Mum’s Story (part 5)


Like every young woman newly engaged, there was never enough hours in a day.
Wedding preparations, bridal dress, flowers, had all to be arranged.   Unfortunately our wedding would not be the “Dream Wedding”  with a beautiful dress with long white trail, limousine to the church, church bells chiming, everything my sister Elizabeth and her husband, Ian, had. Circumstances had changed dramatically within our family by the time Bob and I got engaged.
When my mother was in her mid-teens she worked in a furriers, cleaning fur capes, coats etc. When she took ill it was discovered she had contracted a heart condition called Mitral stenosis. Throughout her young married life she suffered serious heart attacks which worsened with age.
As I mentioned, during my 21st birthday party my mum had to leave the group and rest. Her life was hard. One day when she and I were talking, she told me her wish in life was to see her two daughters through school , happily married then she would be happy.
Bob and I were aware of my mother’s health and we decided a small wedding would be the best thing.  I was adamant my mum would be at my wedding and so we asked our Minister,  Rev James Currie,  a very good friend of the family, if our wedding vows could take place in my own home.  Knowing of mum’s health condition he heartily agreed.
Now back to my wedding preparations.  My sister, Elizabeth , was thrilled to be my Matron of Honour although she and Ian lived way up north near Tain. This meant wedding attire was a bit awkward as having my wedding held at home there was no way I could have a long white dress with train!  During our enjoyable talks of mum’s younger days, she mentioned the day she and my dad were married.  Money was scarce so she decided on a very pretty pale blue dress with matching accessories, a sensible decision because her dress lasted and was very useful during social evenings.  Being very close to my mum, as many daughters usually are, I decided to do the same.
The following Saturday I went into town to look for my wedding dress.  Having been shown numerous wedding outfits I was getting rather despondent as I was on my own with no-one to ask their advice. Then out of the blue I found my dress. It was a fitted, boned, pale blue dress with tiered skirts down to my ankles, a simple pale blue lace jacket with cap sleeves and stand up collar, fitted over my dress. Luck was with me as placed on top of my head was a very delicate pale blue wedding veil held by crystal and seed pearls. Next came my shoes, a slighter darker blue covered with small encrusted stones, a 3″ heel and sling backs. At last was my dream wedding outfit was complete.
Our wedding was held on Wednesday, 10 October 1956. Everything went like clockwork. Elizabeth, Ian and my two year old niece, Elaine,  who was to be my little flower girl arrived safely from Invershin up north.  Mum had a new dress with a pretty corsage. Both my dress and my Matron of Honour’s blended in beautifully.
Our wedding was to take place in a large room in our house.  The caterers arrived and our front room looked great.  Bob’s friend played the accordion professionally so we were all set for a good time.  My future in-laws arrived and both groom and best man were in place beside our wedding guests and my very special guest, my mum. The bridal party, bride, matron of honour, father of the bride, all waiting to hear the start of the wedding march. Dad was great.  Although he had had a walk down the aisle with Elizabeth, this was different.  This was the day his youngest daughter was to be handed over to a young man who had agreed to take on the responsibility of her future.
Silence.  Music begins and off we go, another memory I will cherish:  the sea of friendly smiling faces, minister in place but the only person I could see was my future husband, all smiles. Our vows were exchanged and a new MR and MRS began a new life together..
Everything went according to plan – my new mother-in-law in tears and confetti thrown from all directions while we made our way to the taxi and to the start of our very short honeymoon.
Mum with her parents, my grandparents
Dad with his parents, my grandparents
Mum’s family (Browns and Chapmans)
Dad’s family (the Smiths)
After the honeymoon period ——story part 6 shortly.

