it I realised that it was snuff. I never saw her actually take a pinch, since she must always have done it in private, but it certainly made sense of the dirty hankie for me.

In talking to meh wee brither about this, he told me that when he was a bairn, Gran used to give him amd his buddies a surreptitious sweet treat every so often – he recalls her slipping him a handful of raisins one day, but when he came to eat them they were snuff-infused. Fortunately he never became addicted – at least not to snuff, though he does like his raisins...

I was surprised to learn that snuff is still widely used today.

Note:
Is snuff harmful? Apparently so. Although it doesn't seem to cause lung cancer, it is highly addictive, and can negatively impact the body. Like other forms of tobacco, snuff contains cancer-causing chemicals, and it seems that it can increase the risk of several types of cancer, including, nose and sinus, oral, esophogeal and pancreatic.

Apparently it also raises the risk of other conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke, and increases the chances of premature birth and stillbirth. Moist or 'dipping' snuff can also yellow teeth, sour breath, and lead to tooth decay, gum infections, and in some cases lost teeth. Problems may even develop deep inside the jaw resulting in bone loss and possible face disfigurement.

Thankfully none of this seems to have happened to my Gran as far as I know. She died in 1963 aged 82.

A Cub Scout
Gordon Findlay
Like most good parents, our mother and father enrolled us in The Boy Scouts. I can remember being a Cub Scout, sitting in that little circle in St. David’s Church at the foot of Stobswell and chanting “Dyb dyb dyb. We'll dob dob dob…”

Learning at home how to make a bed, boil water and make a pot of tea, sweep a floor properly, wash and dry a stack of dishes and cutlery – all to win that coveted “Housemaker” badge on our jersey. Later on, mastering the art of putting up a tent, making an outdoor fire (with protective rocks around it); drying wet clothes, making a walking pole – all to earn the “Outdoor” badge. Then the swimming badge, the first aid badge, and so on.

The highlight of my Cub Scout career was a day trip to Balmerino – a lovely hillside spot on the other side of Dundee across the River Tay, full of hiking trails and covered in wild raspberry bushes which, during July and August, would be laden with tiny sweet raspberries. Nothing better than diving into those bushes on a warm summer day, picking and eating, picking and eating, and to heck with the stains on your fingers and your face.

(On our living room wall above the fireplace, we have an original James Reville water colour showing those very hills of Balmerino on the banks of the Tay. And we have another Reville downstairs – of a small burn somewhere in Angus. My mother was a great admirer of Reville and his painting prowess.)

Two watercolours by James Reville, 1904-2000.

This trip, with our Akela (a good friend of our mother) was highlighted by a crossing of the Tay in the ferry boat called “The Fifie”, from Dundee to Wormit – about a mile from the hills of Balmerino. This was before the days of the Dundee roadbridge. We marched from Wormit to Balmerino, which, apart from the 800-year-old ruins of Balmerino Abbey, was basically five houses and a post office, then off into the small forest on the hills above.

The Hill behind Balmerino Bay.

What followed was a day of outdoor sports, running, jumping, tree climbing and wrestling until the second highlight at the end of the afternoon: an outdoor cookout fire with potatoes roasted in the red embers, split open and eaten with the fingers while still hot and steaming. And all washed down with lemonade or hot tea for the leaders.

Good memories.
Meh Gran
Hugh McGrory
So many of these stories spark memories for me. Muriel's recent question "What did Grannie Look Like?" made me think of my Gran. The picture that springs to my mind is of her, not long before she died, hunkered down in front of a coal fire, her legs wide open to the hearth, showing off the legs of her bloomers, her stockings held up by elastic, and toasting her corned beef legs.(1)

Lizzie Lawson, was born in 1881 in Dundee, in Thom Place. (Anyone know where that was? If you do, please let me know.). At the age of 19 she married Thomas Maxwell from Tayport who was 20 years old. Five years later, they lived in Glasgow, in Cathcart less than a mile from Hampden, Scotland's National Football Stadium. Sadly, Thomas died there at the age of 25, from acute appendicitis – Gran was pregnant with her third child and she returned to Dundee. Four years later Lizzie married my grandfather, Frank Ryan. She had six more children, though two were girl twins who died at birth in 1912. Frank and Lizzie were married for 38 years until his death in 1947.

Lizzie & Frank Ryan right, with Kate (holding me as a baby, so 1937) and Great Uncle Jock Ryan(You met Jock & Kate in a previous story – he was a carter (horse and cart) and she smoked a clay pipe.)
My Gran was a pleasant woman and she "wisna scared o' hard work" as they used to say. She was a 'biscuit packer' when she first got married, then ten years later the census described her as a 'confectioner'. When I remember her, she was an office cleaner. She used to get up at 5:00 in the morning and walk from the foot of Arklay Street to Courthouse Square where she worked as a cleaner in Telephone House from 6:00 to 9:00, got the tram home, then later in the day went back again from 4:30 to 6:00 pm.

My Gran and Grandad, when he died in 1947, were living in a 'but and ben' in a tenement at the foot of Clepington St., right next to the The Airlie Arms pub (in fact it's now part of the pub and used as a storeroom – see the photo).
To walk from there to where my Mum and I lived in Fairbairn St. (my Dad was away in the army for most of the war) took less than two minutes. My Gran and my Mum spent a lot of time together, and I was essentially brought up by the pair of them, Grannie doing a lot of babysititing when my Mum was working.

My memory is populated by little vignettes of my Grannie – here's a couple:
  • The but and ben had a bed nook in the living room where my grandparents slept. Sometimes when I was young, and when Grandad wasn't there (not sure why, perhaps he was in hospital?), I would sleep over at my Grans' house and share her bed – I think it was just for company for her.

    One time she had discovered, earlier in the day, that they had bed bugs, and she'd bought some kind of powder to get rid of them. I remember getting ready for bed, and her saying that we first had to spread this powder.

    I insisted that I could do it, and she gave me the box which looked just like a pepper pot with holes in the top. She pulled back the sheets, and showed me how to spread the powder – then she made a mistake – she left the room, probably to go to the toilet. When she came back she realised that I had finished the job – and had also finished the whole box... I probably applied enough to kill all the bed bugs in the whole street.

    Gran said something like "Oh, help m' goad, laddie", then spread the top sheet over and said we'd sleep on top of it under the blanket.

    In my own defence, neither of us seemed to suffer any ill effects – and neither of us got bitten that night or any other...

  • My wee brother, Mike, is seven years younger than I, and I remember one time when he was only a few months old, Gran was babysitting us, and he was crying incessantly – I mean continuously. I'm sure that Gran, with all her experience of bringing up children, must have tried every trick in her book, but to no avail. She finally decided that she had to get medical help for the bairn, bundled us up and headed out carrying him, with me behind, no doubt dragging my arse and whining all the way because she was walking so quickly. We went by Alexander St. (now no more), Hilltown, Constitution St, and Dudhope street to DRI (Dundee Royal Infirmary, also no more).

    Mike cried all the way there, and in the waiting room, and when being examined... Eventually the doctor said that there was no obvious reason for the crying and sent us home. So our little caravan headed back along Constitution street, the bairn crying every step of the way. My diagnosis was that he was just a girny-faced wee git, but in fairness to the kid it was probably gripe – gas pains or acid reflux perhaps.

    When Gran told the story in later years she would say "Abody we passed looked at us winderin whut eh wis daen t' the bairn – eh was black-affronted!"(2).
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(1) Corned beef legs:
When I was growing up, most houses in Britain were heated by burning coal in open hearths – quite inefficient, since a lot of the heat disappeared up the chimney. Very few houses had central heating, so the living room was often the only warm room in the home in winter. With no TV set, furniture would be organised around the fireplace, as the centerpiece of the room, and, in the evening, the family would gather round to read or listen to the radio.

Older people, of course, suffered more from the cold, and would often sit very close to the fire. Particularly in women (skirts v trousers), the exposure of their legs to the heat would cause changes to the skin, usually a mild and transient red rash resembling lacework or a fishing net. Prolonged and repeated exposure caused a marked redness and colouring of the skin, and somerimes underlying tissue started to thin. Sufferers might complain of mild itchiness and a burning sensation, and sometimes sores developed. Today, reports of this condition caused by hot water bottles and laptop computers still occur.

Medically the term ‘Erythema ab igne,' or 'Toasted skin syndrome' is used, but the common term for it, in Dundee at any rate, is 'corned beef legs'.

Canned Corned Beef Corned Beef Legs
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(2) Black Affronted:
This Scottish phrase is believed to come from heraldry. When animals (lions, eagles etc) are portrayed on
coats of arms, the direction in which they are looking is distinguished in the official description: if facing to the viewer's left, as in the Scottish Lion Rampant, near right, it's referred to as 'dexter' ( as opposed to 'sinister').

Compare the lion on the far right from the Crest of the Scottish version of the Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom. The face and body are both facing towards the viewer and this is referred to in heraldry as 'affronté'.

A knight errant, if up to no good (and perhaps ashamed of his behaviour) would not want to be identified, so he would cover the crest on his shield with a black cloth – black affronté – hence the Scottish phrase meaning 'embarrassed'.

Scrumpers Unite!
Anne FitzWalter Golden
Loved the scrumping article by Gordon Finlay. It reminded me of our Denholm(1) days about the age of 4 up to 10 years when we were always out scrumping in the long gardens, plums, pears, apples, gooseberries, peas, broad beans...whatever! and usually they were less than ripe. We must have had cast iron stomachs. Maybe it was the wartime rations that left us hungry.

We knew where to get hazelnuts in season and all the wild fruits, strawberries and raspberries, with the yellow ones a particular favourite. We would pull a neep out of the field and smash the root on a sharp stone in the dyke then knaw our way through it. We were also daring enough to creep in to the henhouse at the farm and enjoy a raw egg.

But guess what...just like Gordon and his pals we were nearly always caught. Later in life when our thinking kicked in we reckon that we were easy to identify, being twins BUT we always had an alibi which was that it wasn't me it was Christine or vice versa! This did not work, of course, when we were out together...the terrors of the village!

Post war in Dundee, Jannette Nicoll and I used to go for long walks at weekends. A favourite was out round the Dighty burn and up the hill behind Balmydown Farm(2).


I taught Jannette how to deal with a neep one day only to get home and find that father had been watching us through his binoculars. As he worked in the Approved Schools service based at Balgowan School his threats put paid to any more Dundee scrumping....except the pea field out of town end of Frederick Street!

What fun and what freedom we had as youngsters... too bad today's lot are tied to their technology.

Viva the countryside and Scrumpers unite!

The ruffians, age 13, Jannette on the right..        

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(1) Denholm is a village, population today around 600, located between Jedburgh and Hawick in the Scottish Borders region. It lies in the valley of the River Teviot, about halfway between the towns of Hawick and Jedburgh.


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(2) The photo, looking west, shows 'our' hill, behind 'Balmydoon' – the roof of the farm can be seen in the bottom left corner just to the right of the tree:



Sweet Memories
Hugh McGrory
Gordon Findlay's story about sweeties got me thinking. I was aware that Scotland is at, or near the top of the list of nations for things like consumption of confectionery, sweets/candies, chocolate, cakes, soft drinks loaded with sugar, and the like; for childhood and adult obesity; for bad teeth and for heart disease.

To digress for a moment, I remember some thirty years or so ago, flicking TV channels at home in Canada and coming across a show about those countries with the worst record for heart disease and the two countries featured were Finland and Scotland. They were talking about diet, and had a person-in-the-street interview from Mid Craigie (a Dundee suburb) where this woman was quizzed on her eating habits – she answered in our broad Dundee vernacular – not a problem for the North American audience since they supplied subtitles...

Gord's anecdote made me wonder why Scotland has such a sweet tooth. It seems that it stems from the colonial outreach of the British Empire in the 17th century, the colonisation of the Americas and in particular of the West Indies. The combination of sugar cane, the slave trade and the establishment of the 'Triangular Trade' system (textiles, manufactured goods and rum from Britain to West Africa, slaves to the Americas, and sugar, cotton and tobacco to Europe) led to ships laden with raw cane sugar coming into Glasgow.

This raw sugar was granulated using a process developed in Scotland, and much of it ended up in the refineries in and around Glasgow. By the late 19th century, there were 16 sugar refineries around the city, and Greenock was know as "Sugaropolis“ (it was here that Abram Lyle, later of Tate and Lyle, invented Golden Syrup, as a way of using up surplus sugar). Cheap sugar became so readily available locally that a cottage industry of candy-making emerged. Women known as "Sweetie Wives" bought it in bulk, boiled it into home-made sweets, and then sold them in local markets.

I was two years old when WW2 began, while Gordon was eight, so he remembered the wartime period better than I – my memory is rather patchy about the 1939-45 period.

Rationing in Britain began 8 January 1940 just a few months after war broke out. In particular, sweet and chocolate rationing started on 26 July 1942, and didn't finish until 5 February 1953. The amount of sugar, and therefore sweets, which was allowed, fluctuated during the war, ranging from 16oz a month down to 8oz (227g) a month. Amongst the popular sweets you could get in your local sweet shop were lemon sherbets, flying saucers, barley sugar twists, liquorice, jelly babies, Fry’s chocolate creams, pear drops and cola cubes.

The government began the process of de-rationing in 1948, but it was phased in, and it wasn't until 1954 that rationing ended completely. On the day of derationing of sweets and chocolate in 1953, toffee apples, sticks of nougat and liquorice strips were apparently the best sellers. Some companies even gave out free sweets to children at lunch time to mark the occasion. As a consequence of the end of rationing, spending on sweets grew by £100 million in the first year. (Brits now spend in excess of £5.5 billion annually on confectionery).

Gordon shared memories of his preferred sweeties with us and got me thinking about my favourites. I scribbled out a list and found that it only overlapped his once.

So, in no particular order, here's my list from those days (well OK, still today, when my wife allows it – or isn't around...)

(Obviously not to scale. Hover your cursor over the photos).


Ah, sweet memories! How does your list compare?

Candies and Ice Cream
Gordon Findlay
What is that famous mantra about real estate value? Location, location, location. And that was certainly true about two of the iconic retail stores that were close to Morgan Academy, the public school we attended. One
was Dolly Souter’s, a long-established sweetie (candy) store. The other was Hector Gibb’s dairy and ice cream parlour.

Both were on Forfar Road. Dolly Souter’s store was right at the southwest corner of Janefield Place, while Hector Gibb’s dairy was about 100 yards north – right opposite the northwest entrance into the school at the time. With a steady stream of pupils passing by their doors from early morning until late afternoon, the location of these two stores could hardly have been better.

Dolly Souter’s wasn’t a large store, quite tiny in fact, but it was a storehouse of sweet treasures in a riot of colours. Its one large show window looked out on to Janefield Place, and it was always crammed with all
those delights which appealed to school children. Jelly babies, all-day suckers, pear drops, humbugs, Mars bars, sherbet fountain, Brighton rock, liquorice allsorts, Rolos, striped boilings, Pontefract cakes, and my all-time favourite, chocolate coconut snowballs.

Once you went inside the store you were surrounded by jars and bottles of sweeties, each offering looking more toothsome than the next. The heady, sweet, tantalizing aroma was almost too much to bear. And deciding what to buy was always an agonizing decision for me. Funds were limited and whatever you chose had to last an entire day: a lifetime for any youngster with a sweet tooth.

For Hector Gibb, ice cream was an offshoot to his main business of running a dairy and supplying most of Maryfield with milk and cream and fresh eggs, an activity which began before dawn every day.

My older brother became one of Hector’s delivery boys and I briefly decided to make some extra pocket money by joining him on the route. But I quickly realized that rising at 5.00 a.m. and getting down to Gibb’s dairy to make deliveries around the neighbourhood while it was still dark was not for me!

As soon as the weather turned warm enough, Mr. Gibb began to churn some of his milk products into ice cream. He opened up a part of his dairy as an ice cream parlour and even on cool mornings business was brisk.

Cones and sliders were the favourite offering, and of course for the big spenders there was always a “Lochee” which as I recall, was a slider with a thin chocolate bar or a wedge of marshmallow stuck in the middle. There may have been other “specials” but I’ve forgotten their names.
Perhaps someone out there, of my vintage, can jog my memory.

Apparently, Hec was quite a character, and had a reputation as a bit of a 'fly-man'. The rumour was that he was not above skimming off some of the cream from his dairy products to supply his profitable ice cream parlour. It was said that, every so often, when the local dairy authorities checked his milk products, they’d find that they were somewhat light in their fat content.

Mr. Gibb would then profess surprise and innocence and would readily pay the fine for this transgression, apparently comforted by the knowledge that the profit made was greater than the penalty...

Hilda
Hugh McGrory
In Canada ‘Cottage Country’ refers to areas of lakes and forests around cities where cottages and summer homes abound. Across the country the specific areas referred to depend on the Province and the major population area – in the Toronto area the term usually refers to the Muskoka, Kawartha Lakes, or Haliburton areas.

The term ‘cottage country traffic’ refers to the exodus from the city on Friday afternoons, and return on Sunday evenings, of thousands of ‘city folk’ making the two to three hour trip so they can spend the weekend communing with nature.

This sometimes creates long delays on highways, and ‘non-cottagers’ know to stay away from specific highways on Friday afternoon and evening, and Sunday evening in summer.

Cottage Country, of course, has year-round rural inhabitants, and they tend to have a love/hate relationship with the cottagers – they sacrifice their peace for the income they can make over the summer months…

My brother-in-law, my wife’s brother, and his family have a lakeside cottage, in The Peterborough-Kawartha area near the town of Havelock, and we visit from time to time. Havelock is a village of around 1,100 people. Its roots go back to 1823, and the original settlers made their living through fishing, logging and farming. The main industrial activity now centres on two large quarries. The first produces nepheline syenite (major use is for ceramics such as toilet bowls and sinks). The second produces crushed basalt commonly used as an aggregate in construction projects.

The village has one more claim to fame – The Havelock Country Jamboree, an annual four-day country music camping festival, the largest in Canada. This is quite an affair – it runs Thursday through Sunday on the third weekend in August every year and 2017 is the 28th year. There are twin stages, each measuring 60' wide by 40' deep and the site encompasses 500 acres with room for hundreds of RVs from all over the country.

The show features over 25 entertainers each year, and even I, not a CW music fan, recognise many of the perfomers from past years – Reba McEntire, Wynonna Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Glen Campbell, Travis Tritt, Kenny Rogers, Stompin' Tom Connors, Billy Ray Cyrus, LeAnn Rimes, Tanya Tucker and Loretta Lynn.

We last visited my brother-in-laws cottage in August, and as we were leaving to head home he said, “As you’re heading out of the village, just before the Jamboree grounds, you’ll see a field of cows on your left, pull over and take a look at the herd.”

I said, “Why – I may not be country born, but I have seen cows before …”

He smiled and said, “Just do it…”

As we got close to the site, we saw the cattle and several cars parked by the side of the road with people standing looking into the field. It was quite a large meadow and the cows were on the far side, so at first we couldn’t see anything remarkable, until – well I took this photo…


It's not very good – I was using my phone and the animals were quite far away – but you can see that the animal third from the right is a funny looking cow. It is in fact a moose – a Canadian moose, not a Scottish moose. I'm sure you all know how to tell the difference – the Canadian is the one with horns – for clarification, below, Scottish moose on the left, Canadian on the right.

However, the Canadian moose above is a male, and the one we saw was a female. She was named locally as Hilda, and had her story told in newspapers and on the web. A professional photograph of Hilda is shown below:

Apparently, although not common, this co-mingling does happen from time to time, despite the fact that moose are solitary animals and do not herd as, for example, reindeer do. Two possible reasons for this 'getting together with cattle' behaviour are; the animal is attracted by the good pasture, or, if a young male, it may be for mating reasons and he couldn't find a cow moose.

An example from the Bella Coola valley in British Columbia:



What did Grannie Look Like?
Muriel Allan Kidd
Photographs play an important part in our lives. We can see images of ourselves and our loved ones at any time we choose. We can even send them across the world at the press of a button.

The availability of photographic images has never been so great, we just take them for granted and snap
away at anything and everything that takes our fancy. It's difficult to realise that photographic images as we know them only came into being in the mid 19th century(1) but it wasn't until 1889 that the first film camera came into use. And not until the introduction of the Kodak Brownie box camera (not biscuit) in 1900 did photography become available to non-specialist photographers.

Within a few years most families had access to a camera of some kind and they quickly became as important as sandwiches on family picnics. Only very few enthusiasts could convert the image taken by their camera into actual photographs that could be passed around admiring friends and family. The typical camera took eight photographs on a film. After the eighth picture had been taken the film was handed in to the local chemist shop for
developing and printing with the finished 'snaps' being collected a couple of days later amidst great excitement to see if they had 'come out'.

Our family, like most others, had a collection of images going back to the time of World War 1 – that's how I became familiar with great-grandparents, uncles lost in the war and my young and to my eyes, oddly-dressed parents. Little did I realise then that when I pressed the shutter of my Box Brownie that I was contributing to our family history!

I'm afraid the once ubiquitous industry producing photographic prints has virtually disappeared. Cameras became more sophisticated, colour films and the availability of cheap flash meant that photographs could be taken at any time. Now even most of these have gone to be replaced by digital cameras and telephones.

Photos are now shared by email, posted on Facebook or just by passing around the mobile telephone. Nowadays most people don't get hard copy of their photos – perhaps we should start to think about the future and how our grandchildren will be able to see our funny clothes and odd looking cars.

It certainly won't be by passing around the 'phone that the photos are lurking in now – and your descendants will be asking "What did Grannie look like?"

(1) If you're interested, you can see the first-ever photograph here, and further details on the 'why, what and how' here.

The Tortoise and the Hares
Hugh McGrory
Gordon Findlay’s story about cycling to Edzell reminded me of my one and only experience of youth hostelling(1) by bike – though I have to admit that my memory is a bit hazy after all this time.

I would have been a bit older than Gordon was when he made his epic journey – I think I was around 14 – so it was probably 1951. I believe it was a long weekend, and two classmates (I’ll refer to them as Tom and Dick to protect the innocent) mentioned that they were going to cycle to Killin and stay over at the local Youth Hostel.

I asked if I could go along with them, and they agreed. I lived on my bike in those days, back and forward to school every day and around town, but had never done any longer distance cycling. My bike was an upright, while theirs had drop handlebars, like Gordon's, great for streamlining when going downhill.


From Dundee, we cycled through Perth, of course, but I can’t remember if we made it a circular trip; perhaps out via the A85 through Crieff and the north bank of Loch Earn (about 67 miles one way), and back via the north bank of Loch Tay, Aberfeldy, and the A9 (about 10 miles longer).

In any event, we made it to the hostel in Killin. I really don’t remember much about that weekend – I recall the dormitory with upper and lower bunk beds and I seem to remember porridge for breakfast but that’s about it.

1951Killin Youth Hostel2011
The trip home I do remember, though – principally because it poured most of the way back, and there was a strong east wind. Now, as you know, Gore Tex jackets and pants will repel the rain but allow your body to breathe – a wonder material – pity it wasn’t invented until around 1970…

I was wearing a rain cape, probably bought as army surplus from the Army and Navy store. It was called a cape, but with the strong headwind and my upright bike, it was actually a sail and it did it’s best to slow me down to a crawl.

We struggled on for hour after hour and on the last stretch along the Perth Road, Dick pulled away and disappeared into the distance. I remember almost dying on the rise from Inchture to beyond Longforgan. Somewhere along that stretch, Tom remembered that he had a music lesson that evening, and that “his mother would kill him if he missed it”. So he took off too and left me to it.

I struggled on – push one foot down – now the other – now the first one again… Finally I made it home where my poor mother was waiting anxiously – she said I looked like a “drookit rat”, before feeding me and sending me off to bed. Like Gordon before me, I’m sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Next morning, stiff, but none the worse for the wear, I cycled to school as usual, prepared for a ribbing from my two friends for being such a wimp… but it didn’t happen! Not because they were being kind – neither of them actually made it to school that day…

It seems that ‘Tom’ and ‘Dick’ needed a day off to recover from their ordeal, but ‘Harried’ didn’t…

--------------------
Killin Youth Hostel was opened in a former doctor's house, Tighndhuin, in 1942, and ran without disruption until early in 2008, amassing some 320,000 overnight stays.

Tighndhuin was demolished in 2011 in favour of a development of 14 new homes on the site.
--------------------

(1) Established in 1931, SYHA Hostelling Scotland is a self-funding charity operating a network of over 60 exceptional youth and affiliate hostels for the benefit of all those wishing to learn and experience what Scotland has to offer. Their unique sites provide affordable, comfortable, safe and quality-assured accommodation with a warm friendly welcome, local knowledge, activities and services for guests travelling around Scotland. It is a not-for-profit organisation, and all income generated from activities and services is invested back into the hostelling network.

My Raleigh
Gordon Findlay
When I was growing up we lived on the south side of Shamrock Street, on the corner of Mains Loan, just


a few hundred yards from Morgan. This was in the Maryfield area of Dundee, one of the older, more settled
parts of the city. I suppose you could call it a “tony” area; large stone homes with nice gardens, the homes of business people, school teachers and the like.

Like many homes in those days, ours was enclosed on all sides with a stone wall and when I was quite small I thought it was like living in a small castle, secure and safe. Our garden was unique in one sense – it contained one of the very few “monkey puzzle” trees in Dundee – like this one in Fintry.

The tree is actually an Araucaria araucana, a native species common in Chile and Ecuador; it has long, upswept branches with spear-like spiny dark green leaves and it’s an evergreen. Ours grew to some 60 feet and dominated the garden. People passing on Mains Loan could see it towering above our stone fence . . . a South American interloper living graciously in a Scottish garden.

Our area had a number of kids in our age bracket: Colin Barclay (son of a successful bakery shop owner); Bruce Davidson (son of a jute company manager); Norman Anderson (son of a widowed mother); David Spankie (son of a jute wholesaler); Ian Knowles (son of a teacher). We roamed pretty freely through our little street kingdom . . Clepington Road, Argyll Street, Madeira Street, Shamrock Street and Mains Loan . . . either on foot or on our bikes most of which were hand-me-downs from older brothers.

Mine certainly was, a Raleigh which was passed down from Morris to David, to me; when new, it would have looked like the one in the photo – but by the time it got to me it bore the scars of its hard life on the streets. It had bent handlebars, a missing mudguard, non-existent brakes, rusty rims, and a Sturmey-Archer gear system that was down to one operating gear. But as a kid you accepted those things: a bike was freedom and mobility and as long as it went forward when you pedalled it, all was well.

I had one huge advantage: my brother Dave was a natural mechanic, a tinkerer, a fixer. It was he I turned to for puncture repairs, loose pedals and cranky gears. When the chain on my battered Raleigh broke one day – snapped in half and flailed uselessly on to the ground in a snarled, oily mess – it was David who uncomplainingly took it from my hands and painstakingly extracted the broken link, somehow found a new one and carefully secured it in place then rejoined the chain. I was in awe of his ability.

It was on this bike that I and my brothers undertook the longest and most taxing bicycle journey I had undertaken. A little background first. Our parents had a favourite summer holiday spot: the little village of Edzell around 32 miles northeast of Dundee and right beside the North Esk River. The village was known as the “jewel in the crown of Angus” (Angus being the county where Dundee is located).

The village had one hotel – The Central, owned by the Japp family and known locally as Japp’s. It was well known for its old-fashioned country hospitality – the rooms were comfy and the food was good. Our parents loved it. When we were there, we could roam the woods and hills and wander down to the river, crossed by a wooden suspension bridge which swayed deliciously as you walked across it.

On this special occasion, Morris and David decided that we kids would cycle to Edzell while our parents drove. I would be around 10 or 11 at the time and there was some concern that I could manage 32 miles in one day to get there, but I was anxious to prove that I could, so it was agreed. On the big day my mother made a large bag of sandwiches and added bottles of Barrie’s lemonade (my favourite was their “Big Orange” flavour), all of which was carried by Morris and David, and off we set. I can’t remember much of that cycle trip except that it was a warm Saturday, we all got thirsty early on, and for me exhaustion set in around the 25-mile mark.

The last six or seven miles were hard because there was one long uphill stretch on the outskirts of Edzell, but finally – finally! – the famous “Dalhousie Arch” that graced the entry into the village hove in sight, and we coasted up to Japp’s Hotel to the welcome of our parents.
My mother told me much later that I ate a monster supper, almost dozed off at the end of it, then was packed into bed around 7.00 p.m. where I apparently slept like a log until 9.00 or so the next morning.

The Dennie
Hugh McGrory
I attended Dens Road Primary School in Dundee from 1942 to 1949.


The school opened in January 1911, and in 2010 created a blog, preparatory to celebrating its centenary (we sure didn't have a blog when I was there...). I was impressed by their initiative to the extent that I contributed a few memories. I thought you might be interested too:

"I was very impressed to see this Dens Road students’ blog celebrating the school Centennial. I spent seven happy years at Dens Road from 1942 to 1949 and am still grateful for some fine teachers who gave me a solid grounding in the three 'Rs' and a love of learning that has served me well over the years. I particularly remember Miss Laing and Miss Macpherson, two fine teachers.

I noted, in the blog, the comment “11th January 1911 – Miss Jane A. Tosh entered upon her duties as an assistant teacher in the Junior Division.” Miss Tosh must have enjoyed teaching at Dens Road, since I was in her class in ‘44/’45.

Some Dens Road memories:

• My wee brother Mike entered Dens Road the year after I left, and caused quite a stushie by disappearing on his first day. Not quite grasping the concept of mid-morning playtime, he had simply taken off and walked home.

No harm was done since we lived at #2 Fairbairn St about 300 yards from the school. Our mum quickly got over the surprise of seeing him and walked him back to class.

• The headmaster in those days was Mr Allan, a rather distant but kindly man. He once took me and a couple of my schoolmates to Murrayfield in his car to see a Scotland v England rugby match.

He also gave me the belt for climbing over the railing and swinging on the branch of the tree in the garden opposite the Dens Road entrance to the school from the boys’ playground (the one with the red leaves in the photo). That branch had been polished smooth by the hands of generations of kids – but I was the dumb one who got caught by the Jannie...

• One final memory.

My time at Dens Road was during and after the Second World War, and the boys’ playground had a number
of brick and concrete air-raid shelters (which I remember as cutting down on our playtime football space), similar to the one under construction in the photo. In 1945 I guess, it was clear that they weren’t needed anymore, and a group of workmen came in to tear them down.

As you might imagine, this was a big attraction at playtime, and we kids would stand around and watch the destruction. One of the workmen – he must have been a real old crab – told us to buzz off, and when we didn’t
move fast enough for his liking, he decided that he would hurry us along by bowling a half brick along the ground.

My buddies were smart or agile enough to get out of the way – but not me! It hit me in the shin, hard enough to make me bleed not to mention cry... My response of course, was to go get my mother (since she was just at the other end of the street and my dad was in away in the army).

I remember her being furious, and after cleaning up my minor wound she dragged me back up to school with steam coming out of her ears, had me point out which workie had done it, then gave him a major earful.

I don’t think she actually hit him, but I think that he thought she was going to…

I left Dens Road with mixed emotions to go on to six years at Morgan Academy (actually to Clepington Road School for a few months first, since we were a February intake), but I soon settled, thanks largely to the excellent grounding I had received at Dens Road.

My best wishes to the school for the next hundred years of serving Dundee children."

The Pictures
Bill and Muriel Allan Kidd

D' Ye Mind Ga'en t' the Pictures?

Those of us born between the mid 1930s and the early 1940s spent our childhood and near adult years during Dundee's great cinema boom! The cinemas were distributed in the heart of the City Centre then spread along the tram routes that formed Dundee's arteries. The cinema was the main source of entertainment available to us during those pre-television years of war and austerity and a visit to the "pictures" at least once a week was commonplace.

During the working week the choice of venue was usually determined by where you lived. In the East end of town there was a cluster of cinemas close to the Albert Street tram line but the Victoria/Dens Road line was less plentifully supplied unless you were prepared to climb the Hilltown. The West end enjoyed a similar and possibly more generous scattering of cinemas based on the Perth Road, Blackness Road and Lochee tramlines.

On Saturdays the populace of Dundee, East and West descended on the City Centre to the five bigger and
more expensive venues where they could see the latest offerings of Hollywood and Ealing, weeks and sometime months before they appeared in the local cinemas. The choice of which film to see was a matter of careful judgement. A "good" film would most likely have a long queue seeking admission while a short queue possibly meant that the film was a dud. The deciding factor was often the weather, if it was raining it could be worth taking the risk and join the shorter queue. As a result of following this logic we can claim to have seen some unexpected gems among a whole lot of duds! On Sundays, all of Dundee's cinema screens remained blank because the council would not grant the necessary licence.

During the boom time most local cinemas opened around 6.30pm and had a programme consisting of a newsreel, a cartoon or short, often cowboys or comedy, followed by the main feature. This programme was shown twice without a break, with people joining the audience at any point in the show.One of the great skills that had to be acquired at an early age was the ability to come into the cinema half-way through some drama, watch it to the end, see the supporting films and adverts then watch the beginning of the feature film through to the point that you "came in", then leave. If you sat through the feature to the end a second time it was at the risk of an usherette flashing her torch in your face. Don't
know how, but it seemed that the usherettes knew when everyone in that cinema had arrived!

The inserts show the choice of cinemas/films available to us one week in September 1953 – actually there were more than that, since The Queens, and the two Broughty Ferry Cinemas, The Reres and The Regal, are missing.

Normally, the City Centre cinemas opened around 1.00pm for three continuous performances. During the
week when it was not very busy the informal rules about sitting through the programme twice, or even three times were relaxed. However, if it was a very popular new release you were expected to leave at the appropriate point. When a really BIG film came to town all the rules changed, no more continuous programme but three separate performances, with the cinema being cleared after every showing regardless of when you arrived! This was a source of friction between the cinema management and the disgruntled patron who had not realised it was not a continuous showing.

Some of the local cinemas had special showings for children. These were known as Children's Cinema Clubs and they took place on Saturday forenoons usually commencing around 10.30am. The programme always had a cartoon, a comedy short, a cowboy or adventure short, an educational short (mainly by the Film Board of Canada) and the serial. This, along with community singing, was crammed into about two hours. When the showing ended passers-by could easily tell the subject of the serial by observing boys with trench coats as cloaks waving imaginary swords; or cowboys riding imaginary horses and firing imaginary revolvers; bows and
arrows, space pistols and crewing galleons all got similar treatment on the way home.

In 1953 television came to Scotland and within a couple of years the cinema bubble was burst. Gradually the local cinemas became bingo halls or carpet depots. The City Centre cinemas struggled on with innovations such as Cinemasope, VistaVision or ToddAO but television and bingo gradually prevailed and those buildings still standing are a sad reminder of the time when a night out at the pictures, in one of its thirty or so cinemas, was Dundee's favourite activity, it was certainly one of ours anyway!

Ferry, cross the ...
No. Not the River Tay!

Hugh McGrory

I promise this will be my last Ferry tale...

It was a pleasant surprise to my family, when we arrived in Toronto in the mid-sixties, to find that we had a substitute for our beloved Tay Ferries in the Toronto Island Ferry Service.

Torontonians are lucky in that they have a large island, actually a group of 15 islands inter-connected by


pathways and bridges just off-shore in Lake Ontario, and usually referred to as Toronto Island.

Vistors to the Island can walk, run or cycle, walk their dog, visit the 200 year old lighthouse or the trout pond or have a coffee or beer at one of the restaurants. There are lockers at several busy locations, a pier, a boardwalk, formal gardens, playgrounds, artists retreat and even a public grade school. Altogether a wonderful spot to escape the summer heat of the city.

There are beautiful swimming beaches (including a nude beach on Hanlan’s Point), sports facilities, bike, canoe and kayak rentals, a boating marina, large grassy fields for picnics, a theatre, nature paths, EMS and fire station, an amusement park and a charming 150 year-old community of 600 people living year-round in cottage-like homes.

Children love to vist Centreville as the amusement park is known, to ride the Antique Carousel, the Log Flume, Tea Cups, Ferris Wheel, Antique Cars, the SkyRide and more... they can also visit Far Enough Farm to interact with pigs, horses, mini ponies, sheep and over 40 different species of animals and birds in the year-round family-friendly petting farm.

But back to the ferries... there are actually three, all running at the same time. They all leave from the terminal at Queen's Quay on the Toronto waterfront, but head to three different spots on the Island: Hanlan's Point in the west, for people who want to spend time on a beach; Centre Island, most popular with families in the summer and


Ward's Island for residents who are lucky enough to live there.


The ride across takes around 13 minutes, and ferries leave every half hour from 6:30 am to 11:30 pm. It's approximately 5 kms from Ward's Island to Hanlan's Point so you can take the eastern or western ferry over, take a three mile stroll and return on the opposite ferry. And the views of the Toronto skyline from the ferry and the island are spectacular.

Toronto Waterfront from The Island.

So we ex-Dundonians are still able to enjoy the ferry experience – only drawback is that the trip is too short
– roughly half the time of the old Tay ferries. But if you thnk that's too fast....

There is actually a fourth ferry servicing the Toronto Island – specifically for the Island Airport. The ferry service runs from about 5:00 in the morning to midnight – the trip takes 90 secs to cover the 121 metre (400 feet) distance...

Vehicular use of the ferry is for the many necessary airport services. Air passengers can park on the Toronto side and take the ferry, or use the recently completed pedes-
trian tunnel (a six minute walk). Of couse, ex-Dundonians of a certain age wait for the ferry...

Only a 90 second ferry ride – but still....

D.B. Stewart 2
Gordon Findlay

As I related in an earlier Anecdote, D.B. Stewart was not only a familiar teacher at Morgan, he was also a nearby neighbor on Shamrock Street in Dundee where he occupied – as a lifelong bachelor – a neat bungalow just 50 yards from our own home.

My encounters with Cheesie usually took the form of being trapped into walking back home with him ... something I tried hard to avoid since to be seen walking and chatting to a teacher was like fraternizing with the enemy. But since my father and Cheesie were friendly (and were each keen movie camera buffs) I had to make the best of these occasional homeward walks together.

But my feelings about Cheesie the teacher underwent a sea change one late Spring afternoon when I was again “trapped” into walking back home along Shamrock Street with D.B. When we reached Cheesie’s neat little home, he stopped and said: “Gordon, your father told me you have cousins in South Africa.” I nodded (they lived in Johannesburg and regularly sent us each year a dazzling fold-out photo-postcard showing the sights of South Africa). Cheesie smiled and added: “I want to show you something.” He unlocked his front door and beckoned me in.

I had never been inside his home and had never expected to be, so I was unsure of what Cheesie wanted to show me. But as soon as I had taken two steps inside his home, I was completely and utterly transfixed. It seemed that every wall, every table and every corner was filled with the artifacts of his travels around the world, with the majority of the pieces from various parts of Africa.

There were spears of every size and colour plus native clubs called knobkerries. Beside them was a display of hunting shields of stretched skin painted in bright reds and yellows. Above one doorway there was a 5-foot long blowpipe complete with a couple of fluffy darts neatly attached to it.

“The natives use these blowpipes for hunting, Gordon,” Cheesie explained. “They dip the point of the dart into a poison. Once they hit a monkey or a bird with a dart it is paralyzed almost at once.” .

Down another wall stretched a collection of native robes and blankets, some with intricate stitching and laced with bright beads. In another corner, neatly arranged on a stand was a collection of native footwear made from animal skins. There were strings of native jewellery, nose rings, pendants and bracelets mostly of bone but some of brass and silver.

One entire wall was covered with African knives in every conceivable shape from short stabbing knives to elaborate ceremonial blades with intricate handles. In pride of place hung an impressive Zulu war axe with a large half-moon blade.

It was a stunning display – a small museum of natural history in the three small rooms of his house. Cheesie led me through it, pausing to touch a favourite object here and there, and giving me a short account of where each came from and the colourful history of the natives who had created it.

I remember he lifted down one beautifully-
fashioned object from the wall. “This is called an assegai, Gordon,” he mumbled quietly, holding up the sharply-tipped spear. “They used them for hunting animals – or their enemies in time of war.”

Even more impressive, under each object or beside it was a small sign bearing Cheesie’s neat handwriting, describing it briefly, and telling of its origins in Africa. It was obvious that during his holidays Cheesie had travelled extensively throughout Africa and had made a point of adding to what was an impressive collection. In his own quiet way, D.B. Stewart had covered thousands of miles across a continent that obviously fascinated him and had faithfully recorded the local artifacts and weapons he acquired along the way.

I was absolutely gob-smacked with it all, and before I realized it an hour had passed, and Cheesie was patiently explaining the significance of the intricate carvings on the sides of a set of large wooden mixing bowls. He veered off a few times to tell me of some particular tribe’s unusual habits. “Now then, with regard to that tribe, you might be interested to know that ...” and off he’d go with a titbit of knowledge he’d learned on his travels.

Of course when I went home I couldn’t wait to tell my parents and my brothers of what I’d just seen and heard. For me it was all part of the growing-up process – catching a glimpse of the person behind the image they present to the world. In Cheesie’s case, that glimpse helped me see the deeper layers of a quiet and brilliant mind who sought that knowledge in his own special way.

The Fifies 4
Voith Schneider
Hugh McGrory

So what the heck is a Voith Schneider, many of you are wondering (or maybe not, but I'm going to tell you anyway) (and by the way, Voith is pronounced Foyt in German). Here's a question for those of you who have seen the Tay Ferries 'Craig' motor vessels in action. Do you remember how they would come in to the pier bow first, and, after taking on new passengers, reverse out again? Then, before setting out on the crossing, they would turn around, almost in their own length. Did you ever wonder how they could do that? – it certainly never occurred to me at the time, but it really is quite unusual. Well that's where the Voith Schneider propulsion system comes in.

In 1825 a young man named Johann Matthäus Voith took over his father's locksmith business in Heidenheim in Southern Gemany. The firm employed five master locksmiths, skilled in precision metalwork, and they branched out to specialise in the repair of water wheels and paper mills. As early as 1830 the company constructed a wood grinder for paper making. In doing so, the foundation was laid for what was to become the large, international engineering group, Voith.

In 1922, Voith built, for the first time ever, a Kaplan turbine, a huge propeller that was rated at 1,100 HP, and also began to design and build gear drives. In 1927, the engineer Ernst Schneider and Voith at its location in St. Pölten, west of Vienna in Northern Austria, registered a patent for the Voith Schneider Propeller, which was built in the previous year on the basis of plans by the Viennese engineer. Its special feature – the ship propulsion system, which also assumes the steering, and allows a previously unreached degree of maneuverability for ships. This is the propulsion system that was bult into the MVs Abercraig and Scotscraig and that gave them their unusual agility.

Kaplan TurbineVoight Schneider Propellers

The illustrations below show the difference between the Voith Schneider and the standard marine propellor.
The traditional approach is a propeller for propulsion and a rudder for steering. The Voith Schneider propeller system combines propulsion and steering in one unit. Also known as a cycloidal drive, it can move the ship in any direction through 360 degrees. It's particularly suitable for work boats such as tugs and ferries.

The functionaliy of the Voith system worked well in providing the Abercraig (1939 ) and the Scotscraig (1951 ) great maneuverability, but the system was relatively new, especially for the Abercraig, and this caused some spare part and reliability problems. With the with- drawal of the Sir William High in 1951
the remaining steam paddler the B L Nairn, which was very reliable, was called into service quite often right up to the end of the ferry service in 1966.

In the past fifty years, the Voith Schneider Propulsion System has come a long way and is used throughout the world for ferries, tugboats (The Water Tractor), oil rig tenders and fire-fighting boats. See this video if you're interested.
Two Voith Schneider-Powered Ferries Doing Synchronised Pirouettes mid-Bosphorus, Turkey.

Things Ain't What They Used to Be
Bill Kidd

Far be it from me, a Harris FP, to question Gordon Findlay's judgement of what constitutes the truly memorable dishes of our childhood and adolescence! While I can relate to all of his choices there is one
glaring omission. I still miss, Barrie's American Cream Soda. I can still recall that sweet, subtly perfumed taste, the perfect accompaniment to a white pudding supper or, in times of pecuniary embarrassment, chip shop fritters!

Even after the sixty years since I left Dundee the memory still stimulates my salivary glands.

I know that one can still buy ersatz American Cream Soda but those currently on the market are merely a fizzy, inadequate copy of the real thing, totally incapable of cutting through the grease of a Dundee white pudding supper. Alas, I suspect my dream of finding a modern equivalent is just a dream and as unlikely as finding one of the four inch diameter Wagon Wheels biscuit of my youth.

Not only did Gordon's article set me thinking about our Dundee food heritage but it stimulated some thoughts about evocative Dundee smells! How many of us can recall the smell of hot chocolate that wafted through the centre of the City from Keiller's factory. How many of you deliberately walked down Castle Street to catch the scent of roasting coffee from Braithwaites and further down, the appetising smell of baking pies and bridies?

Less salubrious was the rather greasy odour of frying fat and vinegar that prevailed across the Mid Kirk
Style market located behind the City Churches. There, for a few pence, you could buy a buster consisting of hot peas and vinegar with chips that had been cooked over a brazier. I never could bring myself to try this delicacy having already observed an elderly lady serve
the chips by hand after first making sure that her hands were clean by licking them! Whar wus yer Health and Safety in the 1940s?

The more perceptive among you will realise that I have failed to mention the real smell of Dundee. I don't mean the gasworks at Peep o' Day Lane or the foundry smells that emanated from the Blackness Foundry but the all pervading smell of jute. You could smell it at the docks where bales of the stuff were unloaded on an


almost daily basis. You could smell it within half a mile of a jute mill, which effectively meant anywhere along the main roads of the City. You could smell it on the trams and buses that carried the mill workers home, at times you could even smell it in the cinema!

Anyone who cannot clearly remember the real smell of Dundee can easily rectify this by picking up a new jute Bag for Life from the nearest Tesco. Just put your head in it, then take a deep breath to be instantly transported back to the Dundee of your childhood.

But remember, I attended Harris Academy.......!

D.B. Stewart
Gordon Findlay
D.B. Stewart – “Cheesie” to all of us – was a long-time fixture on the teaching staff at Morgan. In my day I
believe he was Head of the English Department, but I think he also taught History.

Cheesie was a soft-spoken, gentle man and a lifelong bachelor. He taught English with the air of a charming old uncle so obviously in love with his subject he would lead the class cheerfully down through the thickets of language to expound on some rich and fruitful passage which had caught his fancy.

And always – always – these charming voyages through the language of Chaucer, Swift or Bacon would be prefaced by his favourite catchphrase, “With regard to . . .” and he’d be off, leading a class
through lines of English prose to the sheer beauty of a polished phrase which Cheesie would then recite with the half-dreamy smile of a true believer.

His use of “With regard to” became Cheesie’s personal hallmark, and the catchphrase was sprinkled liberally through each and every one of his classes. So much so that one enterprising group of Fifth Formers set out to chart his use of the phrase throughout one full term, to see just how many times Cheesie would use it during a single class.

As I recall, those dedicated students’ heads would bob up the instant “with regard to” rolled out, and a quick mark would be made in a special notebook. They then compared notes at the end of class to see if their numbers matched. If my memory serves me correctly, Cheesie set his all-time record for the phrase one warm day in May when he managed to mumble it out 27 times in 45 minutes.

For me personally, Cheesie was more than just a teacher: he was also a neighbor, living in a neat bungalow just four houses away from our own home on Shamrock Street in Maryfield. Although I tried hard to avoid it, I would occasionally be on my way home when I would hear a soft voice behind me: “Hello, Gordon. Shall we walk home together?” and we would walk slowly together back along Shamrock Street. He would ask after my mother and father, and brothers, then inquire gently as to how I was doing at school.

I should have realized what a privilege it was, to have an exclusive conversation with Cheesie, one of Morgan’s senior teachers. But at that time in your young life your mind and your personality are still forming, and you give far too much attention to the views of your peer group. So, to be seen walking home, chatting with a teacher was – in schoolboy eyes – seen as sucking up, of toadying with the enemy . . . it was virtually an act of treason. So I tried to avoid these meetings at all costs.

