On Monday my Grandfather, Douglas, would have celebrated his 100th birthday. Sadly he died in 2002 at the ripe old age of 91, but we were grateful to have him, his stories and his sense of humour with us for so long.
As a youngster he enjoyed motorbikes, and spent his life working in the Scottish motor trade, apart from a wartime stint supervising in a factory which made Spitfire wings. I made the mistake of asking why they only made wings, and not the rest of the planes too “huh, only the wings got shot off, so we shipped out new ones, they bolted them on and off they went again!” As an oldster he wasn’t past borrowing a neighbour’s bike to pose on
Douglas and my grandmother, Elsie (of Sewing Box Psychology Fame), were very active folk – they took up golf after Douglas’s retirement and played all over Scotland. In his mid 80′s Douglas was involved in a car accident which, although not his fault, put him off driving, so he sold his car and applied for his free bus pass. Although he was delighted with free bus transport, mainly because he kept bumping into people he hadn’t seen for years, he hated lugging his golf clubs from the bus stop to the golf course (as well as the 18 holes which followed, and the return trip to the bus stop) so when his doctor said he was fine to drive, he bought another car and got back to the serious business of Golf.
For his 90th birthday my sister bought him an original copy of “The Scotsman” from the day he was born (17th January 1911) and I borrowed it to see what interesting snippets I could share with you.
If Douglas’s parents, William and Minnie, wanted a night out 100 years ago, they had several choices to pick from. They may have fancied the theatre, but I suspect Clairvoyants and Crystal Visionists, even Madame Van Bien, were not their “thing” as William was a Church of Scotland Minister.
Alternatively, they could have taken a day trip to Glasgow for a painless operation, or stayed at home and had some “live fish” delivered to the door, or perhaps some delicious lambskin slippers, as supplied to Queen Alexandra. Hey, if they’re good enough for HM, they’re good enough for a Minister’s family, if a bit chewy! Would one pair feed seven boys?
As long as the coal cellar was full, they could keep warm while ordering up their At Home cards to invite everyone round for a flavoursome and nutritious fish supper. Or they could choose a mail-order husband for Auntie Isabel from the Scottish Lady offering Matrimonial Introductions!
Douglas was sports-mad and would often watch the Grand Prix on the TV with a transistor radio balanced on one shoulder so he could listen to the football/rugby/cricket at the same time. Elsie liked a long lie in the morning, so Douglas would get up and polish his shoes and prepare the veg for the day (potatoes peeled and in cold water for later) before taking her a cup of tea and two biscuits in bed.
Three of the seven surviving brothers at a family reunion (James died young of scarlet fever)
Here’s Douglas in Toronto in June 1998. I suspect he forgot to take his Factor 20 with him.
Douglas always had a good head of hair, and I suspect it was more due to genes than this…
So, if your childrens’ hair is less than absolutely luxuriant, you know the secret now
Happy Birthday, Douglas – your grandchildren and great grandchildren miss you. We have no one left who can pull coins out of our ears, drop something invisible into a paper bag so it goes “bang” even though it turns out to be empty, let us win at Gin Rummy, who knows all the best words for “The Minister’s Cat”, can drive with no hands, and honk the horn without touching it (actually, I still don’t know how you did that).