Stories from schoolmates who attended Morgan Academy, Dundee, Scotland (Secondary) 1948-55 – tales from school,
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 may want to start at the bottom, since a few of the more recent tales refer to earlier ones.
2. A reminder to rest your cursor over photographs – it may show a title. If the cursor changes to a hand it's inviting you to click for further information.

We now have 489 anecdotes from 34 contributors.
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies
(1894 – 1978)
Brian Macdonald
Sir Robert Gordon Menzies KT (Knight of the Order of the Thistle(1)), AK (Knight of the Order of Australia), CH (Companion of the Order of the Companions of Honour, a British order of the Commonwealth realms), QC (Queen’s Counsel), FAA (Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science), FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) was the founder of the Australian Liberal Party, the dominant right-wing federal political party.

The two previous Scots ‘Fathers’ of some major aspect of the development of my adopted country,
Australia, were military men of the late 18th and early 19th century. The third of the trio, Robert Gordon Menzies, although born in the 19th century, is a twentieth century man and fought his battles in the courtroom and in the Australian federal parliament.

‘Bob’ Menzies was born in the tiny town of Jeparit(2) in the western part of Victoria, since January 1st, 1901, an autonomous state of Australia but in 1894, prior to federation, when he saw the light, a separate colony of Britain. This agricultural region is known as the Wimmera, after a major river, and the town of Jeparit, where he was born, 370 km west of the Victorian state capital, Melbourne, was an agricultural settlement of under one hundred people at the time of his birth. His parents, with two sons and a daughter, had moved there from the gracious, Victorian gold-mining boom town of Ballarat, a year earlier, to run the general store, a change for
his father from working in a Ballarat foundry, building locomotives and, later, with his own tractor-painting business. Robert was born in a back room of the family’s accommodation at the rear of the store. A further son was born after Robert, making the family one of four sons and a daughter.

Menzies’ Scottishness is less close than that of Macarthur or MacQuarie, yet its flame burned as brightly in him as in either of them. His maternal grandparents were both Cornish. His paternal grandfather, Robert Menzies, came from Renfrewshire in Scotland. Those three ancestors had come to Australia separately, lured by the 19th century Victorian gold-rush. That Robert Menzies met and married, in Australia, Elizabeth Band, daughter of a cobbler from Fife in Scotland. There is no further family connection with Scotland. While his middle name, Gordon, is a recognised Scottish boy’s name, in his case it was bestowed as homage to General Gordon, ‘The Hero of Khartoum,’ an English general with no Scottish connections.

Jeparit had a one-teacher primary school, which the young Robert Menzies attended from 1899. He later attended the Methodist Grenville School in Ballarat on a scholarship. following in his older siblings’ footsteps and living with a grandmother. While his primary education records nothing significant, Menzies sailed through his final secondary education at the prestigious Wesley College in the state capital, Melbourne, collecting awards and lucrative scholarships that paid for his secondary and tertiary education. He graduated as a Bachelor of Law from the University of Melbourne(3) in 1916 and was called to the state of Victoria’s bar two years later. He quickly established a reputation for his skill as a barrister and as an authority on constitutional law.

While he was growing up, an uncle and his father both became members of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, and another uncle was elected to the federal House of Representatives. Menzies’ grandfather was president of a trade union. With such a background it is not surprising that Robert Gordon Menzies sought and won a seat in the Victorian Legislative Council (the upper house) in 1928, and, a year later, stood for and won a government-party seat in the lower-house Legislative Assembly, having already established himself, over a ten-year period, as a leading Melbourne barrister specialising in constitutional matters. Clearly from the right wing of politics, he supported constitutional democracy, the rule of law, the sanctity of contracts and the value of society’s existing institutions. He was always suspicious of the left-of-centre Australian Labor Party and believed in the superiority of free enterprise. He quickly became a minister and, later, the deputy premier of the state.

In 1934 he won the seat of Kooyong(4) in the federal parliament, for the United Australia Party, a coalition of right-wing factions. Appointed Attorney-General of Australia, he retained that position until 1939, when he was elected leader of his party and thus appointed Prime Minister of Australia, on the sudden death of his predecessor, during the first year of World War II. It was during the early part of this, his first prime ministership, that the long-lasting alliance between what later became the Australian Liberal Party and the then Country Party(5) was forged.

His first period as PM saw the rise of Hitler in Germany and the outbreak of World War II. Menzies took Australia into the war as a staunch ally of Great Britain. His prime-ministerial tenure lasted until 1941, when, as is often the way with politicians in parliamentary democracies, having had a difficult time, he lost the confidence of his own party and was forced to resign its leadership and the prime ministership.

The Australian Labor Party became the governing party until after the war ended in 1945 and Menzies remained an opposition back-bencher until 1946, when he assumed the leadership of the Australian Liberal Party(6) , of which he had been a prominent founder.

At the 1949 federal election, Menzies and the Liberals won back power, replacing Labor and the railway engine-driver turned politician, Ben Chifley. This was the start of the Liberal-Country Party alliance which governed Australia for the next twenty-two years. Robert Menzies remained PM until 1966. These early years of post WWII Liberal-Country Party rule set the scene for the federal political dominance that has extended until the 21st century with infrequent periods of Labor government. It was a time of post-war prosperity and affluence and mostly peaceful although, adhering steadfastly to his loyalty to Britain, Menzies took Australia into both the Korean and Vietnam wars in support of the UK. Menzies was not universally admired and an official portrait of him in Parliament House in the then not long-established federal capital of Australia, Canberra, was badly slashed in 1954, occasioning the need for a replacement to be painted.


(1) The purple blossom of the spiky thistle is the national flower of Scotland. It has been said that it symbolises the Scots character, attractive but spiky and needing to be handled carefully.

(2) At the 2016 Australian census, Jeparit recorded a population of 342. This was down from the 394 of the 2011 census, a sadly common trend in small rural Australian towns in the 21st C.

(3) The sandstone University of Melbourne was founded in 1853, a mere 65 years after the first fleet of convicts from England landed in 1788. The second oldest in Australia, it was Melbourne’s only university when Menzies studied there. Now, it is Melbourne’s most prestigious university and considered by many to be Australia’s finest.

(4) Kooyong, as well as being (until the federal election of 2022) a blue-ribbon conservative Australian federal electorate, is an upper-middle class, older suburb of Melbourne, part of the then city of Kew.

(5) As the name suggests, the Country Party represented mainly rural electorates, huge in territory but sparsely populated. Australia’s economy was primarily based on agriculture and mining during most of the 20th century and the needs and wishes of residents of rural properties and small country towns were quite different to those of city-dwellers. By far the largest part of Australia’s population lives in cities around the south and east coasts of the island continent. Sydney and Melbourne each have a population of five and a half million.

(6) The Australian Liberal Party began as a moderate right-wing party to replace the old United Australia Party. In a coalition with the smaller, rural-based Country Party – now the National Party – which continues to this day, it has been the dominant force in Australian federal politics since its foundation in 1944.

Hugh McGrory
When I was a schoolboy growing up in Dundee, Scotland, my mother would sometimes ask what I’d like for our evening meal (we called it tea – usually around 6:00 pm). My standard answer would be ‘chip and egg’ (two fried eggs with lots of french fries.)

These chips were deep fried and delicious – Mum had a chip pan, actually a pot, about 8 inches high containing, I think, lard. After a batch was cooked , the melted fat would be strained to remove the little crumbs of potato, then the pot would be put in the cupboard where the fat would solidify and be ready for the next time.

My dad died in his late 60s, and my mother lived on alone for another quarter of a century. During that time, she experienced two chip pan fires – which she neglected to mention to me or my brother, no doubt on the
principle of ‘what they don’t know won’t bother them’. Neither of us has any details of the incidents, though apparently the fires were contained, and no one was hurt. On one of the occasions the fire department attended, and some cupboards were damaged and had to be re-worked.

Chip pan fire is the term used to describe fires which share certain features: residential; kitchen; deep frying using oil or fat; pan left unattended… doesn’t necessarily mean that chips were involved, though in many cases they are – come home late after a night out, have an attack of the
munchies, put the chip pan on to heat up, sit down in the living room for a few minutes, dose off…

Such fires are a serious issue in most countries, and fire departments have published many ‘Dos and Don’ts’ on the subject. Here is one from the City of Manchester. There are many stories of death and devastation arising from such fires. Some examples:

“The victim of a horrific chip pan accident in Whitburn, West Lothian, ran across a street with skin hanging off his body and leaving a trail of bloody footprints, shocked neighbours said today. John Bage suffered severe burns to around a third of his body after the handle of his chip pan broke off, covering him from head to foot in blazing oil. He even suffered injuries to the inside of his throat as a result of inhaling fumes.”

“A chip pan left on a hot plate in 2015 was the most likely cause of a devastating fire that claimed ten lives at the Glenamuck halting site in Carrickmines, south Dublin. Investigators examined an electric cooker at the scene of the fire, and they found that a chip pan had been left on a hot plate on full power.

The traveller victims were Thomas Connors (27), his wife Sylvia (30) and their children Jim (5), Christy (3) and six-month-old Mary. Willie Lynch (25) and his partner Tara Gilbert (27) who was pregnant, and their daughters Jodie (9), and Kelsey (4), also died, along with Jimmy Lynch (39) a brother of Willie.”

“A beloved dad of five died in his Swadlincote hostel following a chip pan fire. The smoke alarms were not working, an inquest has heard. Peter Greenshields had been cooking chips in a chip pan after drinking "a large amount" of alcohol and the pan caught fire. Despite the fire going out on its own, Mr. Greenshields had already inhaled too much smoke which sadly led to his death.”

"A mistake cost a family man his life when he tackled a chip pan blaze with water. Retired railman John Frisken stood no chance when the flames flared up and engulfed him, an inquest heard. His death sparked a safety alert today with fire chiefs warning people not to try to put out chip pan fires, but simply get out of the house. Well-loved grandad Mr Frisken died from 80% burns on March 18 following the fire at the home he shared with his wife June, 63, in Addison Close, Heaton, Newcastle."

The effect of putting water on an a boiling oil fire has to be seen to be believed….

My mum had one earlier chip pan fire encounter… I was about 15 or 16 years old, it was ‘tea’ time, and she, my dad, and I were sitting in the living room. She was in the process of preparing the meal and got up to walk into the kitchen. As soon as she opened the door she screamed “Fire, Hugh!” (That was my dad she was calling to, not me…) He and I dashed after her to see the chip pan engulfed in flames, just like the photo above.

Dad took control. He told me to get out of the way, and my mother to open the back door. He bent down and picked up a carpet from the kitchen floor. Fortunately, it was a thin(ish) carpet, and this allowed him to wrap it around the pot to protect his hands and body as he lifted it from the stove top, and stepped through the back door with the flames shooting a couple of feet higher than his head.(Not recommended, but effective...)

We lived in the semi-detached home on Clement Park Road shown, on the left in the photo. The back
garden was the same level as the street at the front of the house, with, as you can see, three steps down to a path, then four steps down to the street/backyard level. The second set of steps were straight ahead from the back door, not off to the side as they are at the front.

Suddenly, disaster struck! Dad couldn’t see where he was placing his feet, for obvious reasons, and he tripped. As he pitched through the air, he threw the pot to one side and fell, head first, into a flower bed on the other side – it was quite spectacular…

Fortunately, his presence of mind (and Lady luck) saved the day. The fat burned itself out harmlessly, neither Mum nor I were harmed and there was very little damage to the kitchen. As to my dad, I’m sure he must have been bruised, and maybe singed a little, but he didn’t need medical attention.

I was very impressed at how Dad handled himself – I hate to think what might have happened if he hadn’t been there. I’m proud of him – he was small on the outside (only 5’3” in height) but big on the inside where it counts.

Sort of like the TARDIS…

Suez 3
Gordon Findlay
It began when a company runner came over to us at breakfast and told us, breathlessly, that we were all to report to our Intel room “at once!” Sgt. Krywald, Dagg, Howson, myself, and Bannerman all quickly gathered together to find Lieut. Thompson already there. He quickly and quietly told us that we were to prepare the 22 or so maps and overlays for our group of officers “immediately!”

We all set to, putting all the information we were aware of onto the acetate overlays above maps of the Canal Zone at the locations which had been assigned to 3rd Infantry Division – and to 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry.

When we emerged later in the morning, our whole camp had taken on a sudden air of urgency. There was an air of excitement rippling through everything. You could sense the difference, the feeling of purposefulness, as if we were all being caught up in something important and perhaps even dangerous. All at once the steady and predictable life of our camp had been tossed aside. The pace picked up and took on an urgency of its own.

A torrent of new equipment and supplies began to pour into our camp. A dozen new 3-ton trucks rolled in and were parked, ready to receive our H.L.I. decals. More trucks arrived and disgorged crates of new Bren light machine guns plus cases of new Bren magazines.

Then came extra Vickers’ heavy machine guns, new 3-inch mortars, a half-dozen tracked Bren gun carriers, a flock of new Jeeps, and case upon case of ammunition in its distinctive rope-handled wooden boxes.

Huge rolls of gleaming barbed wire piled up, with long piles of steel stakes which would support it. A stack of new truck tires grew, and so did spare tank tracks, jerry cans, groundsheets, camouflage nets, radio sets and batteries. The stuff just kept rolling into our camp area, truck after truck, and there was so much of it our small armoury had to start dumping the crates and boxes around the building, with guards posted beside it.

We were kept hard at work, preparing the overlays for all officers. Problem was, new information kept funneling in with updates about the Egyptian positions along the canal, the weaponry they had, the number of troops, changes to landing zones, and so forth. Our previous information had to be scrubbed off the transparent overlays and the new Intel inserted in its place.

It was very labour intensive and of course, we had the temperamental Sgt. Krywald breathing down our necks. And a day later it got more interesting still. Daily Orders came out, and the first order of business was contained in one dramatic line:

“All ranks will draw live ammunition.”

All the line companies (A, B, C, etc.) were first. They were followed by HQ Company, of which we were a part. We marched up to the armoury, and one by one filed past the orderly corporal who checked our name then handed each of us a cloth bandolier containing 200 rounds of .303 ammunition plus one coloured smoke grenade (mine was yellow).

Each of us was also handed a field duty first aid kit: a khaki-coloured package about the size of a pocketbook, containing compression bandage, gauze squares, burn ointment, sterilizing solution in a tube, and adhesive tape…

Dundee Worthies 2
Hugh McGrory
A worthy is someone who, for some reason, attracts attention. They fall into two categories, those who are eccentric/notorious, and those who have done something worthy of admiration. Brian MacDonald contributed an anecdote some time ago dealing with the first category. This story is about someone in the second group that I admired – George Kidd.

George was born in Hill Street, Dundee in 1925, and was educated at Clepington Primary and Stobswell Secondary School. He served in the navy during World War 2 and on retuning home, decided that he wanted a career in professional wrestling. This surprised many since he was only 5’6” tall and weighed just 9 ½ stones (133 lbs). Nevertheless, he was a determined man and records show that he appeared in the professional wrestling ring in Aberdeen in late 1945 and in Dundee’s Caird Hall on January 8th, 1946 (while he showed promise as a fast and clever wrestler, he was KO’d in the 3rd round…).

Realising that he had a lot to learn about wrestling, he spent the following year in Yorkshire, fighting, and learning both the technical and the business side, under the tutelage of Norman Morrell, a famous British Olympian wrestler. In addition to this, he began to develop his own unique style based on the principles of ju-jitsu and hatha yoga. The muscle-stretching exercises of yoga allowed him to develop the contortionist moves for which he was famous. He spent countless hours learning every wrestling move he could and how to counter them.

George’s timing was good. In the ‘30s and ‘40s professional wrestling had fallen into disrepute – it was full of gimmicks with large heavy men, often in fancy costumes, throwing each other from the ring, jumping from the ring posts on to each other, headlocks, pile drivers, and bloodshed. The time was ripe for something new - smaller, more agile, men who were more technically oriented. The term ‘technical chain mat work’ is used to describe it. The wrestlers spend much of their time on the mat using various technical moves to put their opponent into a hold, or to escape from one, and chaining these moves seamlessly together in extended sequences – a cat-and-mouse battle, waiting for an opportunity to pin the opponent.

He excelled in this type of wrestling. After two years as a professional he won the Scottish lightweight championship, when he knocked out Tony Lawrence at the Caird Hall, Dundee. In 1948 he defeated Jack Dempsey to win the British title, and in 1949, on 25th October, defeated Rudy Quartez for the World Lightweight Championship. At just 24 years of age George Kidd was a wrestling star.

Of course, what the fans wanted to see most of all was George bamboozle the villains of the ring. He was more than capable of obliging, as were the biggest names in the business who played the role of the luckless opponent – Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Adrian Street, even heavyweight Jumping Jim Hussey.

Mick McManus Jackie Pallo

Over more than 20 years, George successfully defend his championship title 49 times. In 1971 he defeated Adrian Street, and in 1972 Jim Breaks. He fought more than 1000 times, many of these in Dundee’s Caird Hall, and, in his last bout, 2nd March 1976, he defeated Steve Logan, announcing his retirement from professional wrestling as the undisputed, undefeated, World Lightweight Champion.

George early in his career George in his Final year of wrestling.

Wrestling fans fit into a scale – at one end, those who say that it’s all faked, and at the other, those who believe that the two men in the ring are trying to kill, or at least seriously injure each other. The truth is somewhere in the middle… Professional wrestlers are also professional entertainers. They have families to support, they need regular work, and understand that intentional injury is not part of the business. Bouts are usually ‘fixed’ to the extent that the winner is known before they enter the ring, and which round and, sometimes, which submission hold is specified.

Adrian Street Jumping Jack Hussey

But professional wrestlers are athletes, like circus performers or ballet dancers, or stuntmen in movies, risking their limbs and sometimes their lives, skilled men taking part in a risky performance, working with a level of co-operation to produce a contest that satisfies the fans. Bobby Boland, the Dundee boxer. and later wrestler (mentioned in last weeks anecdote) said, “All I can say is that in my years as a professional wrestler I picked up more injuries than I did in 12 years as a boxer.”

George Kidd’s longevity in the ring was due to his ability as an athlete and an entertainer, and to the respect he earned from the wrestlers he encountered in the ring, who worked with him to provide great entertainment for the spectators.

After retirement, George had a career in Scottish television as presenter of Wednesday People and The George Kidd Show and his engaging personality and quick wit led to viewers voting him Grampian Television Personality of the Year in 1965.

He also owned a series of pubs in Dundee including the Ellenbank, on Alexander St (where he once had worldwide boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson as a guest). After his wife died, George led a quiet life in a flat on Lawrence Street in Broughty Ferry, until his death, aged 72, in 1998.

To appreciate the man, you really needed to see him in action. Sadly, there seems to be few examples available. I did find two videos - Match against Black Jack Mulligan and George's final match...


I thought I had completed this story and was ready to post it when I stumbled on the following:

Kent Walton was asked a question (he is best remembered as the predominant commentator on ITV's coverage of British professional wrestling from 1955 to 1988).

The question was "Who is the greatest professional wrestler you ever saw perform?" Since he was employed by ITV, and not by the promoters who actually produced the wrestling shows, Walton was seen as an impartial voice with an ecyclopedic knowledge of professional wrestling.

He said, in response, that there was one revered master of escapology, dubbed "the Houdini of the Mat", who earned the most respect from his peers of that era. He was known for extracting chain wrestling elements, submission holds, and weaving them into highly intricate sequences. The result was an often-emulated, breathlessly entertaining art form in which the mat wrestling element of the match became the real focus of crowd fascination.

Walton said he considered this innovator to be a consummate professional and held him in higher regard than all the rest. Short in stature, but a genius in invention - his name was George Kidd.
George Giving Jim Breaks a Lesson...

Seconds Out in Dundee
Bill Kidd
Over the years sport has been an important part of my life, sometimes as a participant and others as a spectator. I have played football, both rugby and association and taken part in athletics, all without any notable success. I have spent much of my leisure time on court for badminton, squash, and tennis. I have dabbled in table tennis and basketball, and it was during a basketball session in Ward Road Gym that I found a casual interest in boxing. This came about because one of the basketball players was Peter Cain who was a professional boxer. You could search for a year without finding anyone less like the popular image a boxer. Peter was in his mid-twenties at that time, he was a modest, gentle, and charming individual and a gifted athlete. Over the few weeks that I attended the basketball sessions with him I learned quite a lot about the professional boxing scene that had come to the fore between the 1930s and the 1950s. Peter retired from boxing shortly after I met him but continued his interest in local sport as a trainer and coach.

Every Dundonian is aware of Dens and Tannadice Parks as football stadia but not as the venue for major boxing promotions, the last open air promotion taking place at Dens Park when Norman Tennant boxed Terry Allen in June 1949 in front of 16,000 spectators. The Caird Hall and Dundee Ice Rink also hosted championship boxing. Dundee’s own dedicated boxing arena, Premierland in William Lane was the scene of lesser events while the travelling Funfair held at Gussie Park usually featured a Boxing Booth where Pro Boxers would take on all comers. Many of the events were promoted by Dundee Bookmaker George Grant who went on to promote an open-air boxing world championship at Hampden Park in 1946 when 45,000 spectators watched Jackie Paterson defeat Joe Curran to become World Flyweight Champion.

The big names from Dundee in the 1930s through the 1950s were Jim Cowie, Jim Brady, Freddie and Norman Tennant, Bobby Boland, and Ken Shaw. However, the best remembered Dundee boxer was never a professional, I refer of course to Dick McTaggart, the 1956 Olympic Lightweight Gold Medallist from Melbourne. In addition to his gold medal, he also won the Val Baker Trophy for the most stylish boxer at the Games.

One of the most famous Scottish boxers was Glasgow’s Benny Lynch but very few are aware that in 1932 Dundee’s Freddie Tennant was one of the very few who defeated him on his home patch. Freddie Tennant became Scottish Fly Weight Champion on the same 1938 Dens Park spectacular that Jim Brady won the British Southern Area Bantam Weight title in front of 10,000 spectators. Jim Brady also featured in the bizarre wartime boxing open air show held in Tannadice Park on New Years Day 1941. Jim Brady defeated Kid Tanner of British Guiana to become British Empire Bantam Weight Champion. Although the event was a sell-out only 2,00 brave souls braved the blizzard conditions to watch the bout.

In the years immediately following WW2 Norman Tennant, Bobby Boland and Ken Shaw were the rising stars in Dundee’s boxing firmament. Appearing regularly at the Caird Hall and Dundee Ice Rink. Ken Shaw (a former Morgan Academy pupil) probably had the most successful career, holding the Scottish Heavyweight Championship for around six years while frequently challenging the top heavyweights for a shout at the UK title.

On retirement from boxing many left the bright lights for more mundane activities. Jim Brady ran a small newspaper cum tobacconist booth on the Lochee Road. Bobby Boland, at the end of his boxing career, and with some help from his friend George Kidd, the famous Dundee pro wrestler, got into the world of pro wrestling for several years. Thereafter he ran a newsagent shop on the Hawkhill before taking up taxi driving. Ken Shaw emigrated to New Zealand and continued his boxing career there for a few years.

Despite what must have been the hard life of a professional boxer and unlike many of today’s sporting heroes, none of them retired with a vast fortune. I only hope that they enjoyed the satisfaction of brightening up so many lives at a difficult time in our Nation’s history.

Lifeboat 3
Hugh McGrory
When researching my previous story on the Mona Lifeboat disaster, I learned that the craft was not ‘self-righting’ – meaning that if it capsized it would not automatically right itself. This caught my interest…

Why do boats not sink? Archimedes gets credit for explaining this:

Imagine you’re sitting in a rowboat on a perfectly calm lake. Part of the boat will be below water level and part above. Gravity, of course, is trying to pull the boat and you down but something is pushing up to prevent this - we call it buoyancy.

There’s an old joke about owning a boat, “a boat is a hole in the water that you fill up with money.” We can think of our rowboat as, indeed, creating a hole in the water. To make this hole the boat has to push some of the water aside (known as hull displacement). Archimedes experimented and found out that the weight of the water pushed aside is always exactly equal to the weight of you and the boat. So, as the water tries to flow back to fill the hole it exerts an upward force that just matches the weight - and the boat floats.

As you add more weight to the boat - passengers, fishing tackle, sandwiches, beer, the process continues - more water pushed aside adding an equal upward force and everything is fine – until you overload the boat, the water creeps over the side.

Bodies of water are never really perfectly calm and sometimes there are huge waves to contend with. If a boat is caught in a storm it may end up beam-on to the waves (parallel to the waves) and this can lead to a capsize – as is believed to be the case with the Mona.

From the mid 18th century people who wanted to be able to go to sea in bad weather in small boats – mostly smugglers as it happens - put a lot of time and energy into creating ‘unsinkable’ craft. They were quite successful using cork and air container inserts inside and high up below the bulwarks.

With the advent of lifeboats, a hundred years later, the search began for a self-righting capability, and again there was progress (mostly modifications of the approaches above), but not perfection.

Another method developed uses inflatable bags mounted high in the boat that automatically inflate, using CO2, when the boat is upside down. Such a ‘balloon’ has very little weight but presents a large surface area for the upward pressure of the water to work on.

The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) fleet of over 400 lifeboats has two main types of boat:

1) All-weather lifeboats (ALBs) which are capable of high speed and can be operated safely in all weather conditions.

2) Inshore lifeboats (ILBs) which usually operate closer to shore, in shallower water, near cliffs, rocks and even in caves.

The current Broughty Ferry lifeboats - the ALB following the ILB.
All are self-righting. The ILBs rely on the single-use, inflatable bag method actuated by the crew. The ALBs have a much more complete solution. In my musings I imagine some naval architect some sixty or more years ago saying, “so, to pull the boat upright, we need to put the heavy stuff, like the engines, as low as possible to pull the bottom of the boat down, and a big space high up in the boat that the water can’t get into, like a balloon, to pull the top of the boat up...” then “wait a minute, nowadays we have watertight door technology, unbreakable windows – we can make the whole wheelhouse into a bubble!”

(Note: The term wheelhouse means not only the place where the pilot sits, but includes all of the other parts of the superstructure including the space for the crew, for the people who are rescued, for the engines, for storage of gear etc.)

Of course, for daily operations they need ports to let outside air into the superstructure so that people, and the engines, can breathe, and these would have to automatically close on capsize, then re-open - the engines would have to change to idle, and the radar antenna would have to stop rotating, then start again. These and other issues were overcome, and the RNLI were able to decree that all of their ALBs would, in future (from 1980 forward), be able to self-right in no more than 10 seconds!

The change in design is starkly depicted when comparing the Mona to the current Broughty Ferry ALB below. If you're interested in seeing self-righting in action click here.

British National Service in the 1950s
Part Two
Brian Macdonald
The British army in the 1950s had a number of large establishments dotted around Britain. Local regiments had their own regimental barracks and did their own basic training, but the various services corps and general regiments drew from the main intake. I was a regular recruit, not a national serviceman but the initial stages of military life were the same. After St Andrews University and I mutually decided we should part at that stage of my life, I enlisted as a regular soldier, knowing that my call-up papers were not far off and being inclined to the military life. I already had five years of Morgan Academy army cadets and one of the university’s territorial army unit under my blancoed and brassoed belt.

I chose to join the Royal Corps of Signals and was sent, for basic training, with a group of fellow-recruits, mostly conscripts, to a 19th century barracks building of the Green Howards(1) light infantry regiment, on a hillside in the historic Yorkshire town of Richmond(2). At this initial stage, young men from all over UK and from different social strata were flung together and sometimes enduring friendships sprang from this time of their lives.

From the basic stage, I was selected as a potential officer and went on to a pre-officer cadet unit in the nearby huge Catterick Camp garrison, where the Royal Signals have a major presence. This barracks was of 20th century construction and more comfortable (The bare floorboards did not have wide cracks, nor were there dried-out sash window frames that refused to open but nevertheless permitted strong, cold drafts like the Richmond barracks windows), though far from luxurious, with basic toilet facilities and the ubiquitous communal showers and washbasins. Here, hopefuls were assessed and culled and those progressing were tutored in aspects of military training that would improve their chances of passing WOSB(3) and progressing to the short-term officer initial training school at Mons barracks in the English town of Aldershot(4) in Hampshire. Although my army career took a different trajectory from the average other-rank recruit, I know the basic training process well enough and, later, I served as a platoon officer in a unit that trained truck drivers for the then Royal Army Service Corps.

After conscripts and regular recruits alike had been knocked into the basic shape of soldiers over a six-week period and taught how to look reasonably military and well turned-out in ill-fitting khaki clothing, they were ready to be moved on from basic training. With a need for infantry as well as cooks, drivers, vehicle mechanics, engineers, electricians and medical orderlies, there was a range of training establishments. Conscripts were given no choice; they went where they were needed. There is many a tale of a motor mechanic in civilian life being posted as a cook. Regular recruits had given a wish-list when they joined up and, as far as it suited the army’s personnel needs, these wishes were respected and new career soldiers went on to learn their chosen trade and serve in the regiment or service area of their choice.

This, then, was what the vast majority of young British men experienced when the dreaded call-up papers appeared in the mail. Although many spent their whole service time somewhere in Britain, counting the days down till demobilisation, there were overseas postings that were prized. Britain, as a member state of NATO(5), provided at the end of WWII a force, the BAOR(6), to serve in Western Germany, first to help in the control and re-building of a conquered and devastated land and later as a bulwark against the USSR(7) and postings to BAOR were valued. Hong Kong and Singapore also harboured British garrisons and those who were posted there or to Malaya(8) will recall shouts in the mess hall of “Get yer knees brown!” from troops who had been for some time in these tropical locations to new arrivals, as baggy uniform shorts were worn in those locations and new boys were easily spotted. Another common cry in the mess hall was “Two days to go!” from those about to end their service.

A key to enjoying national service in peacetime was to boast a measure of sporting prowess. All the major sports were played competitively in an organisation of young men and those who shone at a sport often found themselves in a sinecure posting, as commanding officers competed for the pre-eminence of their units in sport and collected good players for their unit teams. I served in a unit which had a big throughput of national servicemen and the colonel collected boxers and tucked them into permanent staff jobs. He collected so assiduously that some went on to become champions professionally and our unit team won the Army Boxing Championships one year, to his great satisfaction and kudos and the enjoyment of the whole unit, for it was obligatory to attend the rounds of the tournament when they were held at our establishment. As a training unit, the excuse of driver training was used to ferry truckloads of soldiers to other establishments to provide vocal support for our team in away rounds.

The other side of this sporting coin was that a club-level player often found himself playing for his unit team against an international star or other luminary of some major sport who was well above his level. My own best-remembered incident of this was watching my unit team playing a rugby match against another unit team, that had at scrum-half the then reigning English rugby league half-back, the great Alex Murphy, who was serving his two years in the Army Pay Corps.

So the two years passed, some parading and marching, some military training and field exercises, some real guerrilla war in Africa, Cyprus and the Malay peninsula, some leisure, some fun, until the day came when you took off the khaki for the last time, your two years compulsory national service done, and returned, gratefully, maybe fitter, maybe wiser and more mature, certainly two years older, to your civilian life and ready for the next phase. One more life-ladder climbed, another yet to conquer.

For a smile and a jog of the memory to any who went through the national service mill, I commend to you ‘The Talkin’ Army Blues’(9) by the late Scottish folk singer, Josh MacRae. I think you will enjoy it.


(1) The Green Howards light infantry regiment, more properly Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment, was one of several light infantry regiments in the British Army. Some light infantry regiments wore dark green uniforms. They did not have heavier weapons like other infantry and were used when there was a need for fast-moving infantry that could march into battle for guerrilla attacks and skirmishes. The traditional light infantry marching pace is faster than the standard and the troops were usually smaller, nimbler men. Scottish readers may remember the Highland Light Infantry, which recruited in the Glasgow area and had a fearsome reputation in battle.

(2) Richmond is a historic town in northern Yorkshire. It is the nearest town to the huge military garrison of Catterick Camp.

‘The Lass of Richmond Hill’ is a popular English folksong written in the 18th century, with a rousing tune. It honours a young lady of this town, not the better-known Richmond in the outer London area where the famous Hampton Court Palace is located.

(3) War Office Selection Board (WOSB, pron. was-bee) was set up during WWII to vet and select candidates for training for commissioned officer rank, initially to overcome a shortage of leaders in wartime and later for the granting of national service and short-term commissions (aka ‘temporary gentlemen’). Refined over the years, by my time (1957) it consisted of a three day intensive selection process that incorporated written tests, psychological interviews, mental and physical tests and group challenges. It was conducted at an establishment near Andover, a pleasant town in Hampshire in SE England. The accommodation standard was high, with silver settings and good glassware at meals and individual bedrooms. Doubtless there was an element of vetting about this aspect of the candidate’s suitability to fit in, in an officers’ mess environment.

(4) Aldershot in Hampshire is a town with a large army garrison, having a number of different barracks located in it and extensive training areas nearby. At one time it was the largest military garrison in UK. There are other towns with military establishments in the general area. In my time, many of the barracks were of 19th century construction and quite primitive. An extensive reconstruction program was undertaken during the 1960s.

(5) The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was set up by the UK, USA, Canada and the Western European countries after WWII to provide a military bulwark against the USSR9, which controlled Eastern Europe and much of Asia and harboured empire-building ambitions, with covetous eyes cast from the German Democratic Republic (the former USSR-ruled East Germany) on Western Germany and other countries which bordered its client states.

(6) The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) was the force provided by Britain initially to aid in the control of post-war Germany and later as a component of NATO’s forces in Europe, part of the bulwark of Western Europe against the perceived threat of invasion by the USSR7, whose rulers cherished the memory of past Russian imperial glory and had ambitions to relive it

(7) The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was the name given by Russia to the conglomeration of Eastern European and Asian states over which it ruled from its conquest of them in and after the last stages of WWII in 1945 until it began to break up in1989, heralded by the literal crumbling of the Berlin Wall.

(8) Prior to the founding of the Malaysian Federation in 1963, the Federation of Malaya endured a bitter guerrilla war against communist insurgents, known as the Malayan Emergency, with the significant aid of a British force. This was not a highly favoured posting for British conscripts. The new federation of 1963 included Singapore, Borneo, and Sarawak in addition to the original British Malay states. In 1965 Singapore became an independent country and has remained so.

(9) ‘The Talkin’ Army Blues’, written and sung by Josh MacRae, can be found here.

Lifeboat 2
Hugh McGrory
So, what did happen to the Mona that December morning in 1959? No one can know for sure, but the Royal National Lifeboat Institution did carry out a full investigation and issued a final report.

The report said that the boat was in good condition, there were no structural defects, no decay, and no leaks in the hull. Furthermore, it stated that the coxswain, Ronald Grant, was very highly thought of and possessed the full confidence of the life-boat crew and of the Institution.

The report further noted that the evidence of oil marks on the engine room deckhead and bilge dirt on the cabin deckhead indicated that the boat undoubtedly capsized…

The summary stated:

" It is clear from internal evidence that the life-boat capsized. The capsize was almost certainly caused by the life-boat being thrown off course and across the sea some time between 05.15 and 06.00 in the morning. The life-boat was probably in the shallow water just to the south of the entrance to the River Tay at the time. The life-boat then appears to have drifted bottom up in a north-westerly direction until her signal mast touched bottom in the shallow water between Buddon Ness and Carnoustie. This had the effect of righting the boat.”

So, the crew performed well, and the boat had no defects (but it wasn’t self-righting - more on this later)…

The Mona, 49’6” in length, was a Watson class, built in 1935 - there were 19 Watsons built, and the other 18 had no history of serious problems.

The little town (population probably around 12,000 then) was devastated by the news.

A service was held at St James’ Church, the Fisherman’s Kirk, across the street from the lifeboat station. The Church only seats 450 and the service was relayed to another 300 in the church Hall and to hundreds who stood in Fort Street on a cold windy, wet forenoon. People started to queue outside the church doors an hour

East and west sides of Fort Street. The lifeboat station is seen at the far end. The buildings to the left are the Fisherman's Tavern Hotel (a pub where, over the years, I have spent many happy hours). The kirk is across the street from the Fisherman's.

before the service began, but few of them were able to get in. In the few days thereafter seven funeral services were held attended by hundreds. A national appeal to help the bereaved families raised £77,000 in a few weeks.

The Mona was quickly replaced by another lifeboat, the City of Bradford II, another Watson class. Then the RNLI had to decide what to do with the gallant Mona – she had served faithfully up to the last, and during her years of service at Broughty Fery was credited with saving 118 lives. Though still seaworthy after the disaster, it was decided that lifeboatmen should not be asked to serve on a boat that had such a tragic history.

The Mona was taken secretly to the Forth estuary and beached at Cockenzie, near Edinburgh. All fittings were stripped, and, at 4:30 in the morning, the boat was set on fire. People who lived in a tenement less than 100 yards away wakened the next morning to see the smoking ruin on the rocky beach.

Photo on left shows a magnificent model of the lifeboat as she looked on launching in 1935 - taken at the 60th memorial service - first two rows occupied by the current crew. On the right, the remains of the Mona the morning after burning.

The RNLI advertised for volunteers to serve as crew on the new lifeboat and no fewer than 38 applications were received – a special breed!

To be continued...

Suez 2
Gordon Findlay
Very soon after we were told of the upcoming operation to take over the Suez Canal, we received several bulky packages from 3rd Infantry Div. headquarters in Tripoli, each marked “SECRET. OPEN UNDER AUTHORIZATION ONLY.” I didn’t see all the stuff, but much of it came sifting over our desks in our nice snug I-Section room, which was housed in a building which had formed part of officers’ quarters in the old Italian barracks we now occupied

Much of the material comprised maps of the Suez Canal showing the exact location of Egyptian Army positions all down both sides of the Canal: heavy weapons (like 155 mm howitzers and field artillery) army fortifications and strong points, machine gun positions, troop barracks, mechanized units, and any known armoured vehicles.

We (and the other regiments which formed 3rd Inf. Div.) began to build up a very comprehensive picture of Egyptian Army forces and capabilities in the area, and what we did not know or were unsure about, we set about learning. This was done in two ways.

One was through the use of paid informers within the Egyptian Army forces (usually locals who were pressed into service within the camps, in cookhouses, or as cleaners or merchants to provide the Egyptian Army with food and other services).

The other way was by stealth. S.A.S. or other units like the Royal Marine Commandos, were sent in covertly, usually as 2-man teams, to photograph, measure and check on all the weaponry and fortifications and armed Egyptian personnel our forces would be likely to face. This information then came feeding back to all the Intel units within the Division.

In our own Intel Section, we updated the information and maps we already had on the so-called “masters.” These were the master maps of the area which, when Operation Rodeo Flail went active, would be copied by us (and all the other Intel units in the rest of 3rd Infantry Div.) to be given to all the field officers just before they were to go into action.

As you may know, each field officer is equipped with a map case and a map of the area in which his unit is operating. Fitted over the topographical map is a clear acetate overlay, on which Intel has entered all the Blue (friendly) Forces’ positions plus the Red (enemy) Forces known positions.

Special icons and Code names also appear on this overlay “talc” as it’s called, identifying mechanized forces, and heavy weaponry. Last but not least these overlays also include the F.U.P. (Forming Up Point) for troop assembly before advance, plus the expected L.O.A. or Line Of Advance.

All this was pretty fascinating stuff for us all in I-Section, and I can remember that even Sgt. Krywald, our Polish-born and highly temperamental non-commissioned leader, became quite sober, grim, and taciturn when checking on our work. I suppose he could see clearly that this was no fun peace-time exercise that would be quickly forgotten. This was planning for the invasion of Egyptian sovereign territory by force of arms, a bloody business at the best of times.

What was truly fascinating was –even to our unsophisticated eyes– we were helping put together a very detailed picture of the Canal Zone defences, a picture that left very little to chance. To me, it was a fascinating look into how a modern army prepares itself before going into battle.

We knew the size, range, and field of fire for every heavy weapon the Egyptians had all down the Canal, including precisely how much ammunition they had for each gun. We knew how many personnel each gun had to operate it, plus where the gun crew slept and ate– and how well, or badly, the weapon was guarded. We knew exactly where their transport vehicles were parked, so they could be disabled with a single artillery burst or by an aerial bomb.

I’m sure the British Army had been collecting all this military Intel for years, but when it was all put together it was quite remarkable how great an advantage an attacker would have, knowing all this detailed information in advance. However, it all seemed to be so much treading of water. We kept getting more intel and we kept updating the master maps– but nothing happened.

Until one bright morning.

Hugh McGrory
I was not living in Dundee when the North Carr Lightship was almost lost (having moved to London, England, the previous year), and I don’t believe I even heard of the incident at that time.

When the ship broke free from its main anchor, the Fifeness Coastguard Station (on shore less than 2 miles away) spotted that it was moving off station and notified the Lifeboat Service.

(As a maritime nation with some 20,000 miles of coastline and lots of opportunities for mariners to get into trouble, the government created the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) in 1834. Today, this charity maintains 238 lifeboat stations around the British Isles, has over 5,600 crew members, mostly volunteers, and more than 3,700 shore crew around 12% of whom are women.)

Neither the Anstruther nor the Arbroath Lifeboat Stations could launch due to a combination of low tide and the fierce south easterly gale. However, the Broughty Ferry Station could launch in any tide (Broughty Ferry is a suburb of Dundee about four miles east of the town centre, and being on the estuary, rather than the North Sea itself, was slightly less affected by the storm).

At 2.42 am on Dec 8, 1959, the acting secretary of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat received the message that the North Carr lightship had broken loose and was drifting in a north westerly direction. He authorised the launching of the lifeboat, the Mona, by telephoning the coxswain and the lifeboat mechanic. They in turn notified the other volunteers by telephone or, in one case by walking about 100 yards, and knocking on his door…

They also fired the maroons (like firework rockets on steroids). About a foot long, two of them soar across the sky and explode with a very loud noise and an extremely bright flash of light. This summons the crew, lets the town know that the lifeboat is going out, and if those in peril are close enough, assures them that they have been spotted, and help is on the way.

The Mona had a crew of eight: Ronald Grant, George Smith, Alexander Gall, John Grieve, his son John T Grieve, George Watson, James Ferrier, and David Anderson. All volunteers, there were three who worked

The Mona and Her Crew

in the Caledon Shipyard in Dundee, a mechanic, a self-employed contractor, a plumber, a boatman at Dundee Harbour, and one who worked for a marine engineering firm.

Under the direction of the Chief Launcher, the Mona was safely underway by 3:13 am and set off down the
Firth of Tay, where the river debouches into the North Sea. The shaded areas show
land which is visible at low tide and presents either as beaches or as sandbars.
estuary into increasingly large waves Much of the following comes from the official report of the events of that day and from published research by Iain T McIntosh:

The weather was overcast with frequent fierce rain squalls. The wind was from the south-east, force 7 to 9, with a very rough sea and a heavy swell. Visibility varied from 2 to 6 miles. Low water neap tide was at 02.52.

The two middle buoys marking the bar at the entrance of the river had been absent from their normal positions since the 20th of November. It is almost certain that the Fairway buoy, the most seaward lightbuoy, was extinguished and adrift from its position at this time.

The Mona sent her first R/T message to the Fife Ness Coastguard at 03.20 and made her way down river at 6 knots. They tried to call the North Carr Lightvessel but without success. The North Carr was also sending up rockets at regular intervals to give her position.

At around 04.00 the senior coastguard at Carnoustie, David Mearns, caught his first sight of the Mona as she cleared Buddon Ness, he reported later that she appeared to have reduced speed and was constantly disappearing in the mountainous seas. He watched as she crossed the bar of the Tay.

At 04.06 the Mona reported that she was abeam of the Abertay Lightship. The North Carr fired another distress rocket at 04.25 and the Fifeness coastguard asked Mona if she had seen it. The Mona radio operator only managed to gasp out “No…our position…. We have just passed the middle buoys on the Bar and we are just hanging on.” Coastguard David Mearns saw the Mona turn south into St Andrews Bay at about 04.45.

At 04.48 the Fifeness coastguard told the lifeboat that the North Carr had sent up a red rocket and they asked
if the Mona had seen it. The Mona reported “Yes, we saw that one. We have just cleared the bar.” That was the last message heard from the Mona.

The Fifeness coastguard saw the Mona’s masthead light in St Andrew’s Bay at 05.39, they were unable to estimate how far away the Mona was, they radioed the lightship to see if they could see the lifeboat, the reply was “Yes, I think it is the lifeboat, will burn another flare.”

Fifeness coastguard sent a signal to the Mona on the distress frequency asking the Mona if their receiver was working, and to fire rockets and flash their searchlight up into the sky. There was no response, and the masthead lights disappeared a few minutes later.

At first light about 08.30 a search was organised by the
coastguards in which a shore party and a helicopter took part. Mr William C. Philip, a barman of the Carnoustie Station Hotel, was the first person to reach the scene of the disaster. He usually went for a walk on the beach first thing every morning and spotted a boat in the distance bobbing in the water. At first, he thought it was a ship’s small boat that had come in with the storm. When he reached the boat, he shouted to see if there was anyone there, but with no response. He stayed around for a while, and when he started to walk back, he saw a man’s body floating in the surf.

Mr. Philip tried to pull him in, but the body was too heavy. Just then Coastguard John Hamilton came along the beach and together they pulled the body up onto the sands. It turned out to be the youngest member of the Mona’s crew, John T. Grieve.

John Hamilton was a Corporation employee, who was also a relief coastguard. When the rocket went off, he left his municipal job and hurried to the coastguard station. He actually took part in both the beginning and the end of the Mona’s disastrous trip. He had been on coastguard duty from 2 am to 8 am that morning (Dec 8th) and he had received the message at 02:45 am from the coastguard at Fifeness that the North Carr Lightship had broken adrift. He had called senior Coastguard David Mearns and the message was relayed to Broughty Ferry to call out the Lifeboat. Shortly after Mr. Hamilton had returned to his job as a Burgh Labourer in Carnoustie he heard the maroon being fired from Westhaven. A message on the pad at the Coastguard station told him the Mona had been driven ashore at Buddon.

When the live-saving apparatus crew with breeches buoy equipment arrived, Mr. Hamilton was sent to telephone the police. The Carnoustie Coastguard Station officer was the first person to board the lifeboat. This was about 09.20. He found five bodies all wearing lifejackets.

Half a mile to the southward of the lifeboat was found the body of ex-coxswain Alexander Gall. Near it was the lifejacket of George Watson along with the broken foremast of the lifeboat. The police walking to the scene found the body of the seventh member of the crew on the beach at South Flat, about half a mile from where the Mona had gone aground.

The Morning After - The Mona, Beached, North of Buddon Ness.
Note both fore and aft masts are missing.

All seven men died from drowning; they suffered no injuries apart from abrasions. The seven bodies were taken to the police mortuary at Carnoustie. The eighth (the body of George Watson) was never found.

To be continued...

The Big Five
Bill Kidd
Saturday forenoon was when my mother dragged me into Dundee City Centre to go round the shops. This was a regular occurrence for the first decade of my life. I do not recall these outings with any great amount of pleasure. I didn’t understand their purpose as it was only rarely that she bought anything. Occasionally there was some activity that I did enjoy. I liked the Students’ Charity Parade. I liked seeing the Spitfire that was parked in the City Square as part of a fundraising project. I enjoyed anything out of the usual that distracted my Mum from the relentless trek round the shops. I now understand that this was an important social activity for her. Being part of the hustle and bustle was an opportunity to dress up and sometimes casually meet her friends and acquaintances.

At some point of the morning we would visit at least two of the “Big Five.” I refer to the five major department stores that graced Dundee City Centre from Victorian times into at least the 1960s. They were D. M. Brown, located opposite G. L Wilson on the northern corner of Commercial Street and Murraygate, while on the southern corner Smith Brothers could be found. Further to the west on the corner of Whitehall Street and Nethergate Draffens ruled in solitary splendour. Almost hidden on the east side of Reform Street the smallest of the five was Cairds. They all sold a similar range of goods, but each had its own specialities, style, and ambience. Social standing could be assessed by who regularly shopped where and whether or not one paid cash or put purchases on one’s account.

Without doubt the magnet for the posh and those who aspired to be posh folks was Draffens. Rather like
Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served? the Buyer in charge of each department would ensure that favoured customers were recognised and properly attended to. The store had a well patronised coffee shop that served silver service coffee with choice of white or brown sugar. It had a restaurant that served lunch and afternoon tea and was the place to go for fine fabrics. My mother only rarely ventured into Draffens and then only if she was looking for a specific item. I understand that the only Draffens now left in Dundee is a cocktail bar in Coutties Wynd.

My experience of Cairds was largely as a result of my joining the Scouts. Cairds was the approved
retailer for Scout uniforms and accessories. It was there that I bought my first woggle, neckerchief, hat, and staff. Gents outfitting and school uniform was also a major part of their business. I vaguely remember there being an upmarket toy department that I liked to visit because it sold Mamod model steam engines etc. Cairds also was only rarely visited by my mother.

We always went into D M Brown’s. This was where my mother felt at home, and this was where she purchased soft furnishings, kitchenware, and bedding. Many of these purchases were made when DMs had its Summer or New Year Sales. These were big events with advertisements

plastered over the Courier weeks in advance. Each department had its sale goods piled high on the counters. My father and I had our shirts and underwear bought in the DM’s sale and my mother tried to zone in on items that she had seen during her weekly visits rather than the items that had been brought in specifically for the sale. The store had a broad range of departments but was rather more impersonal than Draffens or Cairds, there was more attempts to sell the goods and it gave the impression of being the “People’s” store

G L Wilson was another of my mother’s favourite stores. In many respects it fitted neatly into the social space left

between Draffens and D M Brown. In my era it was the only one of the five that was still owned and operated by the founding family. Sir Garnet Wilson was the very active Lord Provost of Dundee during and immediately after WW2. His brother John was also active in the business and was often seen on the shop floor, recognisable by the carnation he wore on his lapel. As a child I loved going to G L Wilson’s because it had a lift with a lift attendant who was always very chatty to the children. I learned later that as a company policy and whenever possible the lift attendants and the boys that helped around the store were injured WW1 veterans or youngsters with

learning difficulties.

The highlight of G L Wilson’s year as far as I was concerned was the Christmas Grotto and my annual meeting with Santa. I do not have a clear recollection of what this store actually sold, but I think that it was primarily a draper with some more specialised range of clothing, particularly for ladies, added on.

The first four stores were definitely Dundee enterprises
and developed from small family firms. The final member of the big five was an English institution that spread into various parts of the UK. I don’t think that my mother was terribly fond of Smith Brothers, and we rarely ventured inside for a look round. What I do remember is that when my mother was doing any kind of dressmaking she went there for material, patterns, thread, and buttons. I seem to recall that the store had quite a sizeable furniture department and that they sold clothing. As the store occupied a prime city centre position for so many years it must have been a popular outlet for some but clearly not for us!

To the best of my knowledge all of the buildings are still standing and are currently in use. The interiors have been refurbished and been put to a different use. The exteriors have largely been restored to their former glory but where have all the crowds that used to congregate in Dundee City Centre gone? Are they at out-of-town shopping centres or are the hunched over a computer buying on-line? On thing is sure, they aren’t going into department stores, nor are they likely to!

Hugh McGrory
The North Sea is the northeastern arm of the Atlantic Ocean between the British Isles and the mainland of Europe and is known as one of the most treacherous seas in the world for ships to navigate. It’s often rough,
stormy, or covered by thick fogs, and is shallow, and laced by swift, tangled currents. Its fishing grounds are probably the richest that have ever existed, and more than a quarter of a million ships use the North Sea annually.

Any ships heading for the Firth of Forth, if coming from the north, have to steer well clear of the North Carr Rock before turning west into the mouth of the River Forth. Numerous ships have died on these rocks over
the centuries, and, in the early 19th century, after sixteen ships were lost between 1800 and 1809, the government decided that something had to be done. This resulted, eventually, in a lightship being positioned there.

The photo shows the third of these ships the North Carr Lightship III (1933 to 1975) on station, (it now sits
at its final resting place in Dundee harbour, waiting to be scrapped.) You can tell from the photo, why they call it a lightship – not so obvious is the fact that such ships don’t have propulsion engines, they simply get towed to their station and anchored there. They function like lighted buoys, or lighthouses (with foghorns).

The North Carr was manned by a crew of seven, and on 8 December 1959 a full gale was blowing, and the lightship was rolling and pitching heavily.

Suddenly, the moorings gave way, the anchor was lost, and the ship began to drift north-westerly towards the shore. The crew behaved heroically, and after sending out a distress call, set to work to deploy one of their two spare anchors. They were successful, but soon thereafter the gale was so strong that the mooring line parted again; they finally managed to deploy the second spare anchor so as to hold the ship some 900 yards off the rocky shore at Kingsbarns, near St Andrews.

The ship and crew were still in serious danger, and an attempt was made to tow the ship to safety. This failed, and the decision was made to evacuate the men by helicopter. The rescue would have to be made in extremely adverse conditions. A full gale was blowing, and the Lightship was rolling and pitching heavily.

To assist in the rescue operations the Lightship crew cut away the 40ft aftermast, which allowed the helicopters, two Bristol Sycamores from RAF Leuchars, to fly as low as 5ft above the lantern and pick up all

The Bristol Sycamore The Earner was an Assurance Class sea-going tug identical to the HMRT Jaunty shown here.

seven members of the crew from the chart house roof. The Lightvessel was eventually taken in tow by the Admiralty tug "Earner" on 11 December, repaired at Leith, and put back on station on 16 March 1960.

Brave men all – but not unique. There were others on that December night more than sixty years ago…

To be continued...

British National Service in the 1950s
Part One
Brian Macdonald
In 1949 the British government had a military commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the need to fight fires in other parts of Great Britain’s crumbling empire that could not be met by the regular armed forces. The answer was to enact compulsory universal male national military service legislation. From then until 1960, all able-bodied British males between eighteen and thirty years of age were obliged to complete two years of service in one of the armed services. The last few of two million conscripts gratefully threw off their battledress in 1963. So my contemporaries and I were subjected to the delights of non-voluntary military service.

Exemption could be obtained on grounds of conscientious objection to serving in a military force or for compassionate reasons. National service could be deferred until a university or other post-secondary education was completed, but it was a deferral, not an exemption and many a highly-qualified young man found himself marching up and down on a wet and windy parade ground at the mercy of the eagle eye and sharp tongue of a zealous drill sergeant whose sole aim in life was to achieve total uniformity of movement from a group of disparate individuals or crawling about in long, wet grass, at night, encumbered with rifle, ammunition pouches and small backpack and wondering why his talents and expensive education were not being made better use of. Some professional qualifications were taken appropriate advantage of, and the forces benefitted from the work of doctors, dentists and teachers who were, sometimes grudgingly, giving their service to their country. But many with technical qualifications were not properly used and saw national service as two years lost out of their lives and a hiatus in their careers.

National service was not universally welcomed by those who underwent it. My own military experience was with the British Army, and I assume the RAF and the Royal Navy did things similarly in the early stages, when the service was trying to achieve obedience, conformity and a standard of cleanliness and self-discipline that may not have been highly regarded aspects of life till then. Most conscripts saw it as an unwelcome intrusion into their lives and few looked forward to the high degree of regimentation and restrictions on personal freedom and activities to which they knew they would be subjected.

Older generations of men, who had lived through WWI or WWII as adults, often expressed the thought that national service would ‘make a man ‘ of someone, especially of a youth who was out of control or who needed ‘toughening up’ and maybe it did for some. But in others it bred an increase in a pre-existing hatred of authority and the two years were spent in resentment and silent disobedience. It was not unknown for magistrates to offer young offenders who were out of work the choice of a gaol term or of signing up to military service. While this may have been a useful recruiting tool, it did nothing to improve the overall quality of recruits.

For many, the enforcement of the sometimes ridiculously high military standards of presentation of dress and equipment and ‘spit and polish’ came as a shock. The short back and sides military haircut and the blouse
Teddy Boys before ... ... and after

battledress were unwelcome changes of style for many in an era of Teddy Boys and DA(1) hairstyles. Having to sleep and relax in a large, spartan room with a number of other men was very different to their former lives. The constant polishing of unending items of brass, ironing of clothing to achieve razor-sharp creases and the detested ‘bulling’(2) of boots were tasks few young males had encountered before. Jumping out of bed without hesitation at an early hour every day and queueing with mug, knife, fork, and spoon for breakfast were more unfamiliar routines. The scrupulous cleaning of the barrack rooms and the laborious polishing of floors were new and unwelcome jobs.

A much more active life, which included physical training, often in inclement weather and trotting long distances on boot-shod feet, loaded down with equipment and weapons, wearing uncomfortable, heavy, uniform clothing, and the torturous and usually wet, muddy assault course were a major shock to unaccustomed minds and muscles. Marching in formation with a highly stylised rhythm and stride, the stamping of boots in unison and the maintaining of ruler-straight lines and ramrod posture while doing so was quite alien to all in civilian life. There were some, fortunately for the blood pressure of drill instructors, a very few, who never mastered the strictly timed and obscure movements of rifle drill, at which all were obliged to become proficient, regardless of their future service direction.

A national serviceman’s pay was a pittance, far less than even a modest civilian wage. In my time it was twenty-five shillings a week, barely enough to buy the essential materials needed to present the high standard of polished and pressed uniformity of dress demanded and buy a cup of tea and a bun or a beer in the NAAFI(3) of an evening. If you smoked cigarettes as well, which many did then, the pay was inadequate. Married servicemen got a little more but not enough to support a wife and maybe a child who were back at home. Pay was delivered in cash, weekly, from an officer seated at a table, with much saluting and boot-stamping.

Enlisting as a regular soldier was available as an alternative to being called up but it was an option that most shunned, the minimum term a young man could sign up for being three years instead of the two of national service. ‘Regulars’ were paid about fifty per cent more than conscripts. In the period of which I write, the military had a need for infantry, truck drivers, labourers and other unskilled workers that could not be met by volunteers. Britain’s educational standards were not universally high in the post-war years so there was a good supply of suitable candidates and an inadequate supply of civilian jobs.

First came the initial shock of the raw recruits being shouted at, marshalled into squads, loaded like camels with clothes and baffling military equipment, shepherded into the barracks – their home for the foreseeable future – taught how to make up a bed with the coarse blankets provided and how to fold them just so in the approved style to avoid the wrath of their superiors. Most learned to deal with this new and strange environment. The initial few weeks kept us confined to the barracks, learning the rudiments of military behaviour and getting fitter, thanks to the constant physical exercise and sound, if uninspired nutrition. Youth is resilient for the most part and all was not doom, gloom and misery, however. After three weeks of initial training, we were allowed out of barracks for an evening for the first time. Predictably, this aimed us at the nearest pub and there were some who overdid it and suffered the disciplinary consequences.

An enduring memory of basic training is of being given, one Friday afternoon, an inoculation that was designed to protect you from almost everything, after being told we were being given the weekend off. The rest of the ‘weekend off’ most of us spent in misery, huddled on our beds, with a fever and a sore, stiff arm that lingered well into the following week. There was no suggestion that we had a choice of accepting or refusing that inoculation! Most adapted well enough to army life, but not all. Those few who fell by the wayside psychologically were quietly returned to civvy street. A physical injury earned the victim no such blessing. He was simply treated and put aside to recover from the broken limb or illness and resumed his training with a later intake.

To be continued

(1) The Teddy Boys phenomenon was a British 1950s subculture whose main focus was dandified clothing, the ‘DA’ hairstyle and an interest in the developing rock ‘n roll music. The most identifiable items of clothing were a longer than usual, drape jacket with velvet collar and matching stovepipe trousers. There was somewhat of a gang culture about these youths.

The DA hairstyle had the slightly long, greased hair brushed back from the forehead, with a quiff at the front and was combed into a form at the back reminiscent of a duck’s rear end. The name Teddy Boys is believed to have come from the idea that it was the Edwardian dress culture that was being copied.
The Famous DA
(aka Duck's Arse)

(2) Bulling is the tedious process of imparting a thick layer of black boot polish to the heel and toe area of army boots with a soft cloth and the aid of spit, the cloth, with forefinger poked into it, being revolved in small circles to impart polish until the treated area acquires a perfect high gloss. As wearing the boots tends to damage this gloss layer, the process needs to be repeated endlessly as the boots had to be set out for display. Some who could afford it bought a special pair of high-quality boots kept specifically to be displayed but never worn.

(3) The Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) was set up by the UK government in 1920, and still exists, to provide services for troops. The NAAFI runs a variety of retail and service establishments for those serving in the British forces and their dependants and its cafés, bars, clubs, supermarkets, etc. are found wherever there is a UK military establishment. During the initial training period, when recruits are confined to the barracks, the on-base NAAFI club is the sole leisure establishment available and where most spend their evenings after the obligatory pressing, cleaning and polishing work on uniform and barracks was done.

In my time, the NAAFI ran tombola evenings in the barracks club. This number-checking game is known to civilians as bingo and is favoured mostly by older women as a leisure activity where money can be won. All recruits were ‘encouraged’ by their non-commissioned officer superiors to attend and participate in tombola evenings rather than stay in the barracks, lounging on the bed, reading, or writing letters.

Hugh McGrory
Covid – makes me think of how I, personally, have been affected – and while there are many ways (perhaps fodder for a future anecdote) I wanted to address just one:

For many years of my working life, lunch mostly consisted of a sandwich and coffee eaten at my desk, but every now and then I enjoyed taking an hour to go out, find a place where I could eat on my own while I read one of the scientific magazines that I got each month (Discover, and Scientific American).

I had two favourites depending on geography and time available:

Fabian’s Café

A pastry chef named Horst Fabian, emigrated to Canada in 1956, and in 1974 opened his own bakery based on the traditional German Bäckerei. It had an excellent, though limited, lunch menu and a huge collection of pastries.

In 2005 he decided that semi-retirement sounded good – if he could find a suitable person to take over his
beloved café. Luckily, he found a personable, trained pastry chef with whom he got along well, and soon Gnanabaskaran Narayanapillai, who came to Canada from Sri Lanka in 1991, was the new owner

Gnanabaskaran was smart enough to make very few changes to the successful business, and the favourite lunch offerings and pastries remained unchanged. Some of this was no doubt due to the fact that the two men got along, and Horst dropped by quite often to help.

I always ordered my favourite lunch, a shrimp-and-egg open sandwich followed by a custard slice (Napoleon, mille-feuille?).

Once, back in Horst’s day, they ran out of custard slices, so I went for my fall-back – a strawberry tart. It wasn’t up to its usual standard, and as I was waiting to pay Horst walked out of the back room. I told him that there was something wrong with the tart – it was soggy and just crumpled under a fork – not up to their usual standard.

He grabbed one from the display counter and took a bite “ Nothing wrong with that”, he said. “OK”, I shrugged, thinking to myself, “You need a better complaints department, fella…”

On my next visit he noticed me and came over. He said “I was a bit brusque with you last time in the way I dismissed your complaint – it’s always my first response.” I thought to myself, “You need a better complaints department, fella…”.

Then he said, “You were right, we forgot to coat the inside of the shell with melted chocolate.” Good for him – I’m sure we both felt better…

Stouffville Fish-n-Chips

Jerry Heikens, a Dutch Canadian, opened Stouffville Fish-n-Chips in 1973 and sold the business to his son John and wife Susan in 1998. I discovered them in the early 2000s when we moved to Stouffville. They made excellent fish and chips, and I dropped in about once a month for haddock and chips followed by dessert – a soft vanilla ice cream cone.

Susan and I had a running joke – “what happens in the fish and chip shop stays in the fish and chip shop” – I would have the ice cream, she wouldn’t tell my wife…

Jerry, though retired, would sometimes drop in to help out on busy days, and he and I would sometimes chat briefly, usually about European football.

Then January 2020 arrived – and so did Covid. Both establishments tried to exist by offering take-out only. Within a few months both closed, and my two favourite cafés were out of business permanently.

Then... Now...

The United Nations has said the following:

“COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. Everything has been impacted. How we live and interact with each other, how we work and communicate, how we move around and travel. Every aspect of our lives has been affected. Decisions made now and in the coming months will be some of the most important made in generations. They will affect people all around the world for years to come.”

At this point, you may be saying to yourselves “Makes your ‘poor me’ story above sound rather trivial, doesn’t it?” And I see that. But think about the story from the perspective of the two families, the Heikens and the Narayanapillais. Decent hard-working people who had built successful small businesses for themselves and their families and suddenly had them snatched away through no fault of their own – like hundreds of thousands of other people around the globe…

I guess it will be left to historians to fully document just how much Covid changed the future of our world.

Suez 1
Gordon Findlay
While we were stationed in Tobruk from 1950 -51, tensions had been building in Egypt, next door to Libya.

At the time, Egypt was ruled by King Farouk, an Anglophile ruler who had been schooled in England and generally kept out of the way of government activities. But Farouk’s indulgent tastes and profligate personal spending ruffled the feelings of the populace, and in particular the nationalistic political party of one Nahas Pasha, who began to sell the idea that all “outside” interference in Egyptian affairs (i.e. mostly from Great Britain and France) was simply colonialism at its worst and had to end.

There began to be real concern for the safety of British ex-pats living in Egypt and for the security of British properties in the country. Pasha and his nationalist party began to threaten that – if they won power – they (or the military junta they would appoint to do their dirty work) would dismantle the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 which guaranteed Great Britain permanent use of the Suez Canal... which, was and is, essential for a maritime nation like Great Britain which depends on sure and swift passage of its imports and exports.

(The Suez Canal is, of course, the 193-kilometre, north-south waterway through Egypt, opened in 1869 to link the Mediterranean and Red Seas. It saved 15 days for ships leaving London for Bombay compared to the trip round the southern tip of Africa.)

Britain could see the handwriting on the wall: an Egyptian military junta would arbitrarily close the Suez Canal, or would immediately impose massive increases in the rates charged for shipping. Such a move could put Britain’s finances in a serious situation. Quietly, Britain and France together began to plan for an armed invasion and occupation of the Suez Canal Zone in order to protect the orderly passage of shipping through the international channel.

Israel would be the catalyst for this action. Israel would invent an Egyptian offensive action against it as an excuse to attack Egypt. Britain and France would then pile in to “end the aggression and restore peace.” (This action would not take place until I was, fortunately, safely out of Britain’s armed forces, in 1956 when the Anglo-French invasion of the Suez Canal Zone actually took place).

Our commanding officer of Intelligence, Lieut. Thompson, called us all in one morning, and placed copies of the War Department’s official Secret’s Act in front of each of us. Before being accepted into Intelligence we had all read and signed a copy of the Act (you couldn’t work in Intelligence without doing so) but apparently the War Department wanted everyone in Intel to re-sign the form, and to be aware that we were going to be exposed to many new and significant secrets in the weeks ahead – and were we to divulge any of these, the penalties would be severe.

So it was that we came to learn of Operation “Rodeo Flail”: “The air, sea and land occupation of the Suez Canal Zone by the Armed Forces of Great Britain and the Government of France.” Thompson made it clear that we were to say nothing to anyone else in the regiment of what we were doing, reading about, or preparing.

Hugh McGrory
If you were male, had lived in Dundee between 1869 and 1929, and misbehaved on occasion, you might have heard something like the following from your parents: “If you don’t smarten up, laddie, we’ll send you to Mars...” To explain this reference to outer space, I need to provide some background:

In the UK, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, life expectancy at birth was about 45 years. There were many poor people struggling to survive and many children were orphans or living in homes where their care was totally inadequate. Many of these kids ended up on the streets and living off their wits, often in bad company.

In 1834 Parliament had passed the Poor Law Amendment Act which resulted in more and more paupers entering workhouses, since other relief measures were essentially eliminated. This increase in admissions meant that workhouses were overflowing, and the Poor Law Board needed to find places to house all the new admissions.

One way that they accomplished this was by sending pauper boys to training ships. These ships were generally moored on the Thames, and pauper boys could be sent to live on the ships once they reached the age of twelve, with the option to remain on board up to the age of seventeen. This was extremely helpful to the over-crowded workhouses of London.

On board the ships, the boys were taught how to become sailors (fit to serve in the British navy). They were also expected to complete ordinary schoolwork and to learn to swim. They were taught carpentry, how to

make sails and ropes, to repair sails when they ripped, and other skills necessary for sailing and rowing.

In the foreground the brig HMS Francis Mollison, tender for the Mars and also used to teach sailing skills. Note the boys manning the rigging...
It was generally agreed by the ‘powers that be’ that the training ships provided excellent care and schooling for the boys, and that keeping them out of the workhouse (but also off the streets) was mutually beneficial. In the twenty years from 1860, industrial training ships began to spread beyond the Thames, and ten were established on major rivers around England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

So, the rascal at the beginning of this tale who thought he was going to be sent into space had misheard what his parents had said – it was actually “If you don’t smarten up, laddie, we’ll send you to the Mars...” The Mars was an Industrial Training ship first moored in the Tay in 1869. (It was just off the Fife bank of the River Tay roughly halfway between the landfalls of the rail and road bridges.)