My father was a keen amateur movie-maker, and he shared tips and hints on home movie-making with Cheesie. I can remember my father telling us that Cheesie had just bought himself the latest Kodak “Brownie” 9 mm movie camera.

Cheesie was to make full use of his Kodak “Brownie”. He filmed events at the annual Sports Day. He took it to Morgan’s forestry camp, getting all the activity and the high jinks recorded on film. Cheesie shot bits of rugby games, field hockey games and cricket. He occasionally roamed the school playground, quietly recording groups of students strolling around or draped over the stone balustrade that separated the upper grounds from the front lawn. (I know that, because I appear in just such a scene on the video disc made from Cheesie’s large collection of footage).

Yours truly (4th from the left) at 'The Balustrade' c. 1947.

Here was a man who loved the teacher role, who loved the subjects he taught, and who also loved the institution of which he was a part – so much so that he made it his business to record as much of it as he could on film. Which is why former pupils such as I – thanks to the “Cheesie Tapes” (available on DVD from the Morgan FP Association) – are able today to go back in time and see ourselves at that special age.

Me again c. 1952/53 at Forfar Road after the annual PP v FP rugby game.

All thanks to the one and only: Cheesie.

The Fifies 3
The Motor Vessels
Hugh McGrory
There's no doubt that, when considering the lives of the 'Four Ferries' after they left the Tay estuary, the most interesting story, by far, is:

The Scotscraig

The MV Scotscraig was built in the Caledon Yard in Dundee, launched 1951. In Malta, like the Abercraig, it was used for various tasks around the island from collecting the onion harvest to having its car deck outfitted with strung lanterns, tables, chairs and umbrellas to take friends of the owners on a cruise to the adjoining island of Comino.

It would probably have met its demise in the same manner as the Abercraig if fate hadn't intervened in the form of Robert Altman who, in 1980, decided to make the movie 'Popeye' on location in Malta. It starred Robin Williams (in his first major movie role) as Popeye and Shelley Duval as Olive Oyl. Altman had a whole, wacky village created at Anchor Bay on Malta. (This was retained as a tourist attraction and still operates today.)

Many of you probably saw this movie, and may remember the opening scene when Popeye arrives in Sweethaven for the first time, rowing through the harbour to the jetty. The photo shows a clip from this scene – recognise the superstructure in the background? The Scotscraig itself was used as a filming platform for many of the water scenes, and also provided showers and toilet facilities for the movie crew.


When it came to shoot the opening sequence (it must have been towards the end of filming of the movie), the Scotscraig was sunk until the water level was roughly halfway between the car deck and the upper level. This enables Popeye to row right over the car deck. See the scene here.

You can just see the vague outline of the boat under the water, and note the Scotscraig flagpole sticking up to the right of the rowboat and the in-character buoy warning the workboats to stay clear of the lifeboat davits on the Scotscraig's prow.

Some of you may remember another scene in the movie, where Popeye sings "I Yam what I Yam" in the casino/brothel (what Popeye refers to as “a house of ill re-pukes”). The photo shows a clip from this scene – recognise the poles, the bench seat, the row of windows? This is, of course, the passenger saloon on the Scotscraig's upper deck – seen in the photo above. See the scene here.


Any possibility that our ferry might have a big career in the movies was dashed, unfortunately, by subsequent events. The Maltese authorities decided to construct a protective breakwater across the mouth of the bay, and the Scotscraig was refloated and drafted into service – it finally had its superstructure removed, was up sunk up to deck level, and used as a construction platform.



On completion of the work, the boat was taken under tow to be moved to another location (presumably to a breaker's yard), a tow rope snapped, the ferry tilted and sank. The good news is that the one remaining of our four beloved ferries may still be visited – about two miles south west of Anchor Bay – the bad news is that you have to be able to scuba dive to a depth of 21 metres to do so.

The wreck is a popular diving site, and below are some underwater photos:


As can be seen the Scotscraig is relatively intact, and scuba divers who make the dive often see moray and conger eels, groupers, octopi, and the occasional stingray. The video here shows a dive (the commentary begins in Maltese but switches to English at about the 2 minute mark) and the divemaster shows a reasonably good knowledge of the history of the ferry.

It's rather pleasant to think that one of the four ferries that many of us grew up with is still known and providing a service to people – but I think most of us will prefer to remember the MV Scotscraig the way she looked on the last day of service, 18 August, 1966...

Scotscraig Dressed for Last Day of Service Last Crossing – Recognise Anyone?

Gi'in' the Belt
Marion Mackay Clubb



My twin Isobel and I were in the playground at lunchtime when Joan Kilpatrick came along to join us. She had a balloon with her. It was turquoise and had cost seven pence. She had only blown it up once, so it was smooth and unwrinkled.

We crowded round. It was something new to us in 1947 when luxuries were scarce. She blew it up quite tight, then made to blow it up again! “Don't Joan, you'll burst it” we said – and burst it she did!

'Not to worry” she said ”look”, and she took the ruined balloon and tore it into bits. One portion she stuck over her middle finger, sucked it off, twisted it and ‘voila’, a tiny cherry. She handed out the four remaining bits and we all had a go.

Then the bell went, we lined up, climbed the steps into the school building along the corridor and into the classroom, second on the left.

It was a dull day not made any brighter as Miss Chalmers announced we would be having an extra Arithmetic lesson. She spoke as if this was a treat, but no one cheered. She was a good teacher in that she managed to get most of the class through the ”qualifying exam” that gave entrance to the senior secondary education.

Forty-six pupils in our class of girls. With Miss on the far side of the room explaining a problem to a classmate, I took out my scrap of balloon and, following earlier
instructions ”sooked” it off my finger, twisting it into a tidy little cherry. I gave it a tiny turn more and that was not a good idea as it exploded!

Not only did I get the fright of my life so did everyone else! All eyes were on my guilty red face. Miss Chalmers , commanded me out to the front, The tirade began and went on, eventually ending with the directive “Go straight to the Rector”.

I was shocked. If you went to the Rector he belted you and he was an expert. “Please don't send me to Mr Robertson” I whimpered.

“Go”, she said, and snivelling, I reluctantly went along the corridor to the Rector's
room. I stood trembling – a be-gowned Peter Robertson opened the door to my knock. He looked down and said, “And what has a Mackay been doing that brings you here?”

“Miss Chalmers sent me.”

“What were you doing?”

In between sobs, I told him of my misadventure with a cherry balloon during an arithmetic lesson. I had the remnants of the ill-fated balloon in my hand, as a visual aid.

He then asked “Are you sorry for what you have done?”

“Yes, oh yes”.

"Will you ever do it again?”

“No, no, never', I said, wondering was I to be belted outside or inside his room.

“Then go back to Miss Chalmers, tell her you are very sorry to have disturbed her class and tell her you will never ever do it again.”

I looked up in amazement. I was being dismissed!

“Off you go” he said. Was it my imagination, or was he smiling? I sped along to the classroom.

“Well?” Said Miss Chalmers.

“I am very sorry I disturbed your Arithmetic lesson, I will never do that again”, I rattled off.

Miss Chalmers turned to the class, ”She didn't go to the headmaster but I'll go and tell him!” With that she marched out off the room and along to the Rector's study.

As soon as she was out I was asked, ”Did you go?”

“Yes” I said ”I went all right.”

Back came Miss Chalmers with a face like thunder, “Go to your seat Marion – Isobel, you are to tell your parents about your sister's outrageous behaviour”. How Miss Chalmers expected one twin to clype on another I don't know!

We went on with our arithmetic problems, but the dull afternoon had definitely brightened ...

The Fifies 2
The Motor Vessels
Hugh McGrory

Last time I spoke of the fate of the Tay Ferry paddle steamers – today it's the MV Abercraig (Aber refers to the mouth of a river, craig refers to sea-rocks, cliffs – c.f. crag.)

AbercraigScotscraig
Tell them apart? Abercraig's upper deck windshield has 2 large windows either side, the Scotscraig 5.

Both boats sat in Victoria dock for more than a year, then in 1968, along with a huge stock of spares, they were sold to a Portsmouth company for £15,000, then sold on to Salvatore Bezzina of Malta .

As you know, Malta is a tiny island in the Mediterranean (see the map) south of Sicily, East of Tunisia and north of Libya. The Maltese are a seafaring nation and Malta is one of the larger 'flag-of-convenience'


nations. There are many boats around the coast of the Maltese Islands, amongst these local freighters of various shapes and sizes. The photograph below is an example, a boat called the DePoala – ugly, but a practical vehicle carrier – basically just a rectangular box ...

De Poala

The Abercraig

A steel motor vessel with fore and aft screws the Abercraig was built by Fleming & Ferguson, Paisley, and launched in 1939. After retirement from the Tay, and arrival in Malta in 1969, she was used for general local services for many years going through a conversion in 1986.

Take another look at the DePoala above, does it remind you of anything? Perhaps the paired photos below will prove to be a better aide memoire... Look at the Abercraig. Imagine chopping off the bow, removing the funnel and wheelhouse, chopping off the superstructure to just abaft the rear ramp, then replacing the wheelhouse.

The Maltese De Poala is our Abercraig after conversion in Malta. Sic transit gloria mundi...

AbercraigDe Poala

The vessel was finally taken out of service, and was often seen by Dundonian tourists lying in Marsa Harbour. Indeed, in 1994 a public meeting was held in Dundee to try to raise funds to bring the Abercraig home, but nothing came of this. and the boat was scrapped in 1995, because the owner was under pressure to clean up his part of the harbour.

The Scotscraig story is the most involved of the four – next time I'll tell you how she fared after leaving Dundee for Malta.

The Golden Eagle
Gordon Findlay

Growing up in Dundee, I was familiar with the city’s claim to industrial fame: the three “Js” – jute, jam and journalism. The Eagle Jute Mill (and several others like Caldrum Works, Halley’s and Camperdown) were a familiar part of the city. Janet Keiller had reportedly invented marmalade in 1797 and Keiller’s jams and marmalade were produced at one site near our home in Maryfield.

And then, of course, there was D.C. Thomson, the largest independent publisher in the U.K. and a longtime fixture in the city with a large downtown plant and offices at Meadowside.
Working as a journalist had always been in my sights, and after saying goodbye to Morgan in ’49 with my treasured “Highers” I applied to and was accepted as a junior sub-editor at D.C.’s.

The company was fiercely independent. In union-strong Scotland that might have seemed a difficult path for a publisher, many of whose employees were hourly-rated pressroom workers. But D.C.’s owners were very canny. They matched the union rate for these workers to the very penny, installed modern equipment and offered them good working conditions, free of the petty rules and regulations which afflicted their unionized brethren. D.C. Thomson’s was a sought-after place to work ...

As a junior reporter I, of course, worked in the offices stacked above the ground floor printing presses. By today’s standards, the offices we worked in were laughably cramped and ancient. The desks and the chairs were all wooden, and most of them had seen better days. The old-fashioned incandescent lighting made things murky on winter’s days. You needed a senior reporter’s OK to make a long-distance phone call. You sharpened pencils down to the nub. Plus, of course, you wrote on BOTH sides of sheets of paper. And I loved every second of it ...

The highlight of the week was, of course, Friday. Pay day. Golden Eagle Day. My own kids have collapsed in fits of giggles when I have told them how we were paid. Here’s what happened ...

Some time around four o’clock on a Friday afternoon a low whisper would flit around the newsroom. “The Golden Eagle’s on his way!” Most people would quietly take a fast look through the glass wall to see if they could catch a sighting. Then, magically, he would appear, the Golden Eagle in person. And back then, at D.C. Thomson, we had a paymaster who was really golden in his own way ...

He was a youngish man, in his late 30s, and I’ve long forgotten his name, but he was graced with a full head of curly red hair. He was officially D.C. Thomson’s Assistant Cashier at Meadowside, but his mop of unruly red locks was unmistakable – and on a sunny day with the light behind him, he became positively incandescent...

He would appear every Friday afternoon like some golden Greek god, on one floor after the other in our building, balancing a large wooden tray in his hands. On this tray were racks and racks of small paper envelopes. On each envelope, written in careful longhand, appeared your name and most important of all – the pounds shillings and pence to which you were entitled. .

The “Golden Eagle” would stop at your desk and would demonstrate his perfect memory for every face – new and old – in the building by sounding your first name. As you nodded, he would then hand over your envelope with a quick smile, before he looped away to his next happy client.

Like most everyone else, I tore open my envelope and slipped the notes and coins into my hand to fully relish the look and feel of them, and the power they gave me. I could take my girlfriend to the pictures. Buy a pint with the lads. Put petrol in my bike. I was rich again, at least for a wee while.

I know D.C.’s payroll system was slow, labour-intensive and old-fashioned. But at the time it seemed completely sensible in that steady, reliable and common sense Scottish way. And the joyful flight of Meadowside’s “Golden Eagle” was a ritual I’ve never forgotten.

PS from Editor

Gordon's description of the Eagle with the sunlight behind him, reminded me of something – I tracked it down to a painting of Gordon Lightfoot by Ken Danby, the well-known Canadian painter renowned for creating highly realistic paintings – see it here.

The Fifies 1
The Paddle Steamers

Hugh McGrory

If you grew up in the Dundee area in the 1940s/50s/60s you’ll remember the four ferries – two, the MVs (Motor Vessels) Abercraig and Scotscraig in regular use, and the two older PSs (Paddle Steamers) Sir William High and BL Nairn, which saw only occasional use, when either the Abercraig or Scotscraig were pulled from daily service for maintenance or repairs.

I had only a vague idea of the life history of these four well-loved ferries, which came to an end in 1966 when the new road bridge made the ferry service obsolete. At that time the craft were moored in Victoria Dock and advertised for sale.

I decided to a bit of research to see what actually happened to each of the four:

The Paddle Steamers

BL NairnSir William High

The BL Nairn

Built in the Caledon shipyard in Dundee, the very last paddle steamer to be built there, the BL Nairn was launched in 1929, and, like its older sister the William High, was a side-paddle steamer with independent paddle wheels (making it easier to steer than coupled wheels). The engines were made by the Lilybank Foundry Works, Dundee. After trial runs in the Tay, it was certified for 780 passengers in winter and 1107 in summer.

It had a reputation as being “The most hard-worked and most reliable vessel ever built for passage on the Tay ferry route” – but it didn't have a perfect record... One evening in 1934 it got stuck in the mud for nearly three hours at Craig Pier. The steamer arrived from Newport at 7:45 pm, landed and embarked passengers, and lay at the pier until she was due to sail again. However, the Captain misjudged the tide, and when the engines were started the boat couldn't move, the bow being stuck fast.

The passengers had to come ashore again by the gangway. Some crossed the Tay by train, others waited – being the later part of the evening there was only one boat on the run. Fortunately, the Sir William High, was lying in deeper water at the west side of the pier with steam up. The boat was quickly manned and resumed the service about nine o'clock.

Only one run – the 8.15 was missed, the Sir William High making two crossings to and from the Fife side. The B. L. Nairn was refloated on the rising tide at 11.15, just as the Sir William High arrived at the pier to tie up for the night.

The BL Nairn was named after Boswell Nairn who was a local ship-owner, in a small way, between 1886 and 1908 when his company became shipping agents. Later it amalgamated with The Den Line, which had been established by Captain David Barrie when he left the sea. The new company was named Barrie and Nairn – it still provides freight forwarding services in Dundee.

While the two MVs were the work horses through the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Nairn was quite often called into service.

The BL Nairn was acquired by Hughes Bolckow Shipbreaking Company and broken up in their yard at Blyth, Northumberland in 1967/68.

Sir William High

The William High (named after a Lord Provost of Dundee) was launched from the Caledon yard in 1924, with a certificate to carry up to 1,100 persons.

It was re-named the 'Sir William High' in 1929. In 1948 it managed to become stranded on Fowler Rock off Dundee harbor, on a falling tide and in fog. It was refloated in damaged condition, repaired for £8,000 and fitted with Radar for a further £3,500.

It was laid up in 1951 (replaced by MV Scotscraig) and the following year it was sold to the Ojukwo Transport Co., Ltd, Nigeria for £15,000. It left Dundee under tow by the Panamanian-flagged Steamer "Santelena" – rather ignominiously towed stern first, unmanned, with a deck cargo of two small tugs.

After stops in Dakar and Abidjan to discharge tugs, it arrived in Lagos late December 1952. The Dundee Registry was cancelled and it was renamed the "Ojukwo" with a Lagos registration.

It was fitted for river service on the Niger, and proceeded under its own power some 400 miles up-river to Onitsha to provide a general cargo service. Regretfully this didn’t work out since the side-loading feature proved unsuitable.

I got to thinking about why the boat, apparently, wasn't fit for purpose. The photo to the right may provide a clue. This shows a stretch of waterfont in Onitsha in 1950. If the Sir William had been a bow or stern loader, it would have taken up the width of perhaps three of the boats shown – as a side-loader, it would probably have displaced five times as many local boats. I wonder if that was the issue...

Our old Tay ferry was returned to Lagos and laid up. Presumably it was eventually sold for scrap.

Ironically, the towship, the Santelena (originally The Allara), returned to Scotland after delivering the Sir William High and was itself scrapped in 1954 at Charlestown, Fife.

Santelena/Allara

Next time I'll tell you how our two 'Craig' ferries fared after they left the Tay.

Flying
Murray Hackney

Hugh's flying tales gave me an instant nostalgia hit.

In 1951 a few Morgan pals joined the Air Training Corps instead of school cadets, and we were taught to get haircuts, press trousers, and say yes sir! All useful in later life...lots of flights were on offer in those days, from Tiger Moths to Ansons and even the famous Lancaster.

Ronnie Duncan and I did a gliding course at Grangemouth. Heady stuff for 15 year olds – we were flung into the air on the end of a long cable with a whacking great engine at the other end, and eventually flew solo. We were given a certificate and a badge, which I have to this day.

One memorable trip I had was in a Hastings from Lyneham to Gibraltar (6 very noisy hours). Just before I went deaf I found that the Station Commander's Vauxhall Velox on board was unlocked, so I spent most of the time in peace and quiet. So I suppose I can claim to have flown to Gib. in a car!

As a Sergeant cadet In 1953 I won a Flying Scholarship at Scone, using Tiger Moths (this is the actual one I soloed in, G-AHUV). It's 80 years old and still flying in Scotland. At the end I found myself in the unusual position of being a 17 year old schoolboy with a Private Pilot's Licence but no driving licence! Naturally I couldn't afford £2.50 an hour, so no flying for a while...

By this time I was determined to be an RAF pilot, but first an engineering degree seemed a good idea, so I signed up with St. Andrews University Air Squadron which flew Chipmunks from Crail. Heaven! A flying club but with pay (a little)! We were taught aerobatics, formation and navigation. We thought we were the bee's knees – uniform with the White Officer Cadet shoulder flash, and full RAF gear – flying suit, boots, parachute, Mae West, helmet goggles, oxygen mask and the ultimate poser's white cape leather gloves! Having flown before I was able to solo quickly. No airways, few regulations and we flew pretty well where we liked. Not today, many more rules and less fun.

This is one of the St. AUAS Chipmunks (beautiful aircraft) at Leuchars.

Maybe I spent too much time flying, but Meg Leitch's forecast came true, I failed maths in a big way and was asked to leave! Plan A was put into action and off I went to RAF selection tests. I had done it all before, so it should be easy. Well it wasn't. "No thank you, your eyesight is not good enough."
At this point I realised there was no plan B, and H M govt. invited me to do National Service, or else! After a year training I was posted to Malta as an Airborne Radar Technician for the second year. Sounded ok but it was the radar that was airborne, not me! I had a few test flights to check intermittent faults in Meteors and Shackletons, but not many. Despite everything, I enjoyed my stint before returning to real life.

In 1970 I was hit with the bug again and joined the Angus Gliding Club, and became an instructor for some years. The Company I worked for had a club for Rallye aircraft enthusiasts so I renewed my licence in 1973 after being required to do 10 hours, cross country and all the written exams.

Also for a few years I was in a syndicate which owned a Scheibe Falke (semi aerobatic) motor glider, and had a lot of fun with that. To this day I detest flying in airliners, but like small planes which can be turned upside down!

I managed to fly on and off until 2005, when I failed the annual medical, and now design, build and fly only radio controlled model aircraft (which is much more difficult)!

Ferry, cross the ...
No. Not the Mersey!

Hugh McGrory
Ian Gordon who has written several entertaining stories for our collection suggested that ‘The Fifies’ would be a good topic – which got me reminiscing … I hope this little story will bring back happy memories for many of you.

My Dad’s brother, my Uncle Barney, died too young, just 42, in 1945. His widow, my mother’s sister, my Auntie Ev, continued to live in Lower Methil, Fife, for a few years (before they moved to Dundee) with her children, my cousins Mike and Frank.

The sister’s were quite close, and so in summer, in the late ‘40s, the two families would take a holiday together for a week or two, either at their house or ours.

Methil was a foreign country to me. The Methil folk spoke quickly, in an accent that I sometimes had trouble understanding, and used words, from time to time, that I didn’t know. But I loved being there – and our trip was exciting, an adventure.

A wee bit of geography first, for those of you 'wha're no from aroond here'... we're talking about the East of Scotland. If you refer to the map, Dundee is on the north shore of the River Tay, Edinburgh is further south, on the south shore of the River Forth. Fife County is the land mass between the Tay and the Forth, as shown in the map, and Methil is on the north shore of the Forth, just east of Buckhaven. (The red line is not significant – it shows the Fife Coastal Path.)

We would take a bus 'doon the toon' then walk along Dock Street and down South Union street past the lineup of vehicles waiting to board one of the vehicular ferries (known locally as the 'Fifies') that crossed the River Tay to Newport-on-Tay, Fife, then take another bus to complete our journey. I loved the ferries – hated the buses. My problem was that I was very prone to travel sickness when on a bus or a car (tramcars and trains were fine...).

One of our parents would buy tickets at the old Booking Office (at some point, this old building was demolished and rebuilt, and the entrance moved to the other side of the building). We'd then walk through the gates onto the pier itself. It had a sloping boat ramp surfaced in what we referred to as cassies, actually granite setts – like dressed cobblestones (the word cassie comes from causeway...).

The river is tidal at Dundee, so depending on whether the tide was in or out, the waterline might be quite close or further down the slope. We kids would edge closer to the water (until our parents spotted us), and sometimes, when the boat arrived the bow wave would sweep up the ramp – anyone not paying attention could end up with wet feet.

We'd have to wait until the vehicles and passengers had disembarked, then we could traipse on and our parents would try to get a good seat (with a view, but sheltered from the wind).

We kids would have lots to see of interest – how the deckhands handled the hawsers, how they lowered and raised the access ramp, how they organised the vehicles as they boarded, squeezing them together to get the maximum load – and, if you stood by the door to the engine room, which was often left open, the smell of hot oil and the sight of massive crankshafts going back and forward was mesmerising.

The crossing took approximately 20 minutes, with 10 minutes allowed for boarding/disembarking. This regular service on the hour and the half-hour required two ferries to be on duty and a feature of the crossing was seeing the ‘other’ ferry passing in mid-river. Since the Tay is tidal at Dundee, the route varied somewhat depending on the tide level. At high tide, the ferry could plow straight across in about ten minutes, but at low tides, the many sandbanks in the river required a more varied path. (The ferry service ended in 1966 with the completion of a road bridge – during the last two years of the service, the road bridge construction lay across the ferry route, so for the last two years the sailings were tidal).

When we reached Newport Pier, the passengers would all rush off onto Boat Road before the vehicles disembarked, some to walk home, or to their parked cars, some to seek refreshments at the Brig O'Tay Restaurant (F. McGrory, proprietor – no relation) others to traipse up the hill to Windmill Park,
for a picnic and to let the kids run around and play on the slides and roundabouts, (the old photo shows the view from Windmill Park, which some of you will remember, high above Newport, to the Tay Rail Bridge).

Many, like us, would head for the bus stops to catch a bus to somewhere in Fife. The buses were usually double-deckers, local, not express, and seemed to stop at every little village and every second farm-road end. I
would usually last until the village of Kennoway – on a good day I might make it another couple of miles to Windygates – then I’d have to get off the bus, throw up in the gutter, then stagger back on and sit, comatose, until we arrived in Methil.

I know that some of you good people reading this are feeling sorry for the wee lad who had to endure this epic cross-country journey to this foreign land – and it’s appreciated – but I probably should state, for those of you that don’t know, the distance door-to-door as the crow flies is about 20 miles, by road, 30...

The River Tay is a mighty waterway – 180 miles long, 7th longest in the UK, longest in Scotland, and 1st in the UK in terms of volume of water discharged. There have been regular ferry crossings from the Dundee area to Fife for centuries. From the early 1800s a passenger and vehicle ferry service operated across the River Tay between Craig Pier, Dundee and Newport-on-Tay.

I used to love the ferry ride, the views up and down-river, of Dundee and the Fife coastline, the distinctive sound and rhythmic vibration of the engines in the background – and the refreshing sea-air – just what I needed on the return trip to get rid of my travel sickness…

PS
Writing this got me wondering what happened to the four ferries that were so well loved by Dundonians. I had heard vague stories about Africa and the Mediterranean, and decided to do some research to see if I could come up with the real stories. I'll share the fruits of my labour with you next time.
Scrumping
Gordon Findlay

The idea was floated by the smallest member of my group of pals, Colin Barclay. Colin was definitely on the short side, even at 10 years old. The rest of our “gang” were all at least a head taller than wee Colin who made up for his vertical shortage by having just about the reddest hair in Dundee.

No doubt about it: Colin was our Mafia don despite his shortness – or maybe because of it. His fiery nature matched his hair: he was a terrier on the fitba’ pitch, he would take on anyone of any size, and always had a fast answer ready in his mouth. We didn’t call him a wee nyaff – but many others did ...

But on this October day, Colin had apples on his mind. In particular, the apple tree that belonged to Mr. Mathieson on Shamrock Street, where we all lived.

It seemed that Colin’s mother had been talking to Mrs. Mathieson and in the conversation, the good lady had mentioned that their apple tree was about to produce a bumper crop. “The tree is just full of them this year. Donald (her husband) is fair excited about it.”

And now Colin gathered our wee gang together to hear his latest plan – a raid on Mr. Mathieson’s apple tree while the fruit was ready and ripe.

We were all expected home about half-an-hour after the street lights came on at night. That would be lots of time, Colin said, for us to get to the prize tree. We’d gather in Brucie Davidson’s back garden (he was one of our gang) and from there we’d squeeze through one privet hedge, then up on to the wooden fence that ran down one side of Mr. Mathieson’s garden.

The apple tree grew close to this fence. We’d be able to reach out and help ourselves to the fruit, fill our pockets, and go back the same way. “We’ll be eating apples for a week!” Colin said rubbing his hands. Excited by the prospect of excitement, danger and free apples, we were all for it.

The night came and at first all went well. We eased through Mr. Davidson’s hedge, scooted across the next garden, then one by one, got ourselves up on to Mr. Mathieson’s big solid wooden fence.

This was going to be a cakewalk ... There was an air of bravado as we pulled ourselves along the top of the fence towards the laden apple tree, seeing the lights on in the house behind their curtains, knowing we were about to pinch a pile of their juicy apples.

We reached the tree and it was easy. The fruit was hanging thick. We reached over and filled our pockets , two in each. (Why didn’t we bring a wee bag? Good question.) Then Norrie Anderson (another one of our wee gang) got greedy.

He swung out from the fence to try to get one last, huge apple. And lost his balance. The next thing we saw and heard was Norrie falling on to a little metal chair sitting under the tree. It broke his fall but he hit its edge, yelled in pain, and the chair went crashing onto the metal table beside it. And on the table were a selection of flowers in metal pots.

The crash and clatter and Norrie’s scream would have wakened the whole street. The side door burst open, spilling light on to the garden, the fence, Norrie – and us, cowering on the fence. Mr. Mathieson himself came walking out. The jig was up.

And here was where I learned a great lesson in compassion and good humour. Mr. Mathieson surveyed Norrie, nursing a bleeding knee and a sore arm. And the
rest of us, now down off the fence, cowed and nervous, our pockets bulging with his apples. He carried it off beautifully.

“Well, lads,” he said, “I see you’ve been pickin’ meh apples for me.”

His wife quickly cleaned off Norrie’s knee and Mr. Mathieson told us to put all the apples on the table.

“Now,” he said, leaning in toward us. “I’ve seen you all on the street. I know who you are, and I know your folks. I’ll be round to have a wee talk to them.”

With that ominous threat hanging over our heads, we gloomed away back home without a word spoken. Our parents were going to kill us. The horror! The shame! Our lives were over.

But you know what? Mr. Mathieson never did. Bless his heart: that decent man never said a word to any of our parents. And we never went near his place again.

The Great Shamrock Street Apple Robbery passed quietly into history.

Mr. Cool – 2
Hugh McGrory

It’s the early ‘60s. The stage is in darkness. A spotlight comes on focused on the side curtain, stage right. A lantern appears attached to a staff – then a foot followed by a head, looking around.

There’s a pause then part of a human torso and a second leg – then a third leg – and, amid gales of laughter, Peter Cook hippity-hops onto the stage to perform a hilarious three-legged man act. (Rolf Harris made this famous some years later with his Jake the Peg act.)

If you haven’t seen the three-legged man shtick before here’s an example from a street magician.

There’s an American magician named Rudy Coby who does a variation – The Four-Legged Man.

However, all of the above is background to introduce the fact that I have actually done... a five-legged shtick.

This happened in the early ‘70s. At the time I was managing the computer department for a firm of Canadian Consulting Engineers. I tried to cultivate an informal atmosphere in the department – we were, after all, oddbodies, trying to bring the world of computing into a conservative engineering company.

We worked weird hours – sometimes into the wee sma’ oors on things that no one else in the firm really understood (sometimes we didn’t either – hence the long hours), and I was reading ‘the book’ one day ahead of the rest…

On this particular occasion I had something I wanted to say to them all – some type of group behaviour, high-jinks, that they had fallen into and that I wanted to nip in the bud; so I wanted to project a friendly, but firm, mien – a certain gravitas to get the message over...

I asked them – there were about 6 or 7 in the department at that time – to gather in the programmers’ area. I walked into the room and noticed a chair just inside the door which surprised me – not the chair itself, but the fact that it was empty – usually it held a pile of computer paper – from a few inches to a couple of feet deep – the continuous, fan-fold, 15”’x 11” paper from computer print-outs.

To digress for a moment. When I joined the firm, in 1966, there was no computer (the story is too long to go into here, but I was tasked with bringing in a computer and creating a department). I scrounged around
the firm to pick up some furniture, desks, chairs etc., and discovered a store room with some pieces gathering dust from way back in the firm’s history (founded in the 1910s).

The chair was one of those, probably 60 years old, perhaps a lot more, with cane webbing in a round seat – rather like the one in the photograph.

The staff were standing around in the room in a rough semi circle, and when I saw
the chair, it seemed like a good idea, for some reason that escapes me, to grab it, turn the back away from me, put my right foot on the seat and lean my weight on my knee. So far so good…

As I began to speak, though, the long-serving cane reached the end of its life – my foot went through the seat (I was wearing my usual oxfords) but stuck against the rim halfway through with my heel jammed and my toes pointing, rather painfully, up into the air.

Not a major problem – yet – but since I was leaning forward at the time, the sudden downward movement of my foot threw me off balance and my weight, moving forward, began to tip the chair. To counter this, I very quickly swung my left leg forward and to the right.

While this was a good idea, I was a little too enthusiastic about it, and caused a rotational movement which forced my right leg, chair attached, into the air. For one adrenalin-filled moment, I was a five-legged man gyrating in some kind of wild polka…

My back was now to the assembled crew, and I felt myself falling back towards them, about to land on my ass. Fortunately, two of my guys grabbed me, an arm each. At first I thought I was going to take them down with me, but they held on and steadied me enough that I was finally able to stand on my own five feet.

While they held onto me, I tried to pull my foot out – no go. They tried to pull it out – no go. I tried to push it through, almost breaking my toes – no go.

Finally, one of them said “OK, sit on the floor”. I did. He then sat facing me, his two legs facing my five. He grasped the legs of the chair, put the sole of his foot against my sole and pushed – and my foot popped out, shoe attached.

The chair looked rather like the photo (but it continued to hold printouts for us for many years); the toe of my right shoe stuck up at about a 25 degree angle (took a bit of work later to get it back into reasonable shape).

In any event, I managed to achieve the initial purpose of my meeting, and get my message across – they weren't likely to forget that meeting in a hurry! But gravitas?… not so much!

PS

I believe that Peter Cook performance I saw in the early ‘60s was on TV, not in a theatre, though I’ve never been able to find confirmation anywhere (including Google searches).

If any reader remembers seeing it, please let me know to confirm for me that I'm not making it up – it’s bugging me…

What's in a Name?
Anne FitzWalter Golden
I have always, as long as I remember, been fascinated by words and their meaning, such as how a town or street or house got its name, what a particular name meant and so on. From an early age if we did not know the meaning of a word father made us look it up in the dictionary, complete with its origin.

As a teenager, although I was a duffer at Latin....with Miss Eadie and Ma Ramsay...and did not enjoy all those Roman wars etc, it is such a brilliant language for our understanding that I wish I had paid more attention. It was such a help too for French and that I did enjoy, especially with Ma MacDonald.

I should point out at this stage that I am an enthusiastic family historian. Thus another of my wishes is that I had paid more attention to Miss Stewart, alias Kipper Feet, as I had to attend adult education class for many years in my retirement in order to put my family history in to context...not that she taught any English history!

So what about us FitzWalters! It is little wonder that I investigated this name and then became hooked on family history. Identical twins Anne and Christine FitzWalter joined Morgan Academy in 1948 from Downfield Primary. We had moved to Dundee in 1946, at the end of the war from the Scottish Borders. Now I can tell you, if you did not already know, that we are....descended from...bastards!

Fitz is of Norman origin and was the designation for bastards of the royal Dukes (Kings) of Normandy. One of our ancestors is described as Walter FitzWalter, dapifer regis (Steward of the King's Household).

Walter meant leader of a great army. I have traced the FitzWalters back through Norman Kings to the Vikings, to Rollo who conquered Normandy, then back through the Vikings and Norse legends to the Kings of Knevland 165AD. Then forward to us.

Our FitzWalter ancestry originates from the bastard Uncle and guardian of William the Conqueror, whose son fought in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings, alongside his cousin William, also a bastard (not much hope for us!). The FitzWalters have been fighting ever since .. Christine and I argue all the time!

They were always royal supporters and close to the Court at least up to the end of the Tudors. They have changed sides from time to time! Once they were supporters and battle commander for Maud, daughter of Henry 1st to whom they had pledged allegiance when she fought her cousin Stephen for the crown. She secured it for her son Henry 2nd.

Henry 1st's favourite bastard, of about 20 plus, and only surviving son after his son William was drowned in the White Ship disaster when returning from France, was Richard of Gloucester who he fathered with Nesta, the Princess daughter of Llewelyn of Wales who just happened to be married to Gerald FitzWalter, the Keeper of Windsor Castle.

The most famous or infamous FitzWalter was Robert, 1st Baron FitzWalter who led the Barons' revolt against King John, forcing the signing of Magna Carta in 1216. I got two articles published on that! and of course I lived quite
close to Runnymede in 2016 at the 800th anniversary.


Another FitzWalter changed sides and was beheaded by Henry 7th for supporting the usurper Perkin Warbeck's claim to the crown. However his son showed such prowess at jousting that Henry 8th brought him back to court and blessed his marriage to his cousin Elizabeth Stafford. Henry then sent FitzWalter to fight in the wars with France and promptly took Elizabeth as his mistress. To keep FitzWalter on side he allowed him to carry the salt (above the salt and all that!) at the baptism of Henry's only son Edward, the poorly child-King who succeeded him to the crown. He also created him Viscount in 1527 so FitzWalters were both Lords of Essex and Earls of Sussex, titles they held until the titles went into abeyance in 1756 with the death of Earl Benjamin FitzWalter, who died without heir.

I could tell you many interesting stories throughout the centuries.. e.g. if you are ever in Canterbury cathedral you will find the tomb of Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury 1198-1204. He dropped the Fitz...not good to be an archbishop and a bastard!!!

The title was in abeyance until 1924 as it was thought than another possible claimant had not come forward. My grandfather got interested but did not pursue a claim. The earldom was discontinued but the barony was then awarded to a descendant through marriage to a sister of the 1756 Earl FitzWalter.

The current Lord FitzWalter is Julian of Goodestone Park near Canterbury. I had been in correspondence
with his late father and Christine and I went to Goodestone Park to meet him, but unfortunately he had been called away that day to London. My daughter and family did manage to meet him and his wife, Margaret nee Deedes, sister of the late Bill Deedes. You may remember that he accompanied Princess Diana to minefields. I also heard that Princess Diana had stood up Julian's brother George when she got engaged to Prince Charles, as she was supposed to be going to the ballet with him that evening....a decoy perhaps.

Lord Julian FitzWalter, a direct descendant to Baron Robert De FitzWalter, generously contributed to the conservation fund to enable the Magna Carta Baron’s display at the The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury’s cultural hub. Post conservation, The Beaney welcomed him to visit his namesakes sculpture in the exhibition room.

Few can claim such prolific lineage, tracing their family history back from the time of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. This continued throughout the Tudor period where the Fitzwalters were leading courtiers and politicians, later becoming the Earls of Sussex.

That's a little look into our ancestry and our very rare FitzWalter name. I should tell you that we, our parents and grandfather were the only FitzWalters in the Scottish records 1535 until the 1960 s when a father and son turn up in Glasgow. They were from a branch of FitzWalters who settled in Devon – I am in contact with them and I believe they have now returned south. ( I now live in Devon, Christine in Inverness...keeping easyJet in business!!!). No FitzWalter has ever died in Scotland.....question is, should I now return?

I conclude by telling you that we are mostly English! We were born in Scotland because our grandfather Wilfred FitzWalter MBE, of the Army Service Corps, who was decorated both in the Boer War and Great War was posted to the Scottish Borders in 1903 to open up Stobs Army Training Camp, known as the Aldershot of the North. He married there in 1907... Stobs Castle, where the officers were billeted, given as his place of residence.... our father was born in 1908 in Hawick.

After various army postings and the Great War they were in Ash Vale near Aldershot when his mother died. Our father was sent back to Scotland to be brought up by his Scottish Granny......and the rest is history.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this little dip into our family history and that it may make you think of the meaning of your family name and your history.

Miss Appledaisy
Hugh McGrory

I’m pretty sure that, if asked, most of you could still name the teacher(s) who had the most impact on your life.

I suspect that many of these would be primary school teachers. For me, despite having many excellent secondary school teachers at Morgan Academy, and a few at university, the two I remember most are Miss Laing and Miss Macpherson, my early primary teachers at Dens Road School.

In the late 70’s I tracked down Miss Laing's whereabouts – she was retired and living in a small house in Victoria Street, Broughty Ferry. I sent her a summary article about a teacher, Miss Appledaisy, and thanked her for efforts to educate the wee me.

A little background – I spent 10 years managing college teachers (or as the saying goes, herding cats …) as a Department Chair and Associate Dean. It was an ‘interesting’ time, with much management/faculty interaction (think strike) regarding workload, class size, salary levels …

One argument put forward by the faculty union regarding remuneration was that teachers' salary scales should increase from early education through secondary, college, and university.

I argued the exact opposite – that kindergarten/early-primary teachers should receive the highest salaries – they have the most difficult job (herding kittens?) and have the most impact on pupils’ futures. This was a perception on my part, not based on objective fact. (I believe that, sadly, post-primary teachers are often asked to manage the stable after the horse has gone – too late to have a major effect on their students.)

Then I read about Miss Appledaisy … I’ve told her story often since then, describing her as a Primary 1 teacher in the Catholic School System in Montreal, Quebec. In doing some further research for this story I realised that she actually spent her working life teaching in a Protestant school, the Royal Arthur School, in one of the poorest districts of Montréal.

Her name was Iole Appugliese, (pronounced Yolly Appul Yazy). The Grade 1 kids couldn’t handle this, hence ‘Miss Appledaisy’. She taught the youngest children at Royal Arthur for 34 years.

She was just five feet one inch tall, but she didn’t have discipline problems – her pupils responded positively to her obvious affection and interest in them as individuals. She had a major objective for her Grade 1s – that they leave her class knowing how to read – and she spent after-class hours with those who needed extra help. Many of the children at Royal Arthur lived in poverty, and she was known to share her lunch with students, from time to time, when she saw the need.

Miss Appledaisy retired in 1971 at the age of 58 when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She could still address former students by name after 30 or 40 years. She died in 1973.

Eigil Pedersen was a pupil at Royal Arthur – he was not one of Miss Appledaisy’s students. He later taught at the school for five years and eventually became a Professor of Education, and VP Academic, at McGill University in Montreal.

One of the early areas of research that Dr. Pedersen undertook with two colleagues was the exploration of the impact of early teaching on the achievement of pupils in later classes and in life after school. The methodology was to use records of Grade 1 students at Royal Arthur together with interviews of some of these students as adults.

At the school, Primary 1 students were allocated to one of three teachers with no attempt to stream into ability groups. It was found that students of Miss Appledaisy performed better in later primary school years than those in the other two classes – they showed greater effort, leadership and initiative.

It was concluded that a major reason for this was that Miss Appledaisy gave them a greater sense of self-worth and self-confidence because they could read better than the students of the other two teachers.

In each of the following six Grades their average general standing as a group was higher than for the other two Primary 1 classes, and these findings were statistically significant.

To assess whether this effect carried through into later life, the researchers conducted interviews with former students who had been in those classes. They measured adult status by assessing information such as length of schooling, occupational status, annual income, type and condition of housing, personal appearance, and interactions with the legal system...

They grouped the former students into three status levels, high, medium, low. The statistically significant results showed that Miss Appledaisy’s pupils performed better – 2/3rds of her pupils were in the top group and the rest were in the middle group – not one was in the lowest group, which was populated by adults who had been taught by the other two teachers.

Miss Appledaisy’s pupils were much more successful and prosperous than the others. Another interesting insight emerged from the interviews – all of Miss A’s pupils remembered correctly that she had taught them – some of those who had not been in her class remembered, incorrectly, that they too had beeen in her class …

Dr. Pedersen was able to share these findings with Miss Appugliese before her death, telling her that the positive contributions she had made to her pupils so long before could still be measured objectively, thirty years later.

“This,” he said, “was a teacher!”

Miss Laing responded warmly to my letter. She said that she had shared it with her friend Miss Macpherson and “in discussing it we even used the sentimental expression ‘a glow in the heart’”.

She said, ”The article was very interesting. I tried to be a good teacher, and have always thought that the influence might be very great but doubted that it could be measured or appreciated.”

I was surprised that she still remembered me after some 35 years and more than a thousand students. She said “I remember a wee Hugh McGrory, “slim, tidy (a compliment to my mother), pleasant-mannered, dark-eyed, one hand in pocket, a roguish smile, scoring high marks in exams. It’s so nice to remember.”

About a year later I was in Dundee. Miss Laing, was now living in a pleasant little caretaker's cottage at the Taychreggan Hotel (I believe she was related in some way to the owner at that time), and I arranged to visit her.

When I arrived, she had a pleasant surprise for me – her friend Miss Macpherson was there too., and we had a very pleasant couple of hours together over tea and cake.

Miss Laing said that she remembered asking our class on one occasion to tell her what we wanted to be when we grew up. She still remembered my response – “I want to be an Architect”. Apparently, though, I didn’t say “(Noah’s) Ark-itect, I said (The Golden) Arch-itect. Ironic that I ended up as an engineer – in many ways the opposite of an architect – influenced, no doubt, by those two fine teachers who set me on the right path …

PS
Many of you, I know, were teachers – if you want to read more about Miss Appledaisy here is a place to start. This 'Letter to The Editor' by Eigil Pedersen will also be of interest.

It Began in Caird Park
Jim Campbell
Dundee's Caird Park figured large in my very early memories. On one occasion walking in the vicinity with
my mum and sister and some friends (next door neighbours?) we were challenged by some soldiers who seemed to be guarding the approaches to Den o’ Mains!
Luckily one of our party had a bag of sweeties (I seem to remember she worked at Keiller’s) which, shared out, seemed to act as some sort of pass! Looking back I think that the said soldiers were evacuees from Dunkirk…

One of my uncles, not old enough at that stage to be conscripted, was an aeromodeller. I remember going with my Dad to watch him and his mates fly their creations at Caird Park. They used elastic to power the propellors.
The wings were tissue covered & attached by elastic bands.

I was impressed by the use of hand drills to wind up the multiple strands – some seemed too thick to fit within the flimsy tissue-paper covered body.

(To see a modern rubber-band model being powered up and flown under radio-control click here.)

On one momentous occasion my Dad and I were walking through Caird Park when we were “attacked” by a group of Spitfire aircraft. They were so low and close to us that my Dad had to grab his hat to avoid it being blown off his head! (Many years later I read a war memoir by a Sergeant Pilot Smith who had trained at RAF Tealing. He and his colleagues were being trained there to become part of the Second Tactical Air Force for operations following the D-Day landings….)

I think that those Spitfires my ambition to become a pilot. As soon as I was old enough I joined the 1232 squadron of the Air Training Corps at Craigiebarns. I don’t remember being a particularly good cadet or whether I got reasonable marks for studying Meteorology, Aircraft Recognition etc. But I did qualify for Gliding Training at RAF Grangemouth.

We would travel to Grangemouth in a RAF vehicle driven by Flight Lieutenant Silk who was the local RAF
Recruiting Officer. He drove us on a Friday evening in a 'Standard Vanguard' truck (half-tonner?).

On one particular occasion I was detailed to occupy the rear tray under the canvas canopy.

The gliders – tandem 'Slingsbys' and side-by-side 'Sedberghs' were launched by means of a truck-
mounted winch via a 1,000ft or so cable. I was pretty sure I would be allowed to fly ‘solo’ that weekend.

On Saturday morning I awoke with a splitting headache. It was so bad I could hardly bear to put one foot in front of another. I certainly was not ‘fit to fly’….
That put an end to my hopes and ambitions of becoming a pilot. I submitted to all sorts of tests and physical examinations but no reason could be found. I was formally declared unfit to fly. Still had to do my National Service, of course, but not even allowed to go abroad and therefore ineligible for officer status…

Many, many, years later, in another country, I self-diagnosed the cause. Carbon-monoxide poisoning from sitting in the back of that wretched truck!

Even more years later in that other country – this is my aeroplane!


My Friend Joe - 3
Hugh McGrory

In 1986, one of Joe’s daughters was graduating from a university in California, and he flew out for the occasion. After the ceremony, on Saturday, December 20th 1986, they set off to fly back to the east coast. The first leg of their journey was from Long Beach Airport, California, to Garden City Airport, Kansas.

At 17,500 feet, they ran into cloud and freezing temperatures and the engine failed. Joe was unable to restart it and had to make a forced landing descent. The plane hit the ground at an elevation of 6100 ft.

Presumably through a combination of skill and luck, the plane, though suffering substanial damage, was not completely destroyed on landing. It came down quite close to a highway near Flagstaff, Arizona – they could, apparently, see the headlights on a nearby road as they came down (possibly the old, fabled Route 66).

Joe’s daughter was not badly injured, and she survived – because of the location, help arrived relatively quickly. Despite this, my friend Joe died at the site.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent U.S. Government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation. The NTSB report stated that the air induction system was totally blocked by ice, and that Joe had not followed proper procedure in that he failed to switch to the secondary induction port.

From a mutual friend I heard that the cause of death was a throat injury from impact with the yoke. Apparently, Joe’s seat belt was found to be open – it’s not clear why – perhaps he was trying to reach for something?

