Mum’s Story (part 8)

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Moving, engagements, marriages.
Not quite in that order.  As the years went on and life began to settle down to normality, our middle daughter, Carol, and her boyfriend Ian Buchanan, decided to get engaged after Carol came home from a holiday out in Australia.
Carol wanted a big wedding with all the trimmings. The date for the wedding was decided, 25th October 1982, my birthday. All arrangements made, church booked, dresses bought, photographer Maurice Jones – good family friend, cars, flowers, cake, everything ready for the day of the wedding.
Lynn, being away at the time, was sad as she and Janice would have been her bridesmaids. However we tried to keep her in the picture, photos of Carol in her wedding gown, dad escorting her out to the limousine with her veil and long train. Not forgetting her long telephone call to or from her sister in Australia, very emotional.
The sun was shining and the church was packed, my husband so proud, walking his daughter down the aisle to hand over to a young doctor. The whole day was a great success.
carol wedding
In the in between years Bob and I moved more out to the country. We sold our house in Mt Vernon and moved to a little village named Braco in Perthshire.  We bought a lovely bungalow with 3/4 acre of ground. We were fortunate in the fact that the gardens had been landscaped.
In the house itself we got to work making it into our home!  We knocked down a wall to make a large lounge, we had built a very attractive sun lounge leading down into our garden. We had an open plan stairway put in and an upstairs lounge and twin bedroom with en suite.
While we were living in Braco, Lynn came home with an Australian lad, Greg and announced they were getting married. Lynn asked for a small wedding with a garden party afterwards.  As I had mentioned, Braco is a lovely village with a very pleasant church which I attended.  Arrangements were made by her sister, Janice and I for the wedding to be held in the church and a hall in Dunblane was booked for the reception.
I didn’t listen and should have realised Lynn was not the big wedding type of girl, she would have been happier had I let her choose the type of wedding she wanted.  However, the wedding was nice and I remember an archway of guests clasping hands above their heads making  a pathway for the bridal couple to pass under.
lynn wedding
Janice and Alan arranged their wedding for just two weeks after Lynn and Greg’s on 2nd June 1985, so we were once again looking for wedding clothes. This was a completely different Big Day. It was not a church wedding but a small, registry office wedding followed by a buffet and dance in their local community hall.  Carol, Lynn and I went with Janice to choose her wedding dress.  She chose an attractive fitted white dress with short veil, 3″ white heeled shoes. Lynn and Carol chose their identical dress in different pale shades.  I bought a light cream suit, all ready for the third wedding in our family.  A beautiful buffet was set out with lovely floral decoration. As Alan was a guitarist with his band, the lads all played up to the minute tunes, for all ages, real good fun.
janice wedding 1
janice wedding 2
After the wedding of our third daughter Bob and I settled down to a happy life in the country, doing the things we enjoyed doing playing outdoor bowls, being with good friends, walking our two Sheltie dogs, Cindy and Sheeba along many country lanes.
Bob and I were married for 55 years.  We had a good marriage and a good life.
During our travels many years later, the dreaded illness which Bob contracted, cancer, spread throughout his body.  He died very peacefully back home in Scotland with some of his family around him.
Like all story tellers my story began with me as a baby and is now ending as an 83 yr old waiting to join my beloved husband in the ever promised land,

Mum’s Story (part 7)


Before Bob and I knew it our lives had moved onto another cycle.  We had a lovely two bedroom apartment in Craigbank, the first central heated apartments to be completed.  Looking out from our lounge window we could see our own garden, and across from there we saw the tennis courts and to the left a bowling green.  A young family’s dream. When our youngest baby arrived, six months after having moved in, she spent most of her early months in her pram out on our porch breathing the good fresh air. Lynn and Carol, being only 11 months apart played in the safety of our garden with their dolls and pram, accompanied by their little friends.

Newfield Square

Newfield Square2

Moving on to school days our two eldest daughters started at the primary school a short walk from home. Lynn enjoyed her primary years although on her first day, that half a day was enough for her and on looking out the window who did I see but our Lynn walking towards the house!  Oh dear. I had been talking to Bob on the telephone telling him how happy she had been to go to school that morning! Soon both she and I went back to school to explain her disappearance to her teacher who was very understanding and took Lynn under her wing. From then on no more escapes.

Newfield Square1

Carol, Janice and Lynn outside our flat at Newfield Square

Lynn worked hard at school and passed the exam to move on to the Girls High School, which was private. We knew our money would be well spent. Many subjects were covered including sports everything which our daughter enjoyed.  Carol by this time had introduced Janice, our youngest daughter, into primary school. They both got on alright at school, no traumas to speak of. When it was time for Carol to move into high school she went to the local school with her friends and settled down.

Bob, still working as a Prudential agent, was offered promotion as Supervisor in an area on the other side of Glasgow.  Still working as an Avon Manager, we agreed I could work most areas as long as I was near the motorway. Having found a house in North Mount Vernon, we decided to have a closer look inside.  It was very big with plenty of rooms and a central staircase which we both wanted.. A huge amount of work was required to be done inside. The area itself was very appealing. Everything worked out fine, school for both younger children, Lynn continuing at the high school. That fixed, we then moved in.