The Mars off Woodhaven – Balgay Hill and the Tay Rail Bridge visible middle left. Looking south from the Mars – the three-storey building, Rock House, was used as the ship's hospital and still stands today.

Such industrial schools were meant to house and educate the poor, as distinct from the reformatory school for children convicted of crimes. In practice, children were sentenced to time in an industrial school by magistrates for things like begging, to being in the company of reputed thieves. For the children, the experience would have been difficult to distinguish from a criminal proceeding. On arrival on the ship, the similarity to a prison continued. Children were first stripped and examined by a medical officer. Their hair was cut close to the scalp. Then they were bathed and given a uniform to wear. Their names and details of their families and ‘sentence’ were noted in a logbook. In a practice very much drawn from prison camp life, each child was assigned a number which replaced their name. From that point on, even just amongst the children themselves, they were only referred to by their assigned number.

Efforts to strip away individual identity from the boys were part of their training for a life at sea, but also greatly reinforced the effects of removal from their homes. Boys were deliberately given little opportunity to maintain connections with family and friends. Discipline was strict, and for serious misbehaviour, such as making a break for freedom, boys would be stripped to the waist, tied across one of the ship’s cannons, and lashed (up to a maximum of eighteen strokes).

For 60 years the Mars was a local landmark, but improvements in the education system, changes in the law on juvenile crime and the deteriorating condition of the ship marked its end in 1929. This old warship served as home to over 6000 children with there being around 400 boys living on board at any one time.

My thanks to Libraries, Leisure & Culture Dundee for some of the text and photographs above.

When I was a Lad!
Bill Kidd
After many years of despairing at the declining standards of behaviour of the upcoming generations I have reached the stage of my life when more time is spent in mature reflection than in thinking about the future. One outcome of my honest reappraisal of my own behaviour during childhood and adolescence is the realisation that the following generations were little different to me and my contemporaries. What was different was the culture and economic circumstances in which we grew into adulthood.

I was born in 1935, a time of economic difficulty for most of the population. There was very little cash to spare, and expectations were modest. The majority of families lived fairly close to their immediate family members, and this provided a strong support network. By the time I started school much of this had changed because of WW2. The economic situation strengthened. Women took advantage of the well-paid work that became available and a whole generation of young men were called into the military. Additional responsibilities were thrust upon grandmothers and grandfathers. More cash was around but there was not a great deal available to spend it on. The support network was fraying at the edges, and it was inevitable that changes in society would take place.

All of this affected the children of the time. Many more mothers were at work, many fathers were away from home for long periods, childcare arrangements certainly would not meet present day standards. Older children, particularly girls were expected to look after younger siblings and ensure that they went to school and returned home on time. The firm discipline normally imposed by parents also began to fray around the edges.

In the summer months the streets, in the absence of traffic, became playgrounds. Ball games and skipping games were the girls’ favourites while the boys enjoyed cowboys and indians and other warlike games. Chasing and capture games like Tig and Reliefo were enjoyed by both genders and although we were not exactly feral, we did enjoy a lot of freedom. Wherever and whenever you went there would be a lot of noisy unaccompanied children. Where are the children today? Certainly, the birthrate has fallen, but not to such a great extent. Apart from school starting and finishing times unaccompanied pre-teen children are a rare sight today.

In the winter months the life of wartime children changed. It was dark, there were no streetlights or stair lighting in tenement closes. We read books and comics, we listened to the wireless (not the radio), we went to the cinema, we joined the Lifeboys, Cubs or Brownies while our older siblings attended Boys Brigade, Scouts, or Girl Guides. Virtually every child spent at least some time in these uniformed organisations which were often run by men and women who had participated in WW1. A great deal of the evening, usually in a church hall, was spent in drill and marching but there was also games and lessons in various skills, domestic for girls and military for the boys.

The cinema was a magnet for us, and we would often go two evenings a week. A seat at the very front cost threepence, a little further back sixpence. I you went with a parent or other adult you would likely sit a lot further back in seats costing the adult one and threepence or even one and ninepence, your seat in the same area was half price. The theme for play during the next week was often established by the subject of the film. Errol Flynn like swordplay was re-enacted with a piece of wood and the flowing cloak by a trench was coat slung over the shoulder and buttoned at the throat. No replicating of a kissing scene was even contemplated until many years later!

The dark nights were also the opportunity for various kinds of mischief. Nothing terrible but just extremely irritating to our adult victims. Sometimes while returning from the cinema, we would decide to play Chap and Run. This consisted of knocking at someone’s door and watching for the door to be opened by the resident and having a quiet laugh to ourselves over the puzzled expression on his face when there was no-one there. The big joke was to repeat the exercise a couple of times before we got shouted at and made ourselves scarce. This form of loutish behaviour palled somewhat after one of our number rose to the challenge of knocking on every one of the eight doors of one tenement close. Not being very bright he started knocking on the bottom doors before going upstairs ……. he couldn’t sit down for a week!

A variation on this activity involved a rubber washer from a wire topped lemonade bottle, a wood screw, and a length of string with half a dozen knots, each an inch apart, at the end of it. This was used after dark to stick to the corner of a blacked-out window. When the string was held taut and the knots, gently pulled the wood screw would rap on the window. To see what was causing the resultant knocking the victim would have to extinguish the room light and remove the black out curtain. A tedious and annoying process.

This treatment was mainly reserved for those adults who objected to our noisy play outside their house. To us it was a bit of fun, to the victims it was a case of “Children today are spoiled and have no concern for others.” Exactly the same opinion that I have voiced about successive generations to my contemporaries over the years. Perhaps we need to be a little more tolerant and take aboard the changes in culture when we compare the current generation to ourselves at the same age.

Hugh McGrory
You’ve probably all seen shows on television featuring the annual migrations of millions of turtles to lay their eggs on beaches around the world. In the Atlantic, from the Caribbean up the US East Coast to Canada, and, in the Pacific, from Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia) to California and then up to Alaskan waters. If you are interested, see this short Smithsonian video

Sheila and I have never seen these great turtle migrations, but we live in the country north of Toronto, and from time to time we see a variety of small animals in our backyard, from field mice to deer and coyotes. Annual visitors include several snapping turtles. We have a small pond to the east of our house and a wet, marshy area to the west. Most summers we will see one or more lumbering across the back of the house from one to the other.

We’d always assumed (without evidence) that this was the females’ annual egg-laying trip. Snapping turtles are a type of freshwater turtle known for their distinctive and often aggressive behavior. They are a common sight in North America. They can be quite large, with some individuals reaching sizes of 18-20 inches in shell length and weighing over 35 pounds. Imagine a tea tray with head, tail, and four flippers sticking out… They’re quite ugly, and sometimes covered in algae which doesn’t help…

One day, some ten years ago we noticed one at the front of the house on the edge of the road – apparently

the soft shoulder of country roads is often a favoured position for egg laying. We watched it settle itself and begin to dig and we realised what we were seeing and grabbed my phone. It was quite amazing how she dug so accurately with her flippers – she manipulated them as if they were hands.

She finally was satisfied with the nest and settled down to lay – apparently you can expect twenty to thirty eggs (though only one or two of those will grow to maturity). By this time, we were right at her backside, but our presence seemed to bother her not one whit. Not sure how many she laid, but below you can see two photos – these are actually the same photo twice (I manipulated the contrast etc. to make the eggs visible):

She covered the nest, made an excellent job of tidying up, then seemed to settle down for a rest – we lost interest at that point, and when we checked some time later, she was gone.

The story becomes rather anticlimactic at this point. We had hoped that we would see the babies emerging – I wondered whether they would head for the pond or the marsh. Since the eggs take some 80 to 90 days to emerge, we realised that we would probably miss the event – but still, we kept checking every now and then…

As it turned out, we didn’t see anything – the spot remained undisturbed – sadly, for some reason, the eggs didn’t hatch…

A few years later, I saw my next door neighbour digging by the side of the road, about 40 ft from the nest
site. I asked him what he was doing, and he said that a turtle had laid eggs there and he was going to dig them up and put them in a more secure spot in his back garden. He said he’d done it once before, successfully, and had hand-carried the hatchlings down to the pond. He dug a hole, put the eggs in, then placed a wooden box on top weighed down with stones to keep out predators – raccoons, skunk, foxes, birds, and dogs.

Some months later I asked him if it had been a success and he said that it hadn’t – that he eventually dug up the nest and said that he couldn’t find any signs that the eggs had ever been there, despite the fact that the box on top was undisturbed… another one of Nature's mysteries, I guess!

Growing up in Kingsway Place
Brian Macdonald
My parents got married in 1937, my father the Dundee-born son, with two sisters who both worked in jute factories, of parents who hailed from rural Aberdeenshire. They were late 19th century immigrants to Dundee looking to find work in the growing industrial city, and my mother was a London East Ender, whom my dad had met during his wandering as a merchant seaman. It was my mother who had to relocate, so they started their life together in Dundee. My father’s seaman’s skills were not very useful on dry land, and he became an insurance man, travelling around Dundee in all weathers on his big, heavy Hercules bicycle, selling small life insurance policies to poor jute factory workers so they would have enough to bury the head of the family when the time came, and collecting the weekly premiums.

My mother was from an industrious East End Jewish family of Polish heritage that had established a fishmonger’s shop and she understood retail and had a ferocious work ethic; she and her brother Nathan both had to help out in the family business from an early age, although neither stayed in the family business: my mother became a nurse and her brother a London fireman who drove a fire engine throughout the WWII blitz. But it was natural to my mother to establish a shop. Not a fish shop in her family tradition, but one that sold sweets, cigarettes, lemonade, milk, ice cream and dry groceries from a tiny wooden building on a street corner on Old Glamis Road in Dundee, then an area of many small factories so there was a ready and keen market for her range of products.

Right across the road was Old Glamis Fabrics, a specialist jacquard-weaving factory set up by Donald Brothers, a firm with its origins in Dundee’s main industry of the early 20th century, jute processing. The then queen, Elizabeth’s family (Bowes-Lyon, the earldom of Strathmore) lived in Glamis Castle some miles from Dundee and were said to be patrons of the factory and made occasional visits. There was a factory that made sharp pins for flax and jute processing called hackles (or heckles in Dundee) and the simple gramophone needles used then. A sawmill stood nearby. There were two engineering factories. The Cabrelli family, of the early 20th century Italian immigration to Scotland, whose name became well known in Dundee for ice cream and fish and chips, lived on the corner of Balgray Street, just opposite the shop. The Dundee North End Football Club ground was – and still is – a short street away and Saturday afternoons in winter were good for business.

The shop prospered and was not only my mother’s business for most of her life but also the financial mainstay of the family. Both my father and I did stints behind the counter over the years and proficiency in mental arithmetic in pounds, shillings and pence became a skill of mine. Often, of a Sunday, as a teenager, I was on duty and, with few customers, spent most of my time outside cleaning or tinkering with my cherished burgundy-coloured BSA motorbike.

My parents looked for a home near the shop and a new housing estate was just springing up ten minutes’ walk away, on the northern side of Fairmuir Park, which was all grass with football pitches marked out and with a fringe of trees. A railway line with a steel footbridge over it ran along the south side, past Dundee North End FC’s modest stadium. Park Road bordered the park on the north side, with a row of houses on one side, facing the park and a private bowling club was on the east side. Park Road ran ruler-straight, from Old Glamis Road to Strathmartine Road, along which the Downfield to Blackness double-decker trams rattled and swayed. Old Glamis Road carried the number eleven bus from the then tiny rural village of Trottick to Shore Terrace in the city centre. From Park Road to Dundee’s loop road, the dual carriageway Kingsway, it was largely lush paddocks, grazed by milking cows, with a few streets slowly developing. Strathmartine Road was bordered by grander detached houses. Beyond the Kingsway was the Downfield suburb, Caird Park golf course and countryside.

The Fairmuir Enclave Today
Just before I was sprung on an unsuspecting world in June of 1938, my parents became the owners of 13 Kingsway Place, the first house occupied in the street, a modest, two bedroom, semi-detached bungalow
with a stone front wall with railings on top that were cut off during World War II for the war effort. The houses quickly grew along our street to Kingsway Terrace, Elgin Street and Elgin Gardens, both of which were offshoots of Park Road, although a dairy farm still ran at the Strathmartine Road end of Park Road till some years after the end of WWII.

Park Road had bigger houses than those in our street and the occupants had a fine view of the weekend activity on the football pitches that patchworked the park. Until after the war ended, the few houses on the
Kingsway side of our street had cows staring over their back fences.

As the whole area became populated by young families very like our own during the year or more leading up to World War II, there was a crop of children born all about the same time before the war, with only a few younger stragglers. Most families had one child, a few two, the conflict that began in 1939 putting a damper on thoughts of bringing another child into the world in many minds and it was an era of small middle-class families. When the time came, most families who could afford it enrolled their children at the Morgan Academy, one of Dundee’s better schools and a not unreachable distance from our district, which was called Fairmuir. One black sheep went to the Dundee High School, but I can’t recall another in the street who did not attend the Morgan. The McGills, whose family’s large department store, McGill Brothers, stood on Victoria Road at the top of the Wellgate in central Dundee, lived on Kingsway Terrace, facing Kingsway Place and the son was a part of our group, even though he, too, was a High School lad.

So we were a crowd of boys and girls growing up mostly within a year’s age of one another, living close to one another and going to the same school and this was our playground, on the little, outer suburban street, before cars became commoner in the 1950s. There was a kink in the middle of Kingsway Place, where Fairmuir Street and North Street formed a T-junction, which made a bit of an open space for bikes and ball games, with a gas-light lamp post that made a useful wicket or the post for games of Touch. There was a cundie(1) that was used for the game of pinner(2). It was also where we collected rubbish for Guy Fawkes(3) day and where the annual bonfire warmed November faces, tatties were dry roasted in the embers and fireworks were let off. All the neighbours turned out for the bonfire and fun once a year.

That space was the start and finish for the many bike races that were run for all the boys had bikes. It was at the foot of Fairmuir Street North, a short and not very steep but sloping street that ended with a T-junction left and right into Kingsway Place. The slope was used as a sledge run in winter and in summer offered the daring a chance to scrape the pedal of a bicycle on the tarmac as the rider hurtled round the right-angle corner into Kingsway Place. When I was older and started riding a motorbike, it became a point of honour to scrape the centre stand mechanism going round the corner. In those days before TV reached us in 1953, kids played active games outside all the time and we were a lively group, always at something. The boys often used to take a football the short distance up that little slope to the corner of Fairmuir Park and set up an impromptu game of ‘fitba’ till it got dark.

As we got older, we were allowed to stay out playing in the street later and I well recall the long northern summer evenings when daylight lingered till after10 o’clock and only the parental calling of a child’s name forced that bairn reluctantly to leave the fun and go home. In a cold, east coast Dundee winter, dark before we left school at 4 o’clock, snowball fights and sledging on the car-free street would go on well into the dark evening. There was much house hopping, especially on Christmas morning (to the disgruntlement of parents who wanted peace and quiet) as we were all eager to see what our friends had got in their Christmas stockings and show off our own treasure.

After WWII ended, the Scottish economy slowly grew and changed, as did the population. Men returned to civilian life and wanted nothing more than to settle down to a job, set up a home and start a family. The demand for housing was insatiable. Kingsway Place was extended towards Old Glamis Road and became Elgin Terrace, forming a rectangular block between our street and the Kingsway, which it was separated from but parallel to. Dundee had to expand outwards beyond the Kingsway, where there had already developed a large industrial estate that became the home of NCR(4) and Timex(5) factories, both major employers as the jute industry was overtaken by synthetic rope, paper sacks and plastics and Dundee’s not insignificant shipbuilding dwindled. Both male and female labour was plentiful.

This rectangular street loop became a handy bicycle race circuit until increased prosperity brought more cars to the neighbourhood. There were no garages in the new ‘Pre-fab’(6) houses that soon covered the whole area and it became not uncommon for there to be cars parked on the street and more commercial traffic. Not now safe for dare-devil kids on bikes! Many of us rode our bikes to school but the growing traffic made that an increasingly hazardous activity and I remember the tragic death by a collision with a school bus, one lunchtime, of a fellow Morgan boy, who lived nearby.

By the mid-fifties, we were well into our teens, our bodies and minds were changing, and other interests were taking over from bike racing and street games. The halcyon days of our childhood were slowly ending, and society was changing as rampant technology reshaped the twentieth century. Kingsway Place is still there, with its now elderly and much-extended houses, as is Elgin Terrace. The pre-fabs were removed at the end of the 1960s and replaced by larger, more substantial houses. most now owner-occupied. Fairmuir Park still has its quota of football pitches but the public bowling green that nestled in a corner of the park, by the long-gone railway line, is closed. No tramlines run down Strathmartine Road, although buses still use Old Glamis Road and car yards occupy the places where factories stood. The H Samuel jewellery store that stood on the corner of Reform Street in Dundee’s city centre and sold Timex watches, once the place in the city centre to meet friends, is gone, as is McGill’s department store. Although my part of Dundee is still similar to the past, there are many places and streets I do not recognise.

I left Dundee at the age of 18 and never returned to live there. On a return visit to the city of my birth, spending a day or two with an old friend in the old street, I sometimes think, in my old age, that I hear children’s voices and see the flash of a bicycle or a bouncing ball as I walk up Fairmuir Street North. Faint, but still there, in a back corner of my mind. The echoes of a distant childhood.


(1) Cundie is the Dundee dialect word for the cover of a cast iron street drain or manhole. A cundie was used as the target of a boys’ street game known as pinner.

(2) Pinner, in Dundee, was a boys’ street skill game played with a square metal object, usually a piece of broken file about two inches square, with the rough edges ground off. The object of the game was to throw or slide your pinner as close as possible to the centre of a metal drain cover and, if you could, shunt the pinners of other players away. The name is used for other games elsewhere.

(3) The Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night celebrates, with a stuffed dummy which tops the bonfire and fireworks, all over Britain, the failure of the plot to blow up England’s Houses of Parliament on November 5th in 1605. (It did not become the United Kingdom’s parliament until the 1707 Act of Union, when the Scottish and English parliaments combined to sit at Westminster. The Scots King, James VI, became also the first king James of England in 1603, thus becoming king of the United Kingdom.)

(4) National Cash Register (NCR) is a multi-national technology company that set up in Dundee to manufacture cash registers and mechanical adding machines. Later, automatic cash point machines were manufactured at the Dundee factory. The company still has a small research presence in Dundee.

(5) Timex is a multi-national watch-making company that manufactured lower-price watches in Dundee, putting watches on to the arm of the ordinary person for the first time. Timex closed its Dundee factory after a bitter labour strike in 1993.

(6) The Pre-fab or prefabricated house was an early post-WWII innovation, a small single-storey house built off-site in modules and installed rapidly in numbers on concrete slabs in hastily constructed estates to provide quick and gratefully received rental housing for a growing populace of young post-war families.

The Innocents Aboard...
Hugh McGrory
My previous story of my dad’s seafaring adventure reminded me of another tale …

This one is set, once again, in Algonquin Park, in the early ‘70s. My parents had come over to Canada to see their grandkids, and we decided to take a day and drive them up to the Park to see some of our Canadian ‘wilderness’.

We left early(ish) for the three hour plus drive and finally arrived at one of the outfitters in the park that rented canoes (since the kids, and their dad, wanted to have a little canoe trip).

I rented a canoe which would take two adults and two kids complete with PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices – life jackets). I asked who wanted a canoe ride - the kids said, “we do, we do”, and the adults said, “we don’t, we don’t!”

So, the kids and I set out. I sat in he rear seat and the kids shared the bow seat. We had made sure that the kids had PFDs that fitted them and they looked ready to enjoy the trip - like the children in this stock photo.
There was a light, steady breeze from the north, but the lake was quite calm. As soon as we pushed off , the canoe naturally oriented itself to the breeze and pointed south. As Captain, I should have realised the significance of this (the adage “what goes up must come down” or “every mile downwind eventually means a mile upwind…” comes to mind) but it just didn’t register at the time…

The edge of the lake was oriented north to south and the ‘land lubbers’ in our party wandered down the road keeping pace with us as we paddled, actually really drifted, along – it was very pleasant, and the kids and I enjoyed the new experience. All good things come to an end though and I
finally decided it was time to reverse course and head back.

I turned the canoe so that we were pointing north, into the wind, at which point Mother Nature said, “I don’t think so”, and the wind turned the canoe back to point south again. At first, I didn’t think it was a problem, but I soon realised that it was more than that – no matter what I did I couldn’t get the canoe to settle into a northbound course. The nose would approach north then swing back or it would go through north and circle back. I was stuck!

While this issue was no doubt known to indigenous people all over the world for thousand of years, not a
single one of them thought of mentioning it to me, so I had no idea what to do, such as, for example, tacking, or using the J-stroke, or turning the boat around, sitting in the bow seat facing the stern and paddling the canoe backwards – this puts you forward in the canoe and helps trim it for wind-paddling, i.e. more weight forward.

Our landlubbers had been watching us, bemusedly, as we twisted and turned and made no progress - actually we made negative progress getting pushed further and further south each time - and gathered on a little dock to ask what was going on. My solution to the problem was to pull into the small jetty and ask my daddy for help.

Despite his fear of water, Dad got himself into a life jacket and climbed into the bow seat while I remained in the stern. (The role of the bow paddler is to supply power – the stern paddler supplies power and also steers.) This extra power up front made all the difference, and we were soon back at the outfitter’s dock and returning the canoe.

The kid’s and I enjoyed our little adventure, but I’m sure that I didn’t appreciate just how nerve-wracking it must have been for my dad - he never complained once…

Sadly, I’m sure if I found myself in a canoe today, I’d be just as gormless as I was then…

War Frozen in Time
Gordon Findlay
While we were stationed at Tobruk, 1st H.L.I. took part in a long-range reconnaissance as part of “military preparedness” for all the parts of 3rd Infantry Division, to which we were attached.

Our I-Section was distributed among several of the vehicles which set out from Tobruk; I was aboard a specially equipped Jeep which among other things carried a heavy-duty radio to handle some of the communication between the elements of our group.

There were 3-ton and 15-cwt Bedford trucks, a flock of Jeeps, plus a couple of armoured cars from the Royal Signals Regiment. We headed towards Bir Hakeim (Old Man's Well), a small oasis south and west from
Bir Hakeim and the battle for Tobruk in 1942.
Tobruk, the site of a famous armoured division battle during WII when Rommel’s Afrika Corps clashed with British, French, Australian and South African forces.

Contrary to what many people imagine, the Libyan desert is far from flat. It has mountain ranges and hundreds of miles of low hills. Many of the trails across these areas are simply that– trails or tracks followed by the nomadic people who cross the area. They’re not roads in the way we think of roads, solid and well-defined and easy to follow.

Much of the time the only indication of a “road” is a small pile of rock with a matching pile of rock a few hundred yards further on; you try to keep your vehicle close to the rocks, because to veer too far off means sinking into soft sand and instantly getting bogged down.

When that happens, it’s everyone out of the truck, digging out the wheels and throwing wooden-slatted tracks under them, so the driver can s-l-o-w-l-y inch forward on the wooden slats, a foot at a time which fresh sections of slats thrown in front of the tires until the truck can regain firm sand again. It’s hot, sweaty, and exhausting work.

We ground over this grey-brown and gritty landscape for several hours, then all at once we were sliding down into a shallow valley and into a living museum of warfare, for all around us were littered the shattered and burned-out hulks of Allied and German trucks, tanks, half-tracks, anti-tank guns and armoured cars.

The battle at Bir Hakeim had ended in 1943 and this was only 1951, but the scrap-metal scavengers hadn’t managed to find their way out into this isolated desert area. The bodies had long since been removed and buried but the mechanized components of a modern army were still scattered everywhere: blasted apart, riddled with holes, and torn into piles of twisted metal.

A self-propelled gun was lying upside down with its barrel peeled apart. There were a couple of tanks that had had their turrets blasted away. Others were lying on their sides with the tracks blown off. Most were torn open and blackened with the fires that had raged nine years ago.

One Australian armoured car was sitting on its own on a low rise, and it looked quite new and untouched, with well-defined camouflage and paintwork still clean and bright. It was only when we drove closer that we could see one perfect hole just below the small turret. A single anti-tank shell had obviously made a direct hit and had exploded inside.

You could only imagine what sudden, shocking, and bloody death that had caused for the crew inside. We all stared at it in total silence.

We were not allowed to get down to look closer because there was still live ammunition and unexploded shells buried in amongst the wreckage and lying around the sand and rocks.

There were also reported to be many landmines still buried in the area. . . another reason why the metal scavengers hadn’t visited this area. So, instead, we drove slowly past, keeping to the well-marked trail, all of us silent, looking at this grotesque open-air museum of desert war where so many men had died.

Hugh McGrory
Many of you will remember Butlin’s Holiday Camps, particularly the one in Scotland, outside of Ayr which opened in 1946.

Holiday Camps were very popular in the late ‘40s and ‘50s as the country began to re-build a ‘normal’ life after six years of war. The Heads of Ayr holiday camp contained all of the typical Butlin's ingredients: the
army of support workers (known as Redcoats for their red blazers) who helped guests make the most of their time, early morning wake-up, chalet accommodation, a dining hall, bars, coffee lounges, indoor and outdoor

Chalets Continental Bar

swimming pools, a ballroom, a boating lake, tennis courts, a sports field (for the three-legged and egg & spoon races and the donkey derby), table tennis and snooker tables, an amusement arcade, a medical centre, a theatre, arcades of shops, a chairlift system and a miniature railway.

Ballroom Coffee Lounge

I’ve never been to a Butlin’s myself, but I was reminded the other day of a story my dad liked to tell:

Sometime in the early fifties, my parents and my dad’s younger brother and wife (my Uncle Mick and Aunt Ina) decided to have a week at Heads of Ayr - without the kids… Probably the main idea behind the week was to get away from me and my wee brother, and our two cousins, Isa, and Margaret.

I’m pretty sure that the idea of taking a turn in a rowboat on the boating lake came from Uncle Mick. My dad couldn’t swim, and I think he was afraid of large bodies of water, so it wouldn’t have been his idea, but then again, he wouldn’t have wanted to spoil his brother’s fun.

I’m sure the ladies said something like “Not on your nelly” when asked, (then whispered to each other “It’s going to be more fun watching Laurel and Hardy in a boat…”)
Since this was about seventy years ago, the details are rather sketchy in my mind – I don’t know if the ’fun’ began before they went off for a trip on the inland sea, or whether it was as soon as they got near the boat but as I remember the tale my dad told it went something like this:

Uncle Mick was towards the stern, with the oars, and my dad was towards the bow. Somehow the boat began to rock and shipped some water so that they were ankle deep. My dad panicked at the thought of drowning (unlikely in some 18 inches of water) and since they were adjacent to the shore he decided to evacuate.

He managed to get himself on to terra firma, splashing more water into the boat in the process. When his weight was removed, gravity did its thing, the bow rose up, the stern went down and the water in the boat moved towards the stern.The result was that the water was no longer up to his brother's ankles - it was up to his butt...

I can just picture Aunt Ina and my mum sitting in their deckchairs laughing so hard they almost choked on their ice cream cones. I’ll bet it was the highlight of their week…

The intrepid McGrory seafaring brothers (my dad on the left.)
A French Lesson
Bill Kidd
For business and pleasure, I have found myself having to negotiate the streets of many cities in the UK and Western Europe. On most occasions this has been during the day when there were many people around and I always felt very secure. At other times I had to cope with deserted streets late at night and I was always very conscious of how vulnerable I was to becoming a victim of crime. To minimise the danger, I always tried to keep to well-lit areas, ideally with a reasonable amount of traffic on them. I always avoided underpasses or short cuts through narrow lanes even if in doing so this lengthened my journey.

By following these self-imposed rules, I survived, without incident, many journeys through the late-night streets of Paris, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and Brussels. Nearer to home, I survived unscathed many visits to Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and London. Yes, in my late teens and early twenties I even traversed Dundee’s Stobswell, Kirkton, and Beechwood areas very late at night. I won’t pretend that I was never frightened but my prudence or, some might say, my cowardice, paid off and I always got to my destination safely. As the years moved on and the need for such adventures reduced, I became more confident and less nervous about late night treks. Truth to tell, I made more use of taxis and only made very short journeys on foot. I followed the rules, I had nothing to fear as long as I continued to do so. They say, “Pride comes before a fall”. Alas, how true this is!

In the first Spring following our retirement Muriel and I decided to have a holiday in the South of France, and we decided that Marseilles would be the ideal place to base ourselves. We had spent a couple of nights there several years before and it seemed to be a good place to explore further. After an uneventful journey we arrived and booked into our hotel which was located at the quayside of the Old Port.
Having made ourselves comfortable after our journey we went out to explore our immediate surroundings. The quays of the old port are in the form of a “U” with the two main legs each about 600 metres in length and the quay joining them around 200 metres. The buildings surrounding the quays were set back about 30 metres. There were several small hotels in addition to ours but most of the buildings were restaurants, cafés, and nautical supply stores.

We learned that the short quay hosted a fish market every morning. On the water there were cabin cruisers, yachts, fishing boats and even a floating restaurant housed on a sizeable sailing ship. We were in tourist heaven. As the evening wore on the area became more and more lively and we sampled the fare in a restaurant that we chose at random, it was excellent and not very expensive! After a libation, well several, we left the lively scene and returned to our hotel only a few yards away. I was familiar with the reputation of Marseilles as a centre of crime and had watched The French Connection, but I was confident, that provided we kept to our rules, no harm would come to us at any time of the day or night in the vicinity of the Old Port.

Each of the next few days followed the same pattern. A leisurely breakfast followed by some sightseeing
ometimes taking in a feature of the city or a day trip by rail to Aix-en-Provence or a boat trip to Château d’If, the prison island home of the Count of Monte Cristo. Back to the hotel to rest and recuperate before returning to the Old Port and its restaurants and cafés for evening meal and a bit of socialising. At school my attainment in French was almost non-existent but over the years I have learned from holidays in France that at least three or four glasses of wine is needed for fluency in the language. I hope that every teacher of French who happens to read this takes note and will in future provide pupils with wine as well as irregular verbs!

Saturday morning started in the same way as the days that preceded it. We decided that we would walk to a market near to the Old Port. It was a bright sunny day, and the streets were busy with pedestrians but perhaps
because it was a Saturday, there were many more cars than usual parked nose to tail on both sides of the side streets. On some of the narrower streets the cars were parked half on and half off the pavements. I had stopped off to look in camera shop window while Muriel carried on ahead. Most of the pedestrians, Muriel among them, were walking in the middle of the road. When I had finished my window shopping I saw that Muriel was quite a long way ahead, and that I would have to thread my way through crowds of people to catch her up. Being observant I noticed that the
pavements that had cars parked on them provided a clear path to the end of the street where I could catch up with Muriel. Naturally I opted to take the fast route!

I had travelled about twenty metres when a car door about five metres ahead of me opened and a man in his twenties got out of the car. As he stood up he dropped a large bunch of keys that he was carrying. Being the gentleman that I am, I stopped to allow him to pick them up. I became aware of something touching my socks and then the area of my hip pockets. I turned round to find another young man smiling at me and holding my arms. I immediately went into victim mode and shouted, “Au Secours!”, proving that all my teacher’s efforts weren’t wasted. Whilst I was having my modest panic attack the two young men got into the car and out the other side and merged into the crowd. I continued to the top of the street where I rejoined Muriel who was blissfully unaware of my ordeal.

With the aid of a small Cognac I soon recovered, and had an audit of my remaining assets, a few coins, and a credit card! I think that I had about forty Euros that were no longer in my hip pocket. I was concerned that my assailants may have somehow cloned the credit card, so I decided to report the matter to the police. They were sympathetic but assured me that even if I recognised them, I would not get my money back. The credit card was left to me because they only take cash. If they are identified and arrested and only have cash on them, how does one prove that it is my cash? After all those years of following my rules for staying safe I suffered the gentlest of muggings by not staying in the crowd – and in broad daylight!

Hugh McGrory
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes... Remember when many, many people smoked, whenever and wherever, including on aeroplanes – and we just lived with it?

I wrote a previous anecdote about a trip I made to Brussels, late ‘70s or early ‘80s as a member of a Canadian Trade Mission. (I remember it as more of a junket than anything else.)

Be that as it may, the ’duty’ part ended on the Friday, and the flight back was on the Monday. This gave us the weekend to explore Brussels, but I decided to fly to Spain for the weekend to visit my cousin, Mike McGrory, and his family - he worked for BP and was based in Madrid.

I booked a flight on Sabena (Societé Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne), the Belgian national airline. I remember the experience as being a pleasant one.

I hadn’t seen Mike and his family for some time and spent an enjoyable couple of days catching up with him, his wife Jan and daughter Alison (their son Stephen was at school.)

Mike was busy on the Saturday morning, so Jan took me to the world-famous Prado, Madrid’s wonderful Art Museum. My wife, Sheila, liked Bruegel, so I visited the gift shop and bought her a souvenir - a print of
Pieter the Elder’s ‘Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap’. It still hangs on our wall, a pleasant reminder of an enjoyable weekend with family.

Sadly, the nadir of that weekend was the flight back to Brussels. My return flight was with Iberia (Líneas Aéreas de España) Spain’s National Arline. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently, back then, Spain was a nation of ardent smokers…

When we took off and the no-smoking sign went out, it seemed that everyone except me (a lifelong non-smoker) lit up. The flight lasted about two and a half hours, and everyone seemed to be smoking old jockstraps… I remember watching the smoke gathering on the ceiling and the noxious cloud slowly moving down until we were enveloped in it. At one point I actually wondered if I might smother to death before we got to Brussels.

It was to be around twenty more years before non-smoking air flights were establised universally. I still remember how much I hated every minute of that flight – definitely the worst I ever experienced!

Scots ‘Fathers’ of Australia
Part 3 of 3
Brian Macdonald
Major General Lachlan Macquarie, CB; 31 January 1762 – 1 July 1824 – The Scots ‘Father of Australia’

Part two

Lachlan Macquarie’s tenure as fifth governor of the Colony of New South Wales was longer than any of the four who had gone before him but was not without its trials. Macquarie alienated many of the middle class as years passed by an enlightened policy towards the Australian Native people, previously treated with contempt and hostility and often the object of raids that have been called massacres. These raids were usually because of the white settlers’ desire to take possession of land, for farming, land over which Aborigines roamed and as punishment for the theft of livestock for food, which the Aborigines saw as acceptable in their culture. Macquarie established a Native School for Aboriginal children, built a village for the Indigenous people, set up an Aboriginal farm and organised an annual Aboriginal convocation. In this very progressive attitude he was at least 100 years ahead of his time, and it was not appreciated by his fellow-Anglo-Celtic citizens. He also was obliged to institute punishment by the military when some of his initiatives were not well received by the Aborigines, whose culture and deep spiritual attachment to land but without an ownership aspect to it was not easily understood by a European.

Despite the long-awaited birth of a son in 1814 after several misfortunes and the early deaths of previous children, the second part of Macquarie’s governorship did not go as well as the first and he applied to resign with a pension after eight years, as he had been promised by Lord Castlereagh. A commissioner had been appointed to enquire into an incident concerning an American vessel and an unfavourable report of Macquarie’s overseeing of it was handed down. This report circulated widely in England after Macquarie’s return from Australia in 1822, to his disadvantage.

He was twice refused retirement from his post but finally his resignation was accepted in 1820, although he was not able to hand over until 1822, leaving the colony to the sixth Governor, Major General Sir Thomas Brisbane. Macquarie and his family returned to Britain to the small estate he had bought in absentia on the Inner Hebridean island of Mull and named Jarvisfield in memory of his first, short-lived wife, Jane Jarvis.

From 1823 Lachlan Macquarie spent much time in London, fighting a drawn-out battle against the blows to his reputation and the damage inflicted by the report published on the American ship incident. He unsuccessfully sought the promised pension, exhausting his private funds and his health. He retreated to Mull but was financially unable to set up his estate as he had wished or to sell the land. In 1824, at age 62, in very straitened circumstances, Lachlan Macquarie learned, after an arduous trip from Mull to London, that he would finally receive a generous pension but would not be granted a title, something he believed he was due. Before he could leave London for his beloved Inner Hebrides, he fell ill and died soon after. His funeral was attended by a large gathering of the great and the good. His body was taken back to Mull, by his wife, who had raced to London to be by his side. He was entombed on Mull.

Lachlan Macquarie’s influence on many aspects of the development of the structure, economy, finances, morals, and architecture of the Colony of New South Wales into a modern country is inestimable. His work is perpetuated by many graceful buildings from the pen of his architect, Francis Greenaway and his name lives on in Macquarie Street, a major Sydney thoroughfare and in many other Sydney locations. A university in Sydney bears his name. He is less noted in Melbourne, Australia’s other major city, which was a child of the later 19th century Victorian Gold Rush but a street in an inner-city 19th century suburb carries the family name.

The NSW city of Port Macquarie, 240 miles north of Sydney, founded by him, bears his name and the graceful inland city of Bathurst, although born of a gold rush, was encouraged and legally proclaimed by him. He was as much respected and admired by those convicts whom he had restored to their rank, appointed to positions of responsibility and encouraged to take up land after their time expired, as he was disliked by the free settlers and the higher-ranked citizens for the same reasons.

Lachlan Macquarie acknowledged that the colony had been founded as and was intended to be a penal colony – a place to dump unwanted British citizens. But he always took the view that, one day, the colony that became Australia should be a thriving and valuable member of the British Empire and his gubernatorial policies reflected this view. His faults were those of a man of absolute rectitude and a strict moral code, characteristics learned from his birth and upbringing and which he displayed by his actions throughout his life. His prediction that 'my name will not readily be forgotten after I have left it' holds to this day. He is justifiably labelled ‘Father of Australia’.

Elizabeth Henrietta Macquarie (née Campbell) (1778-1835 No picture of Lachlan Macquarie would be complete without mention of his devoted second wife, Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell. She was Scottish born in 1778 of poor but genteel and well-connected parents and was educated and highly intelligent. A distant cousin of the 17 years older Lachlan, she met him as a widower at a family funeral on Mull when she was 26. He had spent most of his life overseas as a soldier and not encountered her before then. A quick engagement followed but marriage had to await the completion of Macquarie’s next tour of military duty. They were married in Britain when he returned to take command of a regiment which later became a component of the famed Black Watch, whose depot was in Perth in Scotland.

Reported to be a ‘strong-willed and determined woman’ with a lively mind, she went with her new husband to Australia. Apart from accompanying the governor on the many visits he made to far-flung parts of his territory, such as the southern island of Tasmania, the northern town of Port Macquarie and the inland Bathurst, an arduous trip over the Blue Mountains, she took an active part in initiating, designing and even supervising the progressive public works Macquarie instituted during his tenure. She supported his progressive policies towards the Native Australians. She worked with Mrs Macarthur, wife and working partner of the Merino wool industry pioneer and Rum Corps officer, on the development of better agricultural policies.

Mrs Macquarie’s Point is a small promontory jutting into Sydney Harbour. From it there are panoramic views of the harbour, now including Björn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge (familiarly known to Sydneysiders as ‘The Coathanger’), as well as the Heads, the narrow passage thorough which all vessels must sail to enter Sydney harbour. On the point, the governor caused a large rock to be carved by convict labour into the shape of a bench, on which Elizabeth liked to sit for long periods, enjoying the splendid Sydney Harbour views and watching ships from England sailing in through the heads. The bench is still there, now in the Botanical Garden, and is a well-known landmark, officially named Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

Lachlan Macquarie’s resignation as governor took the family back to live on his estate, Jarvisfield, on Mull, named for his first wife. Lachlan Macquarie’s death in 1824, a mere two years after they departed Australia to go into retirement, left Elizabeth a widow at 46. She campaigned, until her death in 1835, to ensure her husband’s achievements in Australia and as a soldier were justly recognised.

The Macquarie clan left no family line in Australia, as the Macarthurs have done. Elizabeth and Lachlan Macquarie had a son born in 1814, halfway through the governorship and named Lachlan, as had been his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. This boy lived into adulthood and married but did not leave either issue or a good reputation behind him. He is not well-remembered.

The family tomb stands on Mull, with an inscription upon it informing of Lachlan Macquarie’s
achievemmentsThere rest Lachlan, Elizabeth, son Lachlan and another son and daughter who both died in infancy and also first wife Jane. That inscription and the huge effect on the development of Australia is their commemoration. On his tomb, which is administered by the National Trust of Australia, Elizabeth ensured that the following words from a longer inscription honouring his upright character and the services he gave to the future of Australia, were inscribed “… truly deserving the appellation by which he has been distinguished: THE FATHER OF AUSTRALIA”.

Elizabeth Macquarie is justly remembered as a faithful, devoted, and supportive wife.

I spent five days, one afternoon, recently…
Hugh McGrory
A ‘funny’ thing happened to me last week – but before I tell you the tale, you’ll need some background...

I’ve been losing weight, fat and muscle, unintentionally, for quite some time. My first thought was that it was simply old age (I’m in my mid-eighties), but as it continued, month after month, my thoughts turned to cancer, and eventually the medical profession decided we should go on a hunt to see if we could pin down the cause.

Over the past year I’ve had various scans MRI, CT, Ultrasound, etc. Nothing specific was found, but, as for most people, various cysts showed up in various organs. Most of us have them and most are benign and don’t cause any problems. One cyst in my pancreas required a more detailed look.

The pancreas produces digestive juices and insulin, as well as other hormones to do with digestion, and is a
long flattened gland located deep in the abdomen with the liver and stomach in front and the spine behind – difficult to get to, so I was scheduled for an Endoscopic Ultrasound. This means a tube down the throat which has a video camera, a light, and a miniaturised ultrasound transceiver on the end of it.

The procedure consists of pushing the tube down the throat until the sensor is in the stomach then turning on the ultrasound and scanning the pancreas through the stomach wall and, further down, through the duodenum (connects the stomach to the small intestine).

Sheila waited outside the theatre expecting the procedure to take about 30 minutes – it actually took about seventy. It turns out that, as the surgeon was pushing into the duodenum, he realised that he could see my liver – the instrument had gone through the wall of the duodenum…

His assistant told me later that I was lucky (since, after being unlucky to have this happen (out of thousands of procedures he’d only seen it happen once before)), I had a skilled surgeon who was able to close the wound endoscopically. Otherwise, I would have needed “major abdominal surgery". (The Mayo clinic says “The risk of this complication is very low — it occurs in an estimated 1 of every 2,500 to 11,000 diagnostic upper endoscopies.“)

The surgeon used a Padlock Clip) (similar in principle to self-drilling hollow wall anchors for drywall
when you can only work from one side of the wall). It seems to have done the trick and sealed the wound.

So, my afternoon turned into five days in a hospital bed, with no solid food and having, in addition to my endoscopic ultrasound, a gastroscopy and a colonoscopy.

On the bright side, no sign of cancer was found anywhere.

Artillery Practice
Gordon Findlay
The 1st Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry had a battery of 25-pounders to serve as our immediate

artillery support and anti-tank defence. We almost never saw them being used (we were, after all, just ‘showing the flag’ in Libya and not deployed against any enemy at that time).

But on one occasion it was decided that our artillery would get an active workout. As part of the work-up towards Operation “Rodeo Flail” (the 1956 Anglo-French invasion of Egypt and the military takeover of the Suez Canal) it was decided to stage a live fire exercise against targets towed offshore by the Royal Navy.

Tobruk is on the coast, so we had some nice headlands from which to shoot out into Tobruk bay and the Mediterranean. Our 25-pounders were wheeled up into position on a headland overlooking the bay, and the Navy dutifully arranged for a launch to tow a large wood-and-canvas target across the line of fire.

Typical towed target back in the day - with a longer towrope, of course...
The target was dragged very slowly by the launch at the end of a long towline, and our intrepid gunners opened fire at a range of perhaps half-a-mile. As the battalion’s Intelligence Section, we were designated to study the shots through field glasses and keep score of the hits and misses.

It was sobering to watch. The first shots from our gunners splashed well beyond the huge white target. The next series of shells sent spray shooting up well short – and well behind the target. The following blasts were well to the right . . . in fact, closer to the towing launch than the target. And so it went for the next half-hour as our 25-pounders boomed away.

Our teams of sweating gunners kept blasting, and the Mediterranean Sea absorbed a lot of punishment with spray flying up all over the place as the shots thundered out . . . but that large and taunting target escaped without a scratch.

Eventually, the Navy decided in their wisdom (and no doubt eager to see their launch come back unscathed) to cut the target loose and let it quietly and slowly drift across the bay. There it sat, gently bobbing in place, as juicy and inviting a target as you’re ever likely to see. And only then did our valiant gunners manage to send a couple of shells flying through the canvas structure.

There was a muted cheer from the ranks of our artillery support crew. When this happened the “Cease Fire!” order was given, our 25-pounders fell silent, and we were left to dwell on the thought that if that massive, almost stationary target had instead been a flock of Russian T-52 tanks racing towards us. . . . well let’s just say it would not have been pretty.

I See Trees of Green…
Hugh McGrory
Red roses too…

Everyone recognises those lyrics - the 1968 song has been covered some 200 times – personally I think the great Satchmo’s version is the best. (Did you know that Louis Armstrong, didn’t refer to himself as ‘Louie’ – he preferred ‘Lewis’?)

Sometimes though, despite the sentiments of the song, when I’m sitting, cogitating, I ask myself “How did we humans manage to make such a mess of everything. There is so much wrong with the world we live in…
  •  global warming - heat , forest fires, tornadoes, floods

  •  poverty – amongst the richest countries, the top 1% of people have between 20% and 60% of the wealth, the other 99% of us share what’s left – we live increasingly in a world of rich countries full of poor people

  •  health – we’re a long, long way from the World Health Organization’s goal of ‘universal health care’

  •  education – UNICEF says, “Over 600 million children and adolescents worldwide are unable to attain minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics, even though two thirds of them are in school.”
I’m sure you could all add several other issues of major importance to the wellbeing of the human race… how about pandemics, extremists of left and right and their attacks on democracy, world armed conflicts (currently, depending on your definition of the term there are between 32 and 110 around the world)…

A couple of years ago I was depressing myself with such thoughts, wondering what kind of world we were leaving to the grandchildren of our grandchildren, when I happened to get an email from Tom Burt. Many of you will know Tom as a schoolmate, or perhaps as the author of several stories in this collection – he has made his home in New Zealand for many years.

It lifted my spirits, and I thought you might like to read, or re-read it:

Jerry Brown a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15,wrote this story following 9-11:

"On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic.

All of a sudden, the curtains parted, and I was told to go to the cockpit immediately, to see the captain. As soon as I got there, I noticed that the crew had that "All Business" look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta's main office in Atlanta and simply read, "All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination."

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander,
Newfoundland. He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately -- no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings. We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland, to have it checked out.

We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that's nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM!...that's 11:00 AM EST. There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.

After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason." Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground Control in Gander told us to stay put.

The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation, and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane. In the next hour or so more planes landed, and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned
that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Centre in New York and into the Pentagon in D.C. People were trying to use their cell phones but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada. Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Centre buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.

We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 P.M., Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning. Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing. And they were true to their word. Fortunately, we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th, a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that, we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander! We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while. We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the "plane people." We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander, and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days. What we found out was incredible.

Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometre radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the "guests." Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewis Porte, about 45 kilometres from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged. Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were offered "Excursion" trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbours. Some went for hikes in the local forests. Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundromats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully. It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by
name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.

Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses. And then a very unusual thing happened...

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said "of course" and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days. He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers. He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewis Porte.

He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewis Porte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travellers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000! The gentleman, an MD from Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well. As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in their college education.

I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them. It reminds me how much good there is in the world."

In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today's world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward."

Strangers helping strangers - when I read this, I think of the people of London during the eight months of the Blitz of 1940/41, the people of Ukraine defending their country against rapacious Russia, the volunteers flocking to Maui to help after the recent devastating fires – so many examples.

I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They'll learn much more
Than I'll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

I so hope that Satchmo got it right, and that my misgivings are unwarranted…

Thanks again, Tom Burt, for sending me the article.

Time Just Flies By
Bill Kidd
When I was around six years old, in Dundee, Scotland, I remember being on the top deck of the Broughty
Ferry bus and my father pointing out to me the seaplane base at Stannergate. Like most small boys in the early days of the war I was fascinated by aeroplanes, and I was excited to see to see several seaplanes at once. It was many years later that I learned that the aeroplanes that I saw that day were actually amphibians, known as the Supermarine Walrus and that they were probably the ugliest machine to fly operationally in WW2. It was later still that I learned that the designer was R. J. Mitchell who also designed what was arguably WW2’s most beautiful aeroplane, the Spitfire.

Dundee was an important location for seaplanes in both World Wars. In WW1 seaplanes were located at RNAS Dundee which was established at the Stannergate. Although their main function was maritime reconnaissance, they also saw action against the German Zeppelins that were attacking Northern England. Between the wars the site was largely unused but was recommissioned as a satellite unit of HMS Condor the Fleet Air Arm base in Arbroath and designated the imaginative name of HMS Condor II . The aircraft based at Stannergate were mainly used for aircrew operational training. Flights by the Dundee based Walrus aircraft often involved maritime rescue and anti-submarine operations. The base was closed in June 1944 before WW2 ended and it is now an industrial site without any trace of its glory days! A fuller and probably more accurate account of the history of the Stannergate base can be found on the Dundee Transport Museum website.

Although I have no clear recollection of it my parents told me that I had been taken up to the viewpoint near the entrance to Balgay Park to see another highlight of Dundee’s seaplane history. On Thursday 6th
October 1938 as many of Dundee’s population as could occupied vantage points along the Tay to watch the seaplane Mercury piggybacked on to the flying boat Maia take off from the river at the commencement of an attempt to break the non-stop distance record for a flying boat. See short video here.

The pilot Captain Donald Bennett and Ian Harvey, his co-pilot, would try to reach Cape Town before touching down and they anticipated being in the air for around 48 hours. Bennett, an Imperial Airways flying boat Captain, was no stranger to long distance seaplane flights. In the previous July he had piloted Mercury, initially attached to Maia, to make the first non-stop, commercial cargo flight across the Atlantic from Ireland’s mid-west coast, to Montreal, a distance of 3,175 miles, and he was therefore the natural choice for the record distance attempt.

To undertake the flight to South Africa the Mercury would have to carry an enormous amount of fuel. This would be stored in the wings and floats of the aircraft. The biggest consumption of fuel occurs during lift-off, and this is the reason that Mercury was attached to the Maia for take-off. Once the combination was airborne and at cruising height Bennett would separate Mercury while Maia returned to her base. This is exactly what happened that October morning. After making a perfect take-off the aircraft separated somewhere between Dundee and Forfar and carried on with their journeys. Damage to one of the engine cowlings on Mercury occurred during separation. This had an adverse effect on fuel consumption and ultimately meant Bennett had to end the journey some 390 miles short of their target and set down in Alexander Bay on the Orange River. Despite not reaching Cape Town they had set a world distance record of 6,045 miles for a non-stop flight by a seaplane, a record that still stands today. There is a commemorative memorial to the historic flight located near to the Dundee V&A Museum. This was unveiled in 1997 by Captain Bennett's wife, Lys.

Captain Donald Bennett (1910-1986) was born in Queensland Australia. In 1930 he became a cadet in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and in 1931 he was accepted for a short service commission with the RAF and settled in the South of England which became his home for the rest of his life. He trained as a pilot and on leaving the RAF in 1936 he joined Imperial Airways, flying to Europe and Africa then flying Empire Flying Boats to India and South Africa. In 1938 he took charge of the Mercury and Maia project described above. Bennett continued with Imperial Airways until September 1941 when he was commissioned in the RAF as an acting Wing Commander. In April 1942, his aircraft was shot down by ground fire over Norway. Bennett and several of his crew evaded capture and reached neutral Sweden. After release from internment, he returned to Britain and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

In July 1942, Bennett, now acting Group Captain, was directed by Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris to form and command the Pathfinder Force within Bomber Command. The aircrew of Pathfinder aircraft were expert navigators, and their function was to use fast aircraft to mark targets with flares to guide the following bomber formations to the correct target. This proved to be a very successful strategy and greatly improved the overall effectiveness of RAF Bomber Command. By the end of WW2 Bennett at the age of thirty-five was an acting Air Vice-Marshall. Bennett left the RAF in 1945 to successfully contest a parliamentary by-election as the Liberal Party candidate. His Parliamentary career was a short one, he lost his seat in the General Election later that year and despite several attempts over the years he never managed to return to Parliament. The remainder of Bennett’s life was taken up with a variety of business ventures, not all of them successful. He published a book about the Pathfinders that resulted in a libel case. He continued his interest in politics in a fairly controversial manner, resigning from the Liberals in 1960 over the Common Market. He died in September 1986 aged seventy-six. A varied and exciting life but perhaps not achieving as much as he had hoped.

And to think that all my interest in this came from a Sunday outing to Broughty Ferry!

A Slow Learner
Hugh McGrory
I can remember, as a young parent, every now and again looking at my very young children and wondering how the human race manages to perpetuate itself given that children are so helpless at that age and surrounded by all kinds of accidents waiting to happen…

Case in point: When my son Mike was around a year old (plus or minus a couple of months) we decided to give him a baby walker to help him learn to walk. For those not familiar with them, baby walkers are those wheeled devices that allow kids to push themselves around before they can walk (see photo).

We lived in a home (row house, rented) that was slightly unusual in design (see photo). Unlike its
neighbours, it was all on the second floor – we entered a small hallway at ground level and had to immediately climb a flight of stairs to get to the living quarters. I quite liked it, though it was a cold house – the winter wind in Scotland used to howl through the close below.

Mike took to the walker with enthusiasm (his mother liked it too) and he was soon darting around in it. He seemed very happy piloting it around exploring his environment. One day he escaped from the living room while our attention was elsewhere, and we heard a bumpity-bumpity bump, bump, bump noise
and then screams… The little guy had done a Thelma and Louise right off the end of the hall and down the stairs to the ground floor! Miraculously he didn’t seem to have any injuries.

I said that I’d build a little gate at the top of the stairs to make sure it didn’t happen again and put a temporary obstacle at the top of the stairs in the meantime.

Shortly thereafter Evel Knievel was at it again… you guessed it, more bumpity-bump bump and screaming. So much for my temporary barrier… Once again, he came through it quite unhurt – don’t ask me how!

I immediately went out, bought some wood, and made a gate – as I should have done right after the first escapade! So, despite the fact that I once again showed that I’m a slow learner, we were lucky… this could easily have been a real tragedy.


About baby walkers: In the 1970s, when the market for infant walkers was booming, babies were frequently showing up in emergency rooms with injuries like broken bones, concussions, and skull fractures. Such walker-related injuries can be severe and can include brain injury, burns, poisoning, and drowning.

The US and UK addressed the problem by creating design regulations that manufacturers have to adhere to. This has much reduced accidents, though some 9,000 kids are still hurt each year in the US.

Canada took a simpler, more direct approach: As of April 2004, Health Canada, the government’s health regulator, banned the sale of baby walkers entirely. Anyone caught selling or importing baby walkers, even used ones, faces very heavy fines or even jail time. Try to cross the border with a baby walker and you face detention.

Mothers loved baby walkers – they kept the baby interested and allowed the mother to get on with her chores – they also helped infants to learn to walk – so the advertising said… In fact, pediatricians know that the opposite is true.

An infant has to master two main skills to be able to walk. First, they have to figure out how to get up on their feet (initially by crawling to the nearest chair, or sofa or friendly leg, and holding on to pull themselves up). Then, they have to learn how to keep their centre of gravity over their feet. Neither of these skills can be learned from a walker, so they actually delay the child’s development.

Scots ‘Fathers’ of Australia
Part 2 of 3
Brian Macdonald
Major General Lachlan Macquarie, CB; 31 January 1762 – 1 July 1824 – The Scots ‘Father of Australia’

Part one

To continue this series on three Scots who have had a major impact on Australia, I offer you Lachlan Macquarie, the most ‘Scottish’ of the three for he was born in Scotland, married two Scots ladies and died in Britain, unlike John Macarthur, who was born in England of Scots parents and died in Australia. Macquarie rests in his family tomb on Mull, in the Inner Hebrides. The third member of the trio is the least ‘Scottish’ of the three, boasting one pair of Scottish grandparents but having been born in the late 19th century in Australia of first-generation Australian parents. His name is Robert Gordon Menzies, a 20th century man, no early colonist, very different from the earlier two. His story will come later.

Lachlan Macquarie is another Scot who had a decisive effect on the early development of Australia from a penal settlement into a well-governed, democratic land. He is often labelled ‘The Father of Australia’ for his progressive initiatives during his eleven years as the fifth Governor of the Colony of New South Wales (NSW) from 1810 till 1821, following the debacle of the unfortunate William Bligh, who was cast adrift by his own mutinous crew from his British Naval command, HMS Bounty, and then deposed as Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, 17 years later.

Macquarie was born in 1762 on the tiny island of Ulva, west of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, of a father of the same name, a carpenter and miller and a poor, one-third tenant farmer of the Duke of Argyll. Macquarie’s father was a cousin of the last chief of the Clan Macquarie. His mother was the sister of the chieftain of Lochbuie in Mull, by name Murdoch MacLaine. It was a poor upbringing but not unusual for the era and the place. He may have spent time as a student at Edinburgh’s prestigious Royal High School (founded in 1128 and one of the oldest schools in Scotland) but this is not certain. He would have had a sound, basic, Scottish parish education.

Macquarie became an ensign in the British Army’s 84th Regiment, the Royal Highland Emigrants, commanded by his cousin, colonel Allan Maclean, in 1777, at age fifteen. His uncle, Murdoch MacLaine, was in the same regiment, a common family linkage. After seeing action in America and Jamaica, Macquarie, now a lieutenant, was repatriated to Scotland on half-pay reserve. With the help of his cousin, now General MacLean, he soon re-enlisted for active service as a senior lieutenant, aged twenty-six, embarked for Bombay (Mumbai) and, shortly thereafter, was promoted to captain.

Lachlan did well in the Indian Wars and rose rapidly, becoming a brigade major and saving enough money to pay off the debts he had left behind in Scotland on his re-enlistment. In 1793 he married Jane Jarvis, the heiress daughter of a former chief justice of Antigua in the West Indies, then a British possession. Sadly, Macquarie’s 24-year-old wife died in Macao of consumption (tuberculosis), leaving him a sizeable inheritance. He continued his military progress, gaining promotion and prestigious posts. In one extra post he acquired, he had the emolument paid to its previous occupant, a friend in poor circumstances, a clear sign of his affluence and sense of rightness.

Appointed commanding officer of the 86th Regiment of the British Army, he took leave to return to Scotland and take possession of land on Mull which he had been able to buy. Now a lieutenant-colonel, he dreamed of being a Highland Laird and of having an estate, which he would name for his late wife, and could leave to his descendants. Returning to London, he moved easily in society and met royalty.

A swift return to service in India came next, followed by a return to England to assume the command of the 73rd Regiment Macquarie married again, to a kinswoman, Elizabeth Campbell, some years his junior, whom he had met on Mull and asked to wait for his return from India. The regiment was soon posted to the colony of New South Wales, with its general, Miles Nightingall, to become the governor in place of fourth governor, William Bligh, who had, ignominiously, been mutinously deposed by corrupt New South Wales Rum Corps officers. The government in Westminster was anxious
Lachlan Macquarie Elizabeth Macquarie
to see order restored in the young penal colony.

When Nightingall declined the position, Macquarie applied for the role and, supported by such dignitaries as the Duke of Wellington, who went on to defeat Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo and Lord Castlereagh, who held many high offices in Britain, was granted it. In 1809, the forty-seven-year-old Lachlan Macquarie and his second wife, Elizabeth, set sail for Terra Australis. Ironically, they crossed paths in Rio de Janeiro with the two leading mutinous Rum Corps officers, Colonel George Johnston and John Macarthur, the Merino sheep breeder, heading back to England, thus relieving the new governor of the problematic task of arresting them as his first duty. Macquarie sailed into Botany Bay at year’s end 1809 and was sworn in as its governor on New Year’s Day, 1810, a propitious day for a Scot. Ellis Bent, a lawyer, was a fellow traveller on the voyage to Australia, to take up his appointment as the first qualified senior legal officer of the colony. He and Macquarie, for now comrades, would one day cross swords.

The new governor took quick action to reinstate in control of the Rum Corps those upright officers who had not participated in the ‘dethroning’ of William Bligh and to ensure Bligh’s return from his imprisonment to Sydney, as it was now being called. Bligh and the disgraced Rum Corps were bundled off back to Britain as soon as possible and Lachlan Macquarie got down to governing the colony, restoring stability, and imposing civilian rule.

Lachlan Macquarie’s place in Australia’s history is marked by a period of development in many fields. Till then the colony had been run by the corrupt Rum Corps officers who overrode the civilian governors nominally in charge. His tenure ran from 1810 till 1821, a longer period than any other governor and one that saw the start of a civilian legal structure and growth in many areas. He found that the colony, despite the grip of the Rum Corps officers, was thriving. The early years of his rule saw the restructuring on an efficient basis of all the public departments. In this he drew on his experience as a staff officer and the administrative posts he had held in India and elsewhere. Previous governors, as naval officers, had not had this breadth of experience. Customs duties were imposed. Regular markets and fairs were established. The strengthened Police Force became the controller of public revenue. A coinage was established to replace the ad hoc barter and notes of hand system which had served till 1813. Three years later, Macquarie established the first bank, contrary, it may be said, to the wishes of the government in London.

Macquarie encouraged farmers to improve their practices, adequate food production being a necessity and cycles of gluts and famines the rule. He actively toured the outlying parts of the growing colony and encouraged exploration, the result being that the explored area was many times greater on his departure than on his arrival. The Blue Mountains, part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, which separates much of the continent’s east and south coasts from the inland, were crossed during his tenure. This led to a road being built from the coast to the large inland settlement of Parramatta (now a major suburban centre of western Sydney) fifteen miles to the west and beyond to the inland city of Bathurst being planned over the mountains. Macquarie made two visits to the southern, island colony of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and founded the coastal city of Port Macquarie, 240 miles north of Sydney and another coastal city fifty miles south of Sydney, which became Wollongong.

An Army barracks was very quickly built and a general hospital, funded by what is now called ‘public-private partnership’, by granting the developers a trade monopoly over the importation of alcohol, the consumption of which Macquarie disapproved of but which he found it impossible to eliminate, as others have found before and since in other societies. His decision to legitimise and control alcohol sales was shrewd. He had strong views on public morality and passed laws to ‘encourage’ marriage rather than informal cohabitation and the keeping of the sabbath. Church parade became obligatory for convicts working for the government. The introduction of liquor licensing helped to reduce the number of drinking establishments although ‘sly grog shops’ (clandestine, unlicensed, drinking places) persisted.

But the attention to public morality was not all one way. Macquarie set up a number of schools throughout the colony. An orphanage was established, a Benevolent Society and a Bible Society. Organised horse-racing was allowed, the enjoyment of which is still high in Australia to this day. A blind gubernatorial eye was turned to the fact that several high officials were living without benefit of wedlock. A striking major reform of Macquarie’s was to make it possible for convicts who had served their sentences and were acceptable as citizens to be restored to their former rank in society as free people and to own businesses. Freed convicts were known as ‘emancipists’ and this term was also used for those who held the belief in such a policy. An Oxford-educated lawyer transportee was appointed as poet laureate of the colony, a remarkable position for a convict settlement. It also became possible for time-expired convicts to be granted land which they would work as owner-farmers. Emancipists were appointed as magistrates and Macquarie had them to dine at his table.

Francis Greenway (also Greenaway), transported for forgery, was an architect and was appointed by the governor as the first government architect, to design and oversee the building of gracious public buildings. Many of his works still stand and are on UNESCO’s World Heritage and New South Wales Heritage Registers. Convict labour was used by Greenway as was the case with public works in the Tasmanian colony. The extensive public building program initiated by Macquarie gifted modern Sydney many fine late Georgian and colonial buildings that adorn the city today. Like Macquarie, Greenway’s image has appeared on an Australian banknote.

Before taking up his role, Macquarie had been briefed by Lord Castlereagh and his policies generally followed Castlereagh’s strictures. Even so, Lachlan Macquarie’s progressive, emancipist policies were not well received by the colony’s growing middle class and free settlers, who saw them as an erosion of their privileged position. Some law officers and preachers refused to serve, work, or associate with emancipated convicts. Among the disaffected were Ellis Bent, who had arrived on the same ship as the governor to be the senior law officer and Colonel George Molle, a former friend and military colleague of Macquarie, who came with the 46th Regiment in 1814 to take up the post of lieutenant-governor.

To be continued

No Matter How Bad Things Are…
Hugh McGrory
… with little thought you can always make them worse!

This truism has proved itself to me on many occasions - often associated with attempts to repair household appliances – but in other circumstances too…

In the mid-seventies I left work one evening in Toronto and walked to my car. It must have been spring or fall since I had a raincoat with me – not sure whether I was wearing or carrying it. When I got to the car, I opened the trunk put my briefcase in, threw my raincoat in after it ,and slammed the lid.

Instead of the usual ‘thunk,’ I heard a different sound, and the lid opened up a few inches. I pushed it down again - same result. Now with hindsight, I think I may have had a trying day and was in a bad mood. Instead of looking to see what was ‘broke’ I chose to slam it a few more times…

Each time I got the same result, so I finally opened the lid completely to investigate. I found that when I threw my coat in, I didn’t get it quite far enough, and the hem had landed over the closing mechanism.

When I slammed it shut the first time, the protruding part of the lock had pushed the cloth down and punched a neat hole in it. As if this wasn’t bad enough, it seems that every time the lid lifted up the raincoat was dragged sideways about an inch or so then fell back into position ready for the next attempt to close. The result was a line of five or six identical holes stitched along the hem. You have to laugh, don’t you…

Not, mind you, what I was doing, that weekend, when I was out buying a new raincoat!

Sphincter Practice in the Night
Gordon Findlay
One of our Intel duties within the regiment and within 3rd Infantry Division was the unified radio ‘net’. This was a radio link which was maintained between lst H.L.I. and the other units which made up 3rd Infantry Division.

While in the Middle East we were part of a larger military group which included a 5th Royal Marine regiment, a R.E.M.E. (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) company, an R.A.S.C. (Royal Army Service Corps) component, and a regiment of Indian Gurkhas. All of these individual units maintained a radio link, and while we were all stationed in or around Tobruk, we kept in touch.

The idea was: in the evening each of these units checked in to a central call-in at 3rd Infantry Div. at 18.00 hours, 19.00 hours, 20.00 hours, etc. right through the night, to make sure all was peaceful and calm. We had a 3-ton Army Bedford truck which was fitted out with our most powerful radio.

The duty operator (provided by Intelligence, of course) was on duty for 4 hours at a stretch. His job was, at the appointed hour, to call up Headquarters at 3rd Inf. Div. ( “Three Item Dog. This is One How Light Item… Situation normal. Out.”) Pretty standard and simple stuff.

But. There’s always a “but.”

Our camp at Tobruk was well outside the old city itself on the coast, but we attracted attention . . . mostly from all the local dogs – and there were literally hundreds of them roaming around. They were all hungry most of the time, and when our camp was set up with a simple barbed wire perimeter, the dogs smelled opportunity... and food for the taking.

We employed some local Libyans to do the ugly work of food preparation: peeling spuds, trimming veggies, opening cans, and so forth. But we also employed them to do most of the cleanup, and let’s just say they weren’t the most fastidious fellows in that part of the world. A whole lot of food was carelessly tossed into the crap cans and naturally, this quickly attracted the dogs of the area.

These animals in the Middle East are called “pye” (for pariah) dogs. They don’t belong to anyone, they roam free, and they are hardened in their fight for survival among other dogs like them. In short– they are a force to be reckoned with!

Word began to spread within our encampment that there was a very aggressive pack of pye dogs roaming around, led by one massive white wild dog. The story was that one of our Libyan cooks had been out at the crap cans disposing of some food when he had seen a huge white pye dog at the head of a pack of wild dogs, and that the big white pye dog leader had leapt, snarling, at the cook and made him drop his pan of leftovers. The experience had terrified the cook, who envisioned having his throat torn out by this rogue animal.

The Libyan had run from the cookhouse and had quit on the spot. Other cookhouse workers supposedly also spotted this huge white pye dog, and at least a couple claimed that it had attacked them. Or so went the story…

Anyway, yours truly drew the midnight to 0400 hours shift one night on radio watch. Our radio truck was parked at the far edge of the wire perimeter, out on its own, where there would be no other radio or electronic interference. I relieved my opposite number and settled into the 3-ton Bedford, checked the radio, then settled in on the padded chair for the usual dreary watch where all you have to look at are the illuminated dials of the radio transmitter and the open square of darkness at the back of the truck.