I really want to believe that Joe was conscious immediately after the crash – long enough to know that his daughter was not badly hurt...

He was 59 when he died...
Favourite Foods
Gordon Findlay

Have you ever caught a scent of something in the air, a whiff of some delightful aroma which, for a second, transports you back to the time when you sat with brothers or sisters or parents – or all of them – and ate that irresistible dish?
For me, it’s stovies. It may have had another name in different parts of Scotland but in Dundee they were stovies. A pot of chopped potatoes with lots of onion and some beef or sausages thrown in, all simmering gently on the stove. I can still remember walking along Shamrock Street and starting to salivate as I walked towards our back door with the warm and inviting smell of stovies coming from our kitchen window.

Mind you, I’d have a hard time choosing between a plateful of stovies and that other staple of the Scottish menu – tatties and mince. When it was ladled on to your plate beside a steaming white mound of mashed tatties (a large dollop of butter melting gently down the side) you had a tummy-filler that could match any other dish, anywhere.

When I left to come to Canada my mother handed me a small envelope. Inside there was a small sheaf of pound notes, a couple of addresses of Dundonians living in the Toronto area – plus her original recipe for mince written out in longhand. I’m happy to say it’s in our recipe box to this day and still produces mince that is dark, rich and delicious.

For some reason when I think of stovies or mince I also think of Irn-Bru – that lemonade with the distinctive taste, and colour. Nobody else in our family liked the stuff, but every so often my father would come home, give me a conspiratorial grin, and show me the bottle of Barr’s Irn-Bru he had brought home for me. Even a day after it had been opened and the fizz had long disappeared I still loved the rusty-coloured stuff.

But let’s get back to those hot comfort foods – and what could compare to a hot mealy pudden’ wi’ chips? That was the perfect capper to a night at the pictures. We’d duck out of the cold air and into the fish and chipper where the air was always heavy with the grease and smoke of frying chips. But once outside again, you could feel your hands grow warm around your poke of hot greasy chips (slathered with vinegar and salt, of course!). And there, stuck right in the middle was a princely feast in itself: a mealy pudden encased in its shell of crusty golden batter.

That combination took away the nippy air of many winter nights as we walked our way home re-living the action scenes from the latest Western epic we had just seen.

I was later to be lured away from white to black puddens – there was something rich and solid in them that appealed to my taste buds. (I was later to learn that a prime ingredient in black puddens – and something that gave them their distinctive flavor – was pig’s blood, of which there was doubtless a surplus in the slaughterhouse).

As I grew into a fully-fledged teenager I developed a taste for those other prime products of Scottish gastronomy, the Scotch pie and the bridie, the latter supposedly invented by Forfar baker in the 1850s.

There was something very simple but delicious in siting down to the table and seeing in front of you a hot Scotch pie with a pile of baked beans smothered over its top. They probably had too much saturated fat and ‘way too much salt in them, but they were simply great eating. I seem to recall that Wallace’s Bakery made some of Dundee’s best.

About a month ago, my wife and I decided to visit a new bakery which opened up near us. No sooner had we walked in the door and sniffed the warm, yeasty air than I was whisked back to Dundee. Early morning – ready for breakfast – hungry as a horse – and suddenly my father was carrying in a plateful of morning rolls (baps) just delivered and still warm from the oven.

The sheer joy of tearing one open, slapping on some butter, then a nice wee spoonful of raspberry jam, and – into the mouth. Sheer heaven!
My Friend Joe - 2
Hugh McGrory

Joe and I were both in Florida attending another of our regular meeetings – he had flown down, and one afternoon he asked if I’d like to take a flight to see Florida from the air, and of course I did. We first flew over Disney World – he tilted the plane so that the right wingtip was pointing at the ground, and circled above The Magic Kingdom.

Sitting in the cockpit felt rather like sitting in a VW bug – although the leg room in the Mooney was fine, Joe and I were almost touching shoulders, and my right shoulder was almost touching the only door.


Despite the fact that I was well strapped in, as we circled, my heart was in my mouth – I was looking straight down, and had visions of the door opening and me falling out, landing on Mickey Mouse and killing him in front of hundreds of kids …

The other thing that struck me was that Disney World seemed to have been cut out of the Everglades (in fact, my geography was more than a bit off, since the northern edge of the Everglades was more than a 100 miles south on the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee).

As I remember it, it looked something like the photograph to the right (a tight grouping of buildings surrounded by wild country), but when I looked at it recently on Google Earth, the whole area around seems to be very urbanised – of course it has been over 40 years …

We then continued eastwards, and Joe contacted air traffic control at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and asked for permission to fly over and along the runway that the Space Shuttles used to land.

Permission was given, and we flew south to north very low along the glide path of the Shuttles, and leveled out at about 200 feet perhaps. Shuttles usually landed south to north (designated as runway 33) – the photo
shows a north to south approach (same runway – designated 15). I know that as we approached the runway, we passed the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on our right and we were looking up to see its roof – over 500 feet high. You can see this huge building in the top left corner.

The VAB is where the Shuttles and the Saturn rockets were assembled – it’s one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, the largest single-story building in the world, and is the tallest building in the United States outside of urban areas.

If you'd like to experience, vicariously, our flyby, this video comes close (you should skip the portion between minutes 1:00 and 3:00) – we came from the other direction, and we flew right up the middle of the runway to simulate the glide path of the Shuttles. (You did know that they were gliders on the way down, no engine power – which means they had to get it right first time, because there was no 'go-around'.) If you'd like to see what it was like for the Shuttle pilots during a real landing on runway 33, this video is the real thing.

That flight with Joe, was a great experience that I’ve never forgotten.

Playing in the Street
Norrie Henderson

I enjoyed the recent Cardross Street anecdote from Dave Lowden and Jim Howie!

I don't have any memories of the incident they describe (after all, I was one of the Barnes Avenue mafia which, though a short walk away, was literally on the other/wrong side of the tracks due to the old coal-carrying rail line which ran parallel to the Cleppy (i.e Clepington Road.))

The story of child-unfriendly residents did, however, stir a memory of a sortie into Cardross Street by a group of us at Hallowe'en sometime in the late 40s.

Our local scouts mentioned a certain local lady who apparently lived alone and was felt to be disapproving of children. After some discussion, we decided to see how she would react to our solicitations . So we rang the bell and waited; when the lady appeared we asked ( as politely as kids could manage) if she 'needed ony guisers.'

She seemed rather surprised but not displeased. I can't remember any details of our 'performances' or even whether we actually went inside but I do remember she gave us our best cash reward of the evening!

I don't remember who else was in the group but perhaps there are others who do recall this.

Playing in the street was familiar to most of our generation. I'm reminded of a delightful Glasgow poem by Edward Boyd:

In Barnes Avenue, however, we had the good fortune to live adjacent to the sports field at Graham Street which could be easily entered at any time by scaling the fence between it and the gardens behind houses on the south side of the street.

As counterpoint to the Glasgow street shown above, I thought I'd include a couple of my own pics from Dundee. These were taken in April 1963 in a street near the west Port and long demolished to make way for university expansion.


My Friend Joe - 1
Hugh McGrory

I was chairing a meeting sometime in the ‘70s in Washington DC, and I had two friends and colleagues sitting either side of me, Joe and Vinnie. We were all there because of our professional interests in computers and engineering.

I had to introduce them to the audience and began by saying “These two guys sitting beside me have 20 children between them, ten each” (not often you can say that …). There were a few gasps from the audience and one or two ‘wows’.

“But don’t worry", I said, "I had a little chat with them both before the meeting and explained what’s been causing it …”

But to my story …

For about fifteen years, mostly through the ‘70s, Joe and I, together with many able professionals in engineering and computing, dedicated untold hours to an organisation dedicated to promoting the use of computers in engineering. Joe was an innovator who could get things done – and if he liked an objective that you were pursuing, he would work hard to help you make it happen. I’m truly glad that I had the opportunity to know him, professionally and personally.

He was a multi-talented individual, and one of his skills was flying. He had his own plane, a Mooney M20, one of a family of four-seater, piston-powered, propeller-driven, general aviation aircraft, with low wings and tricycle landing gear.

The M20 was manufactured by the Mooney Airplane Company of Kerrville, Texas – it was the 20th design from Al Mooney, and his most successful plane.

Joe had the M20K (like the one above) which was a medium-body and was marketed as the Mooney 231. It was produced between 1979 and 1998 and had a turbocharged six-cylinder engine.

After the meeting, Joe and I had to meet with some people from IBM in New York State – we wanted support for a proposed National Centre for Computing in Engineering in the United States (we were unsuccessful …). Joe flew us there and back.

I sat in the right hand seat, of course, and Joe and I both had headsets on so that we could talk easily to each other, and I could listen in to traffic between Joe (and other planes) as the pilots talked to various air traffic controllers.

The Convention on International Civil Aviation requires that all civil aircraft must be registered with a national aviation authority (NAA) using procedures set by each country. (Every country has a NAA whose functions include the registration of civil aircraft.) The NAA allocates a unique alphanumeric string to identify the aircraft, which also indicates the nationality (country of registration). So Joe's plane had a registration number like N1234A , and he used this each time he used the radio.

As we flew, I could hear the chatter from other pilots and air traffic controllers using these unique identifiers when giving or receiving information. Knowing very little about airplanes or flying, this was all very interesting to me. Then I heard a pilot seemingly breaking with protocol – a very English voice saying something like “JFK Tower, this is Concorde”.

Joe said “Very few flights aren't required to use registration number identification (Air Force 1?) and Concorde is one of those …”

I flew several times with Joe, and I was impressed at how disciplined and yet how casual small plane flying could be. Disciplined in the way that the pilot follows regulations regarding filing of flight plans, pre-flight checks, communicating with flight control etc, but casual as in, "You hungry?" "Yes I am." "OK, there's a small airfield up ahead that serves a great all-day breakfast, let's drop in" – just like pulling off a highway into a service centre...

Stay tuned for a couple of further stories on Joe and his Mooney.

Hucky Duck
Gordon Findlay
I wonder if any ex-Morgan types out there remember playing 'Hucky Duck' in the schoolyard? Now that I suffer from a very creaky back, I wonder if some of those hard-driving games of Hucky Duck put a couple of dents in my discs. But it was too much fun at the time to worry about stuff like that.

My memory of the rules is a bit fuzzy, but first naturally, we chose sides, usually five or six on each team. You did “rock, paper, scissors” to see who started, and the game began.

The team that lost the draw had its players crouch down level from the waist, holding on, one behind the other a bit like a rugby scrum, until they had formed one long line of boys presenting their backs.

Then, one by one, the opposing team ran towards them, jumping at the last moment to land as far up the line of backs as possible. They all did this – thump! thump! thump! And then came the last, savage part of the game.

This clump of boys on top then all humped up and down as hard as they could, chanting “Hucky duck! Hucky duck! One two three!” They did this three times. The idea was to make the line of suffering lads beneath them give way and collapse in a heap.

If the line held up (and it was tough when the opposing team had a couple of heavyweights to thump down on you) then you had survived. And – now it was your turn to leap on to their backs and let loose the Hucky Duck chant as you humped up and down on their backs as hard as you could. See it live here …

There’s no doubt an orthopedic surgeon today would be appalled at this schoolyard game. But when you’re 10 or 11
years old, full of energy and high spirits, it was marvelous fun.

PS
This game has been around for a long time. Take a look at this painting, Childrens' Games, by Pieter Breughel, The Elder, dated 1560. It shows more than 80 games that children played 450 years ago – can you spot the one of interest? If not, click on the painting.

The game has many names:
• 'Bok-bok', South Africa
• 'Booleroo', Australia
• 'Buck Buck', USA
• 'Bung the Bucket'
• 'Finger, Thumb and Rusty Bum', Sheffield
• 'Hi-Cock-a-Lorum' , Kent
• 'High Cockalorum', RAF Officers' Mess
• 'High Jimmy Knacker', East London
• 'Hucky Duck', Dundee
• 'Hunch Cuddy Hunch', Scotland
• 'Husky, Fusky, Finger or Thumb', Notts
• 'Jack Upon the Mopstick'
• 'Johnny on the Pony', USA
• 'Jump the Knacker 1-2-3', Watford
• 'Polly on the Mopstick', Birmingham
• 'Stagger Loney', Cardiff
• 'Strong Horses, Weak Donkeys', Monmouthshire
• 'Trust', Lancashire
• 'Wall-e-Acker','Warny Echo', NW London.

In parts of Scotland and in Newcastle it's 'Mount A Cuddy', and this has such variants as 'Montakitty, 'Mont-a-Kitty' in Middlesbrough, 'Multikitty' and 'Muntikitty'. Still played around the world, today by kids, and adults.

The Fife Coal Miners - 2
Granda McGrory

Hugh McGrory

My grandmothers gave birth a total of 26 times – 17 of these on my father's side. Of course, as was not uncommon around the beginning of the 20th century, quite a few of the babies died very young. (Around
1900, in Scotland, about 20% of all deaths recorded were infants less than one year old – 13% of babies died before reaching their first birthday – today in Scotland it's about 1.4%.) When I was a preschooler I had 8 uncles and 8 aunts, 10 having died before I was born.

The photograph on the right shows my Granda McGrory and his five sons (or 'The High Forehead Gang' as I've come to think of them...).

Back row from the left: Hugh (my Dad), Mick (aka Uncle Mick), and Wullie (whom you've met before, and who died at sea during the war), and front row: Barney (father of my cousins Mike (aka Big Mick), and Frank who was at Morgan a year ahead of me), Granda (aka Auld Mick), and James.

Granda, James, and Barney all worked in the Fife coal mines, my Dad was a bricklayer, and Mick was the local barber in Lower Methil, Fife, where this photo was taken around 1936/37.

The McGrorys first came to Scotland from Donegal around the time of the Irish Famine, settling first in Hamilton. They moved to the Methil area to work in the mines just before the outbreak of the First World War, living in Buckhaven, Denbeath, then Lower Methil.

All of the above is background to the story I want to tell you about Granda and Uncle Barney:

The Fife Mining Community

Fife miners had a long history of fighting for their rights. In 1870, by means of a stay-down strike, they were the first in Europe to win the eight-hour day. The Buckhaven and Methil miners, most of whom would have worked at either the Wellesley or the Michael, were particularly determined. So when the British miners were betrayed by the TUC and the General Strike ended, they were in the forefront of those who continued to defy the mine owners.

Note: Comments below in quotes, are taken from the recollections of John McArthur, a parish councillor from E. Wemyss, and one of the local miners' leaders. The word strike is used a lot, but technically it wasn't a strike, since the owner's had locked the gates to the collieries to keep them out. Excerpts below are from 'The Militant Miners', edited by Ian MacDougall, published by Polygon Books, 1981.

John McArthur:
"The strike in the Methil area was 100 per cent solid. Not one man was found wanting. Not a vehicle moved."

Note: The General Strike Committee set up a system of sub-conveners each responsible for departments – Transport- ation, with a strict system of permits without which no vehicle could pass through the picketed areas; Defence and Organisation of Pickets; a Youth Committee; Communications, which made use of the Leven Motor Cycle Club's volunteered services as couriers and despatch riders; Entertainment, to counteract boredom; Publicity and Propaganda, for speaking engagements and publications.

"On the other side were the police under the command of an Inspector Clark who was notorious in our area for brutality, and he had under him a Sergeant Park who was equally of this type. Almost every conceivable avenue that he could think of he was always threatening to use against the strikers, and particularly against the strike leaders."

Note: The authorities preferred to use policemen who were strangers, and they drafted in personnel from all over the country – some were rumored to be Black and Tans brought over from Ireland along with their vicious reputation.

"The whole system of control over transport by the union was most complete and effective. Even if an ambulance was needed to take a special case to Edinburgh Infirm- ary, or hospital locally, they had to apply for permits. Permits were not readily granted by the Transportation committee.

On one occasion a runner came down from Station Road, one of the main road junctions, to say that there had been an attempt to stop a beer lorry from getting through and the police had carried out a baton charge and three of our picket were arrested."

Note: At one of the pickets set up by the Buckhaven and Methil miners, a McEwans brewery lorry driver had decided that he wasn't going to be stopped from delivering his beer. He had prepared his lorry by creating a wire cage aound the cab and had already driven right through the pickets at Lochgelly, Bowhill and Dysart. When he got to Muiredge and the Wellesley Road, the pickets couldn't stop him, but several of the miners mounted the lorry and threw every one of the barrels into the gutter. Despite the fact that none of them had had a beer for some time, their discipline was such that none of the beer was drunk... The police couldn't stop the miners, but, as stated earlier, they
arrested three.

McArthur again:
"When I proceeded to the scene, men, women and children were running towards the area in hundreds, grasping whatever weapons they could get their hands on – some with fireside pokers, some with sticks, some with pickshafts, stones, or bottles. There was a building site adjoining and the police that were left were getting stoned and were running for their lives. One policeman cleared a six-foot wall round the slaughterhouse non-stop. He would have been suitable for the Olympics.

There was an immediate demand that we assault the police cells in order to get the three lads out. This raised an issue that was new to us but which we felt we would have to cope with. So it was arranged that we would have a meeting immediately at the big strike centre in the Co-operative Hall. The hall was packed to suffocation. Our meeting was taken charge of by Davie Proudfoot, who was convener of the Methil Central Strike Committee. He said, 'Well, we've now got to meet force with organised resistance. The picketing must be carried out, the strike must go on. We're in this strike for the purpose of winning it. We're not going to be diverted by police baton charges. That is a feature we'll just have to face and overcome.'

So we agreed to get some form of organisation. We in the strike leadership started off by saying, 'All right, every man look at his neighbour sitting beside him. If you can't volunteer or vouch for him let him be questioned to prove he is a genuine striker.'

Then we set about setting up a properly disciplined organisation. We asked everybody who had had army or navy experience to move to one side of the hall. Then we asked if anybody had been an officer. We did not run to the extent of having an officer. But we had two sergeant-majors and they were made corps commanders.

Everyone who had been an N.C.O. in the army was given charge of ten privates, and each private was given charge of ten men who had had no army experience. These ex-servicemen had complete control of this Workers' Defence Corps. There had been a lot of the youth committee and others in a loosely formed picket or Defence Corps before the baton charge, but its ranks swelled to about 750 or 800 afterwards.

We said, 'Well, you can arrange now the main points where picketing has to be done and decide how many men you require in order to make picketing continuous, with men held in reserve."' We organised cyclists who could act as couriers, and particularly valued were young lads who had motor-cycles.

At that stage the most fierce discussion took place; what were we going to do to get the three men out who had been arrested? There were immediate demands that we should march up to the police buildings and forcibly rescue these men."

Granda and Uncle Barney

This is where the McGrorys come in – one of the three men in the cells was my Uncle Barney.

McArthur again:
"I am not sure what would have been the outcome of that discussion but for the intervention of the father of Barney McGrory, one of the lads who had been arrested. The family was Irish Catholic and they were active militants in the labour movement. The father was old Mick McGrory.

He got up to say, 'Look, we're in a strike which is equivalent to a battle for our lives and our livelihood and all that we hold dear. You can't have a battle, unfortunately, without casualties. But if the battle is to continue then you must accept the casualties and carry on. My son happens to be one of the first casualties. I am very, very sorry that that is so, but he along with me would wish that we don't do anything that would prevent us from carrying out the strike. So we carry out the strike and they'll bear the consequences of having been arrested.'

That had a tremendous effect on the meeting and I think was mainly responsible for getting our policy accepted at that big meeting of men. So each man then went home, had a meal, and reported to the strike headquarters. I remember going back down to the headquarters when the first company were going to resume the picketing. As they came up with the sergeant-major in front, he saw me coming along and he shouts, "Eyes left" You could see the arms swinging. The arms were rigid because they were concealing pokers, hammers, and what have you.

The important thing is they went back to the scene where the baton charge took place. By that time there had been busloads of police drawn in from every area. But the picket took up its post and I remember watching them working. There were three roads converging on to this corner where the baton charge had taken place. The non-commissioned officer in charge of the picket put twenty men on each road, twenty men stopping the main traffic, with push-bikes running back and forward in advance, so that they could get timeous notice of any vehicle that was proceeding in that direction.

And then they had something like fifty men standing by in reserve in case they should be needed. In spite of the fact that there was a big contingent of police, they stopped every vehicle that came along and continued this activity. It was a marvelous display of organised, disciplined activity. They did their work without looking at the police. Everybody knew, including the police, that if anything untoward had happened they would have had a real struggle on their hands; and while there might have been some casualties amongst the strikers there equally would have been a number amongst the police.

I have heard it said that in some areas there was collaboration between the workers' pickets and the police in order to keep order. There was no such arrangement in the Methil-Buckhaven area! There the pickets went on duty armed with whatever they could secure: pickshafts, pokers, railway distance pieces, and anything that would be useful in a dust-up. They all also were under instructions to wear their pit boots – they also would be handy in a dust-up. A number of them even used the hard hat they had in the pit at the time, but this was not common. From the time that the Defence Corps became an organised body there was no more police interference with the pickets.

But that night the midnight or overnight arrests started. Proudfoot was arrested, and one or two others. These arrests were carried out at two o'clock in the morning. And that became the fashion. If you were going to be arrested, it happened when they thought everybody else was in bed. So that double precautions started to be taken, and those that were recognised as leaders had a protection squad allocated to them.

I remember an amusing development. The lads would approach you and say, 'Look, make sure you're not going to be arrested at night, make sure you're not sleeping in your own house.' Ordinary miners would come forward and give you a key to their house, and you had to put their name on it. I had a pocketful of keys for houses that I could go into without warning."

The photo below, taken at the railway station, shows the three miners who had been arrested – judging by the way they're dressed, they may be going to or coming from court – my Uncle Barney is on the left. You can see that they are unbowed. In my imagination they are saying to themselves 'You decreased our wages; you increased our hours; but we'll decide whether or not the beer lorries get through...'


The miners maintained resistance for a further six months after the TUC gave up. In late August, the
Nottinghamshire Miners Association broke ranks, and negotiated a deal with the local mine owners (the Notts miners were strikebreakers again in the 1984 strike).

In some mining areas, strikebreakers were ostracised in their communities for the rest of their lives, and some were still being referred to as scabs at the time of the 1984-85 'Maggie Thatcher' strike.

By the end of November, 1926, most miners had been starved – literally starved – back to work. However, many were black-balled my the mine owners, and remained unemployed for many years. Those that were employed were forced to accept longer hours, lower wages, and district wage agreements. The strikers felt as though they had achieved nothing.

So how did the miners and their families fare in the years following the strike? The following paragraphs were written by a journalist who visited unemployed miners in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, in 1933, seven years after the strike:

"With his wife and two children he lives in one-half of a house, which costs him seven shillings a week in rent. The house has not been repaired for fourteen years. Its windows do not shut tight, and it is damp. The lavatory is thirty yards away from the house, at the top of the adjacent yard. There is one water-tap for both families. This family's income is the father's unemployment benefit of 27 shillings and thruppence; after paying rent they have roughly a pound left to live on. Coal costs them half-a-crown a week.

This is their normal daily menu:
Breakfast – toast, margarine, tea.
Dinner – a few pennyworth of meat and potatoes, an onion, bread and tea.
Supper – same as breakfast.

Fresh milk is unknown in this family, who consume four tins of a cheap brand of skimmed condensed milk a week. It is not surprising that the eldest child was found to be suffering from malnutrition and was developing tubercular glands."

On the bright side, in case you're worried, it seems that the mineowners were able to maintain their standard of living very nicely thank you, despite the hard times.

The Dundee Vernacular
Ian Gordon

Gordon Findlay’s article on the Dundee accent set me laughing and reminiscing about days gone by. It’s been over 50 years now since I was in regular contact with the ever-so-familiar vernacular (the Dundee language is much more than an accent.) Every time I hear a word or two I get that comfortable feeling like I was back home in Dundee.

I’ve travelled a lot over the years and have experienced many accents…in languages such as Spanish, French, German, Afrikaans and Portuguese…spoken with different accents in the many different countries and individual cities…but none come close to bringing back lasting memories like these…

A few scenes from the Dundee I knew:

The Clothes-Drying Green

The wimen git left t’ dae the washin an ir hingin’ thir claes oot on the greenie
The bairns are in their feet an’ nippin’ at their peenies.

(Competition is keen on the quality of the wash and newcomers’ claes are usually classified as no awfy clean.)

Enter a dark-skinned man carrying bunches of onions aroon his shidders.“Oh, look wha’s here – it’s Ingin Johnny. Jist in time… ehv only got a couple left fae last year. Gie’s a dizzen big anes. Ah’ll need tae gie them a good waash the night. That’ll gie me a good greet!

THE FISH & CHIP SHOP

They don’t look so great anymore, but in our day as teenagers, and even beyond, it was exciting (cool?) to finish off your Saturday night activities with fish and chips (a fish supper!) – accompanied by mushy peas.

In our day, Dundee had many fine fish and chip shops – remember The Deep Sea in its original location? Our favourite shop was always the one on Victoria Street, near the junction with Albert Street (couldn't find a photo). The shop was proudly owned and managed by Joe Delano, one of the many Italians who ran the Fish and Chip shops and Ice Cream parlors in Dundee. Joe and his wife Dora, who attended the customers while Joe fried the fish, were both remarkably bilingual in Italian and in the Dundee vernacular. I never heard them utter a word of English!

A bunch of six or eight of us would come in about 9.30 pm and order
to take back to the small sitting room. Maria would always find it difficult to control eight hungry teenagers, all struggling to get their meal first. “Jist a meenit, jist a meenit,” Maria would cry out to the melee. Then Joe would come to his wife’s rescue – “Whit’s a goin’ on? Look you, yer skelling yir peas a’ ower mi bliddy coonter!

Joe’s stentorian tones (I think he would have made a great opera singer in another life!) calmed everybody down. During the rest of the evening, when things got a bit noisy in the sitting room, we would hear Joe call out: “A’m hearin' yis. ‘Nither squeak ‘n yer oot on yir bums.”

I‘ve been dreaming for years about fish and chips at Joe Delano’s. I’ve dined in some very elegant places during my life…but I never dream about any of them.

Shakespeare in Dundee

It was a real jolt for some of us when we were introduced to Shakespeare…if my memory serves me right it was in our 1st year at Morgan. We were fast casting off the remnants of the vernacular and learning to speak proper. It took longer for some than others! Shakespeare was something else again!

Anyway, the Scottish syllabus of these days had us reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in our first year. The plot, if you have any memory of it, is one of the most unlikely and complicated of Shakespeare’s works…so the verbiage coming out of the mouths of 12 year-old Dundee pupils was decidedly more vernacular than Shakespearean. However, the enthusiasm of Cheesie, our English Lit teacher, was such that he had us play the parts as we went along.

I think Hugh got the role of Puck, because he was always busy arranging things, but I would get sued for disclosing who played Bottom…even after 70 years! The role of Snug, the joiner, was given to Islay Robertson, that sweet guy with the permanent toothy smile. Now, the intricacies of the plot provided for Snug being transformed into a lion and announcing regally that he was king of the jungle, in strident Shakespearean tones.

Drama was at a peak in the classroom, as the lion came forth to deliver his only, but earthshattering, lines:

“And the lion doth roAAAr”

Islay’s words resounded over the classroom, which by now had dissolved into an uproar of laughter. For all present, all of Pyramus and Thisbe’s problems were forgotten, none of Shakespeare’s grand words were relevant. Islay had relegated Shakespeare’s words to second place and would forever make him the star in our eyes (and ears).

The vernacular may well withstand the test of time.
*
This is a big year for many of us – we are reaching our 80th birthday. My big day was Thursday the 13th of April. I sincerely hope that all of you octogenarians are blessed with good health and the support and love of your family. Happy Birthday!

Yours Aye, Ian.
The Fife Coal Miners – 1
Background

Hugh McGrory

I intended to post a story, set in 1926, about my Granda and one of his sons, my uncle, both coal miners.

However, as I began to write it, I realised how woefully ignorant I was about the period between the Great Wars, and only when I read some of the history did I better understand what it was like for my Dad, his parents and siblings in a mining community in Fife through the '20s and '30s. So at the risk of boring you all to tears, I'm going to lay out, first, the historical background to my Granda's story.

The Lock-out of the British Mineworkers, and the General Strike of 1926.

Coal was vital to the war effort in 1914-18. In the early years there were coal shortages and hoarding – coal production slowed and a coal famine was reported. Shortages at home were caused by transportation
difficulties, and by lack of labour availability, many miners having volunteered to serve in the forces (some for patriotic reasons, some because anything would be better than working in a coal mine). Also, France’s industries had been hit hard by the invading German troops, and the country was importing coal from Britain to aid its armament production. This added to the shortages at home.

In February 1915 the Government decided that it had to take control of the mines, declared mining
a reserved occupation, and improved miner’s wages and working conditions.

In 1918, British men returned from the war to find food scarce and prices rising so that their wages were being devalued (the coal industry employed 10% of all British working men). They saw a high demand for coal enriching the Government and the mine owners, while their own pay and conditions worsened.

At the time, working conditions were awful – there were few mines with showers for the workers, many of whom had no bathrooms or toilets in their houses. A miner was killed on average every five hours throughout the year and 20% of the workforce suffered injuries every year – around 500 were injured or maimed every day.

Can you imagine working a long day in a colliery, with coal dust in every pore, having no showers available at the mine and going home to a house that often had no inside toilet or bathroom and sometimes only an outside tap for water. The photos below show how a miner got rid of the coal dust (these photographs are actually from West Virginia in the 1940s, a miner name Milong Bond – but typical of many UK miners of the '20s and '30s).
When injuries were caused by work, most pit managers would sanction compensation, but when war veterans were injured, the managers often claimed the responsibility lay with the armed forces. The forces then counter-claimed that the injuries were the fault of the mine owners and thus the men who fought the Great War 'for civilisation and freedom' were left unable to work and unentitled to any support.

With the mines returned to private ownership, the mine owners wanted to maintain and increase profitability. This turned out to be difficult for a number of reasons:

•   The heavy use of coal during the First World War had depleted the rich, easy coal seams.

•   Since Britain exported less coal during the war, other countries filled the gap and Britain lost future overseas customers.

•   Coal production which had been falling since 1914 was at its lowest ebb in 1926. Output per man had fallen by 25% since before the war reflecting the fact that the more difficult seams now had to be mined.

•   As part of their reparations for the First World War, Germany had to export "free coal" to France and Italy.

•   Winston Churchill had reintroduced the gold standard in 1925 which made the British pound too strong for effective exporting. It also raised interest rates and hurt the profits of some businesses.

Mine owners turned again to their favourite strategy – reduce wages and increase the length of the working day – in order to maintain their profits, and they found it only too easy to reduce the wages of their workforce. They told the miners to accept a pay cut of 13% and an increase in hours from 7 to 8½ hours per day. The miner’s weekly pay had already gone down from £6.00 to £3.90 in the space of seven years.

The cartoon on the right – entitled "The Subsidised Mineowner—Poor Beggar!" was published by the Trade Union Unity Magazine in 1925.

The MFGB, the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, rejected the terms: "Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day."

At one point and to his credit, King George V tried to stabilise the situation and create balance by saying, "Try living on their wages before you judge them."

The owners announced that the miners would be locked out as of May 1st, 1926.

The General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called a General Strike to begin May 4th, 1926 in
an attempt to force the British Government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for the 1.2 million locked-out coal miners.

Some 1.7 million workers were out – the locked out miners were supported by some half million workers who went on strike across the country, principally from the transport and heavy industries.

By May 4th over 4 million workers were out and Britain was virtually closed down, public transport ceased and people had
to walk to work – the working class was in charge. The Government enlisted middle class volunteers to maintain essential services. There was little violence.

Then, the TUC, which, without informing the miners’ leaders, had been holding secret talks with the Government and the mine owners, after nine days, said that they would call off the strike if there was a guarantee that there would be no victimization of strikers. The Government stated that it had "no power to compel employers to take back every man who had been on strike."

The TUC folded and ended the strike anyway without a single concession made to the miners' case. (One theory for the TUC 'seizing defeat from the jaws of victory' is that they were persuaded that it was not a justifiable strike, but rather an attempt at a Communist takeover of the country. History has shown that this was nonsense.)

The miners, understandably, saw this as a huge betrayal, which left them worse off than before, and vowed to continue their defiance and fight on alone.

The Fife miners were amongst the most militant of Britain's colliery workers, and in a couple of weeks I'll tell you how they handled themselves and of the part played by my Granda and my Uncle Barney.

Morgan FP Rugby
Alistair Mackay
In 1959 I was invited to start training with Strathmore Rugby Club I accepted and thoroughly enjoyed travelling to Forfar three times per week to meet with all the players. I was delighted when I was selected as tight head prop for the first game of season and asked to lead the scrum.

The first game at Forfar was progressing well when the Captain playing at scrum half was injured and was not able to continue. When we returned to the changing rooms after the game the Captain was lying on a bench presumably waiting for the Doctor.

Returning to training on the following Tuesday we were informed that the injury was more serious than we thought, and that unfortunately his leg had been amputated. If medical treatment had been more readily available the outcome might have been more favourable. His rugby playing days were obviously over but he was a regular spectator at all Strathmore games thereafter.

A sad story but medical services are now always in attendance at all contact sports.

Later that season we had an away fixture against Morgan Academy and I must have played well because Ian Norrie the Morgan Captain asked me to play for Morgan which was my home club. I quickly accepted as the Morgan had a better fixture list than Strathmore and were recognised at that time to be a better club. This was before leagues so Rugby although highly competitive was purely social.

I was selected for their next game at tight head prop a position that I retained for the rest of my playing career. The backbone of the team included senior players Frank Stott, Bill Kydd, John Paul, Gus Sim and Ian Norrie. There were also my contemporaries, Dave Meechie, Sandy Duncan, Laurie Mitchell, Jim Ritch, Tom Burt, Alex Gouick, Ian Lindsay and Dave MacKenzie – they all made me very welcome enjoying regular social evenings at The Breadalbane Pub in Constitution Street and the dances at the Chalet Dance Hall in Broughty Ferry.

Training on Tuesdays and Thursdays was at Forfar Road ground or during winter in the school hall. The circuit training in the hall followed by 5-aside football was the favourite as it was warm and chance of a quick wash.

We had excellent fixtures but the memorable games were in Aberdeen against Aberdeenshire who had Ken Scotland, Gordonians , Aberdeenshire, and Aberdeen Grammar School. We would leave Dundee by charter bus at 11.30am in plenty time for a 2.30pm kick off. Playing 35 minutes each way with a short break at half time we were generally finished without the need for floodlights which all the Aberdeen clubs had available if necessary.

The facilities at all the Aberdeen clubs were excellent so after we all enjoyed a leisurely shower then a buffet with pies, sandwiches and biscuits with plenty of tea, coffee and orange juice. We all then socialised for the next hour and a half before the bus arrived to take us to the Douglas Hotel where we had several welcome pints of beer.

The next move was to the Diamond Street Palais. The bus was leaving at a pre-arranged location at sharp 11.00pm for our return journey to Dundee so we all had to leave the Palais in plenty time. On one occasion one of our party missed the bus but he did turn up for training on the Tuesday so all was well.

Winner to Wimp in 24 hrs.
Hugh McGrory

As Britain moved towards the Great Depression of the 1930's, the government was increasingly worried about the health of children from deprived areas in cities. This was the infamous era of the Glasgow rickets and other indicators of malnutrition.

In a very enlightened piece of legislation, the Camps Act of 1939 was passed. This set aside a sum of money (over £100m in today’s terms) for the construction of around 25 Centres in England and Wales and a further 5 in Scotland. This was a Department of Health initiative and the intention was that young people from the cities would spend some weeks at these Centres, eating well and enjoying the fresh, uncontaminated country air.

Completion of the buildings in late 1939/early1940, coincided with the start of the Second World War. The centres were constructed using high quality Canadian cedar and had a capacity of around 250 young people, plus other accommodation for staff and teachers. The government retained the Centres to be used for evacuees and, in addition to large numbers of Scottish children, the Centres had substantial groups from the continent – notably from the Netherlands.

It wasn’t until January of 1947 that the government was able to set up the organisations that were originally intended to operate the Centres. The Secretary of State for Scotland established the Scottish National Camps Association.

Currently the Scottish Outdoor Education Centres (SOEC), an Approved Voluntary Organisation and charity since 1987, has three outdoor education centres across Scotland and describes itself as the country’s largest provider of residential outdoor education. The Centres are: Belmont (Meigle, Perthshire), Broomlee (West Linton, Edinburgh), and Dounans (Aberfoyle, Stirling).

*

Many of you will remember spending time, in the late 1940s, at Belmont Camp, in the beautiful, 100 acre estate around Belmont Castle in the valley of Strathmore.


I was there with many of my classmates from Dens Road School, probably one of the first groups in 1947. I can’t remember much about the experience, but I enjoyed the two or three weeks we were there. I think our teachers tried to do some teaching from the curriculum in the mornings, though I think the usual rigour was somewhat missing. The afternoons were given over to healthy outdoor activities.

One day our teacher said that we were going to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Lacking pins, and indeed, something suitable for pinning to, she decided that we would use the blackboard.


It was like the one in the photo, free-standing and could be spun on its horizontal axis to allow both sides to be used. She drew the rough outline of a donkey, then she asked for a volunteer. The kid was blindfolded, given a piece of chalk, spun around a couple of times then pointed towards the board. He/she held the chalk in front of them, and when it touched the board made a small ‘X’.

One by one my classmates did the same – some were fairly close to the right spot, some were way off.

Now in those days, I wasn’t big on volunteering or being on public display, so I kept my head down – I thought after a few had tried we would move on to something else – but no way. The time came when everybody but me had taken a turn ….

So I got my blindfold on and my piece of chalk, was spun around and pointed at the board. Being right-handed, I put the chalk in my other hand and held out my right in front of me. When I touched the board, I felt around the edge until I located the hinge, and having previously figured out that the spot I wanted was about three hand-widths to the left and two up, I measured this out and made my mark.

The blindfold was taken off, and I saw that my mark was almost right on the spot. The teacher said “Hugh wins” and the class began to cheer … At least that’s what I thought, until I realised that they were saying things like “He’s a cheating wee get …”.

The teacher, to her credit, knew a teachable moment when she saw one. She said, “The rules were that you had to wear a blindfold and make your mark on the board wherever you chose – they didn’t say anything about how you decided where to put it”.

So I won the prize – I think it was an orange (it was just after the war after all). For the rest of the day I felt like a champ ….

24 hours later.

The above must have happened close to the end of our sojourn, because the next day was Sports Day. One of my classmates, Bobby, said “You want to run in the three-legged race with me?” I said that I would.

As the time for the race drew near, my enthusiasm waned. I saw the crowd watching the events and I got stage fright – I choked – I wimped out... I told Bobby that I wasn’t going to race. He tried to talk me into it, then got mad (rightly so) and said “Fine. Well I’m going to find someone else.”

He looked around and saw, in the distance another classmate, and called out to him “Alan …”

To cut a long story short, Bobby and Alan won the race easily. Later, I hung around at the back of the crowd as they walked up to collect their prizes, pretending not to care but really standing on one leg trying to kick myself in the backside for being such a wimp …. One of those oranges could’ve been mine!

From champ to chump in 24 hours …

PS: My thanks to Jim Howie for the reproductions from his postcard collection.
Cardross St Rounders
Dave Lowden
Jim Howie

Definitions :
Rounders: UK – a game similar to baseball; US – various, including scoundrels, rascals.

Cardross Street, Dundee, where we both lived, was a favourite place for children in the Clepington Road/Arklay Street area to gather and play. In the '40s, the street had a tenement block of 4 closes on the west



side overlooking allotments or "plots" across the road with a semi-circle in the middle. As private cars were few and far between, the circle provided an ideal playground for ball games etc.

Little did we (or our parents) realise that a game of rounders would lead to a visit from the police and a visit to court. The Evening Telegraph twice reported the case on the front page and followed up by publishing readers comments. This anecdote may jog a memory for some of your readers!"



We duly appeared in court again on the following Saturday:



Several of the Telegraph readers had their say:





Tales from Our Backyard 3
Angel Wings

Hugh McGrory

I don't believe in angels, but the phrase 'angel wings' seems benign – not always so, as I recently found out...

In an earlier story I wrote of a Canada Goose that had broken its wing. Some time later, one of my neighbours drew my attention to another Canada Goose, on his pond, that was suffering from a malady referred to as 'angel wing', also known as airplane wing, slipped wing, crooked wing, and drooped wing – see examples of Muscovy Ducks below:


Angel wing is a syndrome that affects aquatic birds primarily, often seen in geese and ducks. The last joint of the wing (the carpus or wrist joint) is twisted with the wing feathers pointing out laterally instead of lying against the body. Males develop it more frequently than females. It can affect both wings or only one. Strangely, if it's only one, it's almost always the left – a syndrome that's not, at present, understood.

I found I could understand it better by comparing a bird wing to the human arm – see drawing:

The condition is incurable unless caught very early, and seems to be caused by high-calorie diets, especially ones high in proteins and/or low in vitamin D, vitamin E, and manganese. It seems that this causes rapid growth, to the extent that the carpus joints are retarded in their development and can't support the weight of the flight feathers. The result is a wrist which is twisted outwards instead of lying against the birds back when folded, and unable to perform its usual function. In extreme cases, the stripped feathers can resemble straws protruding from the wings.

Many of us were probably taken to Swannie Ponds as children to feed the swans and ducks with bread, then took our kids there to do the same – a
practice that many ornithologists feel should be abandoned.

Angel wing can be drastically reduced by not feeding birds “people food,” including white bread, popcorn, or crackers. An acceptable alternative would be to substitute food such as seedless grapes cut in half, shredded kale, Swiss chard or romaine lettuce, and grains, including wheat, barley and oats. This could save many birds from this nasty disease.

Getting back to my neighbours bird, it looked very like the one in the photograph below. For several weeks, as I took my morning, before-breakfast, walk around the neighbourhood, I spotted the bird. Usually it was
at the side of the pond, sometimes in a flock of 15 or 20 others. Often they simply ignored me as I walked by, but sometimes, for whatever reason, they took off – not the bird with the damaged wing – it remained by the pond side.

Birds with this condition can't fly – this one tried from time to time and would get up a few feet above the ground for a few yards, but couldn't sustain the effort.

One particular morning the sun was just coming up, there was no wind, and the surface of the pond was like glass. The bird was all alone at the
water's edge, and it made me feel very sad.

Later that day I thought about it some more, and realised that, since the condition is congenital, the goose had never flown, so perhaps it was accepting of its condition. It grazes, and seems quite content. Of course it doesn't know either, that such birds typically don't live very long, dying from malnutrition or from the winter cold, or perhaps taken by a coyote or a red fox.

Then, one day, the goose just wasn't there. It was another beautiful morning, and the sunlit pond was shared by a Muskrat family, a mother with two youngsters swimming around busily, doing whatever muskrats do in the morning, and a Little Blue Heron, standing knee-deep in the water, absolutely still – it does this for minutes on end until a small fish, or frog gets too close when it stabs its beak forward and down, very quickly, and then enjoys breakfast.


I stopped to watch, and I could hear the words of Max Ehrmann "... whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
The Cadet Corps
Gordon Findlay

Like many Morgan pupils ‘way back in the 1940s, I was a keen member of the school’s Army Cadet Corps. I enjoyed every aspect of it from marching and drilling to field craft and especially, weapons training.

My mother, who had lost three brothers in World War I, did not share my enthusiasm. “They’re training the next generation of cannon fodder,” she sighed to my father as I marched off in my uniform.

Within the Morgan detachment there was keen competition for “stripes”. We all wanted to have something to show on that plain expanse of khaki stretching down our arms: to rise from lowly private to lance corporal, corporal, then – a fervent wish – the dizzying height of sergeant.

It was a thrill when a sergeant from the real Army was brought in to demonstrate the Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk I rifle. He walked us through the proper way to tuck the rifle into the shoulder, how to aim, how to adjust the range-sight, how to load and unload the magazine.

The sergeant also demonstrated how to attach the bayonet, and of course, the proper way to oil and clean the weapon after firing. We all got a chance to hold it and to look down the sights. It felt heavy – and it was, weighing in at a hefty 8.8 lbs.

Then came highlight of his visit (to me at least). This sergeant said: “I’m going to show you a wee trick. Ye may never have tae depend on it. Ah hope not. But in case ye’re ever in a situation where ye have tae get yer shots aff as fast as ye can – here’s how ye dae it.”

He had us gather round the Lee Enfield. Then he put his middle finger around the trigger with his thumb and forefinger hooked around the bolt.

“Squeeze the trigger wi’ yer middle finger. Then flick the bolt open and back wi’ yer thumb and forefinger. Like this!” And, with an empty weapon, he quickly rattled off five imaginary shots using the technique, his hand a quick blur. We were totally impressed.

(You can see this in action in this video. The quick-fire technique begins at about the 4 minute mark).

The highlight of the cadet year was the summer camp, held near Carnoustie. We were housed in ancient wooden huts which leaked when it rained. Grimy and naked light bulbs hung overhead. Our beds were typical Army-issue metal frames strung with ancient chicken-wire. On top, a stained and lumpy mattress. The lavatories were primitive and filthy. The food was dull and badly cooked. And I loved every minute of it.

Near the end of the week we were marched down to the Barry Buddon Training Area rifle range, situated near the famous Carnoustie golf course. We were ushered into the butts – sunken trenches beside the targets. We were to be target spotters for a regular Army firing practice.

We stood looking up at the large paper targets which were mounted on a metal frame. This in turn was attached to a counterbalanced pulley system. You had to concentrate on the target because British .303 bullets didn’t make a particularly large hole. And of course, you had to be alert to complete misses.

We’d hear the sudden crack of the .303 as it zipped over our heads and splashed into the butts or sand mounds beyond us. At the same instant a hole would suddenly appear in the target. Then it was time to raise the long spotter’s pole. This pole had a large metal disc on the end; one side black the other white.

You moved the pole with the black disc showing and held it against the hole to show the shooter where his bullet had hit. If my memory serves me correctly a miss meant you flipped the pole over to show the white disc and waggled it from side to side.

Once firing stopped we wound the targets down, and with paper and glue, pasted over the bullet holes so the targets were clean and ready for the next session of shooting.

I’m certain that today’s generation of Army cadets would be equipped (sensibly) with good ear protection, and probably helmets as well to avoid bashing heads on metal and concrete down in the butts. But back in the 1940s things were simpler – and, I suppose, a wee bit more dangerous.

Many years later, in 1974, now the father of two girls and two boys and a Canadian citizen, I brought our family back to Carnoustie on a warm and sunny July day. We walked around the same firing range and climbed down into the sunken butts where targets were marked.

Things didn’t seem to have changed much at all; the whole area was just a lot rustier and in some spots the concrete was starting to crumble. We drifted through it, picking up the odd brass cartridge case now blackened with age. And I led them to the high sand mounds where we dug out a few mangled bullets from the sand.

Pure and simple nostalgia for me . . . transporting me back to my happy days as a keen young Army cadet.

The photos below show the modern Barry Buddon rifle ranges, targets in the lowered position.

What the...? #2
The Answer

Hugh McGrory

Do you remember MacGyver? I used to love that show (not the 2016 version which I don’t like) the one that ran from 1985 for seven seasons. Richard Dean Anderson played a somewhat nerdy adventurer (first name Angus) who got himself and friends out of sticky situations by using everyday articles or materials to create unorthodox solutions.

I think most men have a touch of MacGyver in them – that’s why we have drawers in our workshops with odd nails, fasteners, used switches, pieces of metal/plastic tubing, old pulleys etc. – because one of these days …

That series was popular enough that the word MacGyver is now in the Oxford Dictionaries (for the meaning, re-read the first paragraph above).

