Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Good Reasons to Remember Rothesay.

My uncle,John Macleod (Iain Glass) was an intelligent,educated man, held in high esteem by all who knew him. The story which follows was told to me by my uncle personally,on one of his trips to the U.K. in the late 1950s.For one who has grave doubts (unfortunate pun) about the supernatural, I still wonder at what he told me that day,the more so because you knew that he was an intelligent man,and certainly not given to lying or romancing. The following happenings occurred in the town of Rothesay in the Firth of Clyde,sometime during World War One. The address and number of a house in Rothesay were chosen by me,without knowing this town at all,and having forgotten any address which John may have used. The address for our purposes is No.13, High Street,Rothesay,which Google Earth tells me does in fact exist. So,if you live at present at 13 High Street, relax - it's only a story !
During this war,soldiers would return home to Britain for rest and recuperation in the homes of ordinary households,while still under the command of their officers. Lieutenant Macleod and his company of men were billeted in the homes of the good people of Rothesay,and it was John's duty to place the men in the homes according to a list he was given. Each soldier had to present himself at the designated billet,and hand over his ration book to the head of the house who would buy the soldier's groceries etc. The Army would answer for the bills.
With all the men now placed in their "new homes",for a time at least, John saw to his own billet with a family residing at 13 High Street. This was a large detached house situated in an overrun garden of about half an acre. Here was a large family, and John was told that he would have to sleep beside their eldest son,in an attic room at the top of the house. Not what John would have wished, but a dreadful conflict was taking place,all over Europe and beyond,and so, when needs must! John was obliged to shop for his foodstuffs in the shops around Rothesay,for as little as his rations would permit.and hand it to the mistress of No.13 High Street, that she might cook his food at the same time as she saw to her own family. A strange thing happened in each shop which John visited. When John handed over his ration book,he noted that invariably the address was read aloud in a halting fashion,with a murmur or a facial grimace from an onlooker. After a couple of days,John confronted a shopkeeper about the events surrounding the ration book and the address printed on it. "Don't you know ,sir,that there are ghosts in the house at 13 High Street". That evening at dinner,around which the whole family were seated, John broke the silence by making the bold statement "I am told that there are ghosts in this house". No one looked up from the table,nor did anyone say a word. Later that evening when John and the eldest son were preparing for bed,the young man said in quite a relaxed way,"John, would you like to see the ghosts? They usually appear in the early hours so if you wish,you get some sleep.and I will give you a shake as they are about to come". God knows how John enjoyed any sleep,but it seems he did until he was wakened by the young man of the house. It should be noted that the bed was hard against a wall,with the youth on the outside,and John behind him placed next to the wall.The following were John's words,as best I remember. He had barely heard the words "John,they are coming!" when a cold white mist began to form at the foot of the bed. This continued and now out of a dense mist evolved the figure of a very old man with long white hair and beard,who made his way up the side of the bed,leaning over the youth with his watery eyes fixed on John. "What did you do ?",I demanded. John told me that he was at that moment paralysed with fear. He could not move. The old man left the bedside,only to be replaced by a succession of "spirits"each younger than the last (John reckoned there were about 20 different spectres). The penultimate "visitor" was a beautiful young child dressed in a fabulous costume,who had to rise on tiptoes to gaze into John's face. There was a return visit from the self same old man who had petrified John at the outset,before finally disappearing into the aether. Before anyone asks, Iain Glass neither smoked nor imbibed alcohol throughout his life. Often,as a secondary school teacher,nearing the end of a term,pupils would ask to hear my "ghost stories" This story was often repeated to a hushed audience, but what happened at the end of one such telling amazed me. A young girl,over on the left in the front row,waited until there was quiet and then said." I have an aunt who lives in Rothesay,and I often stay with her on holiday. She has told me that there is a house in Rothesay which is haunted with many ghosts".So there we have John's story about "13 High Street,Rothesay",and I am none the wiser.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Canadians Do have a Sense of Humour.