As I recall, I had completed one routine radio check at 0100 hours, and was sitting trying not to doze, when I suddenly heard a heavy thump above my head on the canvas cover of the truck. I was startled, and looked up to see the protruding outline of four feet on the canvas above me – and as I looked up I saw these bumps in the canvas slowly moving towards the open back of the radio truck.

Instantly I thought of the massive white rogue pye dog. Mygawd! That bloody thing thinks there’s food in this truck and is about to leap in to claim it! I had visions of Corporal Findlay found in the morning in a pool of his own blood, his throat ripped to shreds.

I had no weapons of any kind in the truck. But, with my heart hammering in my chest, I slowly unbuckled my Army web belt (which had a substantial brass buckle on the end) and got up off the chair, which I then held in my other hand. (We all have childhood memories of lion tamers doing their work with a chair in one hand and a whip in the other…)

I stood there, in the darkness of that truck, and watched as those disconnected feet above me slowly advanced down the canvas and towards the open back. Would it look down over the canvas, see me, decide to chance it, and leap in? Or would it just leap in looking for food? It seemed to take forever, but I watched those imprints advance to the very back of the canvas cover… my mouth dry… my Scottish sphincter being put to the test… then just as suddenly there was a flash of white as the animal on the roof of the truck leapt past the open back and into the night.

Had it been the huge white pye dog pack leader? Had it been casing our radio truck as a possible food source? Had I just escaped a battle or mauling by sheer good luck? I’ll never know . . . but what I do know, and remember, is that it took my heart and my blood pressure a few minutes to return to normal, and that, come 0200 hours, I was able to croak over the Division ‘net’: “Three Item Dog. This is One How Light Item. Situation normal. Nothing to report. Out.”

Slaving Over a Hot Stove...
Hugh McGrory
Cooking - one of the many things in life that I can’t do well…

Case in point… Many years ago, when Sheila and I were both working long hours, we didn’t always make it home at the same time, and so the evening meal would be whatever we could find in the fridge or the pantry to throw together.

On one such occasion I got home first and, being hungry and knowing that she would be late, decided to ‘do for myself…’

When she came in, I asked her what she wanted to eat and she said that she’d decide later - just wanted to put her feet up and watch some TV for half an hour, so I carried on preparing my meal.

Our living room had an alcove for the dining table which in turn had a door to the kitchen, so she was able to keep an eye on me as she sat on the couch.

After a bit she said “You walk back and forward a lot…” I pointed out that I’d never had any schooling in cooking whereas she was taught by her mother from a pre-teenager. In particular, I said that I often had trouble trying to get everything to come together, hot, at the right time.

She asked what I was making, and I said, “boiled eggs and toast.”

She looked at me for a silent moment then erupted into a gale of laughter. I made matters worse by saying something about timing the tea, and the hardness of the eggs, and the colour of the toast… This made her laugh even more - and even I realised how ridiculous I sounded...

At least I can say that I made her day! Sadly though, my cooking skills haven’t improved much since then…

Intensive Culture
Bill Kidd
In some of my past contributions I have referred to the time when Muriel and I lived in Caithness in the ‘60s, and how we often share happy memories of the seven years that we spent there. It was a busy time for us, both professionally and socially. However, having been used to the facilities available to us in Dundee, we did miss having a wide selection of shops and although there was a great deal of quality amateur theatre and music available to us in Thurso we did miss going to the “Rep” in Nichol Street and to the orchestral concerts in the Caird Hall. In order to fill these gaps in our lives we decided that when we could afford it, we would take a “Cultural” trip to London where we could sate ourselves on those missing elements.

Our first sortie to the bright lights would be carefully planned, our budget was very tight, but we wanted to cram in as much as we could in the six days that we would have there. We decided that the optimum time for our trip to London would be mid-July before the English schools broke up towards the end of the month. This would allow us to spend a week in Dundee to visit parents and friends before setting off for London.

In March we started to think seriously about the best way of going about this adventure. Neither looking at the adverts for coming events in the Sunday Times nor seeking the advice of colleagues and friends who came from the London area were a great deal of help, the latter knew even less about the London scene than we did! We knew that we could easily book theatre tickets in advance but as we wanted to see a lot of shows during our stay, advance booking for more than a couple of performances would limit our freedom to take potluck and take advantage of what was available on the day.

Having decided on this somewhat haphazard approach we thought that it would be prudent to arrange our accommodation. Clearly this had to be somewhere fairly central and very cheap. Two areas sprung to mind, Kings Cross, and Paddington. After taking advice from some, more worldly, friends I learned that one does not take one’s wife to a cheap hotel near Kings Cross but that there were some suitable hotels near St Mary’s Hospital which was close to Paddington Station. After a quick trip to the local library and the use of its London Hotel Guide and a London Tourist map, I identified a number of possible hotels that I could contact shortly before we set out for the big city. Our only other piece of advance planning was writing to the BBC seeking audience tickets for TV and radio shows for that week, but we only received two for a radio game show.

At last, the great day arrived, and we set off from Dundee Tay Bridge Station on the overnight train for King Cross. After an uneventful journey we arrived at our destination around 6.30 am and had some breakfast in the station buffet. As we had suitcases, we decided that we should go to the hotel and leave them there. We did realise that our room would not be available until after 1.00 p.m. but if we registered and paid our deposit, we would be free to explore. Neither of us had any experience of London so it became a bit of a shock to us to discover how busy the Underground was at 7.00 a.m. on a Monday morning and that tourists carrying suitcases were not exactly welcome. After some fruitless requests for information from station staff we eventually found ourselves staggering off the Bakerloo Line at Paddington. I immediately went to W H Smith and purchased that essential little book the London A-Z and from the information gleaned from this we made our way to our hotel.

The hotel lived down to our expectations, it was clean, impersonal and the only amenity offered was the breakfast room. Although there was no charge for using the WC, a bath had to be booked in advance and
three shillings was added to your bill. By the time we had deposited our luggage and made for Piccadilly Circus via the Bakerloo Line it was mid-morning and time to do some exploring. We spent the rest of the first morning and early afternoon of our holiday just wandering around Central London and in the process managed to get two upper circle tickets for that evening’s performance in the Strand Theatre of a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Frankie Howerd, a great favourite of mine. We returned to our hotel about 3.00 p.m. to book in and freshen up then have something to eat and return to the theatre in time for the theatre at 7.30 p.m.. We enjoyed the show and got back to our hotel absolutely shattered at about 10.30 .pm.

On Tuesday morning having breakfasted and enjoyed six shillings worth of baths we set off again to see the sights. We agreed that our aim was to enjoy the facilities available to us without exhausting ourselves so today was going to be less frenetic so why not a visit to the National Gallery?
Frankie Howerd

So off we go on the tube to Trafalgar Square and by 10.30 a.m. we were looking at least some of the wonderful pictures on display. We left the Gallery at about 2.30 p.m. and sought out some lunch before getting tickets in the “Gods” for a play at a nearby theatre, both picked at random. After a quick trip back to our hotel for a freshen up we were off again for some exploration before enjoying the easily forgotten play at the equally forgotten theatre. After the theatre we enjoyed an inexpensive meal nearby before heading back to the hotel.

Having now established some sort of routine we stuck to it for the rest of our stay and managed to take in
Robert and Elizabeth, a musical starring Keith Michel who later found fame as Henry VIII on TV; Wait a Minim, a hilarious review at the Fortune Theatre; a wonderful As You Like It at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre where Muriel was thrilled to find Patrick Troughton sitting in front of her! We also managed a lunch time concert at the Wigmore Hall and to make use of the BBC radio game show tickets, this turned out to be based on tennis scoring and was so memorable and complex that I can’t recall who was on it or what it was called. By the end of the week we
Patrick Troughton Keith Michel
had become expert in the use of the underground system and reached culturally sated status. We returned exhausted but happy to our busy social life in Thurso with excellent bragging rights.

We repeated the exercise again in July the following year but at a less frenetic pace and were able to take in a couple of Promenade concerts and by a simple ‘phone call to the BBC Ticket Unit, a TV show as well. Two years later we moved to Berkshire, only an hour or so away from London and very near to Oxford, each with its theatres, museums and concert halls, the strange thing is, we only very rarely went near any of them!

Does this mean that absence really does make the heart grow fonder?

Escape from El Adem
Hugh McGrory
In a recent story about his period of National Service in the army, Gord Findlay mentioned arriving in Tobruk, Libya, in trucks that had carried them from RAF El Adem, where his regiment had disembarked.

(Some background on Britain’s National Service in Peacetime:

After World War II ended, the country still had an urgent need to keep up high levels of military manpower in parts of the world where Britain had strong ongoing commitments – in Germany, Palestine, and India. The government concluded that these requirements could only be met effectively by continuing National Service in peacetime. This was not, however, popular, especially now that Britain was no longer at war.

So it was with difficulty that Clement Attlee's Labour government persuaded Parliament in 1947 to pass the National Service Act. It came into force in January 1949 and meant that all physically fit males between the ages of 17 and 21 had to serve in one of the armed forces for an 18-month period.

They then remained on the reserve list for another four years. During this time they were liable to be called to serve with their units but on no more than three occasions, for 20 days maximum.

Students and apprentices were allowed to defer their call-up until they completed their studies or training. Conscientious objectors had to undergo the same tribunal tests as in wartime.

In 1950 a further National Service Act lengthened the period of service to two years. During the 1950s national servicemen took part in various military operations in Malaya, Korea, Cyprus, and Kenya.

National Service ended in 1960, though periods of deferred service still had to be completed. The last national servicemen were discharged in 1963.)

I personally was facing the prospect of being ‘called up' in 1960 when my two-year exemption ended. However, towards the end of 1959 the government announced that National Service was to be ended. I remember having two reactions – on the one hand I had thought it might be an interesting couple of years and that I might see a bit of the world; on the other, one or two friends who had ‘been there, done that’ characterised it as “a bloody waste of time”. Which brings me back to El Adem.

Believing that I was going to be called up, I hadn’t thought too much about where I wanted to work afterwards. With conscription ended, I decided that I might find a job abroad somewhere. To cut a long story short, I applied for several positions and the first one I was offered was from an engineering contracting company to work on airfield extensions at El Adem. I accepted their offer then went back to Dundee for Christmas.

While there I met a fellow who had been at university with me, and he said an uncle of his had just returned from a visit to El Adem. He said if I wanted to talk to him, he’d arrange it – and he did. It turned out that his uncle worked for a construction company in Scotland and had been to El Adem to consider the possibility of bidding on a construction project.

He described the place as a “boring hellhole” and said he wouldn’t dream of working there. (Gord Findlay in his tale described it thusly: “ El Adem is surely one of the dirtiest and most depressing parts of Libya... at that time a collection of battered metal structures, the usual perimeter wire, and an airfield surrounded by

discarded oil drums and other detritus.”) The ‘Uncle’ also said that the company he worked for had an opening for a young engineer in Dundee if I was interested.

I considered this new input, realising that his description of El Adem may have been biased by his need to fill a position in his firm… I decided to contact the firm that made me the El Adem job offer. I told them of the description of the site that I had received from someone who had been there, and suggested that they might like to up the salary. Apparently not, since I never heard from them again… I accepted the job offer from ‘Uncle’ and returned to Dundee to work for several years.

In researching this story, I found a description of conditions in El Adem written around the same time (early ‘60s) by an RAF National Service inductee. Here are some of his comments:

• As we stepped down from the air-conditioned comfort of the TransAir Viscount we immediately became acquainted with the sort of temperatures with which we would have to contend in Libya: although it was in the small hours the gentle breeze wafting over us felt as though it had originated from a hair drier.

• We awoke to an intense all-surrounding brilliant glare. On peeping out of the tent we realised that the brightness was just how one should expect it to be in these parts at 05.00, and we hurriedly fished out the dark glasses.Surveying our surroundings more easily we could see that beyond the tents and control-tower was a thin perimeter wire fence and then open scrubby desert, whilst in the opposite direction lay the majority of the camp. Of more urgent interest was the grim concrete ablutions block which was a hundred yards away across the dusty ground and we were soon experiencing our first saline lather-defeating shower: we later learnt that water for drinking came in a ship from Malta, but water for washing purposes came from an Artesian well within the camp.

• We were warned in all seriousness that sunburn requiring medical treatment was a crime not far short of being a capital offence, and then we were advised of the dangers of scorpion bites. An unexpected hazard was announced next: it seemed that the entire surrounding desert was a minefield left over from the war and that many of the decaying mines had become self triggering. This was the explanation for the mysterious bangs which we might have heard in the night, and therefore we would be most ill advised to ramble outside the perimeter wire.

• We changed into our short sleeved pyjamas by the light of a hurricane lamp, and each put himself, his clothing and shoes into his mosquito net and tucked that in firmly around the edge of the mattress, this being standard anti-scorpion drill. The heat was still overpowering and our little room airless. We quickly found that the most comfortable way to sleep was pyjama-less but loosely covered by a sheet : those sleeping entirely naked found themselves subject to stomach cramps and 'the runs' the next day, as the temperature dropped significantly towards dawn. I should add that the close-mesh mosquito netting provided some measure of cocoon-like privacy besides its intended function of bug protection.

• However, we were not protected from all bugs, for in the morning each of us found that he had suffered a trail of flea bites. Henceforward our sheets received copious doses of the Keatings Powder readily available from the stores, and this was generally effective. One morning we found a huge millipede about six inches long, dead on the floor in a spilt pool of dhobi Daz water. Our knowledgeable MT sergeant who had been in these parts before declared that we had been lucky as it had a dangerous bite.

All in all, I think I had a lucky escape from El Adem...

Scots ‘Fathers’ of Australia
Part 1 of 3
Brian Macdonald
The Scots have a long and proud reputation as successful immigrants. A part of that reputation came about due to historical, economic necessity, when Scots crofters were summarily and often brutally driven off their small patch of land in Scotland to be replaced by sheep and more efficient large-scale production. This was the infamous Highland Clearances of the later eighteenth century, when landlords, often clan chiefs, needed to slash costs and increase income to avoid bankruptcy. In later years of greater affluence, landlords sometimes paid the fares to the British colonies of the Scots they were obliged to evict.

Some went as the result of the need to escape persecution by a ruthless enemy bent on mass punishment and oppression after the 1745 Rebellion. Before the growing need for factory workers in expanding cities, many chose to go to new lands, far from their island home, where they hoped to make a fresh start and a fortune. Most of those were poor, peasant folk but, many had at least the rudiments of an education, thanks to Scotland’s parochial education system and the existence of libraries. The Scots peasantry had a higher education level than the English or the Welsh.

In a later century, Scotland exported engineers and seafarers to the world. Some emigrants were from affluent, educated backgrounds and sought adventure, fame, wealth, discovery, or freedom from the constraints of home. Many Scots immigrants have made significant contributions to young countries. At least two of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence were Scottish and a good number claimed Scottish descent(1).

I have spent fifty-five of my eighty-three years in my adopted land, Australia, and learned a bit about it on the journey. I want to tell you of three towering Australians, all of whom have been justifiably dubbed “Father” of some significant aspect of life in this country. They all claim Scots ancestry and their tales are worth the telling.

John Macarthur (1767 – 11 April 1834) The Father of the Merino Wool Industry

John Macarthur’s father was a Scottish fugitive from the 1745 Rebellion who escaped to the West Indies. He did not make a fortune and returned to England. John Macarthur was born in Plymouth. John had an all-consuming drive to rise in society and was ashamed of his father’s lowly trade as a haberdasher and tailor. From biographies of him it is clear he always had an eye on the main chance and a willingness to do what was needed to succeed in his aims. He somehow obtained a commission as a lieutenant in the newly founded British Army New South Wales Corps, a regiment set up to serve at the new colony of Botany Bay in Terra Australis under its governors appointed from Britain. He, his wife, and infant son sailed with his regiment and about one thousand convicts on the Second Fleet(2).

The regiment was commanded by Major Francis Grose, who took every opportunity to increase its power in to the downtrodden convict men and women, throughout the growing colony. Its officers developed a cartel that controlled much of banking, trade, justice, discipline, and general government. Macarthur was up to his neck in it, a veritable Al Capone of his day, who used any and every means to improve his position and wealth in the colony. While maintaining his commission in the Corps, he obtained a grant of forty hectares of land in a good area for soil and water and the free use of convicts to work it. He built his house and rooted
his future there. He also came into possession, from the captain of the vessel who brought them, who was a crony, of four Merino(3) ewes and two rams, from the first of this breed of sheep to reach Australia. His sheep-breeding vision was established.

Merino ram Merino ewe and lambs
Macarthur later found it necessary to travel to London to fight charges of corruption brought by the British government and emerged from this encounter exonerated and granted five thousand acres of land in a prime area of the colony, with a further similar grant to follow, for the purpose of developing a large-scale wool-growing industry. He thus became an early, if not the first, large-scale grazier. While in London, he was also able to buy nine Merino rams from the Royal Flock at Kew. His sheep-breeding and wool-production enterprise went ahead exponentially. Most of the wool was sold to the British government.

A later governor of the colony, naval officer William Bligh(4), attempted, in 1808, to arrest Macarthur and to bring him and his corrupt regimental cronies to justice for their many misdeeds. Such was MacArthur’s power in the colony’s affairs that the outcome was the setting free of Macarthur and the arrest of Governor Bligh by a coterie of the corrupt officers of the Corps(5). Macarthur was becoming the richest and most powerful man in the colony and had left his regiment. Another attempt to court-martial him in Britain failed as he was no longer a serving officer. He later served on the Legislative Council of the colony and continued to wield power for illicit purposes. His financial and political dominance continued for many years.

John Macarthur was legally declared a lunatic in his later years. He died on his sumptuous estate in 1834. He has been commemorated in several ways for his admittedly huge contribution to the Australian economy in
founding the Merino wool industry, which was a major plank in Australia’s prosperity throughout much of the twentieth century. He was featured on a stamp on the centenary of his death and on a two-dollar note in 1986. A suburb of Australia’s federal capital, Canberra, is named for the family and an electoral division in the federal parliament. Most recently a football club has been founded, Macarthur FC.

The Macarthur story is not complete without mention of his wife, Elizabeth
John Macarthur Elizabeth Macarthur
(1766-1850), who outlived him by sixteen years. As the daughter of a wealthy English farmer, she was educated to a good standard of reading, writing and arithmetic. Her letters home to family of the voyage to Botany, a year after her marriage, are a valuable part of the records of the early voyages to the colony. As a woman of education and the wife of an officer, she held a privileged position in the colony’s limited society, although, as her husband’s infamy grew her place in society diminished and most of her later life was spent at Elizabeth farm. During his time in the Rum Corps and on his absences in England, Elizabeth Macarthur ran his household and the growing farm. She was also responsible at such times, as a farm daughter, for the development of the Merino flock and was an active participant in the development of the industry.

John Macarthur and Elizabeth had four sons. The two youngest were born at Elizabeth Farm, the estate Macarthur established and named for his wife. They also had three daughters. Established at the top level of NSW society, advantageous marriages were made, and the family grew in status and influence, which it continued to wield until near the start of the twentieth century. The extensive family, now Macarthur-Stanhams and Macarthur-Onslows, is no longer influential in public affairs in the state of NSW or federally but remains wealthy.

With all his warts, John Macarthur rightly takes his historical place in the development of Australia, as The Father of The Merino Wool Industry.


(1) The number of the fifty-six signatories of the American Declaration of Independence who claimed Scottish ancestry has been said to be as high as forty-one. There were fifty-six signatories.

(2) The Second Fleet reached Botany in 1790, two years after the founding First Fleet, with a quarter of the convict passengers having died on the journey, it being managed by former slave traders, who did not much value human life. Conditions for convicts were appalling, in contrast to Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet, where attempts were made to allow convicts on deck for fresh air and to maintain as good conditions below decks as possible. The Second Fleet earned the soubriquet of ‘The Death Fleet.’

(3) The Merino is a large sheep, known for the high quality and prolific growth of its wool. It originated in Spain.

(4) William Bligh, Royal Navy officer and colonial administrator, has his own colourful career to relate. He was the victim of a mutiny in 1789 while in command of HMS Bounty of the British Royal Navy and was set adrift in an open boat with eighteen loyal men with some provisions. They reached the south-east Asian island of Timor safely, all alive, after an epic voyage of 3,618 nautical miles (6,700 km). He then returned to naval duty. Seventeen years after this adventure, Bligh was appointed Governor of the colony of New South Wales. The mutiny and the later overthrow of the governor by the Rum Corps officers may say something about Bligh’s martinet management style. William Bligh went on to reach admiral rank in the British Royal Navy and died peacefully in London.

The 1962 Hollywood film, ‘Mutiny On The Bounty’, starring the craggy-faced English actor Trevor Howard as the disciplinarian William Bligh and the American Marlon Brando as the mutiny’s leader, Lieut. Fletcher Christian, is a fictionalised version of this historical episode.

The mutinous group of nine seamen hid on the remote Polynesian Pitcairn Island with some kidnapped Tahitians. The somewhat closely-bred descendants of this group still live on Pitcairn and bear the surnames of the mutineer seamen.

(5) This sorry episode was an effective coup d’état and is known as ‘The Rum Rebellion’. Bligh was confined in Sydney, and then anchored off Hobart, the main town of the southern settlement in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), for two years while the military continued to rule at Botany. In 1810 Major-General Lachlan Macquarie arrived from Britain to take over as governor.

The splendidly named Lachlan Macquarie will be the subject of another essay on Scots ‘Fathers’ of Australia.

Hugh McGrory
In a previous World War II story, Gordon Findlay told of the crash of an aircraft, which, for more than fifty years, he thought was a Spitfire, in Dundee’s Caird Park. It turned out that the aeroplane was actually a Hurricane and sadly the young pilot-in-training, from Tealing Airfield, died.

Hurricane behind Spitfire
We discovered that, by a strange coincidence, a few months later, another aircraft, a Spitfire, did crash about two and a half miles away. It was another student pilot from Tealing Airfield who was undergoing training in low-level flying.

(Flying at low level is used to avoid detection by radar systems; to escape from enemy planes; to avoid certain types of ground weapons; to fly underneath poor weather where it’s important to keep in sight of the ground or water; to strafe enemy personnel and vehicles on the ground; and to prepare for low level search and rescue operations. It is one of the most dangerous parts of military flying and has led to the deaths of many young, and even experienced pilots.)

There were two different versions of where the crash occurred – one said Drumgley near Forfar, the other Balmydown farm on the outskirts of Dundee. This confusion existed in some circles for more than sixty years. See the excerpt from a forum for WW2 vets:

05-Nov-07, 04:47 PM (GMT)

"Spitfire P8650"

In Numerous Communications I have seen it stated that this aircraft met its end at or near RAF Tealing. This is not correct. It hit trees while low-flying at Drumgley, between Forfar and Kirriemuir. This happened on 29/12/43. The pilot, who lost his life, was 1313908 F/Sgt J M Jones of 58 OTU, Grangemouth. A medical party from Tealing attended the incident and this may have given rise to the misunderstanding.


I decided to investigate this further, and finally managed to talk to several people with knowledge of the affair:

My first contact, by phone, said that he had heard, while at school, that an airplane had hit trees near Drumgley, but that he hadn’t seen this happen, nor had he seen the crash site.

I also contacted, by phone, a long-time resident of Tealing in his mid-eighties, who said that he and a school friend were first on the site of the crash, and that it was in a field on Balmydown Farm, near Tealing, NW of the farmhouse. Confirmatory evidence came from the current farmer at Balmydown. My contact offered to take me to the site on my next visit to Scotland.

I believe that both of those reports are genuine, and that the scenario which connects them is probably that
the Spitfire hit the trees at Drumgley, the pilot pulled his stick back and increased power, then tried to regain control of the airplane. He continued on the same heading passing about two miles east of Glamis Castle(1). Presumably the damage was too severe, and he crashed at Balmydown Farm. The approximate coordinates, I estimate as 56°30'33"N 3°00'01"W. From trees to farm field is about 9 miles and would’ve taken less than two minutes.

The young pilot was a Welshman:

JONES, John Morgan - F/S (Pilot) – 1313908.

"A family tree on records that he died in a flying accident in Scotland. The Graves Registration Report Form lists his unit as 2 T.E.U.

The family tree includes the following information: John Morgan Jones, Flight Sergeant (Pilot), 1313908, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. John was the brother of Tom Jones, Post Office, Pentrecwrt.

He volunteered to serve with the Royal Air Force and was posted to No. 58 Operational Training Unit at RAF Tealing near, Angus, Scotland, for training as a fighter pilot. On 29 December 1943, John was flying Spitfire P8650, when he hit some trees during a low flying exercise, and crashed. John was killed in the accident and was brought home for burial at Bwlchygroes Independent Chapel graveyard. Source: Llangynllo War Memorial - Cardiganshire."


(1) Glamis Castle is the ancestral home of Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (later Queen to King George VI, and mother of Queen Elizabeth II, and of Princess Margaret, who was born there).

Gordon Findlay
Our camp in Tobruk was pretty basic. The only permanent buildings were the guardhouse, a couple of cookhouses and the armoury where all our heavy weapons and ammunition were stored. The battalion was housed under canvas, and for the first two weeks we slept on the ground, in two-man tents, on palliasses stuffed with a mixture of local grass and straw.

Inevitably, your body weight squeezed most of this stuffing to one side or another and you found your hip digging into the unyielding surface of the Libyan desert, a greyish compound of light sand and gravel. And while it was extremely hot during the day, it got cold quickly at night.

Another problem: trying to set up your mosquito net above your palliase. First you ran a string along the inside ridge line of the tent and hooked the top of your net to that. But it was a long way to the ground, and it was very difficult to get it right when there were two of you in each tent, trying to sort out your sleeping arrangement.

After a couple of weeks however, a shipment of metal army cots arrived, and we were able at least to get up off the desert floor. And these cots came with an adjustable wire frame over which you could hang your mosquito net.

You quickly learned to be careful in dressing after reveille sounded... Sand flies loved to slip into the folds and creases of your shirt, so you shook it out and ran your finger along all the seams before you put it on. And you learned to carefully turn your boots upside down and shake them hard– for nothing attracted the local scorpions more than the nice dark and warm confines of an Army boot.

More than one squaddie who ignored this step would feel the agonizing sting of a scorpion and would suffer half a day of throbbing pain in the toe or the soft tissue of the foot.

Sand flies were everywhere and if you were unlucky enough to be bitten, you were almost certain to get a dose of sand fly fever. Bannerman. who was in our Intelligence Section, got bitten by sand flies, and contracted the fever.

The Medical tents area was at the far side of our camp but you could hear Bannerman yelling and raving all across the area. He shouted and moaned on and off for three solid days. When he finally rejoined the Section he had lost 20 lbs. and all his colour. He looked like a ghost.

It was hot at Tobruk. Every day was the same. By 7.00 a.m. the sun was climbing in a brilliant blue sky and the temperature was rising fast. By 10.00 a.m. it was 85 degrees and by noon, a stupefying 100 or more.

The heat rose in shimmering waves from the desert sand and bounced off the whitewashed walls of any stone buildings like the door of an oven thrown open. It enveloped you like an invisible and suffocating blanket.

Sweat trickled down the side of your face, from your crotch, and down the side of your legs. It pooled in the hair under your hat, then slowly leaked down the side of your face to gather in the creases of your neck and shoulders. It ran in tiny rivulets down your arms and the centre of your chest. No matter how much you drank during the day you were always thirsty.

The dress code was relaxed in the desert. You wore your beret or tam o’shanter, shorts, socks, and boots. Your sergeant or corporal stripes were attached to an elasticized band which you wore on your left arm. Otherwise, you were stripped to the waist (this was before concerns about sun damage to the skin, and certainly before the era of sunblock lotions and creams). In short order we were all brown as walnuts.

By contrast, night-times were cool in Tobruk. Without a cloud in the sky the air quickly got cold once the sun went down. Shirts came on, then green Army-issue sweaters. Men on guard duty around the camp perimeter wore heavy greatcoats and were grateful for them.

But if you walked away from the camp lights into the darkness and looked up, you saw the great vast blackness of the sky encrusted with a billion points of light from the stars. It was a silent and deeply impressive show you never tired of.

I Don't Remember
Hugh McGrory
The incident happened about eighty years ago – I would have been about five years old – and there is so much that I don’t remember about it...

I don’t remember who else was there that morning in Fairbairn Street, Dundee (where I was born and brought up until the age of twelve); I don’t remember who the child was, about a hundred yards away; I don’t remember who I was playing with; I don’t remember why the child cried out the way she did; I don’t remember who the people were who responded.

I do remember her blood-curdling scream of agony; I do remember being scared; and I do remember some people responding.

What I will never forget, was one man (whom I didn’t recognise - a neighbour or a visitor) who appeared suddenly. He was dressed in only a singlet and pants, and I was intrigued to see that half of his face was covered in shaving cream.

I don’t remember how the incident ended (I’m sure I would have heard if the child had been badly injured – I’m thinking a broken bone, or torn ligament, or some such), and I don’t know if the man contributed anything significant to the affair.

But I will always remember how, as a five year old, I was given an insight into the way so many of us, as social animals, have an innate need to respond to others in peril, and why so many ordinary people become heroes in response...

I’m going to stop here, because I’ve nothing more to add, and because anytime I think about that man – in the midst of shaving, dropping his razor and taking off running in response to the cry of a terrified child – my eyes tear up... as they’re doing now...

Early to Rise
Bill Kidd
During the late 1940s and early 1950s I was part of a hidden workforce. This came about as the result of a brother of a friend relinquishing his morning roll delivery job because he was leaving school. The job was easy. All that was required for the ten shilling per week on offer was that I turn up at the local bakery at 5.30 am Monday through Saturday, collect a basket containing around thirty bags of warm morning rolls and deliver them to the address marked on each bag. It was expected that I return with the empty basket by 6.30 am. The opportunity of a lifetime and despite the misgivings of my parents I decided to grasp the opportunity with both hands!

On a chilly morning just after Easter I was less sure that my decision was a wise one when I entered the warm bakery to pick up my basket of already bagged rolls and a list of the names and addresses of my customers. I saw that some of the names had specific instructions regarding delivery. On further inspection I noted that because of these instructions I would have little choice in the route I would take or the order in which the deliveries would have to be made. I decided that I would just get on with it and study the customer list in detail after I had completed my initial venture into paid employment. The first thing that I discovered was that although one bag of rolls weighs very little thirty of them in a basket is quite a heavy load. The second thing was that the most morning roll eaters tended to occupy the top flat of their tenement. My third, and ultimately most important discovery, was that I was joining a layer of society that only existed before most folks got up in the morning.

At the time of my first brush with the world of work Dundee was an industrial city and most of the working population was engaged in some form of manual labour. In most of the UK married women did not have employment outside their home and many employers terminated the employment of female staff when they married. Even those enlightened employers who continued to employ married women usually dispensed with their services when they became pregnant. In Dundee, the jute industry needed skilled female labour and continued to employ married women and, in many cases, even had nurseries to look after their pre-school age children. This all had a bearing on the need for a delivery of morning rolls.

The early morning society that I had just joined came about because virtually every household took daily delivery of a morning newspaper and as there was no domestic refrigeration at least one bottle of milk. In most homes that had rolls delivered the wife went out to work at the same time as her husband. In those far off days porridge or cereal was only part of a cooked breakfast. The enjoyment of this and a look at the newspaper before setting off for an 8.00 am clocking on time at work was the normal start to the day. To make this possible it was important that the milk newspaper and rolls were on the doorstep before 06.30. What about those folks who didn’t have rolls delivered? The less discerning made do with bread and jam but, where the wife didn’t go out to work, she often went down to the bakers herself before returning to cook the breakfast. Who said that the women didn’t work?

Over the next few weeks I realised that there was rather more to the job than I had first thought. I quickly got to know the other, exclusively male, members of the pre-dawn army and almost as quickly I realised that there was a symbiotic relationship between the delivery of a newspaper and a bag of morning rolls. Within the first week I had arranged to meet up with a newspaper delivery boy and share out the common customers. This meant that I delivered his newspapers to all the homes in a particular close where I had customers while he delivered my rolls and his newspapers to another close. From this I learned that a job gets done easier and quicker if you can cooperate with others, a lesson that has served me well over the years. Cooperation with the milk delivery sector was more difficult not least because the adult milk float drivers were not very friendly but also because it was physically difficult to manage newspapers, bags of rolls and bottles of milk while going up the stairs of a tenement building!

By the end of the summer I considered myself to be a fully skilled member of the early morning work force and had already learned that in addition to my regular wage I received weekly tips from many of my customers. One customer stands out in my memory. I was offered one shilling per week if I would deliver her rolls at 6.15 am every day and while doing so, enter the house (the door was unlocked), knock on the bedroom door until either she or her husband answered, then go into the kitchen and light the gas under the already filled kettle before leaving. Needless to say I performed logistical somersaults to meet the 06.15 deadline and secure that extra bob a week.

I didn’t find juggling schoolwork and roll delivery too difficult, I got into a routine of doing my school homework in the time between returning from work and leaving for school. I went to bed soon after 9.00 pm and my alarm clock was set for 5.15 am. I very rarely slept in. Sundays were a special day when I often slept until noon. The cold dark mornings of winter were not my favourite time of year, but summer mornings were a delight. School holidays were just days that I didn’t go to school. On the rare occasions that I joined the family for a few days holiday I had to find someone to take over my delivery round and of course give him my wages!

My most common arrangement was with a classmate who delivered the Evening Telegraph. He would stand in for me in the morning and when he needed someone to undertake his evening round, I would be his locum. I continued my early morning employment until well into my third year of secondary education when I found that having a social life would be a good idea, and that a Saturday job in a local shop was an easier way to earn pocket money.

What a Dive 2
Hugh McGrory
Brave, cowardly, or just plain dumb?

American Cyanamid was a large chemical company that, in 1909, began to manufacture calcium cyanide (used as an agricultural fertiliser) in a plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, a couple of miles from the famous Falls. A major reason for the choice of site was the plentiful supply of both water and electricity from the Niagara River.

In the mid ‘30s, George Cox, Cyanamid’s plant manager for many years, spied a group of young boys sneaking under the fence to swim in the cooling-water channel. Instead of calling the police to chase them off, Cox went in a different direction – he decided to create a safe place for the youngsters to swim.

The channel was soon enlarged to accommodate a huge swimming tank that was 210 feet long and 105 feet wide. The tank was shallow at one end and gradually deepened at the other. Many truckloads of beach sand arrived to turn the south side of the pool into a miniature beach. On the north side, maple trees were planted to provide shade for the large and inviting picnic area. Two stone fireplaces were also provided for cooking purposes.

All of the water in this massive pool was completely changed each and every hour and a half. Anyone who swam in the Cyanamid pool will remember the currents as 500,000 gallons of water moved from one end of the pool to the other before entering the plant.

The pool proved to be very popular with locals and tourists alike. Within four years of opening in 1936, the changing rooms were expanded, and the emergency station doubled in size. New spaces for volleyball and horseshoe facilities were also added. In the early 1950s, a concession stand was built and proved to be a popular pit stop for many hungry swimmers.

The Pool with the Manufacturing Plant in the background.
Some sources say crowds of up to 150,000 people visited the Cyanamid pool yearly during their opening season, traditionally the last day of school in June until Labour Day. Sunday was the busiest, with daily attendance reaching 6,000 visitors.

So, in 1967, the three stooges, I, Bob and Iain (whom you met in the previous story) decided to make the two-hour trip to the pool, so our families could have a day at the beach.

At lunch time, as we sat by the sand, we watched two young men diving from the high board (about ten or
twelve feet above the water surface - see photo of the actual board). They were very good, and hundreds of people around the pool were being entertained by them. I then had an idea…

I suggested to my two buddies that we three should have a go. Where that idea came from, I’ll never know! What the hell was I thinking? I could barely swim, and the last time I tried diving (see previous story) it hadn’t worked out too well – and that was from a height of zero feet above water level!

Surprisingly, my suggestion was not well-received by Curly and Larry… After some discussion and prodding on my part, the best I could get was, “Yeah, right, you go first…”

This was a perfect opportunity for me to call them chickens then lie down for a nap, but instead I said “Right.” then got up and walked over to the diving board where the two divers were taking a little rest.

I climbed the ladder and went to the edge of the board and looked down. At that moment I felt like the dog that caught the car bumper. “Whoa“, my left brain said to me, “that must be twenty feet if it's an inch. Just so we’re clear,
numbnuts, there’s no way on earth we’re diving off this platform!”

I looked around for inspiration and all I could see were hundreds of upturned, expectant faces waiting to see another beautiful dive. My right brain said “Now just hold on a minute! We can’t turn around and climb down again. Oh, the ignominy…”

What to do, what to do?

Well, I didn’t dive. To be clear, I didn’t do a climb-down either. I did a very bad imitation of a dive, throwing myself headfirst off the platform and hitting the water in a huge belly-flop – it certainly wasn’t anything you could call a dive!

I remember coming back towards the surface and holding on to the wall of the pool, under water, for as long as my breath lasted, before I let my head break the surface. I figured if people thought I might be drowning, maybe they'd forget about my total incompetence as a diver...

I climbed out, and, as my belly and chest turned red, the two guys who had been diving came over and were very nice to me. They gave me some tips (which I can’t remember now, since I had already decided my diving career was over)!

I headed back to Curly and Larry and said, “Ok guys, whose first?” They looked at me and said, “No way – you must think we’re as dumb as you…,” and I said, “#$%^(&*!!!”

Sadly, the pool closed after the 1971 season due to high renovation costs needed to bring the facilities up to new provincial codes and standards.

(Note: It seems that diving with no training is a really stupid thing to do. Diving from a height of 10 or 12 feet, as I did, isn't likely to do any serious damage – a red, stinging face or belly, perhaps some bruising. However, from a greater height, say 30 feet and higher, abdominal injuries that affect internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and bowels, have occurred.

Of course, if you know what you're doing, the result can be quite different. See world record-breaker Professor Splash in action here.)

So, was I brave, cowardly, just plain dumb, or perhaps all three? Looking back, it occurs to me that a smarter alternative would have been to jump rather than dive – perhaps do a cannonball (why does hindsight never appear when you really could use it, eh?)

A Scottish take on Aussie English
Part 3 of 3
Brian Macdonald
Regrettably, to my generation, colourful Australian English is disappearing with Aussies my age and a generation or two younger as a dwindling coterie of custodians. Today’s young Australians do not indulge in conversation face to face or write lengthy articles or letters but communicate remotely by smart phone, with text messages so cryptic and punctuated with emojis that I have to ask my 12-year-old granddaughter to translate for me, and by contributions to social media. The written and spoken word as art forms have gone out of favour with many. Poor grammar and a lack of respect for accurate, polished English or verifiable truth are common aspects of the online social media platforms to which so many have taken so enthusiastically.

To finish this tale, here is a short primer of words and phrases from the colourful Australian English lexicon for the ‘newbie’ to learn and use if he or she wishes to fit in when visiting us or coming here to live. Australians are by a huge majority urban dwellers and are far from stereotype Crocodile Dundee’s or characters from the comedy films of the 1970s about an ocker(1) Australian, Barry (Bazza) Mackenzie’s assault on England but there are examples of them flourishing and they do, at least, perform the useful function of keeping this part of Australian culture alive. A working knowledge of Aussie phraseology will stand you in good stead in many social situations.

Mate. The essential Australian word. Depending on the length of the vowel sound and the tone, this word can be a confirmation of close friendship as in “Duncan’s me mate”, a friendly greeting to anyone, not necessarily a close friend, as in “G’day, mate”, an expression of scorn, as in “Don’t come the raw prawn with me, mate!” or a sound of disbelief or disappointment when uttered as “maaate”. There are innumerable versions, and it helps to learn the appropriate facial expression that accompanies each.

A standard Aussie greeting, even to those with whom the speaker does not have any prior relationship at all is “G’day. How ya goin’” The standard reply is “Good! How a’ you?” Radio talk show hosts have lost their minds trying to get callers not to waste time on this salutation with absolutely no effect. A useful variation is to have a pithy reply ready. “G’day, mate. How ya goin’.” ‘Flat out, like a lizard drinkin’!”

If you are accosted in a shop by an assistant, with the aggressively uttered phrase “Are you right?”, be neither offended nor frightened. It simply is the standard way of asking if you wish to be served.

The word ‘bastard’ is another staple, like ‘mate’, with a wide range of meaning. “G’day, ya old bastard” is a greeting to a good friend. “Mind you, he can be a right bastard” lends a very different meaning to the word. “’E’s not a bad bastard” is an affirmation of someone being a ‘good bloke’.

“Whadda you do for a crust, mate?” Australians have no compunction about asking even a stranger what he does for a living, in any social context. This may be partly because there is a strong level of egalitarianism in behaviour, dress and socialising between men and it can be impossible to distinguish a street cleaner from a managing director in the pub, on a sports field or at a barbecue and a wide social range is common in such environments.

The Sunday arvo (afternoon) barbie. In a land of (now hotter and hotter) sunshine, backyard barbecue parties are a standard event. The invitation may be given as “D’ya wanna come and sacrifice a steak?”. This is a good way to get to know your neighbours and is a major group activity of amateur sports and social clubs. The snag or mystery bag (sausage) is likely to be on the menu. A recognised ritual offspring of the barbie is the ‘Satdee morning sausage sizzle’ in the car park at the local Bunnings (a category-killer hardware chain) always to raise funds for some local organisation. As in UK, DIY-ers are out in force at the weekend, raiding the hardware stores.

Other colourful expressions:

As mad as a cut snake – very angry
Kangaroos loose in the top paddock – not very smart and prone to erratic behaviour
A beer short of a carton (or ten cents short of a dollar or any similar expression – of low intelligence or ‘not the full quid’, a quid being a pound (or dollar)
“You wouldn’t be dead for quids!” It’s great to be alive!
A man with red hair or a red-haired dog is inevitably called ‘Bluey’.
Someone who hasn’t got a zack is broke, a zack originally being a sixpence, now a five-cent piece.
In Australia, a team’s supporter barracks for his or her team.
A larrikin is a person who is prone to unorthodox, but not usually harmful behaviour, but is likeable.
A lair is a man addicted to flashy, vulgar behaviour and clothes. He may also be described as a ‘show pony.’ A ‘mug lair’ is just a bit worse.
A ratbag also indulges in unorthodox behaviour but is not likeable and may go too far with loutish or minor criminal behaviour.
If you are going for a swim in Melbourne, you will need your bathers. In Sydney you’ll want a cossie (costume) but in Queensland it’s ‘togs.’
An untrustworthy person probably ‘couldn’t lie straight in bed.’
‘Fair dinkum’ can mean authentic (of anything), genuinely Australian, true (of an unbelievable tale) or a suggestion that something is not genuine, or of surprise if spoken in a questioning tone. Other versions are‘dinky-di” or ‘dinks’ with or without the question mark.
‘In like Flynn’ means to be accepted in society or to have insider access to something. It derives from the reputation of the 20th century Australian film star Errol Flynn as a seducer.
‘She’s a beaut day, eh!’(2)

‘The Penguin Book of Australian Slang’ by Lenie Johansen was first published in 1988. In the millennial edition it was a dictionary 536 pages long, three columns to a page. It and ‘Strine’, ‘Let Stalk Strine’ and ‘Nose Tone Unturned’ by Afferbeck Lauder are all available from Amazon. Lauder also wrote Fraffly Well Spoken and Fraffly Suite, in both of which he focuses on the strangulated English spoken by the English upper classes.

‘They’re a Weird Mob’ is a novel published in 1957, a period when there were many Italian immigrants. It is purportedly written in the first person by a newly arrived Italian immigrant, Nino Culotta, about his entry into Australian working-class society by way of joining a building crew as a labourer and featuring his difficulties in adjusting to the idiosyncratic ways and incomprehensible language of Australians. The author’s name is John O’Grady, who was born and died Australian. The book was made into a popular comedy film by the well-known filmmakers Emeric Presburger and Michael Powell. This book, too, is readily available.

“Hooroo!” Goodbye.


(1) An ‘ocker’ may be defined as ‘an uncouth, uncultivated, or aggressively boorish (usually young), Australian male, stereotypically Australian in speech and manner’.

(2) In some parts of Australia, particularly in Queensland (viewed by some in the southern states, where people think of themselves as more sophisticated, as a redneck state), the ejaculation ‘eh’ is often tagged on to the end of a sentence as a form of punctuation or emphasis. This tends to confuse foreigners, who think they are being asked to respond.

What a Dive
Hugh McGrory
In past stories I’ve mentioned more than once my belief that chance plays a larger part in our life stories than we credit. I’d guess that most of us can think of occasions where another time or place, a few seconds or inches, could have made an enormous difference to our life from then on.

One that comes to mind for me took place in 1966, the year we moved to Canada. We got together one weekend with two of my colleagues, Bob and Iain, from Scotland, who’d emigrated the previous year,
and we decided to visit Sibbald Point Provincial Park with our families. A previous story set in the park may be seen here.

We all enjoyed the supervised swimming area, much of the time spent keeping a close watch on the kids, but when they tired out and retreated to the beach for a rest Bob, Iain and I got a chance to relax in the water.

The swimming area was delineated by a rope tethered in position and kept on the surface by multiple floats along its
length. The area, of course, had been cleared of debris, such as fallen trees, when first established, and was well maintained and guarded by a lifeguard perched in a tower.

So, we, The Three Stooges, were larking around and at some point, I, as Moe, had a ‘bright’ idea which
Curly and Larry went along with – if they held on to a stretch of the guard rope, I would climb on top of it and dive off. It seemed like a good idea…

We figured we’d have to be quick (before the lifeguard spotted us) so we got into position, standing in water about four foot deep, they held the rope tight, I got on top of it and launched myself outwards…

I draw your attention to the word ‘outwards’ – not one of the Stooges cottoned on to the fact that it might have been better to have performed this, admittedly stupid, manoeuvre by diving inwards. It did occur to me a split second later…

It seems that someone had placed a large boulder just there (conceptually, imagine a huge cannonball about three feet in diameter, about a foot below the surface, and invisible).

This is where chance came into effect - in the form of good luck for me! I had dived in at the side of the rock, my arm hit the boulder first and my forehead in turn hit my arm – while it scared the life out of me, I got away with only a skint elbow and a few minor bruises…

(source CBC/Radio-Canada)

In the month of July 2020 alone, the trauma centre at Montreal's Sacré-Coeur hospital saw five cases of spinal cord injuries related to diving, three of which occurred in the last week. Dr. Piette, head of the trauma team at the regional health authority that oversees Sacré-Coeur said that these were all young people diving without knowing the dangers, and hitting their heads…

He further emphasised that, before doing any kind of diving, people must make sure they know how deep the water is and check for hazards like rocks.

All five of the people admitted are now quadriplegic...

The Middle East
Gordon Findlay
When you are a member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, flying is not a comfy business. The planes that flew us out of the U.K. were utilitarian in the extreme.

Down each side of the interior fuselage was a single row of simple tube steel and canvas seats facing inward. The centre part of the plane was for your kitbag and weapon.

We were allowed off the aircraft, but only thirty yards from the doorway to a small metal building which contained a row of smelly toilets. Back outside we stretched our legs, sniffed the warm air of southern France for a few minutes, then it was back on board again

It was late afternoon before we touched down at Tripoli’s military airport. By that time, we were all heartily sick of the bellowing noise and the oily smell of our plane. Off we trooped and into 3-tonner trucks for the short drive to a military base nearby. We were all wearing thick British Army battledress, and since it was 85 degrees at least, everyone was soon drenched in sweat as we lugged kitbags and personal weapons into the trucks.

But at least one small part of this military exercise had been thought out properly. As soon as we arrived at our wooden barracks, we dropped off our kit, then were marched across to another building where – oh, miracles of miracles! – we were issued our Mid-East gear: two pairs of shorts and short-sleeve shirts, thin socks and light underwear. Our U.K.– weight battledress would go to the bottom of our Army kitbags and stay there for the rest of our stay in the Middle East.

We didn’t stay long in Tripoli, just long enough to make sure we got acclimatized to the heat and got used to wearing our new Middle East togs. Then it was back into those bellowing airplanes again for a shorter flight – this time to El Adem.

El Adem is surely one of the dirtiest and most depressing parts of Libya... at that time a collection of battered metal structures, the usual perimeter wire, and an airfield surrounded by discarded oil drums and other detritus. We didn’t really have a chance to look around, for the usual collection of 3-ton trucks was waiting for us at the edge of the airfield and we were stuffed into them for the hot and dusty drive into Tobruk – that famous World War Two battlefield that changed hands several times and was largely shattered and flattened in the process.

Hugh McGrory
In 1893, the Ontario government of the day established Algonquin Park as a Forest Reservation and National Park. Now known as Algonquin Provincial Park, the area, for thousands of years, was home to the Indigenous people known as the Algonquin. The area was very sparsely populated, with scattered family

groups of Aboriginal peoples coming to fish, hunt and pick berries, but their numbers were never large. It wasn't until the 1800s that momentous changes came to the rugged Algonquin highlands when the demand for white pine from the expanding British economy became huge, and the logging industry mushroomed.

The park was not established to stop logging, but rather to establish a wildlife sanctuary, and by excluding agriculture, to protect the headwaters of the five major rivers which flow from the park.

Over the years since then, the Park has become a beloved place for all those who cherish Canada’s natural and cultural heritage. It attracts over half a million visitors yearly who participate in day-use activities, camping, or back-country travel. It occupies 7,630 square kilometres of land and water, with water making

up approximately 12% of the area and contributing an extensive network of canoe routes. (This is a huge park – for comparison, its 3000 sq miles is half as large again as the Orkneys, Shetlands, and the Western Isles combined. Scotland itself covers 30,0000 square miles.)

Somewhere around 1970 John, a friend and colleague, and I decided to take a day trip to the park for a canoeing adventure. We left really early on a Sunday morning for the three-hour trip and by about 9:00 am had hired a canoe and set off. I was in the bow, since it was my first time in a canoe – John was the experienced one having once sat in a canoe – the blind leading the…

We had splendid weather, warm but not too hot – now, fifty years or so on, many of the details escape me, but I have a few cherished memories:

• We pulled away from the dock and headed north up a slow-moving river. In no time we were alone,
surrounded by water, trees, and rocks – indeed the whole day we met very few people.

After about ten minutes, John spotted a deer ahead on a small rise about a couple of hundred feet from the bank. We kept very quiet and paddled gently. She watched us until we were almost abreast then turned and walked quietly away.

• We came to a point where the stream narrowed, and the water flow was stronger. We saw a sign indicating that we needed to portage, so paddled ashore, figured out how to get the canoe above our heads and set off. It was
only a few hundred yards, but the hired canoe was built to withstand the depredations of amateurs like us and was quite sturdy – meaning heavy!

I was glad when we reached the end of the trail and were able to lower the canoe into the water again. Not fun, but we did feel a little more like voyageurs.

• We headed out onto a large lake and decided to try to cross it to the opposite shore and look for a river that we could explore. An hour or two later we saw a ledge of rock on shore about two feet above water level and

decided to stop and have lunch.

When we were ready to get going again, I held the bow while John attempted to get in. He ended up with one foot on shore, one in the canoe, and the stern of the canoe moving slowly away from the rock. It was so funny watching him slowly doing the splits and teetering on the edge of total immersion that, I have to admit, I seriously considered letting the event play out. At the last minute, my better angel intervened – I stuck out my leg and hooked it into the gunwale – it took all my strength to stop the canoe and John teetered there on the edge of disaster for a few moments before the craft began to slowly come back. (A little bit of me still wishes that I’d let it go – it would’ve been spectacular!)

Addendum: A week after this story was published I stumbled across this photo.
It shows my friend John, just after he almost fell into the lake...

• One thing that made quite an impression on me was paddling from the river into the lake and heading straight out, then, after ten minutes or so , turning, looking back, and realising that the river had disappeared from view. The effect was as if we had come through a curtain in the trees which had then closed up again…

One stretch of dense forest trees looks just like any other, it behoves the boater to pay attention by looking back frequently and making sure that the location of the access point is related to the wider geography. (Of course, much better to take along a pocket compass and note the outbound course readings…)

• On the return journey, some many hours later, we came to the portage point again (it really hadn’t struck me that we would be there again until we arrived). Of course, we were now going in the same direction as the water. Being such amateurs, we could have portaged down again, but that wasn’t what voyageurs do! So, we carried on…

After a few minutes we saw that the channel was becoming quite narrow and, the water picking up speed.

We were both quite uneasy, but there didn’t seem any way to stop and get out, so we did our best to keep the canoe in the middle of the passage and hoped for the best. Soon thereafter we realised that just ahead there looked to be a waterfall and that we were about to go over…

(Full disclosure, it was indeed a waterfall – total drop must have been at least two feet…)

We shot over the little drop into a wide pool below, managing to remain upright. We both let out a whoop of adrenalin-fuelled relief then saw that, floating in front of us, there was a capsized canoe with two very wet

guys trying to right their craft.

We asked if they needed help, they said no, and we carried on downstream (no doubt with a modest air of superiority…)

The rest of the paddle was uneventful for such experienced paddlers… We turned in the (undamaged) canoe and set off on the three-hour drive home. We were, of course dead tired, and aching from muscles we didn’t know we had…

A wonderful day!

A Scottish take on Aussie English
Part 2 of 3
Brian Macdonald
People speak more slowly in remote country Australia (the outback) than in the cities, as is the case in many English-speaking countries, but not significantly so. Spoken Australian English has become colloquially known as ‘Strine’ and our country as ‘Straya’, due to the tendency to fast speech and to clip both vowels and consonants ruthlessly. Several humorous books have been written on this strange tongue by the pseudonymous Afferbeck Lauder(1). In my early days in Sydney I was a ’reffo’, the contemptuous term used for all immigrants, refugees or not. I wondered who the often-mentioned lady ‘Enara May’ was until I twigged that it was the National Roads and Motors Association (NRMA), the New South Wales equivalent of the British Automobile Association.

The original convicts who founded modern Australia came largely from the London area, not mostly from Ireland (although some did), as many believe, because most of the convicts on the First Fleet and subsequent further shiploads were from the overflow prison ships known as hulks, moored in the Thames and off the south-east coast of England and were, preponderantly from that part of the country. Thus the Aussie twang was born, an offshoot of cockney. Most larger towns in Australia developed on the strip of coastal land around the east and south coasts, with the Great Dividing Range at first providing a wall to the inland, running from tropical northern Australia to as far round the south coast as Adelaide, SA. Sydney was the largest city.

The second largest city, Melbourne was founded in 1836 as a commercial venture, from the southern island of Tasmania, which was originally named Van Diemen’s Land after a Dutch governor of the East Indies. It was so named by the first European sailor to discover the island, the Dutchman, Abel Tasman. Subsequently it was the British who renamed it Tasmania to honour him. It had been colonised directly from Sydney. The expedition back to the mainland was led by John Batman, a grazier and explorer, and founded a colony of free settlers. Batman landed at what is now named Blairgowrie, which many readers will recognise as a town near our own home city of Dundee in Scotland.

Named for Victoria’s first Prime minister, Melbourne’s mushroom growth in the later 19th century was due to the discovery of gold in the inland of what became the state of Victoria. As well as miners from many lands, there was a good number of Chinese settlers who established their own mines but, with a hard eye on profit, became growers of vegetables, shopkeepers, and traders. Several large Victorian gold mining boom towns of the 19th century have a heritage of splendid buildings and continue to have significant populations of ethnic Chinese origin, which are well integrated but maintain their ancestral culture and whose temples, dragon festivals and museums are a major part of community life in these cities. Other parts of Australia grew more slowly as agricultural hubs and industries developed.

Australia became a federation in 1901, when the separate colonies agreed to become one country with a number of states, under the British queen, Victoria, a component country of the British Empire. The states had a substantial level of autonomy but were subject to federal government control over national matters. A Governor-General, at that time always a senior member of the British nobility, represented the crown. Largely British immigration continued, by government policy, even after convict settlement was ended, to build Australia until after WWII. Indeed, although Sydney, Port Arthur in Tasmania and Fremantle in Western Australia were originally convict settlements, South Australia and Queensland were founded by free settlers. English remained the statutory language.

I quote the words of a song written some years ago by a member of the hugely successful Australian pop group of the 1960s, The Seekers,

“We are one, but we are many. And from all the lands on earth we come”.(2)

Many races have contributed strongly to the still-changing culture of Australia(3). This island continent is the beneficiary of successive waves of immigration in modern times, starting from the immediate post-WWII period. First came large numbers of Italians and Greeks, as well as many displaced persons from every European nation, then immigrants from the other lands of the eastern Mediterranean. These were followed by Vietnamese. More recently, immigrants have come from the African continent and from many Asian countries with strong ethnic Chinese populations. We must not forget the importance of acknowledging and understanding the complex culture of the First Australians, with their deep, spiritual attachment to the land, whose voices are only now beginning to be heard.

There continues to be a flow of immigration from Britain, which is still the major source of New Australians. The Pacific Ocean island nations have made a huge contribution in the last couple of decades, not least to the sports of rugby union and rugby league, although they have made little impact on the local football code, Australian Football(4). That game is all about tall, strong but lightly-built men running and twisting and leaping high into the air for a game lasting two hours on an oval pitch twice the size of any other football code’s area with four goal posts each end and no corners. A team consists of eighteen players on the ground at the same time. It does not suit the more heavily-built Pacific Islander peoples.

Many languages are spoken; there are districts where English is not the language of the shops, businesses and medical and legal practices. Ethnically-based social clubs, sports clubs and community organisations proliferate, but English is still the major and the official language. Fortunately the sometimes shamelessly manipulated language test which was used to keep Australia a white-skinned country of European ethnic origin(5) was abandoned in 1966.

To be continued


(1) Think about it and say the name fast a few times. The author’s real name is the splendidly Scottish Alastair Ardoch Morrison. Not much doubt about ancestry there, although he was born and died Australian. Apart from the books on Strine, he wrote the song ‘With Air Chew’ on the same theme.

(2) The link to the Seekers singing the song ‘I Am Australian’ is here. It has become popular in this era of inclusion of many races in Australia.

(3) As an example: Australia has a hugely diverse culinary culture. The major cities boast restaurants and cafés of every major and many minor national cuisines and major markets offer an endless variety of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads and specialty foods and ingredients. In particular, Melbourne, is known for its coffee culture (The Italian influence was strong in Melbourne.) and small cafés and ethnic restaurants abound, not just in the central city, but throughout the suburbs too. Interestingly, Australians prefer locally-owned coffee shops to the large multi-nationals. Starbucks is not a major chain here. Alas, McDonald’s and its fellow fast food mills are popular but not for the quality of their coffee!

(4) ‘Aussie Rules’ or ‘Footy’ is the only football code in which points are awarded for missing with a kick at goal. One point is scored if the ball misses the tall inner pair called the goal posts (not less than 6 metres [20 feet] with no cross-bar) but goes through the shorter outer set, which are called ‘behind posts’ and rise to a minimum height of 3 metres [10 feet] either side of the main set. If the ball passes untouched through or even above the goal posts a generous six points is awarded. There has been notably successful recruitment of Gaelic Football players from the Irish Republic to the Australian Football League. The game is unique to Australia except for minor, amateur competitions set up in other countries by nostalgic expatriate Melburnians, as the game had its birth in Melbourne and is virtually a religion there.

(5) The language test of the White Australia Policy that ruled immigration from 1901 till officially abandoned in 1973 was shamelessly used to ban from entry to Australia anyone the federal government wished to keep out for political reasons. There is a well-known tale of an little-used, obscure language being found for the application of a test to deny entry to a foreign left-wing intellectual who spoke a number of major European tongues fluently. A federal immigration minister of the 1950s, Arthur Caldwell, is infamously credited with saying publicly, “Two Wongs do not make a white”.

Hugh McGrory
Do you know what it’s like to be caught in a tsunami? Probably not – I certainly don’t. Indeed, I don’t think that anyone can really appreciate what it feels like to be caught in one of Mother Natures cataclysms – tornadoes, major floods, earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, forest fires… unless they actually experience one.

In a recent story I told of our experience with a derecho, a straight ahead windstorm with the force of a tornado that, in 90 seconds left us with five uprooted trees and a dozen more damaged. My wife and I wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t lived it.

Getting back to tsunamis, I once had an experience that gave me a wee taste of what it might be like…

It happened over 60 years ago. I was a young engineer in the City Engineer’s office in my home town of Dundee. We got a report that there was some flooding on a bridge on the A90 (The main road between Dundee and Aberdeen) where it crossed the Dighty Burn (pronounced Dichty).

I went to the location with Jim Johnstone, another young engineer (and a year behind me at Morgan
Academy) who worked in the City’s Water Department. We assumed that it was because of heavy rain that we’d experienced, and not from a burst water main – but we had to be sure, of course.

We parked a few hundred yards uphill from the bridge, put on our Wellie’s and walked down. It was immediately clear that we didn’t have a water main issue, and that the drains on the bridge had probably gotten silted up with mud and
Jim back in the day. The Venerable Wellie
debris and would need clearing. We advanced onto the bridge to get to the lowest point – with a bit of luck we might have been able to clear the drain as a temporary fix. We were smart enough to tread very carefully in the six inches or so of water so that we didn’t cause waves that would overtop our boots – we didn’t want to get wet and there’s nothing worse than wellies that are full of water…

As we stood there looking for the drain, I glanced back up the road and saw a large truck bearing down on us, very close, and moving quickly. I realised that he was not going to slow down – I could see the driver’s smiling face…

I shouted, “Look out, Jim!” (A lot of good that was...) All we could do was turn our backs, pull up our collars, and brace... A tidal wave engulfed us – overtopped us – and in an instant we were like twa drookit rats...

Yes, I know that was nothing like a tsunami, but still...

Things Start to Look Up.
Gordon Findlay
Completed in 1796, Fort George, at Ardersier, some dozen miles north-east of Inverness, has to be one of

the draftiest and coldest barracks in the Western world, but we had to make the best of it. Within a couple of days we shed our MP hats, white belts and holsters, and were issued tam o’ shanters, kilts, sporrans, black brogues and gaiters.

And of course, we were daily reminded of just how chilly it was any time we wore our kilts on parade – since the rule is historic, cast in stone, and absolute: in a Scottish regiment NOTHING is worn under the kilt. (And the standard joke is: Q: “Is anything worn under a Scotsman’s kilt? A: “Nothing’s WORN – everything’s in perfect working order.”)

But, at this point, my old friend Lady Luck came strolling by and paid me a visit. Perfect timing. For although I really didn’t mind Army life or life in an infantry regiment, I didn’t fancy spending the rest of my service lugging a rifle and bayonet and being ready to serve as cannon fodder for the next bit of nastiness to confront the British Army.

I wasn’t aware of it, but 1st H.L.I. had been tagged for overseas duty and the regiment was busily working itself up into battle readiness, should overseas duty turn into something requiring British military clout. Part of that readiness campaign required the regiment to bring an Intelligence Section into being.

An “I-Section” acts as the eyes of any regiment, using OPs (Observation Posts) out in the field. The I-Section prepares all the maps showing the disposition of Blue (friendly) forces and Red (enemy) forces; these maps are allocated to each officer of each rifle and mechanized company, and are regularly up-dated as events and positions change.

The I-Section looks after the code books used for secure communications; maintains radio contact with other friendly forces; monitors enemy radio transmissions; knows the battle formations, troop numbers, likely armaments and military tactics of enemy forces.

And more important, all our training henceforth would not come from our Highland infantry regiment: it would be provided by The Intelligence Corps, a part of MI-7 in Great Britain, responsible for all Army Intel.

For example, our training in SigInt (Signals Intelligence) – which involved monitoring both our own signals traffic and that of a potential enemy force – came from I-Corps specialists who came to us and spent a couple of weeks bringing us up to speed on the latest (for then) Intelligence coding, masking and cyphering, as well as the transmitters and receivers used to do all this.

And of course, we all had to be instant and proficient in radio-alphabet usage: you know, “A for Able, B for Baker, C for Charlie, D for Dog, E for echo, F for Fox” and so on.

When I showed up at Fort George, the 1st H.L.I’.s Intelligence capability consisted of one Lieutenant – “Pug” Thomson– one sergeant, Jonas Krywald (a Polish-born trooper who had reportedly served time in the French Foreign Legion) and one corporal – Russell Dagg, a product of Heriot’s School in Edinburgh.

It seems that Lieut. Thompson looked over all the personal backgrounds and education of all the current recruits within the H.L.I. and spotted the info on yours truly, recently kicked out of the Military Police but a private school boy with a decent education. Very shortly I was told to report to Thompson for an interview, most of which involved talking about rugby, since he’d noted that I had played club and Old Boy rugby in Eastern Scotland.

There were a few questions about education and interests, but it all went quite well, and Lieut. Thompson informed me that I, Corporal Findlay, was now a fully-fledged member of the regiment’s Intelligence Section. Training in military intelligence work, Thompson said, would start immediately and would continue once we arrived at our overseas posting.

Naturally, I was delighted. No more monotonous square-bashing or obstacle-course training. No more main gate guard duty. No more kitchen duty, vehicle “maintenance” cleaning, or ceremonial parade “volunteer” duty when VIPs came to visit our battalion. All that was behind me. I was now– whoop dee doo– an Army specialist with special duties.

Within a week, he had spotted another catch – one corporal Les Howson, from Birmingham (what are Englishmen doing in a Scottish rifle regiment, you ask?) Well – often the answer is: they chose it because of a love for the traditions of the regiment, their pipes and drums, and their history of prowess on battlefields down through the ages...) Later, Lieut. Thompson added one private– Ian Bannerman – and the Regiment’s Intelligence Section was ready to go.

The timing was perfect, for within a month, we were all stuck with needles for typhoid, anti-rabies, dengue, and yellow fever, after which the 1st Battalion the Highland Light Infantry – as part of 3rd Division – was loaded into transport planes for the long flight to Tripoli in the Middle East.

Try as I might, I cannot remember which airfield in Britain we were driven to for the flight to the Middle East, or the types of planes we flew in. I just remember that, for quite a few of the 1st H.L.I. this was the first time they had ever flown in a plane, so there was a definite under-current of excitement as we boarded.

Alex 2
Hugh McGrory
In my previous story you met Alex – accomplished tow truck driver, gold prospector and – wait for it – paranormal investigator… He said that he had a company (he and his partner, a woman) and was available for hire.

As you know, the term paranormal refers to occurrences which are impossible to explain by known natural forces or by science. I asked if he meant that they were ghostbusters, and he said that was one term that people sometimes used to describe them. He said that quite often, though, they are able to ascribe what was happening (strange noises or visions, perhaps) to normal causes, and in so doing set their clients minds to rest. I asked him if he had psychic powers, and he said no, but that he believed that his partner did.

As I said last time, listening to strangers can often be eye-opening…

The paranormal is often broken into two areas, religious and non-religious, in both of which people, faced with something they can’t understand, choose to believe in a mystical or magical explanation – reincarnation, the spirit living on after the body dies, ghosts and so on.

With regard to the non-religious paranormal realm my belief is that there is always a rational explanation for the occurence – we just haven’t found it yet. Indeed, a number of possible causes have been documented for many so-called paranormal events:

Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause auditory hallucinations, a feeling of pressure on your chest, and an “unexplained feeling of dread.” A well known story from the 1920s about a family hearing footsteps, seeing apparitions, and feeling malicious paranormal presences, turned out to be the result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a broken furnace.

Many ‘haunted house’ events occur in old houses, and it has been discovered that certain types of black mould can produce effects similar to carbon monoxide.

Infrasound is just below the range of human hearing and can cause some strange sensations. Some people subconsciously respond to lower frequencies with feelings of fear or dread. In 1998, engineer Vic Tandy of Coventry University spent a night in a supposedly haunted lab. He and his colleagues experienced anxiety and distress and felt cold shivers down their spines, and Tandy even reported seeing a dark blob out of the corner of his eye. It turned out that there was a silent fan creating sound waves at just below the sound threshold and at a frequency that can cause the human eyeball to vibrate and “see” optical illusions. When the fan was switched off the effects disappeared.

In my own home, I sometimes think that I’m hearing several people in the basement having conversations – can’t make out any words but it sounds like a cocktail party... It’s actually the forced air HVAC system that’s generating the noise.

Other sources of such low frequency sounds are events like earthquakes and volcanic activity or lightning; animals including elephants, whales, and hippos that communicate using infrasound; nearby industries can also be a source – diesel engines, electrical generators, wind turbines, and even some loudspeakers.