Well I needed to MacGyver myself through the front door, and in the story I was sitting on the front step, head in my hands, knowing that, to get inside the door, I first had to be inside the door to take the chain off …

Well I couldn’t be both – on the other hand, though, I could be outside with my hands inside … That's why I scoured the garden to see if I could find a piece of wire – a coat hanger would've been ideal. I figured I could hook the wire onto the chain, stick my other hand through the letter box, then swing the wire until I caught it, close the door, then pull the wire to release the chain. Only problem – no wire...

Finally I came up with a modification of that approach, an idea that was born from the way my mother brought me up. She came from a decent working-class Scots/Irish family, and had been imbued with the ethic that said people judged a mother by the way her kids looked. The result was that she always made sure that my brother and I were dressed well before we left for school each morning – in clothes from stores like The ‘Sosh’, in Peter St., and Burtons, for shirts and pants; Marks and Sparks, for underwear and socks; and Birrell’s for shoes.

As I sat on the step looking down I saw my shoes – the kind that my mother bought for me when I got my first pair of long
pants, and the kind that I’ve worn all of my working life (except when I was on construction sites) – Oxfords – like the photograph. It’s hard to believe, without thinking about it, but the lace in such a shoe is about 40 inches long. Aha …!

So:
• I took the lace out of one of my shoes;
• I unlocked the door and pushed it open as far as it would go – about three inches;
• I held the lace in my left hand and put that hand through the letter box;
• I put my other hand into the opening at the side, below the chain, then swung the lace back and forward until I caught it;
• Then the most difficult part – I tied the lace to the chain – not easy with one hand;
• I then closed the door and gently pulled on the lace.

The chain slipped off – nae bather at a’!

I opened the door, entered, closed the door, reattached the chain, and toddled off to bed.

PS
Door chains, of course, don’t really provide much security – good peepholes are more useful since you can keep the door closed while deciding whether or not to open it.

I searched the Web for a photo to illustrate the type of door chain – came across this one and couldn’t resist using it … It’s supposedly an actual photograph of a hotel room door.

See how effective that one is here …

Health – and Safety?
Murray Hackney

I was one of the boys who went all the way from the primary annexe to 6th year, so a fair chunk of my life was spent at The Morgan. Never a sporty type, I considered footie, rugby and cricket perfect ways to get hurt, so became clever at avoiding them. I notice now that most of my sporty friends have limps and various arthritic problems, which I seem to have avoided. Coincidence...?

Strangely though, I enjoyed physical training (PE) in the hall, (you remember Mr. Sorbie?) and could scoot up the 30 foot ropes no bother. Letting go up there would spoil your day if not kill you! Then there were the wall bars, beams, and other things designed to maim you.

I don't think I'm making this up, but I also seem to remember an occasional game of thugball. No rules, both teams just had to get the ball to the other end of the hall by whatever means. Any injuries resulting from that game drew nothing but ribald insults.

During a tour round the new school, I noticed the science labs had safety boxes for experiments. Who remembers Bill Dow's experiment to demonstrate metal expansion and contraction? He had a bar with a wing nut at one end and a hole at the other. A cast iron pin was dropped through the hole, and a solid frame held things together. While heating the bar with the Bunsen, he tightened the wing nut to take up the slack, then left it to cool while he got on with something else. A few minutes later, without warning, there was an almighty bang and bits of shrapnel flew around, usually just missing the nearest pupil... Can you imagine getting away with that now?

Of course we also brewed up all sorts of toxic gases without the benefit of extractor fans, and I'm sure some of us sniffed them up just to see what would happen. I discovered in a quiet moment that the science lab gas pressure was quite low, and I could easily blow down the pipe to purge out the gas. Bill Dow had a little trouble lighting his Bunsen! A hiccup at the wrong time might have made me an addict!

Despite the dangers, we all survived and today's school kids probably would too. Although today's H&S police would, for sure, take a dim view of all that...

What the...? – 2
The Break In.

Hugh McGrory

My thanks to those of you who sent in your answers to my previous ‘What the …?’ story, the one about the clock. I thought I would try you with another teaser.

My first job after leaving university was in Westminster, London, and I lived in digs in Beckenham, Kent. My landlady had lost her RAF husband during WW2, had quite a large house to keep up, and three teenage kids to look after, so she rented four of her bedrooms.

One evening I returned rather late – in the wee sma’ oors. I wasn’t worried, since we all had our own key. I stuck mine in the lock and the door opened – a few inches – then stopped. The #$%^& chain was on …!

This wasn’t supposed to happen since we usually decided at breakfast who was going to be home last and the rest of us knew to leave the chain off. Some numpty had got it wrong and I was locked out.

I could have just banged on the door, but it didn’t seem fair to waken the whole house. What to do …?

I could get one hand in the opening to about mid-forearm, but that, of course, made the chain tighten up – as you know, the door has to be closed, or very nearly so, in order to slide the chain off.

There was a letter box in the middle of the door – it let me get a hand in up to my wrist but that didn’t seem to do much for me either.

I looked around to see if there was anything I could use as a tool to somehow, maybe, hook the chain, or something... Unfortunately I couldn’t come up with anything. I sat on the front step, my head in my hands – there may have been some drink taken earlier in the evening – was there anything I could do?

Then I got an idea … I thought, “It’s worth a shot”, and gave it a go. It worked. I was able to open the door as I normally did, making almost no noise, walk in, close and lock the door again, and head for bed.

The next morning at breakfast I waxed indignant, we figured out who the idiot was and he apologised profusely.

I graciously forgave him, then one of the others said, “Wait a minute, how did you get in if the chain was on”?

I said, “You tell me …”

Well, can you?

Wur You Brocht Up in Dundee?
Ron Duncan

My wife and I got quite a chuckle out of Gordon Findlay's recent submission on the above subject. It reminded us of an item we received 10 or more years ago from our niece in Dundee. This poem seems to have been around since the '60s, but the author seems to be unknown.

For you Dundonians, if you haven't seen it before, or even if you have, I hope it brings back fond memories from your childhood.

Fae Dundee and Proud O' It!

See when Dundee fowk sit doon thegither, hiv ye noticed, in among a' ther blether,
That those magic words of yesteryear have slowly begun to disappear?
So, for tonight, let's reminisce on some Dundee words that's taen a twist.
It's a cupboard now, that once was a press, and a mirror was a lookin' gless,

A purn is now a cotton bobbin, and pilfering, we ca'd it dobbin.
A launderette was aye a steamy, and a coverall was jist a peeny.
Repairing yarn was a caird o' worsit, stys were things that 're now called corsets.
House slippers – mind when they were baffies, street orderlies are still but scaffies.

Slightly aff – we just said foosty, and weather-worn was bluddy roosty.
Half a penny was a maik or a hupnay, sixpence a tanner, and half that a thrupnay.
Under stress was just plain trachled, ill fittin' shoes – yer feet were bachled.
The Tansad's noo a baby buggy, and it's sparrow now that once was speuggie.

The pigeon tho' remains a doo, but the watery's changed – it's now a loo.
Breaking wind, we yased tae ruft, and a broken date pal, you were duffed.
For training shoes, oor word was sannies, and school caretakers were only jannies.
Tight-fisted now – we just said gruppy, and it's kilos now, no' half a luppy.

A paper bag was aye a poke, and nauseated meant you'd taen the boke.
Well-dressed, mind was awfy tricky, and a little drop was just a tickie.
Didn't cotton on means you didna twig, and a little sip was just a swig.
A metal fastener was a safety peen, conjunctivitis, scubby een.

Pimple, mind when it was a plook, swimming we aye gaed fur a dook.
Dirty feet were deemed as barkit, and coordy-custard's chicken-hearted.
False teeth were aye a set o' wallies, and pucks are whut we ca'ed prallies.
A piler's noo a four-wheeled cart, a scratch was nothing but a scart.

The lobby has now become the hall, a fitba' tube is now a ball.
An it bounces now, it disna stott. and "let me try" wiz "geize a shot".
Pen and pad, we yased a scailie, and half a mo' was jist a wee whiley.
A hangover – yer heid wiz nuppen, a baby diaper wiz a huppen.

A wall tae us was aye a dyke, and a mattress yased tae be a tyke.
At great speed was an awfy tek, redundancy, we got the seck.
It's take a look now, no hae a gander, take a walk was aye a dander.
Fowk now jibber, whaur we did haver, imagine "fly" instead of spaver.

Truancy – oor wurd was yited, soft in the head, we ca'd them dited.
A dog-end yased to be a doupie, Riverside Drive was aye the Coupie.
But I'm glad to say that in Dundee, a manhole cover is still a cundie.
There's many words I must hae missed, in fact I've still hundreds on meh list.

A Half-sliced Loaf
Hugh McGrory

Years ago, on my way home from work in Toronto, I used to call into a particular bakery – maybe once every week or two. It was one of those stores that sold mouth watering sweetstuffs – little cakes, large anniversary-type cakes, tarts, trifles, lots of different kinds of biscuits (cookies as they're called in N. America) – just desserts of all kinds...
Though tempted, I never once bought any of those – honest! The store was one of a small chain, the owner was local and it was staffed by several pleasant, middle-aged women. The reason for my visits was that they also baked bread every day, and had a machine to slice a loaf for you if you wished.

One day, there was a new server. I asked her for my usual order, “I’ll have one of those loaves and would you please cut it in half and slice one half for me”.

“What?” she asked, in a rather crabby voice, with a frown on her face.

I said, politely, “Just cut the loaf across the middle, put one half into the bag and then slice the other half and put it into the same bag.”
She retorted “We’re too busy for that.”

I said “It’s never been a problem before – it only takes a few extra seconds and the shop isn’t that busy, is it?”

She said, “Do you want the bread sliced or not?”

"What I want now, is to speak to the manager."

“The manager’s not here”.

I said “OK, then I don’t want the loaf", and I walked out – and picked up a loaf from another bakery on the way (so that management wouldn't be annoyed with me when I got home...).

I decided I would call the owner to see whether or not he wanted my business, but it was a week or ten days before I got to it. I explained the situation to him and asked if he was happy to have a customer treated in this way.

He said, “Would you mind telling me why you’d want half a loaf sliced.”

I said “Well, when I get home, my wife and I have fondue for dinner, and we use the un-cut half – we then use the sliced half over the next day or two for toast or sandwiches.”

He said, “Oh – that makes sense. I apologise for the way you were treated and I’ll make sure that it doesn’t happen to you again”.

I thanked him, and a few days later I visited the same store. One of the long-term employees served me and I made my usual request. As she was attending to my order, one of her colleagues said to me “Oh, it was you wasn’t it?”

“What was?”

“You complained about one of our staff.”

“Yes, that was me", I said, "is she on tonight?”

“No”, she said, “she got fired!”

“Oh. Well I certainly didn’t ask for that. I just wanted her to serve me the way the rest of you ladies always do."

Thinking about it now, I still feel that she wasn't suited for the job, and the architect of her own misfortune – a case of ‘just desserts’...

Tramcar Coolness
Gordon Findlay

As Dundonians of a certain age, who can forget those double-deck yellow and green tramcars that were a
fixture in our city for so many years?

Wooden seats, glass windows that slid down halfway, no heating – they rattled around Dundee streets swaying beneath their lifeline, that flexible pole which pulled in the electricity from the overhead lines and powered the tramcar along the metal tracks.

Although he had a little round pole-seat beside him, drivers mostly stood upright gripping the swing bar which acted as the throttle. Rising out of the floor beside his heel was a round metal disc. This was the driver’s “horn”. When he hammered down on this, a long metal shaft clanged repeatedly on the rail, warning cars and pedestrians out of the way. Under the foot of an expert it could set up quite a racket.

But to me, back then, the coolest part of tram travel was the unlawful descent. In other words – hopping off the tram while it was still under way. You had to pick the right conditions. Rain-slicked streets were a dangerous no-no. And slippery leather-soled shoes could be a problem.

There were, of course, notices posted at the exit reminding passengers to “Please wait until the car stops before descending.” But most conductors were pretty laid back. The older ones had seen it all and mostly they just ignored us. To young bucks, that official notice just made our cool move more of a challenge. Here’s how it was done.

You came down the stairs to the open exit and waited until your stop came into sight. Next, you moved down to the lowest step and hung on to the railing with one arm, feeling the wind rush past you. Then, at the first indication of the tram slowing down, you leapt out and away from the tram.

The secret was to lean backwards to help overcome the forward momentum as your feet hit the road. As they did, you did a frantic sprint-step with both legs for about ten yards until you could slow down to walking pace. And then there you were, walking past your stop as the rest of the passengers slowly climbed down in the proper way.

My pals and I did it all the time, but every so often things could go wrong. It happened once to a good buddy, Murray Lamond. Two of us had successfully completed our high-speed dismount, but as Murray leapt away from the tramcar his foot struck the ground precisely where a local dog had deposited its business. His foot shot out from under him and a second later he was tumbling head-over-heels in front of the Dundee worthies on the sidewalk. He rose, somewhat battered and bruised, his jacket torn, and smelling rather unpleasant. Then he also had to endure the hoots and jeers from the rest of us.

Of course, the ultimate was to perform this high-speed dismount with one hand casually stuck in your pocket, and with a fag in your mouth. This manoeuvre was only to be attempted under perfect conditions. But it was definitely supercool.

With thanks to The Dundee Museum of Transport – visit their website here.

Tales From Our Backyard – 2
The Deer

Hugh McGrory

At the far end of our backyard we have a small woodlot-covered rise which abuts the field of a neighbouring farm. The guy who built our house, and from whom we bought it, cut a gap through the wood so that he could install a garden shed at the back, hidden by the trees – actually a 40' insulated trailer which used to truck oranges from Florida – you can see one end of it at the foot of the large Scots pine in the photo.

White-tailed deer use the woodlot to travel round the back edge of our property – we rarely see them, since it takes them only a couple of seconds to cross the gap, though in the winter we often see their multiple tracks in the snow. (One thing I've never understood is how the deer, with their thin legs, manage to traverse the woods when they are deep with snow. The ground is covered by fallen trees, tree limbs, bushes, vines etc. – I find it quite a challenge when there's no snow on the ground – yet they never seem to break a leg...)

A few years ago, in the autumn, we had the whole mishpocha over for Sunday dinner, about a dozen of us. Most arrived mid-afternoon, and we decided to play various games of skill in family competitions. The last game we played was Bocce, in the middle of the backyard, and when we got called in for dinner, we left all the balls in place – the match to be continued...

In the middle of the meal, my oldest daughter glanced out of the window and said "WOW!" We all turned to look at the view you see in the photograph, and there were three deer, a doe and two fawns emerging from the woodlot and walking towards the house. This was very uncharacteristic behaviour – never seen before or since!

We all got up to the dining room windows to watch, wondering what they were up to, then realised that they had been attracted by the brightly-coloured Bocce balls. All three came right out to the middle of the backyard and inspected the balls up close – of course they knew immediately that they weren't apples – they walked back into the woods and went on their way.

The whole incident lasted little more than a minute, but none of us have ever forgotten the thrill of seeing those beautiful creatures up close...


(They looked very like this, but this is a stock photograph, not 'our' deers – by the time we'd finished oohing and aahing and decided to grab cameras/phones, the deer were gone.)

Evacuation
Gordon Findlay

Shortly after Great Britain declared war on Germany on September 3rd, 1939, urban mothers around the country had a decision to make. Do I send my children away from the city to safety, or do they stay home?

Plans had been drawn up by the government for the evacuation of children from cities around the country to rural areas. Enemy air raids were expected and major cities would be the obvious target.

From September 1st to 3rd more than 1,500,000 British children were moved from urban centres to country locations. It was recorded as the largest single migration of people within Great Britain in the history of the country.

On one particular day – September 1st – around 70,000 children and some parents, left Glasgow. From Dundee around 10,000 children headed for Kincardineshire, to be housed in small communities in that area.

Children evacuees leaving Dundee and arriving in St. Andrews.

Parents who decided to evacuate their children were allowed to make their own arrangements. Our mother had a longtime friend in Carnoustie: an older lady who was a widow and who lived in a small house not far from the sea. My mother got in touch with her, talked at length, and a deal was struck.

Next day, at lunch, our mother gave the news to me and my older brother David. We were going to have to leave home in Dundee and go to live with Mrs. Fraser “for a little while.”

That was the bad news. But there was good news as well. It seems that before she had married, Mrs. Fraser had served an apprenticeship with a Dundee bakery. Following that, and before her marriage, she had gone into service in the kitchens of a local Earl at his estate in Forfarshire.

Our mother assured us that Mrs. Fraser was a lovely person, was looking forward to having us in her home, and would feed us well. David and I weren’t too sure about all this, but the fateful day arrived, and all too soon we were being ushered into a tiny stone cottage by a grey-haired old lady who – to our young eyes anyway – looked to be around 100 years old. (I believe this was in Ireland St., shown as it looks today, in this photo.)

It says a lot for Mrs. Fraser’s kindness and patience that she was willing to take two energetic young schoolboys, an 8 and a 10-year-old, into her quiet little home. I would guess she was around 65 years old at that time, so it was no small undertaking.

Mrs. Fraser and her late husband had never had children, but as we were to discover, she adored youngsters and took us in as if we were her very own. She had a warm and loving heart and hadn’t lost any of her skills as a cook and a baker.

Rationing hadn’t yet started to clamp its tight fingers around Scotland, and Mrs. Fraser took it as a personal challenge to fill up her two young refugees with good food.

She baked her own bread. She made morning rolls. Her home-made jams were delicious. Her savoury stews were a joy. I even loved her creamy morning porridge.

And her reputation in the neighbourhood for making the best fruit pies on the East coast was well earned. They were a joy to behold, crisscrossed with delicate strips of pastry and stuffed with local berries. They were an even greater pleasure to eat.

For me and my brother, evacuation was like a happy holiday. We’d scoot out of Mrs. Fraser’s in the morning and spend hours on the beach, roaming the dunes and exploring the rocks by the sea shore. Then, there was the added joy of walking back to her little cottage and smelling the sweet aroma of a freshly-baked pie just out of the oven.

She had one peculiarity, although looking back on it, I imagine it was for her own sanity. Mrs. Fraser insisted we stay out of the cottage all afternoon. She served us lunch at noon, and after that it was: “Awa’ ye go, now. I’ll close the door, and Ah’ll see ye at dinner time.”

Rain or shine, that was her wish. I suspect the poor woman lay down and had a well-deserved nap in the afternoon, and who could blame her?

We didn’t stay evacuated for long – my memory tells me it was no longer than three or four months. Fears about a German invasion had subsided. Air raids on Scotland had been concentrated on Glasgow and the Clyde dock area.

My parents sent word that we were to come home. On that day my brother and I stood on Mrs. Fraser’s doorstep with our little suitcases, ready to return to Dundee. Then, all at once she pulled each of us in turn towards her and hugged us hard.

We weren’t a hugging family and I looked up at her in surprise. To my amazement Mrs. Fraser’s face was awash in tears. She was shaking with emotion. She stood there, hankie held to her face, as David and I walked away.

I never saw her again.

A Nun's Story
Hugh McGrory

Sister Beatrice, as the family referred to her, was my wife, Sheila's, first cousin once removed – and a good friend of her mother when they were growing up. She was a nun in a convent in the Maritimes and would occasionally come to Toronto to visit family and friends.

On one of Sister Beatrice's visits, for Christmas and New Year, Sheila, announced to me that we were going to take her out for dinner one evening. I was a little apprehensive – as an atheist who had never before even spoken to a nun...

Learning soon afterwards that she was actually the Mother Superior at the convent didn't help – the term Reverand Mother didn't exactly flow off my tongue. (Although, and I may have gotten this wrong, I got the impression that this was a rotating position – sort of like in some University faculties where taking a turn as Dean for several years is seen as a penance, the job being likened to herding cats.)

I remember when we sat down to dinner, I wasn't sure if I should ask her if she'd like a glass of wine – but I did and she did. She turned out to be a frendly, warm person with a sense of humour, and as the evening progressed I grew quite comfortable talking and joking with her.

Around dessert time, we were getting along just fine, and so finally, I couldn't resist – I said "May I ask you a question?"

"Yes" she said.

"Say a nun has a brother who is a priest."

"Yes?"

"Would such a sister call her brother, Father, Mother?"

She laughed, and afterwards I felt, that she thought, that I was a very funny guy.

Looking back, it was probably the wine...

That Unmistakeable Accent...
Gordon Findlay

In all honesty, Dundee can’t lay claim to much that is famous around the world, although the city did raise the inventor of the adhesive postage stamp (James Chalmers) and the first working incandescent lamps (James Bowman Lindsay). We also lay claim to launching marmalade on the world (Keiller’s).

We did build Antarctic explorer Robert Scott’s research ship “Discovery”; we have the largest teaching hospital in Europe (Ninewells); and we should own up to having raised the world’s worst poet, William McGonagall, whose doggerel lives on to this day.

“Beautiful railway bridge of the silv’ry Tay
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath Day of 1879
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.”

You get the picture.

But we do have something unique. Over the years Dundonians have perfected an accent which has been delicately described as “quite distinct.” It certainly is that. Others might label it ugly, harsh, grating, grotesque, or simply incomprehensible. But to the trained ear, it has a certain lyric rhythm to it.

Let’s start simply with some key words of the Dundee alphabet. To wit:

BAFFIES – Slippers.
CUNDIE – A drain cover.
DOWP – That part of one’s anatomy we sit upon.
EHRUM – Upon which your hands are affixed.
ERSE – See DOWP.
FLOOERS – Given to girlfriends and spouses on special occasions.
GANSIE – One’s undershirt.
JEHKIT – An item worn outdoors.
KEEKER – A black eye, inflicted for forgetting the flooers.
LEHN – A loan. As in “Geez a lehn o’ a fehver.” (Give me a loan of 5 pounds.)
LUG – That through which one hears sound.
NAIKIT – Undressed.
PEECE – Jelly or jam are favoured, but peanut butter is also popular.
PEELY WALLY – To look unwell. As in “She wiz lookin’ affy peely wally.”
SANNAYZ – A foot accessory now overtaken by Reebok and Nike.
SKELP – To strike a blow, as in “Ah’ll skelp yer lug furr ye!”
TULLY – The local newspaper, available in the evening.

Another couple of expressions which seem to be made-in-Dundee, are:

FLEH CUPPIE – meaning a quick cup of afternoon tea, and
SAIR FECHT – meaning a sore fight or a hard life.

And I doubt that many would decipher the meaning of a Dundee tenement housewife who might tell a friend: “Ah’m hashin’ fir a hingie.” She would mean that she was rushing through her housework so she could lean out the window to talk to other housewives doing the same thing.

Anyone from our fair city could quickly understand the following short, sad story: “Eh fell doon the Wellgate steps, an’ mah peh went skeh hegh.” Or even a slightly more advanced sample, given to the proprietor of a bake shop: “Twa pehs, twa plehn bridies, an’ an ingin ane an’ a’.” (“Two pies, two plain bridies, and an onion one as well.”)

And thus, employing our distinctive “eh” intonation, any Dundonian could swiftly understand the words of some kind matron, saying to a nicely-dressed young man: “Oh, meh – whit a bonny teh.” Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite simple.

Anyone else out there who can come up with a few more favourite, Dundee-only words or expressions? Let’s share . . .

What the...?
The Answer

Hugh McGrory
A few weeks ago I spoke of the time when I thought my face was stopping a clock – see the story below. My thanks to those of you who responded with a variety of clever suggestions – but no one figured out what actually was happening. For the non-responders, here's the answer:

I remember at Morgan, in physics class, learning the whys and hows of pendula. As far as pendulum clocks
are concerned the pendulum, along with the escapement, regulates the speed of the clock and keeps it relatively constant. Traditionally, power comes from a descending weight which is raised up again, periodically, by a key.

My bewilderment at what had hap- pened with our clock really arose from the moment we first set eyes on it.

We said somethng like "What a nice little pendulum clock...", and over the years we always referred to it, and thought of it, as the "pendulum clock" (such as the one on the left above). The problem is that clocks such as the one in question (on the right), are not pendulum clocks...

They are battery powered – typically the time mechanism is based on a vibrating quartz crystal. An electro magnet gives a pulse to a magnet on the horizontal pendulum arm, which gives the pendulum a natural-looking swinging motion – but the pendulum is really just a decoration.

The time mechanism operates independently of the pendulum movement and the pendulum has no effect on it. When the battery begins to get low, the pendulum, which requires more power than the time mechanism, stops swinging, but the clock continues to keep time for a bit longer.

So the first day when I thought the clock had stopped, it really hadn't – only the pendulum. When I flicked the pendulum with my fnger and it began to oscillate, I assumed that it then continued to swing – in fact it probably stopped again a minute or so after I left the room.

After the second day, I replaced the battery, and the pendulum began to work reliably again. So there you have it.

At this point, some of you may be saying to yourselves, "Nah – it was his face" – but I'm sticking to my story!

My M.G.
Gordon Findlay

After I finished my two years of National Service, I went back to my sub-editor job at D.C. Thomson in Dundee. Being single and living at home, I had cash to spare, so I indulged my young self by buying a nifty little M.G.

It was a 1945 MG-TC. Bright, fire engine red. Rear-wheel drive, 54 horsepower, 4-speed gearbox, wire wheels, cable brakes, and of course, a drop-down front windshield if you really wanted to feel the wind in your face.

The manufacturer claimed a top speed of 80 miles an hour. However, that must have been when it was brand new, factory-tuned, and maybe with a good following wind. Still, when you were sitting low down in the car and practically on the road, you felt like you were flying along at 150 miles an hour.

It had cable brakes with fairly small drums, so you had to allow for a fairly lengthy stopping distance. Even more so if it were raining, since the water got into the wheels and the drums. Suddenly you had to allow a good 100 yards to come to a stop. It made life interesting at times.

I bought my little MG in 1953, so the car had been thrashing around Scotland for some eight years, and I suspect that a couple of previous owners had bullied it around a bit. The dashboard was definitely showing its age. Being all wood (walnut, I think) the impact of sun and rain had aged it badly.

Fortunately, my older brother was a skilled mechanic and while he set about rejuvenating the sturdy 4-cylinder engine, I tackled the dashboard. Once removed, it was relatively straightforward to sand it, have it re-waxed and polished, and to fit it with an upgraded tachometer and a couple of new switches.

The drop-in side windows of Perspex had clouded slightly, and the canvas top kept the rain out – but the whole wet weather arrangement had become – let’s just say – a lot looser over the years. Rain spray from the road or from other (much taller) vehicles going past came sifting in both sides. I tried to tell my girl friend at the time that it was good for the complexion. Don’t think she bought that line.

But these shortcomings are minor when you’re young. The car was thrifty on petrol, the engine was unbreakable, and the bright red beast was great fun to drive, especially on a warm summer day with the top down.

Then, in 1955, I decided to emigrate to Canada, so I advertised my car for sale. Amazingly, I sold it to another MG enthusiast within a week, and for the same price I had paid for it. So, I figured I’d had a grand time with licence plate US 7906, for only the price of petrol and oil . . . plus some labour of love in sprucing it up.

Fast forward now to June of 1959. I have returned on holiday to Scotland with my new Canadian bride, to introduce her to my parents and to show her something of the land where her husband grew up.

We are in Edinburgh on a fine sunny day. We tour Princess Street and nip in to a nice restaurant for a bite of lunch. We come out afterwards, and stand on the sidewalk figuring out the easiest way to get across the street and over to Edinburgh Castle to continue our tour.

And that’s when it happened. Just like a scene from a Hollywood movie.

I’m looking up Princess Street to get my bearings when suddenly my eyes are attracted to a flash of bright red coming down towards us. I look more closely. Surely it can’t be! This is unbelievable! But a second or two later there’s no mistake: here it comes – licence plate US 7906 – my shiny wee red MG-TC bouncing down towards us, with a young man driving it. He has a young woman sitting beside him.

I grab my new wife, point at the little sports car and yell like a madman: “Look! Look! That’s my old car! My old MG! The one I sold before I left!” We stood there, laughing together at the sheer unlikeliness of it all. Then we watched as a happy piece of memory went gliding on past us, down Princess Street, and out of our lives forever.


What were the odds?

My Uncle Wullie
(7 Feb 1909 – 10 June 1941)

Hugh McGrory

by the recent Remembrance Day ceremonies, I want to tell you about my Uncle Wullie.

I spoke in a previous story, of the death, in a plane crash in Iceland, of my 20-year-old Uncle Frank, my mother's brother. Wullie, my Dad's brother, also died, at sea, serving his country – he was 32 years old.

He lived in Methil, Fife – I'm not sure what he did for a living – I was only four when he died in 1941 – I think he may have worked in the coal mines, probably the Wellesley or the Michael, and/or at Methil docks. The only thing I remember about him is once hearing the statement "he was a bit of a lad, wis Wullie...".

I decided to see what I could discover about how he died, and almost immediately
came up with a puzzle. I found his death commemorated on the war memorial in Upper Methil honouring local men who had died for us in two world wars:



I also found his name on the War Memorial in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax Nova Scotia, honouring Canadians who, having died at sea during the war, have no other marker:



So I set out to find how this came about, and came up with much more information than I expected. Before I tell the story though, I want to set it in it's historical context,:

Background – June 1941 – Battle of the Atlantic

Britain

By mid 1941, U-boats had had great success against Allied convoys travelling back and forth between Britain and N. America. The British were beginning to understand how to better deal with the undersea


menace, but still had a long way to go before supremacy at sea would be achieved. There weren't enough escort ships to protect the convoys all the way across, so for roughly the middle third of the voyage, the convoys dispersed, and the individual, poorly-armed, if at all, merchant ships separated and had to fend for themselves.

Norway

The Norwegian Campaign of World War II refers to the invasion of Norway by Germany and the brief campaign that followed (9 April to 10 June 1940) against a British and French expeditionary force that came to Norway's aid. Despite some success in the north, Germany's invasion of France in May eventually compelled the Allies to withdraw and the Norwegian government to seek exile in London. The campaign ended with the occupation of Norway by Germany, and the continued fighting of exiled Norwegian forces from abroad. The only nation that withstood the Nazi Blitzkrieg longer than Norway (62 days of fighting) was the Soviet Union.

With the German invasion of Norway, the question of control of the Norwegian merchant fleet became critical, and the Norwegian government, the British government and the Germans were the main contenders. Around 15% of the total fleet was within the German-controlled area and was lost to the Allies; the battle would be for the remaining 85% sailing worldwide.

The British contemplated confiscating the Norwegian merchant fleet as they did with the Danish fleet, but decided against it because the Norwegians continued to fight and because of intervention by the Norwegian ambassador in London. The Germans and their Norwegian collaborator, Vidkun Quisling, radioed to Norwegian vessels to sail for German-controlled waters, but the Norwegian masters ignored the orders and instead took their ships to Allied harbours such as London, England and Halifax, Nova Scotia.


The Norwegian King and most of the Norwegian Government landed in England on June 8, brought over by the heavy cruiser, HMS Devonshire. At that time the Bank of Norway and merchant ship owners together with Norwegian Naval personnel had gathered in England and Norway and had managed to convince Britain that it was to her advantage that Norwegian ships come under Norwegian management since Norway, at that time, had the 3rd largest merchant fleet in the world. NORTRASHIP, NORwegian TRAde and SHIPping Company, a conglomerate, was formed by Norwegian ship owners and the Norwegian Government in Exile in London.

For the first three years of the war, Norwegians transported more than half of the supplies, food, fuel, munitions etc. to Britain, in fact some of the Norwegian ships were already doing this in 1939. More than 9,000 non-Norwegians served on Norwegian Merchant Navy vessels during the Second World War, of these about 2,000 were Canadians (the youngest Canuck was 14 years old).

Records show that 694 Norwegian ships were sunk during the war, representing 47% of the total fleet. At the end of the war in 1945, the Norwegian merchant fleet was estimated at 1,378 ships. More than 3,700 Norwegian merchant seamen lost their lives.

Germany

The German Navy was no match for the mighty British fleet as far as surface vessels were concerned – which is why the U-Boat fleet was so important in the first four years of the war.

One of the U-Boat 'Aces' was Kapitänleutnant Klaus Scholtz, commanding U-108. In June 1941 U-108 was
on patrol in the Mid-Atlantic attacking Allied Shipping – by then, Scholtz had sunk 6 ships (40,000 tons) out of his grand total, by war end, of 25 ships sunk (128,000 tons). As you can see from the yellow on the graph above,
1942 was the heyday for U-Boat captains like Scholtz – but it was also the beginning of the end for them...

Uncle Wullie

So how did my uncle who lived in Methil end up as a merchant seaman in the galley of a Norwegian ship, the Christian Krogh, in a Canadian convoy from Oban to the St. Lawrence? A clue may be found in the partial ship's log on the right.
As you can see, the ship was a frequent visitor to Methil, and my theory is that Wullie probably got to know the crew in one of the many pubs in Methil. He was probably going to be conscripted anyway, so when the ship had an opening for a galley attendant – called a mess boy – he may have decided to go off to see the world.

Convoy EC23 departed Southend on 22 May 1941, northbound for the Clyde. On 24 May, the D/S Christian Krohg, Captain Ingvart Hagen, left Methil, bound for Oban. The ship joined the other 80 or so ships of convoy E23 and arrived safely in Oban on 26 May. (The convoy continued to the Clyde arriving 28 May).

The Krohg joined convoy OB329 (38 merchant ships and 7 escorts), and left Oban on 1 June bound for Canada – the St. Lawrence.

At this stage in the war, such convoys were only escorted as far as longitude 20W, at which point the escorts turned back and the convoy was left to fend for itself. Since the only point of convoys
was to group ships together so that the escorts could protect them by acting like sheepdogs, the formation was no longer of value, and so ships were ordered to disperse. The Krohg stayed with another Norwegian ship for a day then on the 5th set off alone.

U-Boat 108 had left its base in Lorient, Brittany on 20 May to prowl the Atlantic convoy routes. It came upon the Christian Krogh late afternoon on 9 Jun and began to manoeuvre into a firing position.

The merchantman was a small ship – the average size of ships in convoys was probably around 5,000 tons, and the Krohg, at 1992 tons was the second smallest in convoy OB329.



Like most merchant ships at this time it was probably quite defenceless – it might have had a Lewis gun or two at best.


On that afternoon most of the crew would have been attending to their various duties – my uncle probably washing dishes or preparing vegetables in the galley – and some who had night watches were probably asleep.

Apparently, not one of them saw the wake of the torpedo that was fired at the ship around dusk – perhaps it simply missed, or since defective torpedoes were not uncommon, it may have been a dud. In any event, no signal of an attack was sent from the ship. So the unaware crew was given one more night of relative serenity...

The U108 followed the ship all through the night and sent another torpedo at dawn on 10 June. This one hit and the Christian Krohg went down, with all men lost, at 47°N 41°W according to reckoning by the U-boat as noted in the ship's log.

The submarine had not managed to identify the ship, but with common German exaggeration had estimated it to be 3,500 tons. Analysis of U-boat reports and lists of losses show that this was indeed the Christian Krohg. Seventeen Norwegians, one Swede, two Englishmen, one Estonian, one Newfoundlander and my uncle were lost.



The submarine resumed its patrol, and before returning to its base in Lorient on July 1941 it sank three more merchantmen:
The map below shows how the 108 roamed around the Atlantic on this patrol looking for prey (the markers indicate the location of 'kills' – the Christian Krohg was 'D') before returning to base in Brittany:



So it would seem that, since he served in a Canadian convoy, my uncle's name appears in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial and on the Memorial for Canadian Merchant Seaman lost at sea, in Point Pleasant Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia, as well as on the Buckhaven War Memorial.

Not bad for that "bit of a lad" from Methil, eh?

This story was put together with information from many sources. I owe particular thanks to the Norwegian Consulate, Toronto; Berit Pittman of the Camp Norway Foundation, Nova Scotia – read Berit's story here ; Siri Lawson for her website; and Johanne Neville, Canadian Agency, Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Celebrities – 6
Hugh McGrory
Sometime in the '70s I had just landed in Lexington, Kentucky and was walking through the terminal towards the luggage pick-up area. I saw two guys that looked like cowboys walking towards me – they weren't wearing stetsons, but had fancy shirts, jeans, and high-heeled cowboy boots – actually they looked a bit more like Rhinestone Cowboys than the Marlborough Man... As they passed I looked at the shorter one and thought I vaguely knew the face, but...

I got my luggage and went outside to get a cab, and I saw in the parking lot a large bus of the type that entertainers use to get around the states, and it had Loretta Lynn written across one side in huge letters – which should have been a clue...

When I got to the hotel and settled in, I was leafing through a 'Whats On' publication and realized who I'd seen at the airport when I read that Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty had brought their country and western show to town.

This duo had huge success in the '70s and '80s, and Twitty was referred to, by some, as The Uncrowned King of Country and Western. If you'd like to hear one of their greatest hits, click here. I listened to this again just before I posted this story, to remind myself of how much I've always disliked C&W...

To be fair though, I have enjoyed some of the crossover, C&W/Pop music which began in the '50s when country performers were seeing their audiences wane and began to drop the banjos and fiddles, and pop artists began to appear on the C&W charts... In the '70s, '80s and '90s – artists like

Anne Murrray, 1970, "Snowbird".
Kris Kristofferson, 1970, "For the Good Times".
John Denver, 1974, "Annie's Song".
Olivia Newton-John, 1974, "I Honestly Love You".
Glen Campbell, 1975, "Rhinestone Cowboy".
Crystal Gayle, 1977, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue".
Shania Twain, 1999, "Man I Feel Like a Woman", and many others, had hits that climbed both the C&W and Pop charts.


As you may know, Crystal Gayle was Loretta Lynn's baby sister.

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that Harold Lloyd Jenkins chose his stage name when looking at a road map. I went looking and found the area shown below – the Texas Panhandle east of Amarillo – which may lend some credence (though not Clearwater...) to this story.
I guess he could have called himself, "Pampa McLean" or "Panhandle Wheeler" or "Claude Goodnight " or...

Damn Cassies!
Gordon Findlay

Pride comes before a fall, they say – and ‘way back in ’53 I proved it in spades.

I was working as a junior reporter at the Dundee Courier & Advertiser and drove to work each day on the apple of my eye – a 350 cc B.S.A. B31. A single banger, 4-gear foot-change, racing seat, totally reliable. Black and silver, with a handsome green 4-gallon gas tank. Just like the one below.

I kept the chrome parts free of oil and grease and polished the rest of my bike till it shone. When I parked it at Meadowside I’d throw a rain cover over it and tie it down. Parked it on the street beside the building and walked away with my “skid-lid” under my arm. Nobody ever touched my pride and joy. Those were the days, eh?

Now, back then, many of Dundee’s streets were paved with rectangular blocks of black granite. We called them cobblestones or “cassie blocks”, and I’m sure they were wonderfully durable, but they did have one serious deficiency. A sprinkle of rain turned them instantly into greasy, slippery slime patches – as I was to find out

On this summer day, I had popped home for lunch, then headed back to work. Down Forfar Road , then Albert Street and on down to the long right-hand curve of Princes Street, with Menzies and Sons store on the left-hand side.

Where it happened (as it looked in 1984), Black's Camping Store where Menzies used to be.

I’m humming along, happy as a lark, leaning gently into the bend when I saw to my horror that the shop-keeper had washed all his store windows and had covered not only the storefront and the pavement but also the entire left-hand side of the road, with lots and lots of soapy water.

My front tire hit this, and it was like suddenly nosing on to the Dundee ice rink – at an angle – and at 30 miles an hour. I just had a split second to pull my right leg up and out of contact with the road before my beautiful B.S.A. began a thumping slide across those damned cobblestones towards that soggy pavement.

I can still vividly recall being on my back, hanging on to my sliding bike and looking up to see a large woman leaning out of a top window above the store, staring placidly down at me as I performed my ignominious glissade across the road.

The upshot? A dent in my tank, a long scrape down the front teleforks, one pair of grey flannels shredded up to my buttocks, a very sore bum, plus one severely bruised ego.

I’ve never felt quite the same about cobblestones since...

Brussels
Hugh McGrory

Around 1980, the president of the consulting engineering company I worked for called me into his office and
said that he'd like me to go to Brussels for him. The background was that the company had been invited to go on a Trade Mission to Europe organised by the Liberal government. My boss's plans had changed and he wanted me to fill in.

I of course agreed – it beat work...

The trip was organised i.e. we all travelled together. I remember two things about that flight over, the first, meeting the Agriculture Minister, Eugene Whelan. I always thought he was from Alberta or Saskatchewan, somewhere out west, since he always affected a green Stetson, but I just learned that he was born in Amherstburg, Ontario – albeit in a log cabin.

He was a plain-speaking farmer, very bright, and got to know Mikhail Gorbachev a few years after our trip when Gorbachev visited Canada as the Russian Agriculture Minister.

At this point I must digress briefly:
The Russian Ambassador to Canada at the time was Aleksandr Yakovlev. He had democratic ideals, and had been "banished" to Canada some ten years before because of this. He and Gorbachev took a long three-hour walk together on the Whelan farm one evening, and apparently 'hit it off'. It seems they talked about the failure of the Russian dictatorship and the need for a democratic government. Two weeks after his chat with Mr. Gorbachev in Amherstburg, Yakovlev was invited to return to Russia to take charge of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. That walk has been referred to as "the walk that changed the world...”

As soon as Mr. Gorbachev became the head of the Soviet Union, following the death of Konstantin Chernenko in March 1985, Mr. Yakovlev became of one of Mr. Gorbachev’s key advisors and worked closely with him in implementing perestroika and glasnost.

The second thing I recall about the flight over was meeting one of the McCain brothers (I think, Harrison). He was another farmer, from New Brunswick who, with his brother Wallace built the hugely successful international frozen food (french fries) business. Another really interesting guy to listen to.

I honestly don't remember the official part of the trip – there really wasn't any specific reason for us to be there – we agreed to go just to support the government of the day, since they were often clients of our engineering company. Two things stick out in my memory though:

I joined up with another fellow to go out one evening to have a meal in the old part of town. While wandering, we came upon the famous statue the Manneken Pis. (I understand that this is pronounced very similarly in French and in Dutch – "Mannekin Piss".)

As you probably know it's a fountain featuring a bronze statue of a little boy having a pee. The original statue apparently goes back to the late 15th century – visited by thousands of tourists every year, it's a tribute to the Belgian’s ability to laugh at themselves. The thing that most surprised me about it was how small it is – only about two feet tall.

The fountain is located on Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat (Oak Street) at the corner of Rue de l'Étuve/Stoofstraat (street of the Oven). We then decided to eat and my memory says that it was in a small bar/café on the rue de l'Étuve which is a narrow one-way street. The establishments on the street had small frontages, and were long and narrow premises.

We sat at a small table, he with his back to the street, I facing him. Over his shoulder I looked across the narrow street into a pub which had a bar at right angles to the street.

The photo below sets the scene with Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat running left to right, and Rue de l'Étuve going off into the distance,. The famous wee man is on the corner, and the café we were in was near the top on the right.
You'll have realised at this point that I don't really remember a great deal about that trip. I don't remember the name of my companion, or where he was from in Canada, nor the name of the restaurant, or what we ate or drank, but the evening was memorable for one thing.

As we chatted, I would, from time to time glance over his shoulder into the bar opposite. There were tables on the left with a few people sitting at them, and a few more sitting on stools at the bar. In particular a couple, a man and a woman, the man half-turned towards her, and she half-turned to face him (and me).

Timing is everything so they say, and I happened to glance across the street just at the moment that the man cocked his fist and punched the woman right in the face, knocking her off the stool onto the floor. Then people in the bar reacted, crowded around and I really couldn't see anything more of significance.

I enjoyed Brussels, the little that I saw of it, but left (to fly to Madrid – but that's another story), apparently with only two real memories – a wee boy peeing and a poor woman being assaulted...

PS: Quirky Brussels has given the Manneken a sister and a dog over the years. See here if you're interested.

Tattie Picking
Sir Galahad

Tom Burt
Our group of young boys and girls got on the bus at some unearthly hour in the morning and set off to the farm. This was a great time for the boys to become more familiar with the girls, and I was no exception.


Joan Kilpatrick was my close friend and we both settled in the back seat next to the window, where else, for the journey. It was becoming an enjoyable time and potato picking was not uppermost in my mind. As we went along my thoughts were interrupted by, of all things, a wasp. Joan got a bit excited and of course I stayed calm thinking of what to do. Then it dawned on me that I could kill the wasp with my haversack and get back to being nice to Joan.

My haversack was an old army gas mask holder, like many others at that time, where you could fit a bottle of lemonade down one pocket and the lunch down the other. So there we are with a wasp interrupting our socialising, it was time for the kill.

I picked up my haversack and as the wasp settled on the side window at the back I pushed my haversack hard on to the pest and crack, this rear window suddenly had four or five cracks in it going from top to bottom, fortunately the glass did not fall out.

Yes, you guessed it, in my hurry to be the saviour I hit the window with the bottle side instead of the lunch side. Silence followed as you would expect, and the bus continued until we got to the farm. Being a bit anxious about what was going to happen I admitted my stupidity to the driver, after all I had to impress Joan by telling the truth.

So there we are, probably the only Morgan pupil ever, who broke a bus window in an act of chivalry, what a claim to fame...! As it was, neither I (nor my parents), had to pay for the replacement.

Happy days.

What the...?
Hugh McGrory

Some of you, after you read this little story will probably say "How could you be so dumb" - all I can say is that I was really puzzled for a couple of days...

You've heard the expression "A face that could stop a clock". There was a time, about thirty years ago when I began to wonder if I had such a face... At the time, we lived in a 'side-split' house. I would park in the car-port and enter the house by a side door onto a floor which had two bedrooms - one of which I used as my office, the other was a guest room. I had gotten into the habit of using the guest room to change from my street shoes to my baffies.

Sitting on a dresser in the room there was a clock, a present that someone had given us years before. It was
the type that has a horizontal pendulum - similar to the one in the photograph - and it still kept good time. I glanced at the clock and noticed that it had stopped. I looked at my watch and back at the clock and realised that they showed the same time. I thought to myself, "I guess it just stopped as I walked in - what are the chances...", then sat down to change my shoes. I then restarted the clock by pushing the pendulum - watched it for a moment to make sure it was going, then left the room.

The following night I worked later, and when I did get home I followed my usual routine. I sat down to take my shoes off then remembered the clock, glanced at it and saw that, though it was showing the correct time, it had stopped again...

It was at that point that I began to wonder about my face... Why would the clock stop two days running exactly when I entered the room?

Some of you, smarter than I, are probably saying "That's obvious", but it wasn't to me...

Just for the hell of it, if you know why it happened and are interested enough, send me an email in the next ten days or so and tell me. If you're puzzled too and would like to know the answer, drop me an email and I'll send you a link to a page with the answer.

Upper Crust Adventure
Pete Rennie

Having left my years at Morgan Academy behind I went on to study Architecture at Dundee College of Art. Having successfully navigated the first year of the course I was eagerly looking forward to summer weeks of freedom.

My complacency was deflated when I was informed that during this interval we were expected - nay obliged - to source a suitable building of Architectural or Historical significance and prepare measured drawings of it for submission on our return to College for second year.

Like Hugh's recent selection of poetry I sought a building that would not involve too much time or effort to complete this task. One of the senior students came to my rescue by suggesting I choose Inchyra House near Glencarse, I had his assurance that it met my not too stringent requirements.

One Sunday subsequently armed with my sketch pad, measuring tape etc. I got a bus which dropped me off at Glencarse. I made my way to the Lodge House which stands at the entrance gates to Inchyra House and knocked at the door. I explained the purpose of my visit to the lodge-keeper who helpfully suggested that I make my way up to the main house and that he would inform Sir Derick of my arrival.

I was somewhat taken aback by this since in my naivety I had not considered that the house which was to be the subject of my task might be occupied, even less so than by a ‘Sir’! Fools rush in etc.

I rang the bell at the front door of Inchyra House, it was duly answered by a gentleman I took to be Sir Derick, I explained again my reason for being there and apologised for not having asked for approval in advance. Sir Derick (for this was he) was very good humoured about the whole thing, suggested I should carry on and left me to it.

