Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

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.

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