Sleep paralysis happens when the brain gets the process of falling asleep or waking, wrong. When we are in REM sleep, we can have all kinds of dreams some involving physical activities. The brain normally turns off the bodies ability to move so that the sleeper does not attempt to lash or kick out or attempt to run.

Your brain usually turns this paralysing effect off before you wake up, but in sleep paralysis, you awaken while it’s still happening – it’s like dreaming with your eyes open, and people may believe that the events are real.

Electromagnetic waves are all around us and are a combination of electric and magnetic energy. They can’t be seen or heard by humans directly, and include radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays. Ghost hunters use EMF meters and often find electromagnetic fields in ‘haunted’ dwellings.

Studies using helmets that delivered weak magnetic stimulation to people showed that eighty percent of test subjects said they felt “an unexplained presence in the room” when they wore the helmets.

The attraction of horror movies is partly explained by the fact that neurologists have found that our brains release dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure, when we’re afraid. Also, it’s been shown that high levels of dopamine can increase the likelihood of finding meaning, patterns or significance where none exist (Apophenia) and this results in a higher tendency to believe in ghosts or alien encounters.

Finally, my brother and I have some personal experience with apophenia: When our mum was in her late eighties she began to show signs of dementia. (We later learned that this was probably caused by several TIAs that she had suffered unknowingly.)

In particular she would awaken sometimes in the belief that she had seen people in her room during the night. These varied from family or acquaintances to, for instance, a ballerina who floated down from the ceiling and danced at the foot of her bed. (Fortunately, these were pleasant experiences for her, and she would talk about her ”visitors”.)

This was explained to us as her brain, half asleep in the semi-darkness of her bedroom, trying to make sense of what she was seeing, patterns of light and shadow, and putting these together in a form that made sense to her.

On one particular occasion when I was home on a visit, she told me in the morning that my dad had visited her during the night.

The following conversation took place:

“Ma, you remember that Dad died about 20 years ago?”

“Eh, but he’s still gae’n aboot.” (Yes, but he’s still going around.”)

“Really, how did he get here?”

“He has a car now – he parked on the street out there,” and she went to the window and looked out, “it’s awa’ now.” (“It’s away now.”)

Not quite knowing how to proceed, I said “Well I hope he drives carefully, Ma, you remember Dad wasn’t a very good driver…”

Not missing a beat, she said “Eh, but he’s had twenty years to learn!”

And all I could think to say was, “Right enough, Ma, right enough.”

Memories – Who can Forget Them?
Bill Kidd
I am now of an age when the journey that started in the bedroom ended on the way to the kitchen when I realised that I no longer remembered why I was going there. The really annoying thing is that when I returned to the bedroom, I knew that I still needed the item that I was going to fetch from the kitchen! What was so important that I had to make a second trip to the kitchen you may ask and I in all honesty would reply “I can’t remember”.

Memory is a funny thing. I can still remember that 6/8 is one third of a pound and that a dozen at 1/3 each amounts to 15/- but I cannot remember how much a second-class postage stamp today costs or where I last saw my spectacles. Oh, now I remember I was going into the kitchen for my spectacles, I remember putting them in the fridge!

What is the very first memory that you can still clearly recall? Mine occurred three days before my fourth birthday, it was Neville Chamberlain’s broadcast saying that we were at war with Germany. Why has this memory been retained so clearly? I had no idea who Neville Chamberlain was or even what war meant. I think that that the event was etched into my mind because my parents transmitted its importance to me as they listened so intently. I have heard recordings of that broadcast many times and they never fail to take me back to that Sunday in September and that top-floor tenement flat in Dundee.

Of course, I can remember many things from my childhood. Things like the white model racing car with front wheels that moved when I turned the steering wheel. This was a gift from my mother’s bridesmaid, the lady that I knew as Aunty Madge who disappeared from our lives early in the war. It is a very long time since I last sat in a Dundee tramcar, but I do recall kneeling on the downstairs bench seating looking out of the window while eating from a package of red sweetmeat that I had rested on the window ledge. When the tram reached our stop, my mum grabbed me and ushered me off the vehicle. The moment my feet touched the pavement I remembered that my delicious treat was still on the window ledge of the tram. I will never forget or forgive that loss so early in my life.

Because I spent much of 1940 living with my grandparents in Forfar, I didn’t start school at the start of term but joined my class some months later. My first day was memorable because I got lost! I was brought into Miss Findlay’s class by Miss Gow, the formidable Infant Mistress, shortly after 9.00 am. At 10.15 I had my third of a pint of milk then, for our fifteen-minute playtime, was marched out with the rest of the class. I managed to get separated from my classmates by going into the boys’ toilets which were located at the end of the playground. By the time I found my way back to where the infants were allowed there was no-one there. Meanwhile the upper school interval had started so I joined in with them. When it came time to line up to return to the classrooms there was nowhere for me to go. The teacher in charge had never seen me before and asked who my teacher was. I didn’t know so it was suggested that I should get myself home. When I found my way home there was nobody there. Fortunately, Mrs McIntosh, our next-door neighbour, found me and took me back to school. Through Miss Gow I was returned to Miss Findlay’s class only to find that nobody had noticed my absence. I was not party to the conversation between the two Misses, but I think that I can still feel the burning in my ears! I was given a couple of playtime minders for the rest of the week.

The more observant of you will realise that even after eighty odd years I can still remember the names of my mother’s bridesmaid (not that I was at the wedding of course), our next-door neighbour, my first teacher and the Infant Mistress at Blackness School. I can recall the names of the butchers, bakers, grocers, chemists, and newsagents that we patronised. I remember the names of pretty well anybody, anything, any place, or any event that occurred between 1939 and 2010 but don’t ask me what I was doing on Tuesday or what I watched on TV last weekend.

Is this because of my advancing years or is it just what I consider to have been important in my life?

Hugh McGrory
I’ve found that, if you’re thrown together by happenstance with a stranger, it can be quite surprising how much you can learn by listening – it can often be enlightening, entertaining and educational…

The ‘Alex’ of the title is the tow truck driver from my previous story and he and I spent several hours together, particularly driving from Dundee to Glasgow Airport with the car I damaged. He said that we’d break the journey, as he always did, at Balhaldie Filling Station on the A9, north of Dunblane. I treated him to his favourite Starbucks Vanilla Latte and a muffin, and we had a chat as we ate.

I asked him if this was a full-time job for him and he said that it wasn’t, that he liked variety and had a couple of hobbies/part-time work that kept him busy and earned some money (I defy any of you to guess what his two interests are...)

The first… gold prospecting in the Scottish Highlands – and yes, there is gold in them thar hills and people have been recovering it for hundreds of years...

At Cononish, in the Tyndrum/Crianlarich area of Perthshire (the area I worked in for a couple of years while living in Killin), the new (five-year-old) underground mine is currently producing nearly 1000 ounces of gold per month. This is much more than has ever been produced in Scotland before.

However, we’re not talking about mining but rather recreational gold prospecting – panning for alluvial gold in streams. Alluvial gold is the flecks and tiny nuggets found in Britain’s rivers exposed from mining, earth movements and erosion over millennia. The gold does wash downstream, but its relatively heavy weight means that only strong currents can move it. When the flow slackens the gold sinks into the gravel and dirt of the riverbed. Locations in the river where the current is weakest, particularly at bends, are choice locations.

Gold is usually removed by panning. This is quite simple to learn, and panning kits can be purchased. The amount of gold found from panning is generally small and it’s believed that most people who get into it never recover their costs… If you’re interested see panning in action here.

To put this in perspective, the first photograph below shows Britain’s largest ever gold nugget, found in a

stream in Perthshire in 2017. (The exact location has been kept secret to avoid a ‘gold rush’.) Known as the ‘Douglas Nugget’, it now resides in The Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. Weighing in at about 86 gm or 3 oz, the value of the gold itself would be around £4,500 though it’s suggested that, at auction, it might sell for over £50,000 thanks to its ‘fame’. In contrast to the 'biggest ever', the second photo shows a gold pan with a more likely content – lots of sand with (sometimes) a few gold flecks.

I wondered at the time why Alex would bother, but when I think about it now, in little more than a one-hour drive from Dundee he can be in the beautiful, rugged Highlands, breathing the fresh air and getting exercise, enjoying the anticipation of treasure hunting (and the now and again adrenalin rush of actually finding some and making a little money).

As I said earlier, listening to strangers can be interesting. Next time I’ll tell you about Alex’s second pursuit – you’ll never guess what it is…

If you’re interested, see panning in action here.

Shetland Revisited 2
Brian Macdonald
Another place worth visiting is Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands. It is reached by island-hopping from Mainland to the nearest island of Yell, then another by ferry from there to Unst. It is not possible to get to the very northern tip of Unst, as there is now a military radar establishment at the tip and the most northerly land of Britain, the volcanic rock called Muckle Flugga, reachable only by boat,

Muckle Flugga
can only be glimpsed. On the way, you pass through the small village of Baltasound, which has within its little general store the most northerly post office in Britain. The postmistress will happily sell you a picture postcard of the village and frank it with the commemorative rubber stamp before accepting it for the mail. Unst is the home of the charming but often quick-tempered tiny Shetland pony. There are breeders of the ponies around Shetland, but you will see many on Unst, grazing in fields by the roadside.

As you tour around Shetland, marvelling at the starkly beautiful, rugged coastal scenery and the many cliffs with their populations of nesting seabirds, in the outlying villages you may find a modest café that provides tea and coffee but offering only a few sweet cakes as food. I will briefly mention some other aspects of this most northern archipelago you may find of interest, if this tale motivates you to make a visit, as I believe that doing your own research and the subsequent exploration are a big part of any such expedition.

Esha Ness is a headland on the Atlantic west coast of Mainland, less than an hour from Lerwick, with magnificent rugged coastal scenery and a Stevenson lighthouse. A geographical feature of Esha Ness is a dramatic gorge that runs a kilometre inland from the sea as if slashed by a Viking axe.

Haroldswick is a settlement in the north of Unst. As the name suggests, there is a strong Norse influence and there are a Viking Museum, a longhouse, and a longship to explore. Everywhere there is evidence,
Longhouse Longship
by way of ruins and names of places and people, and particularly by the melancholy sight of ruined churches and abandoned graveyards, of widespread occupation to the furthest extent of the islands, of the Vikings who settled there, and of a flourishing rural population till the early 20th century.

Shetland’s Viking culture is celebrated each New Year by the Up Helly Aa torchlit procession of bearded and
Up Helly Aa
armed ‘Vikings’ that culminates in the ceremonial burning of a specially constructed Viking longship. Orkney and Shetland fly their own regional flags and, in this, demonstrate their difference from the rest of Scotland. Shetland’s is a white Nordic Cross on a blue ground, in its colours similar to the Scottish Saltire(1) but with the vertical cross rather than the diagonal Scottish one. You will rarely, if ever, see the Union flag of Britain that combines the flags of Scotland England and Wales flying in either Shetland or Orkney. You will see the Scottish Saltire printed on the plastic bags of the Lerwick Tesco supermarket but not elsewhere.

Throughout the islands you stumble over little museums dedicated to some aspect of Shetland life. In Lerwick the large Shetland Museum, ceremonially opened in 2007, is comprehensive and gives a broad picture of the culture and history of Shetland. The culture is strong in seafaring activities. A boat known as a ‘sixareen’ was formerly used for fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. The heart quails to think of such a small boat
A Sixareeen
rowed by six men competing with the Atlantic waves and history tells of many fishermen’s lives lost for Shetland at one time had a fishing industry that sold fish to the cities of the Hanseatic League.

While Orkney has a larger collection of prehistoric settlements and structures, Shetland is not without such attractions and there are brochs(2) to be seen, most notably the restored Clickimin Broch in Lerwick, where you can crawl in and marvel at the drystone-building skills of the ancients.

The smaller town of Scalloway, a mere 15-minute drive from Lerwick, on the west coast of Mainland, has a dramatic 17th century castle, the key to which is available on request, and you can wander through it. Scalloway is also where the World War II 'Shetland Bus'(3) was based and there is a museum dedicated to it in the town. Shetland Islanders are proud of this wartime activity these many years later.

The furthest north the visitor can drive on Mainland is to Isbister, just a couple of houses and a few incredibly white sheep huddled away from the wind. The ‘bister’ part of the name is commonly found and signifies a settlement. The furthest south is Sumburgh. On the way there you can visit St Ninian’s Isle, a small grassy island, named for an early Christian saint. It is connected to the mainland at low tide by a narrow strip of sand known as a tombolo. It is possible to walk to the island at low tide, but the visitor should pay heed to the posted warnings about returning before being trapped by the rising tide. St Ninian’s Isle is said to have the largest such geographical feature in Britain. Closer to Sumburgh on the same road is the Scatness Broch, another example of this Iron Age dwelling.

Scatness Broch
On our own visit, we heard many English accents. On asking why they were there, many said they had ‘emigrated’ from the overcrowded, industrial parts of England, particularly the Midlands and south-east England and had done so to get away from the busyness and pressures of life in those regions. None expressed regret over their move. Although Shetland maintains a robust spirit of independence there is frequent traffic by ferry and passenger plane between Shetland and mainland Scotland.

If you wish for a travel experience different from the normal tourist runs and a chance to see a part of our own country that still has an isolated and unique culture, and which many of us know too little about, you could consider Shetland, a part of Scotland but with a different flavour and back story, which gets fewer tourists than it deserves and which remains largely unspoiled. You will be able to feast your eyes on a rugged beauty of land- and sea-scape, observe the many colonies of seabirds and seals, browse ancient ruins from Scotland’s prehistory and communicate with a populace that is courteous and approachable but still retains some of the independence of spirit that stems from its history of Norwegian nationality, which is still cherished. It is an experience to savour and remember.


(1) The Saltire is the Scottish white diagonal cross on a blue background. It is incorporated in the union flag

The Saltire Norway Shetland

of Great Britain. The Saltire is also often called the St Andrew’s Cross. The Saltire is the official flag flown on Scottish government buildings. The St Andrew’s Cross spider lives in Eastern Australia and is commonly seen hanging in its vertical web, splayed out in a diagonal cross configuration.

(2) A broch is an Iron Age, round, drystone construction, somewhat beehive-shaped, found all around Scotland, including the Western Isles as well as in the Northern Isles.

(3) The Shetland Bus was a clandestine small boat ferry service that operated in WW2 between the little port of Scalloway on western Mainland and the Norwegian coast. Originally crewed by Shetland fishermen but later taken over by the Royal Navy, it carried spies, saboteurs, arms, supplies and documents in both directions until Norway was liberated in 1945.

An Accident? – 2
Hugh McGrory
It was a Saturday evening in April 2018, and I was in Dundee – actually I was in the suburb of Broughty Ferry, driving back westward in my rental car along Queen Street (aka Ferry Road, to Dundonians). I had just spent a pleasant evening at the home of my friend, Dunc, eating dinner and watching Manchester United beat Tottenham 2-1 in the semi-final of the FA Cup.

It was just before sundown, and the blinding sun was aligned perfectly with the stretch of road I was on
making it very difficult to see ahead. I had the sunshield down and had to sit up straight so that I could keep my eyes above the bottom of the visor.

I was the first car in a platoon and had to stop at traffic lights at the junction with Fort St, just by the Post Office Bar. When the lights turned green, I pulled away – the road began to climb – this caused the sun to slip below the visor and hit me like a searchlight. I was blinded for a moment – then suddenly in shadow.

The relief I felt was instantly wiped out when I realised that
the cause of the shadow was a single-decker bus parked by the side of the road. I slammed on the brake and wrenched the wheel to the right – too late, as the front passenger side of the car hit the right rear corner of the bus - see red 'X' in photo. (The bus was owned by a company called Stagecoach which provides local bus service under contract to Dundee City.)

The good news was that no one was hurt. The young driver of the bus appeared, I asked him if he’d call the
police and he said he’d already informed his dispatcher. As you can imagine from the photo, the car was not driveable, but as we waited I managed to reverse it out of the traffic and tuck it in behind the bus. There wasn’t much damage to the bus, and the driver said that he hadn’t realised what had happened until the passengers told him – said he did hear a noise but thought it came from his engine.

Two police cars showed up and one, with two constables who looked awfully young, stayed. I explained that I was blinded by the sun and they said that it was a well-known problem at this location. The cops were very pleasant, and apologised for the fact that they were required to breathalyse me.

It happens that at dinner that night, Dunc had offered me a beer or a glass of wine with the meal which would normally have been a very acceptable choice for me – but
that night I said I’d prefer a glass of Irn-Bru (a favourite Scottish drink from my chidlhood), if he had any, which he did – thank goodness – so I was able to say to the constable, “That’s fine, I haven’t had any alcohol and it’ll be a new experience for me.”

So he gets out the machine, fits a new mouthpiece and says “Blow hard until I say stop”. I do. He says “Just a minute”, fiddles with the machine, then says “Try it again.” I do. He says “Just a minute”, fiddles with the machine, then says to his partner, “This thing isn’t working.” They both fiddle with the machine then say, “Try it again.” I do… They say, “Forget about it – it’s obvious you haven’t been drinking.”

Then I reached for my phone to report to the hire company and found that I’d forgotten to bring the damn thing with me… One of the cops said “We’ll call them for you”, and they did – a tow truck was on its way.

My cousin Frank lived just a couple of minutes away, so I asked if they would call his number for me and he headed down to help.

When the tow truck arrived the driver, Alex, hooks up the car and says, “Where do you want me to take it?” I say, “I’ve no idea, you tell me…” It turns out that he works for a towing company contracted to the hire car company and just gets told where to pick up and where to deliver. So he calls base and they say “The car and driver have to come to Glasgow Airport tomorrow”, and that we should put the car somewhere overnight. So we found a place on a side street for the car, the tow truck driver said he’d come back in the morning, pick me up, then the car, and we’ll head to Glasgow. Frank drove me home, and the next day I travelled to the Airport in the tow truck.

The car hire company said the quick estimate of the cost of repair was £2,300. They charged £1,000 to my VISA card, this amount would be adjusted after repairs were complete and I would be responsible for the full final amount. They then gave me gave me another car and I headed back to Dundee.

At this point a little primer on rental car insurance:

My car insurance does not cover rental cars in the UK. When you hire a car there, Third Party Liability is included by law, and the charge is added to the hire cost. (Third-party liability insurance protects you when you're at fault in a motor vehicle accident. It covers the victim's property and any medical costs due to injury.)

The car hire company will offer you a Collision Damage Waiver. This is not isuance but it will cover damage from an accident, vandalism and/or theft of the car that you are renting. They may be quite aggressive in trying to get you to buy this. It will cost you a daily charge on top of the cost of renting the car and may be around double the rental cost. A big money earner for the rental companies…

I was able to refuse this since I had coverage from the VISA credit card issued by my bank (and that I used for the transaction). This was the first time I had to access this cover, and I was somewhat anxious as to how it would work…

To cut a long story short, whilst it took several months and quite a few email and phone exchanges, at the end of the day I was completely reimbursed.

All-in-all it was an interesting experience, and while I can hardly say “No damage done,” it could certainly have been much worse.

One bright moment in the whole affair came a couple of days afterwards… My friend Jim Howie (in the same year as me at Morgan Academy and author of several stories in this collection) called me up. He said,

“Have you seen today’s Courier (the local paper)?”

“No”, I said, “why?”

“You’re famous, even got a headline…"

“You’re kidding – what did it say?”

He said, “I’ll read it to you.”


Yugoslavia 6
Michael Marks
Following my Morgan/British Council sponsored visit and my next visit 25 years later, Sheila and I spent many happy holidays with Deso and his family, and we discussed the possibility of buying a piece of land near Deso’s own holiday house. This proved impossible as foreigners were banned from – Fitzroy Maclean excepted.

We had often had lunch in a secluded inn about twenty minutes from Ljubljana. So often that we got to
know the innkeeper very well. Once, we arrived at the inn only to find it closed – for the first time ever. Just as we were leaving, the innkeeper saw us and invited us in. We asked him why he was closed, and he explained that the inn was booked for a private function later that day.

After our rather later than intended lunch and just as we were about to leave, the guests for the evening started to arrive. To our great surprise, they were all male and smartly dressed in business suits. On our way out, the innkeeper introduced us to one of the guests and explained why we were there, including how we came to know each other – Morgan Academy and all.

The guest listened with interest to our history of connections
with Slovenia and what we loved about the country. Then he asked a strange question – what was there about the country that we did not like? I explained that while he, for example, could buy a house in Scotland or England, we could not do the same in Slovenia. He said, don’t worry, you soon will be able to do this!

The next day I told Deso about this and he asked me what this man looked like. He turned out to be the leader of the Slovene non-communist secret opposition party and about a year later became the first president of Slovenia.

Hugh asked me to write a little about the difference between communist and non-communist and the anecdotes above shed a little light on this. Basically, the difference is freedom. The freedom to do within reason what you want rather than what the state decides you may do. The freedom to own property or to own things. The freedom to decide what to do with your life.

Nothing is perfect. Some of the charm of the country has been lost. But the great majority of the population live better lives now than was ever possible under the communists. Many people have regained some of their assets lost not only to the partisans but to the communist regime. On the whole, the current leadership is for the best.

An Accident?
Hugh McGrory
My previous story dealt with correcting vehicle skids, and an email in response, from an old friend, reminded me of a related issue…

Many of you will have been driving for many, many years – some more than 60...? In that time, I’m sure that, amongst us, there have been a few major accidents, quite a lot of fender-benders, and more than a few near misses? I’ve been fortunate to have escaped the first category but have had quite a few of the other two over the years.

Some thirty years ago on my way home, I stopped at a little plaza to pick up some milk. The actual location, for those who know Toronto, was Lawrence Avenue at Curlew Drive. There are traffic lights at the

intersection and the X on the maps shows where the incident occurred just at the entrance/exit of the plaza.

I had been parked in front of a little convenience store (now the office of a physiotherapist) and had reversed
out of the parking spot and headed for the exit. I looked to my left, didn’t see any traffic, then gave my
attention to my right. I was concerned since it was close to the traffic lights, and I was afraid someone might come through the lights quickly. Seeing nothing coming, some part of my stupid brain said “no need to stop at the exit, then” so I kept going. As my gaze came back to straight ahead, I saw a car right in front of me and proceeded to plow into the right passenger-side door (a classic 'T-bone' collision).

The driver of the other car (a young woman in her twenties) told me that, at that moment, she saw me and was thinking "Oh I hope he’s going to stop” while I was saying
to myself “Where the hell did that car come from?”

Once the initial shock wore off, we realised that the fates had been kind to us – neither of us was going that fast (I, because I was just beginning to accelerate, and she because she was slowing for the traffic lights), no one was injured, and no other vehicles were close enough to be involved.

Ontario had recently created a system of Collision Reporting Centres for ‘fender-benders’ (a self-reporting
system designed to make better use of police officers by concentrating on major accidents) and since both cars were driveable, we set off to report the accident. The process turned out to be reasonably simple. The woman’s husband turned up (and I did tell him that his wife was in no way to blame).

I still couldn’t figure out how I managed to miss seeing her car, so I retraced my steps to the scene drove into the parking lot and it was obvious… There was a row of
newspaper boxes – three selling national papers via money-in-the-slot (the Globe and Mail, the
Toronto Star, and the Toronto Sun) and a couple with free offerings. There was also a telephone cable system box, and, I think, a post box, all lined up in a row forming a little wall just before the exit from the lot.

Her car was obscured from my view when I checked left – not that this is any kind of excuse for my hubris – I should, of course, have stopped before pulling out onto the street.

The 'Xs' represent the boxes (the red car is in the position of the victim at the moment of collision).
I remember, as a bairn, my mother telling me to “look right, then left, then right again”…

Always listen to your mother!

An Escapade Goes Bad...
Gordon Findlay
My career as a Military Policeman came to an end in a rather ignominious fashion. Here’s what happened.

After a couple of months at the Musselburgh detachment a few of us were getting a little antsy, bored, and in need of some diversion. That’s when we came up with The Idea. It was the brainchild of Bob Finlay (again I hasten to add – no relation).

One evening he said: “Look, we’re stuck out here, miles from anywhere, no good pubs, no decent dance halls – nothing. But,” and here he paused dramatically, “I’m good pals with the RASC sergeant who looks after all the vehicles in the yard. When I asked him, he agreed not to lock the gate to the yard some evening when we want to go into Edinburgh for a night out.

“The keys to all the trucks are in the maintenance office. All we have to do is pick out a 15-cwt,get into the
city, have some fun, then bring the truck back before reveille, lock the gate – and we’re home free!”

Four of us didn’t need much convincing. We looked at our duty schedule and found a date when we would all be off the duty roster. That would be our boys’ night out...

It worked like clockwork. On the evening in question four of us dressed in our civvies, slipped out of barracks and quietly opened up
the gate to the RASC motor pool yard. We picked out a nice clean 15 cwt truck that had come in for maintenance, checked that it had been serviced, found its key in the maintenance office and ten minutes later we were bowling down the road to Edinburgh and a night on the town. We went to one of the good, lively pubs off Princes Street, then found our way to the Heather Club dance hall just off Lothian Road.

As you probably know, I was no better a dancer then than I am now, but after two or three McEwen’s strong ales, well – everything looks bright and inviting and you even imagine that you can dance pretty well.

I recall it was around midnight by the time we made our way to a fish-and-chipper and had a late supper (for me, a batter-covered black pudding and a massive helping of chips – that is, french fries). Then it was back to our truck and a nice easy drive back to Musselburgh MP barracks, with the prospect of a good snooze, knowing that we had quietly beaten the system and won ourselves a good night out.

Only – we hadn’t.

Of all the nights for the four of us to pick for our slightly illegal night out, which night did we pick? Of course – the night of the National Census throughout Great Britain, when at midnight of that day everyone in the country had to have been counted and checked off. On that day, all over Britain, checkers went door to door verifying residents, checking on family members, on the number of parents, children, and other dependents; on the size of the homes and apartments, on the cars they owned, on the money they earned, which school they attended, and so on, and on.

And of course, when the Census-takers came to the Musselburgh barracks of Military Police detachment 33-ES (East Scotland) they found that four MPs who were off duty were not on the premises, and had not signed out (as they were required to do by Army regulations). Moreover, it was also quickly discovered that a 15-cwt trick was missing from the RASC motor pool.

It was not long before our neat little plan came apart like wet newspaper. We were “absent without leave and unaccounted for” and on a more serious note: so was a valuable piece of Army property.

Which is why all four of us were all roused from our beds before reveille the next morning and told that we were all being charged with being “absent from barracks” and “theft of military property.”

It was all over pretty quickly. We were marched in together around 9.00 a.m. into the C.O.s office where the charges were read out to us and we were asked if we had anything to say. Well – what was there to say? We hadn’t signed out from barracks as required; we had illegally taken an item of Army property, namely a 15-cwt truck; we had illegally used Army petrol in driving the truck; and we had neglected to sign in when we returned from Edinburgh. We were up S - - t Creek with no paddle in sight. None of us said a word. We were dismissed and within the hour we learned our fate. All four of us were to be released from the Military Police (law-breakers are not allowed) and we were to be re-assigned to another branch of Britain’s military machine. I can remember the four of us were pretty subdued as we read the notice posted on the bulletin board.

The next day when we were again marched in front of our C.O. we were mum when we were told that we were off to join an infantry regiment – the 1st Battalion The Highland Light Infantry, currently stationed at Fort George in Inverness, Scotland.

As a parting piece of advice, our C.O. said: “I would recommend that when you get to the H.L.I. you keep it to yourselves that you are all former military policemen. As you probably know by now, MPs aren’t too popular with the rest of the Army.” It was good advice. We took it.

Hugh McGrory
The MacDonald-Cartier Expressway in Ontario, Canada, runs for almost 560 miles, all the way across

Ontario from, in the west, the Detroit/Windsor border crossing, northeast to the Ontario-Quebec border. It is better known as Highway 401 or simply the '401'. (Some of you may recognise this from the Discovery TV channel programme 'Highway to Hell / Heavy Rescue: 401').

It acts as a by-pass for traffic that wants to avoid downtown Toronto, but also carries lots of urban and suburban trips by Torontonians. Where it passes the Pearson International Airport it is 18 lanes wide – traffic

counts on this stretch have shown almost 500,000 vehicles a day which makes it the most heavily travelled road in North America ahead of the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles, and the I-75 in Atlanta.

In the ‘80s my wife, Sheila, and I decided to go back to school – Skid School that is; not sure now what inspired it – perhaps just the idea of something different to do one weekend, with a useful new skill on completion.

It was a four-hour course and took place at what looked like a large former parking lot southwest of Toronto, halfway between Mississauga and Hamilton. It was on Bronte Road north of Lakeshore Road West (I just checked and it's no longer in operation).

We were two of six students – they wisely split up husbands and wives, so I found myself in a car with an instructor and two strangers. The surface had been wetted with water and some kind of additive to get an appropriate slippery condition. The instructor did some demonstrations of what he was going to teach us, then we each had a turn at the wheel with the spare two in the back seat.

The car was fitted with a handbrake on the instructor’s (passenger) side so that he could lock the wheels and cause a skid that we then had to deal with. I was OK when driving, but as soon as I got in the back the sliding, spinning, jerking, and sudden stops brought on my innate tendency to car sickness, so I had to be let out and stand on the sidelines to recover when it wasn’t my turn to practise (embarrassing, but it hadn’t occurred to me…)

Apart from this, the course was quite good, and we left knowing a lot more about what to do if our car suddenly made a break for freedom – of course, the proof of the pudding...

A few years later, I was driving on the 401 between the 404 and Markham Road. The 401 along this stretch was twelve lanes wide in four three-lane roadways, two east, two west. I was in the core eastbound roadway (generally used if you were going further – the outer (collector) roadways were used for shorter trips and had the interchanges with the major cross-streets).

It was winter, cold, but bright and sunny. There had been a snowfall the previous evening, but if there's one
thing Canadians know it's how to manage snow, and the snowploughs had been out during the night. The road surface had some remnants of snow, but it seemed fine to drive on and I was cruising along at about 110 km/hour (about 70 mph) in the slowest lane, not a care in the world...

Suddenly the front of my car decided, in a split second, to turn left – I still have no idea why – perhaps I tweaked the accelerator or moved the steering wheel too sharply, or...?
In any event, I was suddenly heading across the next lane to mine and my car seemed determined to perform a doughnut!

Would you believe it, in that split second my brain remembered the instruction from skid school (this was before ABS (Anti-Lock Braking Systems) became standard...) summarised as: “feet off the accelerator and the brake; look in the direction you want the car to go; and turn the steering wheel like a maniac in that direction.”

It worked – the nose of the car jerked back to the right – an over-correction which needed a swift turn of the steering wheel to the left followed by a few more, minor corrections to straighten us up in the original lane.

By a stroke of good fortune, there were no cars or eighteen-wheelers close enough, either to the side or behind, to be involved. I was able to drive on as before, though slower, as my heart rate slowly returned to normal. I hate to think what might have happened if the road had been busier – unusual for the 401. How lucky was that? If there had been cars and trucks closer to me, it might have needed the ‘Heavy Rescue’ units to clear up the mess!
A Scottish take on Aussie English
Part 1 of 3
Brian Macdonald
English is not one language. It is many, all essentially the same but all different in a number of ways. The rules of grammar and syntax are the same wherever English is spoken but their observance is often cavalierly disregarded or modified by local usage. As for spelling, the USA has adopted a simplified version for many words that may confound standard English pedants. Very different regional accents have developed around the globe from contact with the way native people whose prime language is not English pronounce English and from the variety of accents that the first English speakers brought with them from home to their new environment.

English spread, during Britain’s era as a colonising sea-power, from its source, the melding of Roman Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Norman French languages, largely through the presence of English speakers, often the members of British military forces imposing imperial sovereignty on the local populace, but sometimes by peaceful colonisation. In such cases the language of the in-comers usually became the official language of government and bureaucracy. Local languages became restricted to the native people and dwindled in importance and use as the local upper classes adopted the language, mores and dress of their conquerors, with whom they wished to be identified. In my adoptive Australia, the original Australians spoke over two hundred different tribal languages, most of which are now, sadly, dead. Some have survived and are being robustly revived.

From an early age I was a voracious reader. I kept DC Thomson(1) in profit by buying the Beano and the Dandy weekly comics, then the Wizard, the Adventure, the Rover and the Hotspur with their tales of Matt Braddock, the bomber pilot, Wilson, the mysterious athlete clad in a black, one-piece bodysuit, Alf Tupper, the working-class runner, the Tough of the Track (who trained on a fish and chip diet), Blockbuster Brown, a mild-mannered schoolteacher who moonlighted as a wrestler and Gorgeous Gus, a rich man whose right foot could propel a football with amazing ferocity. The Eagle was a more elevated and educational comic, founded in 1950, just as I hit my teens and I enjoyed not just Dan Dare and his arch-enemy, ‘the Wee Green Mekon’ but also the scientific articles and the exploded diagrams of great engineering projects.

The Dundee Courier, the Evening Telegraph, the Weekly News (especially the sports pages with Dinny Drappit the goalie and Aulden Dunne the centre-forward) and the Sunday Post were all grist to my insatiable mill, and were read from cover to cover, even Francis Gay’s Friendship column. As I have said in another article, I was the holder of an account at Frank Russell’s bookshop, then located in Barrack Street in central Dundee, and made good use of it over a number of years. I found at school that I had a facility for and an enjoyment of languages that extended even to the minutiae of English grammar and parsing. The joys of written and spoken language and a love of reading and writing are traits that endure in me to this day.

I have had the luck to live in a number of different English-speaking countries. With a lifelong interest in spoken and written language, I relish the regional uniqueness in the spoken tongue and enjoy (and often adopt) colourful local expressions. I have delighted in the differences from my native Dundee or from standard BBC English that are found in England, Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic and Wales. When our daughter was born in Northern Ireland, I was asked by a workmate if the child was ‘plain or stone-finished’. Took me a wee while to work that one out.

In 1966, my young wife, our new-born daughter and I emigrated to Australia. We arrived one day before Australia Day(2) in 1967 and have lived in four different states of this vast land since then, most of the years in Melbourne. We were prepared for warmer weather, a different diet, a new job, different housing styles and numerous challenges to be dealt with, although we naively believed the culture would be similar to that we had left. But I was not prepared for the many differences in our common language that I encountered with delight, amusement and sometimes bafflement.

Australian English, as spoken by ordinary people, spoken quickly, as foreigners complain it often is, can be hard for the untutored ear to understand. When colloquialisms are added to the mix it can be incomprehensible to the stranger. How Europeans, many of whom speak excellent standard English, understand us, I wonder. They are, in contrast, usually well enough understood by locals. There is not much by way of distinctly different local dialects and accents in Australia, even comparing cities as far apart as Sydney on the east coast and Perth, WA, on the west. Even a lifelong Australian resident with a good ear would find it hard to place an accent geographically although there are some differences in word usage from one part of the country to another that are giveaways.

To be continued


(1) D C Thomson is the largest independent publisher in Britain, founded in 1886 but not so named till 1905. It has always been based in Dundee, Scotland. It represents the ‘Journalism’ in the ‘Jute, Jam and Journalism’ label formerly applied to the city.

(2) Australia Day, 26th January, commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet(3) which sailed from Portsmouth on England’s south coast and landed on that day in 1788 at what the explorer James Cook had named Botany Bay, to colonise what the British government assumed to be an uninhabited land. In the 21st century the Australian Native people, who have inhabited this land continuously for 40,000 years, are now demanding that the date of this day of celebration of white Anglo-Celtic colonisation be changed, as that day is known to them as ‘Sorry Day’.

(3) The First Fleet consisted of eleven ships, of which six were convict transports, commanded by the naval officer Arthur Phillip, bent on establishing a penal colony at the place in Terra Australis where the then Lieutenant Cook had landed on his previous exploratory voyage in 1770. The first colony, Sydney Cove, which became the city of Sydney in the state of New South Wales, was composed of those convicts (both male and female) plus a contingent of soldiers and their officers. A stream of later voyages brought more convicts and members of noble families sent by their families to be out of the way as black sheep. The last shipment of convicts was to Western Australia in 1868. By then there was a good flow of free settlers to a young country.

Melbourne was founded in 1836 as a commercial venture, from the southern island of Tasmania, which was originally Van Diemen’s Land after a Dutch governor of the East Indies. It was so named by the first European sailor to discover the island, the Dutch Abel Tasman. Subsequently it was the British who renamed it Tasmania. It had been colonised directly from Sydney. The expedition to the southern mainland was led by John Batman, a grazier and explorer, and founded a colony of free settlers. Batman landed at what is now named Blairgowrie, which was most probably named after a town near our own home city of Dundee in Scotland.

Named for Queen Victoria’s first prime minister, Melbourne’s mushroom growth in the later 19th century was due to the discovery of gold in the inland of what became the state of Victoria. As well as miners from many lands, including a good number of Chinese settlers who established their own mines but sensibly became growers of vegetables, shopkeepers and traders. Several large Victorian gold mining boom towns of the 19th century continue to have significant populations of ethnic Chinese origin, which are well integrated but maintain their ancestral culture and whose temples, dragon festivals and museums are a major part of community life in these cities.

South Australia’s capital city, Adelaide, was also a free colony. Inland Perth in the far west, originally founded from the city’s port town of Fremantle, had a convict source.

Today, claiming convict ancestry from the First Fleet is highly prized.

Tell Me When I'm Having Fun
Hugh McGrory
Many years ago, my wife Sheila worked for the Ontario Government in the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. One of her main tasks was to encourage and assist businesses to locate in the Province.

She came home one evening and announced that we had been invited to an evening function at the home of a prospect. Being my usual supportive self, I probably whined something like “Do I have to go?” Once I understood that I did, she gave me the invite which said “black tie” or some similar phrase.

I said “OK, I can rent a tux,” to which she replied “No, I think a business suit will be fine.” I was doubtful, “but maybe the phrase means something different in Canada than it does in the UK.”

“Well, one of my colleagues, Maureen, and her fiancée, Robert have also been invited I’ll get her to check with him.” The word duly came back that Robert, a Canadian, would be wearing a business suit to the ’do’ – so no problemo.

So, the day arrived, I dressed in my dark blue suit with a modest matching tie, and we drove over to the client’s small-mansion-type home.
I had my first “Oh, oh…” moment when I saw that there were young car-jockey’s in white shirts and bow ties parking guests’ cars. The second came moments later when I realised that the music we heard was coming from a mariachi group on the front steps.We walked into the house and I got my final “Oh, oh…” when I saw that all of the men in sight looked like a colony of penguins.

I thought, “Oh, damn, I guess Robert and I will be the only two schmucks not appropriately dressed.”

I asked Sheila if her friend had arrived yet and she said “No”, then “Oh yes, they just came in…”

I looked up to see Maureen, whom I'd met before, walking towards us followed by Robert, a tall good-looking fella looking very sharp in his TUX AND BLACK BOWTIE...

I could have looked like this guy...
Yugoslavia 5
Michael Marks
The remainder of my month with the Yavornik family passed too quickly and we parted company at the railway station, promising to keep in touch. My journey home was uneventful.

We did keep in touch, but inevitably less and less frequently. As the years passed I married, and we soon had two daughters to look after. There was always a good reason to postpone a return to Ljubljana and Deso also had travel restrictions caused by the communist regime. By 1971, I was living in Manila so there was yet another potential barrier to a return trip. How to get from Manila to Ljubljana and on to the UK?

When 1979 arrived my wife and I decided to bite the bullet and celebrate a very long postponed anniversary - a quarter of a century from my introduction to the Yavorniks. We realized that if we didn’t go that year we might never do so.

We took our annual home leave in December to be with our daughters for Christmas together with our families in Invergowrie and Blairgowrie and agreed to go to Ljubljana en route. We could fly to Trieste, hire a car, drive to Ljubljana, meet the Yavorniks for a couple of days, drive back to Trieste and on to the UK - simple! And that is where Fate took a hand.

For reasons not relevant to this story, our flight from Manila involved changing flights in Athens. At this point we were told that there was thick fog in northern Italy and Trieste airport was closed. We rearranged our flight and managed to get a flight to Rome. At least travelling in the right direction!

We had hoped that we might find an alternative flight to somewhere else in north Italy and get to Ljubljana that way. No joy. The airline paid for a rather rundown hotel for the night near Rome airport. Next morning we got to the airport early and tried our luck. Bliss! The fog in north Italy had lifted and there were two seats on the next flight to Trieste. We landed in Trieste and went to get our hire car. There wasn’t one.

We explained our problem and they not only found a car for us but upgraded us to a BMW. Now we had sunshine and a car and had only lost a day. We arrived that same morning in Ljubljana.

Now all we had to do was find Deso’s new apartment.

We stopped and asked for directions and soon arrived at the correct address. Or rather where it ought to have been. All we could see was a row of shops. There was a door in the middle of the row, so we tried it and got in. Now at last our luck had changed. Not so.

On the first floor we found the correct apartment, with an envelope pinned to the door and our name on the envelope. Inside the envelope was a note saying that Deso was sure we would turn up (even a day or so late) but he had to leave and would phone us that afternoon at a nearby hotel where he had booked us a room.

We easily found the hotel and yes, there was a reservation for us. Better news still, the hotel was a new Intercontinental! More on this in the next installment.

Deso duly phoned and explained that this was a bank holiday. The family were spending it in their country house (see also my next column). We agreed that I would drive down to the nearest village where Deso would meet us and take us to their house. We would meet at the village of Visna Gora. No problems. We did a little shopping, had a dinner and a drink or two and so to bed.

All was at last going well - or was it? Next morning we woke to see thick fog!

We set off driving very cautiously and managed to find the village and a few minutes later Deso arrived. The reunion with the family was a great success. The whole family were there and Sheila (my wife) got a great reception.

I know she was relaxed because that evening we had a swim in the hotel’s indoor heated pool. Sheila can swim but is nervous, and never swims unless her feet can touch the bottom. That evening she swam several lengths!

Hugh McGrory
In my last story, Dr. Sophie had asked me about taking part in a research project as a subject – so what was that all about…?

Well, as you know, our blood circulates around our body through arteries – which take oxygenated blood outwards from the heart, and veins – which bring the blood back again. The transfer of the blood between these is accomplished by capillaries, vessels which are so tiny that blood cells have to pass in single file.

Glomus bodies, like capillaries but independent of them, also provide a connection between arteries and veins – the purpose is to shunt blood away from the skin surface when exposed to cold temperature, thus preventing heat loss, or allowing maximum blood flow to the skin in warm weather to allow heat to dissipate.

There is a rare condition affecting these glomus bodies called glomangioma, where multiple benign (non-cancerous) growths of blood vessels occur. These are apparently caused by a mutation in a gene known as FAP68 (don’t ask me…). I was born with this mutation (which causes small visible, blue-coloured tumours under the skin) hence the request that I might become part of the study.

As you can see from the photos below, these tumours come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and various shades of red, blue, and purple. They also appear individually or in various clusters. Fortunately, despite having had these tumours since birth, they haven’t really bothered me apart from the odd collision with a ball, a stick, or a racquet, when they can be painful.

My Chest My Right hand My Right Hip

So, to cut a long story short, a few weeks later I found myself in an examining room in the Dermatology Division at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto with the young(ish) Study Director and a colleague, both female. They wanted to examine my skin from top to toe, to document and count the tumours, photograph them, and biopsy one for study under a microscope.

They asked if I’d like privacy while I stripped and I said that since I had to be nude anyway it didn’t really matter so “I’ll just strip, you two can get your clothes off, and we can get started.” They stared at me for a moment amid dead silence in the room until I said “I figured it was worth a shot…"

So, they went over every inch of me, using a magnifying glass on occasion – final count of tumours was well over 100. They had asked if they could biopsy one, and in fact, talked me into a second one.

They said that they would be presenting their findings at an upcoming dermatology conference in Toronto and asked if I would attend to show off some of my tumours. I agreed, but when they sent me the details, I realised that I would be in Scotland on that date. So I lost my one and only chance to show off my magnificent body in front of hundreds of people…

As I said, this condition is rare. In organising the study, they contacted dermatology colleagues across Canada to see if they had patients with this condition and turned up the grand total of four (including me). At around this time my brother and I had been delving into our family history and in talking with the study director it occurred to me that there was a small chance that the four families may be related. I asked her if we could explore this, and she said the Ethics Board at the University of Toronto wouldn’t allow the release of the information.

I said “How about I give you written permission to release my details to the other three so they can choose
whether to contact me or not." She said it was worth a try and eventually got the OK from the Ethics Board.

In the end, two of the three corresponded with me. It would have been great to be able to tell you that we were able to identify a common ancestor – that didn’t happen.

However, it turned out that we three all had Irish ancestry, me in County Donegal, and they in Leitrim, Fermanagh, and Tyrone all of which have common borders with Donegal. So it suggests that we had a common ancestor in this part of the world back in the
mists of time, who had this mutation, and passed it down to each of us...

A Little Live Action
Gordon Findlay
Two or three weeks after we arrived in Edinburgh, I got my first taste of policing. Two of us had just finished our 6.00 to 10.00 p.m. shift and were walking back to the parking area behind Waverley Street Station where we expected to find our 15-cwt truck waiting to take us back to Musselburgh.

Instead, one of the sergeants from our detachment came running out of the station area and yelled at us to “get over here!” We followed him at a trot into the railway station itself – and came on a scene of battle. Half-a-dozen Army types were mixing it up with Air Force personnel, in a welter of bodies, arms and screaming curses. One Air Force fellow was lying full length on the platform, bloodied around the head and groaning softly. “Get ‘em apart!” roared our sergeant. Easier said than done.

Ever tried to get between two grown men, drunk but viciously angry and doing their best to flatten the other? The trick is to wait until a punch is thrown and try to grab the puncher’s other arm and twist it in the opposite direction so he’s thrown off balance. We tried that, but it really takes two of you to subdue one man – and by that time his opponent is trying to take advantage of your intervention and is whirling in to thump him while you hold his arms.

For a couple of minutes we looked like we were part of the fight, wrestling Army types or Air Force blokes apart only to have them break away and try to get at each other again. Funny thing was, for all the painstaking effort we had exerted in putting together our shot-filled “saps”, we realized later that we never had a chance to get them out before we were suddenly smack in the middle of that dustup. We had to separate the fighters with the strength of our arms.

At this point – hallelujah! – in came the reinforcements. Someone in the station master’s office had called Edinburgh Police and a minute later a squad of bobbies – very large and solid men in dark blue equipped with night sticks –came pouring on to the platform. In no time at all they whacked and bashed the combatants down to their knees and the fight was over.

Our job then was to get the personal information from the fighters, both Army and Air Force, but since they had been “disturbing the peace and endangering citizens” the Edinburgh Police took over and hauled the lot of them to holding cells at the local prison

It seems that one or two of the Army types had made a nasty comment about the Air Force men as they exited the train – more insults were exchanged, then a punch was thrown, and the battle was on.

For our part, we handed over the names, service numbers and regiments of all the battlers, handed them over to the police, and we were then free to climb into our 15-cwt truck to head back to barracks in Musselburgh – breathing a bit harder, a couple of bruises here and there, but all of us still in one piece.

Dr. Sophie
Hugh McGrory
Some twenty or so years ago I had an annoying rash on my forehead that my GP couldn’t shift, so he sent me across the corridor to Dr. Sophie, a dermatologist. She identified the rash and cleared it up for me quite quickly. This was the first of a series of visits for minor skin ailments over the next ten years or so.

Dr. Sophie was Polish born, about 4’10” in height, strong-minded, very knowledgeable and respected in her

Dr. Sophie front left
field. She retired at 88 – sadly she died a few years ago at the age of 96.

We had a friend in common, and so spent a little time chatting during my visits. One time I told her that I didn’t like coming to see her. She asked why not, and I said, “Because every time I come you find a new way to torture me – you’ve stuck needles in me, sliced me with a scalpel, stitched me, frozen me – the only one you’ve missed is burning me!”

She laughed, and, I believe, decided then and there to go for the full house… You see, while I was there for some reason I can’t remember, I had mentioned that I had quite a lot of annoying skin tags and wondered if she could remove them. She said that she could do them then and there – then she asked:

“Do you haf a high tolerance for pain…?

My mind immediately said to me "Did I hear that right...?" and I’m sure I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights…

I can’t remember what I said exactly – probably hedged my bets... I mean if you say No, you look like a wimp, but if you say Yes, you might very well not enjoy what ensues. Whatever I said she took it as a Yes and said, “there are a number of ways to do this: cryotherapy to freeze them, cut them off with scissors or scalpel, or my preference, electrodessication – using an electric needle to burn them off.”

“With a local anesthetic,” I asked, hopefully?

“No,” she said, “that’s why I asked the question, dummy!” (OK, she didn’t say dummy – she just thought it...)

So, she got out her latest torture device and a pair of tweezers and in two shakes had taken off about a dozen tags.

The pain couldn’t have been that bad since I don’t really remember it, but I thought it amusing that, when it was over, there was a smell in the room like barbecued steak…

Then she said “Before you go, I have a colleague doing a study of a rare congenital defect and I wondered if you might volunteer as a participant…”

But that’s a story for another day…

Bill Kidd
From time to time when I am flicking across the hundred or so TV channels available to me, I stumble upon
a badminton match and while watching the amazing athleticism of the present-day players I reflect on our own badminton journey. This started in 1960 shortly after we married and moved to Caithness. Among the new friends that we made were a couple of keen badminton players who invited us to come along to a badminton session at the local social club. We were both tennis players with only the barest experience of badminton, but nothing ventured... etc.

We went along and quickly discovered two things. First, that the only thing that badminton and tennis had in common was that the racquets both had strings and second, that because of the local climate, badminton was a
serious year-round sport in Caithness. Thanks to the patience of our new friends we enjoyed a couple of games and accepted their invitation to return the next week. Over the next few months we bought our own racquets and became regular members of the club. Muriel showed great aptitude for the game and within a couple of months she was representing the club at friendly matches. My own journey was less spectacular, and I became a regular travelling supporter at those friendly matches.

During the course of that winter we learned that there was a very active and competitive badminton league in Caithness with almost every village and township with a suitable hall having its own badminton team. Over the next five years we spent a great deal of time improving our standard of play and travelling around the county sampling the idiosyncrasies of the various venues.

Schools in both Wick and Thurso had excellent venues with the high roofs needed to play good standard badminton but regretfully this wasn’t the case with most village halls where low roofs, light fixtures, rafters, and obstructions on the playing area meant that local rules had to be observed.

One village hall had a working coke stove on the corner of the court, fortunately it had a wire guard round it. The local rule was, if the shuttlecock landed on the top of the stove and was burned, it was a foul, if it was undamaged, it was a let. Another hall was too short to accommodate a full-size badminton court so the base line at one end was painted a foot above the floor, if the shuttlecock hit below the line it was ”In” and “Out” if it was above. One hall had roof trusses, if the lower part was hit it was a “Let.” Needless to say, the local players had made serving through the trusses a fine art form and gained quite a few victories by exploiting this.

The off-court facilities were also very basic. At one match I asked one of the opposition where I could find the Gents toilet and was told to go to the back door. I followed the instruction but could not find the toilet, so I went back and asked if he could show me. He did, he took me to the back door and with a wave indicated the miles of moorland saying, “There it is!” The lack of such facilities did not indicate any lack of hospitality nor did the keen rivalry affect the warmth of the welcome and friendly banter. These were happy days when sport was an important part of the social scene.

In 1966 we moved to Berkshire and quickly resumed our badminton activities by joining the A.E.A. Wantage Badminton Club. This was a serious, competitive club with a good reputation in the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Counties League. By this time we were both competent players and were welcomed into one of the club teams. Once again the facilities were a little quirky. The club met in a WW2 aircraft hangar; it had a concrete floor with four badminton courts marked out on it. There was a rota of members responsible for erecting and dismantling the system of portable lighting the nets before and after each session of the club. Nothing quirky about that you may be thinking but what about the operating irradiation plant grumbling away in the corner of the hangar. That is quirky and although perfectly safe, caused much trepidation amongst visiting teams.

Badminton become a major part of our lives and we joined a second club in 1967. This was another A.E.A. sponsored club that met on a Saturday evening in Abingdon’s Old Jail. This Facility had been purchased by a consortia of local badminton clubs and altered into a dedicated two court facility with excellent changing facilities, a clubroom and bar, However, being part of our badminton journey, there had to be something quirky! How about the two fuselage sections of WW2 Horsa Glider placed at one end of the courts to provide the original changing rooms of the facility?

This was a serious competitive facility that Judy Hashman (née Devlin) used for training. Judy Hashman was
probably the greatest ever female badminton player. Born in Canada but moved to UK when she married in 1960. She won 86 international tournaments including 10 All-England singles Championships and was runner up 3 times, 7 All-England Ladies doubles and was runner up 5 times. Once in The Old Jail I watched her when she was four months pregnant play singles with and thoroughly demolish, a male county standard player. What a competitor!

Starting a family and a change of job for me brought our competitive badminton career to an end, but when we moved to Leighton Buzzard we took our badminton kit with us and soon found a badminton club that concentrated on the social aspects of the game. The only quirky venue that we played in was the National Spinal Injuries Hospital at Stoke Mandeville
where we played a friendly match with the staff club. The highlight was being able to have a swim after our game, a long way from Caithness village halls!

Our next move was to Congleton in Cheshire and yet another badminton related experience. The club that we joined was a large one and we played in the town’s disused Territorial Army Drill Hall. During our time there the club got the opportunity to buy the hall and I ended up as the convenor of the fund-raising committee. In a flash of brilliance I arranged a Wrestling Show in the town hall and we had a fascinating time seeing what went on behind the scenes at a professional wresting show. This consisted mainly of negotiating with the wrestling management, helping to set up the ring, and during the show, removing the kids who, to the painful discomfort of the wrestlers and the delight of the perpetrators, scattered grains of rice onto the ring. It certainly added a grain of quirkiness to our lives.

Our last move involving badminton was to Cumbernauld, no club this time but a system of booking a court in the large sports centre and bringing along your group of friends. Nothing quirky, a pleasant evening out with established friends in a well-equipped venue. Looking back over more years than I care to remember I have come to the conclusion the Caithness experience in village halls was the most fun and that for anyone

moving around the country, badminton was a great way to meet new people.

Feeding the Backyard Animals
Hugh McGrory
My friend Ross and I competed against each other at squash twice weekly for about thirty years – we finally had to give up at the behest of Mother Nature in our late sixties (his rotator cuff, my knee replacement...).

One day, after a match, he mentioned that he’d put up a hummingbird feeder in his backyard hanging from a branch of a maple tree, and he couldn’t believe how much sugared water (one cup of table sugar to four cups of water) those tiny birds could consume.

The following week he said that the syrup was disappearing at a ridiculous rate and there had to be some critter getting at the feeder – it couldn’t be the hummingbirds alone…

We went over the list of known predators:

Raccoons? (our first choice) No – the feeder was 'raccoon-prooof' – held up by twine that wouldn’t support the weight of a raccoon.

Squirrels? No – he didn’t get a lot of squirrel activity and didn’t think they could drink that much.

Chipmunks? No – same as for squirrels.

Other birds? No – he hadn’t seen much activity near the feeder.

Bats? No – same as for birds.

Black bears? (We were reaching...) Nah – not in suburban Toronto.

That was as far as we got – we were both baffled and gave up.

A couple of weeks pass, we’re in the change room getting ready to play, and he says he’s finally solved the mystery…

He said he was in the backyard about to go in for the evening when he sensed a movement out of the corner of his eye. At first, he wasn’t sure what it was then suddenly realised that the feeder was moving – it was disappearing upwards into the leaves of the maple…

He slowly bent down into a squat and looked upwards. There was a family of raccoons, dad, mum and three youngsters in the tree and dad was pulling the feeder string up hand-over-hand.

Ross said, “I watched amazed as that bloody masked bandit picked up the feeder in his little human-like hands and proceeded to scoff the sugar water!”

Chance Meeting
Clive Yates

Your recent story about a coincidental meeting reminded me of a personal story also set in New Zealand:

Some years ago, in Auckland, I was in the recreational area called ‘Onepoto Domain’ which is on the North Shore (part of Aukland, north of the harbour). I was there indulging myself in Egyptian PT... (actually, having a snoozy nap in the sunshine on a seat).

Along came a chap with a white West Highland Terrier on a lead. I patted the Westie and mumbled
something about how ‘good’ the little dog looked and how affectionate he appeared to be. My wife and I had always wanted a Westie, so the conversation drifted into ‘Where to obtain such a dog, and general comments about how they behaved.’

The owner suddenly asked me about my accent (still quite Dundonian despite every effort for years to disguise it!)

I replied, “I am from Dundee.”

He said “ I have a friend who is from Dundee. He used to be in the Merchant Navy as a Deck Officer on tankers.”

“What's his name?” I asked (half-interestedly). He replied “Morrison, Charlie Morrison.”

“I knew a Charlie Morrison once” I said, “That Charlie Morrison had a sister called Janet who married an Engineer on the Shaw Saville Line operating to New Zealand. They moved to New Zealand back in the 1960’s.”

The unknown man remarked that he would tell his friend that he had met someone from Dundee. He asked me for my name and phone number, which I gave him, and thought no more about it.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call a day or two later; “I am Charlie Morrison from Dundee, Janet’s brother.” He went on to tell me that she and her family are still in NZ. However, her husband had died quite recently with Big C.” At this we had a conversation and he told me that he had ‘retired’ in NZ after years at sea ‘driving’ large oil carrier vessels around the globe.

Small world; even smaller islands; minuscule chances of such an encounter. And if you think the story a bit strange, how about these extra bits:

Tommy Burt, a classmate at Morgan Academy, rugby player (and a contributor to this story collection) lived half a mile from me in Auckland;

and Dorothy Fenton (as was) in a former Primary school class, (who left Morgan and went to the Harris,) bumped into me at a conference in 1996!

Some of you will remember the words of our school song - “O’er the bridge that spans the river;” etc.

Morgan Academy The Bridge that Spans the River Tay

A Song of the Morgan

O’er the Bridge that spans the River
Moving slowly to the sea,
Looks ‘The Morgan’, now as ever,
Fairest school in all Dundee.
And as day by day we view her,
Standing stately on the hill,
Proudly pay we homage to her,
Gladly sing with right good will.

Hail “The Morgan” stately, splendid,
Hail the teachers, every one!(1)
Cheer we every goal defended
Every hit and every run!
We would strive with every lesson,
As we strive when at our play,
Learn with every passing session,
“Who would rule, must first obey.”

O’er the Bridge that spans the River,
Soon we pass away alone,
Leaving comrades keen and clever,
For the lure of the unknown.
But, though much or mean our treasure,
Though our fame be great or ill,
We shall still recall with pleasure,
Our dear “Morgan” on the hill.

Repeat chorus

Though the Bridge that spans the River,
Take us far from home and friend,
Hide them from our sight forever,
Till the “long trail” has an end,
There’s a beacon that will light us,
Lone on land, or far at sea,
There’s a name that will unite us,
‘Tis “The Morgan” of Dundee.


(1) It's a school tradition that pupils sing "Jail the teachers, every one."
Cherries Jubilee
Hugh McGrory
The famous chef, Escoffier, creator of the Peach Melba (for a dinner honouring opera diva Dame Nellie Melba), also invented Cherries Jubilee, in 1887, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 50th year as monarch.

It was well known that the Queen loved cherries, and he adapted the old French method of preserving fruit in sugar and brandy to make this celebratory dish.

Briefly, you gently warm sour cherries in a pan with sugar, salt, lemon juice, and scraped vanilla bean. When the sugar dissolves, turn up the heat until the mixture thickens. Add Kirsch or Brandy (away from the heat source) return the pan to the heat and then flambé by igniting the alcoholic vapour. Allow the pan to cool until the flames disappear.

Today, the mixture is usually poured over vanilla ice cream for each serving (Escoffier did not do this originally.)

So, as I mentioned in a previous story, I was in Houston, Texas, in 1971 attending a conference on (as usual) computers and engineering. My great friend, Sam, who lived in Houston, was the Conference Chairman, and, as part of his duties, had had to set up a dinner for all of the attendees.

Some time before, he had met with the appropriate manager at the hotel who introduced him to the chef. After discussing the menu, he and Sam chatted. The chef wasn’t a Texan; Sam asked him how he ended up in Houston, and he proceeded to tell the following story:

He'd been working at a major hotel in Denver, Colorado, and was asked to prepare a meal for some kind of major charity function to be attended by many hundreds – everyone who was anyone in Denver – black tie and evening dresses, of course.

He wanted to make a splash – he put together a plan to serve Cherries Jubilee for dessert, and to make the flambéing a spectacular event.

The ballroom was filled with tables, but a space had been left in the middle. At the appropriate moment the lights were dimmed, an anthem played, and a spotlight followed his staff as they wheeled in a platform with a large pot/cauldron in which the warm melange was ready to be flambéed.

He followed in his chef’s uniform and tuque, shining bright in the spotlight. He carried aloft a bottle of brandy, and when they reached the centre, the music ceased and there was silence. With a flourish he held the bottle aloft then poured it into the mixture, lit a long taper then held it to the rim, and BOOM… The mixture exploded and launched an expanding wave of cherries out over him, his staff, and the surrounding tables.

Fortunately, no one was badly hurt, though apparently the bedraggled spectators were a sight to behold. He was fired that evening – and that was how he eventually arrived in Houston…

Flambéing is a technique that can be used for many types of dishes, but it’s often associated with desserts – Baked Alaska, Bananas Foster. While it can improve the look and taste of the food, it’s not without its dangers:

In Coral Gables , Florida, in November 1979, two elderly women (aged 88 and 81) were burned when a Cherries Jubilee dessert at a country club dinner exploded and set their clothing on fire. One of them died…

In Tampa Bay, in June 2011, four diners were injured while awaiting their Bananas Foster dessert. Particularly badly hurt was a 25 year old primary school teacher who suffered third degree burns.

In 1999 a California woman suffered third-degree burns when a server prepared Cherries Jubilee tableside at a steak house.

A woman in London was seriously burned in 2005 when a flaming Portuguese sausage dish exploded after it was topped with rum.

A 5-year-old girl and her 8-year-old sister were burned in Arizona in 2006 when alcohol in a hollowed-out "onion volcano" was ignited at a Japanese restaurant.

In 1996, a waitress died after suffering severe burns at a Dublin wedding reception when an open liquor bottle caught fire as staff prepared a flaming Baked Alaska.

In the late 70's, the hotel administration department at the University of New Hampshire, put on theme dinners. The students would go all out, and the multi-course meal included Cherries Jubilee as the grand finale.

The "chefs" in their starched white uniforms and caps, wheeled a shiny cart laden with a huge bowl of cherries into the center of the room. All eyes were on them. With a dramatic flourish they poured alcohol over the cherries and set them aflame…. A stray elbow suddenly bumped the alcohol flask. It fell to the floor splashing alcohol in a long stream... directly toward the seated diners and disappearing under a table.

The band played on as everyone watched the flames jump from the cherries, down to the floor, working their way toward the seated diners. No one moved until the flames ran under the table and up an unfortunate gentleman's pant leg. He leapt into the air and headed for the platform only to be tackled by guests who sprang into action and smothered the flames. Fortunately, he wasn’t badly hurt.

Getting back to our main story, do I believe it…? I’m sure that’s the story that was told to my friend Sam, (as best I remember it after fifty years).

Given the litany of accidents above, something of the like could well have happened. There was no Internet fifty years ago, and my latest research, though it turned up the list of accidents above, did not uncover any story set in Denver.

We’ll never know for sure – I’m inclined to think that the basis for the story may be true but that it was somewhat embellished in the telling...

But it’s a good story is it not...?

Shetland Revisited
Brian Macdonald
In a previous traveller’s tale, I mentioned that one day, we would re-visit the Northern Islands of Scotland. At the time of our first visit, only one short look-see was contemplated as we were enjoying mainland Europe too much, with its varied cultures, peoples, scenery, and cuisines. As we neared the close of our eighth decade and knew our overseas travel days were coming to an end, due to the brutal marathon journey from Australia just to get as far as Europe, one final journey of discovery was pondered.

Then came the TV series of author Ann Cleeves’ Scottish detective, Inspector Jimmy Perez, which we watched from the comfort of our Melbourne armchairs. It was named Shetland, set and filmed on the Shetland Islands, which we had visited and enjoyed seeing again on the TV screen. That settled it! It would be a return trip to the Northern Islands, ten years after the first. We now knew how small distances are in Shetland, everywhere being well within a day trip, so we sought and found an apartment in Lerwick(1) for the full ten days we would spend there. That would give us a chance to experience the local culture in more depth than as itinerant visitors and to meet and talk to Islanders. We planned to spend more time on Shetland than on Orkney, which is more akin to the Scottish mainland in its landscape and culture as well as being much closer to the Scottish mainland.

The ferry trip from Aberdeen is a painless overnight experience and Shetland comes into view as low-set islands as you approach the Sound of Bressay, as daylight brightens. Installed by mid-morning in our apartment in one in of a terrace of stone houses, a five-minute walk from the centre of Lerwick, and with a trove of supplies from the supermarket, you are set and ready to go. On the short stroll to town centre stands Fort Charlotte, an artillery fort dating from the 17th century but most recently rebuilt in the 19th century, strategically facing the Sound of Bressay, on which Lerwick stands.

Little planning is needed for a stay in Shetland. Just get in the car and drive. Take your best cold- and wet-weather clothing, even for summer, as Shetland is a fair way north . Ferry The inter-island ferries are frequent

and cheap drive-ons.

As all roads start at and return to Lerwick, it is there you pay your modest fare. After that, there is no checking and you simply go, hopping from island to island and returning to Lerwick by the same route. Occasionally it is necessary to wait for a second ferry if you are going to one of the smaller and more remote islands, if a few vehicles – usually goods transports and tradesmen’s vans – are already waiting for the small ferry. This simply encourages a relaxed view of life and makes the big-city visitor slow down a bit. As Lerwick faces steadfastly east, looking towards Bergen, in Norway, some 200 miles away, it is possible to travel from there north, south, and west to the furthest extremities of Shetland.

Lerwick is a working town, mostly standard Scottish provincial architecture, the grander buildings with a touch of the Scottish baronial or civic about them. There is little of architectural interest to the tourist. A few smaller cruise ships dock there(2) briefly but not many tourists are to be seen. The town sprawls round the coast of the sound in a rough L-shape. A couple of cafés huddle on and near Commercial Road, the flagstoned, building-hemmed main street that wanders through the mostly original residential area and town centre from north to south, and which is patiently shared between vehicles and pedestrians. Narrow lanes, often called ‘wynds’ in other parts of Scotland but here known as ‘closses’, dart off from Commercial Road between the buildings and up the steep hillside.

In the centre small square stands the modest Market Cross. the tourism office and one of the town’s two music pubs, The Lounge. A busier road, the Esplanade, runs parallel to Commercial Road, but along the shoreline, lower down the sloping hillside. It carries the commercial traffic and services the harbour precinct and the ferry terminal.

At the southern end, The Esplanade turns right, away from the coastal fringe, leaving the older part of the town, towards a little headland, The Knab, which projects into the Sound of Bressay and has an interesting walk round its cliffside. The road then becomes again the A969, the main road, which runs from the northern end of Mainland to Sumburgh Head, at the southern tip. A newer part of Lerwick with a housing estate is in this part of town and the ubiquitous Tesco supermarket. There is a growing accommodation shortage in Shetland, partly due to increased immigration of recent years. It is planned to build more housing in this part of Lerwick.

If the visitor is hoping for sophisticated or exotic experiences on the islands, there is disappointment to come. There are a couple of restaurants whose menus show some pretensions, but the height of fine dining is Sunday lunch in the Grand Hotel, a dignified stone pile that stands tall in the inner town. There, a toqued chef presides over a buffet and the tail-coated head waiter takes your order. The food is good, solid, unimaginative, traditional fare, the atmosphere quiet and restrained. The few cafés are quiet, dark places with many coat hooks for the heavy coats and waterproof jackets that are essential here and often have an atmosphere redolent of the damp outer coats of patrons. Below the wall of Fort Charlotte stands a popular fish and chip shop, usually with a hungry queue outside around tea-time. A few Indian and other takeaway restaurants exist to provide variety.

On our first visit some ten years earlier, cinema entertainment consisted of periodic shows in a hall, with a travelling projectionist who brought his own huge canisters of film. That may still happen but now there is high-definition digital TV reception and internet connection is fast and reliable so there need be no shortage of canned entertainment.

There are two ‘music pubs’ in town. The Lounge is a fairly plain lounge bar where music is played once a week. The Douglas Arms is a cheerier establishment, with a lively bar with a roaring fire and a row of Viking shields above the curving bar counter. By happy chance it was a mere hundred yards from our apartment, and
The Douglas Arms
we were in Lerwick for two music evenings. Shetland is as known for lively fiddle(3) music as it is for its little horses and it is a grand evening sitting in The Douglas with your drink of choice, tapping your foot to the music of the fiddles. There may also be an accordion being squeezed and a guitar or two.