Leaving Craigbank was a wrench.  We had so many happy times with our friends, the children too were always out playing games with their pals. It was not that long ago I was told by our Carol that one game they loved was opening a door at the side of our house which led from tunnel to tunnel under the block of apartments to explore!  I was flabbergasted! I still to this day cannot bear to think what could have happened to these children.

During the many years in Mount Vernon various things were happening around us. The girls were turning into teenagers, Bob and I had close friends and get -together nights were enjoyed. Our daughter, Janice took to staying out at nights; I was worried while her dad went off to bed. Many a night I got the car out and drove up to the garage to find the telephonist and my daughter sitting smoking!. Both girls got a piece of my mind. This continued as this was the only place smoking was allowed. I had a big problem.

Lynn,  the eldest became friendly with a girl who lived on the complete opposite side of the city. Again, trouble, one night when the dance finished it was too late for them to get home, so, mum had to get into the car after 11 pm to collect the girls in town, drive her friend away to Anniesland miles away then back to our home! Her dad of course taking nothing to do with it, told me to lock the door and let them get on with it.

Carol was the quiet one, all she wanted to do was go and play tennis with her friends. No problem.

Time went on but my family problems did not go away, our eldest daughter and youngest daughter began to have a love hate-relationship. I noticed it starting when a nice lad Janice had met and invited home went a bit askew; I noticed jealousy, creeping in. Both daughters were so alike in many ways, although they would not admit to it.


Lynn, Carol and Janice

They never resolved their problems. On looking back as a mother I tried my best. The hardest thing I had to accept was the day Lynn announced she was going to Australia to get married. I felt this was a big mistake.  At last Lynn had found an escape, get engaged to an Australian and off to a new life which did not work out. Dad and I were heartbroken.  Trying to find a daughter in another country was almost impossible until I made a phone call to an aunt of this young man to be told the engagement was off and she did not know where Lynn was. Eventually we received a letter from Lynn explaining she was working in Sydney and was friendly with a lady called Rona who was like a mother to her and we were not to worry.

Luckily everything did work out for Lynn.  She loved Australia.  Just a pity she had to go to the other side of the world to find happiness.


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.

My Grandpa


This is a short assignment piece submitted for a course I am studying. The focus was on changing place.

My grandfather was 18 when the First World War broke out and he left his life as a farmhand, and his home in a little cottage in Montrose on the East Coast of Scotland, a small farming community set amongst the greenest fields.  He came from a long line of farm servants and cattlemen on his father’s side and domestic servants on his mother’s: a hard-working family that loved the land.

What followed was four years of hell as he fought with the Black Watch on the front line as a machine gunner in hot and unfamiliar places like Mesopotamia.

Grandpa returned to Scotland intact but a broken man all the same.  He rebuilt his life in the city of Glasgow where the work was, renting a house on a busy street, and finding work as an Inspector on the tram cars.  As the years rolled by he continued his work as the trams became buses.

Behind his house, Grandpa created a beautiful garden, his piece of country, his solace, where he grew magnificent roses and sweet peas. I have fond memories of my sisters and me raiding the peapods when we were sent to pick them for dinner.  Yum!  He tended his garden in the type of clothes he always wore – checked shirt, breeches with braces, a tweed jacket, tweed cap and working boots, and with his pocket watch in his waistcoat.

In his heart, Grandpa never left the country, he never left Montrose.

Grandpa Smith’s War Years – Still Lost


I have spent the past few months researching my paternal grandfather’s war years – but to no avail.  I believe only 30% of the First World War records survived a fire and it looks like his may not have.  With no service record, military number, medal, newspaper articles or documents to go on, I don’t think I will ever know that part of his history.

I began in my usual manner, putting what information I knew into various genealogical websites.  I was told if did not have the information, I might as well give up.  It didn’t and I didn’t.

What made things a little harder was that I traced my grandpa through the Census until 1905 in Maryton, Angus but then he disappeared.  He was a teenager then so I tend to think he moved away from the family for work but I don’t know yet if he stayed in the area or moved perhaps to Glasgow.  My gut feeling is that he stayed in Angus maybe with another farming family.  So I am not entirely sure where he enlisted.

I turned to the Great War Forum and put in the details there – William Smith, born Maryton on 23.8.1896, Corporal Machine Gunner in the Black Watch, fought in Mesopotamia.  I had a huge response.  Historians and ex-military personnel (I assume) with an interest in the war, replied giving me what information they could.  Some went to a lot of trouble trying to find him and I was very grateful.  In the end, it was a process of elimination.  There were so many William Smiths in the First World War but we were able to rule some out due to age, place of birth, regiments and so on.