Mum’s Story (part 4)

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Moving into my twenties was an easy and simple transition, nothing too complex just catching up with beauty styles – clothes, hair styles, shoes and first and foremost make up.
When I was a teenager I wore clothes that suited me, casual for work, more classy for going out on dates or meeting Bob. One day towards my 18th birthday I sat down and reflected my image on a slightly older male! Bob was eight years older than me and before we became an item, age never bothered us, we were just a happy twosome.
At weekends we went to friends, mainly couples Bob knew.  It was around that time that I felt I had to do something to make me look more mature and, let’s say ‘womanly’.  I changed my style in clothes, more chic, curvaceous, higher heels, new shorter hair style and, guess what?   My new image was a huge success.  I remember clearly two occasions.
One time my sisters best man, Hugh, asked me out one evening.  We went to the Berkley where I felt most comfortable.  Bob knew we were going there. As Hugh was not the best of dancers, we went upstairs to the cafe overlooking the ballroom. Sitting talking and enjoying watching the dancers, I got a feeling someone was walking towards us.  It was Bob who shook hands with Hugh then politely asked if he could have the next dance with me.  Shocked, I got to my feet, extremely embarrassed because not only did he have one dance but he held on to me for the next dance also!
The second embarrassment was while we were at a mutual friend’s wedding.  We were on the floor dancing when the sister of the bride came over to us at the end of the dance to ask Bob if he was happy for a friend to have the next dance with me? Of course he agreed. The dance was a slow foxtrot, one of my favourites.  Taking me onto the dance floor, we glided across so smoothly and comfortably, a wonderful dancer he was.  At the end of the foxtrot he offered me an invitation to be his professional ballroom dancer, as his partner had to withdraw from their partnership due to other commitments. Having thanked him for the lovely dance I had to decline his offer but was overwhelmed by his compliment and wished him every success in the future.
From that day on Bob was my only dancing partner and our relationship went to another, more permanent level.
Within a short space of time my 21st birthday arrived. A few of our friends came to my family home where we had a great time. My mother suffered from a heart condition and excused herself to go and have a rest.  Dad always enjoyed company and got into the swing of things, with a wee glass of his favourite drink Whyte & Mackay whisky.
During the spring of the following year Bob and I became engaged. We went to my Uncle Bill who worked with Panton the jewellers in Glasgow for my engagement ring.  We were over the moon and decided to go to the very popular ballroom at Eglinton Toll, Glasgow to celebrate our engagement.  I remember the evening so very clearly, the alcove we sat in, the soft music, a girls perfect dream.  As the evening went on I was still waiting for the ring to be put on my finger but Bob just kept smiling and teasing me. A special song was being sung and it was then Bob placed the ring on my finger and guided me onto the dance floor. The song was “When I Fall in Love”  (please click).  Definitely a night, never to be forgotten.
My story part 5 continues into the month of October the same year when Bob and I become MR and MRS.

Mum’s Story (part 3)


Having had my 13th birthday and feeling all grown up, Connie another girlfriend who lived across from me, decided it would be a nice day out to take the train into the town centre.  After all we were teenagers!  The railway station was only a short walk up from where we lived so our mothers agreed we could go. The train line was known as the Glasgow Circle so we could not go wrong!

We duly bought our railway tickets and eagerly waited for our train to arrive. The journey into Glasgow took about half an hour. The puff puff of the train approaching was so exciting.  It finally stopped and the doors were opened for the passengers. It was a busy train with lots of children clamouring aboard, having a day like us going to the shops in Glasgow. As the train left the station we both felt really grown up and enjoyed our run to the big city.  The scenery was so nice – seeing the countryside, the cows, sheep, horses all nibbling at the grass, very peaceful.

After almost half an hour panic set in.  We were on the wrong train!  When eventually the ticket collector came around and looked at our tickets he told us we were on the express train to TROON, in Ayrshire!

“How can we get off?”

“You can’t until you reach your destination.”

Not having mobile phones in these days and having no money, we were in a complete state of panic. When we eventually disembarked we were no longer teenagers, we were two stranded little girls miles away from home, unable to let our parents know because there was no such thing as telephones in our homes.

Eventually when we made the return journey, around half past seven at night, we ran the whole way home to meet our frantic parents all out looking for us. I can’t remember ever being so happy to see my mum, dad and sister standing there with their arms outspread.

At the age of fifteen I started my first job working as a BAZADA girl! This was a filing cabinet with a queer name. The company was A & D Frazer, selling motor car parts, in Pollockshaws. I was grown up by this time and able to get on the right train to go to work and back. I loved my work. I felt so important talking to customers, asking their name, the chassis number of the car, looking up my BAZADA file to see if we had the part in stock. On occasion I had to go to another part of the factory which meant a long walk through the factory full of mechanics.  At first I felt very self-conscious but, as the time went by, I became used to the wolf whistles and exchanged many a laugh with the lads.