Travellers do not visit Shetland to lie on the beach, a good summer day being windy and about 15°. Nor is it a place with amazing buildings or grand art galleries. What Shetland offers is stark natural beauty of coastal scenery and a history of occupation that dates from 2500BC with ruins a-plenty. A week spent on Shetland is not wasted. Driving is easy with little traffic and distances are short, but it is wise to take your own car. It is necessary to learn the protocols and courtesy of traffic crossing on the narrow single-lane roads with their frequent passing places. While the scenery is entirely grassland, what few trees there were having long been cut down for building or firewood, and the climate not friendly to anything standing at a height, it is by no means boring and great coastal vistas are open everywhere.

The most famous prehistoric settlement is the extensive Bronze, Iron, Stone Age and Viking Jarlshof, which

also holds ruins of a 17th century ‘Laird’s House’. Situated on the coast at the southern tip of Mainland, at Sumburgh, this fascinating settlement first was revealed to a farmer near the end of the 19th century when its cover of centuries of soil was blown away by a ferocious storm. It has since been extensively excavated and restored and it is a mind-boggling experience to walk around and marvel at the millennia of history revealed. Jarlshof’s name was probably plucked from a novel by Scotland’s famed 19th century novelist, Sir Walter Scott, and a loose translation may be ‘The Earl’s Court’.

To reach the exhibit, it is necessary to pass through the grounds of the Sumburgh Hotel, a good place to fuel up the body after your ramble round Jarlshof, usually in the teeth of a bracing Atlantic wind and sometimes driving rain, before you tackle the steep kilometre-long walk up to Sumburgh Head lighthouse at the very tip

Sumburgh Head
of southern Shetland. There you will find one of many lighthouses around Scotland built by members of the Stevenson dynasty(4).


(1) Lerwick is a royal burgh, the most northerly in Britain and, at about 7000 population, the only sizeable town on Shetland. Ask a local and you will be told that both pronunciations of the town’s name are used – ‘Lerrick’ and ‘Ler-wick’. This is not how it is with the town of Berwick-on-Tweed, the border town between Scotland and England, where the only acceptable version is ‘Berrick’.

(2) The local shopkeepers and café owners are not enthused about cruise ships for they disgorge their passengers, who stroll through the town looking around but mostly buy nothing and return to their ships for meals and refreshments.

(3) All over Scotland the violin is known as the ‘fiddle’ and its exponents as ‘fiddlers’. The Shetland Fiddlers’ Society is a renowned group of fiddlers which not only plays at festivals and events on Shetland but has also performed at the Edinburgh Tattoo and around the world. Its many members turn up for pub music evenings too. Scottish fiddle music is lively and gets the blood going.

(4) Four generations of ‘the Lighthouse Stevensons’ family designed and built many of the more than 200 lighthouses around the coasts of Scotland. Many still stand although most have now had their mechanisms replaced by modern electronic lights or are out of use. The author Robert Louis Stevenson was a member of this family (Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are possibly his best-known novels, although other works are familiar to generations of Scottish youngsters.). He was not a lighthouse builder.

To be concluded next time...

The Smart Brothers...
Hugh McGrory
Some time in the early ‘90s my brother and I took my mother and her sister, both in their late 70s, down south (of England that is) to see their brother who was not well. We stayed a couple of days with our cousins in Tewin Wood, Herts, (Michael and Jan).

Being two smart fellas, we had the bright idea to take with us Mum's two shoe boxes filled with old family photographs (no doubt many of you have the equivalent treasure trove). We figured it would be a great opportunity to scour the memories of Mum and her sister and have them name people and events that would otherwise disappear into the mists of time...

It was some thirty years ago, but I still remember a very pleasant evening, sitting after dinner for a couple of hours with family, drinking wine and listening to the sisters as they remembered long forgotten people and events, and told little stories about ‘the old days’. It was an evening of nostalgia and laughter, and I believe all six of us thoroughly enjoyed it.

Did I mention my brother and I were smart cookies? We realized that we should record the names for posterity and so we had each taken a pile of photos and alternated passing them around then noting the names on the back (a few, of course were complete mysteries...)

Halfway through the evening, the following conversation took place between my brother and myself. (To protect the guilty, I’ll refer to us as A and B - but I won’t tell you which is me and which my brother...)

A: “Can I see that photo again,” then, “You’ve got the names round the wrong way!”

B: “Oh, do I? Let me see,” then, “No - that’s right.”

A: “Mum, who is that on the left in this photo?”

Mum: “Mary.”

A to B: “See you're wrong.”

B: “No - it’s right.”

A: “But you’ve got her name on the right and she’s on the left.”

B: “Right.”

At this point we were more like Abbot and Costello in their famous ‘Who’s on First'. sketch, than two smart brothers...

To cut a long story short, one of us was looking at a photo of say three people X, Y, and Z, turning the photo over and writing on the back, X, Y, and Z. The other was turning the photo over, looking through it at the table lamp and printing the names right behind the person. The result on the back was, of course, Z, Y, and X .

So we’d ended up with dozens and dozens of photos, half labelled one way, and half the other!

Smart brothers indeed...

Yugoslavia 4
Michael Marks
The remainder of my month with the Yavornik family passed too quickly and we parted company at the railway station, promising to keep in touch. My journey home was uneventful.

We did keep in touch, but inevitably less and less frequently. As the years passed I married, and we soon had two daughters to look after. There was always a good reason to postpone a return to Ljubljana and Deso also had travel restrictions caused by the communist regime. By 1971, I was living in Manila so there was yet another potential barrier to a return trip. How to get from Manila to Ljubljana and on to the UK?

When 1979 arrived my wife and I decided to bite the bullet and celebrate a very long postponed anniversary - a quarter of a century from my introduction to the Yavorniks. We realized that if we didn’t go that year we might never do so.

We took our annual home leave in December to be with our daughters for Christmas together with our families in Invergowrie and Blairgowrie and agreed to go to Ljubljana en route. We could fly to Trieste, hire a car, drive to Ljubljana, meet the Yavorniks for à couple of days, drive back to Trieste and on to the UK. Simples!

That is where Fate took a hand.

For reasons not relevant to this story, our flight from Manila involved changing flights in Athens. At this point we were told that there was thick fog in northern Italy and Trieste airport was closed. We rearranged our flight and managed to get a flight to Rome. At least travelling in the right direction!

We had hoped that we might find an alternative flight to somewhere else in north Italy and get to Ljubljana that way. No joy. The airline paid for a rather run down hotel for the night near Rome airport. Next morning we got to the airport early and tried our luck. Bliss! The fog in north Italy had lifted and there were two seats on the next flight to Trieste. We landed in Trieste and went to get our hire car. There wasn’t one.

We explained our problem and they not only found a car for us but upgraded us to a BMW. Now we had sunshine and a car and had only lost a day. We arrived that same morning in Ljubljana.

Now all we had to do was find Deso’s new apartment.

We stopped and asked for directions and soon arrived at the correct address. Or rather where it ought to have been. All we could see was a row of shops. There was a door in the middle of the row, so we tried it and got in.

Now at last our luck had changed. Not so.

On the first floor we found the correct apartment, with an envelope pinned to the door and our name on the envelope. Inside the envelop was a note saying that Deso was sure we would turn up (even a day or so late) but he had to leave and would phone us that afternoon at a nearby hotel where he had booked us a room.

We easily found the hotel and yes, there was a reservation for us. Better news still, the hotel was a new Intercontinental! More on this in the next installment.

Deso duly phoned and explained that this was a bank holiday. The family were spending it in their country house (see also my next column). We agreed that I would drive down to the nearest village where Deso would meet us and take us to their house. We would meet at the village of Visna Gora. No problems. We did a little shopping, had a dinner and a drink or two and so to bed.

All was at last going well - or was it?

Next morning we woke to see thick fog!

We set off driving very cautiously and managed to find the village and a few minutes later Deso arrived. The reunion with the family was a great success. The whole family were there and Sheila (my wife) got a great reception.

I know she was relaxed because that evening we had a swim in the hotel’s indoor heated pool. Sheila can swim but is nervous, and never swims unless her feet can touch the bottom. That evening she swam several lengths!

During the war there were rival partisan groups – they fought each other rather more than fighting the
Germans. Initially the Allies mainly supported a Serbian group, which was a Yugoslav royalist entity. The British military sent Fitzroy Maclean to investigate the rumours and he decided that Tito and his partisans
should get all the required support, leaving the royalist group harmless.

This decision, made personally by Churchill, meant that massive financial and arms support helped tie down the Germans, which was of great help to the allied forces in Northern Europe. It also helped Tito to form a new government when the Germans were defeated.

Tito initially formed a post war government along democratic lines but his personal power due to his wartime leadership enabled him to forge a more typical communist regime.

Before the war, the Yavornik family had been wealthy, owning a beautiful house in the centre of Ljubljana as well as a forested estate in the countryside. During the war, they had been very supportive of the partisans, even
giving them some of their property including their own cars, plus financial aid. It was due to this that they didn’t suffer too much after Tito came to power.

As an example, they confided in me, the communist authorities gradually stripped them of many assets including their country estate and a paper mill which had produced paper from the trees in their own forest. The town house had been reduced to an apartment with just enough room for them on a single floor. While I was staying with them, they had just been informed that they had to start paying rent for the use of it.

They owned some beautiful furniture and paintings by a leading Slovene artist. These paintings still hung on their walls, but a communist civil servant visited them from time to time to ensure that they hadn’t sold them as they were considered to be national assets.

So I suppose I shouldn’t grumble about those slatted wooden train seats...

Out of the Mouths of Babes - 3
Hugh McGrory
Sometimes it just depends on how you look at things…

One Sunday, about twenty years ago, we were expecting the whole extended family, 12 or 14 of us, to turn up at our place for dinner. As usual, I lost track of time and, belatedly, jumped into the shower to get ready for the doorbell ringing.

I had dried myself, slipped on my underpants and was sitting at the bottom of the bed, about to put on my socks when I hear, "Where’s Granddad?" then the clatter of little feet.

My granddaughters, Sarah and Katie, about five and three at the time, burst into the bedroom. Sarah sits
beside me and Katie stands facing me.

Sarah asks, “What are you doing Grandad?”

“Getting dressed – and what have you two been up to.”

Katie says “Nothing,” puts out her arm - and pokes me in the testicles…

“What are you doing, Katie?” I ask, whereupon she raises her shoulders up to her ears, grins, and does it again…

At this point, I’m saying to myself “Don’t make this into some kind of big deal when it isn’t!” I believed that my son and daughter-in-law used proper anatomical names for body parts with the kids – ‘penis’ not ‘pee-pee’ etc. So, I say to her “What are those called, Katie?”

Up go the shoulders again. “I bet your Dad told you and you’ve forgotten – do you know Sarah?” turning to her.

She gives me that look that speaks volumes - the one that kids give to stupid old folk – in this case I think it meant “Of course I know Granddad, I’m five years old!”

“Tell your sister then”, I urged

Sarah leaned towards her wee sister and, enunciating carefully and slowly, so that she'd understand, she says:
Nailed it, Sarah!

As I said, "It all depends on how you look at things..."

First Post
Gordon Findlay
Waiting for the postings to be announced, and being early in the alphabet, I hoped that they would allocate the “good” postings early, but when I joined the mob goggling at the posted bulletin, the first voice I heard was from Bill Finlay (no relation) who yelled: “Hey – you and I are going to Edinburgh.”

Four of our lads saw that they were heading for Northern Ireland where “the troubles” were starting up again and the IRA liked nothing better than taking pot shots at British redcaps on traffic duty. So Edinburgh it was to be, and a day later four of us were on our way north.

We wound up reporting to our detachment: a small Army barracks at Musselburgh, about six miles outside Edinburgh. We shared space with an R.A.S.C. (Royal Army Service Corps) unit who maintained the small and medium Army trucks used by units in and around the Edinburgh area, so our barracks included a wired-off compound where Army vehicles were stored and serviced.

We four newcomers were quickly brought up to speed by the staff sergeant MP in charge of our detachment. Our responsibilities were to patrol the main thoroughfares of Edinburgh, to ensure that military order and discipline was observed by all the troops in the area. We would also be available to handle any “disturbances” caused by military personnel.

Our sergeant was matter of fact about it all. “Most of the time you’ll walk the beat and do bugger all,” he said. “But we’ll have a few rumbles in the pubs now and then. So, get yourselves a sap.”

A sap? What the hell was a sap? The old hands in the detachment soon showed us. A sap –or a “snake” as some of them called it– was a long, narrow leather tube, about fifteen inches long, and filled with lead or steel shot. At one end it had a loop. After sewing the steel shot into the leather tube and attaching the loop, you had yourself a very handy “pacifier.” You cut a small entrance in the side seam of your battledress pants, slid the snake into place down your leg, and left the leather loop showing at the top – ready to be pulled out quickly when needed. One whack with the snake to the head or jaw of a drunken private would send him to the deck – or at least stun him into submission.

They weren’t Military Police issue; in fact, they were brazenly illegal, but the Army almost never equipped you with truncheons or night sticks, and if you were facing some drunk and aggressive soldier who wanted nothing better than to paste a redcap – you had to rely on something more than your size and your strong arms. That was where the sap, or snake, came in.

My first foot patrol in Edinburgh was calm and uneventful. Two of us (you always patrolled in pairs) started out at Waverley Station – the main in-city railway station in Edinburgh – and thence along “The Royal Mile” of Princes Street, passing Edinburgh Castle on our left and on to Lothian Road where we crossed Princes Street and walked back towards Waverley Station on the north side.

A normal shift was four hours; we started at the almost always peaceful time of 2.00 p.m. and walked our beat on Princes Street until 6.00 p.m. Most of the interest in us came from civilians who’d stop and ask us directions.

Question: “Can you tell me how we can visit Edinburgh Castle?” Answer: “Walk down to the Castle and you can buy a ticket at the front gate.”

Question: “Where is the nicest pub in this area?” Answer:“All the pubs in this area are very nice. And you can get a cheap meal inside.”

Question : “Is there a public toilet nearby?” Answer:“Nearest one is in Waverley Station. Or you can pop into any restaurant on Princes Street and use theirs.”

The Army types on the street tended to hurry past us, eyes averted, and checking that all their buttons were done up. Now and then, of course, you’d run into a couple of tough little tarts, all short skirts and lipstick, who’d come walking towards you and say: “Hey– show us yer pistol”, and cackle hysterically.

As I recall, my partner that first day on patrol was Bill Finlay: that may have set some sort of unusual record, having two military policemen on the beat, both called Findlay or Finlay . . . anyway, fellow clansmen from the same tribe.

The only excitement we got was stopping a recruit who came out of a pub near Lothian Road with his blouse all askew and his beret stuck in his belt. “Improperly dressed” as our military dress code would say. We were behind him as he emerged from the pub, and he didn’t see us until we yelled: “Soldier!” He was short and scrawny and when he wheeled around and saw us bearing down on him he almost soiled himself in fright.

Bill administered the bollocking while I wrote him up as my first 252: that’s the code number of a military charge for “being improperly dressed in a public place.” It was a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. The little squaddie was obviously terrified and was now aware that, once our charge was filed with his unit, he’d be good for at least one week “Confined to Barracks” or a spell on kitchen duty.

Ah me – the long arm of military law...

Another Cold Winter Night...
Hugh McGrory
Bill Kidd's story last week reminded me of another cold evening, in Toronto. Sometime in the early ‘80s I attended a business meeting in mid-town, which ran into the evening, and when it ended, some of the participants, being hungry and thirsty by then, decided to go for something to eat at the aptly named CHICK’N’DELI on Mount Pleasant, south of Eglinton.

I decided to join them since they said the place was quite famous - also, my wife Sheila was working late that evening and it would save me from making my own dinner (boiled egg sandwiches) when I got home…

The ‘Deli’ had decent wings and beer, and live jazz – even dancing if you were up to it – and I spent a pleasant couple of hours there. (By the way, after a bit of research I discovered that the ‘Deli’ closed in 2011, but through several reincarnations – People’s Chicken, Seven44 (guess the street number on Mount Pleasant Avenue), and Smokeshow BBQ & Brew – it is now The Mount Pleasant Rose) – but, from what I can tell, the ambience seems to be very similar.

It was winter, and I had parked my car on Taunton Rd, one of the residential streets that run south of Eglinton Ave to Soudan Ave, quite a short walk away. It was bitterly cold; I had decided to leave my topcoat in the car since the restaurant was only a few minutes away. At the end of the evening, I hustled to get to my car and out of the wind…

I hurried up Taunton and was soon puzzled – I thought I’d parked closer to Soudan – and then panicked, as I got close to the end of the street. “Calm down, you idiot,” I thought, “you probably walked right past the car.” So, I re-traced my steps, and no, I hadn’t walked past it… “Somebody stole my bloody car!”

I headed back to Mount Pleasant and found a phone box (no cell phones in those days) and called the cops. They were polite but said that it might be a long wait before they could get a car there – they were very busy due to the bad weather. So, what now…?

It was cold in the phone box, but at least it was out of the wind… I looked at the time and wondered if by any chance Sheila was still at her office. Picked up the phone again and hallelujah, she was. Half an hour later she arrived, and I was able to sink into the warm car – wonderful…

After I stopped shivering, we sat there wondering what to do while waiting for the cops. Sheila said, “Lets drive around nearby streets just in case,” and I probably said something like “No point, I know where I parked it!” On the other hand, I realised that we’d nothing better to do…

So we went north on Taunton Road, east onto Eglinton then south on the next street over, Falcon Street. We drove halfway down – and there was my car , just where I’d left it – what a numbskull...).

Those streets were two of nine identical streets running from Eglinton to Soudan the others are Forman, Petman, Marmot, Banff, Cleveland, Hoyle, and Mann (who picks street names?) – and they all look exactly the same... We went back to the phone box, and I told the operator that I was the idiot who'd reported a non-stolen car...

I got into bed that night a happy (and humbler) man.

On a Cold Winter Night
Bill Kidd
I spent most of my national service as a photographer at RAF Kinloss in Morayshire where I and my colleagues spent our days and sometime nights fitting cameras into Shackleton Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft, removing them and processing and printing the resultant exposed film.

Most of the photographs simply showed a floating dummy submarine periscope with a splash at either side of it and were used to assess the bomb aiming skills of the crews under training. In addition to this boring routine, we provided the whole establishment with a comprehensive photographic service. However, photography played no part in the most memorable event of my time with the Royal Air Force.

At around 2.30 am on January 10th, 1958, the twenty occupants of our hut were rudely awakened by two RAF policemen switching on the lights and banging on the coke bin with their batons. As we blearily came to life one of the Snowdrops, (RAF police wear white covering on their hats) asked which of us was SAC Kidd. Wondering what I had done and more importantly how had I been found out, I rather nervously confessed that I was he.

I was ordered to get into my working uniform and greatcoat at once and accompany them. Within five minutes I was sitting in a Land Rover along with the driver, one of the Snowdrops and another two equally puzzled and nervous airmen. While we were being driven out of the sleeping camp, we were told that we had been selected for this duty because we were on the Fire Picket list for that day and that we were required to attend an emergency that had occurred about five miles from RAF Kinloss. We were also informed that we would be fully briefed when we arrived at our destination.

After a bumpy, partly overland journey, we were driven up a forest track to a scene of devastation. We were confronted with the wreckage of a Shackleton bomber that had ploughed into the tops of the trees and caught

fire. The smell of high-octane fuel and charred wood and metal was overpowering. We were greeted by an officer and a flight sergeant who told us what had happened and what was expected of us.

The aircraft had been on a routine training flight with a full crew of nine aboard. At about 22.00 hours (10.00 pm) it had abandoned a landing approach and was making a second approach when it failed to clear what was the only piece of high ground on its flight path. After the aircraft had come to a stop the automatic fire suppressant system had deployed. Both pilots were killed and three of the crew sustained serious injuries, miraculously the remaining crew members only had minor cuts and bruises. The Rescue team had arrived within thirty minutes of the crash, got the survivors to hospital, and made the site safe.

Our function was to remain at the crash site and deter any souvenir hunters or other unauthorised persons from interfering with the site. We would remain on this duty until we were relieved. An urn of tea, three mugs and some packs of sandwiches were unloaded from the Land Rover, and we were left to it.

During the course of our briefing, we were informed that the pilots who died were a trainee and the
instructor. We were horrified to learn that the instructor was Master Pilot Karl Stastny who was a well-known and well-liked character around RAF Kinloss. He was a Czechoslovakian who had served alongside the RAF during WW2. After war ended he returned to his native land, and not liking the regime, he made his way back to the UK and joined the RAF as a sergeant pilot. It was rumoured that he left Czechoslovakia by means of a purloined aeroplane that he flew to the British Zone of West Germany. He was a small man with a large moustache and a big smile. His memorial is in the cemetery at Kinloss Abbey, and he was mourned by all ranks at Kinloss.

When the Land Rover left at about 4.00 am the three of us, strangers to each other, took stock. It was very cold, and a frost was forming, there was no shelter other than the remains of the aircraft fuselage and for obvious reasons we quickly ruled out its use. The tea urn was insulated so its content remained hot, we thought of lighting a fire, but the strong smell of aviation fuel quickly changed our minds. We agreed that if anyone wanted to smoke they would have to move a hundred yards down the forest track.

We were cold and miserable and couldn’t help feeling that the whole area was very creepy! We spent the next few hours in the dark, gossiping, drinking tea, and trying to keep warm. From time to time one of us would take a walk round the site or go down the track for a cigarette. None of us could clear our minds of the tragedy that had happened here or reflecting on the reality of service life.

At about 7.30 am we began to notice the first glimmers of light and by 8.00 am we could make out the length of the forest track. I was the first to notice some movement in the distance and thinking that it might be a deer I mentioned it to my companions. We watched the movement on the track for a few minutes before it resolved itself into a white patch that was slowly moving toward us.

After another few minutes we could see that there were two distinct images, but we couldn’t define what they were. We began to feel a little uneasy about what we were seeing, and we went very quiet. Then, in the improving light we could make out that there were two figures dressed in white and that they were not walking but seemed to be gliding along the track.

At this point the hairs on the back of my neck began to prickle and the blood seemed to drain from me. I was scared and so were my colleagues. Inexorably the figures continued to float upwards along the track toward us and they gradually became clearer. I didn’t believe in ghosts until that moment, but I felt that this was as likely a place to find one, or even two, as anywhere.

When the figures were less than a hundred yards away, they resolved themselves into two of the Benedictine Monks from Pluscarden Abbey which was only a short distance away. They had come to see what had happened and they brought a large and very welcome flask of soup with them.

I will not pretend that we saw the funny side of this right away and even now, more than sixty years later, I still get the creeps when I think about that cold winter night.

Pluscarden Abbey, six miles south of Elgin by the Black Burn in Moray is the only medieval monastery in Britain that is still used for its original purpose by the resident Catholic Benedictine Monks.

Hugh McGrory
If you know this word, I’m impressed – I didn’t until a few months ago. It’s Spanish, pronounced (de-REH-cho) or (de-RAY-cho), it means straight, straight ahead, or directly and is used to describe a meteorological phenomenon.
Part of a derecho, South Dakota, 12th May, 2022.
A derecho is basically a wide line of very active thunderstorms or microbursts. It can produce destruction similar to a tornado, but the damage typically is directed in one direction along a relatively straight swath rather than the meandering path of the typical tornado. To be termed a derecho, the wind damage swath has to extend more than 240 miles (about 400 kilometers) and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph (93 km/h) or greater along most of its length.

Ontario and Quebec experienced a derecho on Saturday, May 21st, 2022, and as you can see, in about 10
hours it travelled from the US border at Detroit/Windsor to the St Lawrence Valley north east of Quebec City and into Maine, where it died out.

Lasted for nine hours during which time it covered more than 700 miles and was 50 to 60 miles wide. Ten people were killed and initial estimates of damage were approaching one billion Canadian.

My understanding of this phenomenon (and I may not have it quite right) is as follows:

Let one of your arms hang by your side then bend it at the elbow so that your forearm is horizontal pointing forward, your hand open, palm down, gaps between each finger. Imagine your hand is the derecho travelling away from you. Each finger represents one of the violent downburst winds of up to 80 to 100 mph dropping vertically to the ground then horizontally forward – it’s these that do all the damage – the gaps between the fingers are (relatively) calm. That explains why we got hit and the neighbours either side of us largely escaped.

It happened around 1:30 in the afternoon, the sky darkened and suddenly the house was shaking in a violent wind – it only lasted about 90 seconds!

I guess we were fortunate in that our house wasn’t damaged – but we had 17 trees that weren’t so lucky… Five were uprooted and the others sustained multiple injuries, branches snapped off, many caught up dangerously on other limbs. We had to bring in tree specialists – cost more than $10,000 Cdn. (not covered by home insurance).

We had a willow that we loved. I searched my computer for a photo but I don’t seem to have one. So I found one on the Internet:
This tree looks very similar to our willow, sitting on the edge of a pond.
This how it looked 90 seconds later:
Lying in the pond...
And as a work in progress...
Just as well it fell away from our house...(note the pond in the background)
Like most of you, no doubt, we have been increasingly dismayed at the effects of global warming around the world. Forest fires, windstorms, floods, melting glaciers, droughts, food shortages, increasing numbers of displaced people...

Our personal 90 second derecho certainly underlined for us the fact that we ignore Mother Nature at our peril...!
A Road Less Travelled
Brian Macdonald
In a previous article published in this collection I talked of my lifelong love of camping and how this began with a small tent in Britain and continues to this day in Australia, now by car and caravan. The love of camping and travel is an infection that never dies. But the range and the means grow and change through a life.

I wrote of our generation’s ethos of putting off such major discretionary expenses as travel till later, for the sake of establishing a life, a home, and a family. So, our travel during the earlier years of a long marriage and the growing and educating years of our children were confined to Australia, our chosen homeland since 1967. With a land the size of the continent of Europe to roam and a range of climates to experience, this gave us plenty of scope and a huge variety of places to visit and we did this with enthusiasm. We continue to do so.

Finally, the time came in our lives when our now-adult children had flown the coop and our future for the second half of our lives was secured. We could take a more expansive view of our travel horizons. We still enjoyed travelling Australia but were in a position to contemplate extensive visits to our homelands of Scotland and Wales. There was much to see and many to meet again and a yearning to refresh our love of our birth lands. Scratch an expatriate Scot and the blood will flow dark blue, Ann’s red Welsh blood maybe even more so.

By 2008 we had made a number of return visits to UK, the first around the Highlands on what is now the North Coast 500(1) by motorbike in almost continuous heavy rain. We had voyaged, drier and warmer, by car to many parts of Scotland, including the Highlands, again. We had revisited Dundee, made the obligatory pilgrimages up the Dundee Law, and gazed on the old school, the Morgan Academy, before the fire that devastated it in 2001. We had been in Edinburgh during its famous August festival and clasped hands for Auld Lang Syne at the last performance of the Tattoo on the last Saturday night. We had taken a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the Inner Hebrides. We had boarded the little ferry from Kyle of Lochalsh for the five-minute trip to Skye, the last summer before the Skye road bridge was built and rendered the ferry obsolete. We had toured the Borders and viewed magnificent, ruined abbeys there. We had driven through Ayrshire. We had visited Speyside and Islay distilleries. We thought we had seen and done all we wanted to.

Then. one evening, at home in Melbourne, my wife said it would be interesting to visit Orkney and Shetland.
We I had never thought of a visit and had never been there. You see programs on TV about the Hebrides quite often. They are tourist country and have been slowly becoming repopulated of recent years. The Scottish comedienne, Susan Calman, has made a TV series in which she quarters Scotland. But you rarely, if ever, see or hear even a mention of the Northern Isles unless it be about the traditional knitting patterns of Fair Isle, which sits alone in the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Orkney and Shetland. An expedition was born.

Orkney and Shetland are usually bracketed together in people’s minds, but we were to find them very dissimilar, both culturally and geographically. Their history is interesting. Most Scots who think of these two archipelagos at all believe they were given to Scotland as a marriage dowry in the fifteenth century. This is not quite the case. By then both regions had long been Norwegian and had had thriving populations of Vikings since the eighth century. Before them there were the Pictish people of northern and western Scotland. Both races have left indelible marks on the northern archipelagos.

By the fifteenth century, Scottish influence had been growing through increasing immigration. A Norwegian king did pledge the Northern Isles against the payment of a dowry for the marriage of his daughter to a Scottish king. That dowry was never paid, and Scotland cannily took possession of Orkney and Shetland in the late fifteenth century. Scottish they have remained since, but exhibit a visible degree of independence in many ways. We expected the two regions to be similar. We were to find they are quite different from each other as both are different to mainland Scotland.

In summer 2008 we drove our car on to the Northlink ferry in Aberdeen. Northlink’s logo features a Viking warrior. It is an overnight sail to Lerwick, Shetland’s 7000-strong main town, more than a hundred miles

Shetland seen early morning, from Northlink ferry

beyond the Scottish north coast, reaching the Sound of Bressay as daylight shows the burgh of Lerwick, huddling 60° north on the eastern coast of Mainland. Orkney, to the south, within sight of the Scottish mainland, is on the return leg of the round sea trip from Aberdeen so a tourist’s introduction is to the far-flung and different Shetland rather than Orkney, which is closer akin in most ways to mainland Scotland and not just geographically.

Our five days in Shetland showed us a still somewhat isolated community of around 20,000 inhabitants with its own culture and bleak but beautiful, treeless landscapes and rugged coastlines with dramatic cliffs with great slashes of gorge running inland from the coast, where seabirds nest in their thousands and seals bask on rock shelves. The land is treeless because Shetland sits exposed in the cold, windy Atlantic Ocean, with North America a long way to the west and Norway’s coast to the east. The Atlantic winds scour the land and forbid

trees to flourish except where a garden plot is surrounded by houses and high walls. There is little shrubbery, just grassy land sloping to the sea. We saw no cows, and few horses, probably for the same reason. No creature of any height would be comfortable there – just the endemic rabbits, well-upholstered sheep and the miniature Shetland ponies, not drystone dyke height, whose ancestral home is the northernmost island of the

archipelago, Unst. Travel between the major islands is by cheap, fuss-free drive-on ferry, and is frequent and quick. Unst boasts the most northern post office in Britain, in the tiny settlement of Baltasound, and the most northern land of UK, the quaintly named lump of rock that juts from the sea just north of Unst, Muckle(2) Flugga.

The town of Lerwick is a conservative, industrious place of solid, substantial, grey stone buildings, hardly

Lerwick seen from Bressay Sound

a tourist mecca, with no evidence of urban renewal except for a housing estate on the outskirts, by the prehistoric Clickimin Broch(3), built to house a slowly expanding population. The Tesco supermarket company has established itself in that area, with an eye to advantageous positioning. Commercial Street, the main thoroughfare of this thriving community, is a narrow, flagstone-paved lane that meanders from one end of the town to the other, hemmed in by grey stone buildings on both sides and amicably shared by pedestrians and vehicles. In some parts, it is necessary to press yourself against the building to permit a van to pass.

The splendid, modern Shetland Museum sits on the waterfront, opened in 2007 jointly by Queen Sonya of Norway and the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay(4). The museum tells the tale of the islands’ past, of the culture and crafts of the people, of the now almost extinct sea-fishing industry that once supplied the Hanseatic League cities of northern Europe, of the Viking culture with its annual New Year Up Helly Aa festival that culminates in the burning of a Viking longboat after a procession of bearded Vikings brandishing flaring torches, of the 20th century oil industry, that for some decades brought prosperity from the North Sea but is now past its prime. The museum offers a well-patronised café, a pleasant place to be eating and drinking while watching the rain coming horizontally outside, a frequent event, even in summer.

The presence of the Norwegian Queen at this occasion gives an indication of the strong connection the islanders feel to Norway and to their Viking heritage. Many names of people and places bear strong indications of the Norway connection. During World War II, a clandestine small boat ferry service, The Shetland Bus, operated from the little western port town of Scalloway, originally staffed by Shetland fishermen. It sailed to the Norwegian coast, carrying spies, saboteurs, supplies and documents to and fro until the end of German occupation of Norway in 1945. A museum and a memorial in the town are devoted to this operation, of which the islanders remain fiercely proud, seventy-six years later.

The whole of Shetland is dotted with small settlements of a few houses out to the furthest extremities of the land. There is strong evidence, by way of ruined houses, of centuries of habitation everywhere across all the larger islands. Further evidence is provided by small, ruined kirks with cemeteries whose gravestones have become illegible through age and exposure, in quite remote places. Lerwick, on Mainland’s east coast, is the only good-sized town and is a royal burgh. Scalloway, a town of around a thousand souls, is the only other town. There are a number of very small settlements. There are many sheep, well-nourished on the rain-fed grass, very clean and white, shampooed by Atlantic rainstorms and blow-dried by the strong winds. There is little pollution since traffic is sparse and industry is small-scale, and the air is sweet, if somewhat bracing, even in summer, that far north and in mid-Atlantic.

Our too short visit to Shetland ended with us driving on to the Northlink ferry for the three-hour sail to Orkney, where it would dock at 11.30 at night to pour out those disembarking there before its overnight leg back to the Granite(5) City of Aberdeen on Scotland’s north-east coast.

Shetland made a strong impression on us. We would enjoy the comparison with Orkney and the comparison of both with mainland Scotland and would revisit the two regions again in more depth, but that is a story for another time.


(1) The North Coast 500 is a tourist construct. It describes a scenic loop route of just over 500 miles (the name inspired by the Scottish group, The Proclaimers’ pop song?) around the east, north and west coasts of northern Scotland, from Inverness to Inverness, and promotes tourism in the Highland region.

(2) The Scots word ‘muckle’ means ‘big’. There is no ‘Mickle (little) Flugga’. Maybe the even smaller lump of volcanic rock called Out Stack, just north of Muckle Flugga, stands in for that. Muckle Flugga is reachable only by boat and there is a closed-off military radar establishment occupying the northern tip of Unst, so it is not possible for civilian visitors to reach the very northern tip or even to get more than a glimpse of Muckle Flugga. An old Scots proverb says ‘Mony a mickle maks a muckle’ – essentially ‘Save the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.’ An almost identical proverb is familiar to Jamaicans. I can only assume it was transplanted into Jamaica by a frugal Scottish immigrant.

(3) A broch is a Scottish Iron Age dry-stone dwelling, round, beehive-shaped and built to withstand Atlantic

Clickimin Broch

weather. They are found all over the Northern Isles and in other parts of Scotland. The Clickimin Broch in Lerwick is restored (but not to full height) and open to tourists.

(4) The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay is the title by which Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess Camilla, are known in Scotland.

(5) Aberdeen is often called ‘the Granite City’ as that is the local, handsome, grey, quartz rock of which most of the city centre is built. When the sun shines after rain, this stone sparkles and presents a marvellous sight, with the ancient Marischal College of Aberdeen University a stately pile at one end of the gracious main street.

Believe It or Not 2...
Hugh McGrory
We’re still on the subject of coincidences (let’s use the definition: “a surprising occurrence of somehow-related events with no apparent cause”). When we encounter one we're amazed and ask, “What are the odds?”

In fact, though, such random events are really quite commonplace (because there are billions of people in the world and so billions of opportunities for such events to occur – but almost all of these aren't notced...). What makes them remarkable (rightly so) is when we actually notice one.

Here’s another...

My dad had a younger brother (he was another Michael McGrory, and we knew him as Uncle Mick). He had two daughters, my cousins Isa and Margaret, and the latter married a man, Robert, known as Rab.

Rab built a fine career for himself as a member of a team of consultants experienced in many aspects of oil/gas production. He went all over the world on contracts to manage and provide site supervision at operational production programmes. He was inspired by the previous story from Big Mick and Jan to share one of his ‘coincidences’...

He was on a consultancy project for Shell Todd, in New Plymouth, New Zealand. The town is located on the southwest coast of North Island, (and no, that's not Mount Fuji below but Mount Taranaki, less then 20 miles distant).

It was Melbourne Cup Day in Australia, and Rab had stayed at the office while the rest of their small team went off to a BBQ and to watch the race.

He went back to the Brougham Heights motel and, as he walked through the garden to his room the lady owner called and invited him into their private quarters. A number of their friends had watched the race with beer and snacks, so he chatted with a few that he hadn’t met before.

An elderly lady recognised his Scots accent, and she was pleased to tell him how she and her husband had been back to Springburn, in Glasgow, to visit family and friends. They had enjoyed visiting the streets where their parents had lived.

They had also visited Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, and East Wemyss in Fife. It was at that moment that Rab remembered something. He told her that he was born in East Wemyss, and she was quite amazed. He asked if, by any chance, it was an Agnes McMurray that she had visited in Dunfermline, since he knew her younger brother Bill had emigrated to New Zealand when Rab was sixteen. The lady almost fainted and in tears said that Bill and Irene McMurray were her best friends!

One phone call, and a short time later Bill came through the door. It was a very emotional meeting for him and Rab since they had been neighbours in Alexander Street, East Wemyss, and hadn't seen each other for 47 years!

On his next trip to New Zealand, Margaret went with him, and they visited Bill at his home. He produced a photograph of Rab and himself as teenagers, sitting on a fence in the back garden...

What are the odds, eh...?

Yugoslavia 3
Michael Marks
One day it was proposed that we visit some relations who lived in the countryside some 45 minutes by train from Ljubljana. I was very happy to agree. I was warned that the train would be a bit uncomfortable and remembering my train journey from London resigned myself to this small additional trip.

All aboard Yugoslav train in 1950s
Uncomfortable it was! Local trains in Yugoslavia had seats, which was a pity as they were very basic wooden slatted structures. Additionally, it was high summer and daytime temperatures were in the low 40s... Luckily, I was able to offer my place to a local and spent the rest of the trip standing.

We were to be met at the station and driven to the farm. Bliss. Unfortunately, the car turned out to be a pony and very small trap. For about six people.

We spent a very enjoyable day with the family and had a splendid barbecue lunch, with lots of good local wine. At some point Deso suggested that he and I leave together and try to hitchhike back to Ljubljana. Having imbibed a few glasses of wine, eaten a massive meal and feeling relaxed, I agreed.

Nowadays, there is a multi-lane motorway linking Ljubljana with Zagreb and Belgrade but in the early 1950s this was a wide dirt road. We joined this highway and started thumbing. We got covered with dust, but no vehicle stopped to offer us a lift. We discussed retracing our steps and catching the train but at that point a huge American saloon stopped, and the driver agreed to take us all the way to Ljubljana. Deso just had time to warn me that such a car was almost certainly owned by a high communist functionary and therefore to be very careful what I said.

It turned out that the passenger was indeed someone to avoid, and his driver was his son. There was a huge change in the road surface just a few miles from Ljubljana and we were soon almost home. Conversation in the car was the usual mixture of me speaking English, the Party functionary Slovenian and German and Deso trying to play dumb. The day wasn’t quite finished however as our benefactors insisted on taking us to a very nice bar where they bought us glasses of sparkling wine with fresh peach slices.

We avoided visiting that bar for the rest of my stay!

Believe It or Not...
Hugh McGrory
We’ve all encountered coincidences in our life – about eight or so of the stories in this collection deal with the subject – and they are always a source of some wonderment. Often the occasion is a chance meeting with someone you know in an unexpected place or time.

My previous story, featuring my cousin Mick and his wife Jan in Nigeria, reminded me of another of their stories – one of the most amazing coincidences I’ve ever come across. The tale begins with a chance meeting with someone they didn’t know…

They were spending a week in the sun on the Costa del Sol, in Andalusia, Spain. They were having a drink in the crowded hotel bar while waiting for their table to be ready for dinner. The room was quite full, and they saw a couple come in and look, in vain, for a table. The newcomers saw that Mick and Jan were sitting at a table for four, came over to them and asked if they’d mind sharing.Of course, they agreed.

They began to chat, and it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to ‘where are you from.’ When the other lady – I’ll call her Mary – found out that Jan had lived in Dundee, Scotland, she said “Me too!” A coincidence, though not that unusual.

But wait – there’s more… In answer to the question ‘where did you live in Dundee?’ it turned out that they were both west-enders, living on the Perth Road, just west of Windsor St. Comparing Street numbers they realised that they had lived in the same walk-up apartment building!

But wait – there’s more… As they continued to talk, they established that they had both lived on the top floor of the building (see red oval in photo) and remembered the lovely view to the south, out over the River Tay estuary to Fife County.

But wait – there’s more… Mary asked Jan’s birth name and when she heard it said, “Your parents bought that apartment from my parents!”

But wait – there’s more… The outgoing family had more furniture than they were going to need, and Jan’s parents agreed to buy some of their furnishings – including the bedroom suite in the room that Mary was moving out of, and Jan into.

So those two young wives who had just met, by chance, for the first time, 2000 miles from Dundee, had both slept in the same bed…

An M.P. at Last
Gordon Findlay
Midway through our training – around the 7 or 8-week stage –we were interviewed to see if any of us had an interest in joining the two specialist arms of the Royal Military Police: the Special Investigations Branch (SIB), or Close Support.

The first of these comes into play in criminal investigations where a member of the Armed Forces is involved. The training period, naturally, was going to be somewhat longer; successful candidates would become military detectives with all the meticulous investigation and forensic skills that civilian police detectives must have.

The second branch acts essentially as bodyguards for VIPs and foreign dignitaries who are in Britain and who are entitled to be guarded closely…

Most, if not all, of those who asked to train as SIBs had their goal set on a career in the military (that wasn’t me at that time). As for the second option – Close Support branch – I really didn’t fancy acting as a bullet-absorbing shield for some Arab sheikh. Who needs that?

I elected to take my chances as a regular Military Policeman, and, at long last, 16 weeks of Military Police training at Colchester came to an end. With all the successful members of our intake, 188 Squad (plus 185, 186 and 187 Squads) we dressed in best BD (battledress), white belts, gun holsters with attached lanyards and cross-straps; boots polished to a dazzling brilliance.

We marched out on to the main square for the last time. And on this special day each of us wore the red hat cover which signaled that we were now fully-fledged military policemen ready for active service.

No question about it: we were proud to have made it, and conscious that we looked pretty damn impressive as we wheeled out on to the square, one squad after another with our Staff sergeants leading the way. Squad by squad we came to a crashing halt and stood motionless in the sunlight for the formal inspection by our commanding officer.

He kept the speechifying mercifully short: told us we should be proud to have come through a “rigorous and demanding training schedule.” Reminded us that on the following day, the notice of where we were being sent on active duty would be posted at 9.00 a.m. on the bulletin board by the main guardhouse. And added that this evening we were all granted an 8-hour pass as a reward . . . and that we were not to cause too much trouble in Colchester as we celebrated.

He then walked down the rows and presented each of us with our corporal’s stripes (when you qualify as an MP you are automatically elevated to the dizzying rank of Corporal). Then, he led us in three hearty cheers – and we were dismissed.

Sgt. Sheldrake circulated among us, shaking our hands, and wishing us well . . . telling us that we had been “one of his best squads ever.” And laughing along with us when we told him that he doubtless said that to every squad he trained (which I suspect he did…).

The rest of that day is a bit foggy, since we all went out to the biggest pub in Colchester and get stuck into pints of dark ale, Guinness, and lager. I got started on Guinness (it was on tap) and earned myself one of the biggest hangovers in my personal history. I can remember standing in the urinal at the pub, my head spinning, and leaning my forehead against the cold-water pipe to try and keep upright. Every one of us was totally fried and the walk back to barracks was more of a weave from side to side.

Everyone was dry-mouthed and thick-headed the next morning – but there was an electric air of anticipation. This was the day we found out where we would be serving. Everyone knew the cushy postings: four MPs went to Bermuda (who wouldn’t like to go there?); two were scheduled for duty in Jamaica; two would go to Belize; a couple to Malta – but most of us would be posted to Germany or somewhere in Great Britain.

The Sassenach
Hugh McGrory
I’ve mentioned before that I have two double cousins, Mike, and Frank. Since our family has a liking for the name Michael McGrory, we had to qualify their names, so, within the family, cousin Mike was known as ‘Big Mick’, my brother was ‘Wee Mick’, an uncle was ‘Uncle Mick’, and Granda was known in the town as ‘Auld Mick’.)

Big Mick (we’ll call him Mick for this tale) and Jan, his wife, spent several years in Lagos, Nigeria, in the early ‘60s (Mick was a CA working for BP). He was a keen golfer and on this particular occasion he and Jan had made a trip north about 100 miles to Ibadan, the third largest city in Nigeria, for a golf match.

Ibadan City and Golf Club

After the game was over everyone retired to the club lounge – Mick and Jan were sitting at a table facing the bar, and Mick was looking at the back of a man standing enjoying a drink with some friends. He said, “I think I know that guy.”

“Really”, Jan asked, “from where?”

“From schooldays – I think he’s Graham Rosie who was in my class at Buckhaven High School.” (Buckhaven High was a six-year, co-educational school in Leven, Fife, Scotland, almost 5,000 miles and a dozen years away.)

“Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure – I recognise the back of his head – I sat behind him...”

“Well go see if it’s him.”

Mick did – he walked over tapped the fellow on the shoulder, and when he turned said, “Hi Graham”.

The fellow barely missed a beat – he looked at him and said “Hey, Mike, what are you drinking?”

What are the odds, eh? Graham was actually English, but his parents had moved north to Fife. Had he been a Scot, instead of a Sassenach, and his wits about him, I'm pretty sure he would’ve said:

“Hi Mike – must be your turn to buy a round...”

I Love to Go Awandering
Brian Macdonald
As a young lad growing up in Dundee, I was preoccupied with the affairs of everyday and did not develop much of an interest in the wider world’s affairs until I became a bit older and started to look around me and from a higher elevation. Some things impinged, though. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and The Suez Crisis of 1956 were events that hit my consciousness. The same short-sightedness was true of my view of geography. Life was home, school, working in the family shop, holiday trips to inland Kirriemuir and seaside Arbroath and a rare train trip to London with my English mother. Lochearnhead(1) and a picnic by the shore of Loch Earn was a favourite excursion destination of my parents of a weekend and that was as far afield as we went.

When I got old enough to ride a motorbike, I did venture further afield, covering many miles around Scotland and down as far as southern England. I was fortunate to spend time on a farm near Orleans in France as part of a multi-school group and to go to a military barracks in Lüneburg in Germany as a school army cadet, both in my mid-teens. A highlight of my teens was a month in Belgrade at age seventeen. I know now that I did not so much experience travel then as skim over the surface of places, did not absorb local culture or scenery, rather got a temporary fix from them, and often rapidly moved on, with little lasting impression made on me.

Then came the serious business of growing up, earning a living, establishing a nest, having a family. My generation did not do what many young adults do now, spend up on life, travel, the arts, while still young and worry about accumulating worldly goods later, after a couple of years of enjoying freedom and wanderlust after the bonds of school are removed. The ethos back then was that you got a job, worked hard, saved your money, and put off what was seen as non-essential spending till later. I do not grudge today’s young folk their lifestyle; it helps broaden the mind and develop a less parochial culture. But that was just how things were in the 1950s in Scotland. Even so, the life-building stage took me to England, Northern Ireland and then to Australia, and included the acquisition of a wife and children, and we have lived in Australia in a number of different states for the greater part of our lives. Our family has always had the wanderlust.

Australia is the place for wanderers and campers. It ranges from the cool, temperate climate of the island state of Tasmania in the south, where it occasionally snows on Mount Wellington, which looms over the capital city, Hobart, at 42° south, to Cape York in the far north of Queensland, only 10° south of the equator, well inside the Tropic of Capricorn. From Sydney on the east coast to Perth on the west is from London to Moscow, but with a vast, empty tract in between, unlike Europe. Australia has a mountain range that runs round the south coast from Adelaide and all the way up the eastern coast of the continent, with its tallest peak, Mount Kosciuszko(2) in New South Wales, over 7000 feet high. There are deserts of different types in the mostly flat inland, which was once largely a huge sea, magnificent cool-climate and subtropical rainforests, two cities of five million inhabitants with spectacular architecture, as well as a number of other large cities and gracious 19th century goldmining boom towns. Australia has its own unique fauna and flora too. Lots to see and do.

Australia has some of the world’s richest geology. Large tracts of Western Australia are composed of the world’s highest grade iron ore. There are geological features such as Wilpena Pound, in outback South Australia, a natural amphitheatre formed of two mountain ranges, with its own micro-ecology and gorges though the area where you can gaze on rock 500 million years old and discover fossils. There are extensive lava tube formations in tropical northern Queensland, miles of wonderful, unspoiled and almost deserted beaches all round the coast, parts of outback Queensland where dinosaur fossils are frequently dug up, most recently the whimsically named Australotitan cooperensis(3), said to be among the 15 largest dinosaurs ever found. There are moderately-trafficked major highways across the land and rough tracks to delight four-wheel drive addicts and adventure motorcyclists and terrorise suburban motorists. It is not surprising that people of many nations come to Australia to experience outback adventure and that many Australians love to travel in our own country, for over ninety per cent of us live in cities, our family among them.

Camping used to be a cheap travel and holiday option but has moved a long way up-market over time. Our life of leisure travel started with a small, white, cotton tent in rainy Ireland, bought cheap from a fellow-worker as young marrieds and much-patched by us before use. It did not resist rain. A big improvement was a domed, igloo tent of rain-resistant orange canvas, that had hydraulic poles, blown up with a foot pump, and

the great luxury of a sewn-in vinyl groundsheet. We took that tent with us to Australia, where it was used by us and by the local scoutmaster. Our first camping rig in Australia was the quaintly named Cargill Caravanette, a steel trailer with a superstructure of steel-pipe poles, canvas, and fly-screen mesh (essential in

Australia) that ingeniously slotted and zipped into a form of cabin. That clever setup, towed easily by a small car, not only carried all our travel equipment, including, on one trip, a large crib and a stroller for the latest addition to the family, but also housed us dry and warm all over Australia. It was followed by a semi-caravan that closed down to half height and a short towing length and rejoiced in the evocative name of ‘Sunwagon’. When you raised the fibreglass roof – by hand! – and pulled the ends out, it morphed into a four-bunk caravan with sink, fridge and cooking stove built in. Luxury! That served us well with two growing children and a Labrador dog for some years. Since then, we have owned every kind of camping and caravanning device. That includes a sleek, blue, lightweight, fibreglass trailer, designed to be towed by a motorcycle,

which quartered our continent north to south and east to west, two up on the bike, holding all our camping needs.

Now we are quintessential grey nomads. This is an affectionate Aussie term for older, retired Australians who tow their holiday home behind them, travelling extensively to enjoy the cultural and scenic variety of the country and to escape the dreary winter climate of the southern states for the balmy mid-twenties winter sunshine of the tropical north. Every year there is a winter exodus from southern Victoria and Tasmania of many thousands of hardy pensioners, like migrating swallows. With a nod to our age and desire for comfort, we have the latest in a number of caravans we have owned (see below). We trundle from holiday park to

holiday park and town to town as we trek, following the sun, heading for favourite places, often meeting the same folk again and again, soaking up the warm evening sunshine, sitting with a glass of wine, plotting future movement.

Well, we did until covid-19 came along. For now, we are restricted to our own state borders and sometimes even to the confines of our home for many weeks. But this, too, will pass and we will be off again ‘on the wallaby'(4) enjoying the roaming life and the variety of Australia to the full.


(1) Lochearnhead is a village about 60 miles from Dundee, situated at the head of pretty Loch Earn.

(2) Australian pronunciation Kozz-ee-us-ko (not what you’d expect from the original Polish name).

(3) The Cooper (or Cooper Creek) is a river in outback Queensland, in the area where this dinosaur was found, hence ‘cooperensis’ The Cooper flows only when there is enough tropical rain further north to flow south and fill the river. It has no permanent source and flows into Lake Eyre in South Australia, a huge inland sea that contains water only when rarely filled by the Cooper and other creeks after extensive rains in Queensland, hundreds of kilometres further north. Lake Eyre has often been used for land speed record attempts. As is the way of Aussie humour, Lake Eyre has a flourishing yacht club, with its clubhouse in the tiny township of Marree, situated on its southern shoreline, at the junction of the famous Birdsville and Oodnadatta Tracks. The yacht club holds regular sand regattas and sails when the lake is full.

(4) Australian expression ‘on the wallaby (trail)’ meaning ‘awandering’.

Sink and Swim
Hugh McGrory
My previous story took place on the A85 at the foot of Glen Ogle, and it reminded me of another tale which occurred not far from there – another story that I heard not long after I arrived in the area.

So, follow me north on the A85 from Lochearnhed for about 4 miles, climbing up beside the Ogle Burn, then
turn west at Mid Lix towards Crianlarich, where, after about 8 miles, Loch Iubhair appears on the right/ (pronounced You’ar, in Gaelic it means Loch of the Yew Tree).

The road along the lochside was one of our road improvement projects needed to allow heavy road transport vehicles to carry large turbines and other equipment to the many new hydro electric schemes being constructed in northern Scotland. In particular, many of the roads were built on a peaty substrate which had to be removed before the road could be rebuilt.

On visiting the site , I heard the story I’m about to relate, more than once -- usually it began something like:

“Pity you hadn’t been here this spring,” one of the crew would say, then to a mate “Remember the guy in the sports car?”

His buddy would reply something like “Oh yeah; what a twat…”

It seems that the loch had overflowed across the road due to snow melt and some heavy rainfalls. Traffic on the two lane road was held up under the control of flagmen.

In order to construct the road to be able to withstand the heavy loads, it was necessary to excavate the layer of peat down to bedrock – about 10 to 12 feet – and replace with properly compacted earth fill. Traffic had to be maintained on the two-lane road, so the eastbound lane was excavated and refilled while the westbound lane did double duty, east and westbound traffic alternating .

On this occasion several westbound cars were waiting their turn when the queue was joined by an open top sports car. The driver was a nattily dressed young man complete with the, de rigueur, leather gloves with knuckle cut-outs.

As he joined the end of the line and looked west at the road ahead, he saw something like the photo below.
The loch had flooded across the road to a depth of six to eight inches. What he thought he was seeing is shown in the first sketch below. He was wrong… The road cross section actually looked like the second sketch.

So, Jack-the-Lad sized up the situation and decided that he didn’t have to be Tail-end-Charlie… He pulled out into the eastbound lane past the frantically gesticulating flagman and coasted west. Of course, a few seconds later he fell off the end of his world, and he and the car disappeared into the depths of the dark, peaty, 12-foot-deep water.

He swam to shore and was fished out (the car took a while longer to be pulled from the depths…) Of course, everyone, workers and motorists, were delighted, and laughed their heads off…

We can only hope that he learned a lesson that day and realised that he got off lightly – if he hadn’t been in an open top car his situation might well have turned deadly!

I wish I’d been there to see it…

Yugoslavia 2
Michael Marks
We arrived in Ljubljana that afternoon and the eight or nine of us looked around for any sign of welcome.

There was an equally concerned group of Yugoslavs wondering what they had let themselves in for. We were each introduced to the relevant families who had been paired with us. In my case it was the family Yavornik. This consisted of Deso who was about my age, his younger sister Tosia, and their parents. Later I was to meet an older sister and later still other family members. (In the photo, Deso is bottom right, his dad has the walking stick, and Momi is hiding behind Dad.)

Mrs. Yavornik was a very good cook and we soon settled in for one of her meals over which we started to get to know each other. Ljubljana used to be the capital of Slovenia but was now a part of Yugoslavia and almost all of the two million inhabitants referred to themselves as Slovenes. I was able to form a bond with them when I explained about Scotland, England, and the UK.

I determined to pick up some useful words and phrases as quickly as possible. Items of food such as fresh fruits and delicious home made fruit dumplings were a good start. Deso and I were well
matched at tennis and table tennis, so numbers were also fairly easy to pick up.

I remember being grateful to Mr. Hutchison (aka Bunny Hutch, Morgan language teacher) for my limited knowledge of French and German. The problem was that Deso’s mother, known to all as Momi, spoke excellent French and some English, Deso spoke excellent English and German, and his father spoke excellent German but little English. Conversations were never dull!

As part of our further education we were asked to visit some factories and where appropriate make use of their production output. The British Council seemed to think this would be a good introduction to understanding the wonderful communist economy. Deso had volunteered to organise suitable visits. One of these was a cigarette factory and the other was turning out some rather good alcoholic beverages. We followed directions and sampled a good cross section of these.

As far as our little group of eight or nine brave souls was concerned there was only one further group get-together. This was a visit to the caves at Postojna, an enormous cave system about 45 minutes by road from Ljubljana.
Postojna, between Trieste, Italy and Ljubljana, Slovenia
Apart from the stalactites and stalagmites the caves are famous for two features. One is a huge cave with a perfectly flat floor. It was used from time to time as an underground concert hall. The other is a unique fish

which is totally blind. Functionally, there was no need for sight as there was no light at all. An excellent example of evolution.

Deso had volunteered to organise the visit. The journey by train wasn’t cheap, but there was a greatly reduced fare for Slovene students. Our party contained about eight British and the same number of Slovenes. So, we paid Deso at the local Slovene student rate and agreed to leave all the talking to the locals especially when the ticket inspector was nearby...

To be continued…

A Moment in Space and Time
Hugh McGrory
Funny how you can start thinking about something, which makes you think of something else, which makes you think of….

Recently I saw a video of dogs running the length of a football field to catch a frisbee (apparently my favourite dog, the border collie, is recognised as the best of the best in this role). This made me think of fielders in baseball or cricket who do the same thing – that is, man or beast, they are able to move part of their body into the path of a flying object so as to arrive at the same point in three-dimensional space at exactly the same moment.

This got me thinking of what wonderful organisms brains are – human or animal. Think of it – running at speed, watching an object flying through the sky and instinctively adjusting course and speed so as to arrive at exactly the spot to make the catch. Few of us could perform this feat, though we’ve all experienced it in a small way when someone throws us something to catch...

Finally, that thought of objects coming together in time and space reminded me, strangely, of a story…

In the early sixties. I had just moved to Killin in Perthshire to manage a tiny office of 5 people as a Resident Engineer for Perth County on road and bridge projects in that part of the Highlands.

I was driving west along the A85 on the north shore of Loch Earn and turning north at Lochearnhead into
Glen Ogle. I was with a local man, though I can’t remember who, and, as we turned into the glen, he told me of an incident that had occurred some time before at that spot.

An army truck loaded with army cadets (much like the teenagers in the photograph) was travelling north on
some kind of training exercise, and they stopped just outside the village for a break. Some of the cadets got
out to stretch their legs while others relaxed in the back. It was probably a Bedford RL Troop Carrier – soft canvas sides with benches down each side facing each other.

As the kids lounged on the benches, leaning on the side canvas, feet up on the supplies in the middle of the lorry, there was a thump. One of them pitched forward – he was bleeding badly from his head – and quite dead!

A heavy vehicle had passed by and the side mirror had brushed the canvas side of the lorry… Later, police tracked down the vehicle in the Glencoe/ Ballachulish area and the driver said
that he remembered the army truck but hadn’t felt a thing.

I’ve tried to verify this story more than once to no avail, but:

1. While I can’t remember who the source was, I did believe it at the time, so presumably I felt the person could be trusted.

2. In my research I did find references to accidents of a similar nature with soft-sided army vehicles, and subsequent changes made in army regulations. See here:

Traffic Control
Gordon Findlay
Our traffic control training began on a benign square of concrete painted with road markings and equipped with fake traffic lights. We would take turns acting as “traffic”, walking in groups of three (a big truck), two (a van) or singly (posing as a car). The lucky trainee on duty at the crossroad would control the “traffic” flow with hand signals, watched carefully by the sergeant in charge to make sure he did not allow the “traffic” to back up on any one of the painted streets.

And woe betide the trainee if he inadvertently allowed two streets of “traffic” to drive into each other. “You stupid arse!” the sergeant would bellow. “You just smashed up ten bloody trucks!”

But then came the day when we were unleashed on the unsuspecting citizens of Colchester to help control
their traffic flow in and out of the historic old town. One by one we were allowed to pull on the long white
gloves and don the red hat-cover of an active MP. Then we were taken to one of the intersections of town where the traffic lights would be switched off – and we were in control.

What was magical about this exercise was how suddenly and wonderfully powerful you felt. Up went your white-gloved hand and a massive 22-wheel Foden diesel truck would grind to a halt. Behind it, a flock of Austins, Hillmans and Fords coasted to a stop. Keeping that left hand high, you did a sharp turn to your right and firmly waved on traffic in the other lane, sweeping your right hand smoothly past your head from front to back...
and like a solid stream of coloured metal, a column of cars and vans rumbled past your shoulder

You kept a sharp eye on how much traffic was backing up in the stopped lane, and when you guessed they had waited long enough, you raised that right hand again to stop the flow. Then with the left hand beckoned on the lane of traffic waiting patiently for your signal.
For the first few minutes it was nerve-wracking. What if they don’t stop? What’ll I do if some idiot disobeys the signal and crunches into someone’s truck or car?

But slowly you discover that they ARE obeying your signals. You are in charge. Those white gloves on your hands and the red cover on your hat demand obedience from the drivers who approach your intersection. And the sheer power of being in control of all this becomes hypnotic. For those fifteen minutes on duty at that crossroad, you felt twelve feet tall.

Bearing Witness
Hugh McGrory
The Charles Smith story reminded me of my own appearances as an expert witness early in my career in Canada...

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) was an independent, quasi-judicial body that existed in Ontario from 1906 to 2018. The OMB was an independent administrative board, operated as an adjudicative tribunal, and a very powerful body. One of its major functions was to act as a planning review tribunal – which was where I became involved.

Toronto in the late ‘60s was in the midst of a land development boom. Developers were buying up single-family homes in particular areas with a view to razing the whole area and erecting high rise buildings thus creating a much higher-density environment – and much more revenue, of course.

However, these areas were typically designated as ‘low-density residential’ under the Official Plan of the municipality. Developers would require a variance from the plan – but often local residents didn’t want to sell and move away, and so objected. Eventually this often resulted in a hearing before the OMB which had the power to overrule the municipality and its official plan.

Many objections were often raised against such developments – incongruity with existing low density neighbourhood and violation of the Official Plan; lack of open space; shadows, and loss of sunlight, to name a few. I worked for a consulting engineering and planning company and developers would come to us for help. Another objection often made was that the new building would generate too much traffic for the local street network. Since my background was in traffic engineering, I would be part of the team working on the project.

The way it worked was that I would carry out various analyses (including having people go out and count cars entering and leaving the area, and similar existing high-rise buildings) then write a report for the client. If my report concluded that there was a problem, they would say thanks and pay us off. If, however, I concluded that the traffic generated would not create problems they would hire us to provide expert witness testimony at the OMB hearing – and I would be the designated 'expert'.

The presiding ‘judge’ for these hearings was usually the Chairman of the OMB, Joseph Kennedy, a very powerful character in Ontario because of his position, and followed the strict format of a court of law – witness box, opposing counsel, spectators etc. – just like TV…

This was a great experience for me (not to mention nerve-wracking) since I hadn’t been in the country that long. There was a great deal of money involved, and so the best (and most expensive) counsel in Ontario were hired (and examined or cross-examined me when I was giving evidence). I particularly remember Edwin Goodman (sometimes referred to as ‘Fast Eddie’, a mover and shaker in the inner councils of the
Edwin A Goodman Joseph A Kennedy Charles L Dubin
governing Progressive Conservative party of Ontario), and Charles Dubin (later to be appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario).

Ethically, the role of an expert witness is to present to the court the facts of an issue based on education and experience, and on any specific investigations that they have carried out. They are not supposed to ‘fight’ for one side or the other, regardless of which side hired them. As we have seen, this was one of the deficiencies in Charles Smith's behaviour.

In terms of procedure, the witness is examined and cross-examined by opposing counsel and it is the role of such counsel to ask those questions which help their client's case ("experienced lawyers never ask a question unless they are sure of the answer they are going to get..."). The witness should answer both counsel in the same way – based on the facts and subsequent analysis – and not slanted to either side.

One of the quirky things that I remember from those occasions springs from the fact that the public was allowed to observe, and the seats were often filled with citizens in opposition to the proposal in question. Those citizens were 'armed for bear', not surprising – some of them were fighting to keep their homes of 40 or 50 years – and they were allowed to ask questions of witnesses...

I didn't usually have trouble answering questions, under cross, from opposing counsel, or from the Chairman who, on occasion, would question witnesses himself, but I did have some difficulty answering those from the public benches. Counsels' questions were mostly predictable, they tended to be technical and were mostly anticipated in our pre-trial prep. sessions.

Questions from spectators came from left field... What I wanted to say sometimes was "That's a dumb question", or, "What does that have to do with anything...". That would have been a huge faux pas, of course! I had to be very courteous and try to come up with a reasonable answer.

One way or another, when my testimony was over, I was usually sitting in a pool of sweat – I guess I didn't have Charles Smith's confidence...

The Odeon Club
Brian Macdonald
The Dundee Odeon cinema of my childhood stood on Strathmartine Road next to the Coldside branch of the

Dundee public library, just across the roundabout at the bottom of Caird Avenue, where five major streets meet. It had a grand, art deco frontage, with a huge, vertical sign that blasted out the cinema’s name at night in big, red, illuminated letters. It was built in 1936 as the Vogue cinema. A year later, the group of which it was part was taken over by Oscar Deutsch, an English entrepreneur, who went into the picture show business in 1928 and built up a successful chain of Odeon cinemas that covered Britain. It was subsequently re-named The Odeon.

By the end of World War II, when I was seven, the Odeon chain of more than two hundred cinemas had been
sold to the British Rank company. Many filmgoers of my age and much younger will recall the J. Arthur Rank Organisation’s logo of a heroic, muscular, male figure in profile striking a huge gong, complete with sound, at the start of a cinema showing.

J.Arthur Rank was of the family of the same name which already had a Britain-wide flour milling business, which became Rank, Hovis, McDougall, and whose huge flour tankers were to be seen on England’s roads carting bulk flour to bakeries to be turned into
loaves of sliced bread.

J. Arthur Rank became the dominant company in film production and distribution in Britain, followed by
Gaumont British and Pathé, both of which had their origins in French companies. The J. Arthur Rank Organisation disappeared before the turn of the last century. Most of Dundee’s cinemas of this era were owned by large cinema companies but an exception worthy of mention was Green’s Playhouse in the Nethergate, close to the city centre, also unashamedly art deco inside and out, with a flamboyant tower that carried the vertical name ‘Playhouse’.

Green’s Playhouse was grand and luxurious with a very large auditorium that boasted and often filled four thousand seats in stalls and circle and had in addition a small number of private boxes. It was built and owned by an independent distributor. The complex incorporated a popular tearoom furnished with armchairs,
which enjoyed a vogue as a meeting place among Morgan Academy senior students during my last years at school. On occasion the large tearoom also did duty as a ballroom.

Most of the city’s picture houses(1) were scattered around the city centre and it was a bus or tram ride from where most Dundee citizens lived to get to them. The Odeon, located in what was, in the 1930s and 1940s, an outer, mostly working-class, residential area, was an anomaly. As I lived on the other side of Clepington Road, in the Fairmuir area, with a short-cut leading straight down Fairmuir Street and Caird Terrace, it was a ten-minute walk to reach the Odeon and the library, both of which I patronised. The cinema is gone now, making way for a supermarket and a sun-tan centre, although the Coldside library still stands and serves the local community, thank goodness.

J. Arthur Rank closed the Odeon in 1973 and it was later demolished. The Odeon Cinema name still exists in Dundee but is borne by a modern complex with ten screens, located near the eastern end of the Kingsway, the city’s loop road, where the Kingsway becomes the A92, the coast road heading northward to Arbroath, Montrose, and Aberdeen. In my young days we simply called it the Arbroath Road.

As well as having a well-patronised schedule of general films, the Odeon Cinema of my childhood ran an event very popular with the local kids, the Odeon Club. This was a Saturday morning matinée showing for young people with films to suit. You paid a modest ticket price at the box office, and you could join the club by filling in a form with your name, address, and birth date. You still had to hand over your cash on a Saturday morning (In my day it was sixpence for a stall seat and ninepence for a balcony or circle seat.) but were entitled, as a club member, to a free ticket for the Saturday nearest your birthday. The free pass came in the post, which was much quicker and more reliable in those good old days.

The Odeon Club proved a mecca for us local urchins and there was always a noisy queue on the pavement on Saturday morning before nine o’clock, silver sixpenny pieces clutched in our hands or in our pockets, eager for the doors to open so we could jockey for the best seats. I suppose our parents were glad to be rid of us for a couple of hours too, on their morning off work. Most of us paid the cheap rate, which entitled you to a neck-stretching seat looking up at the screen, and only enjoyed an upstairs balcony seat when we got our free birthday pass. I believe this privilege ended when the balcony was closed for the Saturday morning showing.