My intention was to measure only the frontage of the house which was nicely symmetrical, so I got on with my sketching and measuring for about two hours, suddenly the front door opened and a lady appeared and asked if I would care to have tea with the family, I gladly accepted since a cup of tea was just what I needed at that time.

I was ushered into the rather grand dining room where a large table was laid out for afternoon tea. The family was assembled, Sir Derick, his wife, two daughters and a governess.

I sat down and my tea was poured by a maid after which I was offered a slice of fruit loaf which, as is usual, had several burnt raisins around the edge, at home I would have picked these off to avoid eating them but here in such grand surroundings and in the presence of an upper crust (no pun intended) family I had no option but to eat the bread, burnt fruit included!

Polite conversation ensued and eventually tea was over I thanked them for their kindness and took my leave. I made subsequent visits - by that time the family had returned to their home in Eaton Square, London - and I was always invited into the kitchen for tea and cake by the cook.

Some time later I discovered that Sir Derick was in fact Sir Frederick Robert Hoyer Miller and he was, at that time, British Ambassador to Western Germany - which must have been tricky in the days of a divided Germany and Cold War Politics. He later became Lord Inchyra and is shown below escorting his older daughter, Elizabeth, at her wedding in 1965.

The other photograph shows the same Elizabeth Anne Hoyer Miller after her marriage to William Euan "Billy" Wallace, a former escort of Princess Margaret in the days when the British press followed her excursions into London's nightlife as avidly as the American press now follow the Kardashians - see this article.



So much for my brief spell mixing with the upper crust. Happily, my drawings met with approval on my return to college.

Give the System what it Wants...
Hugh McGrory

When I first joined the workforce, post-education, it took me a while to get my 'sea legs'. At first, I thought that everybody around me knew it all, and that I didn't know much of anything. This changed as I began to realise that none of them 'knew everything' and that I just had to do what they did - apply whatever knowledge and skill they had to each problem that came along, seek help if necessary, then make a decision and deal with the results.

At that point I developed a tendency to 'kick against the pricks' as the ancient Greek proverb puts it. When 'Authority' asked me to do something a certain way that I, in my wisdom, considered to be the wrong way - or perhaps asked me to provide some information, which I believed they never actually used, I would protest - 'take up arms' as it were - and sometimes get myself into a 'sea of troubles'.

Over time, with, if not wisdom, at least enlightened self-interest, I developed a new approach that I think of as 'Give the System What it Wants'. If the issue isn't a crucial one to me, doesn’t involve an important point of principle, or create a load of useless work, it's often more productive to simply provide what was asked and move on.

Let me give you two actual examples:

1. I decided to take a course in 'Problem-solving Techniques' at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (this later became Ryerson University.) As a prospective student, I had to sign up for the course, and, since there was often limited space and a big demand I went down on the evening of the first day of registration.

The room was a long rectangle - it had a counter about 25 feet long and the space for customers was about 10 feet deep. It was packed with would-be students, and there were only three clerks behind the counter. So I had to squeeze into the room then slowly merge my way towards one of the clerk positions. Eventually I was second-in-line and there were as many students behind me as there had been when I arrived.

I was right behind the fellow being attended to, using my elbows to protect my turf and keep others from cutting in - I couldn't help but overhear the whole conversation between the clerk and the would-be student. The young clerk was asking questions and filling in the information on the appropriate form. She asked him ,"What is your SIN?"

The SIN is the 9-digit Canadian Social Insurance Number - in those days higher education institutions were entitled to ask for it - not any longer. The young man stuttered began to search his pockets then said that he didn't have it on him. She said "Sorry, you'll have to come back". He protested saying that he'd been there for almost an hour, and that the course might be filled when he got back, etc., but she was adamant, and the very unhappy lad finally pushed back from the counter and left - allowing me to slide into the space and begin the process.

A few minutes later the clerk asked me "What is your SIN?" I politely said 253-867-954 - a number I made up - she carefully wrote this in, I paid my money and I was registered. I figured if it was important I'd correct the information when it came up.

Nobody ever asked.

The system wanted a number and I gave it one....

2. One day my wife received one of those notices from the Post Office saying that they had been unable to deliver a registered letter, and that it could be picked up at a local sub-office. She asked me if I'd pick it up for her on the way home from work.

The next day I stood in a line of about six people waiting my turn to be served by a lady of indeterminate age, with the lined face of a lifetime smoker. I gave her the information slip - she looked at it then in a loud, penetrating and sarcastic voice she said "Is your name Sheila?" I, of course, explained the situation and handed her my driving licence to show that I lived at the address - to no avail. I was told, rather rudely, that my wife would have to come herself, or supply me with authorisation.

I went out to my car, tore a piece of paper out of a notebook and wrote "Please accept this as my authorisation to allow my husband, Hugh McGrory, to pick up my mail." I signed it "Sheila McGrory".

So ten minutes after my first visit, I was again standing in a line of six people...' Soor Dook' saw me as I joined the queue, and I saw her eyes narrow - as Shakespeare would have said, the game was afoot... The queue slowly dispersed, and I could see her continually glancing my way - each time I gave her a pleasant smile.

Finally I reached the counter and said "Hello again", and handed her the information slip and 'The Authorisation'. She took it, and studied it, and I could see her trying to decide how she could prevent me from getting the letter. She finally came up with " We keep these on file you know."

I said "That's a good system - you can't be too careful."

She didn't say anything for a moment, just looked at me, and I could see several different expressions flit across her face. We stared at each other for a few more seconds, then her shoulders slumped and I knew she was done. She handed me a form and said through gritted teeth, "Sign here." I did and she reluctantly handed me the letter. I smiled pleasantly and said "Thank you". As I left the building I looked back and she was still staring at me.

The system wanted a piece of paper with a signature and now it had one...

Sometimes simply "Giving the System What It Wants" is the best way...

PS The Postal Service has since changed its rule, and will now allow you to pick up a letter in such circumstances by showing photographic ID that includes the same address as the letter.

Mosport Fun and Games
Gordon Findlay

Hugh McGrory’s delightful Anecdote of his love affair with the Mini brought back memories for me. Although I never managed to own one, I loved the look of that cheeky little car - both on the road, and on the race track in its souped-up versions.

The Mini was innovative in many ways, and if you're interested, the BBC did an interesting two-part film on how they were manufactured. See both parts here.

The Minis, Austin and went on sale in August, 1959, and the early batches had problems - principally water leakage resulting in wet interiors and water-logged distributors. The first Minis arrived in the US in 1960, and while the American public was intrigued, it was used to big flashy cars - and gas was cheap...

In 1961, in an effort to create interest, BMC decided to stage a race at Lime Rock Circuit in Connecticut with several well-known race car drivers competing - all in Minis, of course. The drivers included the great Juan Manuel Fangio, arguably the best ever, who had retired from Formula 1 just three years before. See film of the race here.

Also that year, as it happened, a new Canadian car racing circuit was opened on 450 acres of land north of Bowmanville, Ontario. It was named Mosport (from Motor Sport) and soon it attracted thousands of car racing enthusiasts to picnic, party, and enjoy the sights and sounds of world-class racing in every category.

BMC decided to hold another demonstration race at Mosport, and when I heard that Fangio would be there I had to attend... Now, from a social standpoint there was an early problem at Mosport. Ontario’s tight liquor control laws in those days did not permit “open” drinking. A bottle of wine was OK but cases of beer or bottles of Johnnie Walker were out of bounds. However, since the rolling hills around the circuit were perfect for picnicking, most of us made a day - or a weekend - of it on the grounds.

We’d set up our “camp” then flock to the best vantage points to watch each race. The poor Provincial policemen charged with security - and liquor law infractions - faced a hopeless task. Most of us had prepared “milk” bottles (a short bottle painted white on the outside) which contained our tipple of choice for the day.

The other gambit was for some of us to hold up a “privacy” blanket while the others took a long pull at their bottles of beer. Then they would return the favour for us. Of course, as soon as the loudspeakers announced the next race, there was a mad scramble for the best vantage spots (the tight and dangerous double-bend of Moss Corner was always a favourite action spot).

The race was great fun, and all eyes were on these famous drivers as they jockeyed for position and flung those brightly-coloured Minis around the track.

I loved the sound of those finely-tuned British machines as they howled down the Mosport track; the sudden staccato whine as they changed gears for a bend, then the banshee roar as they blasted down the straightaway. Close to the track, you were immersed in the hot, sharp smell of racing fuel and the smell of burning rubber as those tiny 10-inch Mini wheels whipped round corners. Happy days indeed around the marvelous Mini!

As soon as the last race was over for the day at Mosport, what usually happened was that everyone within the circuit grounds headed for the exits, and of course, EVERYONE was infused with what they had been watching all afternoon! Cars went peeling down Highway 2 or through Bowmanville, doing their own imitation of the race drivers, cutting in, overtaking like madmen, and flying into corners at crazy speeds. It was a wild and wacky way to end the day!

Mosport is still going strong, now owned by Canadian Tire a large Canadian retail company. The introduction to its website includes the following:

"More than 50 years ago the piece of land that we know today as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was a farm. At that time, standing on a hill, looking over the fields and groves of trees, who could have imagined that the best drivers and the fastest cars in the world would come to this pastoral place and race on what would be named as one the most challenging tracks in the world and provide the best excitement and entertainment that motor racing has to offer.

But they did come: racing legends like Stirling Moss, Gilles Villeneuve, Bruce McLaren and even stock car king Richard Petty. No fewer than 16 Formula One World Driving Champions – men like Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti and Niki Lauda have raced here. Some 10 Indianapolis 500 winners including Rodger Ward, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock have also raced at Mosport.

There have been Formula One cars, Indy cars, Can-Am, stock cars, World Endurance, Formula 5000, Formula Atlantic and Super Vee. Add Formula Fords, GT cars of every description, Superbikes, karts, snowmobiles and off road machines. Throw in a couple of rock concerts, some air shows, and sky divers and one begins to wonder if there is anything that hasn’t been seen at Mosport. Anyone standing on the hill in 1959 would not believe what has transpired over the last 40 years."

Its great to know too, that enthusiasts can still see Mini Coopers racing at Mosport today.

--------------------
Thanks are due to Jeremy Sale who bolstered my failing memory. Jeremy edits Pit Signals for The Vintage Racer, the magazine of VARAC (The Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada).

Jeremy was educated at Gordonstoun, and at 73, is still racing his 1962 Lotus Super Seven!


You'll Never Take the Two of Us Alive, Coppers! - 5
Hugh McGrory

Many of you know Arklay St. in Dundee. It's a steep brae that runs almost exactly north-south - from Clepington Road at the top end south to Dens Road, passing the end of Tannadice Street, the home of Dundee's two senior football clubs, and Gussie Park, where the carnival used to set up every year. From the tap o' the brae there's a lovely view across the River Tay to the Fife shore at Woodhaven Pier.

The photograph shows the bottom end close to Dens Road with the Rashiewell Weaving Mill, now the Dens Road Market, on the corner to the left. This intersection was the hangout for the Bottom o' the Hill Gang, a name I just now made up, better known as Billy and me. Billy's home is shown by the 'Z'; I lived in the ground floor flat marked 'Y', the single window to the left of the Y is the room where I was born, #2 Fairbairn St.

The X marks the scene of the crime...

Most of you will remember, I'm sure, the street games we used to play for hours every day until it got dark (do kids today still play any of those games?) The boys of that era will remember pinner. Pinners were pieces of steel, usually about two inches square and half an inch thick, scavenged from scrap metal bins at the back of factories. There were a number of rules (see them here), which had to be followed, but the main purpose was to throw your pinner at the other guys' pinners and try to hit them.

On this particular occasion, I think it must have been during the school summer holidays, Billy and I were hanging around in the street, our pinners in our pockets, but not actually playing with them. We were probably about eleven at the time. My mother had insisted that I look after my wee brother, he would have been four years old, and we had given him a pinner which he was throwing around, practising.

Suddenly a figure appeared round the corner - our nemesis, the local Bobby. He proceeded to give my wee brother a lecture about how people could be hurt by these flying pieces of metal, then made him take his pinner over to the cundie in Arklay Street near Dundonald Street (marked with the 'X') and drop his pinner in.

My poor wee brother immediately burst into tears and went running to find my mother. She came storming out of the house with steam coming out of her ears looking for the copper (who had made himself scarce, no doubt congratulating himself on how well he had dealt with that four year old, ne'r-do-well, Dundee scruff...)

My mother, not wanting to waste her righteous indignation unleashed it on me, wanting to know why I hadn't stopped the policeman from doing that to my poor wee brother. My reminder to her that I was eleven didn't help any...

Finally the dust settled, and Billy and I congratulated ourselves on not having to give up our pinners still safely ensconced in our pockets.

I visited that corner recently and took a photo of the very cundie - still providing yeoman service after sixty years. Maybe the pinner was still there!

Actually it wasn't. As soon as the coast was clear, that day, Billy and I lifted the grate from the drain, then I held onto Billy's legs while he lowered himself in, recovered the pinner and gave it back to my wee brother.

I like to think that the wee lad not only got his pinner back, but also a life lesson on giving authority the respect it is due...

Bottom o' the Hill Gang 1, Boabbies zero.

Yes!!!

Morgan Primary
School Desks

Anne Ogilvie Close

One day that stands out in my memories of P7 is when we came into our classroom in the morning to discover that the old desks, which used to be screwed to the floor and had bench seats accommodating two people, had been removed. In their place were brand new oak tables and separate chairs.The photographs below show desks very similar to the ones I remember.


The top of each table lifted up and below was a space which could hold all our books and jotters. Bliss! No longer would we have to carry everything every day in our school bags. We need take home only what was needed for the homework of the night.

Unfortunately our joy lasted about two weeks. Too many of us forgot to take home the books and jotters required so we were told to empty our desks and from that day everything would be carried in our bags to and from school.

I think we were allowed to leave paint boxes and gym shoes but nothing else. We really felt hard done by but in those days you did not complain out loud. Those school bags weighed a ton containing as they did three or four jotters, text books for Arithmetic, English, History and Geography plus an atlas and not forgetting Schonell's Spelling book.

I wonder if the problems we have with shoulders and backs stem from those days?

Tales from Our Backyard
The Goose

Hugh McGrory

My wife, Sheila, and I live in the country north of Toronto. It's a little more than 50 kms by road from Toronto City Hall - 45 minutes in off-peak and twice that during rush hour - roughly the same distance as Dundee to Kirkcaldy. So we have the pleasure of country living but still easy access to the city when necessary.

There is a pond at the edge of our property, and each year we have a pair of Mallard ducks move in and also a pair of Canada geese. We look forward to seeing the ducklings and goslings each spring.

There are quite a number of other ponds around us, perhaps fifteen or twenty in a one mile radius, and so from spring to fall we see flocks of Canada geese flying in and out and lots of baby birds wandering around under
the watchful eyes of their parents. From time to time some of these geese visit our little pond, but the resident geese usually see them off in fairly short order.

A couple of years ago I noticed one goose that seemed to be behaving strangely, and realised that it had something wrong with one of its wings. We wondered if this was a temporary condition; it hung around the edge of the pond, near the little windmill in the photo - it seemed to be eating, but never flying, and I realised that the wing was broken. We decided we'd have to do something about it.

I made several calls to appropriate bodies but didn't get much help until I tried the Toronto Wildlife Centre. They said they couldn't help either as they only operated within the Metropolitan Toronto area. I wasn't sure what to do - I didn't see any way I could catch the bird, and figured that even if I did I'd be like the dog that said to itself "Now what", after it caught the car it was chasing...

However, I got a call back from the Centre about an hour later saying that they had a rescue van on the outskirts of the city that day, and the crew had said that they'd be willing to come and see what they could do.

Later that day a van showed up with two young fellows manning it. They armed themselves with large nets on extendable poles, and we tracked down the goose on the edge of our pond. They approached it cautiously, but it saw them coming and ran into the pond, swam across to the other side and took off running.

I figured that it was heading for another pond about quarter of a mile away, so we set off to see if my hunch was correct. Sure enough, we saw the goose in the middle of the pond with a flock of about twenty others. I thought to myself "Good luck trying to cut that goose out from the flock, guys" as the birds moved to the opposite side of the pond from where we were.

The young lads didn't seem at all fazed, however, and went over to their van to get their nets. They then unloaded another piece of equipment - a radio-controlled model speedboat (looked something like the one in the photo) - and I said to myself "Well I'll be damned...!"

They put the boat in the water, and steered it at low speed over to one side of the pond then cut it's engine. They then went to the opposite bank and stationed themselves behind some bushes, with their nets at hand. The flock eyed them warily and drifted over to the opposite bank near to where the speed boat was sitting.

Then all hell broke loose - the speedboat burst into life, and was it noisy once it got going! The flock took to the air and the poor injured goose paddled away as fast as it could. The operator guided the boat just like a collie gathering sheep, and the goose headed for the shore and took off up the slope past the bushes just at the right spot. In a flash, the net swung and the two rescuers grabbed the bird, immobilised it and calmed it down, then loaded it into the van.

They refused any payment and said that the Centre would no doubt contact us to see if we wanted to donate - something we were happy to do.

I wish I could tell you that this story had a happy ending, but when I called the next day, they said that the injury was too severe to repair and the bird had to be put down.

At least it didn't suffer a lingering death - that's something, right?

Wull Kelly
Pete Rennie

Hugh's anecdote, some time ago, about Wull Kelly brought back memories as I also had him for maths soon after he arrived at Morgan Academy.

I remember he had on a very badly-fitting suit and always seemed to be covered in chalk dust and Hugh is correct in that he did throw chalk at miscreants - like me!

I recall one time when two girls appeared late for his class and he made both stand on the floor in front of the class for the whole period. On another occasion someone dropped a tennis ball on the floor and it rolled out in front of him. He picked it up and drop-kicked it into a fireplace which was on the back wall of the room, no doubt a relic of older days at the school!

I also came up against him during the Staff v Pupils football match and one time as the ball fell between us I was aware of a booted foot coming up and just missing my nose! He was just as uncompromising on the pitch as in the classroom...

I must say though that my maths marks improved under him, caused I am sure, by fear.

He was to be respected.

Two Brief Cases
Hugh McGrory

Early in my career I worked in Perth for a couple of years, but lived on the outskirts of Dundee - so every day I travelled the twenty or so miles back and forward on the A90.

My car was a Mini, one of my all-time favourite vehicles. Actually, it was the van version - since this was classified as a commercial vehicle there was no sales tax, so I was able to afford a new one.

It was 1956 when Alec Issigonis sketched out his idea for a car that would carry four adults in comfort and yet fit into a 10x4x4ft box. By 1959, what was to become one of the world’s most famous cars, The Mini, was in production. Surprisingly roomy, though small and easy to park, it had a number of innovations that contributed to its success – a transverse, front-wheel-drive engine, with the gear box underneath in the sump, rubber cone suspension, small (10”) wheels positioned at the outside corners...

It was wonderfully sporty to drive - being so close to the ground made you feel that you were going faster than the speedometer said - but also, like the TARDIS, it seemed to be bigger on the inside … and the van version was great for carrying all the paraphernalia that came along with our new baby.

It really was a remarkable vehicle, and was put to all sorts of uses over the years:

I loved driving my Mini, though it used to cut out and stop in the rain because the distributor was right at the front (I later got a plastic cover designed to keep the distributor dry - it worked well). I remember, when I first go it, I felt rather intimidated when pulling up beside a double-decker bus and realising that the top of my head was pretty well aligned with the top of the bus wheel...

The Mini's legacy endures. There are more than 450 Mini clubs in the UK and at least another 250 world-wide. The car is continually voted one of the most favourite cars of all time and it was recently voted as Britain’s favourite car ever produced.

Mine looked like this - it was Whitehall Beige, if I remember correctly, and my father found someone to custom build a roof-rack for me, rather like that shown, which came in handy many times...

But I seem to have gotten a little carried away with nostalgia, so...

Case 1

One morning, I was driving to work and a few minutes along the Perth Road a car came up behind me and flashed his lights. I looked in the mirror at him but couldn’t figure out what he wanted. He pulled out and drew level with me then gestured at my roof. I still had no idea what he was on about - maybe my roof rack had come loose - in any event, as he sped up, I looked for the first opportunity to pull over.

I got out and looked at my roof, and there was my briefcase, standing up, looking as if it belonged there. I couldn’t believe that it had stayed in place – it was standing with the narrow sides fore and aft, so I guess it was heavy enough that the wind pressure on the narrow end wasn’t enough to push it off, and the weight kept it from falling over on the turns …

For most of my working life I carried that briefcase back and forward to work. It was second nature to me to pack it, when leaving the office, with any work that I intended to work on or look over at home that evening.

Next morning I’d do the reverse - though quite often I hadn’t gotten around to actually opening it, so it didn’t need to be re-packed - and I was in the habit of putting the case on the roof while I dug out my key …

Case 2

When I moved to Canada, I continued the same briefcase habit. For the first few years, I wasn't senior enough to get a parking spot in the basement of the office building, so I had to find street parking each morning.

The car I was driving at the time was a two-door, what they call in North America a coupe. To access the rear seats it was necessary to fold the front seatbacks forward. Each time I got in I would tilt my seat and place my briefcase in the footwell of the back seat.

One evening I got home, reached for my case and it wasn’t there. I checked the boot – not there either. I checked my mind – did I leave it at the office – no, I remembered carrying it down the stairs when I left the building.

My habit when I got to my car was to put the briefcase on the ground, in line with the rear seats so the door had room to swing open, then get my key, open the door, swing the seat forward and put the case in.

I realised that I had probably done this as usual but forgotten the last part – so I had driven off leaving my briefcase in the middle of a residential street about six feet out from the kerb.

Cursing my stupidity I got in the car and drove all the way back to where I’d parked. Every thing looked normal, but no briefcase...

I decided I’d better go door to door, up both sides of the street, asking if anyone had seen it. I began with the house that was closest to where I’d parked, and knocked.

The door opened, and the lady of the house said “You wouldn’t be looking for this would you”, and in her hand she had the briefcase! I happily marched back to my car and put the case in its proper spot. Dodged the bullet again …!

Driving home, I’m sure I heard a testy little voice behind me saying “That’s twice …!”

The Royal Arch
Sandra Moir Dow

Here is a new memory of something I did with my eldest son Ken that stirred up nostalgia for old Dundee.

Those of us who who grew up in the '40s and '50s in Dundee will remember well The Royal Arch. It was
built between 1849 and 1853 to commemorate the 1844 vist of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Dundee. Loved by some and detested by others, it was demolished in 1964 as part of preparatory work for the Tay Road Bridge. The demolition proved to be difficult - it was built very solidly and had to be dynamited, as can be seen in the photo.

Back in May, I spotted in the Courier that a company wanted volunteers to help build a replica of the Royal Arch (on its original location)... out of cardboard. Ken visits me each Saturday - he lives with paranoid schizophrenia, and while he is doing well on modern medication, he tends to lack much initiative for anything new. I'm always on the lookout for activities to introduce him to some variety, so he and I headed up to Dundee to help build the Arch.

The re-creation of the Arch was to be one of the high points of the Ignite Dundee 2016 month-long festival of culture and creativity. The creator of the replica Arch was French artist Olivier Grossetete, who has been responsible for helping design similar Peoples’ Towers all over the world.

It was amazing - about a hundred citizens of all ages moving 1,200 cardboard boxes into position on the
direction of a very able crew. The top was done first and then raised, on a whistle command, to push the next layer underneath. Guy ropes stopped it toppling and sticky tape held the boxes together.

The finished product looked ridiculously like the original. See a time-lapse video here.

If you click on the photo on the left, and have good eyesight - and a magnifying glass - you can just see me, with Ken behind. It was great fun.

We then discovered that Slessor Gardens had some paving etchings recording the history of the Royal Arch right to its demolishing. Finally, I got a souvenir booklet of the history of the 114 years of the Arch - a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon’s adventure!

The next day, as planned, staff toppled the 16 metre by 16 metre structure to the ground, and Dundee's children were invited to destroy it.
The kids went at their task with gusto - see them in action here.

By 4:00 pm Sunday, the scaffies had left with the remains, and the site was back to normal.

How to Get Your Own Back
Hugh McGrory

In a previous story I talked about one of the trips my wife and I took with my kids in the early ‘70s when we went down to the Florida Keys dragging our tent trailer. (I just checked and that’s a return trip of about 3300 miles - what was I thinking …?).

On the way back, heading back to Canada via Detroit, we saw in a guide book that there was an Indian Museum and Village, and the kids (and Dad) decided they really wanted to visit. So we diverted from the I75 freeway, after we passed Chattanooga, into the Great Smoky Mountains and the town of Cherokee. (One guess as to which Indian tribe we were going to see …).

We arrived at the village, Oconaluftee, and spent several enjoyable hours there. I remember speaking to a Cherokee man, and we ended up comparing their clan system with Scottish clans.

When it was time to hit the road again, the kids wanted, as usual, to visit the gift shop to get a souvenir. We ended up with a feathered headdress, a rubber tomahawk (this led to a fight in the family - see it here) - and finally, a boomerang … Don’t ask - I suspect I tried to talk them out of the boomerang, but to no avail …

Back home, the kids had fun with the toys for a few days, and then lost interest – “The boomerang doesn’t come back, Daddy …”

Some time later, I picked it up, probably to put it in the toy box, and took a look at it. I had assumed that it was meant to be what is called a ‘throwing stick’ or a ‘rabbit stick’, used to hunt small game. They looked like boomerangs, but Native Americans never invented a returning stick.

Our toy was red, made of plastic, and when I looked at it I realised that it was shaped in cross section – one
face was plain, while the other was curved like an airplane wing. It also had chamfers along opposite edges …

This got me wondering, so I did some research (as I write, I’m thinking “Googled it” – but this was the early 70s … I probably looked it up in an Encyclopedia – can’t really remember) but it sounded like it was shaped like a real boomerang.

I read up on the technique for throwing (see how to do it here), then asked the kids if they’d like to try getting the boomerang to fly – they were all for it, of course. The following Sunday morning, earlyish, we drove to Sunnybrook Park, not far from where we lived, and where I played field hockey. This is a huge park, and at that time in the morning we were able to find a people-free area to try out our toy.

I gathered the kids close behind me, checked the wind direction to align myself, then threw the boomerang as per the instructions I’d read up on. I didn’t have any real expectations, and I’d told the kids that this probably wouldn’t work. Was I wrong!

First throw, the boomerang, spinning rapidly, climbs into the air turning left across the wind, then heads back towards us. The kids and I are shouting ”Wow”, and I shout, “I’ll try to catch it”, then, a moment later, “Duck!”

We all hunkered down and it sailed over our heads and landed some 40 ft. behind us - almost took my head off...

And that’s how you get your own back …

Tattie Howking
Gordon Findlay

As World War II progressed, most of the young men disappeared into the forces. By the mid-1940s, farmers all round Britain had lost many of their workers, but crops still had to be picked. And that’s when school children across Scotland became farm hands.

At Morgan the announcement was made and it was straight to the point. “Our potato crop is vital and it must be picked. Morgan has agreed that our pupils will be part of the effort to bring in the crop.”

Potatoes in Angus are picked in October, so for three weeks of that month we Morgan pupils were pulled from the classroom and became part of the country-wide effort to bring in the spuds. . . at the princely reward of 8 shillings per day. The “Tattie Holidays” were under way.

We showed up at the school somewhat bleary-eyed at 6.30 a.m. carrying our jelly sandwiches and maybe a bottle of lemonade in our haversacks. Buses were waiting in the back of the schoolyard for us, and off we went to the farms and fields around Dundee.

October can be cool at that early morning time, and we shivered as we waited in the farmer’s yard. Then the farmer’s head man (too old to serve in the forces) arrived and marched us out to the potato fields.

He had marked each row of bushy potatoes with long sticks about six paces apart. These were our “bits” which we would pick once the digger came along. He marched us along, one drill after another, dropping one of us off at each stick.

Then the action began. A grinding drone announced the farmer aboard his tractor. Behind the tractor he towed the digger: a simple device like a large metal wheel with thick radiating arms which spun around and dug down into the potato plant.

The force of the whirling wheel threw the spuds against a heavy mat hanging off to the side and they cascaded all over the drill as the tractor roared on. Now our job began.

Being small (I was around 10 at the time) we school kids had one advantage over adults. We didn’t have so far to bend to pick up potatoes and farmers quickly discovered that our nimble hands were good at gathering the crop.

As you picked, you tossed the spuds into a wide wicker basket which you dragged forward up the drill. As you can imagine, the fuller the basket became the heavier it got - and the harder it was to heave it forward.

When picking, the goal was to pick your “bit” as fast as you could. Then you could have a wee rest before the roar of the tractor announced that the digger was churning up the adjoining drill where your next “bit” was already marked out.

Cold early mornings were the worst. You shivered out in the field. You could see your breath, and fingers were quickly frozen by the cold ground. It was easy to break a nail or cut a finger on a jagged stone. You prayed for the sun to come up and warm you.

Around 9.30 the roar of the tractor died away: it was time for your morning “piece”. It was only 15 minutes, but it was blessed relief. You dug into the sandwiches your mother had made, opened your lemonade, and eased your back against the farmer’s stone dyke.

We gathered spuds until 5.30 or 6.00 o’clock when the shadows began to gather. Finally the roar of the tractor died away and after a long day of grubby, tiring labour we were able to make our way back to the farmyard where our bus was waiting.

At most farms there was a water tap. Now and then a friendly farmer’s wife would add a chunk of hard soap, and we would queue to take our turn washing the dirt off our hands.

This photo is not from my time, but a few years later:
After that, came the best time of the day. The farmer produced a heavy box, and one by one we walked up to get our 8 shillings of hard-earned money.

Then, what a joy it was to climb aboard the bus, sink into a seat and lean back. We often had sing-songs on the way home. “Pack up Your Troubles”” was always a favourite, and although you were dog tired, you joined in and belted out the words.

Hey - after all, we told ourselves - we were part of the war effort!

You'll Never Take the Two of Us Alive, Coppers! - 4
Hugh McGrory

The Spangie

For those of you who aren't familiar with the word Parkour, one definition is “the activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.” My definition of Parkour, as practised by many, would include “… an equal blend of athleticism, courage and stupidity”.

No doubt many of you have seen Parkour in movies and on TV, but if you’re interested in seeing the “athleticism and courage” in action, see here.

If you’re interested in seeing “courage and stupidity”, see here.

David Belle, a Parisian, is usually considered to be the originator, in the late ‘80s, of Parkour. The Urban Dictionary states:
“Le Parkour (also known simply as Parkour, PK, or free running) was invented in 1988 in the Parisian suburb of Lisses by a group of teenagers including the legends David Belle and Sebastien Foucan, who formed a clan called the "Yamakasi", or new (modern) samurai.

It is a sport in which practitioners, called traceurs, run, jump, climb, and roll through rooftops, gaps, pipes, practically anything in an urban environment. It demands great physical agility, and masters of PK, such as Belle, are able to jump over cars, leap 9-meter distances from one rooftop to another. It has been described as "obstacle-coursing" or "the art of movement".

The fluid art of parkour is sometimes combined with the smooth flow of such arts such as capoeira and Xtreme martial arts. An example of such hybrid practitioners is Team Ryouko, the famous Toronto martial arts stunt team.”
However that may be, and with all due respect to Monsieur Belle, my buddy Billy and I beg to differ … we would suggest, respectfully, that we were practicing parkour in the late 40’s. We didn't call it that, of course, and what we did bears little resemblance to any of the videos above, but we did run, jump, climb up drain pipes and walls and run over rooftops in an urban environment. We didn't demonstrate much courage, but there was, from time to time a few acts of stupidity - in our defence, they did seem like good ideas at the time...

One of our sometime haunts was the roof of the Rashiewell Weaving Works at weekends, playing in the
peaks and valleys. The Rashie- well weaving sheds are now the Dens Road Market situated at the foot of Arklay Street between Dens Road and Dundonald street (see photo on left - click photo to enlarge).

In the photo, Arklay street runs almost due north - our approach was always made from Dens Road a bit east of
the buckie at the corner where we believed that the night watchman hung out. We waited until there was no traffic on Dens Road, then shinnied up a drainpipe. I just checked, and it looks like the original drainpipe is still there (see photo on the right) just to the left of the peeling Dens Road Market sign.

The last time we carried out this exploit, we were having a game of 'tig', and, Billy, being Billy, ran over the corner of one of the skylights and cracked the glass so that a chunk fell down into the factory. Fortunately, he didn't get his foot caught, nor, heaven forbid, fall through.

We stared at each other wide-eyed - even if the Watchie was asleep he must have heard the glass coming down! So he would probably call the bobbies and then set out after us.

We took to our heels and headed northeast with the plan of getting to Dundonald street where the Cash & Carry store now sits (see photo - The Rashiewell roof is on the right just behind the trees).
This is opposite the pub that was then called the Airlie Arms (at the corner of Clepington Street, which happens to be next door to the wee but and ben where my Gran and Granda lived).

You'll see from the plan photo above that once outside the works property there still is a conglomeration of huts, sheds and small buildings, a bit different from, but similar to what was there 60 years ago.

We came to two small buildings, both with flat roofs, separated by about 5 or 6 feet, ours about 4 feet lower. In Parkour, this is a common situation (over much bigger gaps) and is dealt with using what is known as a cat leap (see photo)..
Billy and I stood at the edge of the gap and Billy said "we'll have to spangie it". Now a spangie was our version of the cat leap (spang pronounced as in "the bell rang"). Identical to the cat leap as portrayed above - except for the landing... Instead of grasping the edge of the target roof with our hands and absorbing the impact with our legs and feet, we landed flat against the wall with our arms bent so that our elbows were out horizontally and our hands were underneath our chin.

In a properly executed cat leap, the traceur uses the impact force and the elastic muscles of the leg to immediately rebound in a jump up onto the roof and continue apace. Our technique was to hang there winded, then try to get one leg up onto the roof and gradually edge up onto it. It could be quite awkward to do, but encouraged by the alternative of dropping some 10 or 12 feet to the ground, we managed it - sometimes with a little help from a friend...

We then shinnied down a drainpipe and out to Dundonald St, then took off via Wolseley, Tannadice and Neish Streets into Fairbairn St, and via the backyards, home. We never heard anything about our escapade - and we never played on that roof again...

Did any of you use the word 'spangie' when you were kids? Spang is a good old Scottish word.

Recently, and quite coincidentally, I was looking for a Netflix film to watch, and stumbled on "Brick Mansions", a sock-schlocky movie starring Paul Walker (in a posthumous performance, he having died in a car crash before it's release).

The first action sequence in the movie featured Parkour, and after I'd watched it for a few minutes I realised that I was watching a tattooed David Belle, now in his forties and pursuing a career in the film business.

If you’re interested in seeing Holywood's take on Parkour, see here. Staged though it all may be, you have to admire the courage and skill of the man! 

Morgan Primary
Wireless Days

Anne Ogilvie Close
I wonder if any of my primary classmates remember listening to Schools' Broadcasts on what we knew as the wireless? We didn't refer to them as radios then, and they looked like these:


Our Primary 7 teacher (it was Primary 5 in our day as our first two years at school were spent in 1st and 2nd Infants) was not a great supporter of new gimmicks so we were only allowed to listen to these programmes on very rare occasions. Normally it was a Nature programme or Music and Movement which was not one of my favourites. The music was fine but having to pretend to be a tree or waving branches on a tree did nothing for me. I just thought everyone looked very foolish trying to pose or act out this type of situation.

When we were told that we were to be given the treat of a wireless programme, a feeling of excitement would ripple through the class. We were thrilled to have anything that would break the normal daily class routine.

The radio was carried into the classroom and placed on the teacher's table. There were no electric sockets in our room so in order to get power, our teacher, Miss Chalmers, had to climb onto her chair and from there to the table. From this height she was able to unscrew a bulb from one of the light fittings and in its place attach the cord running from the radio to the socket.

This done and after getting herself back onto terra firma, we waited with baited breath while she twiddled with the knob in an attempt to pick up the correct station. Why this was so difficult I do not know as I am sure there were only two stations in 1949 - Home and Light programmes. After a great deal of hissing and crackling we eventually managed to get tuned in and we were ready to listen to the programme.

Once the programme ended the whole rigmarole of disconnecting the radio from the light fitting had to be gone through before the machine was carried reverently back to whatever secret cubbyhole it had come from and normal classroom service was resumed.

I wonder what present day pupils would make of this ancient technology accustomed as they are to all the electronic gadgets they have at their finger tips. But then, the wireless was modern technology to us in the forties. Happy Days!


 Poetry - 2 
Hugh McGrory

My last story may have given the impression that I am a poetry fan – actually, I’m not – I never read poetry if I can help it. I prefer technical subjects, with numbers and statistics (probably explains why I ended up in a career in engineering), or mystery fiction for relaxation.

There was a brief period in primary school though ….

I’m sure you remember, as I do, being introduced to poetry. I recall reading, amongst others, Wordsworth, Masefield and Tennyson, in Miss Laing's, or was it Miss Stewart’s class, at Dens Road School. We were told that we each had to choose one poem from a list of three, memorise it, and then recite it in front of the whole class (which created quite a lot of consternation, I can tell you...)

The first on the list was Wordsworth’s Daffodils:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils; …”

It didn’t do much for me.

I remember I did enjoy our second poem, though, John Masefield’s Cargoes which begins:

“Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,”

I particularly liked the third verse:

“Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays …”

However, the third on the list, and my choice, was The Eagle, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

“He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.”

After I had finished my recitation, the teacher said,

“That was very good, Hugh – you chose the shortest poem, of course...”

At that age, I didn’t have the nerve to respond to this put-down, but I remember thinking:

“What were the rules, and what information did I use to make my choice?

Oh yes...

"Pick a poem to recite from memory" and,

Daffodils, 4 stanzas of 6 lines each – 24 lines;
Cargoes, 3 stanzas of 5 lines each – 15 lines;
The Eagle, 2 stanzas of 3 lines each – 6 lines;

"Duh …”

Homage to D.B. Smith
Lawrie Mitchell

“Does anyone speak any goddam French?” This was from an Ottawa-born surgeon at 2 am in the emergency room in Ottawa, a supposedly bi-lingual city, when the surgeon had a French-Canadian patient with severe abdominal pain.

I had just started work there and hesitated, waiting for native-born Ottawans to come forward. None of the staff volunteered, so this Dundonian, with Higher French only, came forward to translate, struggling with the strong Quebec accent but managing to help with the diagnosis.

Two months before this, we foreign graduates had to re-sit exams for Ontario registration. My clinical case was an elderly Francophone lady with a chronic skin condition. I had no idea of the diagnosis, but again, D.B. to the rescue! She spoke no English so I explained my exam situation, and asked her if she knew her diagnosis. I was so relieved when she obliged with chapter and verse - no problem then with the examiners!

Next benefit from D.B. was on an assignment for UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) in the Chadian civil war. (Although I didn't know it at the time, the beginning, for me, of many years spent in West Africa)..
I headed a small medical team from the UK, but with typical UK insularity, I was the only French speaker in the group. Chad is a francophone country and we were working with the French army and the International Red Cross. I spent as much time as an interpreter as with medical cases!

My next French exercise was ten years later starting at the airport in Libreville, Gabon, where the departing doctor gave me a very short briefing and then left to go back to France. I had spoken no French for ten years and was now working in the ELF/Shell hospital in Port Gentil and Gamba in southern Gabon. There were no roads, and we usually went by air between the two locations - one above the equator and one below. I spoke French there 80% of the time.

This was followed by a spell as Médécin de Barge in a large oil pipe laying barge in offshore Congo, Angola and Nigeria. It had a crew of 400, Senegalese and French - no English spoken …

Back in Gabon with an Oklahoman drilling company near Lambaréné I was with an American drilling team and again was used as an interpreter as the Americans spoke no French. This was a magical experience deep in the tropical rain forest - and I even got paid to be there!

Life as a medical gypsy then brought me to the oil rigs offshore Côte D’Ivoire. My brief was to do a medical audit of the local clinic in Abidjan and on the rigs we flew in those micro helicopters - a nightmare for someone like me with a fear of heights - plus the French pilot usually had a strong smell of Ricard on his breath!

Finally, my wife Eme and I now live in Portugal, and have several rental properties that we rent to tourists as a base from which to explore this beautiful country. As 50% of our rental guests are French, I still rely on D.B.’s tuition.

You can see that my time with D.B. Smith was not wasted. My only regret is not telling him before he died...
 Poetry 
Hugh McGrory

Watching The Andrew Marr Show on television this morning, in Dundee, I learned that Frederick Forsythe, whose many works of prose have sold millions of copies around the world, has turned to writing poetry, by the many recent commemorations of those who fell in war:

"Sleep in peace, Fallen Soldier,
where your kinsfolk here have laid you
While we who are left tread so safe above
You are home from the fight
from the clamour, from the danger
Laid in the breast of the land that you love
We should have told you more how deeply we loved you
We knew not how short was the while
To kiss and to hold, to cherish your presence
The sound of your laughter, the sun of your smile
When you first marched to the colours
You were young and oh so handsome
You pulled on your badge, standing straight, standing tall
And you gave us your promise, your sworn word of honour
And in your last moment you gave us your all
So sleep Fallen Soldier, here in your homeland
Wrapped in our flag until when
On some far distant morn you hear his last reveille
Then you and your comrades… will march once again."

This reminded me that, when I was a child, my Gran had a little framed copy of that famous verse from Laurence Binyon's "For The Fallen" on her mantelpiece. I think that someone probably gave this to her in 1942 after she received the news that her son, my Uncle Frank Ryan, Aircraftman 1st Class 1341600, 612 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Artificer, had been killed in the crash of an RAF plane near Reykjavik. He was 20 years old.

I was impressed enough as a primary school kid to memorise it:

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

There is a Canadian author, Maureen Jennings (actually born and grew up, in Birmingham, England) who has had great success with her series of books, 'Murdoch Mysteries', and the TV show based on that series which is seen around the world (recently confirmed for its 10th season).

I thought you might be interested in an email I sent her a few years ago, and her gracious and amusing response:

Me:

"For some time, my wife and I have been enjoying the Murdoch TV series, and I just finished your book ‘Season of Darkness’.

I enjoyed the book, but feel compelled to point out (and I suspect that others have too), that you have, I believe, misquoted the verse from Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’.

My uncle was killed early in the Second World War, and someone gave my grandparents a small plaque with this verse, for their mantelshelf. I was very young then, but it made a big impression on me, and I memorised the words and can still quote them some seventy years later.

I just checked a number of sources on the Web, and they agree with my memory - and it’s the fourth verse, not the second..."

Ms Jennings

"Thank you so much for your email. The man responsible for that error was of course, Sir Percy Somerville. He read what sounded more natural on his tongue even though it was INCORRECT, and his memory was faulty about which verse it was. Sigh. That's what happens when characters get the bit between their teeth.

Thank you for pointing out the mistake. I shall make sure it is corrected in future editions."

Big Jock Wilson
Gordon Findlay

My father’s pub (Caw’s Bar on Panmure Street) could be a busy place on a Friday or a Saturday night. The work week was over and like people everywhere, Dundonians went out to enjoy themselves.

Away back then - in the mid 1940s and 1950s - pubs closed at 10.30 p.m. It’s hard to believe that hour today, but in those days Dundee’s night life was largely confined to pubs and the firm hand of the Calvinists and the Presbyterians was still in evidence. All of which meant that from 6.00 until 10.30 p.m. there was some serious drinking going on.

The problem occurred when the “Time gentlemen, please!” call was made by the barman or the pub owner. There would be a chorus of groans, and often a quick plea for “just anither wee nip. Ah’ll drink it doon fast!”

Most of the regulars took the news cheerfully. They’d timed their nips and their pints to neatly coincide with closing time. They gurgled down the last of their drinks and slowly made their way out of the pub, often to gather for a few minutes outside to finish a story or to make plans for the next day.

But - and there’s always a “but” isn’t there? Every now and then my father, or his barman Bob, would come up against someone reluctant to leave the cozy confines of Caw’s. “Hey –look - Ah jist got in. Ah’ve only jist started ma pint! Ah’m no leavin noo!”

Or occasionally, a group of pals had been refreshing themselves liberally for the past few hours. They were feeling wonderful, on top of the world, and they had no intention of going anywhere. “Wha’s gonna make me?” might be tossed out as a verbal challenge.

And that’s when my Dad’s secret weapon showed up in the form of Sergeant Jock Wilson of the Dundee police force. And what a form it was.

“Big Jock” Wilson stood six feet four inches in his stockinged feet. In his black duty boots and with his hat on, he towered above the world: a huge and impressive figure with hands like bunches of bananas.

He had a large, rough-hewn and impassive face; one that had watched over the gritty streets of Dundee for over twenty years, had seen every kind of boozy bravado or thuggish behaviour. A cool, unblinking gaze which had stared down a thousand toughs, drunks, thieves and trouble-makers.

A few minutes after the “Time gentlemen, please!” call had been made, the massive shape of “Big Jock” would quietly appear in the doorway of Caw’s Bar. He never had to say a word. His mere presence was enough to encourage even the hardest of hard men to gather up their jackets and make their way outside.

Sgt. Wilson simply stood there, silent and massive, the epitome of overwhelming power in his dark blue uniform, nodding now and then impassively to people he knew. Big Jock’s reputation was well established around Dundee. He no longer had to prove it to anyone. All he had to do was stand there.

In five minutes Caw’s Bar was empty.

That was when the other side of “the arrangement” took place. He’d walk over to the corner of the bar and my father would pour him a generous double of his favourite Scotch.

“Thank ye, Muster Findlay,” he’d murmur.

With a smooth sweep of one massive hand, the glass would be tipped back and the Scotch would disappear. The glass would quietly click back down. Then Sergeant “Big Jock” Wilson would stroll out into the night.

A fine example of commerce and law enforcement working seamlessly together.

 Valentine's Day 
Hugh McGrory

Around 20 years ago, I was at a business meeting in a high-rise office building in the heart of downtown Toronto. Around 5:00 pm the meeting was drawing to a close and I was about to head for the basement parking, get in my car and drive up to Ryerson University where I taught a business computing course (for about 25 years - you may imagine how much the course changed over that time...).

Just I was leaving the conference room I overheard a remark and realised that I had forgotten that it was Valentine's Day - suddenly some very negative brownie points were looming in my future...! I fessed up to this problem and one of the clients said that, just round the corner and a city block away up Yonge St, one of the main thoroughfares in Toronto, there was a little flower shop.

Relieved, I headed out of the building, taking my rather heavy briefcase with me since it was no great distance, and walked to the shop. It had just gone out of business! At that point I had a choice, go back for my car or find another flower shop - I decided to walk north a few large city blocks to a large mall known as the Eaton Centre.

The Centre is a huge mall but I got lucky - as I walked in, I saw one of these 'boutiquey', cart-type thingies in the entrance hallway selling flowers. But there was a small queue and I thought I'd walk into the mall and would surely find a bigger flower store - I asked a passer-by and they confirmed there was a store at the far north end of the mall.

Ten minutes later I got there - and found a queue of about 40 last-minute-males.... By this time, I was actually closer to the University - but I needed my car. I turned tail and headed south to the boutique. My bad knee (this was before I got my new one) was beginning to complain, and I was a little worried about the time. As I got back to the store I realised that the queue was now about twice as big. I waited impatiently and finally was back out on Yonge street with a large bunch of flowers wrapped in silver paper and tied with coloured ribbons.

I was slightly self-conscious, hirpling as fast as I could down the street, seeing all the knowing glances from passersby, but finally got to my car and set off through the rush hour traffic on Yonge street, got to the university parking area, grabbed my briefcase, locked the car and headed for class. I was a few minutes late but explained to my students the emergency situation I had faced and they forgave me.

