Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Thursday, 8 January 2009

A Bright Light Goes Out In Dalmore.

Some years ago,on a visit to London (I crossed Foster's "bouncey" bridge,newly opened,but soon to close),I was walking along the Thames Embankment, when I noticed this old steamer moored on the riverbank,bedecked in colourful bunting and advertising itself in neon lights. This old lady was now a floating restaurant,but it has to be said that she was still looking good. When I looked at the name on the bow,I could hardly believe my eyes. It was the "Queen Mary II",a beautiful ship on which my Uncle Shonnie worked when I was a boy,and which I often saw,standing at the Ferry Green in Renfrew. She was the largest "pleasure steamer" belonging to the Caledonian Steam Packet Company(CSPC), capable of carrying over 2000 passengers each day(including Sundays,would you credit it)from Glasgow "doon the watter" as far as Rothesay,or beyond. Shonnie worked as an A.B. on board the Q.M.2 for some years after the war,and my mother and "her boys" were at times non-paying guests of the CSPC,on the days when brother Shonnie was at the head of the "gangway" taking tickets and clicking each passenger on, with a small hand held comptometer. Of course,he didn't "click" for us. I should add that I went on board the "Queen Mary Restaurant" and was shown around. It would be 1951 when Shonnie returned home, to take over the running of the croft at 5 Dalmore,after my Aunt Peigi died that summer. He took over the weaving of tweeds,which Peigi had done so ably in the past. Shonnie has been mentioned many times in previous posts,and so here I'd like to show another facet of his personality. Shonnie was an able mimic of local "personalities",and coupled with his own brand of humour, could "invent" stories which were extremely funny,but never hurtful. People would repeat these stories knowing full well that their author,Shonnie,was wont to take a good bit of licence,however "believable" the plot and its characters might be. An example of this was the story(told previously) of the two young women from Bernera who stayed overnight in "taigh Shoudie" in Dalmore,while making for the communions in Shawbost. It was true that these women did arrive in Dalmore,but the conversations and events which took place inside No.4 Dalmore bore the imprint of Shonnie's humour. Still,it's his story which lives on. He often put on a "show" at meal times. One of his best pieces of mimicry was of a local worthy,who would wade through the sheep in a fank looking for his own. With arms outstretched and the fingers on his hands splayed wide,he would abruptly turn the sheep's head to one side to check its ear markings,moving from one beast to the next. Well, the large number of people round the table were Shonnie's fank of sheep,and he moved slowly around the table twisting heads and checking ears. There were peals of laughter and slowly he moved nearer his sister Dolly,our aunt. Having been so often at the receiving end of this jape,Dollag would give him a very stern warning to steer clear of her in the fank ! He would pass her by,and then, without warning,he would wheel round, turning her head to one side,just like all the other sheep. "I warned you",Dollag cried as she chased her brother around the "fank".
When we heard the news in Renfrew,it was received in shock and disbelief. Shonnie,it was said,had been involved in a serious accident involving his own tractor,down by the cemetery in Dalmore. Shonnie had just driven out of our small field above the cemetery,and had stopped the tractor to close the gate to the field. He could not have secured the handbrake properly,and being on a steep downward slope,Shonnie saw the tractor beginning to roll towards the cemetery fence,with visions of the destruction of various gravestones. By running alongside the moving tractor,he had hoped to jump aboard and apply the tractor's brakes. Instead,one of the large rear wheels caught Shonnie in the small of his back,and severed his spinal cord. Shonnie died one week later at Killearn Hospital,Glasgow on the 21st of March,1960. He was just 52 years old. As when people ask "Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated ?",I know where I was when Shonnie died. I was sitting the Dynamics Paper in my 6th year at Paisley Grammar School. At intervals throughout that exam,it kept coming to me. "Shonnie is dead".
For me,a bright flame had been extinguished in Dalmore,and I could never afterwards rekindle the happiness I once knew there.

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