The format was always the same. There were a few trailers of coming attractions to whet our appetites for future attendance then the show proper. Laurel and Hardy, Old Mother Riley and the comic genius Charlie Chaplin were favourites. There would be an intermission when we filled ourselves with a Walls’ ice cream slider(2) or a bag of Smiths Crisps, only one flavour, complete with salt in a twist of blue waxed paper. There was always a very popular sing-along session, when we belted out Harry Lauder(3) favourites like ‘I love a lassie’, ‘It’s nice tae get up in the morning’, ‘Roamin’ in the gloamin’’ and ‘Keep right on to the end of the road’, with the words appearing on the screen with a bouncing ball above them, keeping time for us as it followed the words. After the interval there would be a Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry or Hopalong Cassidy cowboy film and sometimes a short, educational feature.

At the end of the showing, only a reprobate few left before we had obediently stood and sung the national anthem, with a film clip and the music by a military band from the annual king’s birthday(4) Trooping the Colour parade. Then we poured out of the Odeon, a boisterous rabble, blinking in the daylight, ready for another Saturday and Sunday of sport and play before the drudgery of school started again on Monday.

It would be a long time till the next Saturday.


(1) Between 1940 and 1955, Dundee boasted twenty-six cinemas. In the early 1950s, cinemas played to packed houses and large-scale musicals such as Oklahoma (The opening scene of Curly riding his horse out of a huge screen at me while he sings the joys of “Oh, what a beautiful morning” is still in vivid, glorious Technicolor, in my memory.) and South Pacific commanded huge audiences. Now it seems there are only three cinema houses in the city, but each has multiple auditoriums and musical films are now derived from standard stories which are not just the pure entertainment of these mid-20th century indulgences.

(2) A ‘slider’ was an oblong of ice cream held and eaten, with much licking to contain the melting drips, between two thin, flat wafers. Walls ice cream came as a solid, somewhat waxy block wrapped in grease-proof paper but in most cases the softer and creamier local product was scooped from a container and formed in a metal mould with an ejector mechanism. The packaged version was more convenient for the young women who patrolled the cinema aisles with a dimly lit tray of sweets, ice cream and cigarettes slung from their shoulders. The popular and manageable cornet style of the delicacy was known as a ‘cone’ or sometimes a ‘poke’ in Scotland.

(3) Sir Harry Lauder was the most popular Scottish music hall and radio entertainer of the first half of the 20th century. He wore full highland attire and carried a cromach (a Scottish walking stick, usually longer than the standard walking stick and often irregular in shape) and sang Scottish dialect songs, many of which he wrote. His popularity far exceeded his native Scotland. He was said to have been, at one time, the most highly paid entertainer in the English-speaking world. He was knighted for his charitable and fund-raising work during WWI. Lauder’s songs were wholesome, upbeat, and cheerful. It is reported that he was offered Will Fyffe’s ‘I belong to Glasgow,’ a song about a Glaswegian working man somewhat incapacitated by alcohol on his Saturday night out, who is incoherent, dizzy, and garrulous, but that Lauder refused it because it celebrated the consumption of alcohol.

(4) King George VI reigned over the United Kingdom from 1936 till his death in 1952. On his death, his older daughter, Elizabeth, ascended to the throne, becoming Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. Only then did the national anthem become ‘God Save the Queen’ and the June parade become The Queen’s Birthday Trooping the Colour.

Once again, I am indebted to the memories of Dorothy and Neil Alexander, contemporaries and neighbours of my childhood, and fellow Morgan Academy students, for bolstering my failing memory.

A Man Called Smith 5
Hugh McGrory
The Smith affair was a sad commentary on a failure of the Ontario justice system, and one has to ask the question, "How the hell could this have happened?" I want to conclude the series by addressing this...

We’ve seen some of the damage caused to many, many people, not only the principals in each case, but their extended families, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and acquaintances. Of course, some received compensatory damages. The Ontario Government provided some compensation: those 'directly' affected by the debacle were eligible for amounts of up to $250,000, children removed from their parents’ custody were entitled to up to $25,000 and other family members up to $12,500.

Beyond this, some turned to civil law and sued various parties, winning varying amounts – Bill Mullins sued for $14 million and was awarded $4.5 million. It seems however, that for many of the victims the money didn’t really heal the deep wounds left by their journeys through hell.

It doesn’t seem that Smith acted with malice, with intent to harm innocent people – the law system in Ontario seems to agree since no charges were ever brought against him. However, the Goudge Report revealed a litany of problems.
  • First, despite his training and experience in pediatric pathology, he knew virtually nothing about forensics. He admitted at the Inquiry that his training in forensic pathology was "minimal", that he was basically “self taught". Adding fuel to the fire, he seems to have been supremely self-confident, believing that he was always right, and when coupled with his manner of presentation, seems to have convinced everyone from police to judges and juries (not to mention his superiors and colleagues…) that he was indeed ‘infallible’.

  • He was not properly supervised by his superiors, the Chief and Deputy Chief Coroners for the Province of Ontario (while Smith had no education in forensic pathology, neither of them had any expertise in pathology!)

  • Many of his practices in performing autopsies were woefully inadequate – he almost never attended the death scene; he didn’t always ensure that the appropriate medical records of the decedent were available and consulted; he was sloppy and inconsistent in documenting his work; his reports were nothing more than a recitation of his findings and his conclusions were not supported by a persuasive connection to the facts.

  • He misplaced evidence that sometimes turned up many months later, and he frequently missed deadlines for producing reports (twice police actually subpoenaed him in order to have him produce the information).

  • He did not prepare adequately for his court appearances usually only reading his report from months before to remind himself of the case. This was inappropriate and insufficient and not surprisingly often caused difficulties.

  • Finally, he seems to have had a lack of understanding of the independent role of an expert witness, an area in which I have some personal experience... Smith is quoted as saying, in his first day of testimony before the public inquiry probing his work, that he now realised he had little understanding of the criminal justice system or the role an expert witness should play in a trial. "I thought I knew it, but I realize now just how profoundly ignorant I was".

    He said he used to think his role as an expert witness in a trial was to support the prosecution. He didn't realize it was his job to be impartial.

    "In the very beginning, when I went to court on the few occasions in the 1980s, I honestly believed it was my role to support the Crown attorney," Smith told the inquiry. "I was there to make a case look good. That's the way I felt."

As I end this story that turned out so badly for so many, I can’t help returning to one of my pet themes – the randomness of our lives…. Charles Smith and I crossed paths very briefly more than forty years ago – he was a doctor, and I an engineer, but we were both computer nerds.

When I first came across computers I was hooked, and through happenstance, I went from being a user of computers in my engineering work, to a role providing the software and hardware computer tools that other engineers could use in their work – and had a very satisfying career.

Perhaps if Charles had taken a similar path and concentrated on computing as a tool for doctors, rather than specialising in pathology, the heartache of so many people would have been avoided…

Michael Marks
When we started our sixth year at Morgan Academy (1953) I had heard of Yugoslavia, but that was about it. Little did I imagine that by the next summer I would spend a month living with a family there.

The way it happened was as follows. A UK government organisation called the Education Interchange Council (an offshoot of the British Council) had been set up to offer subsidized travel to the then Yugoslavia and, it was hoped, foster closer ties with that Communist country. To that end, about a hundred UK schools were asked to nominate one sixth former to make the trip. The way the schools were selected should ensure a cross section of the UK. The Yugoslav schools were chosen the same way.

That meant that Scotland would be allocated eight places, one of which would be from Dundee. That place was given to the Morgan, and I was the lucky one to get it.

Sixty-eight years later and sadly my friend Deso (nickname for Desimir) is no longer with us, but we are still regarded as family members, so I suppose the scheme was a success, at least as far as Dundee and Ljubljana are concerned.

Once I heard that I had been accepted for the exchange visit, my first job was to read all that I could about
Yugoslavia and here I was lucky to find a book entitled Eastern Approaches by a former diplomat turned soldier called Fitzroy Maclean. He tells a thrilling tale in a best selling novel, a large amount of which is about his liaison work with Tito and his partisan group during WW2. Incidentally, he became the youngest brigadier ever in the British army.

I read many other books about the country at that time and that helped when I first met my host family and their friends. Thanks are due here to the Dundee library, whose staff helped me with books about the country and its history.

Having got whatever information I could about Yugoslavia I needed spending money plus permission to take it out of the UK – we were all still facing postwar austerity. I have my old passport from that era and it shows that I had
permission to take the magnificent sum of £20 to cover my spending money for four weeks.

So, armed with a little knowledge and very little cash, I left Dundee and found my way to London, where the real journey began. I mentioned above that our group was about a hundred strong. We all made our own ways to London’s Victoria Station where we were herded into our various groups, according to our destinations. The biggest group was heading for the capital, Belgrade. The others being destined for Zagreb, Novi Sad, and our little group for Ljubljana.

It took two days to get there. First we went from London to Dover. Next the ferry to Calais and finally on the Simplon Orient express to Yugoslavia.

Two events remain fixed in my memory of the journey. First was passing through Frankfurt in the middle of the night. I was astonished to see building work in the middle of the night with builders working with floodlights to repair the damage done by the RAF and the Americans. It was obvious that the German economy was prospering.

The other memory was as follows. You may or may not be able to imagine the boredom of being cooped up in a train carriage for two whole days. So, passing through Austria and into Yugoslavia, I decided to walk down the train and get the blood circulating again. As I started to enter the last carriage I realized that it was a sort of guard’s van with some big packing cases in the middle. A group of young Yugoslav soldiers were sitting round these boxes drinking and playing cards.

What to do? One of the soldiers started to speak to me in the local language so I indicated that I didn’t understand. Fortunately, I had taken German at the Morgan and this they could speak. I was soon sitting down with them and being plied with the local fire water known as Slivovitz. Welcome to Yugoslavia...

To be continued…

A Man Called Smith 4
Hugh McGrory
We previously looked at the first of three types of cases – where people went through hell, but in the end, no charges were laid.

The second type of case:

Where people who were innocent of the charges they were facing, felt obliged to plead guilty to lesser charges to avoid the likelihood of much longer sentences.

In 1992, at the age of 23 and pregnant with her fourth child, Maria Shepherd pled guilty to manslaughter in the death of her three-year-old stepdaughter, Kasandra.

Maria changed her not-guilty plea to guilty, mid-trial, when faced with Dr. Charles Smith's expert evidence that Kasandra had been killed by a blow to the head. Court documents show Kasandra began vomiting and became unresponsive in April 1991 after a long period of ill health. She died two days after being admitted to hospital.

The advice from her defence counsel was that, with Dr Smith’s reputation as an infallible expert, she would in all likelihood be found guilty. Instead, she should accept a deal worked out with the prosecution to enter a joint submission on a sentence of two years less a day with three years probation. This lesser sentence would mean that she would probably be released after about a year, and was a strong inducement to plead guilty, as she may otherwise have faced a much longer sentence.

Maria was incarcerated and taken from her young family for 11 months. Twenty-five years later the
Ontario Court of Appeal set aside Maria’s conviction on the basis of new forensic expert evidence which demonstrated that Smith's conclusions were without scientific basis.

It was believed that Kasandra may have had a previous brain injury, which could have caused seizures. They also believe that she may have suddenly developed a seizure disorder that could have killed her. Her guilty plea was set aside and she was acquitted of manslaughter.

The third category:

Wrongful convictions where the accused maintained their innocence and received long prison sentences.

The most egregious case was that of William Mullins-Johnson (known as Bill Mullins) is an aboriginal man from the Batchewana First Nation in Northern Ontario, a gentle giant of a man. He was described as a six-foot-five, 250-pound, ‘soft-spoken’ man. Sadly, he went partially blind and deaf as an infant and was also left with a speech impediment due to swelling in his brain. This caused him to be deemed ‘different’, even by his own Ojibwe mother.

In 1963, he was living with his brother Paul, Paul’s partner, Kim, and their three children in Sault Saint

Uncle Bill, and Valin at 10 months old

Marie, Ontario. Bill got along well with Kim and the children and was very close to his brother. Paul and Kim decided to have an evening out and asked Bill to babysit the children. Next morning, when Kim went to waken the kids, she found her four-year-old daughter, Valin, was dead.

An autopsy was performed by a local pathologist who determined that Valin had been strangled to death; a local pediatrician said the child had been sexually abused – there was bruising on her body and her anus was distended; Charles Smith consulted on the case from Toronto and concurred – he further concluded that the four-year-old was being sodomized at the time of her death.

The police arrested Bill Mullins and he was charged with first degree murder. Paul and Kim did not believe that Bill, the uncle the children adored, was guilty.

The jury decided that Bill had killed Valin while sexually assaulting her – he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. At that point, Paul and Kim’s love for Bill turned to hate.

For his part, Bill heard the ‘expert’ testimony in court that the child was sexually assaulted, and , like everyone else, believed it. So, knowing that he was innocent, the only other person who could have done it was his brother who was sitting watching him go to prison. Bill’s love for his brother turned to hate too.

Valin, four years old Her father and Bill's brother, Paul Johnson

Bill continued to maintain his innocence through his years in prison, where, as a convicted baby killer, he was subject to assaults and torture from fellow inmates (everyone needs someone to look down on...)

After 10 years a lawyer from the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (Innocence Canada) visited Bill. He said that they believed that he was wrongly convicted, that no sexual assault had taken place, and that Valin had really died of natural causes!

They had consulted a number of experienced forensic pathologists and they agreed that the bruising was lividity (blood pooling), and the distension of the anus was a relaxation of sphincter muscle, both natural post-mortem processes.

Eventually the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed to hear the case based on the incompetence of Charles Smith and the new interpretation of the evidence. Bill’s first-degree murder conviction was set aside, and an acquittal entered in its place. Bill was set free.

Bill, just freed after 12 years in prison, with his mother

Sadly, by then, Paul and Kim’s relationship had ended, Paul had lost his children, and his life had descended into drugs and alcohol.

(To be concluded...)

Gordon Findlay
After we had learned most of the rudiments of military discipline and British Army law, we got stuck into motorcycle and truck driving, traffic control and pistol shooting, Although on duty we wore white cross-webbing that included a pistol holster which could accommodate a .38-calibre Webley pistol, we were never entrusted with such a weapon in normal duty. That bulky and imposing holster was stuffed with nothing more dangerous than yesterday’s 'Daily Mirror'.

When we did, finally, get an opportunity to shoot the .38 Webley, we fired at plywood figures some 30 yards away, set up against large mounds of sand and gravel. The Webley always fired high and right. You had to physically force it down and to the left as you fired. You were instructed to hold the Webley with your right hand (if you were right-handed) straight out fully extended... none of this bracing the gun hand with the other hand. That was for American shooters, gangsters, and foreign mobsters – not for British policemen.

The disconcerting fact that emerged from our day at the shooting range came when we 'spotted' for our fellow trainees as they blasted away at the plywood figures. Comfortably, and safely ensconced in ground-level pits, we watched as those .38 Webley bullets barely punched through the plywood before dropping like tired bumblebees into the sand behind. It was pretty obvious our pistols were worn more for their intimidation effect than their stopping power.

We trained on Army-issue 350 and 500 c.c. BSA motorcycles, complete with levers for spark and mixture

control. In theory we should have been able to set our petrol mixture at 'rich' when starting cold, then slowly switch to the “lean” setting as the engine warmed up. Same with the spark control – to be set in the ‘advance' position on starting, then quickly moving to the 'regular' setting to achieve the most economical and advantageous use of our machines. Well, that was the theory...

Unfortunately, these motorcycles were clapped-out old beasts that wheezed and groaned like the pensioners they were. Legions of trainees before us had misused and mangled the levers so that the bikes staggered on as best they could, coughing and farting on a much-too-rich diet of pure petrol and wildly inaccurate spark settings.

As a group, we thundered down the quiet roads of Colchester, belching blue fumes and poisonous smells like a mobile gas attack. On my sagging old machine, I remember, the speedometer was stuck permanently at a highly unlikely 85 miles-per-hour – a speed the machine might have aspired to in its youth but could now only achieve if it were fired from a cannon.

A Man Called Smith 3
Hugh McGrory
The Coroner’s Review examined 45 of Smith’s cases; it found problems with 20, of which 13 involved convictions. The 45 cases generally fell into three categories, and we’ll look at an example of each:

Where parents or caregivers were investigated but charges were never laid, or were withdrawn, or in which the accused was acquitted at trial.

Lianne Thibeault's son Nicholas died in 1995, in Sudbury, Ontario. The little boy was 10 months old when

he fell and hit his head on a sewing machine. His mother saw immediately that he wasn’t breathing, called 911, and tried to revive him. Sadly, the baby was declared dead at the hospital. Almost 18 months after Nicholas died, police told Lianne that she was a suspect for her son's death. This is how that came about:

A local pathologist had caried out an autopsy, categorizing the cause of death as ‘SIDS’, (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). However, months later, a supervisor found an error in the post-mortem report – the cause of death should have been classified by the broader ‘SUDI’ (Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy) since the baby had not been asleep at the time.

That relatively minor error triggered a review, which fell to Smith – he dismissed the original pathologist’s findings and carried out an exhumation in order to perform a second autopsy. Lianne attended, and when she arrived at the cemetery, she was shocked by what she saw.

"I could see a group standing beside my son's grave and – they were still in the process of pulling the dirt out of the ground," sad Lianne, “and I could see a little boy playing in the dirt. I was furious."

That little boy was Charles Smith's son (seen above, with his father). Smith said he brought his son to Sudbury to help keep him awake during the long drive from Toronto. The Chief Coroner later admitted the child should not have been present at the exhumation.

The Crown did not proceed with charges against Lianne, but that was not the end of her ordeal. She was pregnant, and Children's Aid announced it would be apprehending her unborn daughter at birth because of the police investigation into Nicholas' murder.

"During my first trimester of pregnancy, I was being accused of murder and did not know whether or not I would be going to jail, and in my third trimester, I was being told my baby was going to be taken away."

Children's Aid seized the child at birth and Leanne's name was added to the Sex Offenders Registry. She was placed with her grandparents, who acted as de facto foster parents. Lianne was only allowed limited access and required strict supervision.

Lianne's father, Maurice Gagnon spent more than $100,000 over the next six months hiring a top Sudbury lawyer and searching for medical experts and pathologists to challenge Smith's opinions. He found several who felt Nicholas' death had been a tragic accident.

Faced with competing opinions, the provincial chief coroner's office hired its own independent pathologist to review the case again. Dr. Mary Case's report finally put the matter to rest. She found no evidence of foul play and said Nicholas could have died from bumping his head. Lianne's explanation of what happened was entirely plausible.

It took 18 month's before Children's Aid dropped its application, and, in 1999, return Lianne's daughter to her care.

(To be continued…)

 The Golden Age of Science Fiction 5 
Brian Macdonald
Other notable science fiction writers

Raymond Douglas Bradbury, another from this era, born American in 1920 and dying in 2012, wrote not
only science fiction, both fantasy and hard SF, but also horror and mystery. As was usual, most of his output started as short stories, some later becoming novels. His best-known science fiction work, known even to those with no knowledge of SF, is Fahrenheit 451 of 1953, which tells of a dystopian, totalitarian, future America, where possession of books is a crime and ceremonial burnings of discovered hoards of books are held. A film was made of the book but, maybe surprisingly, not till 2018, and there have been TV series.

Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is science fiction only because it is set on Mars. It describes the trials of an Earth colony set up on the red planet and is not rigorous in its science. His The Illustrated Man is not really a novel, more a compilation of short stories loosely linked by a heavily tattooed man who is the protagonist of one of the tales. Because Bradbury was not exclusively or even mainly a writer of science fiction, the style and content of his SF books made SF more palatable to non-SF readers. Ray Bradbury continued to publish until several years before his death.

John K H Brunner (English, 1934–1995) won the Hugo Award in 1969 for Stand on Zanzibar, about a dystopian, overcrowded world. Brunner wrote many science fiction novels, some under the name of Keith Woodcott. Another novel by Brunner on social topics was The Sheep Look Up in 1972. This grim tale forecasts and goes beyond the situation the world finds itself in now, in 2022, when we are slowly and
inevitably destroying our planet’s ability to support life through our profligate use of natural resources and the consequent, ever-increasing pollution which is changing the atmosphere for the worse.

In doing so it builds on the work of Rachel Carson, whose non-fiction scientific Silent Spring, took the thinking world by storm in 1962. Carson warned of the damaging effects of the overuse of pesticides. Brunner’s title is drawn from a poem, Lycidas (The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed), by the 17th century Englishman John Milton, author of Paradise Lost. Milton had a strong concern for social issues and the welfare of the poor, whom he likened to sheep needing direction and support. Brunner drew attention to a growing social and economic problem of his time.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a work from 1968 by Philip K Dick, another notable SF writer of the Golden Era. The plot is of a bounty hunter seeking androids (robots) which have gone wild. Earth is dystopian, polluted (common themes), with limited human population, those who could having decamped to other planets. Most other creatures are dead. I mention this tale because it is the inspiration for the very popular Blade Runner film series.

Edward Elmer Smith, better known as E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith, authored the Lensman series, which covers a vast timescape from the start of the universe all the way to the future. It was the runner-up to Asimov’s Foundation series for the Best Series of All-time Nebula Award in 1966.

Although not from the Golden Era, no article about science fiction authors would be complete without more than a mention of Douglas Noel Adams, born 1952 and, alas, dead in 2001 at the young age of 49. Although Adams wrote in other genres, he is best known for his great set of five books, together named under the title of the first of the five, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This is in fantasy mode and intended as light entertainment, not as prophecy or warning of future disaster. It began life as a proposal to the BBC for a short radio comedy series. It grew, topsy-like, into a book, then five books, a TV series which I recall watching, a film and a stage show. The third book in the series has produced a phrase that has entered our consciousness – ‘Life, The Universe and Everything’. Is there anyone in the English-speaking world who does not know that the answer to the question “What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?” is the cryptic “42” given by the morose computer at the end of the universe.

If you read no other science fiction, do please read The Hitchhiker’s Guide series of books. At least once!

Readers may remark, if they bother to get this far, that I have dealt almost exclusively with male authors. Regrettably, because female minds might have contributed a very different view, female science fiction
writers are almost non-existent from the Golden Era. I have mentioned Ursula K Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey from this period. Margaret Atwood, who published The Handmaid’s Tale as recently as 1985, writes in a wide range of modes, including poetry. Her recent sequel, The Testaments, is also classed as science fiction. Both books describe the same grim, dystopian, religious extremist, male-dominated, dictatorial, future society, which grew from a disunited USA. How far is this from the
extreme religious states that have sprung up in parts of our globe?

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley(1) lived in the 19th century. Her mother was Mary Wollstonecraft, an author,
and an early campaigner for women’s rights. It was to our advantage that her father, also a writer, saw to it that she was broadly educated, which was by no means universal for females, even of the upper classes, in England then. She married the famed romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, acted as his editor and promoted his work. Yet Mary Shelley is best known for what is a very early science fiction novel, Frankenstein, (alternatively titled The Modern Prometheus) published when she was only 20. The tale must be known to anyone reading this. The young scientist, Dr Victor Frankenstein,
brought to life a creature created by him from human body parts and problems ensued. Frankenstein has been the subject of numerous films, TV series and plays. I recall the hollow-cheeked, grim-looking, English actor Peter Cushing in the title part and the tall, gothic, Christopher Lee as his creation in an early Hammer Film, The Curse of Frankenstein (2). Its fame and interest in it are enduring. In our time we have seen fingers, hands, the major organs, even faces and the skin of heads successfully transplanted. This could never have been contemplated in Shelley’s time, yet Mary Shelley conceived of it and wrote so vividly of it. If H G Wells is sometimes called ‘The Father of Science Fiction’ then Mary Shelley has a good case for being its mother.

I started this essay because of my love for the golden era of English-language science fiction. I am sure many of those who read this far (if, indeed, any do), will have read as much SF as I or more than I have. If I have made errors, they are errors of enthusiasm. For that, I apologise. I also apologise to the many brilliant SF writers whose names and work deserve mention in any record of the period, but this is my recollection and the work of my memory.

If I have inspired in you a desire to venture into science fiction, I advise you could do worse than haunt your local charity shop’s bookshelves. Many books from the Golden Age find their way there.

Science Fiction has never been recognised as ‘serious literature’ and does not win major literature awards, probably because of the subject matter being seen as frivolous. Yet there are novels that would be worthy of respect as ‘literature’, being literate, well-constructed, well-written and grand in concept. The best are worth reading.

If I have inspired in you a desire to venture into science fiction, I advise you could do worse than haunt your local charity shop’s bookshelves. Many books from the Golden Age find their way there.
A visit to the Amazon website to seek out a copy of any of the science fiction short story and novella anthologies compiled by the indefatigable Groff Conklin is another good place to start. Edward Groff Conklin lived from 1904 to 1968, but he did not start serious reading of SF until he was forty, although he had had a brush with H G Wells’ work while at college. Already an editor of skill and experience by1944, he took to SF with enthusiasm and chalked up the compilation and editorship of forty SF anthologies. His early introduction to Wells may have led to Conklin’s anthology of Wells’ short stories, 28 Science Fiction Stories by H. G. Wells, published in 1952, but most of SF’s better authors are represented in Conklin’s collections.

The voyage is worth the effort. Happy reading!


(1) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, in 1797, in London) and given a sound middle class education at her father’s instigation, not often the case for a woman in that period, has an unusual connection with Dundee, the hometown of many readers of this series, me included. In 1812, when fourteen, Mary was sent from London to Dundee by her father, for a period of recuperation after ill-health, to live with the family of her father’s businessman friend, the Dundee jute magnate William Thomas Baxter. The house was in South Baffin Street, then a rural area to the east of the city with views down to the river Tay and the eastern docks, where sailors from Dundee’s then large whaling fleet landed.

Later in life, she reflected on this period that “I lived principally in the country as a girl and passed a considerable time in Scotland. I made considerable visits to the more picturesque parts, but my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them – they were not so to me then. They were the eyry(sic) of freedom and the pleasant region where unheeded I could convene with the creatures of my fancy.” The young Mary Godwin’s eyes would have been exposed to many gruesome sights of the carcasses and parts of whales, polar bears, and seals as well as her nose to the stench of the processing of whale meat and oil during the fifteen months that she spent in her Dundee sojourn, often sitting, thinking, on the slopes above the Tay.

It is conjectured by later literary historians that the first shoots of Mary Shelley’s horror tale may have taken root in her brain at this time. Mary married Percy Bysshe Shelley at age eighteen, only four years after the Dundee stay. Frankenstein, written mostly on the placid shores of Lake Geneva, was published only two years later, at Mary’s remarkably young age of twenty.

Mary Shelley’s later life contains much of tragedy. Her great love, Percy Bysshe Shelley, died aged thirty, after only six years of marriage to Mary. Only the couple’s oldest child, Percy Florence Shelley, survived infancy. Mary, herself, died in 1851, only fifty-three years old.

This link may be of interest as a discussion of whether the Dundee stay was of influence on Mary Shelley’s writing of Frankenstein.

(2)Hammer Films was an English production company best known for its mostly 1950s horror films such as Baron Frankenstein, The Mummy and Count Dracula.
A Man Called Smith 2
Hugh McGrory
Previously I told the tale of a doctor named Smith, whom I had briefly encountered many years ago, and the sad death of baby Amber. That case was heard in 1991 – but Dr. Smith’s story didn’t end there… While his case load and his reputation grew, so did the rumblings of discontent regarding his expertise.

However, due to inaction on the part of those tasked with the overview of Smith’s work over the years, it wasn’t until 2002 that action was taken. He was reprimanded by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. The college said he was being "overly dogmatic" and had a "tendency towards overstatement."

In 2003, he was forbidden from performing further autopsies at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. In 2005, he resigned from his position at the Hospital and moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. However, he failed to inform his new workplace of the issues arising from his previous position. When this was discovered after three months – he was fired, and later pled guilty to a charge of unprofessional conduct for his failure to disclose.

In 2005, the Chief Coroner for Ontario, Dr. Barry McLellan, undertook a ‘Coroner’s Review’ of the work of Dr. Smith in criminally suspicious cases and homicides in the 1990s. The inquiry looked at 44 autopsies conducted by Smith , 13 of which had resulted in criminal charges and convictions. The report on his indiscretions was released in 2007, indicating that there were substantial errors in twenty of those cases.

Resulting from this, the Ontario government set up an inquiry led by Ontario Court of Appeal Judge Stephen Goudge, examining pediatric forensic pathology in the Province. Goudge released his report in

Smith and his lawyers heading to the Goudge Inquiry

2008. It made 169 recommendations “necessary to restore and enhance public confidence in pediatric forensic pathology.” The judge stated that he found Smith to be arrogant, despite lacking basic knowledge about forensic pathology, provided erroneous opinions, and made false and misleading statements in court. He was equally scathing about Dr. Robert Young, Chief Coroner, and his deputy, Dr. Maureen Cairns for their failure to react to the many complaints about Smith. (By 2004 both had lost those positions).

In 2010, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons entered into undertakings with former chief coroner Maureen Young and former deputy corner Jim Cairns, agreeing to drop investigations into them if they promised never to reapply to practise medicine again. Many of the victims of the miscarriages of justice were very upset with this deal, seen by many as controversial.

On February 1, 2011, the Smith was stripped of his license and never allowed to practice medicine again as a result of the errors he made, and the lives he destroyed. Smith was married with two children, but some time over this period his marriage broke down and led to divorce. He is believed to be living in British Columbia, re-married, and keeping an extremely low profile.

The bare facts as laid out above tell a sad tale of the rise and fall of a man, but they don't touch on the terrible damage that resulted for so many people. To fully understand the scope of this tragedy you need to know some of the details...

(To be continued…)

All Change for Dinner
Bill Kidd
I made a chicken curry for dinner the other day. It was served with supermarket bought naan bread and a couple of poppadums that came in a packet and were flash-cooked in the microwave and if I say so myself,

Some of Many Popular Forms of Poppadoms

it was delicious. Tomorrow I am thinking of cooking pasta with an anchovy sauce accompanied by garlic bread. Sorry, much as we would love to have you join us, I think it’s best that you cook your own!

How many words in the last paragraph would you have used as a young adult in the 1950s? I am sure that “chicken” would be familiar as a treat on high days and holidays, not yet the ubiquitous meat of everyday life that it has become. “Curry” was almost unknown as a dish and in most Scottish households it was confined to the tin of curry powder lurking at the back of the cupboard. How about “pasta”? It was not a word in many vocabularies although “spaghetti” was a familiar hasty tea-time dish soaked in tomato sauce and coming out of a tin. The Scots word for pasta was macaroni. Normally served with a cheddar-based cheese sauce it did make the occasional appearance with jam as a dessert at school dinners and in some adventurous households. I suspect that to most of us supermarket, microwave, anchovies, garlic, naan bread and poppadums” would also be strangers on our lips. Things have certainly changed in the Scottish diet department in the last seventy years’.

My memories of how we ate pre-1950s were of nutritious, if somewhat bland meals. Breakfast was porridge or some form of cereal with milk, toast and marmalade washed down with tea. On Sundays it would be a cooked breakfast of bacon and egg with fried bread. Lunch, usually known as dinner, was the main meal of the day served shortly after midday. While at primary school I would come home and join my parents. We started with soup followed by some form of meat and potato-based dish – this was followed by a dessert. All of this was prepared by my mother who cleared up after my father returned to work and I went back to school. The final meal of the day was tea. This consisted of a cooked starter followed by bread and teacakes with jam. Sometimes my mother would have baked scones or tea cakes and we would have these over the weekend.

It should be remembered that rationing was in force during the war years and through the rest of the 1940s, it was not until1954 that rationing completely ended. The major effect of food rationing was not to change how people ate but to force the housewife (because it was, she) to make use of the foodstuffs that were available, often substituting the ingredients used to produce the familiar meal. Dried egg was used to make an omelette to substitute for the fried egg that should be accompanying the piece of bacon for Sunday’s breakfast.
Who's for scrambled dried eggs washed down with a glass of dried milk?
(Actually I think the milk shown is the baby version – full cream!)

Kippers, herring, white fish, rabbits, mealy puddings, black puddings, sausages, corned beef, and Spam all played their part in maintaining the main course at dinner.

Almost forgotten is the importance of soup as the foundation of the nutritious Scottish diet. Scotch broth was based on the ability to find a mutton bone to make the stock, while pea soup was dependent on finding a ham bone. The use of pearl barley, red lentils and split peas combined with carrot, turnips, leeks, and potatoes made sure that any shortcomings of the main course were fully compensated for, and any leftover spaces would be filled by the dessert. The shortages of sugar and fats meant that desserts consisted mainly of Birds Custard, rice pudding, sago, semolina, and tapioca, all of them only too familiar from school dinners. However, on special days and weekends steamed pudding was often served. These could be anything from a syrup sponge to a jam roly-poly and at Christmas we had a Clootie Dumpling with charms and a sixpence in it.

Several factors caused the change from having our main meal at midday to having it in the early evening. The major one was the work pattern – fewer women were content to be housewives. Many women wanted some form of employment to supplement the family income, this led in turn to a better quality and a wider social life. The shortage of labour in the forties and fifties meant that restrictions on married women obtaining employment were disappearing and a woman’s career could be combined with family life. With greater mobility many men could no longer get home for a midday meal and for others there was no one at home to prepare it for him (Awwww!)

As incomes improved eating out and holidays abroad became more popular and during the mid-fifties restaurants serving all sorts of food began to spring up. I had my first Chinese meal in Reform Street around 1958 and couldn’t wait to go back for another dose of MSG! Indian, Italian, French etc. restaurants were big business and inevitably favourite recipes were tried at home. Spag-Bol, curries, noodles, chilli con carne and all sorts of other exotica were prepared, then refined at home. Soup was made from tomatoes, mushroom, and asparagus. Desserts were made from ice cream and merengue, and melons and strawberries were used in sundaes and sometimes weekdays too! Banoffee pie, pear crumble and sticky toffee pudding all made their appearance and thus our present-day diet was born.

I am reconsidering my pasta for tomorrow. Perhaps a pea and Parma ham sauce with the rigatoni….…?

A Man Called Smith
Hugh McGrory
In my previous story, I mentioned a fellow called Smith as being one of the more senior members of LOGIC, the Apple computer user group in Toronto in the ‘80s. Apart from being a computer geek, I knew he was a doctor, though I wasn’t aware that he was a pathologist. Based at the Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids as it’s known in Toronto), he specialised in pediatric pathology.

Although he didn’t have any formal training or certification in forensic pathology, towards the end of the ‘80s he began to take on pediatric cases that were the subject of criminal investigations. In 1992, he was appointed director of the newly established Ontario Pediatric Forensic Pathology Unit (OPFPU) at Sick Kids.

His star was on the rise and Dr. Charles Smith soon became the ‘go-to guy’ in pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario. He had the cachet of working at the best children's hospital in Canada. Few other pathologists had as much experience. Most of the cases he was involved in hinged on
the manner of death – was it natural or due to some criminal act.

Over the course of the 1990s, Dr. Smith's reputation grew – but public concerns about his professional competence did as well. As early as 1991, a 12-year-old babysitter, referred to as SM, was charged with manslaughter in the death of a 16 month-old girl, Amber, in Timmins, Ontario. The babysitter said that Amber had accidentally fallen down a flight of carpet-covered stairs. No autopsy was considered necessary, and the coroner ruled the death as accidental.

Doctor Smith and some colleagues disagreed, and permission was eventually given for an exhumation. Smith carried out the autopsy, though he had little formal education or experience in forensics. He reported that Amber had died of a head injury caused by severe shaking. Two days later, the police arrested and charged SM with manslaughter. SM’s father, referred to as DM, did not believe for a moment that his 12-year-old, straight-A, Grade 6 daughter, was guilty. He knew that there had to be something wrong with the evidence as presented. He was a chemist working for a mining company and he put his research skills to work for the next two years.

He read scientific journals on neuropathology and biomechanics, and studied papers on infant head injuries and Shaken Baby Syndrome. The family remortgaged their house twice, cashed in their RRSPs and finally sold the house. The money went to paying the expenses of specialists in the field, and later for the costs of mounting a legal defence. The family had to declare bankruptcy when their money ran out. SM had a hard time over this period, she felt stigmatised (everyone in the small northern town knew the story) – she became depressed and her school grades dropped.

In all, DM found nineteen experts from around the world whose research supported his daughter, and nine of those gave evidence at the trial which took almost two years to complete. The family covered the costs of all nine – including neuropathologists, biomechanics experts and pediatricians specializing in child abuse – to fly to Timmins for the trial. In addition, written opinions from others were provided to the court. The trial was heard before Justice Patrick Dunn of the Ontario Court (Provincial Division), and the star witness was Dr. Smith.

Justice Dunn duly delivered his verdict. He found the young babysitter not guilty, finding that her explanation that Amber had fallen down the stairs was credible and accepted the defence experts' evidence that small household falls could cause serious injury or death in a child as young as Amber. In giving his verdict he said, "When first presented, the Crown's case appeared quite plausible. But after the evidence of the defence experts, it is riddled with reasonable doubts."

He emphatically rejected Dr. Smith's evidence. In a detailed and trenchant review of Smith's forensic analysis and approach, Justice Dunn concluded that he lacked objectivity, failed to investigate thoroughly all relevant facts, and neglected to keep adequate records of his work and findings. He also determined that Dr. Smith lacked familiarity with the relevant scientific literature. The issues raised by the judge regarding the quality of Dr. Smith’s evidence and his lack of experience in the field were brought to the attention of his superiors, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO).

No meaningful action resulted and Dr. Smith’s work on high-profile cases continued unabated.

(To be continued…)

My First Game
Gordon Findlay
The day of my first rugby game for the Depot 1st XV arrived. Getting to the game against REME – the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers was simple – the whole Military Police team was loaded into a couple of 3-ton Army trucks with simple bench seats lined up on opposite sides under the canvas. Sheldrake, and a lieutenant who also played for Depot XV Military Police, rode in the passenger seat of the truck, up front, while we lowly recruits bumped around in the back.

I had a decent game against REME, but they stuck me in at the back row of the scrum – while I was used to playing as an inside or outside centre, where I could use my speed. Oh well. I blasted away from the scrum at every opportunity and managed to get involved in some of the passing plays with the backs, my normal position.

It wasn’t a particularly good game for either side since the field was sopping wet, but we did win, and everyone was in a good mood. We were hoping for a massive feed and piss-up after the game – but no such luck. REME did feed us, and it was somewhat better than the usual Army grub – but really just a good Irish stew with spuds, with plum duff to follow.

On the positive side, they did allow us each a couple of pints of beer before the food – but with typical Army idiocy, the beer was handed to us as we stood around outside the Mess Hall, so we had to quaff it standing around outside. The reason given was: “Can’t allow booze in the Mess Hall, lads. Army regulations, you know. And try not to let the other lads going in see what you’ve got.”

So, we had to stand outside the Mess Hall, hiding our bottles of Tennant’s Lager as best we could from the REME recruits walking past on their way in for dinner. Sgt. Sheldrake and the Lieutenant, of course, were comfortably installed in the Sergeant’s Mess and the Officers’ Club respectively, for their drinks and meal.

However, a week or so later, I heard that my name was posted on the bulletin board for the next game for Depot Military Police against RAMC – Royal Army Medical Corps. And if you think that a bunch of doctors and front-line medics and assistants would be a pushover – quite the opposite. They had an excellent team since many of the doctors were graduates of private schools and had played inter-school and Former Pupil rugby like me. But I was delighted to be chosen again.

British Army Cap Badges
REME Royal Military Police RAMC

By this time my dear parents (I'd kept them posted on my life in the Military Police) had mailed me my own rugby boots (Elmer Cotton “Fleets” for the record: a high-end solid leather pair of rugby boot with removable cleats, which were an innovation way back then). So, I didn’t have to depend on the cheap and crappy military-issue rugby boots from the company store. And, even better, when I went to check my name on the official team sheet, I saw that I was written in as an inside centre, paired up with Lieutenant Lennan, a dark-haired Welsh officer who had been a trialist for Cardiff, a team in the Welsh League, and was one of the bright lights of our side.

We didn’t win our game against RAMC but thanks to Lieut. Lennan I scored a try – the one and only try I managed to score in Army life. The good Lieutenant had great speed and midway through the second half took a pass from the stand-off (he’s like the quarterback in football) and burst away from his RAMC opposite number. Lennan then sprinted for the try-line (the “end zone” in football) and drew the fullback to him – slipped the ball to me – and all I had to do was run a few feet and touch down the ball for our score.

Funny how you remember things like that – the unselfish move of a fellow rugger player who makes a clean break, then sets you up for a score you simply cannot miss. The Lieutenant was unquestionably the class of our side and for me, it was a pleasure to play alongside him. Had we not been Lieutenant and Corporal – a huge gulf in Army terms – I think we could have been friends.

Acronymous Logic
Hugh McGrory
I like acronyms. I find the good ones make communication more efficient and more effective. As you probably know, there are two ways that acronyms are created:

The best are when the initial letters of each significant word create a pronounceable word. An example would be NASA, for "National Aeronautics and Space Administration". If the resulting word has some relationship to the subject, so much the better... for example, a leadership program – LEAD, for Leadership Education and Development.

Some of the worst are when the inventors have the word they want as the acronym, then come up with some tortured phrase to justify it. An example is an organisation that I was once a member of LOGIC, for "Loyal Ontario Group Interested in Computers". I mean LOGIC is good, but come on... (how about "Lots of Geeks In Computing?")

I first used computers in 1968 when working for the Glenrothes New Town Corporation in Fife, Scotland. These were large mainframe computers in London and Manchester which processed data that we had coded by hand on paper forms and sent off to them in the mail – that’s snail mail, not email... We got the results by snail mail too...

For me, this early experience with computers was frustrating, but also enlightening and exciting. It changed my life, and, though I didn’t realise it immediately, resulted in a career based on the use of computers as tools for engineering and business.

We emigrated to Toronto in 1966, and by the early to mid '70s microcomputers began to appear – small desktop-sized machines which were used initially for game-playing.

IBM 7090 Mainframe Room Apple II Plus Desktop

By the late '70s, Apple computers were on the scene and the Apple II Plus was becoming a useful tool for the business world. I persuaded my boss to allow me to buy one and use it at home while I figured out what it could do for us.

Such micros were so new that many people were struggling to learn how to use them and many user groups – such as LOGIC – were formed. As was typical, LOGIC began from a small number of early adopters who had casual contact with each other and shared ideas and assistance. They were an eclectic bunch – lawyers, engineers, doctors, taxi drivers, university students, drop-outs – all with a bit of the geek in them...

As more people became interested, they decided to organise, appointed a President, a Secretary and Treasurer, then organised monthly meetings. (Founded in the early '80s, I was amazed to learn, while researching this story that it was a going concern until 2017!)

I attended quite a few of the sessions in the early '80s – the meetings usually took the format of a presentation by one of the early adopters (who were a year or so ahead of most of us), a Q&A afterwards,
Typical Computer User Group 'Back in the Day'
then a lot of informal discussions over coffee. I found the meetings to be well worth attending – they often saved me from reinventing wheels...

One of those 'early adopters' was a fellow named Smith. I never actually knew him, but I listened to a couple of good presentations by him and had one brief conversation with him afterwards.

Over the following thirty years his name would become known all across Canada – which, come to think about it, is the story I actually set out to tell – ah well, next time...

A Ski Trip Down Memory Lane
Murray Hackney

Gordon Findlay’s recent story, ‘Skiing in Scotland’, reminded me of my last ski trip up Glenshee. I do remember the rope tow which would give the present day Health and Safety Police a heart attack. The secret was the 'Hookum' a very simple thing! The tow was simply an endless rope, pulleys at top and bottom of the hill, and your hookup was a handle with a 'u' shaped metal hook, a bit like a paint roller without the roller! As you can imagine, when you dropped it over the rope, your weight jammed it, and off you went, hanging on, skis on the snow all the way up.

Easy until you tried to get it off before it was pulled round the top pulley – the technique was to release the tension a wee bit and lift, and if you got it right you were free to go, but if timed wrongly, your hookum could be retrieved from the other side of the wheel. No sweat if it was handheld, but woe betide those who chose to tie it to a rope round the waist! Chances of nipped fingers or even worse were quite high.

But that's not what caused me to stop skiing ( even before I got any good at it). Getting up the hills by car towards Glas Maol (grey-green hill), Gulabin (a Lodge and Outdoor Centre) etc. was fraught with problems in those '50/'60s days. The roads were sometimes ploughed, but not too well, so often you were faced with a slippery and steep surface.
At the most difficult parts collective action came into force, which involved a combination of pushing and bouncing on the boot to gain some traction. Worked most times, but then along came the Mini. First front wheel drive car around here and not good at climbing icy slopes. So, the answer was to REVERSE up the difficult bits with two people sitting on the bonnet to give more weight on the driven wheels.

I don't know if you have ever tried this, but believe me, when you’re facing downhill on a slippery bonnet you really have to hang on. The wipers are no help, so the front door pillar was the favourite handhold-provided the crude sliding window was open...Unfortunately the driver’s door was still open when I grabbed the pillar and the driver (who shall be nameless) slammed the door over my four fingers and took off, obviously looking the wrong way through the rear window.

Now luckily the Mini had pretty floppy window frames so, even though it was the hinge side, i.e., maximum

leverage, my fingers were not actually chopped off. No amount of banging on the windscreen could get the attention of the driver- he was determined to get to the top and the engine was near max revs in reverse. My biggest worry then was, if I fall off will I get dragged along, or will my fingers come off? Neither scenario appealed to me, so I was mightily relieved when we stopped on the brow of the hill. A doctor in another car looked at my fingers and pronounced them very bruised and swollen, but no breaks and some aspirin was prescribed from the first aid kit. Didn't help much, but my distraught driver volunteered to take me home at once.

I never went skiing again....

A Faint Memory
Hugh McGrory
When I was young, up to the age of eight or so, I had an aversion to blood. Over that period, I blacked out several times. The sight of blood – particularly my own – would cause me to pass out. This is a reaction that was probably caused by vasovagal syncope – the term for a rapid drop in blood pressure and heart rate which can trigger fainting.

Apparently, it's not an uncommon problem – it’s estimated that 20% of all children will experience at least one episode of fainting before the end of adolescence, and the problem has a natural history of spontaneous resolution or improvement. I never saw a doctor and seemed to 'grow out of it' before reaching double-digits.

When my youngest daughter, Debbie, was around 11 or 12, in the late '70s, in Canada, I got a call at work saying that she had been in an accident and had been taken to hospital. It turned out that she and a girl friend had been sharing a bike, going down an incline, Sharon pedalling, and Debbie sitting on the handlebars and resting her bare feet on the ends of the front wheel axle…

Her left foot slipped off the axle and into the spokes – of course, the bike stopped instantly, and they cartwheeled over the front wheel onto the road. Fortunately, Sharon wasn’t badly hurt, but Debbie had a nasty wound to her foot. It was about two inches by one inch and went into the bone–and a spoke almost took her little toe off. She was taken to hospital by ambulance, treated, and sent home.

Apparently, according to her GP later, she received less than adequate treatment–in the days following, the wound began to swell and became more painful. She decided to try stepping on it without her crutch and the wound split open. Her mother took her to our GP who said she should take her to hospital – it would need surgical debridement to remove dying flesh and blood clots. I again got a call at work and headed for the hospital.

Debbie likes to tell people of that experience:

“The nurse took us – me, mum, and dad – into a small examining room. I was asked to lie on the gurney (a wheeled stretcher) and, as my parents looked on, the nurse took off the bandage. The wound looked like liver, and she proceeded to clean it as best she could in preparation for the Doctor's examination – this included renoving some blood clots with forceps.

Suddenly she said to me, ”Debbie, will you please get up”, handed me my crutches then said, “Stand over there.” She then turned to my dad and said, “Will you please lie down”.

He looked puzzled and started to question her and she interrupted and said “Please – lie down now!” So he did…

She then said, “ You are looking very pale – I don’t want you blacking out and falling.”

So, for the next few minutes I, the patient, had to stand, while my father relaxed on the gurney with a pillow under his feet…”

Oh, the ignominy…

Afterwards they told us that Debbie would have to have one more operation, plastic surgery to cover the
damaged area. They removed a patch of skin from high on the outside of her left thigh and used this to cover the damaged area.

Actually, my memory of the above event is that I didn’t really feel faint at the time which was why I was surprised at the nurse’s reaction. She excused herself from the room, I lay there for a few minutes then got up, and felt fine.

Having said that, she was obviously an experienced professional, and may have
seen the initial signs of syncope (blood pressure drop, reducing circulation to the brain causing paleness, and possible loss of consciousness) brought on by the sight of my daughter’s wound – so maybe I was about to faint... I haven't had another occurrence in the past forty odd years, thank goodness – it's not a pleasant experience!

My mother in her old age blacked out several times – until they gave her a pacemaker. She described it as "Feeling a black wave coming over me." She called it "Having a floopie". No idea why...

 The Golden Age of Science Fiction 4 
Brian Macdonald
Arthur C Clarke and Robert Heinlein

Isaac Asimov does not stand alone at the peak of science fiction. There are three names universally
acknowledged as ‘The Big Three’ of SF. The second name I gave as a major star of SF is Arthur C Clarke. Some rank him above Asimov. Clarke was born in 1917 in England. He was a popular science writer and broadcaster as well as a prolific author of science fiction, a host of TV documentary programs and a proponent of space travel. This is an outreaching still in its infancy in 2021 but has become not only the province of governments, but also increasingly of private enterprise, attracting the enthusiasm of such entrepreneurs as Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. The rise to real global power and extreme wealth by private companies is another theme foreseen by SF authors many years before the term ‘billionaire’ was dreamed up.

Clarke co-wrote the screenplay, based on one of his own short stories, for
the landmark 1968 Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, which tells of a space flight taken by a pilot with the help of a computer, HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer), which turns on its pilot, Dave, refusing to let him take essential safety action because to do so would endanger him, thus creating a paradox within Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. How Dave deals with this problem is the major plot point of the film. The film was technically clunky. You can sometimes see the fine threads manipulating a spaceship. But it was hugely influential as an early film in this genre.

2001: A Space Odyssey – The Monolith in the Opening Sequence
The complete dialogue of this pivotal event and other quotes from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey can be read here.

Arthur C Clarke was also interested in undersea exploration. You could say his gaze and his mind turned both outward to space and inward to the heart of our own planet. He not only earned SF literary awards, but being British, was knighted in 1998. Four decades earlier, Clarke had emigrated to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where he lived till his death at age 90 in 2008, to pursue his lifelong interest in underwater exploration. While diving, he discovered an ancient temple underwater in Ceylon’s seas. His ennoblement was for ‘services to British cultural interests’ in that country. Clarke’s science factual and fiction works were numerous and prophetic. Much of his fiction work described how mankind interacted with more advanced alien civilisations. Childhood’s End of 1953, regarded as his best novel, tells of the invasion of Earth by aliens who became benign dictators. It began as a short story, that genre popular with SF writers, for it suited magazine publication, a valuable income source. As with many of the best SF tales, Childhood’s End has been adapted into TV series and film.

Clarke’s whimsical short story, The Nine Billion Names of God, relates how a Tibetan monastery engages a computer and two western computer engineers to produce all the possible nine billion names of God, which the monastery will record. It is their belief that this is the purpose of the universe, and everything will come to an end on its completion. When the task is completed, the two engineers are already on their way to catch a plane home, having left prematurely, believing that nothing will happen, and the monks will blame them and their computer. The outcome of the project will surprise – and maybe amuse or shock – many readers. We can only hope that this science fiction prediction from Clarke’s inventive brain does not prove accurate!

Clarke’s Nebula- and Hugo-winning Rendezvous with Rama tells of a group of Earth explorers that boards an alien vessel, originally thought to be an asteroid because of its immense size. They intend to unlock its technologies and take them back to earth. While they learn much, they must eventually return to their own ship and Rama leaves, with its inhabitants still unrevealed and many questions still unanswered for earth’s citizens, as for the reader. As is sometimes the way with huge-selling writers later in their careers, the elderly and wheelchair-bound Clarke lent his name to a much younger SF author of the later 20th century, Bert Gentry Lee, who co-authored three sequels to the first of the Rama series, Gentry Lee doing most of the writing. The third sequel was published in 1993. As well as a fiction writer, Gentry Lee is a scientist and space engineer, who was chief engineer for the Planetary Flight Systems Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory based in California.

Robert Anson Heinlein was the third member of ‘The Big Three’ of hard SF English-language writers.
American, born in 1907, he qualified as an aeronautics engineer officer at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and served some years in the US navy between WW1 and WW2. He wrote under several other pseudonyms but is known for his hard SF works in his own name, both short stories and novels. He was another of the many protégés of John W Campbell at ASF, but his SF work was also published in The Saturday Evening Post, a highly successful, popular magazine with many fiction stories and
cartoons as well as political and social items, that began in 1897 as a weekly and still exists as a bi-monthly. Hugely influential (I used to read it as a young army officer as our mess subscribed to it, even in England, in the 1950s), it helped to introduce science fiction to the main-stream public. For more than fifty years, the SEP carried the work of the artist Norman Rockwell, whose covers and cartoons were highly prized.

Heinlein was noted for a rigorous attitude to scientific accuracy. When the Science Fiction Writers Grand
Master award was established in the 1970s, Heinlein was the first recipient. He has been labelled ‘The Dean of Science Fiction Writers’ for his scientific rigour and prolific output. Heinlein’s best-known novel is Stranger in a Strange Land, which explores the impact of a Mars-born earthman who comes to Earth and has a large effect on Earth’s culture. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is about a penal colony on the moon which revolts against its Earth-bound rulers. (As an adoptive Australian I can relate to this theme.) It first appeared as a magazine serial in 1965/1966 and was consolidated into the full novel form. It was recognised by the 1967 Nebula Best Novel Award. Heinlein was always interested in the effects of science on society and the likely disintegration of Earth’s society. His books reflect this. Robert Heinlein died in 1980, writing to the end.

He is truly worthy to stand with Asimov and Clarke at the pinnacle of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

To be continued

The Mean Streets...
Hugh McGrory
In a previous story, 'My Return to the Church...', I wrote of the visit my brother Mike and I made to Hamilton, Scotland to track down the font used to baptise our dad. While we were successful in that, we didn’t achieve much success in meeting our second objective of exploring the streets where our forebears lived.

They occupied various addresses in the Old Town, over more than 50 years – streets such as Castle, Quarry, Young, Postgate and Portwell, all a stone’s throw from the Catholic Church of St Mary’s. They had lots of children and I’m guessing they probably had to move to larger houses every few years.

Sadly, most of those streets shown above (as of 1865) no longer exist, either gone completely or buildings demolished and rebuilt many years ago. Sad, though of course, inevitable that history is wiped out in this way – and if you look at the two photos below of Young St, c. 1890, (that I stumbled upon in my

Young St. Looking South from Church St. Looking North from Campbell St.

research), you may well say good riddance… Note the filthy street gutter! Strange to think that it’s possible that one or more of the people in these photos might be ancestors of ours.

While we wandered up and down the new streets trying to get our bearings, a man standing at the door of a building asked if we needed some help. We began to chat, and to tell him what we were up to.

(This was the building – we actually entered from the back.)

He said that almost all of the buildings of that era were gone, but curiously, the one where he stood, now a woodworking business, was an exception. (Checking with Google Street View it too seems to be gone now.)

He invited us in and took us past various woodworking machines up to the floor above. He said that this was the local tavern back in the day, one of the oldest buildings in the area, and no doubt some of our ancestors would have frequented the pub. He showed us a fireplace (in the photo below) and said that it was original.

We looked at it with some wonder, thinking that some of our forebears may well have sat around that fire on chilly winter nights, drinking their ale, smoking their pipes and hacking into the flames. Many of the men were coal miners, and drinking was no doubt one of their few pleasures – apart from siring children.

Our family history shows that both drinking and making babies were high on their priority list (one of our grandmothers was pregnant seventeen times, the other not so much – only nine!)

It’s humbling to catch glimpses of the hard life our ancestors lived, to imagine how they struggled to survive, and to realise that the comfortable lives we’ve lived would not have happened without their resilience...

Sergeant Sheldrake
Gordon Findlay
Upon joining the Military Police I was in 188 Squad, under the firm grip of Sergeant Sheldrake – a trim and neat career soldier who was allowed a moustache because he was 'Staff'.

Sheldrake was a tough but fair man whose job was to turn 24 young men into efficient military police, knowledgeable in all areas of military law and discipline, competent in self-defense, and capable of subduing large and aggressive men in close confrontations – should the need arise. (Later on, as we were to find out once we were posted to our active service units, “military police” and “confrontation” go hand-in-hand. . . .)

Like everyone in the British military, we did our share of square-bashing as neophyte military policemen, but after we started the training process, it was minimal. We were immersed in what we had to learn to be efficient military policemen: Army discipline, common and military law, observation training, spotting troublemakers, how to break up fights, writing out charge reports, giving evidence, and so on.

Later on, we had courses on driving and on motor vehicle maintenance, since we all had to be able to drive a wide range of vehicles from motorcycles and jeeps to ½-ton trucks and passenger cars.

But again, the Findlay good luck struck. Midway through our training schedule, Sergeant Sheldrake came into our billet one evening and said: “Hoy! Any of you lot play rugby?” Naturally I said I played the game, and when he asked me where, I was able to tell him I had played for a Scottish public (i.e. private) school.

“Right,” he said. “Draw yourself a pair of rugby boots from the depot recreation store and show up this Saturday at the practice field. Eight a.m. sharp.”

Now, Saturday was a good time, since it was the day set aside for all recruits to clean the barracks: to scour the parade square for stray leaves or stones or bits of paper; to sweep, wash, dry and polish the floors; to empty and clean the stove, wash and polish all windows, clean all the debris from around the building . . . and on and on. This was why Colchester barracks was the cleanest in all southeast England.

However, because I had a “duty practice” to go to – I was excused from all that, so I gladly checked out a pair of boots, dug out my gym shorts, and found my way over to the practice field.

Most of the players there were officers, several of them were in their late 30s and a couple in their 40s, and only a handful were really any good. It wasn’t too difficult to make a good impression. I was 19, super fit, and just a few months ago I had been playing competitive club rugby in Eastern Scotland. I can remember having a pretty good game .

Didn’t think too much about it at the time, but later in the week, as I came out of the mess hall at lunch, Sgt. Sheldrake called me over and told me I was going to be playing for the Depot 1st XV the next Saturday – a game against R.E.M.E. – the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers.

He also handed me a slip which authorized me to draw an official game jersey from company stores – a nice gaudy yellow and blue jersey carrying the badge of the Military Police. I had made the team. Can’t deny it – I was totally thrilled!

My Return to the Church...
Hugh McGrory
Coming from mainly Irish Catholic stock, it’s not surprising that I was baptised, in St. Mary's, Forebank,
Dundee, or to give it its Sunday name, St. Mary's, Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church. (My personal aversion to all religions may have come from the fact that, on that first visit, the priest soaked me with water…)

Nevertheless, I did try to revisit the church, about fifteen years ago, to see and photograph the baptismal font. When I arrived, I found that the main doors were chained and padlocked. I trotted round to a door in the wall surrounding the property thinking I might find someone in the priests’ quarters, but no one came to
the door. Maybe they knew it was me...

About twenty years ago, my brother, Mike, and I got interested in genealogy. We got into it simply to find out a little more about our roots but found it so interesting (a mix of detective work and puzzle-solving) that we kept at for quite a few years – until we got back as far as we could go...

We established that our lineage is three quarters Irish – Counties Donegal (McGrory), and Offaly (Ryan), and one eighth Scottish – County of Angus, around Dundee, (Lawson). The other eighth is a mystery because of an illegitimate birth, father unknown, but is probably also Scottish.

We didn’t really get very far for a number of reasons – the burning of the Irish Records office, in Dublin in 1922 at the beginning of the Civil War didn’t help, nor did the fact that most of our forebears seem to have been very poor (one great grandmother is buried in an unmarked, communal pauper’s grave in Hamilton, near Glasgow), and some were illiterate, signing documents with an 'X'. The furthest back we got, a Scottish line, was around 1813/14…

We had fun though, spent the whole day at the Scottish Registry Office in Edinburgh several times, visited the Mormon Church in Bingham Terrace, Dundee (very helpful), and tramped round many cemeteries in Scotland and Ireland (almost uniformly unhelpful).

We did make a trip to Hamilton a few years ago. We knew that our great grandfather Michael McRory (we came across several different spellings of our surname in official records), by his late teens, had left
Ireland around 1850, and was living in Bothwell (about 10 miles from Glasgow city centre), no doubt another victim of the potato famine.

We also knew that our father, born in 1910, was christened in St Mary’s Catholic Church, Hamilton, and we thought it would be interesting to see the church and to photograph the font that our dad was baptised in almost one hundred years before.

We found the church, it was open, and several women, parishioners no doubt, were dusting and polishing. We went in and stood for a moment, in silent contemplation, at the baptismal font.

One of the ladies joined us and we explained our mission, which she seemed to find interesting until another one of the women said, “But
that’s not it! That’s the new font – it's the old one you're looking for.”

“Oh, oh,” we said, to which she responded, “Don’t worry, the old one is outside. Follow me.”

We did, and she led us out to a small garden where we found the old, traditional eight-sided font acting as a flower planter in the middle of a small flowerbed! I was rather surprised, given that baptism is one of the foundational rituals of the Catholic Church. But what do I know – perhaps the font went through a ceremony of deconsecration or some such?

In any event, we achieved our objective of seeing the font in which our dad was baptised in 1910 (and his brother Barney before him). We also explored the surrounding area, the heart of the Old Town, where the family had lived at
various addresses for over 50 years…

(to be continued…)

Stargazing in Dundee
Bill Kidd
The death of King George VI in February 1952 ensured that the introduction of television to Scotland would
be in time for the coronation of his successor in June 1953. Although this target was met, few of her subjects watched the event in their own homes. Many of the larger local employers organised Coronation Parties in their canteen and provided a darkened area where interested employees and their families could watch flickering pictures of the great event on a hired TV set. Others contented themselves with joining the crowd gathered round Largs shop in Whitehall Street to watch on the demonstration set displayed in the window.

Within a couple of years, the novelty had worn off, and TV at home had become commonplace. One effect of this was that people who had attended live entertainment and the cinema were staying at home to watch TV so the live entertainment on offers gradually petered out. How many of us remember the world-famous stars who appeared at the packed-out Caird Hall? Well, here are just a few that I can recall.

Burl Ives was a very popular singer and movie actor who made the mistake of coming to Dundee in Students’ Charity Week in April 1952. Towards the end of his performance, he was kidnapped from on-stage and hustled to the Student’s Union in Park Place where he was ransomed by giving a couple of songs to those attending that evening’s Charity Ball. It was reported that Mr Ives enjoyed the fun. As for the paying Caird Hall audience who had their entertainment cut short, decency prevents me from reporting their comments!

A few months later Danny Kaye performed at the Caird Hall, part of a UK tour to promote his latest film Hans Christian Andersen. At the time Kaye had a series of very popular films behind him, probably The Secret Life of Walter Mitty being the best known. Once again, his appearance was a sell-out.

In September Bob Hope was another full house and at a top price of 15/- why wouldn’t it be? During the interval Hope nipped along the street to a packed Greens Playhouse for a ten-minute appearance to promote Son of Paleface which was to be screened there the following week. Many of the cinemagoers that evening were clearly anticipating his appearance and considered the 2/3 cinema ticket a real bargain!

Gracie Fields, who was at one time the most popular and highest paid film star in the UK and despite a
waning of her popularity, filled the Caird Hall in November 1952. Her fall from Grace (no pun intended) was the result of her marriage to an Italian and going to live in Capri. This certainly didn’t discourage her Dundee admirers who happily paid around 7/6 for the privilege of seeing her.

Whether it was the effect of the recent introduction of TV or a decrease in popularity Frank Sinatra only attracted an audience of around 1,100, half
the Caird Hall capacity, despite the ticket prices ranging from 5/- to 15/-. As I recall it, the price of tickets for his farewell appearance in Glasgow went up to three figures!

There were many other attractions to leave home of an evening for. How about Syncopating Sandy who
Tea time for Sandy Premierland - sadly derelict in 1963

chased the world record for playing the piano non-stop. This was held in Premierland in William Street, and over the week that he took to break the record of 180 hours, over 10,000 people went to see, if not to hear, him, the adults paying 1/- per head for the privilege. Sandy completed his marathon on 4th November 1952 and returned to his hometown of Bolton praising the people of Dundee for his great reception.

Sometimes mass entertainment in Dundee was free. One such event was the hysteria that resulted in thousands of Dundonians gathering at the Coffin Mill located at the junction of Polepark and Milnbank Roads. There they anticipated the appearance of the White Lady, the ghost of a mill worker killed in an accident at the end of the 19th century. As far as I know she failed to appear but as there had been no charge for attendance the spectators left without too much grumbling!

Over the years top line performers continue to appear in Dundee but they are mainly pop groups and singers. Film stars no longer do nation-wide publicity tours but rely on TV and social media to publicise their films. Huge venues in major cities currently seem to be the places to go for stellar entertainment with tickets costing tens or even hundreds of pounds each.

I can’t help thinking that the Caird Hall in 1952 was great value as well as great fun.

Just Hangin’ Around...
Hugh McGrory
Most of us will have had the experience of being introduced to a tiny new baby, a few weeks or a month or two old, reaching out to touch its little hand with our finger and being thrilled when it was grasped and held tightly. It may have felt like you were bonding, but in fact this is simply the ‘grasp reflex’ that all healthy babies are born with. It’s known as the palmar grasp reflex – first the fingers close, then they cling, and the literature says that a baby could actually support its own weight in this way.

Up to about four months old, babies can’t reach for things – they aren’t able to control their muscles well enough. The grasp reflex is an involuntary response, the baby isn’t controlling it, but between four and six months the child will start reaching for things like rattles, your glasses, or your earrings. It’s thought that the purpose of the reflex is to fire neurons to build neural pathways that lay the foundation for voluntary movements later on.

In 1962, I was working for Perth County, and we were living in the village of Longforgan in a rented council house. Longforgan, while in Perthshire, is just five miles from Dundee.

Our first child, Gillian was a newborn – a few weeks old and we decided (OK, I decided) to experiment to see whether this grasp reflex worked as billed...

We took her out to the backyard – those were the days when most houses had a drying green with poles
strung with clothes lines for drying newly-washed clothes. I maneuvered her until her hands touched the rope, she grasped it and held on tightly, supporting her whole weight.

Then we went in for a cuppa and left her hanging – she was still there ten minutes later… (No – of course we didn’t – she hung for only about ten seconds, just to prove the hypothesis, and my hands were never more than an inch away from her bottom and her shoulders/neck area to support her head.) The fact is that, when babies tire,
they’ll suddenly let go and fall back – so you have to be very careful. See it here.

Here's another method:

Come to think of it now, that might have been a better approach to use for my experiment...

Tom Burt
After Germany was defeated in World War 2, the country was divided into American, British, French and

Partitioning of Germany Sectoring of Berlin

Soviet zones of occupation. The city of Berlin, wholly within the Soviet zone, was also split, with the Soviets taking the eastern part of the city.

Berlin became a gateway to the west for many East Germans, and a high percentage of those were professionals. By 1961, this brain-drain had become a major problem for East Germany – the preponderance of the people who left were professionals – and by 1961 East German Chairman Ulbricht persuaded President Khrushchev that a 91-mile wall should be built around West Berlin, 27 miles of which separated the east and west zones of the city.

The Wall at the Brandenburg Gate Growing up with The Wall

With this as background, the recent anecdote from Gordon Finlay reminded me of my old school friend
David Wilkie. Dave was also an M.P. during his two years of national service, and, towards the end of his service, he, along with others, patrolled the Berlin wall for three to four months.

Such patrols were conducted in jeeps with crews of two or four, and sometimes with members of the other allied forces and West Germen border guards or police. From time to time they had encounters, usually friendly, with Russian troops and with East German Border Guards or police.

It was a great experience for Dave and he thoroughly enjoyed his time there. Sadly, he died several years ago.

In general discussion with him he once commented that, over those four months he found the Russians to be the most reliable and trustworthy to deal with. I thought this an interesting observation. Personally I don't think there is much wrong with the average Russian – as in so many other countries, it's just their leadership.

The Thornton Bullet
Hugh McGrory
When World War 2 began, and Germany had completed its successful invasion of Poland it turned its attention to France and Britain. At first there was a period known as “The Phoney War’ which lasted from September 1939 to May 1940. It’s a little-known fact that, during this period, and although officially at war, diplomatic meetings were taking place between Britain and Germany to try to avoid outright war – rather like two kids dancing round each other in the school playground, neither really hitting the other in case they got them really mad.