There was one lad there who seemed to be very interested in me, we got on very well. His family had a business and he also had a small business doing, what is now known as gigs.  I went with him and his friend at weekends – Jim was my boyfriend and John was there to help set up the music centre. The music was varied and the dancing was fun. Our relationship lasted a couple of years until he joined the Merchant Navy travelling on the well-known ship ‘Captain Cook’ to Australia and back.  Each trip was a six months stint.

Elizabeth and with Jim Waterston 1949

Mum, Jim and Elizabeth

Within that time I changed my job to work as a Dictaphone typist in a company called The Iron Trades Insurance Company. I worked with a fleet of typists, six of us in all. The insurance men dictated their letters onto a cylinder worked by a machine which was put into a sleeve then put into a box and brought through to the typing pool.  A typist picked up the cylinder and commenced typing the letter ready for signing and posting.

I had by then moved on to travelling in style by using a Corporation bus. It was during one of my journeys home that I was introduced by a friend to a handsome, dark-haired, young man, who incidentally lived two minutes away from me on the other side of the road. We occasionally met on our journey home and passed the time of day with each other.

It had been a while since our paths crossed then I found out that he had moved.  He had left his job and was now working as an insurance agent with the Prudential Assurance Company. During our conversations we found out that we both enjoyed ballroom dancing and arranged to meet at the Berkeley ballroom one Saturday night.


Bob (my dad)

Our relationship was an on/off kind of affair.   We both went out on dates in between seeing each other at the Berkeley where he danced me every dance!  We were well known where we lived. Everyone thought we were so well matched.  When travelling on the bus we did nothing but talk and laugh, a great friendship.

As we became more serious we went on holiday to the Isle of Man, dancing to Joe Loss’ Band in the evenings and meeting friends in the afternoon for strawberries and ice cream. There were also afternoons we would hire a row boat and sail into the sunset.  I remember it well as my muscles in my arms were getting bigger with all the rowing!

Mum and Dad on Isle of Man

By the time I turned twenty, my sister, Elizabeth was married to her sweetheart, Ian, a lovely person.  I was proud to call him my brother-in-law.

Elizabeth and Ian wedding photo067

Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Ian on their wedding day

Bob and I were now rightly known as a pair. We would go off to the dancing by bus waving to mum as we drove off but often missing the last bus home intentionally or by accident!  We had to get the last bus or it meant a long walk home from the terminus. While walking over the bridge by the river Bob used to sing to me a song that we used to call our song – ‘Oh Shenandoah, I Love your daughter’ in the most romantic voicse.  Please click – Oh Shenandoah

Remembering those wonderful days made me realise my teenage years were passing and my next stage in life, the 20s was only just beginning.

Mum’ Story (part 2)

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Continuing my story into the early teenage years has caused me to smile on thinking back on them!   One evening my sister and I watched our dad making STILTS for both of us. He used four treacle or syrup tins, bored a hole at each side of the tins, slid strong string through the holes then tied a knot at each end. Hey presto!  We had stilts. We had great fun walking around on them.  Another fun time was with our wheel and gird. The gird guided the wheel as we ran alongside of it.  We ran for miles, good exercise.

Elizabeth and Janet 1943

Mum (right) aged 11 with her sister Elizabeth

My best friend, Helen Mills, and I had wonderful times playing near an old railway line where her dad had a plot where he planted vegetables.  There were no gardens at that time so the government rented out plots of land to people interested in growing potatoes etc.   Beside that area there was an old broken down house which we called our Castle. Our imagination went wild. We would pretend we lived in the olden days when ladies wore crinolines and rode in horses and chariots! Great fun.

Like most children, I so wanted a bike but we had no money to buy one.  I knew a lady who was selling one but she was going to charge me £5.  Desperate as I was I decided to earn the money to buy it.  I dog walked, baby sat, went shopping for old ladies, anything to get me £5. When I got the money together I went for the bike.  It was all Black! Sad and happy at the same time, I took it home to let my mum and dad see it.  I am sure they felt sorry for me having worked so hard to buy it that my dad painted the bike a lovely shade of purple, bought white wheel guards and a lovely white basket for my handlebars.  I was thrilled to bits.

