Saturday, August 19, 2017


There's an interesting story behind this 1916 photo of my father's family.

Back Row: John 1900-87, my father Robert 1893-1982, Charlotte (Charlie) 1896-1987, George 1892-1976, and Jean 1898-1960
Front Row: Elizabeth (Lizzie) 1905-1996, Grandma (Charlotte) 1865-1942, Walter 1910-68, Grandpa (John) 1868-1954 and Isobel (Isa) 1900-89
John and Isa were twins - the only twins that I know of in the wider family.
Have you noticed that my father and Charlie have their pinkies linked?

One of my cousins told me that Grandma in those early days was always very keen to have photographs of the family taken. Like many others at that time, the Jaaps were quite secretive about their comings and goings. To keep their visit to the photographer's studio a secret, she devised this plan. Her family, dressed in their Sunday best, would leave the house in ones and twos at different times and go by different streets. The return journey would be carried out in a similar way, and no-one would know what was going on!

The occasion was their 25th wedding anniversary.



Shel Silverstein 1930-99

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
Said the old man, "I do that too."
The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."
I do that too," laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, "I often cry."
The old man nodded, "So do I."
But worst of all," said the boy, "it seems
Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
I know what you mean," said the little old man.


Loch Faskally, Pitlochry, Scotland


Some years ago, when our eldest daughter Margaret was in Borneo, she visited the famous Sepilok Reserve for orangutans. Founded in 1964, the Centre’s purpose then was to rehabilitate orphan orangutans, and today there’s a population of 60-80 animals.

During their tour of the reserve, Margaret and her husband came across a cage containing just one occupant - a very old, blind orangutan.

Visitors can feed the animals with fruit, and, having attracted the old fellow’s attention, Margaret gave him a large papaya. You can imagine her surprise when he took the offering, broke it in half and handed one half back to her!

When he had finished eating his portion, Margaret then passed her half back to him. Again he took it, halved it and gave half back. And this happened one more time!

She says she found the incident very moving and I can quite understand that. If only humans were all as generous!!!

Margaret always takes a huge number of photographs on her travels, but this is one Google found for me.


Did you hear about the old lady who took her doctor's advice to join a fitness class? All her friends at the Old People's Lunch Club were anxious to know how she got on and as soon as she appeared they crowded round to hear her report. "Well,"she said, "I joined the aerobics class for seniors. I bent, twisted, gyrated, jumped up and down, and perspired for an hour. By the time I got my leotards on, the class was over."


This is an 1886 photograph of some of the inhabitants of St Kilda outside their cottages.

St Kilda lies 40 miles from the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. There had been a small population there for hundreds of years, but since the middle of the 19th century there were never more than 100 people living there. The story of the evacuation of the inhabitants in 1930 is well-known, but I was too young then to know anything about it.

Today St Kilda is owned by the National Trust and became a World Heritage Site in 1986. The island attracts a good number of bird-watchers for it has become famous as a breeding ground for seabirds. Other visitors to the island are volunteers who are helping to restore some of the ruined houses. There’s also a small military base there.


"It's Never Too Late to Fall in Love"
(song from the The Boy Friend - Book, Music and Lyrics by Sandy Wilson)


will now be updated


Friday, August 4, 2017


Remembering when we were very young . . .

I REMEMBER the big smile on our father’s face, as Rita and I ran down the street to meet him, his arms outstretched to embrace us together.

I REMEMBER while I was in hospital with scarlet fever being told by a bigger boy that I would die because I had swallowed some of the tooth-cleaning powder.

I REMEMBER with shame an aunt landing on the floor, because I had pulled away the chair just as she was about to sit down.

I REMEMBER hurrying past an aggressive little boy who lived across the street, because he would run up to you and give you a punch. 

I REMEMBER that, when I was unable to go to school because of sickness, my father would come home for a quick mid-morning visit, bringing me a comic.

I REMEMBER a rough boy at school (who, it turned out, was related to me) offering to protect me from bullies. When I named a boy who scared me, he replied “Aw naw, Ah cannae fight him”.

I REMEMBER the doctor visiting me when I was unwell and commenting on the sheet of paper pinned above the bed on which I had written “KEEP SMILING”.

I REMEMBER one Christmas eve I woke up during the night and heard Santa Claus coming down the chimney. I kept my eyes tight shut, and went back to sleep.


My maternal grandparents John Hardie 1873-1962 and Margaret (Maggie) McFarlane 1876-1963.

They were married on 12th July 1895 and had 8 children of whom our mother was the eldest.

All his working life he was an iron moulder in a local foundry, and I can still see him with his black face and hands arriving home from work.
He was continually on piece work, which meant that he was paid only for the items he produced. If a casting, which sometimes involved a whole day’s work, went wrong (not uncommon), then he wasn’t paid.
My mother once told me that, if her father ever found her reading a book, he would say, “Pearl, haven’t you anything to do?” Now, knowing my mother, I’m sure that as the eldest child she would do a great deal to help around the house. 
On another occasion she told me that he was always serious and never smiled. And then the day came when a friend of his visited, and the two of them sat talking, joking and laughing - and her father was a completely different person. She couldn’t believe it!!!


In 2012 I was nominated for the Freedom Of Kirkintilloch. The honour was given to Frank Dunn a retired Consultant Cardiologist at Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow. He is just the seventh person to be given this honour. In 1931 the first person to be granted the Freedom of the town was Tom Johnston who later became Secretary of State for Scotland during the war in Churchill’s government.
The Certificate was presented to me by the Provost at a reception for all the nominees. 