After class I headed to the parking area feeling pretty pleased with myself. Arriving at the car I clicked to open the trunk saying to myself "Don't crush the flowers when you put the case in." I didn't crush them - because they weren't there. Obviously I had put them inside the car - though I don't usually like to have anything in my parked car that might encourage someone to break a window...

I looked in the front seat, not there - tried the back - not there either! Where could they be? That's not a rhetorical question - I'm asking you - where could they be... because I never saw those flowers again!

Thinking about it, I remembered having the flowers when I entered the parking elevator - the best I can figure it, I opened the trunk to put my briefcase in and to facilitate this probably put the flowers on the roof of the car next to mine. In the ensuing 8 seconds I managed to forget that I'd put them there and drove off!

I later constructed a scenario in my mind where the owner of that car left his office that evening knowing that he'd better get flowers somewhere on the way home, got to his car and - "No way. ..!"

Driving home up the Don Valley Parkway it occurred to me that I would soon pass a large grocery store - it was about 10:30 pm but I had a feeling that it was open 24/7. I peeled off the highway, it was, and it had flowers. I was saved...

When I got home, I told my wife the whole story - and still came out smelling like roses - for two reasons:.

1. I had gone to all that trouble to ensure that she got Valentine flowers, and

2. I had confirmed, once again, her long-held theory - that she married an idiot...

Ernie Landsman - A Tribute
Clive Yates

We probably all had a favourite class teacher and there were probably many and varied reasons for that. My favourite was Ernie Landsman who seemed to follow me around through successive years. He was an encourager and I found myself responding in my English studies to that encouragement! However, there was another side to his teaching methods!

I was in his class for so-called Religious Knowledge (or whatever it was called in early 1950s.) I sat next to a friend - Colin G-------, who lived near me and was a Catholic, (who did not exercise his right to exempt himself from this class!) Ernie’s teaching method for his RE-class was to settle the class down. (For settle, read SILENCE!)

We all got our Bibles out. Ernie would then enquire where we had got to last week. Some bright spark would remind him - ‘I read CHAPTER so-and-so, sir!’ As we always sat in the same seats, Ernie would then say “CHAPTER Y verse N, read ten verses each (or whatever) starting from Bloggs! -- When you think you are ready, Bloggs!”

The class would then quickly settle down either to work out what portion of text they might have to read by counting forward to their anticipated verses, or, if you were seated behind the first victim (having read last week,) you got out your homework books and used the time for preparation.

Meanwhile, Ernie immersed himself in some other task of preparation, or marking some other classes work, or whatever took his fancy. To all intents and purposes, the class just carried on, reader and teacher seemingly totally oblivious of the other.

‘But to our tale, ae winter’s night …’. (Quoted from Burns: Tam o’ Shanter; proof positive of Ernie’s skill at making things stick!) My desk-neighbour CG correctly stood up at the appropriate moment to take his turn at reading his appointed ten verses. Here the story became memorable.

His ten verses were from the book of Joshua, reading Chapter 8 into 9 including verse-1. Colin’s voice droned monotonously on and ever onwards to that inevitable encounter with Joshua’s enemies, namely:

“…When all the Kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowlands all along the coast of the Great Sea towards Lebanon; the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites the Per’izzites, the Hivites, THE CHEESEMITES and the Jeb’usites all heard of this, they gathered together with one accord to fight Joshua and Israel. …”

Around the class, a smothered ripple of suppressed laughter from those who had happened to be listening, and some hushed talk began to erupt only to be extinguished by a command from Ernie who did not appear to even look up from his own work ….

"G-----l ! Would you read that last verse again please?” said Ernie enquiringly.

CG did what he was told but on this second occasion, he omitted the words ‘the Cheesemites.’ He finished and an awkward silence ensued. The class were suddenly all attentive!

“I thought I heard the words ‘Cheese mites’ in that last verse,” said the laconic Ernie - still not lifting his head from his task. We all waited, watching CG closely. How would he handle it?

"Cheesemites sir? There is no reference to Cheesmites in verse-1, sir,” exclaimed CG triumphantly, believing that the danger had been averted completely.

“Exactly!” said Ernie: “I think you should write that out 500 times for next week, CG.”

To my own recollection, ‘Cheesemites’ never appeared again whilst reading about the Tribes mentioned in the Old Testament.

 Oh Shit... 
Hugh McGrory

Around 15+ years ago I asked my GP if he would refer me for a colonoscopy. I duly had this done, and the report said that no polyps were evident and that I should have another one done in 10 years time.

Ten years later I asked my GP again for a referral, and he said that, given my age and family history he didn’t think I needed one, and that I should take the Fecal Occult Blood Test instead – through a program run by the Ontario Government. They send you a kit every two years which you use to take three consecutive poop samples, send them into the lab and get the results, a few days later, by mail.

I did this, got a negative result (i.e. no blood detected) and repeated this two years later, with the same result.

Two years after that, I got the test again, took the sample and sent it off. In due course I got the test result - it said “No report – sample degraded”. I was, of course, by now, an expert on this procedure – I’d done it the same way as before and couldn’t figure what had gone wrong …

So I called them up and got another test sent. Repeated the test, sent it off, and got the result – it said “No report - poor quality sample”.

Now, like most people, I’ve suffered rejections in the past - from team selectors, prospective employers, women... and bounced back with no problems - but to have my poop rejected as being of inferior quality - whoa!

So I decided to go back to square one – I’d re-read the instructions... I hadn’t looked at these since I first did the test – I didn’t really need to, of course, 'cos I’m so smart – but it seemed like the place to start my investigation.

One of the first statements that caught my eye was “… discontinue vitamin C supplements and eliminate citrus fruit and juices for three days prior to and during collection of stool …”

At which point I said “Oh shit!” I'd forgotten about that restriction, and given that I start each day with a glass of orange juice, the problem was obvious.

So I contacted the authorities again and had another test kit sent out (number three in case you've lost count). When it arrived, I wanted to make sure that I got it back as quickly as possible - which meant no orange juice for three days then doing the test the next morning and for the two days after that.

The kit comes in an envelope inside of which there is a stamped, addressed envelope which contains the test materials, and which is used to return the samples to the lab when completed. I took out this inner envelope and after three days without orange juice I put it in an obvious (as I thought) place so that it would remind me the next day.

On the first test morning, my wife had gone to work and I remembered I needed to do the test - I looked around but couldn't see it! I began to search in the obvious places with no result, then scoured the not so obvious. I went through the whole house three times that day since I knew it had to be somewhere within our four walls. I finally gave up …

That evening my wife came home and I said “I just spent the whole day looking for that poop test - couldn’t find it anywhere – I’m baffled …”

She said “Don’t worry about it, I found it”.

“Oh good - where is it?”

“What do you mean, where is it - I posted it for you!”

So, yet again, I call up the authorities and they send out another (the fourth) test kit. I duly completed it - and got the all clear a few days later.

In the end - if you'll excuse the pun - no real harm done, though I suspect in some government medical database there is now a notation on my file - ‘Coprophiliac’!

Oh Shit …
Hail the teachers, every one
Gordon Findlay

Even today, more than seventy years later, I still remember the opening verse of Morgan’s school song. I would guess that most former pupils of our school find the words still spring easily into mind.

“O’er the bridge that spans that spans the river . . . Moving slowly to the sea . . . Looks ‘The Morgan’, stately, splendid . . . Fairest school in all Dundee . . .”

Then there’s that rousing chorus which begins: “Hail ‘The Morgan’ stately, splendid . . . Hail the teachers, every one.”

Surely we can all remember the times, when, huddled together in a sniggering little pack in a corner of the schoolyard, we gave vent to the amended version: “JAIL the teachers, every one!” It was our tiny little bit of defiance against an adult-governed world. And thereby hangs a tale.

One memorable year when I was around fourteen, I was attending a music class. It was close to the end of school before summer break. I believe the teacher was Miss Millin, who normally ruled her music classes with a very firm hand.

But on this day, with around five minutes before the end of period, she announced that it would be a good idea if we sang the school song. She passed out printed copies of our song, walked to the piano, struck the opening chords, and away we went.

I rather enjoyed the exercise because I like the Rev. Blair’s stirring words and Mr. Bewick’s music. But, to be honest, we really didn’t put our hearts and souls into the song. We sang it rather drearily, droning through it without much enthusiasm.

But then Miss Millin sprang her surprise. And won us over forever. “Right,” she said. “I’d like you to sing our school song with some real spirit! " A slow smile took shape on her face. “And I’ll let you sing your version of the chorus. YOU know the line I mean, don’t you?”

We all looked at each other. We could sing THAT line! Openly! Encouraged by a teacher? This is grand!

So with that incentive, she walked back to the piano, launched into the opening chords and led us into the song. This time we sang with gusto, waiting impatiently until that second line of the chorus when we fairly bellowed out:

“JAIL the teachers, every one!” We fairly rattled the windows of the old school.

Definitely a highlight of the year.

 Travel Travails - 3
They Always Picked On Me!
 
Hugh McGrory

We’re all very aware of the growth of terrorism in today’s world. This is not a recent phenomenon. International terrorism had begun to grow not long after we left Morgan, and by the late '60s, hijacking had become a favourite tactic.

In July 1968, for example El Al flight 426 from Rome to Tel Aviv was hijacked by Palestinians and diverted to Algiers. The Munich Olympics attack was in 1972. In the US, home-grown groups like the Weathermen were becoming violent.

The chart below shows the exponential growth in terror attacks in Europe through the 1970s:


The FAA began more aggressive security requirements in the late ’60s and early ’70s after more than 130 successful and attempted airplane hijackings. For example, airport staff began to use the FAA’s hijacker psychological profile to try to determine if passengers were a threat to the skies.

Flyers who exhibited odd behaviour, such as lack of eye contact or inadequate concern for their luggage might be subjected to additional scanning. This background sets up my story...

In 1974, I was travelling with an American professor of engineering, visiting national engineering computing centres in France, Holland, Germany and the UK.

Each time we arrived in a new country, the immigration people looked at him, thought to themselves something like "A fine young All-American lad", said “Welcome to our country.”, and waved him through.

They took one look at me, thought to themselves something like "Oi, Oi - what 'ave we 'ere then...?", said “Over there," then proceeded to grill me, and go through my luggage before, reluctantly it seemed, admitting me to the country to join my colleague waiting patiently (and laughing at me) in the wings.

Each time he was treated like a welcome guest, while they seemed to think that I was some kind of disreputable character not to mention a possible terrorist.

Not even my Scottish accent charmed them …

I couldn’t find a contemporary photograph of my companion, but on the left is what he looked like in later life – actually, he hasn’t changed much – just add a lot more fair hair...

The photo on the right shows how I looked at the time.

So why was I always the one picked on?

Beats me ….
Travel Troubles
Richard Crighton

While working for a local coach company I frequently drove holidaymakers to north-east Spain. There were always two drivers for these trips. We would leave the depot near Perth at 1 o’clock on Tuesday morning and make many stops throughout England to pick up passengers on our way to Portsmouth for the P&O Ferry. The ship would leave at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and arrive at Bilbao at 7 a.m. on Thursday. The two night sailing after our long drive south was a welcome break before making the two day journey to Catalonia.

However, things did not always go as planned - surprise, eh? On one of our trips, while we were still on our way through England, we received a phone call from the tour company informing us that the ferry, the Pride of Bilbao, would be late arriving at Portsmouth.
It would then have to offload before we could embark. There wasn’t anything we could do about that, of course, except to let our passengers know that there would be a delay. There was near chaos at the port as the passengers from a dozen or so coaches, other holidaymakers and truck drivers all clamoured for information. Not wanting to have a coachload of hungry, grumpy passengers on our hands I suggested that they be taken to a motorway service station near Southampton for a meal break. I remained at the ferry terminal to await any further news of the ferry’s progress.

Word came through from the ferry operators that a gentleman on board Pride of Bilbao had suffered a heart attack when the ship was well out of port on its way out from Bilbao. A helicopter was called in but the ship had to wait as it was almost out of range for the aircraft. Once the patient had been airlifted the ship resumed the voyage, but so much time had been lost that it was impossible to make up time.

Unfortunately, because it was late, the ship had missed its scheduled time for its allocated berth and could not dock because another P&O vessel was there. The Bilbao just had to wait in the Solent until the berth was clear. But, there was another problem. When, eventually the Bilbao was being unloaded, two coaches on board refused to start and were blocking the service door for removing the laundry. There was a further delay because a mechanic had to be sent for before the lifeless vehicles could be moved and the laundry taken off.

We set sail at 2.30 a.m. by which time the restaurant staff were all off duty.

The captain was a greatly relieved skipper when we arrived at Bilbao on time on the Thursday morning.

P&O no longer operate between the UK and Spain.

Celebrities - 5
Hugh McGrory
The peak of my career of not actually meeting celebrities took place around 1971. I was in Houston, Texas, attending another computer/engineering conference with my buddy Sam - he was actually the Conference Chairman, Houston being his home town. Our meetings were held in a high-class hotel attached to the Galleria, a very upscale mall – stores like Tiffany and Bulgari.

We had finished work for the day and were headed for the hotel restaurant to have a leisurely dinner with colleagues when I remembered something I wanted from my room. I told them to grab a table and I’d be back in a few minutes.

I walked over to the elevator, which was just descending and as the doors opened I realised that there were people inside. I stepped aside to let them exit, and out walked:



I hadn’t known they were in Houston - for the opening of their movie Catlow - so it was, to say the least, quite a surprise!

As an aide memoire for all you older folks:

Jo Ann – she was a real dish – that’s Lieutenant ‘Dish’ to you – the nurse who was Hawkeye’s love interest and who saved the dentist from suicide in that famous scene in the MASH movie.

Richard Crenna – an actor that most would recognise but perhaps not remember the name. He played Rambo’s commanding officer in several of the Sylvester Stallone movies.

Yul Brynner – needs no introduction, of course – everyone knows him and his major contributions – from The King and I and the chief good guy in The Magnificent Seven, to his posthumously shown anti-smoking commercial.

Potato Rogues
Gordon Findlay

Now that school was finished... how to make some money during the summer? Away back in time - I’m talking 1949 - this was the burning question my pal Kenny MacGregor and I faced. Our years at Morgan were over. University loomed, but in the mean time we wanted to earn some money. The question was - how?

After tossing several ideas around, we eventually hit on potato roguing, since we learned that a qualified roguer can earn between 3 and 5 quid an hour. Back in those days, that was big money!

Neither of us were farming types, but we knew that SRUC- the Scottish Rural University Colleges - were looking for candidates to rogue the seed potato crops of farmers. The 2-week course was offered at the Elmwood Campus in Cupar, Fife.


In order to win official accreditation, students at the end of the course had to be able to swiftly identify 30 different potato varieties (the common varieties, not the Scottish heritage potatoes shown above) and to accurately spot 7 different diseases which affected growing potatoes. Only then would they be turned loose to rogue the seed potato crops of Scottish farmers.

Why is roguing vital? Well, a field of potatoes being grown for seed might contain a lot of unwanted other species – or “rogues” – within it, and would thus be condemned to cattle feed only - bringing the farmer only 5 quid a ton, rather than the 150 quid a ton that first quality seed potatoes would bring on the market.

Farmers in Scotland grow about 80% of the seed potatoes in the U.K. - around 400,000 tonnes a year - and around a third of this crop is exported around the world, since Scottish spuds are highly prized for their quality.

Thus it was that the pair of us duly showed up on a May morning in Cupar, paid our SRUC fee, and launched into the testing world of potato roguing.

Soon we were staring intently at rows of bushy growing spuds which to the untrained eye all looked pretty much the same but were in fact Arran Banner, Arran Pilot, Hermes, Pentland Dell, Lady Rosetta, Majestic, King Edward, Maris Piper, and many more.
(Hover your cursor over photos.)
All potatoes grown in Scotland could be attacked by a variety of enemies - bacteria, viruses, fungi, insects - diseases such as black leg, leaf roll, severe mosaic, wart disease, or even the dreaded Colorado beetle could appear. We knew, of course, that, once we qualified, our main task would be to look for “rogue” potato plants growing in among a farmer’s crop. These rogues grow as weeds from a previous crop, or from a few of the
wrong variety of potato planted by mistake with the intended seed crop.

One of our instructors, a laconic ex-farmer, gave us a priceless bit of advice early on: “Afore ye start yer roguin’, lads, here’s a wee bit o’ advice. Tak’ a guid lang look at the tatties in the field first! Ye just might find somethin’ nasty in there. Naethin’ worse than roguin’ all his tatties for seed quality, then findin’ a lot o’ black leg on the last day. ALL his tatties will be doongraded to cattle feed! An’ you’ll no get tuppence for a’ that work!”

For the final exam we were led to a special area of the campus where a mass of different potatoes were growing, almost all different and some diseased. With our exam paper in hand, we had to correctly identify each plant and the disease - if any. We were given 30 minutes to mark down all our answers.

Kenny and I were both thrilled when we passed the test. We were now officially potato roguers! We could start making our calls on local farmers.

When we tackled our first roguing job, the pair of us walked up the furrow between two rows, checking the spuds on each side. Then slowly, as we got used to the look of that potato variety in all light conditions, we began to check two rows on each side, up and down the field for hours on end. Walking and looking. Walking and looking.

We each had a walking stick in our hand, and if we spotted a rogue, we’d slash at it with our stick, snapping the plant over. A farm boy, coming behind us, would then dig the offending rogue potatoes out of the ground, toss them into a sack or basket, and the job continued.

Roguing continues in rain or shine, and as you all know, it’s been known to rain a bit in Scotland. We quickly discovered that it was wise to dress in shorts, shirt, PLUS a light waterproof jacket on top no matter how warm the day. The reason was simple. A rain shower will always hit you when you’re at the farthest point away from shelter. And unless it was torrential, you simply slogged on.

When you’re clumping down the fields on those wet rainy days, you begin to gather great clods of mud on the soles of your boots. It was like glue and as you walked you rose in height. Soon, you’d be teetering along on ugly stilts of thick and heavy mud. We were like some soggy Frankenstein of the fields until we stopped, sat down and laboriously hacked off the offending lumps.

Once the fields were rogued, the Department of Agriculture inspector was called and an examination of the farmer’s fields was scheduled. Provided Ken and I had done our job correctly, the farmer had some nice seed potatoes ready for market - and we were entitled to a nice payday. But that’s where it sometimes got interesting. Most farmers paid us quickly and cheerfully. But - there’s ALWAYS one.

When we got confirmation that this particular farmer’s field had been graded for A quality seed, we drove up to his farmhouse and knocked on the door. “Oh,” said his wife when she came to the door, “he’s oot.” When might he be back? She looked a little sheepish and said: “Ah dinna ken.” We left our bill for roguing service with her, and said we’d be back the next day.

This cat-and-mouse game went on for over a week. He was always “oot.” And his wife didn’t know where. That’s when we got creative. The next morning we drove up at the crack of dawn and circled his property on foot until we spotted him in one field working on a fence. We closed in.

When we reached him he looked up and his face fell. “Ah wis waitin’ tae pay ye,” he muttered. ”But Ah wis aye oot whin ye came by.” We glowered at him, but soon were back at the farmhouse where the old tightwad grudgingly forked over the money he owed us. A real old Potato Rogue he was...

And what did I do with all that hard-earned roguing money? Put it in the bank? Bought myself a long-term bond? Stuck it under the mattress for a rainy day? Of course not.

I bought myself a shiny new 350 c.c. B.S.A. motor bike. But that’s another story...

Angus, Me and the Film Star …
Hugh McGrory

I’ve spoken before of my great friend, Angus. He was once told by someone that he resembled a certain actor, and while he, himself, didn’t really see it, he was prepared to accept it, with a pinch of salt, as fact.

He liked to tell the story of the time he was in a bar having a quiet pint, and became aware that a couple of women, sitting at a nearby table, seemed to be talking about him. One of them got up and walked towards him …

Angus said “I expected to hear her say, are you …”



What she actually said was “Are you …”



As I grew older, the Canadian winters began to remind me that I was losing my hair. I finally decided that I needed to wear a hat when it was really cold outside, and bought one from Tilley’s the Canadian firm that
makes clothing for outdoorsmen and travellers. It felt a bit weird wearing a hat for the first time in my life, but it certainly kept the heat in, and I began to think that it was quite stylish, and reminded me of a similar hat in a movie that I’d seen.

The first time my son saw me in the hat, I asked him if it reminded him of a film star …

He took a good look and said “Actually, now you mention it, it does.”


What I was going for …

What he actually said...

Sic transit gloria mundi...

First Tee Encounters
John Russell
I've had plenty of good and bad golfing experiences, one of the latter being a raid at our club-house by an armed gang in São Paulo, Brazil, when I was lucky enough to be far from it, on the 13th hole, and unusually had gone there without my family that day.

I once played in a Morgan team against Harris Academy at Downfield. There was no organised draw - each player had to choose his opponent. I was beside a taller Morgan boy, who shall be nameless... and two of the Harris team were standing nearby, one about my height called Sandy Gray (if my memory doesn't fail me), who had formerly been at the Morgan, alongside a much taller opponent. I was too slow to approach Sandy and was left to play against the other one, and from the start I could see he wasn't much good and I won by 9 holes up with 8 to play, my biggest ever match-play result. In the other match, Sandy won, so it's not always 'he who hesitates is lost'.

In 1970, I was in Dundee on holiday from Angola. One sunny day, I went to Caird Park to find a long queue at the starter's box. Soon I spotted a golfer alone on the 1st tee and asked if I could join him, but he said a couple of friends were joining him on the 4th. On returning to the starter's area, a fellow asked me if I was looking for a game so I played with him and his friend. Noting my tan, one of them asked where I was from, etc., and when I then asked them, they said they were in 'show business'- a Scottish band that travelled
round the world in winter.

Before finishing, they said they were planning a round at the Camperdown course two days later and suggested playing together again. I had bought a season ticket for Caird Park only (cost: £3) but they said I could trade it in for another for both courses paying an extra ten bob, which I did and played a few more enjoyable rounds with them. When I returned to my sister's home in the Ferry, I mentioned casually to her that I had played with two golfers called Arthur Spink and Dennis Clancy, she told me the former was one of Scotland's best accordionists at the time, and Dennis, a well-known singer. Later, they kindly gave me a number of tickets for my family to attend a show their band staged in Dundee.

Another unbelievable 1st tee encounter, however, occurred here in the Algarve in 1990. As a part-time golf writer, I was invited to the opening of a new course, Pine Cliffs, and the programme included an informal
practice round before the official one. I went along to the first tee when three friends about to tee off invited me to make up a foursome. I apologised and told them that I had arranged to play with another writer who was there, so they drove off.

There was a couple I didn't know standing nearby with their golf equipment and they, called Jimmy and Nikki Smith, kindly suggested we play together. His accent was obviously Scottish, so when walking down the fairway I asked him whereabouts he was from, to which he amazingly replied "Dundee". I said that I had spent most of my youth there and went to the Morgan. "So did I", said Jimmy, but he was a couple of years ahead of ours,
and we didn't recall having met at school, if at all. We became good friends and they lived on the Pine Cliffs complex for several years, but left a few years ago to live in the UK.
As a footnote, after the round, Nigel Mansell - who had been nominated honorary chairman of the club - turned up at the practice green where we were practising putting, and Jimmy told him that I had putted well during our round, so Nigel said to me: "Let's shake hands to see if some of your luck rubs off on me".


Celebrities - 4
Hugh McGrory


In the early 70’s I was in New York City pursuing my two interests - computers and engineering. A great friend of mine, Sam, from Houston, Texas and I decided to pay a visit to MOMA, The Museum of Modern Art, in the old buiding on W. 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

As we wandered from gallery to gallery, there was a tall, slim guy doing the same – I knew I should know him from somewhere, but … I finally enlisted Sam’s aid, and we figured out that it was:


This would’ve been around the time when he was on TV every week playing the police lieutenant boss to Angie Dickinson’s Sgt. Pepper Anderson in Police Woman.

The name Earl Holliman may not be well known, but you will all have seen him on the big screen. Now in his mid-80s, he is best known in the US for Police Woman, but he also won the Golden Globe Award for his performance in the 1956 film The Rainmaker, with Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn, and appeared in many other films such as Broken Lance with Spencer Tracy, Giant with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson, and was one of The Sons of Katie Elder with John Wayne.

My Father's Dundee Pub
Gordon Findlay

My father earned his living as a publican. He owned and operated Caw’s Bar in downtown Dundee (at 25 Panmure Street, close to the Wellgate).
As a youngster I never thought much about how we earned our living. For we three brothers it was just a fun place to go down to with our parents, in the quiet hours of a Sunday (when pubs back then were closed) and help them to sweep out the bar and the lounge, and re-stock the shelves with bottled beer.

McEwan's and Tennent's and Younger's Scotch Ale were popular. So were IPA, Bass Worthington and Double Diamond. Many ladies preferred Mackeson’s stout (because, of course, it was good for you) .


One of the other pleasures of our visits was watching the fresh barrels of beer coming in to the basement of Caw’s through a hatchway set into Panmure Street. In those days our draft beer was made by a local Dundee brewer - Ballingall & Son, in their Lower Pleasance and Park St. breweries.

Their truck would pull up beside Caw’s, and the two burly delivery men would open up the sidewalk hatch. Wide wooden planks were placed from the lorry down to the hatch. One man placed hefty ropes around one of the barrels, and it was slowly and carefully rolled down the planks and into the hatch. The other man would be in our basement where he would also have a rope around the barrel, slowly guiding it on to the racks set in the floor.

The photograph below shows a modern day beer delivery showing, in the background, the Wellgate/Murray-gate/Cowgate intersection, and a lorry that has apparently come all the way from Australia.

Once settled on the racks, the barrels would be ready for tapping by my father. He’d drive the round wooden bung into the barrel with a mallet, then quickly slip a metal spigot into the hole before any beer foamed out. Plastic and metal hose lines were then attached to the spigot and from there up to the bar above. And another barrel of fresh beer was ready for business.

But the real joy for me, in those quiet hours on a Sunday, was to quickly explore down the sides of the comfy chairs and sofas which dotted the lounge, where men could take their ladies and enjoy a quieter and slightly more refined atmosphere than the stand-up bar. Here was the hidden secret of that comfy furniture: it often held money!

When the patrons of our pub were sitting down with their friends, enjoying a pint or two, or three, they became very relaxed - and sometimes a bit careless. When one of our waitresses handed them back their change from a drink order, they would stuff the bills and loose change into their pockets as they sat there. But - every so often they missed - and instead of slipping the money into their pocket, they stuffed it down the soft side of the chair or sofa they were sitting in.

When our parents drove us down to Caw’s to help clean up and re-stock my older brother David and I always raced to the biggest and most comfortable sofas and chairs. We’d plunge our hands down the sides, with hopes high of finding hidden treasure. Usually all we’d come up with would be the ancient crust of a pie or a bridie, a couple of broken old cigarettes, or a ratty old handkerchief.

But every so often . . . Oh, the joy of feeling your hand close over a tight little cluster of coins, wedged in the deep recess of the sofa. We’d drag them out into the light of day to see what our mining exploration had yielded. Hey - a florin, a shilling and two sixpences! Wow! Let the celebrations begin.

On one memorable occasion, I went alone with my parents to help clean and re-stock. And, naturally, I spent the first five minutes checking all the likely chairs and sofas. It was when I stuck my hand down one of the big soft chairs near the fireplace that I hit the jackpot. My fist closed around a clump of coins - and they were embedded in a one pound note! (A quid back in those days was a small fortune to a youngster.)

I raced over to my mother to show her my newfound treasure. She took one look at the money in my hands and removed it from my care. “You realize, Gordon - you’ll have to share this with David. That’s only fair.” She gave me one of the sixpences. “You can buy yourself a treat on the way home.”

I think I probably moaned a little at having to divide my treasure. But hey - I was rich. At least for a little while.

Mr. Cool
Hugh McGrory

In the 1970s I was managing a computer department for an engineering firm in Toronto. Every now and again two of my programmers, our computer operator and I would take a ten minute walk to a good fish and chip shop for lunch. Afterwards we'd go next door to a small cafe that had two pool tables, where we'd have a couple of games before heading back to the office.

One cool day in early spring as we approached the chip shop, we saw four hogs at the kerb - powerful beasts - and stopped for a moment to stare at them in awe. They were still there when we emerged (the kind on the right in the photo).

The frontage of the cafe which was our next stop, was quite small, but it extended quite far back. After passing the counter, there were chairs and tables on both sides of a long aisle, and, right at the back, the two pool tables.

As we began the long walk to the tables, we realised that one was in use - by the owners of the bikes - four bikers, in their leathers and club colours. We all slowed down, each of us with the same thought, "Uh, Oh!".

As the leader of our 'gang', I decided that I had to show that I wasn't intimidated. The bikers had paused their game to stare at us approaching and as we got closer, I kept looking steadily at the one I took to be their leader, casually stripping off the rather nice pair of leather gloves that I was wearing - a Christmas gift.

Just before we got to the tables there was a garbage can - like the one in the photograph but older, with the flap missing - and I casually flipped my gloves onto the top. At least that's what I intended, but my aim was poor and the gloves disappeared into the can. For a moment I couldn't decide which would make me look less dumb, pretending that was what I'd meant to do - obviously ridiculous, or rooting around in the garbage to retrieve my gloves - to say the least, ignominious...

I chose the latter, and to make matters worse, the bin had recently been emptied, and I couldn't reach them. I had to take the lid off and two of my guys upended the bin to dump the gloves onto the floor. By the time this farce had played out, the bikers had obvously written us off as a bunch of clowns and no threat, and had resumed their play.

On the plus side, my strategy worked - we played side by side for the next 45 minutes or so, and they were perfect gentleman - they totally ignored us...

Sadly, not the only Mr. Cool moment of my career...

Berry Picking
Sandra Moir Dow

Some time during secondary school I went “Berry Picking” too. Not in a common field where you were paid by the weight, but at The Scottish Horticultural Research Institute, at Mylnefield, in Invergowrie (now part of The James Hutton Institute) - we were paid by the hour!

I went by bicycle and one day, on the way there down the Kingsway West, I spotted 2 or 3 boys that I recognised as Morgan pupils without knowing their names or well enough to shout “Hello”.

They watched me too and I heard them discussing who I might be. After a few names one said “She’s more like Sandra Moir” and the other said “definitely not, she couldn’t be here” So I chuckled as I continued.

Maybe one of them remembers too and is reading this!!

You'll Never Take the Two of Us Alive, Coppers! - 3
Hugh McGrory

You've met by boyhood pal Billy in previous stories. In case you thought that he was a figment of my
imagination, it happens that my brother recently turned up a couple of snaps showing Billy and me which I thought I'd share with you.

In those days, cameras weren't as ubiquitous as they are today, but for some reason my Dad had two, both manu- factured in the 1930s.

The first was a Kodak Six-20 bellows type; the second, which came a little later, was
an Agfa Karat which I made some use of in my teens. They didn't get used a lot, and truth be told I don't think my parents knew very much about photography. One rule they took to heart though was "keep the sun at your back", and I remember on many occasions having to stare towards a blazing sun and going all
squinchy-eyed to prevent from going blind.

I'm guessing the two photos my brother found were taken using the Kodak. It had to be held at about waist level as the lady in the photo is doing. It used what is known as a brilliant view- finder - basically a cube with a lens on the top that you peered down through onto a 45° mirror then out through another lens in the front to the subject. Very hard to see exactly what you were framing, and difficult to keep the camera steady when you pushed down on the release lever.

The results often looked like the photo on the right above - two thirds of the field filled with background wall, and the poor wee fella in the front, whoever he was, lost to history. The next photo, appropriately cropped, shows the two of us, Billy on the right - not sure what age we were - what would you say, about six maybe? Looks like we went to the same barber - seems to have used the same chipped bowl for both of us.
Not a great photo, but you can see that butter wouldn't melt in our mouths... (apparently sugar would though, because, I think, the pokes had sugar in them and we had little stalks of rhubarb to dip in - a wartime treat).

So one day, Billy and I were playing, as usual, in the backyard, and we ended up by the wall and railings that separated us from Sibbald Street, a little cul-de-sac that runs SW to Dens Road .

We decided that we would go exploring across Dens Road to our fort at the corner of Hillbank and Dens Roads by climbing over the fence - my memory is that it was about fifteen feet high. In a previous 'Billy and me' story, below, I described our 'railings' technique - getting up to the top with our feet on the top bar between the uprights then jumping up and out to the ground below. Now admittedly, my technique needed work, but in this case that didn't really matter - the railings were too high to jump off anyway, so we had to improvise.

Our new approach was to get up to the top, then with straight arms on the top bar swing one leg over, take all our weight on the near arm then reverse the other and bring it close to our body which enabled us to swing the other leg over - we were than in the same position as we started the manoeuvre from but on the other side of the fence. It wasn't until we were carrying out this swingover part that we realised how dangerous this move was - for boys that is... However we both managed it without losing any of our dangly bits, and we were home free, sliding down the railings to the wall below and jumping to the ground.

It was at that exact moment that we heard 'The Voice', from the side we'd just left - "What do you two think you're doing?". Oh nuts - it was the local bobby again! We both immediately said "Nuthin" and looked at each other to see who would be the first to run....But then he said, " Don't even think of running - I know where you live" - we felt he made a good point...

As we hesitated he said "Get back over here". I couldn't believe that he would ask us to do that - presumably he was going to tell us that we shouldn't be risking life and limb by doing that exact thing! I said "We can't climb over that...", but realised before I'd finished the sentence how stupid that sounded in the circumstances.

So we had to go through the whole process again until we were back standing on the grass (fortunately neither of us did any harm to our (future) manhood, on the spikes). We had to listen to him reading the riot act and promising that he'd be coming to see our mothers (which didn't bother us since they always said that and never did) before he sent us on our way. We lost interest in visiting our fort that day.

Recently I re-visited Sibbald Street (on Google Earth) and copied this photograph. I was amazed to see that the wall and fence that I remembered as soaring fifteen feet into the air was probably under ten feet...
The Rainbow Bus
Richard Crighton

When I was teaching at Milnathort Primary School the police used to visit and give the children instruction in cycling safety. One of the policemen, a part-time coach driver, suggested that if I was also interested in driving buses I should try it. I was frequently in touch with Earnside Coaches for hiring buses for school trips so knew the owner quite well. After a bit of training and passing my test I did weekend and holiday work for about 18 months. Then the chance came to take early retirement from teaching and I became a professional bus and coach driver. I have never looked back and, at the age of nearly 72, I retired from that job with many happy memories.

Once, while driving a coach full of Senior Citizens on a tour of the West Highlands I was urged to make a stop so that my passengers could take photographs of a rainbow. That’s not particularly remarkable but what caused some of the folk to want me to stop the coach was that the rainbow was on the opposite side of the loch against a dark sky while we were in bright sunshine. We had noticed the increasingly strengthening colours as we travelled south alongside Loch Maree in the late afternoon one summer’s day. The sun was fairly low in the sky on our right and there was heavy rain over the hills and on the loch on our left.

Now, it’s all very well for everyone to call out, ”Dick, stop the bus! We want to take a photo of the rainbow”, but have you ever tried to find a lay-by long enough to park a 40 foot long vehicle weighing about 15 tons and travelling at nearly 50 miles an hour? Each place we approached was occupied by at least one car, parked right in the middle of the space, of course! I could hear some of the camera-clutchers becoming almost frantic as we passed lay-by after lay-by until, at last there was an empty space. We came to a fairly rapid halt (I would have failed my test on that one) and I was first out followed by a busy flow of amateur photographers.

The picture that I knew I wanted meant I had to cross the road and run through some thick heather to position the coach under the rainbow. This was in the days before digital photography and I was using slide film. One shot was all there was time for because my passengers were already climbing back on board. Fortunately, the photo turned out quite well and a print of it has been in the garage office ever since.

Years later there was a surprise for me when I was looking through the 25th anniversary book of Kinross Camera Club. There on the inside back page was the photo of “Dick’s Bus”.

Celebrities 3
Hugh McGrory

I once took a photograph of the back of a guy's head - "Why?" you may well ask - here's the story...
Around 1970, I bought a tent trailer, and with the family began to drag it around Canada and the States. In 1972, we decided to take the kids to Florida, and being daring - or stupid - we decided to go all the way south to Key West, in our Buick Skylark, pulling the tent trailer.

At the time, it was a two-lane road, with narrow bridges, which made it a hair-raisng trip for me. The tent trailer stuck out a little either side of the car, and, as you can see in the photo, I had added wing-mirrors which stuck out even further. Several times on the narrow bridges we met trucks going the other way, and I felt like I had an inch clearance either side, and sweated bullets every time.

It was a great trip though, and we never forgot the experience of driving mile after mile and looking out to the Atlantic side and seeing sparkling blue water, then to the Gulf side and seeing emerald green water.

We had promised the kids a week in Disney World on the way back and had booked a campsite in Fort Wilderness(which of course was neither a Fort nor a wilderness...).

The camp was on the edge of a lake at the other side of which was The Magic Kingdom. After a couple of days trudging around we had a family vote and decided to spend a day at the beach a few hundred yards from our trailer.

Some time during the day the kids and I wandered down to the beach and and saw one of the small rental motor boats (like the one in the photo) approaching the jetty with one occupant who got out and hung out on the jetty chatting to some of the bystanders.

I recognised him, and knew that he was the entertainer in the Top of the World night club that week. I had the kids wait for me, ran back to get my camera, and then we walked down to the edge of the jetty to get a souvenir photo.


At which point... I just couldn’t bring myself to take one - it seemed so intrusive, not to mention gauche - so I just didn’t.

That’s why I have, somewhere, a tiny photo of the back of a man's head as he motored back to the Magic Kingdom! (Francis wasn't with him...)

Have you figured out who the head belonged to?


I'm sure you all remember him, an all-round entertainer - singer, comedian, dancer - one of the last movie stars who had actually worked and honed his skills in vaudeville. He appeared in his first movie in 1937, an important date for many of us, and his last in 1997. Well known for the series of six movies with Francis (The Talking Mule). The first of those was released in 1949, and the last in 1955 - again signifcant dates for many of us.

Maths and Me
Marion Mackay Clubb

The story about Mr. Kelly reminded me of my Maths teachers. They were a lively lot and left a big impression on my memory, though sadly not on my mathematical ability.

There was Anna Mackie, her teaching made Algebra understandable and the whole class had good passes, despite her despair of our results. She was heard to say “Never, never have I had such a poor set of pupils...”

Then there was Ray Stevens, whose enthusiasm for his subject was shared with every pupil, however weak they were. He had no problems with discipline.

Bill Kelly did … he had a Glasgow accent and he was fairly loud whilst he was teaching. He didn't sit down but moved around the classroom. Belted the boys but not the girls. I can still hear him bawling at me, when he caught me talking to my neighbour “Miss Mackay, 10 times Pythagoras for you”.

In other classes I might have managed to acquire pre-written sheets, but our class was not so organised, so I paid my punishment in full and it was one theorem I really remembered!

My last long-suffering teacher was Jimmy Angus. He made Maths interesting. To begin with, we felt he was very solemn, but gradually we found he had a good sense of humour.

Despite all his good teaching, he broke the news that I would not be presented for the Lower Leaving Certificate in Maths. When the results came through, all pupils presented passed. “If you had let me sit I might have passed”, I remonstrated.

“Miss Mackay, today I have had a great shock seeing all those names of pupils who have passed. If your name had been on that list, I would be laid flat out on the floor”! So I guess I saved him from that indignity!

One lasting memory of his class was the time he asked us to make a sketch to illustrate some geometric point. He then drew the answer and asked “Miss Mackay, is your figure anything like mine?”

Shocked, I replied “I certainly hope not”, and the whole class collapsed, including Mr. Angus!


"Yerwasawa!"
Hugh McGrory

When I was a wee lad growing up in No. 2 Fairbairn Street during the war, my Dad was away in the army.

There were three constants in my life - two of these were my Mother, and her mother, my Grannie, who both looked after me.

These photos were taken in the late '30s. The one on the left shows my mother holding me, looking out of the living room window into the front garden. The second photo shows my Gran in the garden surrounded by our privet hedge.

As you can see it's a terrible photo; I chose it because it also shows the third constant of my early childhood, the wall in the top right hand corner. This was the dominant feature at the east end of Fairbairn St., and loomed
over our home from across the street - the first thing we saw when we looked out of the window or walked out of the close. In fact, if you look at the window, you'll see that, above our heads, the reflection changes from the sky, at the top, to the reflection of the wall further down.

Built of brick (my Dad was a bricklayer in real life and I know he considered the brickwork inferior), the Wa' was an imposing presence - over 150 feet long, about 27 feet high at the Arklay St. end, opposite No. 2, reducing to about 20 feet opposite No. 6. Because our home faced north, it never got the sun, but at certain times of the day, the Wa' caught the sun and reflected a soft warm light onto the street. The Wa' wasn't just there - it served many useful purposes for me and the kids I grew up and played with 'roond the doors'.

For example we made continually-refreshed chalk outlines of football goalposts and cricket stumps which together with an old tennis ball and a few kids created an instant game of football or cricket. If other kids weren't around on any given day, the Wa' and a ba' were enough to let a solitary kid spend time kicking or hitting the ba' against the Wa' and it would be patiently returned every time. A variant of this was to stand close to the wall with a tennis ball and practice our heiders.

The girls also had a game using a tennis ball in an old nylon stocking. They stood with their back against the wall then swung and banged the ball against the wall either side of them chanting some rhyme, regularly lifting one leg or the other and swinging the ball under it against the wall. I never tried, but some of the girls were very good at it, and I liked to sit on the kerb and watch them for their grace and agility and to catch the occasional flash of their knickers...

The Wa' served as the mark for games of pitch-and-toss, for real pennies, played with one eye out for the local bobby (our nemesis of whom we have spoken previously...)

There was another game we played with cigarette cards - I've forgotten the finer points of the rules but basically two or more players took turns holding a card against the Wa' at a specified height and letting it fall to the ground - if it landed on another card you were allowed to pick up that card and your own.

The 1945 movie Back to Bataan starring John Wayne and Anthony Quinn inspired us to invent a game called Bataan. One kid stood on the pavement opposite the Wa', and all the other kids gathered at one end then walked along in single file to the other end, turned around and walked back to the start. The kid with the ball would zing the ball at the line of kids the object being to hit (and hurt) a kid - any kid - though the game could be a way of settling past grievances if your aim was good enough. The kids in the line would duck and dive to avoid being hit, but once one was, they took over the ba' and the former thrower joined the line (and discovered, on occasion, that "what goes around comes around"!)

I had a close encounter once, with the Wa'. One day when I was about nine or ten, alone, bored, no kids around to engage with, I noticed that some construction material had been left in the nursery grounds adjoining the Wa'. I had one of those "it seemed like a good idea at the time", moments.

I decided to clamber up onto the Wa' and try to get all the way along to the high end - just to see if I could. I didn't walk along the coping stones at the top, of course, rather I bummed along with one leg down each side of the wall.

I completed the journey, then figured that, since there were about twenty flats with windows facing the Wa', and I was, at the high end, roughly level with the third storey windows, someone would have seen me and would clipe to my mother (heaven forbid - I was going to be in real trouble). But no one ever mentioned it - I got away with it.

Now for those readers who are saying to themselves - "Really?", I'll share something I learned halfway through my adventure. Bumming along a wall begins by sitting on the copestone, as described earlier with a leg hanging down either side. Then putting both hands on the stone a few inches in front of your pelvis, with arms held straight you lean forward and without much effort you slide your butt forward a few inches. Repeat this a million times and you eventually reach the other end.

I got into a rhythm, and towards the end, though tiring, was making a decent speed. Once the outbound trip had been made it was just a case of reversing the process - or so I thought...

When I tried it, I realised that human anatomy and simple geometry makes the forward movement easy and stable - in reverse, the same factors make the movement difficult and rather unstable - the latter being of some concern when you're 25 feet up in the air. Try it and you'll see what I mean. I found out that I didn't have the strength to make it back, and the instability was rather terrifying. After a few feet I knew I was in trouble. There was one obvious alternative - turn around...

That was easy for me to say, but in practice it involved bringing one leg up and over so that I was facing at right angles to the wall with both legs on that side and my back facing the other way with my butt peering downwards into space. Then of course, repeating that move to get my second leg switched to the other side at which point I'd be facing back the way I'd come and in good shape.

The copestone was only about 10 inches wide, and my initial attempts to pull this off terrified me - it must have taken me a good five minutes of sitting there steeling myself to carry out the manoeuvre. The only other alternative was to shout for help - eventually someone would have heard and my mother would have come out and looked up - then died on the spot. Or, she wouldn't have collapsed, would have summoned the fire department, they would've got me down and delivered me to her loving arms - and then I would've died on the spot...

I finally decided to take the least risky alternative, and steeled myself to turn around (I had never been so scared in my life), managed to pull it off, turning very slowly and deliberately, and successfully bummed back to the starting point. Like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

The Wa' was always there for me until I was a young teenager and we moved house, and I still have fond memories of it. You can imagine how sad I was when Jimmy Howie sent me an email saying, "Yer Wa's awa!".

When I visited Dundee recently, I went down to the corner where Fairbairn, Arklay and Dundonald streets meet to check it out, and sure enough, as the photos below show, the proud massive companion of my childhood had been reduced to a pile of rubble and replaced by a puny green metal mesh fence with only a few courses of the original wall left standing.


Meh Wa' really wis awa' - and part of my childhood with it!

Berry Picking
Gordon Findlay

I wasn’t exactly a willing berry picker, but when I was around 9 or 10, my brother David convinced me we could each make some decent pocket money. “They’re looking for pickers at all the Carse of Gowrie farms. Dad’s going to drop us off. Wear old clothes.”

Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s the Carse was a well-known centre for soft fruit growing: apples, plums, pears, strawberries, raspberries and some blackberries too. In that lovely protected valley of the river Tay, on the north side, in those 25 kilometres from Invergowrie to Perth, the soil was deep and rich, and there was lots of sunshine.

On a nice summer morning David and I joined a ragged band of pickers who assembled in the farmyard, a mixture of young and old, experienced and totally raw.


We sat up on a flat trailer and a tractor drove us out to a field of raspberries which, to me looked gigantic, stretching off into the distance.

We were given the option of using our own metal pails or baskets, so long as they were not too deep. Too deep and the berries on the bottom were squashed together making them harder to wash. Most of us chose to use the small wooden punnets the farm provided.

Then came the 30-second lecture on how to pick raspberries. “Only reid yins. Nae yellas or pinkies. Ye git paid by weight, so bring yer punnets up when they’re fu’. Off ye go!”

The field boss assigned us to separate drills and reminded us again us to bring our berries up to the weigh station when we had several filled punnets. There, they’d be weighed and credited to our name which he’d write down in the tally book. “Dinna wait ower lang,” he said. “Ye’ll find out why.”

It was only later when I realized the reason for this warning. Wasps! The little yellow devils were all around, attracted by the sweet and rotting berries which had dropped to the ground. So, if you kept too many full punnets beside you, there was soon a squadron of wasps hovering around.

There was one obvious benefit to berry-picking: you could eat on the job (when the field boss’ back was turned). I took full advantage and I stuffed myself with the sweetest and juiciest berries. But there are only so many raspberries a stomach can hold and after an hour or so of gluttony I discovered a truism about berry picking: the faster you eat the sooner you sicken. By noon I couldn’t look at one without gagging.

By late afternoon my enthusiasm had ebbed. My back ached, my arms were scratched from the rasp's thorny branches, and my fingers were stained purple. It was at that point I came face-to-face with a dark secret about soft fruit picking paid by weight.

I had lugged an armful of our filled punnets up towards the weigh scale. To get there, you had to walk back through the field of rasps where the canes towered well above my height. You were well hidden from the weigh station.

As I walked between the canes I came upon a pair of the grown-ups who’d been picking beside us. They had used their own metal pails, and a couple of them, full of berries, were sitting in front of them. As I approached, I heard the distinctive tinkling sound of someone relieving himself. Oh yes... right into their buckets.