This lovely bike of mine had a few stories to tell since coming into my possession.   My Uncle Bill, who had been a polio victim and over the years he had to have a leg removed, was fortunate enough to have a three wheel motorised car to get him around. He had many friends who went on cycle runs at weekends to various places and I got invited along.   My uncle told me to be careful of traffic and not to keep using my new bell which was a novelty.   I promised I would not use it and we merrily went on our ride.  However, a man and woman walked out in front of me and having been told not to use my bell, I did as I was told and BUMP, I drove straight into the woman who was, to say the least a bit upset.  When my uncle eventually stopped apologising to the woman and started on at me, I, in all innocence, said “it wasn’t my fault, you told me not to use my bell!”

Another unfortunate incident happened on a lovely summer day when two of my friends and I were cycling along a road near the park where the Glasgow Empire Building was erected.  I always remember that because I touched a railing and got an electric shock!  Happily cycling along singing the latest songs, we decided to cycle with our arms stretched out on each other’s shoulders.  I, being the one in the middle,  had no hands on my handlebars – not good!  Out of the blue I was thrown off my bike landing on the road in terrible pain. Out of nowhere came a very helpful gentleman who got me to my feet, into his car and into the Victoria Infirmary, result being I had a cracked collar bone.  No cycling for at least two months.  I often wonder if having bought an all-black bike had anything to do with my misfortune?

Many more incidents, with varying results, happened during my young years but, that is for another part of my story.

War Time Evacuation


Glasgow was heavily bombed during the Second World War, particularly Clydebank, as that’s where the shipyards and many of the factories were.  Just after war was declared in 1939, thousands of children were evacuated from Glasgow to protect them from the threat of German bombers.  My mother was among them.  She was just six years old when she and her sister, Elizabeth, were sent to Kilhilt Farm near Stranraer in Scotland.  “Operation Pied Piper” relocated three million children over a few days.  This is my mum’s memory of that time (paraphrased) –

Elizabeth and I were very small children when we had to leave our parents – it is a time that will stay in my mind until I die.  We started off with our cases and gas masks, saying cheerio to our mum and dad who, like all the parents, were crying.  Dad and Aunt Cissie (Norma’s mum and my mum’s best friend) took us on a tram car into Glasgow Central Station. There were hundreds of children and parents there.  When we went to get on the train, it was the wrong one. We ran to find the right train, said goodbye to Dad and Aunt Cissie, having no idea why we were being put on a train, and shunted away from everyone.

Being very scared, Elizabeth, Norma and I were taken to a church hall in Stranraer where children were being taken away by strangers to dear knows where. Norma was then taken away.  NO-ONE CAME FOR US.  Finally a very nice lady took us to her house for tea and sandwiches then we were taken back to this empty hall until a man came to collect us and he took us away in a big car.  It was dark.  We were scared and very tired.  After a long run into the country, we stopped at this big house where we spent the next three years.

Mr and Mrs McCaig had three children – John, Sheila and Sam (who was a wee horror).  We went to the school in the village called “The Lochans”. I hated it!  Elizabeth and I were called “The Glasgow Keilies”.  The boys in my class were disgusting and every night I cried.  Poor Elizabeth was only 7 years old when we arrived and she had to be very brave and comfort me.

During our time there, Mum, Dad and Aunt Cissie came on a visit but we were not allowed to stay with them so we only had a few hours a day with them and we could not go home.  That was heart breaking for parents and children.


James Brown (1866-1915)


My (maternal) great-grandfather James Brown was born in Drygate, Glasgow on 19 March 1866.  He was the son of James Brown (1829) – a Muslin Singer Operator which I believe was a person employed in singing the nap off the muslin,  – and my great, great-grandfather James Brown, a weaver from Glasgow.