During this time, while the sea war was in deadly earnest, the air war was quite gentlemanly, and German pilots were under orders not to kill any British civilians – only attacking military targets. When the diplomatic efforts failed, Germany launched its major strategy – to avoid having to cross the Channel, the High Command believed that by attacking the civilian population from the air, Britain could be worn down into submission.

One aspect of this strategy was that there were many attacks on Scotland for strategic reasons, from Norway primarily, but also from Denmark and Holland. Attacks on military targets lacked well-planned strategies, but this didn’t seem to matter too much as long as the bombing and shelling terrorised the general public.

This telling photograph shows the aftermath of an attack on Peterhead in the north of Scotland, October
2nd, 1940 – a rescue worker handing over the body of a baby to a senior police officer. (Peterhead suffered more bombing raids than any other town or city in Scotland.)

By 1943 though, the tide had turned – the German’s had under-estimated the grit of the British public – and the last air attacks on Scotland occurred in April of that year. In a previous story I spoke of Dundee’s experience with the Luftwaffe (check it out here if you’re interested) and I told of a lone German aircraft strafing Dundee – this was in April 1943, and bullets showered the streets from Coldside, through the Top of Hilltown, Caldrum Street, and Victoria Road.

The path that aircraft took that day passed about quarter of a mile from Fairbairn Street, where I lived, and where, most days, we neighbourhood kids gathered to play in the street.

In October 2019, Denis Thornton known to many of you (two years behind me at school, and a fine field hockey player) wrote to me:

“I thought you may be interested in the attached photo I took of a wee bit of genuine Dundee WW2 memorabilia that I have been holding onto for over 75 years.
It's the cannon projectile fired from a German aircraft that my father and I found on the pavement near the local Fire Station, the morning after a night raid. I don't remember the date but think it was either 1943 or 44 & I could not find any record of the strafing.

I was brought up in Kingsway Place which is just a few hundred yards away, between Fairmuir Park and the Kingsway.

It is 80mm long & 20mm calibre & was possibly fired from an MGFF or FF/M cannon. The 20mm cannon

Dornier 217 Heinkel 111 Dornier 17
was fitted to Dornier 217, Junkers 88, Heinkel 111, & Dornier 17 bombers, among others, to replace smaller calibre machine guns & cannons. (MGFF stood for machine gun wing fixed). The MGFF was itself replaced, from 1941 onwards, with MG15/20 Mauser cannons but made a comeback in 1943 on the Messerschmitt Bf110 & other night fighters.

Junkers 88 MGFF in Heinkel 111 Messerschmitt 110

Between 1943 & 45 they were fitted on Ju. 88, Do. 217, & Me.110 night fighter aircraft as Schrage Musik Guns, meaning upward firing auto cannons – this allowed them to approach allied bombers from below & fire into their undersides undetected. So the enemy aircraft that fired it's cannons over the North of Dundee could have been any one of these…”

Denis was a great fan of our anecdote collection – sadly, he died in July, 2021.

I wish I had written this story earlier…

 The Golden Age of Science Fiction 3 
Brian Macdonald
Isaac Asimov

The most famous name in the pantheon of English-language, science-based science fiction must be that of Isaac Asimov. Asimov is the true giant of the Golden Age. Born in very poor circumstances in a Jewish
family in 1920 in Russia and surviving a grave illness as an infant, he emigrated, with his family, to America in 1923 and grew up in Brooklyn, NY.

Of superior intellect, he transcended his humble background and earned a doctorate in chemistry from Columbia University. He pursued an academic career at Boston University after his WW2 military service, achieving the position of professor of biochemistry. A prolific writer of both scientific papers and textbooks, he had turned his hand to science fiction early in his career and this became his primary work although he never stopped working as a science educator.

Asimov defined science fiction as follows, “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.” Over his life, Asimov is reported to have written more than 500 books and papers.

It is difficult to decide which of Asimov’s three major themes of SF was the best-known or important. I go with the Robot series. The word ‘robot’ was not his. It was invented by a Czech writer from a Czech word. But Asimov used his scientific knowledge to write a series of novels about the development of the science of robotics. He did invent the Three Laws of Robotics. Asimov's Three Laws are designed to govern the development of robots and the whole science of robotics with the protection of humans and how humans should retain control over robots as guiding principles. They became the guiding principles of robot science fiction and retain some value although they are not without flaw in real life. The laws are, in order of priority:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Asimov invented US Robots and Mechanical Men, a company which designed and built robots. His chief protagonist was a Dr Susan Calvin, the head robopsychologist of US Robots. (In inventing this word, Asimov was foreseeing the future development of robots to the point of their developing to a level of self-awareness and almost human thinking capacity.) Calvin appears in the novel I, Robot, and a number of short stories on this theme. Those who have not read the book but have seen a film of the same name, very loosely based on Asimov’s stories, and starring Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan, will not know that Asimov’s Calvin was not a beautiful young woman, as portrayed by Moynahan in the film but rather an older,
Bridget Moynahan, Sonny, and Will Smith
grumpier, dedicated, and desiccated scientist. The film’s plot line concerns a conflict between the Three Laws and a robot which had developed a will of its own and gone rogue.

Asimov foresaw the development of robots that re-designed and improved themselves, generation by generation, becoming more and more intelligent and self-aware, until they surpassed humans and realised they were superior to humans both physically and mentally and did not need us, nor were inferior or necessarily subservient to humankind. This is an aspect of robotics which is very much a matter of concern with the development of Artificial Intelligence today. Robots are also stronger than humans and capable of tireless, endless, repetitive movements on a production line, and this is what they were originally designed to do. They are not yet as mobile or manoeuvrable as humans, nor are they capable of intellectual leaps, but humans can abandon the process of thinking in logical steps and make such intuitive leaps. Already, prosthetics exist which have self-governed, near-human delicacy and accuracy of movement and a great range of movement, sometimes controlled by the movement of human muscles and nerve impulses and now, in theory, by the electrical impulses of mere human thought.

We have reached a time when robots now design themselves, evolving their consciousness and abilities generation by generation until they will eventually be near-human in many respects. Asimov’s 1976 Nebula and Hugo award-winning short novel, The Bicentennial Man, tells of a robot owned by a family, a robot which stayed with the family as a faithful retainer, over several generations, receiving upgrades and being treated more and more as a family member until the robot, played with sensitivity in the film by Robin Williams, decides it wants to be a man as it approaches 200 years of age. In order to be recognised as such,
Robin Williams as Andrew, the robot
by rule of world government, the robot must discard robotic immortality. The final scene shows the now bicentennial man, with his beloved, aged mistress, in an emotional climax to the film that may surprise many. Asimov wrote the story for a competition, but his tale was the only entry. No award was given but the story lives on.

We are not finished with Asimov, most prolific and spellbinding of SF writers. While continuing with academic work and authorship, he wrote his magnificent Foundation series. As a scientist, Asimov was well aware of the inevitability of entropy. Like so many SF tales, this began as a short story in 1942 but grew into a novel which posits a galactic empire and a mathematician, Hari Seldon, who compiles a mathematical theory of the decline of that empire. He went on to write several sequels and then prequels, well into the 1980s. The Foundation series is acknowledged as ‘the best all-time series’, being awarded a unique Nebula Award for this in 1966, even before the later additions.

The third famed Asimov series is a trilogy known as the Empire series. These three books are not as closely tied together as the Foundation set but all three series, Robot, Foundation and Empire have links with one

another which make it clear to the reader that they exist in a common universe grown from the brain of Asimov. Such a breadth of concept by an author is not unique but it is amazing. Among concepts that Asimov (and others) dreamed up were the uncannily accurate prediction of the rapidly evolving development of robotics, portable devices you could carry in your pocket which would calculate, communicate, find information from a variety of sources and store data without connecting cables, face to face, instantaneous, long-distance communication devices and more. To me and to many, he is the giant of science fiction. To Tim Berners Lee (acknowledged as the inventor of the World Wide Web), he may have been an inspiration. Isaac Asimov died in 1992 in the Brooklyn in which he grew up.

To be continued

One can't help but wonder what Asimov would think of the current state of the science of robotics.

When it Comes to the Crunch...
Hugh McGrory
Recently my stories seem to have been about surveying or my body parts. This story features both (aren’t you lucky…?)

In the fifties and sixties, Britain was building many dams and generating stations for producing hydroelectric energy. While some of these were in England and Wales, most, by far, were in Scotland (for obvious reasons of geology).

This meant that many large road-transport vehicle trips would need to be made on Scottish roads to deliver

Cruachan Dam – about 40 miles from Killin Typical Hydroelectric Turbines

the large turbines and other equipment needed at the various sites. Many of these Highland roads were not fit for purpose, too narrow, too twisty, built on peaty substrate and unable to take the heavy loads.

Many of the roads were in Perth County, and in the early ‘60s I was working for the County as Resident Engineer for a number of road/bridge-improvement projects in Perthshire, on roads such as the A84 and A85. I was living in the village of Killin and had an office in the village (total staff was five).

One day I was out with my rodman doing some surveying near Ledcharrie farm about halfway between Killin and Crianlarich. He and I were wading through knee-high heather (very tiring after a short time), and I found that I couldn’t see over a slight rise in front of us. Fortunately (or so I thought in the moment) there was a large boulder sticking up out of the vegetation about four or five feet high and about six feet across (presumably a remnant of the last Ice Age). I clambered up on top and was able to establish our next line of sight.

I agilely jumped down into the heather – and landed on my face with a searing pain in my ankle. My helper picked me up and I realised that I was done for the day – I couldn’t put any weight on my foot and thought I might have broken my ankle. The rodman said that the nearest emergency department was at Stirling Royal Infirmary, about forty miles away, so he took my car keys, helped get me to my car, loaded me in, and then drove me to Stirling.

I was x-rayed, then saw the doctor on duty. He said that there were no broken bones,but that I had torn
ligaments in my ankle. He then said that he’d never seen such an injury before!

“You’ve never seen a torn ankle ligament before,” I asked?

"Let me explain,” he said. “When someone turns an ankle, they usually go over to the outside and damage the ligament, it's known as an inversion – the opposite is an eversion, on the inside of the ankle which is much less common. You managed to do both at the same time – most unusual.”

He said he didn't think surgery would be needed and told me how to treat it – the well-known RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression (taping, bracing, or wrapping with an elastic bandage), and Elevation.

He also said that I should use crutches or a cane at first but try to walk on it as soon as possible.)

I took a day off work, then was back (in the office only) the next day. My biggest regret was that it put a hole in my field hockey season – it didn’t keep me out for very long – it took quite a few weeks, but I was surprised and pleased at how quickly I recovered.

For the first few days, one of our neighbours lent me a crutch, but they only had one, which I found a bit awkward, so I had the idea to use my field hockey stick as a cane (it was almost the right length – about an inch too long) and that worked quite well.

My daughter, Gill, was about three at the time, and she was heard explaining to one of her friends: “My daddy hurt himself and he can’t walk right. He has to use a
nockey stick,
a crunch."

I Join the Military Police
Gordon Findlay
On being 'called up' for army service I was told to report to begin traning as an MP at Colchester Barracks, which, at that time, was Headquarters Depot for the Royal Military Police in Great Britain. Most of the
other trainees were fairly tall and well built, all with at least a high school education. A few were the sons of policemen and wanted to do their National Service as military police officers.

Colchester itself is a fairly small East coast town, famous for its oysters, and the barracks themselves were neat and comfortable. They were also incredibly clean: as if they had been freshly washed and swept, with every tiny scrap of paper or leaf tidied away.

Which, in fact, was the case, and the recruits were the ones who made all this possible, scrubbing and polishing every square inch of the place until it gleamed like a new penny.

The training of a Military Police officer is long by conventional Army standards: 16 weeks. Normal training for infantry soldiers is 8 to 10 weeks, and, as befits an establishment dedicated to turning out young advocates of military law, discipline was strict and rigorously maintained.

Typical MP of the 1950s.

If at any time during the day, an MP recruit had to cross the parade square, he did it “at the double. That meant, even if you were simply crossing one small segment of the main square on your way to the Mess
Hall, you went into full parade style . . . arms pumping up to mid-chest height, spine straight, and marching at double-time. If you were caught trying to sneak across without going full bore (and there were many vigilant eyes watching that damn square) it was an immediate charge, a screaming bollocking from a staff sergeant, and a minimum of 7 days on kitchen or toilet-cleaning duty.

At the start of our training process, we were thoroughly indoctrinated into the impressive tradition of the Military Police. We were reminded of our “critical” and “vital” role during active combat, when redcaps had to direct the chaotic flow of trucks, jeeps, armoured personnel carriers, troops, and tanks pouring off beaches and into battle. . . as shells and bullets flew everywhere.

We were reminded of one famous Military Policeman during WW2, in Normandy who took over a crucial intersection which controlled all the motorized columns trying to escape the landing beaches during the Allied landings in France. The position was terribly exposed. There was no cover, and it was both targeted and well-bracketed by the Germans, but this MP sergeant stood and directed traffic while shells rained down and exploded nearby. German snipers, firing from a church steeple several hundred yards away shot steadily and tried to take him out. He was wounded first in the leg, then in the arm and shoulder, but stood at that crossroad for three and a half hours, bleeding, but continuing to direct the flow of vehicles and troops...

It was only when he finally collapsed from loss of blood that he relinquished his post. At the field hospital, doctors extracted five bullets and several pieces of shrapnel from him. He survived and won a Military Medal.

An Earie Story 2
Hugh McGrory
I did warn you that you hadn’t heard the last from my right ear…

Some years after my cyst was removed, I began to lose hearing in that ear. I was pretty sure that it was just earwax, went to the doc. and he said, “No problem”, and proceeded to irrigate my earhole – the standard ‘skoosh pressurised water in the ear’ job. The water did clear most of the wax (before descending onto my collar and shoulder – very uncomfortable going home afterwards).

However, in the next day or two I realised something was wrong – my ear seemed ‘squelchy’, as if it were
wet (which it wasn’t). Back to the doc. who says, “You’ve got a punctured eardrum, sorry about that, but it happens sometimes – it should heal fine in the next week or so.” Which it did, with no seeming ill effects.

A couple of years later I go through the exact same scenario – deaf, skooshing, squelching, puncture, heals okay… The doc says that the operation I had may have narrowed the earhole somewhat, contrbuting to the recurring build up.

My doctor retires, and I get a new GP, my ear clogs up again, my new guy listens to my tale of woe and says he’ll be careful, and I’ll be damned if I don’t go through the exact same rigmarole again (I hear you – you’re right – I do seem to be a slow learner!)

So when, a year or two down the road (and doctor number three -
number two having given up his practice to concentrate on surgery) my ear fills up again, the new guy
suggests that, instead of the water torture he’ll try using a curette (a surgical instrument designed for scraping biological tissue). I find this an unpleasant procedure, a bit painful, and it created a peculiar feeling in my throat which made me want to cough. He assured me that he’s nowhere near the eardrum as he poked around, and he did get a fair amount of wax out.

Another couple of years pass by, and I tell him I want to see a specialist for my next wax job. He agrees and sets up the appointment. I go see the new guy, tell him the story, he sits me down, and uses a long thin tube attached to a vacuum cleaner to perform a ‘micro-suction ear cleaning’ procedure on both ears, then sends me on my way. I was in there about seven minutes. Perfect…! For the next ten years or so I had this done very successfully
every few years by various practitioners.

Lately though, with Covid screwing things up, I’ve been putting a few drops of vegetable oil in my earhole every few weeks (the stuff my wife uses for cooking), and occasionally a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. (The medical term for earwax is cerumen, and hydrogen peroxide is, apparently, a cerumenolytic, which means that it can soften, break down, and dissolve earwax. When you put it in you can hear a gentle crackling or bubbling for a few minutes while it does its work.)

This regimen seems to soften the wax enough to allow the natural cleansing process of the ear to function – I haven’t had a problem so far. Actually, most of the ear guys I’ve seen over the years told me to do this, but I never got around to it…

We did establish earlier that I’m a slow learner, didn’t we…?

For those interested, I found these videos showing the three methods: water, curette, and suction.

Lost Occupations
Bill Kidd
When we were children, or even adolescents, people who earned their living as Computer Programmers, Astronauts or Television Repair Engineers were thin on the ground! What we had, among others, were now long-gone occupations, such as Coalmen, Fishwives and Tram Conductors. I cannot help feeling that with
the disappearance of many of these occupations we have lost some of the people that added colour to our lives at a time that it was often needed.

I remember the fishwives dressed in their traditional aprons and striped dresses carrying a basket-woven creel in front of them and sometimes another at their back. I believe that you could tell by the pattern of their dress where they came from. I know from the Smokies that we had for our tea that ‘our’ fishwife came from Arbroath and that Smokies were unavailable from the Pitenweem fishwife who called at our grandmother. These were strong, hard-working women who often did not get the recognition they deserved for the service they provided. Now we have an occasional fish van with a loud horn that calls when it feels like it.

How often have we been stuck behind a bus while passengers buy their tickets from the driver? When this
happens to me my thoughts turn to that now extinct species, the Tram or Bus Conductor. From my earliest days I have a clear memory of being on the tramcar and of a wee man festooned with a big-ticket printing machine and a money bag. He (and it was a ‘he’ in those days) always seemed cheerful as he issued tickets to the passengers. As I grew older, I realised that only two things really upset him. The first was when someone offered to pay for a penny ha’penny ticket with a half crown eliciting the plea “D'ye no hae nothing smaller?” The second cardinal sin was to argue that there was still room upstairs when the conductor had already said that there wasn’t!

Some tram conductors used to show off to the school kids by jumping from the last step of the tram stairs, grabbing the pole that split the entry platform and swinging round it!

As WW2 progressed only the older tram and bus conductors remained, and their younger colleagues were replaced by female ‘Clippies’. Anyone who considered that the Clippies were a soft touch were quickly disabused of this as they found themselves watching the receding tram that they had so recently been aboard. We now have driver/conductors who are all too familiar with giving a small amount of change from a ten-pound note. Times have certainly changed.

Another almost extinct species is the Coalman. He had a very important function in a city that teemed with

tenements. Inside most tenement flats was a coal bunker. This was often placed at a window in such a way as to provide a not very comfortable window seat. The bunker was basically a box with a hinged lid that contained around 2 hundredweights (2 cwt for our younger readers). The remarkable thing about the bunker in the kitchen of a top floor flat was that it ever got filled at all! Can you imagine the effort needed to carry a Half-Mett (¾ cwt or 84 lbs) sack of coal up three flights of stairs? Well, this was how a coal man earned his daily bread.

First of all, he had to bag the coal then physically load his vehicle, whether motorised or horse drawn, then deliver it to his customers. Apart from a face blackened by coal dust the coal man could be recognised by the heavily studded back protector that he wore. These were strong men who not only delivered the coal but stood up to all the housewifely complaints about there being stones or too much dross in the delivery. The few coal merchants that I have seen around recently have lorries and little mechanical aids to help them in their daily toil. As far as I know they no longer deliver to top floor flats in tenements thanks to gas central heating!

Now we come to a truly extinct species, the man who emptied the money from the gas meter. When I was very small, I can recall that there was a blue mug that held pennies for the gas meter. Our house depended
on gas for lighting as well as cooking so if we ran out of pennies it was a major problem necessitating going round neighbours seeking change for a sixpence. During WW2 inflation meant that our gas meter developed an insatiable appetite for pennies, and this required frequent visits from the meter man to empty the meter. I was always pleased to see him because there were always a few more pennies in the meter than that needed to cover our gas bill. This greatly pleased my mother to the extent that I was given one or two of the surplus pennies. On the face of it emptying gas meters was not a physically taxing job but I suspect that spending a day carrying a canvas bag full of pennies would be rather tiring. Today those of us who use prepayment meters use prepaid cards that don’t need to be emptied. Now, measured in pounds, the meter
is just as voracious by means of electronic technology and I no longer have the pleasure of the little bonus that I got when the meter man arrived.

My favourite lost occupation is perhaps my favourite. Prevalent before WW2 then making a re-appearance from 1946 onwards was the Onion Johnnie. Dressed exactly as anyone who read comic books expected a

Frenchman to appear, beret, white collarless shirt horizontally striped with blue. Pushing his bike, festooned with strings of onions he was an exotic addition to the Dundee street scene. In my childish mind I believed that Johnnie had got up in France one morning, covered his bike with as many onions as it would carry, kissed his wife goodbye, and cycled of to a port with a ship that would take him to Dundee. It was only many years later that I realised that the economics of onion selling meant that Johnnie and his Breton farming mates had rented an empty barn and filled it with strings of onions that they had grown. Every morning during the season, with replenished bikes, our intrepid onion magnates set off to cover yet another part of their territory only returning to their barn, or perhaps a supply van, to replenish their stocks. I never did learn the secrets of their operation or where they spent their off-duty time, but I did learn to like the French and their onion soup!
An Earie Story
Hugh McGrory
Regular readers will know that my eyes are not my best feature – neither are my ears – although that’s unfair to my left ear which has always been fit for purpose. My right ear's the problem…

When I was 10 or so, I got what I thought was a pimple in my right ear, not very far in, just at the beginning of the ear canal or, as you probably refer to it, the external auditory meatus (mee-ate-us).

It got bigger and hurt more, and my mother decided we had to go see our doctor. At that time our family practice was Nelson, Simpson, and Langlands, in Garland Place, across the road from DRI (Dundee Royal Ifirmary). The two junior partners were OK, but I always thought Dr. Nelson was a crabbit auld bugger – and, of course, our appointment was with Nelson.

He had me sit with my head turned to the window and told me he wanted to examine it – he didn’t mention that he had picked up a scalpel as I was getting into position… He held my head tightly then I felt this searing pain in my ear as he sliced the lump open and then proceeded to squeeze the pus out. Meanwhile I was seeing stars and blacking out. He gave me a couple of minutes to recover then sent us on our way.

A year or two later it returned, and I was treated with an antibiotic which dealt with the problem.

Fast forward a few years and I’m working in London, England, when I have a recurrence. I go to see a doctor and he says that it’s an infected sebaceous cyst (Like the photo, though mine was a bit smaller) and
the long term solution is to remove it surgically. I get word that I have an appointment to have the operation in about three weeks time. It would be done under a local anaesthetic.

At the appointed hour on a Saturday, morning I turn up at the hospital and get ushered right into a small operating theatre. Nobody's around, so I sit on the operating table and wait for the surgeon. She duly appears and confirms why I’m there.

“I’ll take a look she says…” and does. Then she asks, “Is this the right ear?’ I confirm that it is.

“Is it painful?

“No,” I say, “hasn’t been for the past week or so.”

“Strange – I can’t see any sign of it. You haven’t taken any antibiotics recently, have you?”

And I say, “As a matter of fact I had a bad throat recently and my GP put me on a course for it.”

“Ah, that might account for it.”

She then explained that an infected cyst is a collection of pus surrounded by a lining which creates a little bag, and when she operates it’s important that she get the whole thing out – if any of the lining is left the cyst will most likely recur. Then she uttered these wonderful words:

“ I really can’t see anything, and there’s a limit to the poking around I can do under a local anesthetic, so I think you should go home – not have the operation today.”

“Fine by me,” I said, jumping off the table and scarpering. Sometimes you win one…

The cyst returned, and about three years later I was in DRI having the operation done under a general anesthetic. (Talk about going round in circles, the operating theatre was 100 yards from the GP’s surgery where Nelson used his scalpel on me some fifteen years before.)

To be continued…

The Golden Age of Science Fiction 2
Brian Macdonald
Orwell, John W Campbell, and Astounding Science Fiction

Eric Arthur Blair wrote socially-motivated novels under the pen-name of George Orwell. A man with a varied and colourful albeit too short life, he had been a policeman in Burma and fought as a volunteer
on the socialist side in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, as many committed British socialists did. Always motivated by social inequality, his novel Animal Farm was published in 1945, an allegory of revolution and dictatorship. His dictum from that book, that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” has become part of our lexicon and may, to some, have the ring of something that might be thought by the ruler of a present-day totalitarian state.

It was in 1949 that Orwell’s best-known work, 1984, hit the bookshops. This is genuine hard science fiction, depicting, as it does, a dystopian, future, totalitarian state where the English language is twisted into ‘Newspeak’, to mean what the rulers say it means, when ordinary people exist in servitude in a constantly-monitored and controlled life under the heel of secret police, when a spontaneous romance is illegal, when food is rationed and of poor quality, when the huge TV set strategically hung on the wall can see and hear what is happening in your home as well as spout out endless propaganda and when everyone must be careful to speak and think only positively about the state. Its ruler is the allegedly benevolent ‘Big Brother’.

Orwell’s Room 101 in the Ministry of Love is to be feared, a chamber where terrifying inquisitions take place, reminiscent of the real-world reports of events that took place at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and of tales of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. Establishments exist in Orwell’s world like the American gaol for unconvicted Islamic prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. If any of these aspects of a grim, harsh existence sounds familiar in 2021, it confirms Orwell’s gift of accurate prophecy. Sadly, Eric Blair died of tuberculosis in 1950 and we were denied further gems from his pen.

John Wyndham was a British science fiction writer of the fantasy mode. Born earlier than most of the great names and with no academic background, his best-known work, by no means his first, is his 1951 The Day of the Triffids,

which features a six-foot-tall plant that can move about the countryside, breeds in great numbers and blinds and kills people with a whip-like extrusion. The Midwich Cuckoos are a group of identical and sinister children with special powers, born in an English village to unsuspecting and innocent women after a meteor shower. The Kraken Wakes is about monsters from outer space that arrive and land in deep seas. The title word comes from Scandinavian mythology. Wyndham’s catalogue of mostly science fiction short stories and novels is extensive. Another of his best-known, full-length books is The Chrysalids of 1955 which treats on eugenics and a land where mental or physical difference from the norm is dangerous, frowned on and stamped out. There may have been inspiration for this book from the appalling Third Reich of not many years earlier.

The Quatermass Experiment was not a book but ran to a number of sequels and re-makes as a British TV series, the most recent being in 2005. The first series caused a sensation on British TV, as a new type of
drama, when it played in 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and the year Colonel Hunt’s expedition sent Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay to the summit of Everest, the first climbers to achieve this feat. Quatermass was a scientist who sent a team into space. On their return, two of the crew were missing and one who returned morphed slowly into an alien which had taken his body over.

I recall well, as a 15-year-old, watching agog the final episode on the TV we had acquired just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, as the professor desperately tried to communicate with what was left of the original space crew member’s sentience within the alien form. Wonderful fantasy science fiction! The screenwriter was the Englishman Nigel Kneale, a product of the same era, born in 1922 but not well known to SF readers as his career was mostly in screenwriting, not published work.

John W (Wood) Campbell was an early 20th century writer of SF short stories with a growing reputation and, in 1937, aged only 27, became that editor of ASF who was later hounded by ‘the Feds’, an editor who fostered the careers of many great science fiction authors of his generation. Founded in 1930 as Astounding Stories of Super-Science, the name evolved to become Astounding Science Fiction, changed again, in 1960 by Campbell, to Analog Science Fiction & Fact, to get rid of the word ‘Astounding’. His reign was long and successful. Campbell died at a young 61 years in 1971 after 33 years in the editor’s green eyeshade.

ASF was, during the golden era, the science fiction magazine of choice, publishing most of the great SF writers first, but over time other journals entered the field and its popularity waned. The edition of July 1939, is considered to mark the beginning of the Golden Age of SF. This issue marked the first stories from Isaac Asimov and A E van Vogt, another who went on to be a notable SF author.

The editor who followed Campbell, Ben Bova, a humanities-educated, prolific author throughout his life,

John W Campbell Astounding Science Fiction July, 1939 Ben Bova
had a more open view of acceptable content than the strait-laced Campbell, publishing material Campbell had rejected as too risqué, and had a period of award-winning success, taking the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor six times. (The Hugo Editor’s Award is for editors of magazines, novels, anthologies, or of other science fiction or fantasy works published or translated into English during the year.) The magazine is still published but is no longer the influential organ it once was.

Many of the stars of the scientifically-oriented SF literature of the golden age had a science education and background. Inevitably their authorship started as their moonlight job but later took over their lives. Some managed to balance both streams successfully – John W Campbell, had a physics degree and had also studied at MIT. (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the most prestigious scientific research colleges in the world.) Put simplistically, hard SF is based on current science projected into the future with outcomes that could and might happen. In many cases the – in their time thought ridiculous – predicted future events have not only come to pass in the decades since but have been surpassed, eclipsing the imaginations of these great writers. It is this science-based branch of SF that has been my preference over fantasy and it is my next topic.

To be continued

Sibbald Point
Hugh McGrory
Given my background as a civil engineer, several of my stories in this collection have dealt with surveying – basically, sighting on targets and taking various readings. I’m reminded of an occasion when I put those skills to personal use – in an elementary way…

When we came to Toronto in 1966, we found that in summer, those with cottages would take off from the city every chance they could. Those who couldn’t afford a cottage still had many parks they could visit national, provincial, and local, and many did so at weekends and holidays. So, ‘When in Rome’…

One particular week we decided that we would takes the kids to Sibbald Point Provincial Park. This park is

only about twenty miles north of us as the crow flies (Toronto City Centre is about twenty five miles south).

On the shore of Lake Simcoe, you can see from the plan that it has a lot to offer – swimming, sunbathing, boating, fishing, hiking, camping…

At work, the previous week, I happened to be on a project with one of the partners of our town planning group and mentioned our plans for the weekend. He said that he had a small Zodiac inflatable boat (very like
the one in the photograph) if we’d like to borrow it. So, we did...

Bright and early on the Saturday morning we picked up the (deflated) boat with the promise to bring it back in the evening, in one piece. The photograph is pretty much how it looked, once inflated. Not big, but it could handle two adults and two kids, and it had a small outboard motor which allowed for trolling around and saved having to row everywhere.

When we got there the kids swam in the roped-off, lifeguarded area – I inflated the boat and got it organised.

Then I took the life-jacketed kids for a ride – their mother's opinion of the boat’s seaworthiness (or perhaps my seaworthiness…) was such that she stayed ashore with the food and fixins.

We had to skirt the swimming area – no boats allowed, of course – and basically followed the shoreline. We got closer to the shore at one point (the kids wanted to try fishing) and I switched off the motor and tilted it out of the water in case we got too shallow and damaged the prop.

This was achieved by pulling out a split pin, tilting the motor and replacing the pin. Simple process, but obviously too complicated for me, since I managed to drop the pin. I can’t remember exactly what it looked like, but it was probably a stainless steel, hairpin cotter like the drawing. I’m immediately thinking “I’ll never find it – I’ll have to tell my boss’s boss that I lost the pin, like an idiot.” Not difficult for me to replace of course, but still...”

We weren’t in deep water (seriously – it was about three feet) and I slipped over the side doing my best to keep the boat in the same place and ducked under the water to see if I could spot the pin. The bottom was
sandy with small rocks here and there and water plants swaying to and fro. I couldn’t see very well (fortunately we had underwater goggles – unfortunately, they were back with the food).

So, Plan B… I scanned the shoreline for prominent markers – trees, bushes, buildings, boulders etc. When I found one near the shore (Point A) I lined it up with another in the distance (B). I then turned through about 120 degrees and looking back along the beach found another two, (C) and (D). Once I was sure I had both lines-of-sight memorised, we set out back to our base, my daughter ran up the beach and got the goggles and we set out back to the scene of the crime.

When we got close, I got out of the boat again and lined up (A) and (B), I then pulled the boat along that line keeping them lined up and watched (C) and (D) until they were coincident. I then put on the goggles to start the arduous task of finding this little pin – good luck with that, eh!

I ducked my head in the water – and the pin was about two feet away… I picked it up, stuck it back in position and told the kids to get ready to fish.

I know, a little common sense and a whole lot of luck – but sometimes the universe lets you win one…

Chinese Puzzle
Michael Marks
You can wait for an hour for a bus and then two come at once, or so it is said. Here is my next bus!

Once again, it is not quite a reminiscence or at least only partly so, but it shows something about the Morgan which it seems is lacking these days.

In 1984 I was working in Beijing and got talking to a British colleague who was also working there. The

Street scenes – Beijing 1984.
population of China was at that time about one billion. Almost all foreigners had to work out of Beijing and the total number of British was about a hundred, half of this number included diplomats and their families, so one could say without exaggerating that we few non-diplomats were somewhat of a rarity.

Imagine our surprise when my colleague and I realized that we had both been at the Morgan at the same time, although not in the same class.

Here is the amazing bit though. In talking about this coincidence with another of we band of the few it transpired that there was another British resident in Beijing who had also been at the Morgan at the same time!

Three of us out of a hundred and fifty out of a billion. I leave the statisticians to work out the odds

Monarch of all I Survey
Hugh McGrory
When I sat down to write this little story my mind digressed for a moment: I taught computer courses at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (later Ryerson University) in Toronto for some twenty-odd years – not my day job, but in the evenings (or weekends). Sometimes, when a student wasn’t doing well, I would talk to him/her to see what the problem was. I would ask, for example, if they had been attending the computer lab sessions to work through the set exercises. I found it amusing that sometimes they would say, “No sir, I don’t need to – I’m repeating this course.” My answer would, of course, be some version of: “but you failed... Duh!”

Jumping back in time to the mid ‘50s, I was a civil engineering undergrad at Queen’s College, St. Andrews University. One of our required courses was Surveying, and we had to attend a week of field work – literally, since it took place in what was then Menzieshill Farm (pr. Meeng'iss hill not Men'zays hill) but is now a huge housing area.
We were to work in teams of three, and, by the end of the week, we each had to hand in a large plan of that part of the farm, drawn to scale, and accurately showing the access road, fences, gates, barns etc.)

On this particular day one team was tasked with climbing the small hill on the farm and setting up a theodolite on top of a trig point to take various angular measurements. (I described the theodolite in a previous story – if you need a refresher, see it here. The instructor told them to head up the ridge to the location and he would be right behind to get them started.

One of them said ”No need to rush, Sir; I know what to do. I’m repeating this course...” (Oh, oh...) and he became the leader of the group.

At this point I need to explain ‘trig point’. Around 1747, just after the Bonnie Prince Charlie failed rebellion, the English government decided that they needed better military maps of Scotland and its coastline – in case the Scots decided to rebel again. This was the beginning of the Ordnance Survey agency, which produced some excellent maps of Scotland (for that time). Some forty years later fears of the French Revolution spreading across the channel led to work to create better maps of the southern coastline.

Based on these efforts, various maps were produced in rather piecemeal fashion until in the ‘30s, a major new effort to triangulate the British Isles was undertaken. It began by setting out a baseline in the south of England (it actually runs across part of what is now Heathrow Airport) – measured with extreme accuracy and five miles long. They then set up a target on a nearby hill and measured the two angles from each end of the line to the third point. Each of the three corners of the triangle are triangulation points or trig points.

By using each of the sides of the first triangle, three new triangles were set up to three new targets or trig points, and by repeating this process, the UK was eventually (by the mid ‘60s) covered by a network of trig points (some 6,500) and these are the basis from which all of the features shown on the famous Ordnance Survey maps were located.

Trig points or trig pillars were constructed at each corner of every triangle – see below:

Trig Pillar Trig Point on Dundee Law Theodolite Mount on Top

The plate shown in the rightmost photograph is a three-point kinematic mount (sometimes referred to as a spider) and it's used as in this old photograph below – as you can see, the pillar acts as the tripod, and the theodolite can be set so that it is exactly over the centre of the trig point.

And so, back to our story:

Some time after the three-man team had headed off to the Menzies Hill Trig Point the Instructor set off to see how they were getting on under the leadership of the student who had spoken up earlier.

When he got there, he was astonished at what he found... I suspect his reaction was something like "Good God! The Three Stooges." While they had understood that the theodolite had to be centered above the trig point centre, they had made one mistake:

Remember that the top of the trig pillar is four feet above the ground and the top is roughly a one foot square. They had the theodolite and attached tripod perched on this tiny square and the fearless leader was standing on it as well – his two hapless mates were trying to hold him in place – one holding his feet in position the other supporting his butt

(For obvious reasons I couldn’t find a photograph to do this situation justice, so I’ve tried to draw it – as you will also see, drawing is not one of my skills…) See it here. To get a another impresssion of this scene, add another person on the ground, and a theodolite and tripod on top of the pillar in this photo.

'The team leader later said "You make one little mistake, and you never live it down – all I did was forget to take the theodolite off the tripod..."


Trig points are now obsolete. Some have been removed (but some 5,500 still exist). The surveying process I was taught is now history, replaced by the use of GPS and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) signals via receiver and antenna. A quote from the Ordnance Survey: "Today the receivers that make up the OS Network are coordinated to an accuracy of just 3 mm over the entire length of Great Britain. (What this means is that a modern surveyor with this equipment can stand on any spot in Britain and know their location to an accuracy of 3mm...)

The Menzieshill pillar is gone – its former location is shown by the red 'X' in the photo:

D.C. Thomson
Gordon Findlay
When I was growing up, Dundee was known as the city of three “J.s” – jute, jam, and journalism. The city was the centre of the U.K.’s jute trade: processing the raw jute from India into the sacking, heavy duty covers and the backing for linoleum. Keiller’s, the well-known marmalade and jam maker was headquartered in Dundee, sent its products all over the world, and was a major employer.

And the city was the home of D.C. Thomson, an independent printer and publisher of several newspapers both daily and weekly, plus an impressive array of boys’ papers, family-oriented weekly papers and the renowned Scots magazine, a glossy monthly publication all about Scottish affairs, personalities, and scenery.

I just knew that was where I was going to work since I had decided pretty early on that my future lay in the printed word. I had already decided that I was going to do my National Service in the armed forces first, rather than tackle university.

With this in mind, but knowing that I had a few months after graduating from Morgan Academy before I was going to be called up, I applied at D.C. Thomson’s, was interviewed, and hired on the spot, with the understanding that as soon as my military service was over I would return to D.C. Thomson’s and continue my journalism career with them. That suited me just fine, so I duly showed up at Meadowside (head office of D.C. Thomson’s in Dundee).

I really didn’t know what to expect for my foray into the world of journalism, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be told to report to the second floor, to Ralph Duncan, the editor of the “Adventure” – a boys’ paper, one of four boys’ papers D.C. Thomson published weekly (The Adventure, the Wizard, the Hotspur and the Rover), and which were gobbled up by thousands of youngsters across Great Britain. But – BOYS’ Papers!

I was stunned, and upset, and it probably showed when I walked into the offices of “The Adventure” and a warm welcome from editor Ralph Duncan – a hearty, thick-set man of 40-ish with a cheerful mien and an energetic nature.

I think Ralph realized that I had had my sights set a bit higher than starting as a lowly sub-editor on a boys’ magazine, so he took me aside and gently pointed out that I was a total unknown quantity at this point, and that it was up to me to prove that I could edit copy quickly and accurately – even if it was the derring-do copy destined to be read by youngsters of 12, 14 or 15. And, of course, I was due to leave for my Army service in a few short months, so this would be useful experience for me to learn how things were within the walls of D.C. Thomson Ltd.

Ralph introduced me to his second-in-command: a tall, lanky young man called Wally Mann. In turn, Wally handed me a small stack of recent submissions to “The Adventure.” These were freelance contributions from unknown writers hoping to break into the world of boys’ magazine journalism.

Once I sat down and opened up the first manuscript, I found myself immersed in a world of brave Indian-fighters, clever teenage detectives, amazing young soccer players and incredibly brave under-age soldiers fighting in foreign lands for Her Majesty. Some of the writing was appallingly bad, every sentence riddled with dramatic adjectives and a forest of exclamation ! marks, and I quietly groaned to myself as I waded through it.

Anyway, four months rolled by, my “Notice To Report” papers arrived from the War Office in the mail, and I was instructed to show up at Catterick in northern England in early October to begin my basic training in the British Army, bringing with me: no more than one suitcase, shaving kit, any necessary medications, personal identification, and no more than 10 pounds in money (in today’s
money, around $50).

I said my goodbyes to Ralph Duncan and Wally Mann and the other friends I had made at D.C.’s and walked out of the Meadowside offices to start another episode in my young life – as a British soldier.

The Eyes Have It...
Hugh McGrory
These Eyes 3 – third and last part of my sorry tale...

Fuchs Dystrophy

This is an inherited genetic disease, and though a person is born with the condition, it isn’t detectable or
symptomatic until middle age or later. (My Aunt Roseanne Adamson (née McGrory) lived to 93, spending her last few years in a nursing home in Cupar, Fife. I remember her as a little stout woman with very thick glasses, and I know that she went blind in her old age. I wonder now if she also had the Fuch's gene mutation...). To understand it you need to know a little about the structure of the eye...

If you were to take a finger and touch your eyeball in the middle, you’d be touching the cornea. The white of the eye around the cornea is called the sclera which, in fact, encapsulates the whole eye – the cornea is see-through and is a window which permits rays of light to enter the eye, pass through the pupil and the lens to be focused on the retina at the back of the eye, allowing us to see.

The cornea consists of several layers, the innermost of which is the endothelium. This consists of a single layer of cells which allow nutrients to flow into the cornea and water to flow out. Fuch’s causes these cell pumps to begin to die. As they do, the ones that remain spread out across the endothelium to compensate. Gradually the cells that are left are not able to fulfil their purpose, the cornea can become cloudy because of excess water, ulcers may also form, and the end result can be blindness.

In the early stages treatment is minimal and consists of drops of a sodium chloride solution several times each day (salt, being hydrophilic, helps to draw water from the cornea). This is temporary, and at a certain point surgery will be the only remedy:

There are two approaches:

Corneal Transplant – a circular cut is made through the entire thickness of the cornea to remove a small button-sized disk of tissue. A corresponding cut is made to the eye of a cadaver and the graft so removed is sutured into the diseased eye. Success rate is around 60% after 10 years.

DMEK (Descemet’s Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty) – the latest approach. It's a minimally invasive cell transplant technique performed through a 3mm small incision. Only the innermost layers of the cornea, the Descemet membrane and the endothelium are involved. A round window is excised and replaced with the corresponding section from a cadaver. This newer approach seems to provide better end results than corneal transplants. The main benefit of DMEK is a very low rejection risk.

(I feel compelled at this point to express my admiration for eye surgeons who can operate on layers of tissue a few cells thick...!)

I began this sorry tale by saying that my eyes are not my best feature – I rest my case...

However – The Good News:

I get my eyes checked once a year, and last time my optometrist said that I had 20/20 vision corrected, (i.e with prescribed glasses). I do have four prescribed pairs: two for driving (one daytime, one night), one for watching TV and one for the computer screen. I also use the lowest strength cheap magnifiers for reading, but don't need to wear glasses for 'walking around'. So, all in all, I can't complain...

The doctor always checks the progress of the Fuch’s, and reported that it seems to be progressing quite slowly.

“So I’m not likely to need the operation then?”

“No”, he said, “I’d say that, given your age, you’ll be dead before it gets to that stage.”

That’s good – right...?

Bill Kidd
Nowadays to see a horse on the street of any Scottish town or city is something to be remarked upon but it is only seventy years since such a sighting was commonplace in and around Dundee. My own close contact with horses was the result of our family's involvement with agriculture. I spent many Easter, Summer and October holidays on some farm or other where I was able to spend some time with the enormous horses that were the tractors of their.

When I was around ten, I was even allowed to take one of them to the local smiddy (blacksmith) to be shod, a round trip of a couple of miles. When I say that "I took", I really mean that the great gentle beast took me!
A Clydesdale, a Scottish breed of draught horse. Pulling a Plough
The relationship between the horse and the ploughman that had charge of it was very close and to undertake a particular task needed only a few words and the occasional clicking of the tongue to ensure that it was properly carried out. The farm horses were very versatile. In addition to ploughing and harrowing in late Summer they pulled the implements that cut and raked hay. At the grain harvest they pulled the reaper-binder that produced ready bound sheaves of wheat, oats, or barley. At the potato harvest they not only pulled the potato digger they powered the cart that brought the crop home. No matter how wet the weather or how muddy the field the horse could cope.

Until the 1950s seeing a horse drawn vehicle in Dundee was unremarkable. Some of the steeper cobbled streets even had red stone cart tracks laid in the granite sets to ease the horse's burden. The most common use for a horse drawn flat-bed cart in Dundee was to transport bales of jute from the docks to the various jute mills dotted around the city. Another function was to bring in the reels of newsprint needed to deal with the insatiable appetite for the Courier, the 'Tele and the Dandy and Beano. Ballingal's Brewery maintained a fine team of horses, supplying Dundee's pubs with barrels of the precious liquid. The horses used for the delivery of these heavy loads were probably Clydesdales chosen for their strength and endurance, they were certainly magnificent animals.

Hauling Jute Delivering Milk Every Morning

In addition to the heavy horses there was employment for their smaller relatives. Milk floats were often pulled by one of these intelligent animals. Being a daily round, the horse knew where to stop so that the milkman could drop off his bottles. By and large it was only the smaller, family run, dairy that still used a horse drawn float. By the 1940s the big dairies, such as the Dundee Pasteurised Milk Co (the DPM) had started to make use of battery driven electric milk floats. My own family ran a dairy farm on the outskirts of Forfar and delivered milk around the town from a two wheeled milk float pulled by a pony. The unpasteurised milk was in large milk churns, and it was delivered from a large jug to customers who had their own smaller flagons. Sometimes the filled flagon would be left on the windowsill or even the doorstep. Hygiene 1940s style!

Two other horse-drawn enterprises come to mind, both of them making use of a pony. The first was the Rag and Bone man who toured the streets of Dundee calling "Rags, bottles and bones" to attract custom. Basically, he was after anything that he could persuade his clients to part with. I don't think bones played a big part of his business but rags, jam jars and any scrap metal certainly did. He offered balloons to the children who were able to persuade their mother to give them something that would earn them a balloon. There were bigger transactions too when a few pence would change hands for some item or other.

Pulling the Rag and Bone Man Towing the Knife Grinder's Wagon

The second and possibly more interesting enterprise was also the longest lived, the Knife Grinder who was still around in the 60s. The arrival of the Knife man was an occasion that got the local children quite excited, not that carrying knives was a feature of our childhood, the excitement was because of the sparks that emanated from his grinding wheels! This worthy travelled throughout the city in the little green caravan that contained his equipment. for a small sum he would use his foot pedalled grinding and polishing machine to sharpen domestic carving knives, other cutlery, tools, scissors, and garden shears. The sight of a stream of sparks and the scream coming from the grinding wheel was fascinating. While all this was going on the pony would be contentedly munching from his nosebag. I am not sure that that the Knifeman's efforts to sharpen scissors or garden shears were very effective as we inherited examples of these where the cutting surfaces are worn away!

It is a long time since I have seen a horse and cart on a city street, perhaps climate change will see them brought back? One thing is certain, the gardening enthusiasts who emerged with shovel and bucket immediately after a horse drawn vehicle had passed certainly miss the contribution that all horses make!

These Eyes 2
Hugh McGrory
In a previous story I said that my eyes aren’t my best feature and gave you some reasons why. This is to give you another eyeful…

Chalazion (kuh-LAY-zee-on or chaw-LAY-zee-on)

Chalazia are rather like styes, but are not infected; usually on the underside of the eyelid rather than on the edge; larger than styes; and often don’t hurt. They form when an oil gland in the eyelid becomes blocked. I mentioned that I had styes as a youngster, and I’ve had a chalazion twice in the past five years – not painful but the lumps took many weeks to disperse.


Cataracts, as you know, are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye, age-related and very common. By the age of 80, almost everyone has cataracts or has had eye surgery to remove them.

My optometrist told me for a number of years that I had cataracts but said that I should wait before having them done until I felt the need. When, a couple of years later, that time came, he examined my eyes, took somewhat longer than usual, then said “Houston, we have a problem. You look ready for cataract surgery, but I’m afraid there’s a complication, I see signs of corneal dystrophy.”

I imagine I said something like “Oh, what now…?”

He explained that there are a number of corneal dystrophies (dystrophy = tissue degeneration), and that I had
early-stage Fuch’s Dystrophy. Apparently, the innermost layer of my cornea, the endothelium looks like orange peel, with little bumps (guttata) caused by cells that are dying (see example in photo).

He advised that I put off the idea of cataract surgery until I really needed it. As it turns out, cataracts and Fuch’s have symptoms in common – halos around streetlights and star bursts from opposing car’s headlights. This combined effect brought me back to him a couple of years later.

He recommended a surgeon at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, who, he said, had “soft hands” and was experienced with Fuch’s. I went to see him, – a Dr. Chew (he turned out to have graduated in engineering before switching to medicine). We discussed the issues around the dystrophy, and he said that he modified his cataract removal technique to avoid any potential exacerbation of the damage to the endothelial layer. I was impressed by him and decided to go ahead.

He said that cataract surgery on the second eye could be done one week after the first but in my case he would wait for three weeks to be sure that
the first eye was doing well.

The cataract surgery, as many of you will know, is a very safe procedure, done through an almost ‘assembly line’ process and quite painless.

My biggest problems were:

Sleeping with the protective, domed eye-patch ( I sleep in the prone position – I know that’s not good ergonomically, but I can’t break the habit).

Managing the eyedrops – I had three different types over a two-week period different numbers of drops, different frequencies, and one had to be tapered-off over a number of days – I actually had to draw up a spreadsheet to keep track of the ‘what/when’…

All went well with the first eye and the second proceeded on schedule. The surgeon said he had put one stitch in the cornea this time, and I’d have to see him in a week’s time to get it taken out.

I saw him in his office, where he put in some anesthetic, told me to look at the door and keep still, then began to remove the stitch. After a moment he said “It doesn’t want to come out,” and changed instruments. Just as he began again I move slightly (stupid thing to have done) and he said, “Oh!"

Not to be outdone I said, “Oh, oh!” with thoughts that I might have ruined the whole catarcat removal procedure…

“When you moved I made a little scratch on the cornea,” he said, “but don’t worry. I’ll put in some antibiotic drops – it may feel a little scratchy for a couple of days but it will heal just fine” – and it did.

I suspect that, by now, I've bored most readers to tears. Sadly, I need one more story to complete my tale.

Next time...

The Golden Age of Science Fiction
Brian Macdonald
An introduction to Science Fiction: The Two Streams

Not long ago, a balmy breeze signalling the end of winter triggered a burst of spring cleaning and the urge to de-clutter. As I scanned my bookshelves for contributions to the local charity shop, sighing at the books bought with good intentions and never read, my eye rested on two names on thick spines, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C Clarke.
Clarke, on the left, and Asimov.
Although these anthologies were fairly recent purchases (within the last twenty years) they are not among the unread and I reckon that in my younger years I had read most of what was written by these two luminaries of their genre. They are still worth a quiet hour to cherry-pick and re-read.

Growing up in the 1950s and with a voracious appetite for reading, it was probably inevitable that I found science fiction. ‘SF’, as it was called then and not ‘Sci-fi’, a term scorned by us lifetime aficionados, was a literary genre that had been increasing in popularity with both authors and readers since the 1920s. For this was a period of rapid scientific advances, of early nuclear research that would lead to nuclear fission, of the increasing sophistication of multi-passenger commercial aeroplanes, of the start of cheap inter-continental telephone communication, of rudimentary television networks, of advancements in the technology of the internal combustion engine, of progress in medicines. So, it is no wonder that inventive minds found the era fruitful ground for storytelling with a scientific basis.

By 1950, when I was twelve, SF was in full flower. There are two distinct and separate streams. One is really pure fantasy, with aliens, wondrous planets, fantastic creatures, and with maybe a little science in the mix.

The Dune series, kicked off by Frank Herbert’s novel in 1965, with its planet of sand and fabulous giant worms that travelled the dunes and were ridden by men, was a standout example of the fantasy type. Herbert was born in 1920 and died in 1986, having written five sequels to Dune. It was common in the fantasy genre that a novel became a series. One book was not enough to lay out the spread of invention in an author’s mind. The cynic may say that this is an authorial ploy to retain an audience and increase income. Often, sequels consisted of more of the same, minimally repainted. Dune was made into a film in 1984 and there was a recent remake.

L Ron Hubbard was a hugely prolific writer, working not only in the fantasy science fiction field but in many
other genres. He churned out material and was very popular as a science fantasy writer. Around 1950, Hubbard invented what he called Dianetics and soon abandoned fiction writing. Dianetics soon evolved into Scientology and Hubbard departed the SF scene. Some may think he never gave up fantasy.

Frank Herbert L Ron Hubbard

Another notable author of the fantasy stream is Anne McCaffrey, born in 1926 and best-known for her fantasy series The Dragonriders of Pern. The very title gives an indication of the plotline of this famous
set of stories, about a corps of dedicated riders of domesticated dragons trained to combat, with their fiery breath, periodic epidemics of toxic threads that fell from the sky. I must admit I hoovered up McCaffrey’s tales as avidly as I did those of Isaac Asimov, the giant of the scientific stream.

Another star of the fantasy genre is Ursula K Le Guin, born 1929 and referred to by us

Anne McCaffrey Ursula K Le Guin

fans as UKLG, or just Le Guin. She wrote mostly in the fantasy mode, with many tales set in her fictional land of Orsinia and a series set in a fictional Hainish universe, but there was more science and societal awareness in her stories than in McCaffrey’s. In 2005, Anne McCaffrey was awarded the long-standing Nebula award, which recognises the best works of science fiction or fantasy published annually in the United States.

Among notable early authors the reader may not think of for science fiction are Arthur Conan Doyle, (The Great Keinplatz Experiment, to do with Mesmerism), and Edgar Allan Poe, known for horror stories, but who wrote tales that hinged on the scientific enthusiasms of his era, the mid-19th century, exploring galvanism, time travel and resurrection. J K Rowling’s wildly successful Harry Potter series, J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia can be considered science fiction, although clearly of the fantasy mode. The previous three series of books have all been made into very successful films. In our 21st century, the fantasy genre has become, to my disappointment, the major thread, probably because, in our real world, science has caught up with and zoomed a long way past the mid-twentieth century science fiction authors’ uncannily accurate predictions made seventy or more years ago. We may conjecture that modern life arouses a wish for escapism and this feeds on the fantasy story.

The second strand of science fiction consists of works which take existing science and extrapolate it into the future in a more believable and logical manner. No dragons and dungeons here. This style is sometimes called ‘hard science fiction’, not a term I like. This genre always had a strong scientific base and plotline and many of the scenarios projected by SF authors who wrote in it proved frighteningly prophetic as time rolled on. Indeed, there is a well-known, true story of the office of the editor of the most illustrious SF magazine, Astounding Science Fiction, being raided by the FBI in 1944, the invaders demanding to know where he had got information in a story in his magazine. He had difficulty in convincing his interrogators that it was a figment of the imagination of one of his contributors, (Cleve Cartmill, Deadline, published March 1944) so close was the writer’s fictional depiction to what turned out to be then current, most secret USA government research, the Manhattan Project, which was developing the atom bomb in a deadly race with the USSR. Cartmill was asked by the FBI to refrain from publishing any further stories about nuclear research until the war ended. It is reported that editor Campbell, who had noted that a number of his contributors, mostly scientists, had moved to the Los Alamos area of the USA state of New Mexico, had, himself, surmised that some sort of scientific research was going on there.

The name of the English writer of the late 19th and early 20th century, H G Wells, is familiar for his most famous work, The War of the Worlds, published as early as 1898. This novel explores an invasion of Earth

by aliens from Mars with their huge, robotic war machines – the denouement incorporated both the fantasy and scientific aspects of science fiction. The book was set in southern England and the Hollywood film of 1953 in California, but a 2019 TV series had a French setting. Wells also wrote The Invisible Man, which first appeared as a magazine serial in England in 1897 and has been the basis of several films and TV series. His ‘The Time Machine’ of 1895 was also made into a film in 1960, starring the Australian film star Rod Taylor as the time traveller, and again in 2002, with the Australian film and TV actor Guy Pearce as the traveller. The chilling plot tells how a time traveller goes far into the future and discovers humans subjugated by a master race known as Morlocks. Wells is sometimes labelled ‘The Father of Science Fiction’.

To be continued

Two Michaels
Hugh McGrory
In 1967, the year after we arrived in Toronto, my son Michael needed to have a minor operation. It would be carried out in Toronto East General Hospital in the East York district of Toronto. They told us that it would be in the late afternoon and that he would be kept in overnight.

We duly took him to the hospital and waited with him until it was his turn to go to the theatre. We sat in the waiting room, and surprisingly soon we were told that it was all over, and he was fine. We got to see him briefly – he was asleep – and they said that he’d probably be out for an hour or two. They suggested we head home and return during visiting hours that evening.

We returned to the hospital at the appropriate time and went to the ward. It was quite a small room; I think it had six beds (might have been four). The door was closed, but it had a small inset window, and we looked in. He was in the bed by the door, some eight feet from us. He was sitting on top of the covers facing diagonally away from us, rather like the child in the photo and so didn’t see us (our Michael was quite a bit younger, and the bed was a cot with bars on the sides).
He didn’t seem upset, but was very solemn, and looking around at the other children and parents. This was a great relief to us, and we stood and watched him for a few minutes. We wondered what was going through his young mind – wondering why his parent had left him, who the other kids were, the doctors the nurses, would he be there for ever? We were so tempted to rush in and hug him…

Before we did, we looked at each other and said, “If we go in, he’ll be so happy and assume we’re there to take him home. He’ll be devastated when he finds out that we’re leaving him. He’ll feel abandoned all over again.”

What to do – what to do? After swithering for several more minutes, we made a decision, turned tail and left. It was really hard to do…

The next morning, we were at the hospital at the appointed time and arrived again at the door to the ward. Strangely he was sitting in almost the same position as the night before, still solemn still watchful.

We pushed open the door and the noise made him look round. He saw his mother, held out both his arms towards her and burst into tears. It was sad and joyful at the same time – his reaction assuaged the guilt we’d been feeling for our decision the night before and confirmed our belief that we made the right choice.


I discovered another Michael today while writing this little story: Toronto East General is now known as
the Michael Garron Hospital. Son of Myron and Berna Garron, Michael, was born in East General Hospital some five years before our son’s visit. Sadly, he developed a rare form of soft tissue cancer at the age of six.

Despite all efforts, Michael died at the age of thirteen. The Garrons, originally from Nova Scotia moved to Ontario and built a very successful automotive manufacturing business. They wanted to ensure that the memory of their son did not fade away.

To thank the hospital that had looked after him for so many years they recently donated $50,000,000 dollars, and the hospital ensured that
young Michael Garron’s name will not be forgotten.

Not Another Step Further
Clive Yates

As far as I can remember, it must have been late summer in 1955 – possibly September-ish, when a group

of Morgan senior pupils decided they would go camping up Glen Clova. However, two of us (Ian F. and myself) already had jobs or other pursuits which determined that we could not leave directly after Friday afternoon school finished at 16-00hrs. We arranged quite separately to meet about 17-30 at the Kingsway and Forfar Road junction and to cycle on together after the main party.

At least this part of the trip worked out, and off we set on our bicycles peddling as fast as we could to try to
catch up the deficit in time and miles. It was a hard job in a warm evening as we toiled up Powrie Brae, over the top and on to the downward run through the Tealing straight heading for Todd Hills junction. Then the next anticipated obstacle faced us; – the winding uphill section on towards Lumley Den. Nothing daunted, on we went, over the top of the Sidlaws with the luxury of a down-hill ride towards Glamis junction. This next portion of the route was easier going and we arrived at the outskirts of Kirriemuir township. ‘Thrums’ Brae definitely slowed us to an uphill push!

After that, we succumbed to a rest (in a Pub !) as we recovered our strength for the next session of exertion past the Cortachy Arms Hotel and into Clova glen proper. Perhaps that Hotel no longer exists near Dykehead – it does not appear on Google Maps! It was just ‘round the corner’ from Cortachy Castle. Cortachy – one of the four 'Houses' in our day at Morgan Academy – often mentioned but rarely successful, and to which I contributed ‘zilch’ house points

The problems really started at that Kirriemuir Pub when we took a rest AND decided to assuage our thirst with a small nip-sized bottle of Gaymer’s (or was it Bulmer’s) Cider. It still reminds me of the lines from ‘Tam O’Shanter’ by Rabbie Burns:
    "Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
    Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely"
Like our hero Tam, we too felt the need to indulge in a further little bottle. After all, what harm could it possibly do? So, after two bottles apiece, we decided that it was ‘onwards and upwards.’ Again, like our hero Tam, we re-discovered again the fact that there are some ultimate, enduring truths:

"But pleasures are like poppies spread;
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white – then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the Rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.
Nae man can tether Time nor Tide,
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;"

We cycled out of Kirrie and past the Golf Course and the Cortachy Arms Hotel proceeding onwards on to the Clova Road passing the Airlie Monument on the hillside to the left at the head of Glen Prosen. It was about
this point where the road began to show us evidence of having been cut though the glacial moraines of the glen. These little hills and bumps were no problem for motor vehicles, but for two, rapidly-tiring youths, by now beginning to feel the full effects of their energetic efforts AND their liquid repast – they were like Everest or K2. We began to collide with one another. We really struggled to maintain our balance, and we were more often off our cycles pushing rather than pedalling. We struggled on past the Rottal Lodge turn as darkness began to close in rapidly. We had struggled onwards but the darkness added to the difficulties forcing us to eventually agree – like Elijah, that “We had had enough!” and to decide that at the next dwelling we came across, we would stop and obtain permission to pitch our tent for the night in some convenient field.

So it came to pass that we failed to catch up with the main group. We blundered about in a field in total darkness pitching our tent, tripping over
the main guy ropes and generally falling about. The countryside is amazingly dark without the glow of city lights!!! Eventually, we did get the tent erected successfully and leaving our bikes where they lay, we settled down quietly – and thankfully, for a good night’s rest.

Next morning, we thanked the farmer for allowing us to stop overnight. To our surprise, the farmer’s wife gave us a simple breakfast for which we were additionally thankful. In the course of the conversation, it transpired that there were others in his fields that had also camped overnight. As we left after breakfast, being ‘nosey’, we peered over the high wall between the fields and behold, there was the other party still in their tents. It transpired that they were afraid and frightened by all the noise that we had created – possibly a few mouthfuls of displeasure at our own incompetence and so they had remained in fearful silence for their own safety from these loud-mouthed louts making all that noise in the next field.

The remainder of the weekend was spent together as a group. We all continued up to Braedownie and Glen

Doll Lodge and enjoyed splashing about in the River South Esk there. On Sunday the whole team cycled back to Dundee at a more deliberate pace without further incident or mishap. We avoided the stop at the Hostelry in Kirrie.

In all, it taught me a very useful lesson – BEWARE of CIDER and BYCYCLES!!!!

These Eyes
Hugh McGrory
My eyes are not my best feature. Actually, my wife says that I don’t have a best feature – and by that, I believe she means that I have so many good features that she can’t choose just one... But, be that as it may, my eyes are not my best feature...

Blepharitis (blef-uh-RYE-tis)

I have had this condition for as long as I can remember – the chronic rather than the acute version. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this disease, blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. It usually affects both
eyes along the edges of the eyelids, upper and lower. It occurs when tiny oil glands near the base of the eyelashes become clogged, causing irritation and redness.

It's often a chronic condition, difficult to treat, and can be uncomfort- able and unsightly. It usually doesn't cause permanent damage to eyesight, and isn't contagious. Signs and symptoms are typically worse
in the morning. They include red-rimmed eyes, gritty sensation in the eyes, eyelids that appear greasy, itchy eyelids, and flaking of the skin around the eyes – all of which I suffered from to some degree.

The flaking of the skin was my biggest bugbear – I didn’t appreciate the ‘scabby eyes’ look, and remember in my mid-teens, before heading for the local dancehall, I used to take one of my mother’s darning needles and pick flaky skin off my eyelids (very carefully, of course – I never stuck the needle in my eye, but an errant blink at the wrong moment would now and again draw a spot of blood from an eyelid…)

Not until mid-life did I discover that cleaning the eyelids daily with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo markedly reduces the effects of the condition.


One of the complications of blepharitis is little abscesses on the eyelids, known as styes – something that I was prone to as a child, but which seemed to subside around puberty.


About five years ago, my optometrist told me that I was suffering from mites. Demodex, by name, they are microscopic parasites that live on eyelids in the hair follicles or the sebaceous glands. Demodex folliculorum, buries itself face down near the of eyelashes and uses a seven-clawed organ (a “palpus”) to
grab hold of cells lining the follicle. Then it feasts on the sebum — the waxy oil your face excretes to keep hydrated. Demodex sleep by day, but at night, when you're asleep, they crawl onto the surface of your skin to mate.

Interstingly, Demodex does not have an anus and therefore cannot get rid of its feces – their abdomen just gets bigger and bigger, and when they die and decompose (lifespan is about two weeks) they release their feces all at once.

Symptoms may include itchiness; scaly, rough patches of skin; redness around the eyes and a burning sensation in the eyes. Fortunately, there is a treatment – tea tree oil wipes – using these once a week reduces the number of mites and greatly improves the symptoms.

At this point some of you are wondering how I could live with these mites crawling over my eyelids and not be aware... so let me share some statistics with you from a recent scientific paper published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology

“Demodex is acquired shortly after birth and their numbers increase during puberty as sebaceous glands proliferate. The prevalence continues to increase with age, with

13% of 3-15 year olds infested,
69% of 31-50 year olds,
84% by age 60, and
100% after 70 years of age.”

So, say hello to one of your fellow travellers here.

If this tale hasn’t already brought tears to your eyes, stay tuned for Part 2…

The Morgan Effect?
Michael Marks
Some of your readers who attended Morgan Academy will perhaps recall the presence of a foreigner in the school. That foreigner was an English boy – which might or might not bring back memories….

Born in London, I emigrated to Scotland in 1946 at the age of nine. (My father was assigned by NCR as a 'key worker' to help employ and train staff as part of government efforts to rejuvenate employment in Dundee following WW2. NCR went on to be one of the biggest employers in the city.)

I want to share a little story with you – not an anecdote in the sense of reminiscences but an up-to-date conundrum:

Some background – on arriving in Dundee we first lived just off the Perth Road, so I started primary school at the Harris Academy. However, I was fortunate enough to live closer to the Morgan when I was eleven years old, hence the change of school for my secondary education. I obviously had an English accent, which I kept, by and large, until I left school in 1954.

Following National Service, I started a career in sales and marketing, working mainly in the pharmaceutical industry in South-East England with frequent trips to the Continent. Thereafter I worked in Manila, and in Beijing, before returning to the UK in 1995. I acquired a small franchising company which I developed and finally sold in 1998 when we retired to South-West France where we still live. The peace and quiet, fabulous scenery, wine, food, sunshine and lack of traffic add up to make it the Perfect Place!

My wife Sheila (née Beaton) was born in Alyth and attended Blairgowrie High School, followed by Dundee teachers’ training college. She spent many years teaching in England. We have two daughters, and travel to Dundee has been regular over the years, but much less since my mother died. She had been in Dundee and Invergowrie for some 64 years, still retaining a little of her original South African accent!

Fast forward now to June, 2021, when I was hospitalized and had an operation under a general anesthetic. Sheila phoned me soon after the operation to enquire how it went and we chatted for a while. It came as a total surprise to me later when she informed me that I had spoken to her with, what she described as, a pure Morgan Academy accent...

Any explanation, anyone?

What's Up Doc? – 2
Hugh McGrory
About twelve years ago, again just before Christmas, I wakened with some discomfort in my chest. Since I had previously been diagnosed with a sliding hiatus hernia, I put it down to acid reflux, which I got, in a minor way, from time to time. Usually the feeling didn’t last long, but on this occasion it persisted. Some neighbours invited us in for a pre-dinner drink later that day. I happened to mention my little problem, and they said – if I can paraphrase – “Are you an idiot? That could be angina or worse. You need to get down to Emergency right now and get it checked out”. My mind switched gears and I realised that this was good advice – what was I thinking….

To cut a long story short, I get to Emergency , get triaged, and pretty quickly I’m sitting with a male nurse and he’s asking why I’m there. I tell him and he said, “So, why did you wait so long to come in?”

“Oh”, I said, “I know that one... Because I’m an idiot?” I remember he wasn’t particularly amused by my scintillating wit…

I had ECG and ultrasound examinations, and they eventually decided that it was probably acid reflux, so I toddled off home and relaxed – until the next day when I get a call from the hospital. They said that they’d like me to come in for a CT scan. I asked why and they said ‘the Doctor’ wanted to follow up on something from the ultrasound examination. Did I mention that this was just before Christmas…?