I stopped in disbelief. Seeing me, one of the men, now finished, buttoned up his pants and gave me a conspiratorial wink. Then he hefted his buckets up and walked them up to the station. It was a pay-by-the-weight system... and he’d just added some handy excess weight to his berries.

After that, when I’d see bottles of raspberry jam in the store I’d think: “I hope they gave those berries a good boiling.”

"What are the chances?" - 3
Hugh McGrory

We emigrated to Canada in 1966 and I joined a firm of consulting engineers. A couple of years later a fellow named John joined the firm. He and I, an Indo/European and an Irish/Scot hit it off - we were both field hockey players, me in Dundee and he in Darjeeling (though he was a better player than I).

He was an amusing, interesting guy to hang out with - used to dress in the dark each morning so that his wife could sleep in a little longer - he would show up from time to time with different coloured socks - on one occasion he outdid himself by spending the whole workday wearing one black and one brown shoe - when I complimented him on his fashion statement, he said he had another, similar pair, at home...

John was married to an English girl, Pat, they had three kids and so did we, and we would sometimes meet up for family outings, picnics, etc. After a few years, John and family left for the UK. In 1974 I spent a couple of days at their home in East Sussex. After this, they moved around the world on various engineering projects and we lost touch (pre-email, of course).

With the advent of the Internet and the WWW, I would make periodic attempts to find him, but since I had no information to go on, I didn't have any luck. Then, around 2005, I did another search and found a John and Sharon had won a golf competition at a course in Spain. I was pretty sure that this was 'my' John, since the surname is not very common, and Sharon was the name of one of his daughters.

There was no contact information, of course, so I found the email address for the course secretary in Spain and sent an email explaining my search, gave a few details and asked that my email address be passed on to this John, if the facts warranted - the mail seemed to be received, and then - nothing! So I gave up again. (Sadly, since these actually were the correct John and Sharon).

In the summer of 2007, I was in Dundee on one of my quite frequent visits, and my brother asked me if I'd drop into the bookstore at the Verdant Works museum to pick up a book he wanted. The young person serving me said she wasn't sure where that book would be, but another staff member who had gone into the museum for a few minutes would know. She pointed across the courtyard to a small room by the entrance and said that the staff member in there was just starting a tour, and if I told him he'd send the other person down to help me.

So I went across to where the staff person was doing his spiel for a couple of tourists, waited for a break in his discourse then started to explain what I wanted when the male tourist said "Hugh McGrory?". You've guessed it - it was 'my' John and his daughter Sharon, now in her 40s, whom I hadn't seen since she was a preschooler.

They were on a world tour together, he having retired, and on this leg they were camping around the UK and heading for St Andrews to see the 2007 Women's British Golf Open

We had dinner together that night, played a round of golf the next day - in Forfar - had lunch together afterwards then went our separate ways. The following year on their world tour they came to Canada and stayed with us for a couple of days. John still lives in Spain, and we're still in touch by email.

I ask you - what are the chances?

The Balance of Nature
(…and how Heide set it straight!)

Ian Gordon

As soon as we arrived in North Carolina, Heide was happy to see we had big rivers and an ocean nearby …
even if they were on the other side (the East) than in Naples (the West.) So she’s still able to take me on boating trips, just like we used to in Naples, and Cape Town, and we do make some great trips from time to time. I’ve matured a bit, and I’ve dyed my hair white, but Heide does not lose
any of her youth as time goes on. Anyway, going to the beach isn’t part of our lifestyle and we have rediscovered Nature in the beautiful natural surrounds to our home…
…which is situated in the Fairfield Harbour community of New Bern, about ten miles from downtown New Bern. There are about a thousand homes, mainly single-family-units, in this friendly, active community so there’s lots of socializing and bridge to occupy our time. But our daily lives, and especially Heide’s, are taken up with our contacts with Nature and its inhabitants…a dazzling array of beautiful birds, bees, trees and flowers and a marauding army of deer, moles and the incredibly mischievous squirrels. Keeping a balance (or a level playing field) for all these participants is almost a full-time job for Heide…

Now, of all Nature’s inhabitants around us, the ones most demanding of attention are the birds. They come in summer full of hope…food is bountiful during the day (even if it’s only the tasteless worms the moles dig up) and at night they disappear to high places. But come wintertime food gets a bit harder to find, and at night they come down to keep warm, making themselves prey to the many scavengers who hunt at nighttime. One of the beautiful red cardinals clearly saw that we were new to the area and that made us a soft touch …
so he decided to move in with us last winter and is still with us. He has become our lodger and he feels perfectly safe at nights on his perch right outside our front door. Heide has fixed up bathroom facilities close at hand and a shivery bite for him when he needs a snack. He is quite demanding and hates to be disturbed after he has settled in (just after dark.) So, friends coming for bridge or dinner in the evenings just have to enter and leave by the garage door. (“Sorry, we can’t disturb the lodger.”)

But life, in nature at least, is never quite so simple. The squirrels keep on in their marauding ways and there are always a host of them, and others, feasting on the produce of our front and backyards. The birds had no chance…so Heide had to find a way of providing for our lodger and his friends.
As the potted plants offered no protection from the cunning squirrels, Heide looked to modern technology in an attempt to outwit the squirrels. She called on our German branch (our daughter, Tania) and so we imported a squirrel-proof bird feed all the way from Germany, designed by the world’s best engineers. The lodger
watched it being constructed and did in fact try it out. But you could see he was wary…expecting a squirrel would materialize at any moment.

And so they did … they climbed the pole like trapeze artists and we spent most of our time rushing out to shoo them off. Our lodger and his friends got scared and backed off. Back to the drawing board, Heide.

Not to be undone, Heide had to find a solution. We couldn’t harm the squirrels ‘cos this is their natural habitat and they have every right to be there. So Heide purchased some very slippery grease, not toxic or harmful in any way, and coated the supporting pole with it top to bottom.

Gee, those pesky squirrels got the shock of their acrobatic lives. They couldn’t get even halfway up the pole
before they came slithering down. It was a joy (and a good laugh) to see!

Now we are all fine, until the next crisis! Our lodger is happy with his new restaurant. Indeed many of his friends fly in to have lunch with him. The squirrels continue, cussin’ under their breaths, ravaging…but on the ground and in the trees.


He Really Knew How to
Hurt a Guy

Hugh McGrory

Those of you who were in my class at school may remember when we had Wull Kelly for math - I think it was either second or third year. I liked Wull, he was a very good teacher, and he helped develop my liking for mathematics. He was also a strict disciplinarian, and I seem to remember that he used to throw chalk at miscreants - or was that another teacher?

Funny how some things from schooldays stay with you while others fade away over time. I still remember one lesson I learned in Wull's class - and it wasn't really about mathematics...

I must have been late getting to class on the first day of term, since I ended up sitting in the front row. It turned out that when he wasn't writing on the board, Wull liked to stand close to the front row so he could cast his eagle eye over our motley crew and make sure we were paying attention. It happened that his favourite spot was right in front of me, so that I spent much of that year with him towering over me. I used to try to keep still so that his attention would be focused outwards and not down.

At the end of each class, Bill would assign homework which we had to complete, or at least attempt, for the next class. One evening, for some reason, I didn't get around to doing the assigned work. Next day in class, Wull asked us to open our workbooks and he took up the assigned work.

He never said a word to me all class, and so as class ended and we headed for the door, I was congratulating myself on getting away with it. I got to the door when I heard that word that we all dreaded to hear issuing from a teacher's mouth - my name...

"McGrory," he said, "come back here," then, "you didn't do your homework, did you?"

"No sir."

"Right', he barked, "write it out five times for next class."

So that evening, as well as doing my other homework, I had to spend quite a long time on the boring task of writing several pages out five bloody times. Next class I had the work ready for him, but he didn't ask for it. At the end of class, I thought that he had perhaps forgotten and I almost walked out with it - but then common sense kicked in and I went over to his desk. I held out the papers to him, thinking, philosophically, "I did the crime and I've done the time - at least it's over." Little did I know that the real punishment had still to come...

Wull stared at the papers with a blank look. "What's this?" he said. I thought to myself - he did forget, I could've gotten away with not doing it...

I said "It's the five copies of yesterday's homework that you asked for."

"Oh", he said, then reached out his hand and, with one continuous movement, grabbed the papers and...
DUMPED THEM IN THE WASTEBASKET...

I've never forgotten that little incident.

He really knew how to hurt a guy!

Our A.A. gun
Gordon Findlay

Our home occupied the south-east corner of Shamrock Street and Mains Loan and was divided from our neighbours by a common wall. Just before the breakout of World War II, the older couple next door to us
moved away. My brother David and I immediately scouted around their property, but nothing of interest had been left behind outside, so “the house next door” just sat empty and we waited to see who would move in.

These thoughts were interrupted by the outbreak of war, with rationing, the prospect of building an air raid shelter, and thoughts of invasion. Then, all at once there was a sudden flurry of activity next door to us.

A crew of workmen arrived. For a week we
could hear saws ripping through wood and the workers’ hammers pounding. Electricians strung new cables into the house. Portable bed frames were delivered and carried inside.

Then, one day, a large British Army truck came lumbering along Shamrock Street and stopped at the far entrance. Out came a small crowd of soldiers, each with a kitbag and rifle, followed by an elderly officer. He came over to my parents to introduce our new neighbours: a detachment of the Black Watch, one sergeant and six other ranks.

In some ways they were ideal neighbours. They kept to themselves and only showed up together when, around six-thirty in the morning, they all lined outside the house on Shamrock Street for early parade. The officer gave them a desultory inspection, called out a list of orders-of-the-day, then dismissed them. They vanished inside.

A couple of weeks later, in chatting to the sergeant, my father learned that “very soon” they would be installing weapons for the defence of this part of Dundee. For my brother David and me, this was thrilling news.

Wow! Our house was going to be part of Dundee’s defences, whatever that meant. Maybe we’d get anti-aircraft guns. Perhaps even a searchlight. And we’d have a ringside seat at all the action . . . the scream of air-raid sirens. . . the searchlight probing the skies for German raiders . . . . the thunder of guns. We could hardly wait.

Soon after that, some of the soldiers began to dig a shallow pit in the centre of our lawn (it was a common lawn shared by both homes). Into this they poured cement which hardened into a nice flat square.

David and I watched all this with rising excitement. Now we’re getting somewhere.

We’re going to be one of the strongpoints for Dundee’s anti-aircraft defence. They’ve made the pad. Surely the big guns can’t be far behind!

It all came into place a few days later. Two sturdy members of the Black Watch carried down a tripod to the concrete pad and set it in place. Then, as we watched, two sturdy soldiers lugged out a huge wooden box.

It was carefully pried open and from it the soldiers lifted . . . one single ancient Lewis machine gun. It was plain black and very ordinary looking. They then lifted out one round ammunition pan, and snapped it down on top. The job was done.

My brother and I couldn’t believe it. This was it? Surely not! Where were the huge Vickers’ 3.7-inch guns which could blast a 28-lb. shell 30,000 feet into the air? Where, at least, were the Oerlikon 20 mm cannons which could blast those low-flying German planes as they swooped in over Dundee?

But no, all we had was a puny wee (and pretty ancient) Lewis gun of World War I vintage which could spray a few .303 bullets into the sky.

Once the Lewis gun was installed on its mount, the soldiers draped a black waterproof tarpaulin over it, tied it down, and disappeared back into the house next door. The mighty air defence system of Maryfield was now in place.

What a letdown.

Celebrities - 2
Hugh McGrory

In the late 50s, early 60s, I worked in London in an office just off Victoria Street, not far from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Across the street from our office was Caxton Hall Registry Office and from time to time as we went in and out there would be a celebrity wedding with crowds waiting to see the couple.

For example, Bernard Bresslaw married dancer Betty Wright there in 1959 (you may recognise his mates...)
But I digress - the litttle story I set out to tell is as follows - I got to and from my digs in Beckenham, Kent, using the Southern Electric from Victoria Station. Sometime in 1958 or 1959 I decided to take in a film after work, at one of the cinemas on Victoria Street, very close to the station – it might have been The Metropole, but I think it was probably The Classic Victoria - not sure, – but I remember it had a long narrow hallway entrance from the street.

As I walked in I saw a man walking towards me, leaving the cinema. As he approached I knew that I should know who he was... a few minutes later it came to me:


This would have been around the time he appeared in some episodes of The Army Game and the movie Carry on Nurse (Bernard Bresslaw was in both of those too).

Michael is still alive at the age of 92.

Flying Adventures
John Russell

Hugh mentioned some of his flying adventures in his anecdotes, and I've also had a few.

In the fifties, when I went to live in Angola, we travelled by a passenger liner. Long distance piston-engine plane flights then were infrequent and took about 18 hours from Lisbon with stopovers in Nigeria or Niger.

We lived in the capital, Luanda, where my father had a friend, Senhor Raposo, a keen amateur pilot who invited my two brothers and myself for a baptism-of-flight experience in a 4-seater plane. Raposo went through the usual preparations at the hangar and then headed for the runway. When revving up for take-off he happened to glance at the fuel gauge and - oops! - it showed practically empty, so he returned to the hangar, red-faced, to be ceremoniously mocked by his fellow flying club members. So that could have been both our first and last flight!

My wife had a cousin who was a TAP (Air Portugal) pilot who often stopped over in Luanda and visited us. Once, in the sixties, I had booked a flight to Lisbon, on business, the day after he was due to fly there so he suggested I switch to his flight instead and he managed to upgrade me to 1st class. I was also invited to the cockpit for take-off with him at the controls of the Boeing 707, and also during a later part of the flight.

Years later, following the revolution in Portugal in April 1974, there was chaos in Luanda that led to independence in late 1975, with infighting amongst three political movements including in the streets of the city. I made another business trip to Europe in April 1975 and returned from Lisbon on the 30th. On boarding the 747, I bumped into a dentist friend and fellow golfer, and we managed to find adjacent seats as the plane was far from full.

After some time chatting and enjoying a couple of beverages, we were somewhere over the Sahara when the captain asked whether there was a doctor aboard. We carried on relaxing for some time until the captain asked again - this time more urgently - so my friend, who had been required to qualify in medicine before specialising in dentistry, told me he'd better offer to help.

Some time later, the passengers heard via a stewardess that a baby girl had been born aboard! It went well and he was invited to have dinner in 1st class, had to sign the flight logbook, and was later in the cockpit for the landing in Luanda around midnight. When he saw what he thought were fireworks over the city to celebrate the 1st of May, the crew told him the truth - they were actually mortar shells and tracer bullets!! We landed safely but an overnight curfew had been declared so most of the passengers were stranded at the airport until daylight.

My last flight from Luanda was in an RAF VC-10 to evacuate mainly Brits in July 1975 (and I had to pay more than a 1st class flight) but it was dangerous to stay behind, the British Consulate was closing down and my boss was going, so I didn't have much choice. The plane had backward facing seats for the troops - probably for them to disembark faster. There was one problem though - the plane had insufficient fuel to reach the UK as it was in short supply locally. This was easily solved - they flew to re-fuel at Ascension Island - a dot in the mid-Atlantic (more than halfway to S. America) with little more than an airbase and a BBC station.

I stayed some time in London but a few weeks later I visited my family in Dundee and got in touch with Murray Hackney and went to the Yacht Club in Broughty Ferry where Bobby Barnett was as well. The latter asked me if I'd been in touch with the local press and although I insisted I didn't want any publicity, he had a reporter turn up to interview me and wrote a piece entitled "Dundee man dodges bullets in Angola".

Years after, a light plane landed successfully on the 18th fairway of the golf course where I played in São Paulo, Brazil, due to bad weather. It was a 'crop duster' en route from the factory to a farm in the south of the country. Thankfully it didn't happen at the weekend and very few members golfed on working days. The plane had limited navigational instruments and depended on good visibility and it was there for a couple of days until the weather improved.

WW II - Gas is Dangerous
- then there were Gas Masks...

Hugh McGrory
Several mentions of gas masks in the stories below brought back memories for me. I had a Mickey Mouse gas mask at the beginning of the war but by 1944 had graduated to a big kid’s mask (which I think was the same as the adult, Civilian version - it had a large perspex window instead of the two eyes).

My Dad must have come home on leave in June 1943, since my wee brother was born in March 1944 - I was six, almost seven at the time. Because of this new arrival, the family got a baby gas mask - I'm sure that some of you will remember them - but for those who don't, instead of putting the mask on the child, you put the child inside the mask. Then the bottom of the mask was laced up between the babies legs, sort of like a diaper, and the parents then had to use a hand-pump to provide air to the baby.

I can remember trying on my gas mask, and not enjoying the feeling at all; I can also remember my baby brother being put in the baby mask when it first arrived, so my mother would know how to do it, if needed.

One ten year old boy from London remembered:
"One annoyance was the gas mask. You had to carry it all the time..... Although I could breathe in it, I felt as if I couldn't.... The covering over my face, the cloudy Perspex in front of my eyes, and the over-powering smell of rubber, made me feel slightly panicky, though I still laughed each time I breathed out, and the edges of the mask blew a gentle raspberry against my cheeks."

Memories from another ten year old from Tyneside:,
"Babies had gas masks, horses and dogs had gas masks... ..Young children had gay blue-and-red ones.... Soldiers had very grand hideous ones with round eyepieces and a long trunk. Ours had a short trunk and a large window for our eyes. The moment you put it on the window misted up, blinding you. Our mums were told to rub soap on the inside of the window to prevent this. It made it harder than ever to see and you got soap in your eyes.

There was a rubber washer under your chin that flipped up and hit you every time you breathed in. You breathed out with a farting noise round your ears. If you blew really hard you could make a very loud farting noise indeed. The bottom of the mask soon filled up with spit and your face got so hot and sweaty you could have screamed."
The quoted sections above from an essay done as GCSE coursework by pupil Joanne Oliver.

At the beginning of the war, the governnment and the citizenry were very worried about attacks from the air, explosives and/or gas, and so there was a flurry of interest in these masks, probably mostly in the south of England where the heaviest air raids took place. Rules were put in place, and everyone was supposed to carry then everywhere. School kids took them to school, and teachers were trained to help the kids put them on. However, interest soon waned and many people simply stuck them in a cupboard and forgot about them.

Click on any of the photos below to see a larger version.

Fortunately there was never a gas attack on the British Isles. It was just as well - for a number of reasons. The masks, as we've seen, were uncomfortable, hot, sweaty, smelly - it was awkward and inefficient for people to carry out necessary work while wearing them - they were only effective for short periods, 30 mins to an hour or so. With regard to the baby maks, there were reports that during demonstrations babies fell asleep and became unnaturally still inside the masks. It's likely that the pump didn’t push enough air into the mask and the babies came close to suffocating. Luckily, they were never put to the test in a real situation.

In hindsight, there was an even more important issue. The filters designed to absorb the poison gases contained asbestos!

Recently, in October, 2013, JUAC, the Joint Union Asbestos Committee, of AiS, The Asbetos in School Group, issued the following warning:

"WWII Gas masks should not be worn as asbestos fibres can be inhaled. No gas mask of WWII vintage should ever be worn. WWII gas masks are potentially dangerous as they can release asbestos fibres. They can also be contaminated with harmful chemicals from previous use in gas drills. In addition some post war gas masks can release asbestos fibres and can be contaminated.

Tests have shown that asbestos fibres can be inhaled by wearing the masks. Asbestos fibres can also be released from handling the masks, filters or carrying bag."

The report goes on to state:
"Civilian gas masks produced between about 1937 and 1942 normally contain chrysotile (white asbestos), although some can contain crocidolite."

There is no threshold exposure to asbestos below which there is no risk. Chrysotile can cause cancer, and crocidolite is up to five hundred times more likely to cause mesothelioma. Children are more at risk from asbestos exposure than adults. It is estimated that the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is about five times greater for a five year old child than it is for an adult aged thirty, and about four times greater for a ten year old child.

Two series of tests on military masks simulated the levels inhaled by the wearer. Both tests found similar levels, the first up to 0.01 f/ml (10,000 fibres in a cubic metre of air), and the second up to 0.009f/ml (9,000 fibres in a cubic metre of air. Depending on their activity a person would inhale about 1,500 fibres in a ten minute period. The contaminated bags had up to 2,000 crocidolite fibres in a centimetre square. The levels are unsafe, particularly for children."

Postscript

It would be easy today to criticise the authorities for allowing asbestos to be used in this way, but in fairness, asbestos simply wasn't seen as a problem then. The first firm reports of asbestos-related cancer came from German doctors in the late 1930s. At the time, American and English doctors were still reluctant to make such a claim. In fact, the Germans were so convinced of the carcinogenic properties of asbestos that they made asbestos-related diseases compensable.

Perhaps you remember the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz, and the scene in which Dorothy and her companions, sleeping in a poppy field under the spell of the Wicked Witch, are saved by snow falling on them; or Bing Crosby singing White Christams at the end of the 1942 movie of the same name with snow falling all around?

The effects in both cases were created by showering the performers with chrysotile asbestos fibres (probably from mines in Quebec, Canada), which resembles snow, and was often used in those days not only on movie sets and in theaters, but in department store displays and even private homes. From the mid-1930s through the 1950s, asbestos was seen as a very versatile and harmless substance. It was also very inexpensive. Ironically, asbestos use began in the 1920s on the advice of a firefighter who said that cotton wool was a fire risk.

Post Postscript

If you found the photo of the dogs in gas masks amusing, you might like to know that the person in charge, Lt.Col. Richardson was instrumental in bringing trained dogs into the armed forces both in 1918 and 1939.

Some of his work was done on a farm outside of Carnoustie where he lived with his wife, and at the nearby army camps at Barrie and Buddon, where his dogs worked with soldiers in training. The squaddies enjoyed the exercises, as the ambulance dogs carried a small flask of spirits in their saddlebags that apparently needed to be refilled quite often!

The World of Planes
Gordon Findlay


Like many Morgan pupils during the Second World War, I knew most of the famous British airplanes which roamed the skies above the country.

If you're interested, clicking on the photos will bring up an eclectic bunch of stories of these great old aircraft, and the gallant men and women who flew in them.


There were the training aircraft: the Avro Anson, the Oxford, the North American Harvard (with a distinctive droning bellow). There were the observation and special operations planes, like the beautiful high-wing Westland Lysander.

Then the serious planes: the Blenheim, the Hampden, the Wellington (and later the Manchester and the Lancaster). There was the all-wood Mosquito, the ugly but effective Bristol Beaufighter, the Hawker Hurricane and of course, the finest of them all – the Supermarine Spitfire.

Many of us at that time tried carving planes in balsa wood, complete with a tiny Perspex cockpit, camouflage paint, and tiny machine guns or cannons pointing out of the wings.

One of my friends at the time was Ian Brown, who became known as “Bomber” Brown for his prowess in carving, assembling and painting bomber aircraft in meticulous detail. Compared to our bumbling and clumsy efforts, “Bomber” Brown’s model planes were works of art, correct down to the last detail.

Realistic tiny pilots and gunners sat beneath their clear plastic canopies. Deadly-looking machine guns poked from the top turrets. Undercarriages swung away neatly under the wings, and “Bomber” even stripped in authentic-looking identification symbols and numbers.

When “Bomber” showed up at school with a new model in a box under his arm, a crowd quickly gathered. This was a special event, one not to be missed. He would reverently lift his new creation from the box and hold it up to the light - and to the awestruck gaze of the rest of us.

It was during the model plane craze when a real plane - and a real tragedy - made an impression on me and my pals. A group of us were cycling around together on Shamrock Street. It was a late summer Saturday morning and Dundee was quiet. We were trying our hand at bicycle polo: each of us on our bike and equipped with a flat-ended stick, trying to whack an old tennis ball along the road and into a “goal” between the lamppost and the inside of the pavement.

We were dimly aware of planes flying around Dundee, but most of them seemed to be down by the Tay. At that time the Air Force had established a fighter squadron at Leuchars, so it wasn’t unusual to see planes flying and practicing overhead. There was also a Fleet Air Arm squadron which used to fly Fairey Swordfish and practiced dropping torpedoes and depth charges around Carnoustie.

Then, as our game progressed, there was the sound of one plane quite close to us at Maryfield. It sounded like a plane diving, coming in low, and going at top speed. We all stopped playing and looked up to the sky. But by that time, the plane had flashed past us, overhead, and disappeared down towards the Den of Mains.

A second or two later came the deep concussive thump of something massive slamming into the ground. In moments, people came popping out of their houses, looking around and asking each other: “What was THAT?”

For our part, we jumped on our bikes and went racing up the street, past Clepington Road and down towards the Kingsway and the Den of Mains. By the time we reached the public tennis courts on the south side of the Kingsway, a crowd had gathered. A police van was already on the scene, and so was a fire engine.

There was no need for the fire engine. For, just twenty yards past the tennis courts, there was a huge, smoking hole. Surprisingly, there was almost no debris. And almost at once, the word spread around the crowd. “Aye - it was a Spitfire. Dived right down past the houses over there. Flew right into the ground! Poor lad!”

Years later I learned the details - the crash took place on 28 July 1943 and it wasn't a Spitfire. The plane was Hurricane V7725 from 56 Operational Training Unit at RAF Tealing. The aircraft flew straight into the ground in a shallow dive from 22,000 feet and left a crater some 60 feet wide and 20 feet deep. The pilot, 21-year-old Sergeant Roland Douglas Carpenter from Birmingham, was killed instantly.

The instructor flying alongside Sergeant Carpenter's aircraft reported that he had seen Carpenter slumped over the controls, probably having blacked out due to oxygen failure, and that all efforts to contact him by wireless brought no response, right up to the time of the crash.

Seeing that crash site brought the brutal reality of war home to us all.

"What are the chances?" - 2
Hugh McGrory

It was 1971, and I was in Calgary, Alberta, some 1,500 miles from where I lived at the time, in Don Mills, a suburb of Toronto, in townhouse #704 in a row of 12 attached houses. This was where my kids grew up, a cul-de-sac with lots of young families - a friendly, safe environment for children.

I was in Calgary to do a presentation on computer-aided design of sewer networks (hey, sewage may be disgusting to you but it was bread and butter to us...). The occasion was the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

I had a young engineer, Glenn, presenting with me, he discussing the engineering and me the computer aspects. The evening before we were to present, we had dinner, then went up to my room to run through our presentation, make sure our slides were in order etc.

Just before 10:00 o’clock, we decided we’d done all we could and flicked on the TV to relax for a bit. It opened up to the CBC, Canada’s BBC, and a commercial for one of the programs coming up later in the week. The commercial was being given by the producer, and I said “That’s our next-door neighbour!”

Glenn said “Sure it is” and I said “Seriously, his name is Don Carroll, he lives next door to me, and works for the CBC”.

A moment later it was 10:00 pm, and a new program came on, a medical documentary, and the announcer said “We’re going first to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, to meet one of the country’s leading cancer specialists” A man appears on camera, and I say "That’s Dick Hasselback - he lives four doors away from me on the other side!”

At that point, if Glenn had been a Scot, he would have said "Aye, right!" As it was, being Canadian, he had his own way of expressing disbelief - best not repeated here...

“Seriously - I ask you - what are the chances?”

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
(or was it Tuesday)

Pete Rennie

This morning instead of occupying myself usefully I spent an hour or so indulging in nostalgia! You may ask 'what was he up to?' Well I spent a fair chunk of the time looking at the class and team photographs on the Morgan Academy Intake 1941 - 51 web site so ably compiled by Richard Young.

I felt quite emotional as I trawled through these images, I looked at every one regardless of whether they were contemporaries of mine or not. Many faces I remembered as they gazed at me with their smiling (some not) youthful faces out of the past - theirs and mine! I did my best to put names to faces and had reasonable success even with folk who shared my time at Morgan but of whose existence I had forgotten until I found them again in these photos.

Even then there were many whose names I could not recall; this saddened me and brought to mind similar group photos sent in to the newspapers where the contributor has attempted to name those in the picture but often has to put 'unknown' instead of a name.

What saddens me even more is that many of those whose photos I am looking at are no longer with us! In the fullness of time that will be the fate of all of us and there will be no one left to say, even to themselves, "Oh there's so and so", or "I remember him/her".

Time for me to stop now as I'm beginning to feel a bit depressed, as no doubt anyone reading this may well be - besides, I've just remembered what I should have been doing instead of this - filling pill boxes with my medication!
--------------------

A reminder that, if you'd like to re-visit the class photos for our 'reunion' years, you may do so here.

It's what Happened after the Pictures... - 2
Hugh McGrory
The Plaza
One floor up from us at #2 Fairbairn St lived two brothers, Sandy and Ronnie. They were pleasant lads, but
several years older, so I didn't have much contact with them. One day, when I was about twelve I happened to be talking to the younger brother Ronnie in the close, and he said that he was going off to the Plaza to see some picture that I’ve forgotten now, but really wanted to see at the time.

I asked if he’d let me come with him – he wasn’t overly keen, but said if my mother approved … Surprisingly, she did – probably a tribute to my finely-honed ability to whine …

We saw the movie, which I remember I quite enjoyed, walked up
the Hilltown a few yards to Ann Street and headed home.

Just on the right after we entered Ann Street, there was a house where the roof level at the pavement was only about six feet or so – the entrance must have been from the south side which, being the Hilltown area, would be quite a few feet lower.

(The two photos below show the area then and now. If you click on the older photo, you can see, just past the white van, the low building, still there in the '70s, with someone sitting outside - looks like it might have been turned into a shop? The other photo shows how it looks today...)


It was getting towards dusk, and as we walked by, one of us noticed something on the roof – it was a crumpled English pound note! But it was out of reach – about half way up the roof - darnit!.

We reluctantly carried on towards home, and I remember we picked up ‘chips in a newspaper’ and ate them on the way - slathered with vinegar and with a couple of those large onions - it’s making me hungry just thinking about it...

We couldn’t get the thought of the pound note out of our minds, and as it was now quite dark, we hatched a plan. We would go back to the house, wait till the coast was clear and make a lightning raid.

Ronnie would put his back against the wall, entwine his fingers to give me a footrest then hoist me up – I would scurry up the roof, grab the pound and we’d scarper while the people were still heading out to see what kind of animal was on their roof – 10 seconds tops …

We executed flawlessly, I grabbed the treasure, he shouted "Hurry", helped me jump down, and before I could say a word he took off at high speed. I was right on his heels, but his legs were considerably longer than mine, and we were halfway to Cotton Road before he slowed down. Then he stopped to let me catch up and show him the spoils. Which I did...

It was damp, dirty and crumpled, but still recognisable as a …

The Yanks are Coming, The Yanks are Coming - Over Here
Gordon Findlay

The house beside us on Shamrock Street in Dundee was used by the British Army for a while. A detachment of Black Watch came and went and the house again became vacant.

Then, in late March of 1944, a huge U.S. Army truck rolled up. It was a Saturday so my brother David and I were outside playing with our pals on the street. We sidled over to the truck and watched as a group of U.S. servicemen climbed out. To us, they all looked huge, and a couple of them were black. We hadn’t been exposed to black people in Scotland in those far-off days, so we were fascinated.

But one of them won us over instantly. He dumped his gear on the sidewalk, looked over at us and said something like: “Hi, kids. Howya doin’?” Then he dug into his U.S. Army jacket, pulled out a handful of brightly-wrapped items, and held them out to us. “Like some candy?” There, in his dark hand was a stack of Tootsie Rolls.

We each grabbed one, stammered our thanks, and raced in to show them to our mothers. The Yanks had arrived - and they had candy! We quickly learned that these men were U.S. paratroopers and it was no secret that they would be part of the massive invasion force which was assembling throughout Great Britain. Trucks and tanks and Jeeps and field guns and aircraft by the thousands were stuffed into marshalling yards and Army bases and backroads, and even in open fields all across the south of England.

Our group of American paratroopers were going to do some last training in the hills of Scotland before they too went south to join the rest of the invasion force.

They were a high-spirited bunch and why not? Most of them were just kids themselves, 19 or 20 years old. But most of them were big and muscled. To us, they looked like friendly giants.

Our little group: me, my brother David, Bruce Davidson and Colin Barclay, became their willing pets when they appeared outside. “Hey, kid – like some gum?” And a package of Juicy Fruit or Spearmint would be tossed our way. And there was something about that American gum, or candy. It all looked so exotic, so fancy, so perfectly wrapped. We chewed until our jaws ached.

On one memorable day, late in the afternoon some time in May, another U.S. truck rumbled along our street and soon a number of long khaki-coloured metal cylinders were being lowered to the ground. We hovered nearby, wondering what this strange cargo was. It wasn’t long before we found out. The lieutenant in charge of the paratroopers snipped the metal straps around one of the cylinders, and the men opened it up. Instantly
there was a cheerful whoop from the other paras, for what they lifted out of the case was a mini-motorcycle, folded neatly together (known as a Welbike).

In a couple of minutes they had unfolded it, snapped the short handlebars out, and filled the tiny gas tank with fuel. The lieutenant got astride the mini bike, his knees sticking wildly out to each side, pushed the kick-starter, and a second later was zooming down Shamrock Street behind a plume of blue smoke.

His sergeant did the same with a second mini-bike and soon the pair of them were looping around each other, like cowboys, the
tiny engines roaring like a bees’ nest, while the rest of the paratroopers laughed and dodged out of the way. Neighbours popped out of their houses all down the street to see what all the noise and shouting was about.

For the next half-hour, all the young U.S. paras got astride one of the mini-bikes and roared back and forward across Shamrock Street, hooting and laughing. All of we boys, and the neighbours, were entranced. Reluctantly then, the troopers folded the min-bikes back together and restored them to the metal cylinders. The show was over.

It wasn’t long after that when a small fleet of trucks arrived once more. Our cheerful and generous neighbours loaded all their gear in, plus the mini-bike cylinders. They were no doubt destined to be dropped with them over France on D-Day, the morning of June 6th. With a last cheerful wave, they drove off.

I’ve often thought of these happy young Americans. I hope they all survived.

Granda and me at the Fitba
Hugh McGrory

The story about sneaking in to Dens Park by Dave and Jim reminded me that my friend Billy and I, though not professionals like those two, did manage it a few times, at both grounds, when we were around eleven years old.

Since it was usually cold and often damp, as noted by D&J we needed to approach a man in a raincoat. Our mantra, if I remember, was "Tak is in mister, eh?" - sometimes we only had to ask once, other times it took a few minutes of standing around near the entrance, looking forlorn, before some punter would take pity on us. We would crouch down in front of their legs and slip under the turnstile while they engaged the money-taker in conversation as they paid, so as to divert him from the nefarious act of larceny being perpetrated under their noses. There were some stewards and policeman around, and if you were blatant about it you'd be chased off, but many a kind, blind eye was turned to our antics.

However this story doesn't involve Billy, but rather my Granda, Frank Ryan, whom you've met before. He decided one day to take me with him to the fitba - my memory tells me that I was on the youngish side for that, maybe six or seven (Granda died when I was ten). I think it was Dens Park, but it could have been Tannadice...

Things went well at first, we joined a longish line and shuffled forward until we were close to the entrance. All I had to do then was slip under the trunstile at which point he'd pay the man and push through himself. Easy peasy? Not quite as it turned out...

The essence of the problem is shown in the photo below (actually a minor league ground in England).

The turnstiles that Granda was used to were like the one on the left - easy for a kid to slip under. What I was faced with was more like the one on the right - the bottom of the gate came down almost to the ground - next to impossible to slip under! I guess I might just have managed it if I'd lain on my back and sort of limboed under, since the dirt path underneath had been worn down somewhat by the countless feet over the years. But - there wasn't enough room to spread out since Granda was close behind me - and in addition, the ground was very muddy and I had to go home to my mother eventually...

So what to do...? There was a bit of a gap between the booth and the vertical bar of the turnstile, so I tried to get around the side. I did get my head in - the rest of my body, not so much...

By this time,the holdup was getting everyone mad (at me)... Granda, in his helpful way, was kicking me in the arse, the queue behind was getting impatient, the money-taker meanwhile had released the lock with his foot to allow the regulation one quarter turn of the turnstile, and Granda was trying to push through.

At that point I was in danger of decapitation - having failed to kill me with the granny sooker, Granda had come up with a new approach... I screamed bloody murder, and for a moment everything stopped. Then Granda uttered some words from his Irish heritage - I think it was some kind of Celtic blessing - grabbed me, turned me horizontally then slid me upwards till my head cleared the vertical bar, lifted me over and dumped me on the other side. The ticket-taker seems to have ignored the whole thing - he didn't even get a granny sooker for his forbearance.

Fotunately for Granda, there were no visible marks by the time I got home, so he escaped retribution from the matriarchy...

The Final Hurdle
Dave Lowden and Jim Howie
As boys in short pants in the 1948-49 season, we were keen football followers. Dundee needed to win against Third Lanark to pip Rangers to the League Title.

Our preferred means of entry was the tried and tested "Giz a sneekie-in mister" [notice the hyphenated ‘sneekie-in’… Morgan class - but not telling which one!]. Used by all boys of that age and era, this meant finding a friendly adult who was willing to allow us to crawl under the turnstile while he paid the operator, the adult would preferably be wearing a voluminous raincoat which afforded us better concealment.

The best raincoats at that time used to be of the bell-tent variety which were all the rage post-war and some were probably ex-officer army surplus possibly from Millett's in the Cowgate.

Of course, once through the turnstile, we would run like mad so as to quickly mingle with the crowd in case the stewards had spotted us and put a stop to our little game!

As the football season wore on and we became more successful and almost ‘seasoned’ at this ‘under-the turnstile’ technique of getting into the ground, we became ambitious and decided we should go ‘up-market’ and try to get into the enclosure, underneath the stand, where we could get a much better view of the big game.

This was of course our undoing. Having successfully cleared the turnstile and broken into a sprint, JH
shouted “We’ve been spotted”!!!!.

Where are they?”!!!! said DL turning his head to see how closely the steward/s were behind us. At which point he ran smack into one of the stanchions supporting the stand!

Somewhat dazed and with blood trickling down from the gash above his left eye [or was it the right one?], DL was still keen to watch the match, but JH decided the gash was bad enough to need medical attention so called over a couple of ambulance men to have a look at the damage.

The ambulance men then led us onto the track beside the pitch and up the player’s entrance, hallow of hallows, into the first aid room where DL was made to lie down while they cleaned and dressed the wound. JH promptly disappeared back to the safety of the enclosure before any awkward questions were asked, while DL was made to lie there for the whole of the first half! Before the ambulance men returned to their posts, he heard them whispering to each other, “I bet they were sneakin' in”.

We’d been rumbled and that was the first and last time we tried for a free entry to the enclosure and the last time we tried to get into any section of Dens Park. The ambulance men came back at half-time to say DL could watch the rest of the game.

This episode didn’t even have a happy ending as the match finished Dundee 1 Third Lanark 1 which made DL really angry - he had missed both goals as they were scored in the first half!!

We didn't have that problem again - we became lifelong United supporters...

PS
Poor Dundee FC, despite having a very good season in 1948/49, were never able to grasp a prize that year. They had the top goal-scorer in the league (Alex Stott with 30 goals), but they lost in the semi-finals of both the League and Scottish Cups, Rangers eventually taking both. In the League Championship Dundee were one point ahead going into the final match and a win would have guaranteed the League Flag, regardless of what Rangers did at Albion Rovers, but it wasn’t to be...

Granda and the Grannie Sooker
Hugh McGrory

Apparently my Grandfather and I were buddies when I was a preschooler and in early primary – though truth be told I don’t remember very much of those days. It was war-time of course, and both my Mum and my Grannie worked - I think that Granda became the de-facto babysitter much of the time.

He was my mother's father, a big man - at least that's the way I remember him - a large man with a big belly, a loud voice, and a rough manner, and always with a bag of the same sweets in his pocket. Called variously Pan Drops, Scotch Mints or Mint Imperials - to us they were always Grannie Sookers, and he and I often enjoyed then together. I still like them to this day - especially without the stoor from Granda's pocket...

His name was Frank Ryan, born in 1878, in an upstairs flat in a close on the Nethergate, to a very Irish family. His father had been born in 1841 in the centre of Ireland, King’s County, known as County Offaly since 1920. No doubt the family came to Dundee to look for work in the linen factories.

Granda took me to the pictures one time. His favourite picture house was The Kinnaird - his nephew, Jim Ryan I think, was the manager, and apparently Granda had unilaterally decided that he was entitled to get in free any time he felt like it.

When he got to the box office, he would hold out his bag of sweets and while the girl giving out the tickets was concentrating on this he’d announce "The manager is my nephew..." and march regally in.

I’ve no idea what was on, but we settled down to watch the show, and, of course, the grannie sookers bag came out frequently. This was just fine by me – until a fresh one slipped into my throat and lodged there. I couldn't swallow it nor bring it up, and I couldn't breathe!

I don’t remember the initial hubbub - I assume that panic ensued once Granda realised that he was in danger of dying – either my Grannie or my Mother would’ve murdered him if he’d gone home and announced that he’d killed the bairn with a granny sooker …

My memory picks up at the point that he, I, and the Manager, my first cousin once removed, all ended up in the foyer, and I remember them holding me upside down and banging on my back for what seemed like forever – the Heimlich manoeuvre it was not, but it was effective, and we were all relieved – especially Granda - when the sweet popped out, pinged on the floor and rolled away…

After things settled down again, I can’t remember if we went back to see the end of the movie or not, but I do remember us heading home and Granda telling me that I had to keep quiet about what happened – I promised not to say a word to Gran or my Mum, and I’m sure he must have heaved a sigh of relief that he was going to dodge the bullet. We walked into the house, my mother took one look at me - and our plan was blown. She said to Granda, “What the $%^&*# did you do to the bairn?”

Granda was gobsmacked (if you'll forgive the anachronistic adjective) and couldn't figure out how
we'd been rumbled until he took a good look at me and realised that my face had come out in spots – something like this wee lad's cheeks in the photo, I imagine.

The rash is called petechiae. The red spots are from broken capillaries near the skin’s surface - in my case, from the pressure of being held upside down for so long. It wasn't itchy or sore, and didn't last very long.

I think Granda’s face was probably red for longer than mine was …

Addendum
With all due respect to modern-day purveyors of Scottish sweeties, in my humble opinion:

(Hover your cursor over the photos).

The Evangelist
Gordon Findlay

One Saturday night I was going to “the pictures” with my pals Ross Mackie and Murray Lamond. As we got off the tramcar, we were drawn to the “holy rollers” who established their soapboxes at the edge of the City
Square, in front of the Caird Hall. We were in lots of time to catch the start of our film so, idly curious, we strolled over to take in the action.

As you will all know, these fundamentalist preachers, end-of-the-world fanatics, and harmless cranks, presented a perfect target for the Saturday night crowd of robustly cynical Scots. They looked on this as an opportunity to shoot verbal holes in their arguments, and to have some good-natured sport at their expense. It was, in other words, “Saturday Night Live”in this
part of the world long before that show burst into prominence across TV screens across North America. It was a chance to see, and hear, cheerful Scottish wordplay and backchat at its best.

If you have ever been to a fitba’ match in Scotland and stood among the crowd, and listened to the non-stop stream of advice and pithy comment about the players, the managers, or the owners of the club, you will know what I’m talking about. It is rapid-fire repartee and hilarious one-liners delivered in a constant stream - often profane, frequently sacrilegious, sometimes both - enough to bring belly laughs all round. I’d swear that some of those fitba’ park characters sharpened their witticisms on the hapless attention-seekers who set up shop outside the Caird Hall on a Saturday night. It was open air theatre -- and better still -- it was free.

On this evening, Ross, Murray and I walked over to where the largest crowd had gathered. We could hear a clear, but young-sounding voice doing its best to be heard over the traffic and the jocular sparring from those gathered around his platform. But it was only when we got closer and I could focus on the speaker that the shock hit me like a dash of cold water. The young figure on the platform, his voice mouthing the earnest words of his fundamentalist religion, was a fellow classmate from my year at Morgan.

His name was Sandy Forbes, and although he spent time in a couple of my classes, I hardly knew him. I simply knew him to be different from the lads in my group of friends. He was quiet and terribly serious. He rarely spoke up in class, and was known to be the product of a deeply religious family.

But here he was now, standing bare-headed on a step-up platform at the city centre, his hands moving in the air around him, denouncing the evil ways of the world in simple, direct words. The quiet and unobtrusive pupil from my year at Morgan was transformed, standing up in front of a faintly hostile crowd of Saturday-night revelers, giving it his all. I was thunderstruck. I quietly told Ross and Murray who the speaker was, and for the next five minutes we stood and listened to Sandy Forbes’ impassioned words as they flew about the heads of the crowd around him.

Inevitably, the local wits and cheerful cynics in the crowd began to have their fun with him. I can only recall one of their ripostes from that evening. Sandy had spread his young arms wide and had declared: “Brothers and sisters - we can all be saved!” Instantly, a caustic voice from the mob yelled: “Hey - tell that tae Dundee’s goalie. He hisnae saved onything this year!” It brought a wave of laughter, and I felt immediately sorry for Sandy Forbes, evangelist-in-training, facing the barbs of a Dundee Saturday night crowd on his own. After all - he was just a schoolkid!

I had mixed feelings as we three walked away and headed to the theatre. Sandy’s message meant nothing to me (we were not a religious family) but I felt a grudging respect for his ability to do something I’d never have attempted at that age. Before the school year ended, Sandy Forbes’ family abruptly left Dundee and he disappeared from my life. I have always wondered what became of the earnest young evangelist.

Travel Travails - 2
Some you lose...

Hugh McGrory
June 2013

Good news – The plane, Air Canada from Toronto to Frankfurt, loaded on time.

Bad news – I get to my seat (in Economy) and find a sign on it saying “this seat is not functional – sorry”... So with the prospect of 6 1/2 hours in an immovable object I get hold of a stewardess and ask if there’s a spare seat – she says “They weren’t meant to allocate that seat – the plane’s really full but I’ll see what I can do...”

The captain asks every one to sit down ready for take off – everyone else is sitting and I’m still standing in the aisle when she comes back, tells me to grab my stuff and follow her quickly...

More Bad News – Did you know that Air Canada no longer has a ‘First Class’?

Good news – They now call it Executive First Class – looked just like this photo - I was in 9G.

My Dad used to say, when there are things in life that you can’t control, son, all you can do is grin and bear it – boy was I grinning...

Bad news – We were a bit late in leaving, and at Frankfurt my schedule only allowed 50 mins. to get my connecting flight for Edinburgh. In Frankfurt airport, even if you’re in the same terminal you have to go through security again to get to a different 'Area' – it can take a lot of time. So I was probably doomed to wait for the next flight – scheduled to take off 4½ hours later...

Good news – When we land, there’s an announcement - would the passengers for Abu Dhabi please come to the front, their connecting flight is now loading – and would passenger McGrory please meet with the concierge after disembarking... I was met by an athletic (you’ll see the import of this in a moment) middle-aged lady who said that they had realised that one of their – ahem – Executive First Class people had a tight connection and had sent her to expedite this.

Bad news – I had expected a cart, but no, we were walking – correction, running. Did I mention that she was athletic...? So thousands of people from all round the world probably went home and told friends how they saw a woman running through Frankfurt airport trying to get away from a short, fat, sweating old guy who was chasing her, carrying a bag with a computer that must have weighed 50lbs - well OK, 15lbs.

Good news – We get to the security line up and for once, there was almost no one in front of me – just one guy actually.

Bad news – For some reason they didn’t like the x-ray of this guy’s bag - or him - or some bloody thing – they ran the bag through back and forward and back and... then they needed a second opinion, then they had to search the bag... I asked the concierge lady if we could hurry them up and she said “Don’t say a word or they’ll take your bags apart too”...

Good news - They find no problems with my bags and, finally, we’re on our way again.

Bad news - Time is getting very tight, and it’s looking like we won’t make it, but then she slows down and says that B34 is just ahead – and I say "I thought it was C34". She looks like a deer caught in the headlights – runs over to a board and then says that she doesn’t see the flight listed on the ‘B’ board – Oh, Oh...!