James Brown (my g-grandfather that is) did not follow his family into the cloth business but instead was a Blacksmith until the age of 23.  He then volunteered to join the Royal Navy in 1889.  According to his Certificate of Service, James was 5’6″ with brown hair and hazel eyes.  Well, I am around 5’3″ with brown hair and hazel eyes so there must be a definite family resemblance.

James Brown was an Armourer in the Royal Navy and spent time on different ships including “Excellent”, “Pembroke”, “Victory” and many more.  His conduct in the Navy was exemplary and in 1904 he received the “Long Service and Good Conduct Medal”.

Presented to James Brown on 14.8.1904

Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

James Brown married Jessie Freeland on 27 December 1893.  He was based at the Royal Naval Barracks in Portsmouth at the time while Jessie was a thread mill worker living in Glasgow.   They were married at Argyle Hall in Duke Street, Glasgow.

James and Jessie had 3 children – Jane Peden Brown 1897-1917; James Brown 1902 -1961 (my grandfather);  and Jessie Brown 1904 – 1972.

It was while serving on HMS Bayano en route from Glasgow to Liverpool on 11 March 1915 that my great-grandfather died.  He was 48.  I can only imagine he was home on leave before re-joining the Bayano.  His  ship was torpedoed  by a German U-boat (U27) without warning.  It sank very quickly with the loss of 195 officers and ratings.   It seems that, while several attempts have been made to at least identify the shipwreck, HMS Bayano remains unverified at the bottom of the sea.  James Brown’s body and those of his colleagues were never recovered.

HMS Bayano

HMS Bayano

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has recognised my great-grandfather, James Brown, and other seamen who perished during the war at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Plaque 8

Plaque 8

Plaque 8

Plaque 8

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

I am grateful to the The War Graves Photographic Project for supplying me with these precious photos.

This is a tragic story in my family history and unfortunately there was more tragedy in that family still to come.



My mother's side of the family at my parent's wedding 10 October 1956

My mother’s side of the family at my parent’s wedding 10 October 1956

It seems like yesterday that the people in this photo were very much in my life but they have all passed now.  This is my mother’s side of the family and her mother on the right died within a week or two of this photo being taken.

In the front, centre is my Great Gran, Jemima Chapman (nee Taylor) who seems to crop up a lot in my blogs.  I guess she is the matriarch of this family – on her right is her daughter, my grandmother, Elizabeth Brown (nee Chapman) whom I know very little about. Behind her on the right is her husband, my grandfather, James Brown, (who died when I was four years old).  My grandfather was a joiner and I have vague memories of digging up his garden with a wooden spoon.  I believe we lived with him in Pollock, Glasgow until I was about two.

Behind my Great-Gran is her son, William (Bill) Chapman who is on crutches.   Uncle Bill contracted polio and lost a leg as a child.  It never held him back.  He was a watch-maker and worked in the Argyle Arcade in Glasgow’s city centre.  I used to pop in and visit him occasionally when I worked nearby.  He and Aunt Mary (next to him in the photo) worked hard and were extremely independent.  Aunt Mary had callipers on both legs which I assume was also from polio.  I remember they had a little 3 seater which had hand controls and I remember them going on a driving holiday around Europe.  (My mother doesn’t remember this so I could be wrong).  It was a highlight for them.  Again I know little about Aunt Mary other than that her name was Mary Horne Alexander and she was born in Aberdeen.  I would like to find out more about her and it is on my very long to do list.

Uncle Harry (back left) was my Great-Gran’s other son.  Uncle Harry (Harold Chapman) played the bagpipes.  He was a soldier but I am not too sure of his regiment.  My mother told me the story that Uncle Harry was fighting in the war when he was shot in the heart.  Fortunately for him, he had a tin of corned beef in his top pocket and the bullet went into that!  Later he had some of his hip blown away.  However he survived to tell the story.  His wife in front of him was my Aunt Chris who I remember as a very harsh woman who played the piano.  That harsh exterior she had seemed to disappear when you put her in front of the piano and I remember lot of family parties where we all sang around the piano while she played.  My mother told me that Aunt Chris (Christine Cullen) was pregnant with twins when she fell off a ladder and they were stillborn.  So far I have been unable to find either a birth or death certificate for them.

There was a lot of tragedy around that family but they always had a smile on their faces.

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