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- 12 November 2003
"I don't want to leave you mammy!" I was standing on the bed and my Mother was putting on my clothes. I remember it very clearly. A few hours later I was an "evacuee" complete with gas mask, label, and, I think, sandwiches on my way to an unknown destination.
It was 2nd September 1939 and I was six and a half. How did the Government ever convince millions of Mothers to hand over their children to be transported to an unknown destination with no suggestion when we would ever come back? Perhaps in those days our politicians were trusted or perhaps they were genuinely trustworthier.
I remember it was Buchanan Street railway station and I don't know if our parents were there, I recall the noise of the steam engine and the bustle on the platform. I remember stopping at Stirling (railway staff brought trays of sweets to the carriage windows) and Perth where we changed trains to go to Aberfeldy, our final destination.
This beautiful Perthshire village is almost the geographical centre of Scotland and it was to have a significant effect on my life.
A number of us were put on to a bus and driven round the village where if my memory serves me correctly the local people could choose a boy or a girl, or perhaps both? My best friend was Willie Ritchie and he looked just like "Our Wullie" out of the Sunday Post, he sometimes behaved like him as well! Was he my best friend at Camlachie School? I don't remember but for the whole of the evacuation we did every thing together.
Here I must pay tribute to the many people all over Britain who agreed to take in the unknown off spring, of mainly city children, who had little knowledge and no interest in the country side, its way and its customs.
We went to the Aberfeldy Academy, all together, the locals in the mornings and the Glasgow vacs in the afternoons - so thank you to the school staff as well.
We discovered hills to climb, and fields to ramble, a river (the Tay) to explore and sheep and cows to chase - so thanks too to the farmers and their patience as well!
My mother was terrified of bus travel yet came North on the bus several times to visit me, does that mean there were no trains?
My "guardians or foster parents" (what did we call them?) were Mr and Mrs Hendeson with a son in the Navy and Willie was with Mrs Hendry a widow with two daughters in their twenties who went off to the war some time later.
I suppose the best way to illustrate the impact that Aberfeldy and its splendid people had on me is to say that my Mum Dad and I went on holiday and stayed with Mrs Henry from 1947 to 1954. I spent my honeymoon in her home in 1955 and my parents continued to spend their holidays till she died. Does anyone else have stories about friendships that lasted long after the war had ended?
I know we were well fed with plenty of eggs and milk and fresh vegetables. Was that because rationing had not yet arrived or because we were in the country? I certainly remember the meagre rations when I came back to live in Glasgow.
Eventually my Mum and Dad, who were not together when war broke out, came together and brought me home, unfortunately, it was the night of the terrible Clydebank Blitz! I can clearly remember, even from Glasgow Gallowgate, the moon and the drifting clouds, we gave it the name "a bomber's moon", the sky lit up with searchlights and the fearsome red glow in the sky that was to reveal all the horrors of war the next day.
What then do I recall of the rest of the days of the war? I remember the blackout and the "baffle walls" built at the front of every tenement close mouth, which led to many a bleeding head as we walked into them during the blackout hours. I think I remember a curfew? Am I right?
My father was a railway guard at College Goods yard that played such a vital part in the movement of troops and armaments. When my Father died we found a citation from the King congratulating him on uncoupling an ammunitions train during a bombing raid in Belgrove goods yard. He had never mentioned it when it happened.
I remember the food rationing. We got extra cheese because he was in a reserved occupation and a heavy industrial worker.
Three memories from the end or near the end of the war.
My first bar of Cadburys Milk Chocolate.
My first banana and above all my pals and I out on the streets in an evening in May singing "When the Lights Go on Again All Over The World" and they were, that night switched on, - in the streets of Glasgow.
Willie Ritchie was not with me because we had moved to the South Side. Where are you Willie?
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