There’s a huge crowd of people coming the other way, and she darts through them like a gazelle, to check – ‘cos if I’m right, we’re toast...

Good news – Not only was she right (now in my own defense, the announcement was in German, and with her heavy breathing in my ear – no – wait a minute – that was my heavy breathing ), but the crowd turned out to be my flight-mates – the Lufthansa plane had a technical problem and they were all being sent to a new gate and a new plane.

So I caught my flight at the expense of leaving about half an hour late.

More Good News: – I got on the Edinburgh flight, closed my eyes for a quick nap and wakened up as we landed – I don’t remember a single thing about the 1½ hour flight!

... some you win!

Will Danie Do It Again?
Ian Gordon

Recent reports from the Rugby World Cup are showing that the next game of Scotland Vs South Africa is
going to be one of the most exciting and important in the whole tournament. I’m sure everyone reading this will be cheering for Scotland to come out on top and in any other sporting event, that’s what I’d be doing too. But probably none of you met (or have probably never heard of) Danie Craven. Let me tell you how I became a friend of that great man and why I’d never bet against a Springbok rugby team …

I first discovered rugby when we started our weekly treks to Forfar Road. Ernie Landsman said I was the right size and shape (quick, short and stocky) to be a scrum half, so I took on the dubious honour of becoming the scrum half of the 2nd Year Glamis XV. (My all-time highest rugby ranking.)

I was soon to learn that, in these days, being quick was not enough for a scrum half – you needed to be greased lightning to avoid being clobbered by the big wing forwards before you could extricate the ball fully from the scrum. When I appealed to Mr. Landsman, he shrugged me off and said I should learn from the greatest scrum half ever, a South African called Danie Craven.

Ernie explained Danie was the captain of the dominant world champion Springboks of the thirties and forties and that he had invented the dive-passing technique to help the scrum half get it to the fly half faster. Ernie went on to say that Danie Craven was now the coach of the Springbok team presently touring Britain. They were scheduled to play Scotland at Murrayfield on November 24th…

I don’t know how I persuaded my father to take me through to Edinburgh to see the game – he had been a good football player and did not believe in handling the ball, or in kicking it over the bar! But I did persuade him and we appeared in Scotland’s rugby citadel on the appointed day to see the Scots battle Danie Craven’s mighty Springboks. I don’t remember much of the game, most of it was difficult to see through a cloud of tears … and real rugby players are not meant to cry. South Africa won 44 – 0 (62 -0 in today’s scoring rules) and I was completely devastated.

Back home, first thing I did was to write the parody shown below (my nom de plume Earl of Murray) and show Ernie Landsman what his hero Danie Craven had done to the Scots team. Ernie laughed at my schoolboy reaction but he was impressed with my parody composition. So impressed that he took it along to Ian Gilroy, the school magazine editor. So that is how it wound up in the 1952 School Magazine. I suppose I kept a copy of the magazine for some years, but after 63 years you lose and kinda forget a few things … until recently. (Many thanks to Richard Young for retrieving this copy for me from the Dundee City Archives.)
Fast forward 35 years or so and we come to the conclusion of this sporting tale. Except that, from now on, rugby becomes only incidental to vastly more important events of these times. In 1985 I was appointed Managing Director of the Yardley Company in South Africa. This was a very important assignment, since at that time South Africa was Yardley’s most important market outside the UK, but it was caught up in the throes of potentially violent political change.

This is not the place to make comments on the many political and economic changes during the years I was there, but I must make it clear that, to its everlasting credit, the Yardley Board in London always deferred to my judgement on the attitude and reaction our South African company should adopt towards apartheid and related social issues. For example, if I wanted to desegregate all canteen facilities throughout the company, which I did in my first week there, I could do so without London approval.

Yardley South Africa had always had a strong colour cosmetic business. In fact many of the popular word-wide cosmetic brands, like ESP, were created in South Africa. However, I soon discovered we had a relatively poor Men’s Fragrance (or Aftershave) business. Clearly we were not communicating well with the male population. Internationally, we had just created and launched our new Men’s brand, Yardley Gold, to coincide with the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, but since South Africa had been expelled since 1964 from participation in the Olympics it was difficult to imagine South Africans attracted to a product geared to the Olympics. So we had to find an alternative. Despite what I had been told before I arrived, it seemed to me that the only sport which seemed to transcend political and racial issues was rugby.

So I became a regular spectator at Newlands, the second oldest rugby stadium in the world, and South
Africa’s cathedral to the sport. Visiting Newlands dispelled all previous doubts I had had that rugby was an exclusively Afrikaner sport…the cheering crowds comprised a real cross-section of South Africa’s rainbow society. I decided it was time to visit Newlands on business this time.

I needed to find a sympathetic ear on the South African Rugby Board, one of the most respected bodies in the country, to begin negotiations for Yardley Gold sponsorship (possibly a Yardley Gold Cup?)

When my secretary called to make an appointment for me, I could hardly believe my ears when she came back with the message “Dr. Danie Craven will see you on Monday.” Surely not The Danie Craven?

Danie Craven as it turned out was nothing like I had imagined him to be. Sure he was quick, short and stocky, like Ernie Landsman said he should be … but his tone of voice and demeanor was more like a college professor than a rugby player.

What surprised me even more was that he expressed everything in rugby terms…the believers in the New South Africa were “our team,” if he thought you were wrong he would say “you’re offside,” and he said that every bad idea should be “kicked into touch” (P W Botha spent most of his time either offside or in touch.), However, we understood each other very well and he approved the Yardley Gold Cup, saying it was wonderful to have a British company have faith in “our team.”

Needless to say, the Yardley Gold Cup was a great success and I went on to meet with Danie many times - he invited Heide and me to the South African Rugby Union box at Newlands several times, where he would sometimes talk to me about his early days in rugby. When he asked about mine, I just said I wasn’t quick enough.

I invited Danie to our factory in Cape Town, unsure of the reception he would receive from our staff of 50 whites and 350 non-whites … from the moment he arrived everyone was cheering. They were all on “our team.”

And so began a very rewarding part of my life … when I was fortunate enough to be there and assist great men like Danie Craven succeed in overcoming both the injustices of apartheid and the shackles of international sanctions. Danie’s lifework for South African rugby and society is recognized today in the construction of the great new Danie Craven Stand at Newlands. Danie died in 1993, two years before South Africa’s great triumph in winning the World Cup in Johannesburg. I’m sure Mr. Mandela would have thought of Danie as part of “our team.”

The Baths
Gordon Findlay
Our parents made sure that, from an early age, my brothers and I were able to swim. Dundee, fortunately, was home to a good facility - the Dundee Central swimming baths.

At that time it was situated on the waterfront, close to the Tay and nearby the preserved hull of HMS Unicorn, a handsome wooden-hulled frigate launched in 1824.

On Saturday mornings, my older brother David and I would set off, our bathing trunks securely wrapped up in a towel and with a “shivery bite” in a carry bag. I’m sure most of you will remember shivery bites: those welcome snacks you carried with you to eat after a cold water swim . . . shivering slightly as you ate your sandwich.

I can’t remember how much admission was. It was quite inexpensive and for kids, your sixpence or shilling bought you two hours of swimming time. As you paid your money your hand was stamped with a purple ink showing the time of entry, and in you went. You found yourself a little dressing cubby, peeled off the clothes, on with the swim trunks, and into the pool.

The water was on the cool side when nowadays we’re used to home pools warmed to 82 or 83 degrees F. The Dundee central swimming pool was probably around the 74 degree F. range, but for us in those days, it was perfect. The air was filled with the yells and shouts of a hundred kids like ourselves, all diving and splashing and ducking each other. And, of course, if you really began to feel a bit chilly, you could always duck into the hot showers for a quick warm-up.

The Dundee pool we went to employed a two-man team of supervisors whose unenviable job was to impose some form of order to this public swimming emporium. We got used to their stentorian bellows, over and over again: “Nae runnin’!” “Hey - you! Ah mean YOU! Ony mair runnin’ an’ yer oot o’ the pool!”

Another responsibility of these “poolies” was to enforce the 2-hour limit on swimming. They had two simple chemical reactions as their guide. First was to check the brightness and legibility of the Dundee Public Swimming Pool stamp on your hand. Faded almost to nothing? Your time was unquestionably up and you would be told so - quickly and forcefully. Second was a quick visual examination of your finger tips. Ridged, and semi-white, with tiny furrows (which clearly told of prolonged exposure to cool, chlorinated water for over 2 hours) and the axe fell instantly. “Yer way over yer time! Get oot o’ the pool --- NOW!”

Swim coaches were rare to non-existent in those days. You usually started off with a simple breast stroke, and by watching other older boys, or men, slowly gravitated by trial and error to the side stroke, the back stroke and - that epitome of grace in water - the Australian crawl. I was fortunate in having two older brothers who showed me the rudiments of all these strokes and I gradually developed some ability.

This was the time, at least for me, at which Morgan’s annual swimming gala came into play. I think it was staged annually at the Dundee Central Swimming Pool, which was made available to the school for that
occasion. And of course, the spur to taking part was that overlying competitive atmosphere which was part of everyday life at Morgan: the fight for supremacy between the four Houses at that time - Airlie, Cortachy, Glamis and Mains. The thought of winning points for my House (Airlie) was just too tempting to resist, so I signed up for a broad range of events.

Don’t recall much about the actual swimming events, but I do remember one event, which might have been called something like “Gather The Rings.” An official (some
luckless Morgan teacher coerced into working the gala) stood on the end of the diving board with around 20 metal bracelets looped around his (or her) arm. They tossed these rings one by one into different parts of the pool. Contestants had to dive in and try to collect as many of them as possible before running out of breath.

The trick was to try to plot out the best line to take as you stood on the diving board. Then, once you were under water, to slip each ring over one arm in turn as you picked them up from the bottom. All this had to be done without swim goggles, of course, since I certainly didn’t have a pair, and I never saw any other swimmers sporting them.

I can remember gathering up these rings, slotting them on to one of my arms, and moving along the bottom with my lungs bursting . . . blood pounding behind my eyes . . . desperate to gather in those last two rings just a few feet away on the tiles . . . finally bursting to the surface, face scarlet, and gulping in great mouthfuls of air. Then, waiting anxiously for the teacher to loudly count out the number of rings you had handed over. Would it be enough to beat the other swimmers from Cortachy, Glamis and Mains?

Celebrities I Have Known
Hugh McGrory
Well not known exactly, actually - I don’t really know any...

I have been within a few feet of several, though – close enough to touch had I had the inclination … I'm sure you've all had similar experiences - perhaps you'll share them with us?

In 1959, I was working in London, and on the 16th December I was heading to meet a friend to go see a film. The reason I remember the exact date is because the British Premiere of Ben-Hur was being held that evening in the Empire, Leicester Square. Our invitations must have been lost in the mail, and so we were on our way to see a film at the Odeon, Leicester Square.

The affair at the Empire was a glittering occasion, the stars of the movie were there, of course, including Charlton Heston, Haya Harareet, Jack Hawkins and Hugh Griffith, and the Director William Wyler.

Amongst the celebrities attending were Sir Carol Reed, Graham Greene, Leslie Caron, Stanley Baker, David Farrar, Leo Genn, Kenneth More, Robert Morley, Heather Sears, Richard Todd, and Anna Neagle.

We never saw any of those people as we walked past the crowds waiting outside the Empire, then south on Leicester Square towards the Odeon, but then we noticed a couple coming toward us, in evening dress, and obviously heading for the premiere.

The woman was very attractive, in her high heels she was close to six feet tall, and as they were passing us I realised that the man she was with was:



Addendum

Ben-Hur was a huge success, being nominated for 12 Academy Awards and winning 11, and becoming the second-highest grossing film of all-time (Gone with the Wind is number 1).

If you remember seeing the movie you may enjoy this comprehensive article. (Be patient - it's a large .pdf file and will take some time to download.)

Memories of Gilroy’s Navy
Ian Gilchrist
In my second year at Morgan I joined the CCF which at that time only had an Army section. A year or two later Ian Gilroy, who had been in the Royal Navy, formed a naval section and I became one of the founder members, eventually reaching the dizzy height of Petty Officer in my 6th year. Many happy memories of hilarious episodes remain.

On one occasion a small section of Gilroy’s Navy took part in the Royal Tay Yacht Club Regatta, quite a prestigious event. We crewed a naval whaler commanded by a RN Reserve officer from HMS Unicorn, the headquarters of the local RNVR. We were competing in a race with similar boats and were tacking around awaiting the signal to cross the starting line. The gun fired and off we went at a good speed. After several hundred yards we seemed to be well ahead of our rivals, until we realised that we were sailing clockwise round the course and all the other boats were anti clockwise! Our officer had not read signal flags correctly. As we blundered along we got in the way of a flying fifteen boat competing in another race. This boat was owned by the Duke of Edinburgh with his sailing master Uffa Fox at the helm. We did not win our event or many friends.

On another occasion we manned a larger boat, a cutter to convey a platoon of the Army Section to invade Buddon Beach. We travelled under sail and enjoyed the experience but the best was to come.

Ernie Landsman, quite a tall man, was Officer in Charge of the invasion force with the main Army Section defending the beach as the enemy. Our cutter lowered the sails and gently grounded on the sand in what Ernie thought was about two or three feet of water. Ernie led his troops from the front so left the bow of the boat first. Unfortunately naebody had tellt Ernie that the cutter had a drop keel extending its draught by another two feet. Even Ernie was nearly up to his neck in the sea and led a rather bedraggled force onto the beach. The Navy left them to their fate.

On one of our training weeks on board an aircraft carrier moored in the Solent off Portsmouth we experienced sleeping in hammocks and this was particularly awkward for Neil Shepherd who had a broken arm or collar bone. Try pulling yourself up from a beam and swinging into a hammock with that injury! Do any others from that trip remember the very fat cadet from Whitgift School trying to climb up the hawespipe through which the anchor cable is led? Unsurprisingly he got stuck and had to be rescued. Another memory was seeing HMS Vanguard berthed at Portsmouth with many vessels of the Home Fleet in the harbour.

In my exalted rank in sixth year I was in charge of a small section given the task of berthing HMS Britannia carrying the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to Dundee. I exaggerate; we were detailed to catch a heaving line, pull the mooring rope and loop it over a bollard. Very simple task. Just watch the matelot on the deck and as he throws it we catch it. Not so. No matelot visible! Suddenly, with this fair sized ship bearing down on us a heaving line flew through the air and we missed. Fortunately a second line was heaved and we succeeded. We were later told that only officers were allowed to be seen on deck as the Britannia carried Royalty so our lowly matelot was crouched invisibly behind the side of the ship.

If any fellow members of the Navy Section can add more memories I would be pleased to read them. Most of you will know that Ian Gilroy retired as Rector of Madras College and had quite a long retirement. I am grateful to him for the work he did with the CCF.

"What are the chances?"
Hugh McGrory
We’ve all experienced coincidence in our lives, times when we’ve said “what are the chances …”. Here's one I remember:

In the summer of 1958 I worked for William Briggs and Sons as the site engineer for the early stage construction of Tormore distillery on Speyside. At the time the client was Schenley Industries - Long John Distillers, now owned by the French company Pernod Ricard.
It was completed after I left for London, the first completely new distillery to be built in Scotland in the 20th Century. I did get a chance to visit it a few years ago – it has the reputation as being one of the most architecturally beautiful distilleries in the country. In 1958 I had digs a few miles along the road in Ballindalloch, in a small two-story house overlooking the Spey Valley and just a few hundred yards from Cragganmore distillery.

(As an aside, I had a private tour of Cragganmore, the highlight of which was being taken into the buckie
and invited to have a wee touch of the cratur.

My host reached into a cupboard under the sink and brought out a copper jug from which he poured a generous libation. I took a sip, and the whisky seemed to evaporate immediately in my mouth and for a moment I thought I was going to lose the top of my head. After he finshed laughing, he told me that it was cask strength, about 65% alcohol by volume - bottled whisky is usually in the 40 to 45% range - so I was drinking 115% proof versus the normal, say, 70%. He was kind enough to give me a splash of water in my second nip - taken, of course from the Achvochkie Burn, that runs through the site and supplies the water used to make the whisky. I don't remember my third nip...)

But back to my story - at my digs the next room to mine was occupied by an excise officer who was on duty at the distillery - by the way, the total population of Ballindalloch was probably around fifty people.

A few months later, November 26th, 1958 to be precise, I was living in London and went to Highbury to see Arsenal play a friendly against Juventus - the great John Charles played for Juventus that day, and scored their only goal - Arsenal won 3-1.

After the game I lined up with some fifty thousand other fans for the tube, and who was standing right next to me when I finally got on the train – you’ve guessed it - the exciseman.

“What are the chances?”

Primary Schooldays
on the South Coast

Richard Crighton
In 1943 our family - Dad, Mum, my brother John and I - moved to Lee-on-the-Solent on the south coast of Hampshire near Portsmouth. Dad was a Lieutenant Schoolmaster in the Fleet Air Arm based at HMS Daedalus (now the home of the Hovercraft Museum). John and I had a very happy three years there once we had overcome the initial shock of being away from our friends and neighbours in Dundee...

Initially we did feel like strangers in a foreign land. Being put in the middle of the front row of the Sunday school choir because we were wearing our kilts was somewhat awkward. On our first school day, as Mum, John and I were approaching the school gate a boy ran past us and asked, “Are we late?” Not having had time to adjust to the local dialect, I asked Mum, “Where’s the wee light?”

Dad had rented a house in Portsmouth Road on the outskirts of Lee-on-Solent. John and I would walk to and from school every day or if we were lucky, would be given a lift on a horse and cart driven by one of the Land Girls who lived next door.

One afternoon when we were almost home we heard the distinctive deep, rapid beating sound of a V1 flying bomb. We dashed into the house, past our startled mother and on to the mattress under our bed. The bed sat on blocks and this was our air-raid shelter. Mum came through to see what all the panic was about. It turned out that the “doodlebug” was a passing car with a burst exhaust!

In the days just prior to the D-day landings in 1944 there were tanks and lorries lined up nose to tail on the opposite side of Portsmouth Road from the houses. Mum took trays of lemonade and tea out to the soldiers. There were no houses on that side, just a disused railway track and a steep grassy bank down to an army camp and the shore of The Solent. From our bedrooms we could see so many landing craft and other vessels that it looked as if we could have used them as stepping stones across to the Isle of Wight.

When we woke up one morning everything had gone. What we didn’t know at the time was that that was the start of Operation Overlord.

 
You'll Never Take the Two of Us Alive, Coppers! - 2
Hugh McGrory
The Acrobats

The local bobby would, from time to time, take a little saunter in the back yards of Fairbairn St – to keep an eye out for burglars or other miscreants - or maybe just to have a fly smoke... Unfortunately, that meant that sometimes we would get swept up in his net …

Now this wasn't really a big problem, since we never got into any real law-breaking, just mischievous kid-stuff. The big issue for us was that our mothers might get involved - and that could be a real problem for us! (It was always our mother's who scared the hell out of us, never our fathers... In fairness, our fathers were gone for most of five years during the war, so it's not surprising.)

This particular day, my buddy Billy and I were playing in the back yard between #4, where Billy lived, and #6 - we must have been about 6 or 7 years old. Don’t remember what we were doing, maybe collecting bees in jam jars into which we put some honeysuckle (as we referred to it - I think it's actually white clover), and closed with a lid into which we’d punched some holes.

Billy spotted the local polisman at the far end of the backyards, and since he would probably be working his way towards our end, we decided to move. We could have gone through one of the closes, but Billy decided we should hop the fence into a neighbour’s front garden – that way the bobby wouldn’t see us. As you’ll see from the photo, this meant getting over the iron railings which were about 3’6” high.

This was something that we’d been forbidden to do by our mothers – probably along the lines of “If you
hurt yourself climbing on those railings I’ll kill ye …”

But then our mothers’d never find out, would they …

The big lads could just vault over, but our technique was more laborious and slower. We would put our hands on the top horizontal bar between adjacent vertical rounded spikes and hoist ourselves up to a straight-arm position. We would then put one foot on the bar, and adjust our position until we could get our other foot up as well.

We would then be balanced, precariously, in a crouched position with our feet a couple of spaces apart. Then all we had to do was spring up and out from the rail to land in the garden. (In those days it was actually grass and not paved as shown in the larger photo).

Billy, alongside me, was slightly faster, and pulled it off perfectly, looking like a rather chubby acrobat. I however, turned out to be better at the ‘up’ - not so good at the ’out’. I came down too close to the fence...

Did I mention that we were, of course at that age, still in short pants? One of the verticals slid up the back of my thigh and lodged in my pant leg, my downward trajectory came to a sudden, screeching halt (actually I was the one screeching...) and I was left dangling from the fence. My first thought was "At least my mother's not here to see this...".

I tried to push my self up again but didn’t have the strength. Billy tried to help by pushing me up – same problem - I continued to dangle in this ignominious position. We looked at each other – I’m sure I was thinking “Another fine mess you’ve got me into, Billy” - he on the other hand was just trying not to laugh...

There was a moment of silent contemplation as we examind the alternatives, then Billy said

“I’ll go get your mother …”

Ken's Story
Katherine Justice Brown
I’ve been happily married to a Morgan FP, Jim Brown, for over 40 years, but this is the story of my first husband, Ken Bell, also a Morgan FP. Both Jim and Ken are a few years younger than me, so not many of you will have known them.

The photo below shows Ken (3rd from left in front row) as a member of the Morgan Sea Cadets. His life-
long dream was to go to sea and he left Morgan at the end of third year to join the Merchant Navy with the Brocklebank Line, coming into Dundee frequently as they carried jute from India. I met him, believe it or not, at a Harris FP dance in the Chalet and we married in 1961.

He studied at Dundee Tech for all his ‘tickets’ and obtained his Master’s in 1966. By then we had two little girls and Ken decided, in order to spend more time with the family, to leave the Merchant Navy and join the RAF as a Flight Lieutenant in the Marine Branch. He was based at Bridlington and our quarters were at RAF Driffield. Ken was a talented officer, a loving husband and
father and we were a happy family until 29th September 1969.

The Rolls Royce pinnaces (or launches) used by the RAF Marine Branch were the most popular of all the
wooden boats and had a well-earned repu-tation for being stable at sea. In 25 years there had been no accidents involving them.

On the Sunday afternoon, after being in the Tay for two weeks exercising with heli- copters from RAF Leuchars, Pinnace 1386 from 1104 Marine Craft Unit was returning to its home base at Bridlington.

Ken was Skipper, having had to stand in for the usual Flt Lt Skipper of 1386 for some reason I can’t remember. Ken was normally the skipper of Pinnace 1387.

His crew consisted of two Sergeants, one the Cox’n, the other the Marine Fitter, 3 deckhands and 2 wireless operators. The boat had left Dundee after lunchtime and made good progress south through a heavy north easterly swell caused by a very strong wind the previous day which had meant delaying the return journey for a day. Ken decided to put into Amble Harbour, a popular halfway stop on this regular trip. The harbour is protected by two concrete jetties and as they approached heavy seas were breaking over the northern one.

Ken and the cox’n were in the wheelhouse, three of the deckhands who were in the foc’sle finishing their tea were given instructions to prepare the mooring lines for arrival at the jetty, Ashton, at 21 the youngest member of crew, was in the galley washing up and the two radio operators were in their tiny radio cabin below.

The swells were long and deep and before turning the launch to starboard to align it with the harbour entrance, Ken and the cox’n watched the waves closely in order to choose the right moment. They saw a huge wave heading towards them on the port side and waited for it to pass before making the turn. As expected the boat lifted with the wave but began to tilt alarmingly to starboard. Horrified they looked down into a sheer 20 feet chasm. The wave broke above them and the 62 ton pinnace rolled over, giving the crew no time to grab lifejackets.

The local coastguard had been watching from his hut on the foreshore and had a maroon in his hand just in case. When he saw the boat toppling, he immediately fired the maroon and called for a helicopter from RAF Acklington nearby. His log entry was timed at 18:30 hours. Inside the harbour lifeboatmen came running and while two launched the 16ft. inshore rescue boat (IRB), others ran to the lifeboat ‘Millie Walton’ and sailed at 18:39 hours, 5 minutes behind the IRB.

Also several seine net fishing boats and a coble headed out from the harbour. Within minutes 3 survivors were picked up from the heavy seas, the Cox’n who was struggling to stay afloat in the swelling sea, by the helicopter, and two deckhands who were clinging to the side of the now upturned hull, by the IRB. Moore, the Marine Fitter, had managed to clamber on to the hull after helping these men escape.

Rescuers were told there were four other men in the launch when it capsized, the Skipper, the two radio
operators who had no chance of escape, and Ashton, who was unable to swim and had refused to leave the upturned hull by swimming out from under it as the others had done. The helicopter continued to search for some time for Ken but he had been swept away by the violent breaking waves and, as was discovered later, had sustained a bad head injury. Moore could hear tapping coming from inside the hull – it was Ashton who by this time was pressed into the V-bottom of the pinnace, his legs round one of the struts, in total darkness and with about 4” of an air gap left.

It was now after 8:00 p.m. and almost dark. By the light of car headlights and floodlights fixed by the
emergency services, the crowd who had gathered at the harbour watched as the wreck was driven on to the rocky shore. Tapping could still be heard. At 9:30 p.m. a naval diving team from Rosyth arrived and the frogmen decided to try and reach the hull from the foreshore. At 11:15 p.m. almost 5 hours after the boat overturned, the frogmen succeeded in climbing on to the hull, hacking into it and pulling Ashton out. He had been lapsing in and out of consciousness but had managed to keep tapping with his cigarette lighter when he could. He was exhausted and sore but otherwise in good shape - a very lucky man.

During the night the ill-fated pinnace was pounded to pieces on the rocks. All that remained the following morning was its wrecked engines, the keel and piles of wood.

The bodies of Ken and the two radio operators were washed up on the rocks the next morning. Thankfully I was able to come home to Dundee to my family, my friends and my faith which all sustained me through a very difficult period of my life.

The pinnace's bell was rescued from the rocks, and Fiona, my daughter, traced it to the RAF Museum in Stafford. We visited there last summer and were able to touch the bell. It had been cleaned, polished and suitably engraved and mounted.


As a result of the accident several RNLI members received awards.  See Amble Lifeboat - History here. The helicopter winchman, Sgt Alan Jones received a Queen’s Commendation , and Sgt Bob Moore, who risked his own life helping to save the other crew members before himself, was awarded the British Empire Medal for gallantry.  See Citations here - 5902/03.

I am indebted to Hugh McGrory for carrying out much research into the disaster and for finding out many details that I was never told by the RAF at the time or since, mainly as Alison, Fiona and I were at home in Dundee within two days of the accident.

Ken Bell, b.1938-d.1969

It's what Happened after the Pictures...
Hugh McGrory
I almost never went to the pictures alone while growing up. First, when young, it was with my dad. I remember Snow White - the witch scared me; Bambi - being sad when his mummy was killed; Pinocchio - enjoying his escapades; and, Disney's masterpiece, Fantasia - which monumentally bored me.

Later it was with other kids from the neighbourhood which then changed - for some reason - to just me and a girl... When I look back 60 years or so I have to say that some of the happiest hours of my life were spent in the back rows of the Royal, The Odeon or the Green's Playhouse with my arm round my girl...

The Regent
Once, one evening in my early-to-mid teens, I did go to the Regent on my own - it was just a ten minute walk from home. There were very few people in attendance and when I came out I stopped to look at the coming attractions boards. I’m sure you all remember those.

There wasn’t a soul on Main St as I studied the photographs and then I heard a voice behind me.

“Excuse me, son – could you give me a hand? My car won’t start and I need a push”. Without thinking much about it I said “OK.”

I looked for the car but couldn’t see it. He was walking straight across the road towards a group of lock-up garages (come to think of it, just where this photograph was taken from). I followed him – he was about 20 feet ahead of me, and as we left Main St and entered the lock-up area, he disappeared!

Well not really, it was just that the area had no light, and coming from the street-lit Main St, it was pitch black – I couldn’t see a thing – neither him nor a car. It was at that point that I thought “This isn’t the smartest thing you’ve ever done, McGrory”.

There was still no one else around and I considered turning tail and getting out of there, but then I heard him say “Over here”, and as my eyes adjusted I saw him standing beside a car. He said “If you go to the back, I’ll push from the driver’s door and jump in when we get to the hill” – and I did, and he did … He let in the clutch, the car jerked and the engine fired, he braked, rolled down the window, handed me a couple of bob, and took off.

So in truth, the whole incident didn’t amount to a hill of beans - but if I were a young teenager today I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even consider it.

I suspect the man, were it today, would think twice about even asking - which is rather sad …

Memories of Morgan
Mid 1940s

Gordon Findlay
Gordon Findlay attended Morgan from 1937 through until 1950. He played for the rugby 1st XV. He emigrated to Canada in 1955, where he worked in publishing and communications. He retired in 1995 and lives in Toronto.

I was not a particularly bright student. Adequate would be the word. Strong in English, geography and art. Deplorable in mathematics and its close relatives: algebra, geometry and trigonometry.. Being the youngest of three Findlay brothers who all attended Morgan, I had to follow the trail blazed by my brothers, and David. in particular had been a star in these subjects: a fact that was brought to my attention frequently and forcefully by Bob Peden, head of Mathematics.

It didn’t take Bob Peden long to discover that the last in line of Findlays was not cast in the same mould as my brothers. It became obvious rather quickly. For that reason, on occasion and for light sport, Peden would liven up his class during a heavy session by casting around the class and settling on me, sweating heavily at my desk. “Let’s see if Findlay has the answer to this problem, shall we?” he’d say, and the class would relax in anticipation of the fun to follow. I’d rise slowly to my feet and mumble some pathetic nonsense until Bob tired of my ineptness and barked: “Oh, sit down, Findlay. You don’t have any idea, do you?” And I didn’t.

Fortunately, I loved English and for whatever reason I enjoyed the whole process of learning new words and phrases and putting them together. It was also my great good fortune to come into contact with one of the finest teachers I was to meet during my years at Morgan: John Cooper, head of the English Department. It was he who kindled my lifelong love affair with the language. He was a tall, rangy man who seemed to swoop down the school corridors with his black gown swirling behind him like a pair of wings.

I can still remember his signature motto which he repeated often: “Think for yourself. Don’t just say or do what everyone around you says or does. If you do, you’ll be just like everyone else. Is that what you want? Be yourself.” In that vein and unusual for those times, Cooper set aside a few minutes at the end of most periods for an open question-and-answer session. We could ask him anything at all about the topics in the class just ending - or about anything else we were curious about, puzzled at, or angry at. I can remember we asked some obvious questions. Did he like rugby? Football? Did he have a favourite team? “Where did you grow up, sir?” Did you have brothers or sisters, sir? Will you become Headmaster some day, sir?” He patiently and good naturedly answered them all.

One day this session got round to the topic that surrounded us at that time: the war. Someone mentioned that his sister had joined the Wrens or WRNS, the Women’s Royal Naval Service, and this pupil thought she really wanted to join a warship and get into action. Cooper nodded, then added quietly: “That’s good, since many of them seem to think they’re only there to service the men.”

His words dropped on us like a bombshell. We all looked at each other. Did Cooper mean what we thought he meant? Immediately, some brave soul in our class asked: “You mean . . . like sex . . .sir?” John Cooper realized he was treading deep water, so he quickly said: “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean - and this subject is closed!” Our grasp of sexual matters was almost non-existent, but we knew we had broached a touchy subject and that John Cooper had strong views on it. The topic was never raised again.

Charles “Chickie” Elder was another personal favourite, perhaps because I was reasonably competent in French. His classes always proceeded at a smooth and languid pace: a reflection of his personality. He was the only teacher I ever saw who managed to strap someone in the most desultory and laid-back way possible. I have forgotten what this transgressor did, but the matter came to a head swiftly, and corporal punishment was the inevitable outcome.

Elder was sitting at his desk at the front of the room, his seat tilted back for comfort, with one foot casually planted halfway up his desk. He sighed gently, then called the transgressor up to the front. Still in his comfy seated position and without removing his leg from the desk he opened the drawer, extracted the strap, quietly gave the order: “Hold out your hand” and administered two solid whacks before tossing the leather back in its place. “Back to your seat,” he said in the same even tone - and the class smoothly returned to work. Definitely a pro at work.

D.B. “Cheesie” Stewart was a familiar figure to me since he was not only a teacher but a neighbour living three houses down from our own on Shamrock Street. My parents were very fond of this brilliant and gentle man, but as a pupil, I dreaded the prospect of having to walk to school with him should we emerge from our homes at the same time. Think of what my pals would say! So, I would always carefully slip over to the other side of the street on my daily walk to Morgan and hurry past “Cheesie’s” to avert that possibility.

One Saturday afternoon however, as I was walking past, he was working in his front garden and asked if I had ever seen his weapons collection. Intrigued, I said I had not, and two minutes later I was getting a conducted tour of the inside of D.B. Stewart’s home, which turned out to be packed with the curios and mementos of his travels around the world. Exotic native head-dresses and masks.; beautiful hand-crafted pottery; blow pipes and darts; red-dyed robes and loin cloths; shrunken heads; shark teeth - and one wall was covered with a mass of gleaming spears, assegais from the Bantu in southern Africa, bone-handled daggers and curved stabbing knives. Beside me was “Cheesie”, quietly telling me the story of each artifact and where he had unearthed it. For over an hour I was totally spellbound and I became aware of the other life that this quiet and scholarly man had lived down the years.

I didn’t have Ernie Landsman as a teacher, but I got to know him as the coach of Morgan’s rugby 1st XV. I managed to get my cap in the 1949 – 1950 season (my final year at Morgan) and we managed to put a strong team on the field, thanks in large part to our captain, Jake Anderson, a wonderfully talented stand-off with one of the most deceptive sidesteps I have ever seen. Coach Landsman was a quiet but forceful presence whose emphasis was on positional play and backing up the man with the ball. Still remember his mantra: “The man with the ball should always be able to look over his shoulder and find a team-mate to pass to. Always!”

Ernie was laid back before being laid back became an integral part of “coolness” in today’s world. Few things - even an unexpected defeat at the hands of a lower-ranked team - disturbed his calm and stoic manner. Which brings to mind a memory. I emigrated to Canada in the summer of 1955 following two years of military service in the Middle East, married in 1959, and decided in that year to take my new Canadian bride back to Scotland to show her where her husband had grown up. One day during that summer visit, I was walking up Forfar Road (now known as A929) when I saw a familiar figure walking towards me - Ernie Landsman.

Now, consider that it has been nine years since we laid eyes on each other. But as we stop and greet each other, it’s as if he’s just seen me at rugby practice yesterday. Ernie nods and says: “Hullo, Gordon. Where are you off to, then?” We chatted for a few minutes, and I managed to slip in the fact that I was now living in Canada, was married, and was back visiting my parents. Ernie nodded nonchalantly and as we parted, said: “See you soon, Gordon. Bye.” Mr. Cool - before cool was invented.

A Date to Remember...
Hugh McGrory
I've heard that many people remember when and where they first heard the tragic news of JFK's assassination. I'm not one of them, perhaps you are - but I wonder how many of you remember the significance of the date Aug 9th, 1974? I remember it for two reasons:

On the morning of that Friday I was sitting in an auditorium at the Georgia Tech in Atlanta. There were some 200 of us in the audience, and the occasion was a meeting of the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers). The subject matter was, as always for me in those days, ‘engineering and computers’, and several papers were being given that morning, the session running from 9:00 a.m. until noon.

Reason #1

The significance of the ‘noon’ was that, not only did it mark the end of our session, but also the end of the presidency of Richard Nixon, who, after two years of desperate efforts to put the Watergate scandal to rest had reached the end of the road, and had announced his resignation, the evening before, to take effect at noon on Friday. This was, of course, the overwhelming subject of interest that morning.

Towards the end of the morning I was in that pleasantly relaxed state that we’ve all experienced - when you’re mostly listening to the speaker, but sometimes drifting away for a few moments now and then. The last paper, on in a few minutes, was a progress report on a large study for the NSF (National Science Foundation) examining the feasibility of a US National Centre for Computers in Engineering.

Reason #2

I was the lead on this study but I wasn’t presenting - we had a hired project manager, a Professor from the University of Maryland, and he was sitting right behind me, prepared to give the report. Then …
An arm comes over my shoulder and shatters my relaxed state. The hand holds a file folder, and as I automatically take it, the Prof’s voice says “Hugh – I’m ill – I have to leave – give my presentation for me.” I said “WHAT???!!!!” but he was already bolting for the door.

So I had to get up on the stage a couple of minutes later and speak for the next 40 mins or so …

Just as my presentation ended, at noon, and we headed for the exit from the auditorium and lunch, so did Richard Nixon's presidency.

A few minutes before, he and his family had boarded the helicopter on the lawn of the White House. He had given that iconic, inapproriate, victory salute that we all remember, and flown into history.

Rugby Trip with a Difference
John Russell
At the Morgan I originally preferred football during the season but when our class had 'Cheesie' as our
teacher, he persuaded us to play rugby. Like others, I made an effort - if only to keep in his 'good books'. As one of the shortest in the class, I was steered towards the scrum-half position, so my main objective was to pass on the ball fast to avoid being mauled by opposing players.

Anyway, I recall playing in our team against Perth High School and for the return train trip some of us chipped in to buy a packet of cheap fags at the station - if I'm not mistaken a strong Turkish brand called Pasha - and with the blinds closed in our carriage compartment to avoid detection we all lit up. Thankfully, the sickening smell and taste put me off smoking for life.

Some time later, a match was arranged in Edinburgh against the strong George Heriot's School team. (In fact - and thanks to the internet - I found it was on 5th February, 1949). We travelled in trepidation, but on reaching the venue, we found that the ground was hard with frost and after a long wait, the game was called off! What a relief all round for our players, and no other date was chosen for the match so we avoided what was obviously going to be a heavy defeat.

After lunch, the trip included an excursion to Murrayfield to see Scotland playing against Wales, but the weather was again a factor. Although the pitch did not yet have underground heating, we were told that frost was not a problem. However, a thick fog had descended on the stadium area, and from our places high in the terracing, all we could see were the tops of the goalposts.

We could hear the fervent singing of the obscured Welsh fans countered by some from the home ones, creating an eerie atmosphere, and there was an air of expectation amongst the would-be spectators who were keen to get their money's worth. With everyone aware of the proximity of the kick-off time, the outcome seemed increasingly bleak but, lo and behold, without about five minutes left, the fog miraculously cleared up and the game went on, albeit a little behind schedule.

The icing on the cake was a win for the Scots by the closest of margins - six points to five, so for us Morganites it was a great trip to the capital! I wonder if anyone else who was a member of our team remembers that day.
Addendum

I dug out a photo taken towards the end of the school dance in 1953, shortly before I left to go abroad with part of my family.

I have no idea who took the picture, but it features the unmistakable Bobby Barnett in the foreground with myself, plus Billy Duncan, Colin Smith(?) and another who all commandeered a milk cart for some high jinks in a corridor.

No 'Beak' hiding round the corner fortunately.


You'll Never Take the Two of Us Alive, Coppers!
Hugh McGrory
The Arsonists

I was born in the bedroom of the right-hand-low-doon-door, #2 Fairbairn St - Gussie Park, where the carnival used to come every year, was on the other side of the street, and ‘my’ primary school, Dens Road at the far end.

One of my best pre-teen buddies was a kid called Billy, of whom my Gran said “Ther’s nae herm in the laddie, he’s jist a bit hallockit …” and he was – almost put my eye out with a large stone which he threw at me, in the dark, to miss me he claimed, “jist t’ gie ye a fleg” – we had a love/hate relationship Billy and I!

We had a lot of fun, though, got up to some mischief together, and from time to time ran afoul of the local flatfooot...

One evening after dark, we were probably about eight years old, we were still haikin' around before being
called in for bed and were across the street in the grounds of the Nursery School. They were having some repairs done and there was a pile of bricks in the corner of the yard.

We were clambering around on these bricks when Billy pulls sixpence out of his pocket for some reason, and, being Billy, drops it – of course the coin pachinkoed it’s way to some remote corner of the pile.

This was a disaster at that age, so we began to look for it – it was dark, there being no street lights then on that side of the street - and obviously we two weren’t that bright either …

I knew that there was a woman who lived in the close across from us, #10 I think, who was a friend of my mother – don’t remember her name now but she was very nice. We went over and knocked on her door and asked if we could borrow matches – she, rightly, wasn’t very keen, but our whining wore her down and she gave us a box.

We went back and continued our search, determined to find the coin or burn the tips of our fingers off whichever came first. Then we heard the voice and instantly realised that it was our nemesis the local bobby.

He asked us if we were trying to start a fire. Fancying myself, even at that age, as a bit of a comedian, I said “Yeah – we’re trying to burn this pile of bricks.” I think he caught the sarcasm, ‘cause he wasn’t too pleased...

He dragged us over to the woman who’d been so kind to us and gave her a talking to, then he told us to get home and said he’d be coming to see our parents later. They always said this and never did, so we weren’t too worried – well maybe just a bit …

We went back the next day but we never did find that sixpence. Hey, maybe it's still there...

Wartime School Days
Richard Young
Most of us who were children during World War II have some memories of that time - here are some of mine...

There were no street lights, since the authorities imposed a total blackout to make things as difficult as possible for enemy planes to identify targets. Before you could put any lights on in the house you had to make sure that the windows were properly sealed so that no light escaped. We had large wooden frames covered with black paper and my father put these up every night.

Members of the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions Wardens) patrolled the streets and would knock on your door if your windows were showing even a crack of light. The wardens were usually ex-servicemen, too old too serve in the forces. They did this in their spare time as most of them had daytime jobs.

My father was in the Home Guard, a volunteer force set up in May 1940 to back up the army in case of invasion. The Home Guard manned anti-aircraft guns, liaised with police and fire-fighters, cleared rubble, guarded damaged banks, pubs and shops, assisted in rescue work and generally made themselves useful in crisis situations.

The force was disbanded in December, 1944 - at its peak it numbered almost 1.8 million men - 1,206 of its men had either been killed on duty or died from wounds, and 557 more sustained serious injuries.

There were also a number of reserved occupations - people with particular skills or knowledge who were deemed to be needed on the home front. Under what was called directed labour provisions, they were sent to work in various parts of the country. My wife's father, for example, younger than my dad and a coal miner, worked in the mines throughout the war.

Everybody had an identity card during the war, and ration books. Everyone had to register with local shops, the grocer, butcher etc. and when you used those shops, they would tear out the appropriate coupons from your books.

In those days, there were no supermarkets, so our mothers had to visit the various stores in turn, sometimes standing in long lines if rumours had spread that a particular store had just received a delivery of some scarce commodity. There was very little choice in the shops, and quantities were limited - I never saw a banana until the war was over... There were dried eggs and powdered milk - which didn't taste like the real thing. Many people grew their own vegetables, and some kept chickens in the back yard which supplied eggs - and were later themselves eaten.

Goods such as clothes and furniture were in limited supply, of rather standard designs, and all labelled 'Utility' so nobody knew who made the items or where they were made.


Rationing went on until well after the war ended in 1945 - in the years following, various items were taken off the list, but it wasn't until 1954, that meat and all other products were finally derationed. During the war, sweets were in short supply, and although some ice cream could be found, it didn't taste very good - and 'treats' like carrot lollies didn't make a good substitute. I was 15 or 16 before sweets were derationed, and I can remember us all rushing to the sweetie shop during our lunch hour.

Strangely, although rationing was very hard on our parents and other adults, it didn't really have a big negative effect on me or my friends - many of the things that were in short supply we, being so young, never really appreciated in the first place - and we didn't feel that we were being starved either.

The following researched material will help to explain this:

As the Second World War loomed, the government was acutely aware of the German strategy in the First World War - to starve our island nation into defeat by setting up a naval blockade using surface ships, and especially submarines. In 1939, the United Kingdom imported 70% of its food, 20 million tons per year, including more than 50% of its meat, 70% of its cheese and sugar, nearly 80% of fruits and about 70% of cereals and fats.

For government ministers, the worst possible situation would be a total blockade, and perhaps the need to apply rationing by saying, for example, "You will have full rations because of your value to the war effort, but they are old and will only get half rations!"

They needed the answer to the question "Can the British population survive, be healthy and able to work, if Britain was totally cut off from food imports, or would starvation hand victory to Germany?"

They turned to two Cambridge University physiologists, Robert McCance and Elsie Widdowson, seen here with one of their students, and they decided to experiment on themselves. Armed with bicycles and walking boots, and accompanied by four students and McCance's mother-in-law they set off for the Lake District. They would pretend that a German shipping blockade had cut all imports and they had to eat only British food. Everyone would get equal shares of the available produce.

Their science indicated that bread, cabbage and potatoes
contained all the nutrients for healthy survival and they set out to test this over a three month period by living on a diet of little else; while they ate mainly those three foods, they also allowed themselves, one egg a week each; a quarter of a pint of milk a day; a pound of meat and 4oz of fish per week. To test their fitness following this bleak regime, they went on a rigorous course of cycling and mountain climbing.

Their final report to the government was a vindication of their theory – not only would the population be able to survive on this diet, but people would be healthy and fit and well able to work and contribute to the war effort.

The Law of Unintended Consequences came into play in two issues which they noted in their final report:

Meals took a long time to eat. Wholemeal bread without butter took ages to chew. The sheer quantity of potato needed to make up calories also took time to eat. All the fibre in the diet caused them to have more bowel movements, and their poo was 250% larger - they measured it...

The second issue was that eating all that starch caused them to fart more – the consequences could be, in Widdowson and McCance's own words in their report to Cabinet, "remarkable".

This study, which the Cabinet kept secret until after the war, was the basis for the rationing schemes. In the event, their diet proved to be more draconian than required - pigs, chickens and rabbits were reared domestically for meat, whilst vegetables were grown anywhere that could be cultivated – and convoys from America and Canada were able to run the U-boat blockade and flesh out British food supplies.

One further example of unintended consequences that benefited our generation - people's health, particularly children’s, improved as a result of this imposed diet, limited, but nutritionally-balanced with little sugar and fat, and deaths from disease and other natural causes were reduced.

Indeed, a recent study by the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian has found that children who grew up during the Second World War were far more intelligent than those who were born just 15 years before.

Travel Travails
Hugh McGrory
Get on a plane in Toronto and get off around six-and-a-half to seven hours later in the UK – seems pretty straightforward …

So howcum, on this journey, I've managed to pass through the airports of the following cities over the years, in various combinations:

Detroit, Chicago, Montreal, Newark, New York; and Amsterdam, Belfast, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Glasgow, London, Manchester, and Paris. Layovers of four hours or so seem quite popular with the airlines – most often in Amsterdam, but in Frankfurt, Chicago and New York too.

Most of these trips are mind- and bum-numbingly boring, but sometimes the airlines throw me a few curves … For example :

January 2013

Good news – I was heading for Durham Tees Valley Airport via Amsterdam to visit my brother in N. Yorkshire. The weather was good, I got to the airport early and Delta boarded the plane to Detroit on time, just after 3:00 pm for the scheduled 3:30 take off.

Bad news – We actually took off at just after 8:00 pm! We sat on the tarmac for 4½ bloody hours. (The flight controllers’ computer system crashed and they couldn’t find our flight plan – not to mention those of dozens of other planes. When we finally took off, we were in the middle of a line I estimated at around 28 aircraft taking off at about 90 second intervals.)

Good news – Lots of the other passengers were calling Delta to see about their connections – some got them, then had to try to change them again as hour followed hour – I just relaxed figuring that Delta and the other airlines would have to come up with new itineraries/connections for everyone – and they did.

Bad news – In Detroit they said we had to go to a specific location to see how they were to going to re-schedule us – it turned out to be at the other end of a very linear concourse.

Good news – When I got there they had my name and said "No problem – you’re scheduled on an Air France that’s boarding now andyoubettergethe