I managed to come up with a list of William Smiths I could not eliminate.  The gentlemen on the Forum were able to help me here.  It seemed the regimental number gave an indication of the soldiers’ battalions and many of these were discounted because their battalions did not go to Mesopotamia.  Apparently the only battalion from the Royal Highlanders’ Black Watch that did serve there was the 2nd so I was able to narrow down the number of William Smiths quite a lot.  However some of the Battalions changed their number when they moved or merged with another regiment and some members of the Black Watch were moved from one regiment to the Machine Gun Corps.  All very confusing for me especially as when this happened, the soldiers were given different numbers.

In an earlier post, I told the story about my grandfather’s Princess Mary Christmas Tin and I mentioned this on the Forum.  Apparently that narrowed it down to either the 1st, 2nd or 5th battalion so the 2nd was still looking hopeful!

In the end, I have one William Smith left that I cannot eliminate.  That is William
Smith, 11863/61734.  I do know that this soldier’s war records did not survive the war but he did.  I think this is my grandfather but I can’t be positive so, for the moment, I am at a dead end.

What I do know is that the soldiers who fought in Mesopotamia had a terrible time with the freezing cold, lack of supplies and being outnumbered by the Turkish army.  Very few survived and I can only be grateful my grandpa did – or I would not be here!

A postscript to this is a very strange coincidence.  One of the members of the Great War Forum told me that he knew the area of Maryton very well as he lived close-by.  My grandfather also lived in Dennistoun, Glasgow for a while and he also knew that area.  After exchanging messages and information over a few weeks, the gentleman wrote to me to tell me that while looking at my grandpa’s details he realised that he had actually lived in the very same house in which my gran and grandpa married!  That gave me such a thrill.  Even though I wasn’t able to confirm that I had found my grandfather, this news gave me a sense of being very close to him.

The only photo I have of my grandfather taken in 1956 in Glasgow

The only photo I have of my grandfather taken in 1956 in Glasgow

Gran Smith and Rickets

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Gran Smith (Jane S Cameron)034

A friend gave me a copy of Call the Midwife for Christmas – I missed the television series.  It is about the job of midwives in the UK in the early 1900s and is quite fascinating.   The author, Jennifer Worth, devotes a chapter in the book to Rickets.  I have only ever heard of Rickets because my paternal grandmother (Jane Cameron, born 1890) had suffered as a child.  She was very short with bowed legs.  I knew that was an effect of Rickets but have never known or thought any more about it.

In her book, Worth explains that Rickets is a malformation of the bones caused by a lack of Vitamin D in the diet.  Since Vitamin D comes from milk, meat, eggs as well as from the sun, I find it hard to imagine that my grandmother didn’t have lots of these.  It is also found in fish oil and she was a fishmonger as a young woman!  I don’t know if her parents were fishmongers.  Worth believes that Rickets was more common in girls than in boys and her explanation is that boys were often favoured by mothers and given more food and also that they spent more time outside in the sun.  If this is true, then I wonder if my gran’s twin sister (Rose) also suffered.   Rickets was prevalent in poor children who lived in industrial cities partly because of the density of the buildings and also because children worked in factories, workshops and workhouses rather than playing outside.  Certainly Jane and Rose Cameron grew up in the city of Dundee but I don’t know yet how poor or otherwise the family was.  I imagine they were poor because my grandfather came from a family of farm and domestic servants.

Getting back to Rickets,  the symptoms are often a deformed spine due to many crushed vertebrae, a bent sternum and a twisted and/or a barrel-shaped ribcage.  The reason gran’s legs were bowed was due to bones that bent under pressure of carrying her body.  Worth also points out that “the head can be large and square shaped with a jutting flattened lower jaw” and says that often the teeth drop out.  Not only that but children with Rickets had a lower immunity to infection and constantly suffered bronchitis, pneumonia and gastroenteritis!  As if that wasn’t enough, women who had Rickets were unable to give birth naturally and required a caesarian section.  In fact I was horrified to read that one of the Midwives’ instruction books said “if a woman is in labour for more than ten or twelve days, you should seek a doctor’s aid”!!! This was until the 1930/40s and my dad was born in 1925 (his sister, my Aunt Christine  1922).  I know now my grandfather went through the horrors of war; did my grandmother go through horrors of rickets, poverty, malnutrition and childbirth?

Once again, a little bit of information throws up more questions than answers in terms of my family history research.

Now I think of my grandmother in a very different way.  I have thought back to how she looked and am looking at old photos trying to see what other signs of Rickets there might be.  Her face looks normal.  I see her clothing is loose so I don’t know and no-one ever talked about it.  My memory of Gran Smith was a quiet but cheery woman who loved the wrestling.  She and my grandfather fought a lot but, as I may have mentioned before, Grandpa died of a broken heart just months after Gran died.  Whatever Gran’s reality, she did well; she passed away at the age of 90.

Now I want to find out more!  My grandparents were just my grandparents.  I thought of them as always being old, it never occurred to me of course that they were once young. Only now am I finding out the harsh reality of what their younger lives were like – and it keeps me awake at night.


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