My uncle,John Macleod (Iain Glass),finally graduated M.A.(Hons)at Glasgow University just after the First World War,which had interrupted his course. John had contracted tuberculosis in his youth,and this had recurred at various times thereafter. The doctors now told John that the only betterment which he might see was if he settled in a country which experienced a cold, dry climate eg. Switzerland. There was a teaching position in Lima,Peru,which is located at a high altitude in the South American Andes. The climate was perfect for him,and he would be teaching English and Mathematics to the English speaking children in that city. He informed his parents of his decision, and that his ticket was bought and paid, for passage to Peru. His father(Bodach Glass)was sad to hear how far John felt he had to travel for his health and a teaching position. Glass gave it some thought for a few days,and finally he proposed the following. If John were to consider going to Canada,where incidentally Glass had a brother in Preston,Ontario,then Glass,his father would pay his passage to Canada. I believe John was able to recoup his fare to South America. John settled in the Province of Saskatchewan,where conditions were perfect for his health. John "rose through the ranks" in the province's educational establishment,as one of their most experienced Inspector of Schools. In the 1950s and early 60s John was to visit the U.K. many times as part of a team, recruiting trained teachers here, for jobs in that prairie province.
It was during these visits to the U.K.that we got to know our Uncle John so well,and he always finished his recruiting drive in Scotland in order that he could spend time with his kith and kin in Renfrew, and especially in Dalmore,which always readied itself for a mini invasion of some of John's Canadian team,all Ph.Ds as befits an island replete in doctorates viz. Dr.Tait,Dr.Titus and Dr.Jim Pfeiffer,a young man who encouraged me to stay on in school,when I was bent on leaving.
When they came ("Na duine uasail") ie.the toffs, all doctors, you know, everything had to be spick and span, manners had to be burnished, and a toilet was specially erected in the Creagan for the use of the doctors only - no scraggy wee "tons" would sit down here ! They would eat fine dinners of minced beef and potatoes, followed by tinned fruit and thick Cremola custard, while we ate the usual fare of fish and boiled eggs, and porridge, if you were unlucky. The dog, Fancy, and Filax(new spelling!) the cat, were barred from the house while the toffs were in residence, and had to remain outside especially during meals. Two humorous occasions come to mind while the Canadians stayed at 5 Dalmore.
The first occasion was when John, and the usual posse of doctors,were seated for "one o'clock dinner" with us Hebrideans at the big table in the middle of the kitchen. My mother was serving mince from a large pot, as she circled the table,asking each in turn if they wanted mince or salt herring. I guessed that this situation was not quite kosher,as the North Americans were alone in having cutlery in front of them. The situation was quickly clarified when my mother asked the first Hebridean(me,as it happens) in a confident voice, "Would you like mince, Iain ?", followed immediately with the whispered Gaelic advice "Can nach 'eil" (Say you don't). I complied with the "faux egalite'". This charade continued, with my Auntie Dolly following behind my mother with a sooty pot of salt herrings ie. until my mother came to serve Donald, my older brother. By now "les Canadiens" were aware of the developing situation. "Would you like mince,Donald?"/"Can nach 'eil" were the question and answer which were hysterically anticipated by the fifteen or so people round that table. "Mother,you know that I would prefer herring and potatoes every time !!",said the Big D. My mother was the first to explode in laughter,followed by the Canadians and then us Hebrideans. None of the doctors opted for herring - strange,knowing how they were weaned on pemmican. What I'd give now for a feed of salt herring and potatoes and a bowl of thick milk.
The second occasion occurred in 1956, I think, when John's wife Mary from Canada,and her daughter Ilona, my first cousin, paid their own visit to Dalmore,without the presence of a single Ph.D. The situation was as above,with everyone seated round the table, and Mary and Ilona served the obligatory mince. It was Shonnie,I think,who noticed that Fancy, our faithful tyke, was in the "dining room" along side the Canadians, and he promptly ordered her outside the door which was jammed open, it being a warm day. Fancy went outside, but only as far as the threshold,where she stood with a clear view of the dining room. What she noticed was that Filax,the cat, was seated inside the dining room,between the table and the fireside,a fact that seemed to have escaped the notice of all the diners,including Shonnie. As witnessed by us all,Fancy crept in,and very carefully picked Filax up "by the scruff of her neck" and trotted outside into the sunlight and gently deposited her pal Filax over by the fence. Talk about laughter and amazement! The dramatis personae were amply rewarded for this amazing show,but not with mince.