So, I went back to the hospital and had the CT scan – they wouldn’t tell me anything of course and said I’d hear from my GP. I called him – it was now December 29th, and he said that he’d just received a faxed report which stated the reason for the CT scan as being:

“To compare to the recent abdominal ultrasound from December 21 which noted a 3.3 x 2.0 cm mildly complex cystic focus in the left lobe of the liver, with focal areas of increased echogenicity in segments 6 and 7 of the right lobe.”

My GP said he’d try to get hold of the Doctor at the hospital and discuss this with him and in the meantime, I should try not to worry. We hung up, which, of course, allowed me to start worrying... I turned on my computer to research liver cancer, metastases etc. etc.

He called me back the next day – it was now close to Hogmanay – and said that he’d spoken to the doctor at the hospital and that I shouldn’t worry. I said, “That’s easy for you to say, Harry.”

He said “Seriously, there’s no need to worry.” “ I checked through your medical record…”

(At this point I should explain that when I arrived in Canada in 1966, I signed up with a GP who served me well for almost thirty years before he retired. Harry had been my GP for the past couple of years or so, and he had burrowed through the records that had been transferred to his office.)

“Do you remember having an ultrasound done of your right kidney?”
“No”, I said.
“It was about nine years ago?”
Still nothing…
”At Thorncliffe Diagnostics?”

And I remembered – I had been playing squash with my regular partner of many years and he had – accidentally, of course, elbowed me in the kidney. A day or two later I had a vague discomfort in that area – I remembered that I told my then GP, when I saw him for it, that it felt ‘like an organ pain’, to distinguish it from muscular. He had sent me for an ultrasound which revealed a “tiny, poorly resolved, fluid collection inferior to the right kidney…” – presumably a reaction to the blow. My GP said that it would clear up in a few days and to forget about it.

Harry said “Well that report identified the same two cysts in your liver – they’re clearly benign and, as I said, don’t worry about it.” So I had dodged another bullet...

I was so happy to thank him for his diligence – the New Year, about to begin, was looking much better than it had a few minutes before…

A Memorable Sight
Gordon Findlay
My only other memory of Dundee Ski Club is clear in my mind for a different reason – but again, a very good one. It happened this way.

I invited Jimmy Fitzpatrick to come up with me one Sunday when there had been another big snowfall over the whole of northeast Scotland. Jimmy wasn’t much of a skier, but he came, partly because being a professional photographer, he was always on the lookout for distinctive Scottish scenes which could be captured on his camera, then turned into one of the hundreds of Valentine’s coloured postcards of “Winter In Scotland”. The drive up to Glenshee was dicey with so much snow on the road, but we eventually made it, and we both made a few runs down the Elementary hill.

But then, Jimmy had an idea. “We have our sealskin covers with us,” he said. “Why don’t we ride the tow up to the top of the hill, then put on our skins and go higher up the mountain. Should be a great view.”

He had brought his hand-held Hasselblad (wonderful Swedish-made camera) with him, so up the hill we rode on the tow, slipped on our skins, and went padding further and further up the mountain. Every so often, Jim would stop, get out his Hasselblad and take a shot of the snow-covered mountain and trees.

We tromped on, and eventually, we saw what appeared to be the rim of large col, or saddle (like a valley between the peaks of surrounding hills) up ahead. Up we went, reached the edge, and peered over.

What a sight! There, below us, was a huge mass of red deer, sheltering in the shallow valley. We could hear the soft thumping as they used their hoofs to beat away the snow to get at the soft grass underneath, and where they were milling around the ground was dark.

Steam was rising from the heat of their bodies, and the smell of them was thick in the air We could make out the males with their full sets of antlers on the outside, females and young in the protected centre. But soon, as one of them saw or smelled us, all the heads slowly came up and looked at us.

Jim could hardly get his camera out fast enough, and for the next couple of minutes I watched him shoot, wind, shoot, wind and shoot again. The deer did nothing for a few minutes, but slowly as we watched them and led by a pair of large stags, the herd began to move toward the far side of the valley and up the opposite

side away from us, steam rising like a soft cloud all around them.

Within ten minutes they had vanished from the col, leaving behind a well-tramped area where the herd had obviously spent the night. I can’t remember if Jim ever got his perfect photograph of a Scottish scene – but we both got a unique glimpse of our country’s wildlife in winter.

I was to see Jim Fitzpatrick again much later on, after I had emigrated to Canada, married and become the father of four. We undertook “The Big Trip” back to Scotland, flew to London, saw the sights, then picked up our rental Volkswagen 6-seater touring van (had to contend with a stuck gear lever in downtown London!!) and slowly drove north, stopping at bed-and-breakfasts along the way . . . a fun way to travel.

We eventually made it to Dyce – a suburb of Aberdeen, where Jim and Sheena, his wife, lived on their farm keeping company with 200 pigs at various stages of growth. I don’t think Jim’s heart was really into pig farming, but he’d made a success of commercial photography, and after leaving Valentine’s in Dundee, he’d gone into business for himself– just as the Forties oil fields off Aberdeen began gush those oceans of pure black gold

He accepted an assignment to photograph an offshore oil rig for an American resource company, found he was good at hanging out of a helicopter snapping pictures, and made a good living doing just that.

Probably a lot more fun than feeding (and cleaning up around) a couple of hundred pigs.

My kids thought it was pretty neat seeing all those pigs up close but we all agreed that the stink in the main barn was over-powering. They might be clean animals, but they do create one helluva smell.

What's Up Doc?
Hugh McGrory
Often over the years, when I've had a medical issue, and said to myself “Maybe I should check with my GP”, I've somehow managed to put it off for a day or two, so its often Friday before I decide to do anything – and then I wait until Monday to call the doctor’s office... It also seems that when I get a major issue that needs investigation it seems to happen around Christmas time – when, of course, nobody‘s around…

Men are very unlikely to get breast cancer – about 1 in 800 versus about 1 in 8 for women, so for every 100 cases only 1 will be male. I didn’t find this out until after I had a shower one day about twenty five years ago and realised that I felt a lump in my right breast. So, after my usual procrastination, I decided to do my due diligence and put in a call to my doc to get an appointment.

The first thing he asked, when I told him, was, ”Is it underneath the nipple?” I told him that it wasn’t – it was actually in the lower-right outside quadrant. He felt for it and said “There is something there. The chances are that it’s nothing to worry about, but we should check it out – we’ll make an appointment for you with a specialist.”

This was the week before Christmas, so it was about two weeks before I could see him. I don’t remember being too apprehensive about it, but it was certainly at the back of my mind all through the waiting period. When I finally saw him, the first thing he asked, when I told him, was, ”Is it underneath the nipple?” When I said “No”, he said “That’s good.” He examined me, then said, “I’ll perform a small operation to remove it and we’ll see what we’re dealing with.”

Another wait for a week or so and I was on the table. The operation, under local anesthetic, was quite painless, and when it was over, he said, “We’ll send this off for testing, but I’m sure that it’s not cancer – it fell apart when I excised it.” In due course the results confirmed this – it was a lipoma, a fatty cyst.

I was fortunate, but a good friend of mine wasn’t so lucky. In his 70s, he went through the same experience, but the lump was under the nipple, a cancerous tumour was found, and he had to have the breast removed. This was followed by radiation – the oncologist decided against chemotherapy which is often given as well.

Some four years later my buddy told me that they had found a lump in his remaining breast. It again turned out to be a cancerous tumour, less advanced than the first one. He then had to go through the same procedure as before (but was glad that he didn’t need radiation this time).

The medical term for having two cancers in this manner is metachronous bilateral breast cancer. The odds of this occurring in a man are between 1 and 2 percent – so 1 in 5 to 10,000 breast cancers – such bad luck! I’m happy to say that he has been well since then.

He and I both found a lump – I had a minor operation and he lost both breasts. One more example of the roll of the die that is the human condition…

Nearly Emigrants
Bill Kidd
Over the years I have enjoyed reading the anecdotes emanating from the Morgan 1954 Diaspora. I think Antarctica is about the only place that hasn't yet had a mention. Before our marriage Muriel and I like many others of our generation had considered emigration without making any decision about it. Since returning from National Service I had been working in Lancashire for the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and we had decided that we would set up home there after we married in December 1959. However, all our plans went awry when, six weeks before the wedding, I was offered and accepted (after a hasty telephone consultation with Muriel) a promoted post at Dounreay. Working at Dounreay meant that we would be living in Thurso, the most Northerly town in Scotland, it was emigration without getting our feet wet! The die was cast, and I took up my new post on 1st December 1959 only 26 days before our wedding.

Until the advent of Dounreay and the ensuing influx of "Atomics" Thurso was a small market town of around 8,000 souls. By the time we arrived it was bulging at the seams with a population of around 18,000 supported by an infrastructure struggling to keep up with the rapidly expanding population. We knew that we would be allocated one of the houses being built by the UKAEA. This would not become available for at least another six months, so my first priority was to find somewhere for us to live. Whilst I was trying to find us a home Muriel was seeking a teaching post with Caithness County Council. As it turned out both proved to be Herculean tasks.

Although there was a shortage of teachers in the area there was also a shortage of schools and until a new school was opened in Thurso there was no prospect of a teaching job in the town. However, there was a temporary post available in a two-teacher school in a village about ten miles from Thurso. It was Hobson's choice! Knowing where Muriel would be working enabled me to focus my hunt for accommodation on the village of Castletown a mere five miles from Muriel's new workplace, Bower School, and only fifteen miles away from mine at Dounreay.

After a great deal of hitch-hiking and walking (we didn't have a car) I found a double room in the upstairs of a council house at a weekly rent that swallowed up half of my salary. After a great deal of persuasion, the landlady agreed to allow me to install a 5amp two pin socket into the room before I took possession the week before Christmas.

The marriage went to plan, and we set off for our new life in Caithness. After a seemingly interminable railway and bus journey we arrived at our temporary Castletown home on the afternoon of 29th December. Being so far north we completed the last Thurso to Castletown leg of our trek by bus and in darkness. Pending the arrival of our carefully packed tea chests, sent as "advanced" luggage, our only possessions were contained in the two suitcases that we travelled with.

Over the next six months we settled into our new life together and with the help of colleagues explored just about everything that Caithness had to offer. Unlike most newly arrived "Atomics" we were fortunate that Muriel's rural school activities meant that we met and socialised with the local population to our great benefit. Not having a car was a considerable handicap and when there was no bus available we became adept at hitch-hiking. The acquisition of household items meant that toward the end of our stay in our Castletown digs we could hardly move in our only room! The five-amp socket that I had installed supported, with the aid of several adaptors, our electric kettle, TV and radio and an electric fire. I still have pangs of conscience when I think of how I kept increasing the size of the relevant fuse wire! I can report that the building was still standing when we last visited the area!

In mid July the great day came, we were offered a three-bedroom terraced house in Thurso and within a few days we said goodbye to our room in Castletown and prepared for the next stage of our adventure. Our new house was in the middle of an estate built to a high standard by the UKAEA to house its employees. There was only one shop on the estate. This was run on "Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap" supermarket lines. Unfortunately, only the "Pile 'em high" part had arrived in Caithness so any benefit of subsidised housing was swallowed up by the cost of everyday items. We quickly discovered that this applied to all shops in Thurso and that an occasional forty-mile round trip to Wick for some items paid off.

The next few months were hectic as we established our home and expanded our circle of friends. On the retirement of the headmaster, Muriel became the head (only) teacher with a class of 27 children ranging in age between five and twelve. The use of buses and hitch-hiking was no longer a viable transport arrangement, so we became the proud owners of a ten-year-old Morris Minor. Having a car enabled us to widen our horizons and explore the beautiful Northern coastline. Sometimes we would take off for a beach only to find two or three other people already there. This resulted in a change of plan and off we went to find another, less crowded beach!

By the end of September it was beginning to get dark early, winter was creeping up on us and indoor activities beckoned. Being very fond of music, we joined the Thurso Choral Society and ploughed through Handel's Messiah and through this met lifelong friends. We also played badminton and participated in a Caithness-wide league which meant that we visited virtually every village hall in the county. Facilities were not always top-notch; in one venue I sought the location of the Gents and was told that it was out the back. A thorough search failed to reveal the whereabouts of the facility and on further inquiry I was escorted out of the back door and shown endless moorland and told, "There it is!".

We quickly learned that Thurso was a thriving place and if you were interested in something and there was no facility available for it you just looked around for someone who shared your interest and organised something! So, the years went by. Muriel moved from her rural school to a newly built school in Thurso. Our professional and social lives prospered. We spent a lot of time walking our Labrador in all sorts of weather. In 1962 we, along with some friends, decided that there was a need for regular professional music performances in Thurso and set up Thurso Live Music Association as a subscription membership organisation offering four professional concerts a season. Within three years we had promoted a sell-out concert given by the Scottish National Orchestra under Sir Alexander Gibson and we still have great satisfaction in knowing that TLMA celebrated its fiftieth birthday in 2012.

The variety of opportunities that we enjoyed came home to me, when in the course of a business visit to Preston, I found myself in a hotel lounge talking to a London based salesman. During the course of conversation he asked what we found to do in a "Godforsaken" place like Thurso. In response I asked what he had done the previous evening and got the reply that he had watched television. On enquiring what he had done for the rest of the week he said that he had watched TV or gone to the pub. I enjoyed telling him that in Thurso as well as watching TV and going to the pub we had theatre, a cinema, music, and various sporting activities, not to mention beautiful countryside and coastline.

All good things come to an end and our near emigration experience ended in mid-1966 when I transferred to Harwell. We purchased a house in Didcot and Muriel taught in a local school. Things were different in Didcot and a lot less fun. It is strange that although we were only an hour from London and a few miles from Oxford we saw fewer plays and listened to less music than was the case when we lived in Thurso and emigrated without getting our feet wet!

Brian's Story…
Hugh McGrory
You open your morning paper or listen to the morning show and suddenly your world changes...

Have you ever had that experience – you read or hear something that, out of the blue, hits you like the proverbial ton of bricks? I don't mean something world shattering, like 9–11, but rather at a personal level.

For three-and-a-bit years, in the late ‘70s, I was attending the University of Toronto School of Management, in the evenings, studying for an MBA. I worked during the day, which sometimes resulted in my missing class. In one subject it was several classes, so I missed a fair bit of the lectures – I had a textbook, but exams often, of course, contained in-class material, and I was a bit worried about the upcoming final…

There was a young man who sat near me (funny how we all tend to sit in the same seat for a whole
semester…), his name was Brian – had a Polish or perhaps Ukrainian surname, and though we’d never spoken, he seemed a pleasant lad. I had noticed that he took copious notes, so, with the ‘cheek of the devil’ I approached him at the end of one class, told him of my attendance problems and asked if I could borrow his notes and copy them.

He was probably taken aback, but, too nice to refuse, he said “OK”. I copied the notes then duly returned them to him the following week and thanked him profusely. (I hope I had the grace to give him a bottle of wine too, but I really can’t remember.)

We had to take 20 courses to graduate, and being evening school, it wasn’t unusual to take a class with someone one semester, then never see them again, so I never shared another class with him.

About a year later, January 1977, I opened my morning newspaper to see the following:

I remember thinking – as one does – "Isn't that awful", then a moment or two later, when it suddenly dawned on me that this was 'Brian from night school', the shock, followed by a feeling of ineffable sadness and rage that such a fine young man, not long graduated, in his first job with a major bank, working hard to improve his knowledge through his MBA studies, his whole life in front of him, should be so callously murdered.

In the following week, more information came out. It transpired that Brian Latocki was gay, and had met someone the previous evening at the St. Charles Tavern, a well-known 'gay bar' on Toronto's Yonge Street. Apparently, Brian had accepted the offer of a ride home from this person.

My MBA studies covered the period from 1976 to 1979, and over those three and a half years there were fourteen murders of gay men in Toronto – eight were solved. Brian's murder was one of the remaining six, still listed as unsolved.


On Jan 18th, 2018, the Toronto police were surveilling the home of a man named Bruce McArthur as part of a major on-going investigation. They saw him come home with a man referred to as 'John'. The police raided the home and found John (how lucky was he?) tied to a bed – he told them that McArthur had been trying to tape his mouth shut.

McArthur was arrested and subsequently admitted to the murders of eight gay men between 2010 and 2017. He pled guilty at trial, and was sentenced to 25 years – he will be eligible to apply for parole when he is 91 years old.

In the late '70s, McArthur was in Toronto, and Toronto police are looking again at the six unsolved killings from that period to see whether they can find a connection.

Poor Brian – I still have his notes – came across them a few years ago while looking for something else. I hope that the Toronto police are successful, and that his story may yet have a more appropriate ending...

Dundee Worthies
Brian Macdonald
The other day I took down, for a browse, from my special bookshelf, the one where I keep my Len Deighton Cookbook (from his Observer columns), a few tomes about old motorbikes and some venerable dictionaries
in several languages, a tattered and broken-spined paperback book that I treasure. Its title is Dundee Worthies: Reminiscences, Games, Amusements. It is a compilation of short biographies of Dundee ‘characters’ who roamed the streets of the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The author is George M Martin, FSA (Scot)(1).

Dundee Worthies was published in 1934 by David Winter and Son, a well-established printing and publishing business, at that time situated on the corner of Shore Terrace, where many will remember the bus terminus was located. A printing and publishing firm of that name still exists but is now located near Dundee’s venerable loop road, the Kingsway.

George M Martin was a Dundee businessman who owned a warehouse in North Lindsay Street and later established a ballroom. He was certainly an observer of humanity and was a freemason. The honorific suggests he had academic interests. There are other anthologies compiled by Martin to be found.

Among his warehouse employees was one Doupie Small(2), who certainly qualified as a ‘worthy’. This man may have provided the spark to Martin to undertake his compilation.

In his short introduction to Dundee Worthies, Martin says “With a view to preserve (sic) details of the strange lives of the Worthies who eked out an existence on the streets of Dundee I have compiled the following pages”. The two hundred pages contain short biographical sketches of some of the unfortunates who lived a fringe existence on Dundee’s streets, existing from charity or by offering some entertainment or service for donations, many with physical or mental quirks caused by intellectual disability, which gave them a degree of notability. Some of those featured were just eccentrics. Some items were about municipal notables. There are also anecdotes, children’s games and poems.

Fifty pages are devoted to William McGonagall(3), including his first person account of his unsuccessful trip, on foot to Balmoral to present himself to Queen Victoria. We read of his horror when, having been the subject of a spoof installation as a ‘Knight Of The Order Of The White Elephant Of Burma’, he learned that a live white elephant was being sent to him and he would be responsible for its housing and upkeep. Fortunately his tricksters took pity on him eventually and he was advised that his pleas had been answered and the elephant’s progress to him had been halted.

A bonus of the book is the many advertisements, scattered through the book, for Dundee businesses, most now long gone, that will evoke images in older Dundonians’ minds. The one that means most to me is Frank Russell, Bookseller (New & Second-hand) of Barrack Street, Dundee, for, as a teenager, I bought many a book there, most second-hand, from Frank Russell, whose advice and patience I recall with gratitude. Another page touts the New Palais de Danse, a Dundee ballroom known widely as ‘The Pally’, where many of us indulged in the terpsichorean art in our young adulthood.

Below is a sample of the Dundee Worthies described by George M Martin:

Blind Hughie (Hugh Lennox) was tall, erect and portly but by no means pretentious. He had the faculty of picking up the music of a song from a single hearing, then learned the lyrics and loved to sing from his extensive repertoire for the public. He had a good sense of humour and enjoyed singing humorous songs in broad Scots.

Queen Anne lived in an inner-town street called The Nethergait(4). She had a fondness for decorating her clothes and person with brightly coloured silk ribbons, trinkets and bits of tinsel. She would adopt a pose, then walk off, saying “I’m Queen Anne.”

Pie Jock was a street vendor who sold hot pies, baked by a local baker, from a tray heated by a small stove, slung from his shoulders, for all the world like a cinema ice-cream girl, for tuppence a pie. Saturday night in the city centre was his beat, as many people were about then and had cash to spend. When competition bit into his trade, he took up the selling of a weekly journal which reported that week’s court cases, a matter of interest to many. When this paper folded (with apologies for the pun), he took to stocking small household items. As Saturday night was entertainment night and Dundee was very much a working class, industrial city, he often had to endure verbal harassment by gangs of small boys as he cried his wares.

Tommy Dodds stood forty-nine inches tall. His mind and wit were not stunted and he was quick of tongue, with a reputation for winning battles of repartee. He was a fan of the police, carried a police whistle and often used it to subdue a bit of potential trouble on the street. He once had a fight in the street with another short person, who had looked at Tommy in a way he did not like. The fight went on for some time and was enjoyed as a spectacle by a good crowd, before the police, who were enjoying it too, eventually called a halt. Ever after, Tommy maintained he had won the fight.

The Iron Horse was a young woman of great strength. She held down a man’s job in a rope mill. One day at a local market, this Amazon reprimanded some young toughs who were harassing stallholders, threatening to put them on their backs if they did not desist. The warning not being heeded, she was obliged to carry out her promise, which she did, with despatch.

Indigo Blue sold blue dye for a living and always appeared blue in hue, both in person and in attire, most likely due to his product. His sales cry was “I’m Inde. I’m Inde. I’m Indigo Blue”.

Tea-Pot Tam walked the streets, imitating a teapot, by placing one arm out in front of him in the shape of a spout and the other with hand held to his back to form a handle. He wore an oversize Tam O’Shanter(5) with a red toorie. Tam would hold his teapot pose until his Tam O’Shanter was removed or knocked off his head and would then walk a bit further and strike his pose again.

Among the children’s games described in the book (and such active games were enthusiastically played outdoors into the long, northern, Scottish summer evenings in the days before radio, TV, computers, video games and mobile phones) are Bools (Marbles), Hackey Duck(6) (sic), Tig (also known as ‘Touch’ or ‘It’) and more.

One anecdote in the book describes how a milkman found he was short of milk for a delivery to a clergyman’s house, so he topped up his delivery from a barrel on the front porch of the house. Unfortunately for the milkman, the barrel contained salt sea water, kept for the express purpose of medicinal bathing and his ruse was discovered.

Dundee Worthies: Reminiscences, Games, Amusements is available in reprint from several suppliers via an internet search. It is an amusing and valuable source of social history of Dundee in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We may reflect that, in today’s sophisticated, high-tech, high-speed and impatient world, such eccentric characters as Martin portrays are not now treated with the tolerance and good humour that comes through in his anthology. More’s the pity!


(1) Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

(2) A doup (pron.’dowp’) in Dundee dialect is a discarded cigarette end, often collected by indigents to be consolidated into cigarettes for consumption or selling. A more general meaning of the word is the bottom end of something.

(3) William Topaz McGonagall (the subject of an article by Hugh McGrory in this collection) was a Dundee factory worker of Irish descent, sometimes referred to as ‘The World’s Best Bad Poet’, or less charitably, ‘The World’s Worst Poet’, his name known to many throughout the English-speaking world for his bad verse, bereft of scan or rhyme. His most well-known work may be his epic poem on the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879. He also performed professionally on stage and even played Hamlet and Macbeth. There is a plaque memorialising McGonagall at Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, where he is buried.

(4)Old Dundee, like many towns, had streets named for their original purpose. ‘The Nethergait’ is ‘the lower street’. The Westport, now just a street, was once the arched western gate of the town and is mentioned in the song “Up wi’ the bonnets o’ Bonnie Dundee’ based on a poem by Sir Walter Scott, in the line ‘Unhook the Westport and let us gang free’ (there are several versions of the words). In this context ‘Bonnie Dundee’ was the name given by his supporters to the handsome John Graham of Claverhouse, First Viscount Dundee, a Jacobite leader, and not a compliment to our fair city. To those of a different persuasion, ‘Clavers’ was known as ‘Bloody Claverhouse’ for his ruthlessness as a military commander.

(5)A Tam O’Shanter is a large flat beret of wool, traditional Scottish male headgear from as early as the 16th century and widely worn until near the 20th century. There is usually a decorative woollen bobble in the centre, often red in colour, called a toorie. As Robert Burns wrote the eponymous epic poem in 1790, it is likely the Scottish ‘bunnet’ (bonnet) was the inspiration for his boozy Scots farmer’s name. It is also possible that the whisky ‘Cutty Sark’, found its name in Burns’ poem, for that is the Scots way of saying ‘short shirt’ and Burns used it to describe the garment worn by the pretty young witch who caught Tam’s eye as he rode drunkenly home from market. Alternatively, the whisky, first marketed in the 1920s, may have found its name from the same name given to a handsome 19th century tea clipper and its image is on the label of the whisky bottle.

(6)Hackey Duck is a rough boys’ game known by variants of this spelling and by other names in many places. One team of boys forms a ‘horse’ by bending their backs and holding on to the boy in front, in a line. The boy at the front, usually with his back to a wall, faces the second boy and supports his head with cupped hands. The other team leaps on to the horse, one at a time, from a run-up, and attempts to collapse it. Sometimes the team riding the horse makes a rhythmic bouncing to assist this effort and chants the words “Hackey Duck”.

Cousin Jim 2
Hugh McGrory
In writing my previous story about my cousin, I remembered another little tale:

One day, in my early twenties, I was walking home when a garbage truck stopped beside me and Jim, who
Dundee 'Scaffie's Larrie' ca 1956.
was driving, stuck his head out. We chatted a bit, then I stupidly asked if he wanted me, to show him, how to drive the big truck. Jim, being Jim, called my bluff, opened the driver’s door, said “Get in.” and slid over into the passenger seat.

I should have backed down – I didn't have the required licence, had never driven a truck, and in truth, didn't have much driving experience on four wheels at all – and Jim, no doubt, would have lost his licence and his livelihood if his bosses had found out.

But Jim being Jim, and me being me, a couple of minutes later, Dumb and Dumber were trundling along the street with me at the wheel. Jim told me to go faster, which I did, just as we neared the end of the street – a tee intersection. I completely misjudged the distance, not realising how much inertia there is in a full garbage truck, and ended up having to brake really hard to avoid sailing straight ahead into a garden. I overran the end of the street and stopped just short of the far kerb... Fortunately there was no cross traffic at that moment!

I hoped that there were no spectators, but almost immediately we were surrounded by local kids shouting things like “Can ye no drev, mister?” and “Ur ye jist a lerner?”

Jim and I decided, at that moment, that switching seats probably made sense, and he invited me to stay in the co-pilot's seat while he took the truck to the dump site and back, so I did.

All in all, an interesting couple of hours – and another little vignette to add to my book of life...

Skiing in Scotland
Gordon Findlay
I was never a wildly-keen skier, it was just something different to do in winter when the snow came, the ground froze, and all the rugby pitches were unplayable. But older brother Morris loved the sport, did it extremely well, and tootled off to Zermatt or Val-d’Isere most winters

He was a member of the Dundee Ski Club and encouraged me to come along with him to Glenshee to see what it was all about. So I scrounged a pair of second-hand skis, a pair of second-hand Norwegian climbing skins, and went along.

Back in those 1950s days it was all pretty basic and simple. The club chartered a bus which left from downtown Dundee city centre on Saturday and Sunday at 6.30 a.m. for the hour-and-a-half drive up to Glenshee.

Today, the Glenshee resort has grown massively to become the largest winter resort in Great Britain
stretching over some 2,000 acres and featuring 30-plus ski runs from beginners to expert. But back in 1953 we trundled up the highway, then crawled higher and higher up the snow-packed road, around the hairpin bend called the Spittal, and we had reached the ski hill.

At that point everyone piled out, and the volunteers carried a large length of rope which they hooked on to the large flywheel outside the motor shed. They then snow-shoed up the mountain to the top where they hooked the other end of the rope around a similar flywheel there.

Inside the shed at the foot of the ski run sat a reconditioned Ford V-8 engine which, on a good morning, started after a dozen tries and finally belched blue smoke. The rope started to move steadily around the two flywheels from the bottom of the hill to the top . . . and our ski tow was ready to use.

I didn’t see much of Morris after we arrived. I was Beginners ski hill material and Morris was definitely in the Expert class. Skis were fairly basic items back then– mostly wood with metal inserts for the running surfaces, and cable bindings.

Many of the skis were Norwegian-made (mine certainly were) and most of us invested in a pair of seal skin covers. They were just called “skins.” These were pulled over the skis and snapped tight in place; the seal fur ran “against the grain” of the snow and allowed you to “walk” up the snow-covered hillside.

That’s Show Business...
Hugh McGrory
In a previous story. I told of how my old friend and mentor, Bob Kenngott, and I spent a memorable evening (especially for him) seeing Marlene Dietrich in cabaret. The venue was the famed Blue Room in the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, the date 1974.

It was a magical evening, seeing this legend up close, and we wondered how a woman in her 70s could look so delectable in her famous ’nude’ dress. This was capital S, capital B, Show Business – something we’ll come back to…

Marie Magdalene Dietrich (Marlene is a portmanteau of Marie and Magdalene) was one of the greats, one of a kind – she was Madonna long before Madonna had two names, long, long, before Gaga became a Lady…

An American citizen, she was born in Berlin on Dec. 27, 1901, the daughter of a German cavalry officer, later a police lieutenant (who, sadly, died when she was only six) and grew up in a home with a Prussian
military ambience – no one could have guessed that she would become the international legend she did.

As a child, she studied violin, and in her teens became interested in poetry and theatre – she even, for a brief time, played violin in a pit orchestra for silent films in a Berlin theatre. She first appeared on stage as a chorus girl in vaudeville, which led to small parts in theatre productions and then in movies.

Her big break came in 1929 when she won the role of Lola Lola in The Blue Angel, the first feature-length, German, full-talkie film – in so doing met up with Josef Von Sternberg, the Director. He convinced her to work with him in the , where they made some six films together and made her a major star.

In one of those films, Morocco, with Gary Cooper, she played a cabaret singer, and in one sequence was dressed in a man's white tie and tails and kisses another woman. This created quite a stir at the time, and the film went on to earn Dietrich her only Academy Award nomination. Later in her career, in her one-woman cabaret shows she often played a first set in her 'nude" dress and the second in top hat, white-tie, and tails -
this allowed her to appeal to the varied tastes of the audience and to sing different songs – some written originally for a male singer.

Dietrich was approached by Hitler to return to Germany, but she refused, and in the late 1930s,with the film director, Billy Wilder, and other German exiles she created a fund to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany. She donated her salary from one of her movies to a fund helping refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen and renounced her German citizenship. After the U.S. entered World War II, in 1941, Dietrich became one of the first public figures to help sell war bonds. She toured the U.S. from January 1942 to September 1943 and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star.

Marlene recorded a song, Lili Marleen in English, and German – it became a favourite of both Allied and German soldiers. In 1944 and ‘45, she performed for Allied troops in Algeria, Italy, the UK, France, and the Netherlands then entered Germany with Generals Gavin and Patton. She received the Medal of Freedom in November 1947, for her "extraordinary record entertaining troops overseas during the war". She was also awarded the Legion d’honneur by the French government for her wartime work.

Dietrich married assistant director Rudolf Sieber, in 1923. Despite the fact that she knew that he had a long-time mistress, and he knew that she, openly bisexual, had many liaisons, they remained married until his death in 1976, and had an only child, Maria Riva. Among her lovers, apparently, were:

Burt Bacharach, Delores Del Rio, Douglas Fairbanks, Edith Piaf, Edward R. Murrow, Erich Maria Remarque, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, General George Patton, George Bernard Shaw, Greta Garbo, Maureen Stewart, Jean Gabin, Joan Crawford, John F Kennedy, and it’s said, also his father Joseph Kennedy, John Gilbert, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Mercedes de Acosta, Michael Todd, Michael Wilding, Yul Brynner.

After the war, she appeared in a number of movies, but began to concentrate more on her one-woman show on the cabaret, supper club, and theatre circuits. Her break-through appearance was in 1953 at the Sahara Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

Her shows were always quite short, consisting of only a few songs associated with her, but this one became a
worldwide sensation because of the daringly sheer 'nude' dress she wore (she said that the only thing she wore under it was a garter belt to keep her stockings up). It came in several versions designed to give the illusion of transparency, but to flash cameras it was more than an illusion… It created huge publicity for her and led to many international gigs which continued until the mid-seventies.

Which brings us back to capital ‘S’ capital ‘B’ Show Business and Bob and I watching her perform in her nude dress. By 1974, Marlene’s health was failing. A long-time smoker, she was a cervical cancer survivor, and suffered from poor circulation in her legs. In 1972 she had a fall on stage in Maryland, damaged her left thigh, and delayed treatment to the point that she needed skin grafts to help the wound to heal. She was a trouper, though, and she needed a sizable income, so she kept working.

By the time Bob and I sat in awe watching her she was 72 years old and the ’nude dress’ was definitely an illusion – it was anything but nude. In fact, before she put it on, she donned a flesh-colored bodysuit in nylon fabric which the
designer had created to pinch, squeeze augment and mold to give her a perfect body. The colour was exactly matched to her skin tone, so the tantalising ‘nude’ effect was still believable.

The body suit was so artful as to be invisible, and we didn’t realise that when she disappeared briefly behind the backdrop between numbers that she might have been taking a hit of oxygen to sustain her. Nor did we suspect her use of nonsurgical temporary facelifts (using tape), expert makeup and wigs, all of which combined with careful stage lighting to create the illusion that enabled her to preserve her glamorous image as she grew older. Show Business, eh! It certainly fooled Bob and me...

After we saw her in New Orleans, Marlene appeared on stage 40 more times over the next year and a half, 20 of these were in various US cities, the other 20 covered Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Holland, Japan, and Venezuela. Sadly, her show business career largely ended on 29 September 1975, when she fell on stage and broke a thigh bone during a performance in Sydney, Australia. The following year, her husband, Rudolf Sieber, died of cancer on 24 June 1976.

Dietrich withdrew to her apartment at 12 Avenue Montaigne in Paris an became almost a recluse. An alcoholic dependent on painkillers, she spent the final 11 years of her life mostly bedridden. She allowed only a select few, family and employees, to enter the apartment. She was though, a prolific letter-writer and phone-caller, and wrote her autobiography, Nehmt nur mein Leben (Take Just My Life), published in 1979.

On 6 May 1992, Dietrich died of renal failure at her flat in Paris at age 90. Her funeral ceremony was conducted at La Madeleine in Paris, a Roman Catholic church, on 14 May 1992. The funeral service was attended by approximately 1,500 mourners in the church itself — including several ambassadors, from Germany, Russia, the US, the UK and other countries — with thousands more outside.

Her closed coffin rested beneath the altar draped in the French flag and adorned with a simple bouquet of white wildflowers and roses from the French President, François Mitterrand. Three medals, including the Legion d’honneur and the US Medal of Freedom, were displayed at the foot of the coffin, military style, for a ceremony symbolising the sense of duty Dietrich embodied in her career as an actress, and in her personal fight against Nazism. The officiating priest remarked: "Everyone knew her life as an artist of film and song, and everyone knew her tough stands... She lived like a soldier and would like to be buried like a soldier".

By a stroke of serendipity that would have delighted Marlene, the Cannes Film Festival had chosen a photograph of her as the poster that year, and so, when her funeral took place, her image was pasted up all over Paris.

By the Book
Bill Kidd
Lockdown and the strictures it places on our social lives gives plenty of time to reflect on days gone by. In my own case this was triggered by finding that I was running out of reading material and bemoaning the fact that the local library was inoperative. This in turn got me thinking about what I read as a child. Before television took such a firm hold on society the three main sources of entertainment for many were the cinema, the radio and reading and I must admit that as a child in the late forties and early fifties I was addicted to all three.

There were few cowboy and wartime adventure films of the Errol Flynn and John Wayne genre that I did not see. As for the radio I could recite the weekly programme schedule from memory. I particularly enjoyed comedy shows such as Take it from Here, Much Binding in the Marsh, and Ray's a Laugh, in addition to my daily ration of Dick Barton, Special Agent, and Children's Hour.

I read voraciously, I always had a book on the go, and I believe that I may have been the best customer of Dundee Libraries. My visits there were almost daily because, as a juvenile, I could only borrow one book at a time. This problem was slightly alleviated by my stopping off at the reference department and reading some extracts from
'Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopedia'.
Even now, I can still recall the story of the Holy Grail and the annoyance I felt if someone else had the temerity to be using the volume that had the next segment of the story.

I remember many of the books I read during that time. Most of them were adventure stories about brave heroes defending the Empire against villains that ranged from Napoleon to Hitler using ships under sail,WW1 biplanes, flint-lock muskets, and machine guns. I read authors of books that few now remember. R M Ballantyne's
'The Coral Island',
Capt. Marryat's
'Mr Midshipman Easy',
'The Children of The New Forest',
'Masterman Ready'.

W. E. Johns was responsible for a great deal of boys running around with outstretched arms mouthing de de de de de at another boy designated to be a Messerschmitt. Yes, he wrote the
books, masses of them! In recent years I have dipped into these books and was horrified to find how racist and jingoistic they were.

I am pleased to say that I did have a more mellow, less bloodthirsty taste to my choice of books. Among my favourites was the Arthur Ransome series, with their various sailing adventures. I was also heavily into Richmal Crompton and her
'Just William'
books. I am not quite sure why I particularly enjoyed the stories about William and his friends, Ginger and Violet Elizabeth Bott and his enemy Hubert Lane. Perhaps it was because of the weekly radio version that I listened to.

Although I read a great deal, I must confess that I never enjoyed the books that were chosen for me as school home readers. I hated
, and
'Oliver Twist'
and must confess that I did not get past the first few chapters of either of them. A visit to the reference library for their synopsis provided enough information to enable me to scrape through the year end examination! I can honestly say that I have not read a word of Dickens or Scott since. Is it too late to make amends?

Cousin Jim
Hugh McGrory
My mum had a cousin, Jim – actually he was a first cousin once removed, about ten years younger than her. His mother was referred to in the family as Auntie Nell – she was actually my first cousin once removed and Jim was my second cousin (children of cousins are second cousins).

Jim would drop in on us now and again for a cup of tea and was always welcome – he was gallus, as we Lowland Scots would say (gallus means bold, extroverted, cheeky – apparently derived from Middle English, from gallows, in the sense of 'fit to be hanged'), and he always brightened our day. Jim had a hard life when young and I always believed, from family lore, that he spent time on the Mars Training Ship anchored in the River Tay. (In researching this story however, I've concluded that Jim, twelve years older than me, would have been too young to have been on the Mars since it ceased operations in 1929).

Jim was, variously, a tramcar conductor, then driver, and a bus conductor. He told me that as a tram driver,

one of the bugbears was the careless car driver who would park too close to the tracks and cause traffic jams. He said that one day he got so fed up that he just drove on and ripped the mirror off the car.

My Aunt Evelyn, my mother’s sister, and the mother of my cousins Mike, and Frank, whom some of you
know, liked to tell of one early morning when she was heading to work down Dens Road from Arklay Street, heading for a bus to take her downtown. She realised that she had forgotten her purse and had no money for bus fare.

Deciding that she’d have to walk, she set off. Just then, her bus pulled into the stop she’d just left, paused briefly then set off again. As it gained speed and passed her, she realised that the conductor standing on the rear platform was Jim and he was looking at her.

She called out “Jim, I’ve no money” and signalled with her hands out… Jim to his credit caught on immediately, reached into his cash bag, gathered a handful of coins, grabbed the safety post, leaned out of the bus, and pitched them into the gutter. Auntie Ev. gathered them up, walked to the next stop and caught the following bus.

Cousin Jim was quite a character – so was Auntie Ev., come to think of it...

The School Army Cadets
Brian Macdonald
Not being the athletic type, I was not in any sports teams and a slug on sports afternoons and in the gym. The only regular exercise I took for years, apart from turning the pages of books and comics, was the daily pushbike ride to school along the Clepington Road and delivering groceries from my mum’s shop on my bike. I had a passion for skating, so I went to the ice rink on Saturday afternoons with my pal Bruce Henderson to zoom round the rink in our ‘tube’ skates.

But, possibly driven by an urge to be part of some school group activity, I joined the school’s Army Cadet Corps as soon as I was old enough. The officers were the lofty Ernie Landsman, the steel spring, ex-Chindit Tom Hermiston, Doc Taylor, the sardonic history teacher and the affable Bill Dow, all with WW2 service behind them. Senior cadets won non-commissioned rank from lance-corporal up to sergeant-major. The rest of us were cannon-fodder and often not the smartest turned-out.

We were issued surplus, or maybe ‘pre-loved’ khaki army uniforms of thick, coarse, blanket-like texture,
Cadet Gilchrist and Officer Dow, in civvies, and cadet Maclay in uniform and beret.
shirts (Where did they get these shirts with separate collar that had to be attached with collar studs?), and berets, that were worn hanging rakishly off the side of the head, and long-suffering parents had to buy boots that we learnt to ‘bull’ – spit and polish the toecaps and heel areas with lashings of black boot polish until they gleamed like glass. Some lads must have had better quality spit, for their boots outshone the others by a huge margin. The broad, thick, woven army belt with brass buckle and slides, the gaiters and the small pack had to be evenly coated with khaki blanco (a block of paste to which you added water and applied with a nail brush) and all the brass bits highly polished with Brasso or Duraglit. One interesting piece of equipment was a voluminous waterproof poncho that opened up to double as a ground sheet. It was really good rainwear, but the turtleneck-like neck hole made it uncomfortable to lie on when opened up.

Every Friday we turned up at school in our uniforms instead of the Morgan blazer and grey trousers, for
parade at 4 o’clock. We formed up into squads, marched around the concrete playground with a satisfying, boot-stamping rhythm, did rifle drill, learned how to strip down, clean and reassemble in quick time rifles and Bren guns and carried out sundry other military activities.

The unit’s HQ was a small brick building in a corner of the girls’ playground. It had a tiny office and an armoury, where a small arsenal of Lee Enfield .303 rifles (possibly of Boer War vintage) and a few WW2 Bren machine guns was kept chained and locked away. The outside door was steel. These were the days of IRA (Irish Republican Army) raids on armouries around Britain
Lee Enfield .303 Rifle Bren Gun... 1930s – 1990s
and I doubt ours would have offered much resistance.and I doubt ours would have offered much resistance. A highlight of cadet activity was the periodic field day. This took place on a Saturday on the dunes at the Barry Buddon army training area, about 10 miles from Dundee, near Carnoustie, and was our chance to run

Barry Buddon Training Area

around like real soldiers. A full-dress turn-out with all the officers present, a few genuine army sergeants to oversee things, and one elderly major with an artificial leg, whom we called ‘Corky’, but not to his face. There was much crawling about in the long grass and running around with rifles, simulating attack, a session of shooting at targets with live ammo, under strict supervision, which included a stint in the butts pasting little pieces of paper over the holes made by those who could shoot accurately and some classroom work, such as map-reading. We had to bring our own packed lunch, a couple of sandwiches, cheese and an apple. I do not remember it ever raining on a field day but I suppose it did.

Rose-tinted memories! We enjoyed our days running around on the dunes and went home dirty, tired and happy. The throw-away Australian expression for the Citizens’ Military Force (the equivalent of the Territorial Army) is ‘cut-lunch commandos’ and that was us, in our own eyes.

On one such field day, being now the proud owner of my BSA motorbike, I travelled to the event on my bike rather than in the organised coach. Kenneth George Will, a sixth year lad, was then the sergeant-major, the highest ranking cadet, smart and soldierly of bearing. As such, he had a supervisory role and I was his transport and despatch rider, thus getting some hugely-enjoyed rough country riding.

We were heading somewhere, two-up, Ken on the pillion hanging on for dear life as we bounced along on the rough, tussocky dunes. Suddenly he bellowed at me to stop. I’d been enjoying myself too much to pay proper attention to where we were going. I stopped dead and found we were on the crest of a small dune, with nothing but space a few feet in front of us. Had we kept on at warp speed, there was a high probability of a wrecked bike and two broken necks. But the disaster was avoided. No damage and a bit more circumspection after that.

I stuck to the cadets till I left school at age 18, but I never made sergeant-major, although I was the most
senior cadet by then. I understood and accepted the reason although nothing was ever said. Carrying the nickname of ‘Tubby’ all my school career, I did not cut the proper, trim, military figure that was essential to front the massed ranks of the cadets on parade. A clever solution was found by our officers and I was appointed quarter-master sergeant and put in charge of the armoury and other logistical matters. A sixth year classmate, Stan Bowen, got the sergeant-major’s crown on his sleeve and cut the proper military figure.

Bent on a military career, Ken Will went on to be accepted at the prestigious Sandhurst Military College as an officer cadet. I joined the army a couple of
years later, finding my way to Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, and spending five years in uniform.

So the time spent in the Morgan Academy Army Cadet Corps under the tutelage of those enthusiastic volunteer officers reaped some fruit. I remember them all and my time as a Morgan cadet with affection and gratitude.

An Abridged Story...
Hugh McGrory
... one last short story about a bridge...

When I was writing my previous story about railway underbridge surveying, I searched the Web for a photograph of a bridge that was similar to the one we had worked on, to use as an illustration. I was concentrating on the type of beam used, and the bridge I finally found was very similar – I show it again below. (Actually there are three bridges side by side along this road – you can see the bottom of the girders of the two further bridges.)

At first, I didn't pay much attention to the people in the road underneath, and it was some time later that I took a closer look. My first thought was that it was a bunch of 'leeries', but then I realised that something quite serendipitous had occurred:

To set the scene, I've added some letters to the photo:

  •    'U,W,L' defines an actual beam. 'U' and 'L' are the upper and lower flanges and 'W' is the web.

  •    To the left of the 'M' you'll see the rather ghostly outline of a man. I copied him from the street below and pasted him into that position to give a sense of scale (I apologise for the quality of the 'man' – I don't have very sophisticated photo manipulation software – you'll see it a little better if you click to the larger photo). It looks like the beam is about 5 feet deep or a little more.

  •    The 'P' is a parapet to keep workmen from falling off the safety walkway which runs along the top of the beam (similar to the one circled in red on the photo below). Some bridges had these to allow railway workers to cross safely while trains passed by. (The bridge we surveyed didn’t have a walkway.)

The reason I wanted to re-visit this photo is because – purely by chance – I had managed to stumble on a
photograph of an actual underbridge survey being carried out – sometime in the 1930s by the look of it.

The DEMEC gauges we used were only developed and put on the market in the early 1950s, so a different method was required before then. The group of men were positioned at strategic points beneath the bridge to measure the downward deflection of the beams as the locomotive travelled across – from these measurements engineers would be able to assess the condition of the structure.

As you can see, they are armed with long poles. I imagine these must have consisted of two sections, spring-loaded, one part telescoping into the other, and would have had a gauge to measure the movement. They would have set up their poles vertically underneath the bottom flange, then moved the sliding part up until the tip was firmly against the beam, then zeroed the gauge. The train would have travelled across, the beams would have sagged slightly under the load, and the gauges would have registered the downward deflections – these readings would then have been recorded for later analysis.

So, I ask you, what are the odds against my accidentally stumbling upon a photo of an underbridge survey in progress, while searching for a photograph to illustrate a story about an underbridge survey...?

Hill Walking
Gordon Findlay
While I was working at D.C. Thomson as a lowly sub-editor one of my best friends was Jim Fitzpatrick. He was a staff photographer for Valentine’s of Dundee – at the time Scotland’s leading source of scenic postcards and professional photography. Jim was also a keen hill walker, and got me interested (he got lots of practice since his job usually involved hiking across open moorland to set up his large, tripod camera to photograph a particular scene when the light or natural conditions were just right).

Scotland is crisscrossed with a network of trails across open country and throughout all of the country’s national parks. One of the biggest and best of these is the Cairngorms National Park, the largest in Britain at over 1,700 square miles. When we were hill walking, of course, there was no national park (the area didn’t become a National Park until 2003). It was just a gloriously open and beautiful stretch of rough farming and semi-wilderness with lots of wildlife, mostly hares, rabbits, deer, and red foxes.

A favourite walk on weekends was the trail through Glen Prosen. We would drive up to the village of Kirriemuir, about 30 km northeast from Dundee and park in a farmer’s yard there – with his permission.

Then it was on with our hiking boots: high-top waterproof leather well soaked in dubbin and studded with hob nails, on with the sweater and the waterproof anorak jacket, on with the backpack containing our trail mix and sandwiches, topographical map, and bottle of water, on with the waterproofed hat (essential in Scottish weather). Then we grabbed our walking poles or walking sticks , checked our compass for North plus the bearing we needed, and we were off.

In those days there was a tiny youth hostel near Adenaich and all we had to do was keep on a compass bearing of, say, 274 degrees and we’d hit it. It’s easy to get disorientated when you’re hill-walking, especially if a low mist starts to drift in, as very often happened in Scotland when lower warm air collided with the cooler air in the hills.

When there are no distinguishing objects like houses or hydro poles or roads, every hill and valley look the same; hill fog can get very thick very quickly, especially if the wind dies away. You find yourself surrounded by a grey, swirling nothingness. You must have a map, a compass and a good small flashlight and know how to orientate yourself.

Once you got away from the village of Kirriemuir, (‘way back then, anyway) the fields dropped away and you found yourself climbing up towards Glen Quharity: open country with lots of springy short grass and heather, little burns trickling down the hillsides where the going was spongy and wet (that’s where those waterproof boots were essential). If the weather was fair and warm we’d quickly doff our anoraks and tie them around our waists (the origin of “Skirt Man”!).

Then it was a long upward hike past Glen Quharity towards Corwharm – a small mountain that dominated the area and had a lot of jumbled rock that could make the going slow. Hares seemed to be the largest wildlife population and they’d spring up ahead of us as we approached and go racing off across the moor in every direction.

Then, when they’d gone a hundred yards or so, they’d stop, turn around and stretch up to stare back at us as if to say: “Well, you’re obviously not chasing us and you are an interesting-looking pair.”

One of the great pleasures came on days when it was sunny and warm. We’d pick a nice spot to eat our lunch, doff our back packs and flop down. Complete and utter silence except for the soft rush of wind across the hill; the delicate scent of peat and heather in the air and the sun on your face.

I’m sure there wasn’t another soul for miles around us. It was a deep and satisfying pleasure to burrow deep into the heather and look up at the clouds drifting across the sky, smell Jimmy’s pipe smoke, and feel at peace with the world.

We did do an overnight near Adenaich once at the small youth hostel which in those days was only approachable by foot across the hills. We found ourselves sharing the place with one supervisor, a couple of Germans, I think, and a pair of Aussies (naturally!).

Supper was a always group affair. Everyone contributed what was in their back packs . . . packets of soup and dehydrated beef, a length of Polish sausage, a bag of macaroni or uncooked spaghetti perhaps. Wrapped wedges of butter or cheese, crackers or cookies. The net effect was a sort of international feast, usually a stew cooked on the shared stove and using the youth hostel pots and metal plates (you had to provide your own knife-fork-spoon combo.)

If you were lucky the supervisor had a bag of potatoes or a couple of turnips in his storehouse (too heavy to carry) and he (it was always a “he” in those days…) would contribute these for the communal pot. No beer or whisky-fueled drinking songs after supper . . . no alcohol of any kind was the rule at the youth hostels, and that was a good rule, I think. It made evening meals move along more naturally and free of any pointless arguments.

For the small fee, the hostel provided fresh water, a wire frame bed and a sleeping bag or blankets– your choice. After a long 7 or 8 hours hiking across the hills and a pleasantly full stomach, sleep came pretty swiftly – and it was deep!

A Bridge Not Far Enough...
Hugh McGrory
In a previous story I told of working on railway underbridge surveys. Sometimes, though rarely, the 'powers that be' would decide that we needed to go one step further – run tests on a given bridge. One day in 1959, my boss tells four of us that we are the test crew for the coming weekend. We were to meet at around 10:00 pm on Sunday and drive to the bridge in question.

Needless to say, my erstwhile cavalier attitude in wandering onto a main line wouldn’t work this time... Given that we intended to take over the line and run a steam locomotive back and forward over the bridge (fortunately we didn't have to bring our own engine) we had to follow very strict procedures laid down by the railway authority beginning with submitting a ‘Request for Track Possession'.

2.6.1 Requirement for a Track Possession .

A track possession is a formal procedure to stop rail traffic over a defined area of track and to hand the track over to a contractor or other staff for the purpose of carrying out works safely. The need for a possession shall be determined by the railway operating manager after considering the type of work to be carried out along with method statement, risk assessment, location, access, traffic, and other factors. Each possession is defined by precise location on the track, and by time limits, and the information is presented on a certificate signed by both the railway operating manager and the person in charge of possession (PICOP) at the start and end of each possession.

To try to explain what we were doing, I need to start with 'stress and strain' which are often confused. In a nutshell, stress occurs when an object has a load applied to it. Strain occurs if the shape of the object changes because of that stress, e.g., if you stood on a block of granite, you'd have stress but no strain (since the granite would be much too strong to change shape). If, instead, it had been a block of soft rubber, you'd have both...)

I just rooted around in my desk and found an eraser. I wrote on one side, then held it while my long-suffering wife took several photos – these are the results:

On the left is the start position; the middle photo shows my thumbs pressing upwards and my index fingers down and you can see that the letters on the top have moved apart while the ones below are squishing together; the third shows the opposite indicating that the material at the top is compressing while the material below is in tension and stretching like an elastic band. So, my fingers applied stress, and the eraser reacted by showing strain – part getting longer, part shorter.

Now imagine that the eraser in the third photo is actually a steel I-beam (see photo on the left). The photo on the right shows such beams in a house carrying wooden joists that will support the floor above ). The
vertical steel column supporting the beam is like my thumb pressing up, and the wooden joists are like my fingers pressing down. The flanges at the top and bottom of the I-beam will stretch and compress just like the eraser.

When larger I-beams are required, as for rail bridges and often referred to as girders, they are made by welding or riveting steel plates together, and this was the case in the bridge we were to test – very like the bridge shown below (see the riveted plates).

Our job was to measure the bending, stretching, and compressing that
was going on as the locomotive moved over the bridge, and use these measurements to calculate whether or not the bridge was fit for purpose, or needed repair or replacement.

Very similar to 'our' bridge. (Photo actually shows three bridges close together for multiple tracks.)
I think we probably had ‘Possession' for about two hours ending around 4:00 am. When we arrived, we put on our hard hats with attached headlights and set about preparing for the arrival of the engine. We used ‘DEMECs' (demountable mechanical strain gauges). These were developed at the Cement and Concrete Association to enable strain measurements to be made at different parts of a structure using a single instrument.

The DEMEC consisted of a dial gauge attached to a bar made of Invar (a nickel-iron alloy that barely expands or contracts under temperature changes). A fixed conical point is mounted at one end of the bar, and a moving conical point is mounted on a knife edge pivot at the opposite end eight inches apart . The pivoting movement of this second conical point is measured by the dial gauge.

To prepare for the test, we first used a metallic glue to stick pairs of little location discs (provided by the DEMEC manufacturer) eight inches apart at the chosen locations on the structure. These stainless steel discs (the size of shirt buttons) were pre-drilled with a depression in the centre in which the pivot points rested.

DEMECs – 8" between points. Discs – about ¼ inch diam.
Each time a reading had to be taken we inserted the two conical points into the holes in the discs and adjusted the reading on the dial gauge to zero. Then the engine dirver would be signalled and the locomotive would travel slowly across the bridge. This load caused various parts of the beam to stretch or compress slightly, the discs to move very slightly towards or away from each other, and the gauge to move – we read and recorded the maximum value. Most of my test locations were on the edge of the upper flanges of the beams.

My memories of that night:

  •    I remember quite enjoying working through the night. I wouldn't like to do it full time, but there's something special about working when most regular people are tucked up in bed, a feeling of superiority, something along the lines of "Sleep well people in your comfy beds, knowing that we're here, working through the night to keep you safe..."

  •    Though I had studied stress and strain in the classroom, I hadn’t really internalised the fact that these huge metal beams would actually stretch or compress, until the first pass of the engine occurred, and I saw the gauge move. That was a moment of engineering insight for me.

  •    And then there was my panic attack... It happened on the fourth pass of the engine. I was standing facing away from the track attending to the gauge and about to take a reading on the top flange. When the engine got to within a few feet of me – as in the photo below – my right brain suddenly shouted in my ear “You're going to get crushed!” My instinctive reaction was to duck down under the flange and press myself against the web. (Fortunately, I kept my grasp on the DEMEC, and my hands, now straight up in the air, kept it in position.)

Of course, as soon as I got down there my left brain said “What are you, an idiot? You've done this three
times already – you know you can't get crushed.” So, as the engine reached me and slowly passed, I sprang up with a sort of Inspector Clouseau (“Zere is nossing to see 'ere.”) nonchalance – and then snuck glances all around to see if anybody had noticed. It was dark – no one had.

The whole incident was over in less than 30 seconds, so maybe it wasn't a classic panic attack (never happened before or since), but it was certainly something weird – sure scared the bejabers out of me at the time!

Now in my own defence, I don't think most people understand just how big, how powerful, these magnificent steam locomotives are. The larger behemoths rise more than 13 ft above the rails, and the rails are about 18 inches above the ground, so add another foot and a half.

Standing a foot away from the big driving wheels, taller than you, of a very slow-moving locomotive listening to the sounds, the puffing and wheezing, and the groaning of hot metal, smelling the steam, the smoke, the hot oil – now that's a sensual experience you don't get standing on the platform of a train station, some 4½ft above track ground level...

Bill Kidd
Having reached an age that the retention of information becomes ever more important, something happened to give me cause to reflect on what I do remember and what I don't. Don't ask me what happened to trigger that thought, I can't remember! It is annoying to go into a room to collect something only to find that when you get there you no longer have any idea of what it was that you were meant to collect.

Putting names to places is another minefield to negotiate with care. If it is someone that I don't see too often I can employ the technique used by an American presidential candidate (I can't remember who it was) who found himself in the same position. When greeting someone that he felt that he should know, he simply bit the bullet, held out his hand and said, "Great to see you again but I'm sorry I can't quite recall your name." If the answer was a forename the candidate would say, "Bill ... Bill, I know that as well as my own name, it's your surname that I can't recall!". If the answer given was his surname.... well, you can guess the rest!

Care needs to be taken when using similar techniques. A colleague of mine spent several hours interviewing a politician and at the conclusion of the interview he couldn't recall the interviewee's name. In a moment of inspiration he looked up from his notes and said, "Finally, can I just check how you spell your name?". "S-M-I-T-H", came the reply.

It would seem logical that one would remember the important things in life and discard memories of little importance. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case. I have had a fondness for quizzes for most of my life. I suspect that this was kicked off by the weekly quiz in the Sunday Post and fed by an avid diet of Ripley Believe it or Not! books. The result is my retention of a mishmash of unrelated, largely useless facts.

Now that I only watch quizzes on TV these facts become a useful tool for the irritation of others as I claim to know the answer to some question or other. When I say "claim" I mean that I do know but can't recall it in time to prove it. This can be a source of great frustration, particularly when the answer comes to mind when I awaken in the middle of the night. Perhaps some of the process of ageing is being able to file away memories in good order but at the same time forgetting where one has hidden the key!

There seems to be some facts that are embedded in memory and remain there no matter how irrelevant they become. Without any mechanism for eradicating them, recall remains instant and automatic. If only people could ask me the cost of a dozen items each priced at 1/3, I feel sure that they would be impressed when I snap out the answer "15/-". I could then go on to further impress by demonstrating with instant recall that there were eight half crowns in a pound and that you could buy six items each costing 3/4 for a pound. The sad thing is that the only word that anyone under the age of fifty would recognise is "pound".

As for Rods, Poles and Perches I could well be speaking in Klingon. For some reason when I purchase something, such as an apple, for fifteen pence I still think, "That's three shillings" and reflect on when you could have an evening in the cinema, a tub of ice cream and have a poke of chips on the way home for that! But enough of my jet-setting early life!

Memory is a funny thing that can be triggered by many things. The aroma of roasting coffee takes me back to Dundee's Castle Street, and the smell of a new jute shopping bag in Tesco can transport me back to the crowds of Jute workers returning home from work. The clang of a tramcar warning bell on TV can set me off on a fantasy trip of penny transfer journeys to school or the exhilarating return from Dens Park after yet another Dundee victory. Did I say that some memories exist only in fantasy?

Ah Yes, I Remember it Well!
Hugh McGrory
You know how, sometimes, you have the experience of enjoying time spent with family or friends and realising afterwards that much of the pleasure came from seeing your companions' enjoyment as much as the event itself.

For example, I remember:
  •    an outing to a petting zoo and being entranced watching the kids as much as the animals, as they interacted.

  •     my wife and me taking my mother to visit Verdant Works, an industrial textile museum set in a beautifully refurbished mill building in Dundee. Mum, as a young girl had worked in a jute mill as a cop winder, and we got to see her reaction to seeing (and hearing) a cop winding machine in action some seventy years later.
For a time, late 1960s to early 1980s I made many trips to the USA furthering my (and my employer's) interest in the application of computers in engineering. On one particular occasion – my records are sketchy, but I believe it was April 1974 – I was in the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans attending meetings with a small group of fellow professionals. We were working on a project for the US National Science Foundation.

One of those colleagues, Bob Kenngott, was a generation older, and someone I looked up to as a wise and experienced practitioner. Once in casual conversation he had mentioned that he had a favourite entertainer, someone he had admired for ever...

When I checked in to the hotel (The Fairmont), I saw a billboard – that very same entertainer was appearing there in the famous Blue Room! I was thrilled to tell Bob, and we reserved a table for a meal and the show.

Here are some clues to the entertainer that evening – can you figure out who it was?
  1.    Famous
  2.    A headliner
  3.    An international entertainer
  4.    Actor, singer
  5.    Starred in films, in the theatre and in cabaret
  6.    Spoke English, French and German
  7.    Wrote poetry
  8.    Died at the age of 90
Know who it was? Check your guess here.

It was a memorable evening for me – a pleasure, of course, to see such a legend perform – but made especially memorable by my friend Bob's entrancement at seeing his lifelong idol live, and up close...

Former Pupils' Rugby
Gordon Findlay
I left Morgan, clutching my Higher Leaving Certificate, and I thought I had left rugby behind me. I had enjoyed my time on Morgan's 1st XV during the 1949 – 1950 season and didn't really think much about the game for a while.

And then I got a phone call. Would I be interested in turning out for a practice with the Former Pupils team?

I dug out my shorts and boots and stockings and made my way down Forfar Road on the appointed day. But when I walked into the dressing room my first thought was: "Omigod! These are big men. Older men. With major muscles. With moustaches. Most of them have wives! What am I doing here?"

Then, as I cautiously undressed and got my gear on, I noticed something else. A few of these men sported ugly healing cuts on their legs and arms – plus purple bruises the size of small plates. Moreover, one or two of them donned large and impressive knee braces. Another wrapped one of his arms in layer after layer of pink tensor bandage before pulling on his jersey

I was really sure I was in over my head. How am I going to stand up against full-grown men? How can I compete with all those experienced senior players?

Just when I was building myself up into a huge blue funk, I spotted a somewhat different visual clue. A couple of those FPs sported rather thick midriffs. One hulking fellow had to wrestle his shorts on over a significant beer belly.

Hmmmm. Surely he can't be totally fit with a gut like that! Maybe there was hope after all.

When we got out on to the field, we did the usual rugby drills: wind sprints, practice lineouts, loose scrums, passing. There was nothing new, but all the bodies seemed to be larger, everything seemed to happen a little faster, and once we chose up sides for a short game, I found the tackling a lot harder, the bodies more solid than I had been used to playing against in school rugby.

But, being a practice, there was a lot of cheerful ribbing and laughter when things broke down or passes went astray. And although I was as nervous as a new bride, I mostly kept a low profile, tried not to drop the ball or do anything stupid.

After an hour and a half somebody called it quits. The practice was over. I was still in one piece and I still had some energy left.

And that's when I discovered the somewhat different world of F.P. rugby. We walked off the field and clattered back inside the club house. And there – sitting solidly in the middle of the dressing room floor – were two cases of McEwan's Strong Ale.

They were obviously supposed to be there. Everyone casually reached over and opened one. Then they sat back on the bench, tipped back their bottles and sighed gratefully. Good-natured insults began to fly around the room. Tales from previous games were told and jokes exchanged. There was lots of laughter.

Sitting quietly in the corner of the room with my own bottle I said to myself: "I think I'm going to like this."
Third from left...

A Bridge Too Far...
Hugh McGrory
My first job after university was in London, working for a consulting engineering company, Mott, Hay and Anderson. Mott, Hay was a large well-respected firm (it no longer exists as such – it merged with Sir M MacDonald and Partners in 1989, to form Mott MacDonald, now one of the largest employee-owned companies in the world).

The company had a contract to survey underbridges for the Southern Region, British Railways. (An underbridge is the term used for a bridge that carries rail tracks over a road, river, or other obstruction.)

There were approximately 5000 bridges throughout the Region constructed of masonry, cast-iron, wrought

Three of the Five Thousand
iron, steel, or concrete – some of these were more than 100 years old. This was a multi-year contract for Mott, Hay the purpose being to find those bridges that could not be relied upon to carry the increasing loads of modern trains.

What We Were Trying to Prevent
We obtained plans for each bridge, if available, using the information from these to analyse the carrying capacity. Sometimes, if no plans were available, we had to go out to the field to establish the dimensions etc.

On one particular occasion I was with two other young engineers, Mike and Avi – see photo taken June
1959. I was the senior, given that I had joined the firm the previous year and they were new hires – what this meant was that I got to drive the van (a Bedford CA type which some of you may remember as being the base for the famous Dormobile camper van).

We had completed our mission for that day, and could have headed back to the office, but I was eyeing the bridge behind the van in the photo. We were parked in Southwark Street, just west of the bridge carrying traffic across the Thames to Cannon Street Station.

I knew that we needed a few measurements from that specific bridge to complete its analysis, and that in due
course we would get the requisite permission from the railway authority and would come back then to meet up with a railway 'minder'.

So we should have headed for the office – but as a contrarian, and a believer in the homily 'it's much easier to apologize than to get permission', I told my 'crew' that we were going to get those measurements there and then. They were not too impressed with the idea – but I had the keys to the van...

The recent photo shows the location today. Access to the track was from the corner of the bridge abutment –
where some repairs seem to be under way now. The red temporary fence in the photograph was a wooden fence sixty years ago with a locked gate at the corner of the bridge.

I used a screwdriver to jimmy the lock (without damaging it, of course) which gave us access to stairs within the abutment that led up to the track. There didn't seem to be any railway workers, or trains, around – perfect. I told the guys we wanted to be in and out fast – and we were –
ten minutes tops. Then we scarpered and headed back to the office.

I was quite pleased with myself over the fine 'get the job done' leadership I had shown to the newbies. That lasted until I got to the office where I was told the boss wanted to see me...

I got a large strip torn of my back... They had had a complaint about "idiots breaking the rules, trespassing on the tracks, endangering themselves and others, and on and on..." Apparently we'd been spotted by a signalman in a signal box nearby (remember manned signal boxes) that I hadn't really noticed.
Very few signal boxes are still in operation
I had hoped that my 'break the rules a little to get the job done efficiently' would have been appreciated – as it turned out, by my bosses... not so much!
Top of Top of the Form

Brian Macdonald
Top of the Form was a half-hour quiz programme which first ran on radio, on the BBC Light Programme (and later on BBC 2 and BBC 4) and also on BBC TV for much of its life. The show took the form of a knock-out, general knowledge, quiz tournament between schools throughout Britain, with a number of rounds leading to a grand final and the crowning of one school as that year's champion. It was run as an outside broadcast event, with each team on a stage at its own school in front of an enthusiastic audience of teachers and students, and a quizmaster at one of the two locations, which were linked by phone line. The quizmaster was a radio current affairs or documentary personality.

Top of the Form was a long-lived and popular show, running on radio from 1948 until 1986. The TV version ended in 1975 because it was costly to produce, needing a full outside broadcast crew at two locations simultaneously. The radio version was cheaper and easier to run, especially as communications technology
improved. There were a number of forays overseas during the life of the show, with one match between a team from Paris and one from London.

There was also an England v Germany match, years before the famous fitba' World Cup final of 1966. England won both of those matches. There was a very long-distance series between UK and my own adopted country, Australia. Although it was a quiz show with school pupils as the competitors, Top of the Form was popular with adult listeners as well as youngsters. One of its TV show directors set up the successful, adult Mastermind programme which
started in 1975 and lasted 25 years.

Radio quiz programmes were not new when Top of the Form began. An earlier one that appealed to me was
The Brains Trust, which started during WW2 and continued into the 1950s. That was more a collegial round table than a contest with several professional 'brains', chosen for their wide range of knowledge and lofty intellect, answering questions submitted by listeners, on topics ranging from the frivolous 'How does a fly land on a ceiling?' to serious moral issues, literary questions and cryptic crossword conundrums.

Even after my family got a TV set for the coronation of the present queen in 1953, I still often went back to The Brains Trust on radio and am sure it broadened my knowledge. A favourite participant on that program was C. E. M. Joad, a Baliol-educated