A little bit of Scotch mist

So many photos of my dad as a young man featured a sporty car (or a motorbike and sidecar) and he was often accompanied by my mum (and even his mother, who seemed to be a constant chaperone). Before I was born, dad and mum belonged a group called  “The Gypsy Motoring Club”. They and their friends would zoom around the countryside, participating in organised trips, time trials and treasure hunts. These activities came to an end upon my arrival, but driving out into the countryside on a Sunday was still our family treat. The shop was open 6 days a week and dad never let up. I can remember him often having to jump up from the table and rush downstairs to serve customers because the shop didn’t close for lunchtime.

I do have memories of standing behind the car with the boot down (yes down not up) and our big picnic box which just fitted in. Sadly, missing from the trips that I can remember, was Sheila, my parents’ beautiful Irish (red) setter which appeared on their photos but died before I was born. One of my older cousins was especially fond of her and, later, told me many stories. Apparently, she was a very giddy dog, who never quite grew up and often returned home in a very smelly condition due to her love of rolling in cow pats! This (the photos, not the cow pats) has just reminded me of how many photos I’ve seen of my parents out and about in the countryside, posing (sometimes in very silly poses) with dad’s two sisters and their husbands and children. Lovely family photos which have made me smile over the years and have helped me tell you – my children – about your grandparents.

I have real memories of one very early holiday, touring Scotland. This was a place that mum and dad (mostly with grandma) often visited. I was a small child – maybe 4 – but I have 3 very vivid memories. One was being lifted down from a ferry boat into the arms of a crew member in a small rowing boat as we visited the island of Iona. Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides, famous for its abbey. Part of the abbey, built in the Middle Ages, still remains and it is still a popular destination for tourists. The sail, from the small town of Oban, takes you past the beautiful houses of Tobermory (or Ballamory as thousands of parents know it today) and the atmospheric Fingall’s Cave, before arriving at Iona, where the only way to land is by transferring to a much smaller vessel. I made the same trip with friends as a twenty-year old, but that is another story! My dad told me the story that there were some American tourists on our Iona trip and, being interested in history, they were asking “Who was Bonnie Prince Charlie’s father?” It seems nobody knew the answer – except me. I whispered to my dad that I didn’t understand why nobody could say – that “it’s the Duke of Edinburgh of course”! My second memory was being in a bed screaming,  because mum and dad had gone out and left me with my grandma. They never went out together, even though they had a potential live-in babysitter. I never asked why but I realise now that I am showing distinct signs of having “only-child” syndrome! My third memory was of the moment, during our drive home, when I realised that my little plush dog, Ricky, was not with us and dad obligingly turned back to Callander to collect him. Thanks dad!

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