In “Gems of Old Scotland” by Maisie Steven (Argyll Publishing) there are some fascinating stories of life in 18th century Scotland. During that period schoolmasters were poorly paid and most of tham had great difficulty making ends meet. One schoolmaster in the Lothians was forced to carry out additional duties as “precentor, gravedigger, beadle, session clerk, and yet his whole income does not exceed £8 sterling.” (That amount of course is per annum!) The writer comments “This, with the paltry accommodation, holds out little encouragement to a teacher of any merit. Indeed, no man who possesses strength to lift a mattock or to wield a flail would accept of such a disgraceful pittance.”

Among the different customs, some were peculiar to a particular area. In Bo’ness the beadle was obviously an very important man in the conduct of funerals. He “perambulates the streets with a bell, and intimates the death of an individual in the following language:- All brethren and sisters, I let ye to wit, there is a brother (or sister) departed at the pleasure of the Almighty.” So he continued, naming the deceased and announcing the time of the funeral. And I learned that he “also walks before the corpse to the churchyard, ringing his bell.” 

I liked the cure for convulsions which was practised in one part of Shetland. “Convulsions were once very common in this parish, especially during the time of divine service; but are now quite extinct. The cure is attributed to a rough fellow of a Kirk Officer, who tossed a woman in that state, with whom he was often plagued, into a ditch full of water. She was never known to have it afterward, and others dreaded the like treatment.”

In Comrie there was a cure for backache which "is still performed and reckoned very efficacious." There is a “rock on the summit of the hill formed of itself a chair for the saint, which still remains. Those who complain of rheumatism in the back must ascend this hill, then lie down on their back, and be pulled by the legs to the bottom of the hill." 


A great picture! This is the first of a series in my latest blog



I'm not too fit, I'll have you know,
I'm overweight and rather slow,
But when I run, I manage; though
I'm breathless!

Though in the past it was not thus,
I am not one to swear and cuss,
Except that, trying to catch a bus,
I'm breathless!

When as a youth, I used to play
With sweet young ladies in the hay,
The girls would be the ones to say:
"I'm breathless"

At sport I'd always stay the course,
I was as strong as any horse,
But now, with just a little force,
I'm breathless!

I guess my life has reached the stage
When these things happen at my age.
If all my passions I assuage,
I'm breathless!

No longer, now, do I aspire
To climb a mountain, walk on fire,
Instead I curb each wild desire:
I'm breathless!


I expect we would all agree with the following -

“If we gathered our impressions from the newspapers alone, it would be easy to believe that there were no happy marriages, no honest bank officers, no incorruptible politicians. The discordant makes itself heard above the harmonious. Ugliness pushes beauty aside and crowds its hateful visage into the foreground.”

That comment was made more than a 100 years ago in “The Girls’ Empire.”

Well, well. as the French say "Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose" - the more things change, the more they stay the same.

"The Girls' Empire" was described as "an Annual for English-speaking girls all over the world." Examples of some of the subjects covered in the 1903 edition (and this is perfectly true) are how to avoid the evils of excessive tea-drinking, the pros and cons of cycling in a full-length skirt and how to get the best out of your carrier pigeon. I'm wondering if Amazon can supply me with a pigeon.




Friday, July 21, 2017

Jean with Fiona, Lesley and Margaret in 1961


After demob from the RAF I had no idea what I wanted to do, but a director of a local iron foundry lived nearby, and it was through him that I got a clerical job in their general office.

There were two iron foundries in the town at that time. Both were very busy, their products being sent all over the world. My job was to assist in calculating bonuses, and in preparing and paying out wages.

I worked with two older men. One of them was always smartly dressed, looking just like a salesman in a gents’ outfitters. Then I found out that he had a Saturday job in a big Glasgow store. The other one had a glass eye, and he would cause new office girls to have hysterics by taking his eye out and laying it on the desk.

There were two directors. The one I knew was very pleasant and easy to get on with. The other was a bit of a terror and his main purpose seemed to be to try to catch any one smoking. Most of the men obeyed the rule, but the elderly cashier didn’t. His desk was in a corner of our big room surrounded by a partition about 7 feet in height, and for much of the day smoke could be seen floating above. The opening of the door of the directors’ room could be clearly heard from the general office, and a smoker had about 10 seconds in which to conceal any evidence. This was usually successful, but on one occasion the cashier failed to stub out his cigarette properly, and his waste paper bucket was set on fire!!!

The unpopular director had a particular dislike of the switchboard which was located in another corner of our room. Sometimes, if the operator was away from her desk, there would be a lot of buzzing from the machine. If he was passing he would rush to it, and manipulate every switch he could find. When the buzzing stopped, he would walk away satisfied.

There was a third director who had retired, but he still got his pay packet every week. I was given the task of delivering his envelope each Friday. (Yes, salaries were weekly, and even he was paid in cash.) One Monday morning I was called into the Secretary’s room and was told that he had just phoned to complain that he didn’t get his money on Friday. Consternation! I put my hand into my jacket pocket and produced the envelope. I had forgotten to deliver it! I apologised profusely, and that was the end of the matter.

While I was there, the company built baths for the workers, and this was considered a very progressive move. There was an opening ceremony (no, the directors weren’t the first to use the facilities), and a special tea was held in a nearby hall for the special guests during which I played grand hotel music on the piano.
I worked there for two years and then tried something very different - organising secretary of a Glasgow community centre.



Coltness Ironworks, Lanarkshire was the scene of an amazing rescue on 8th July 1909. 

Two steeplejacks were working at the top of a 180ft chimney stack when one of them was overcome by fumes which were constantly being emitted from the mouth of the chimney. The man was lying unconscious on a 20 inch-wide platform, and his shocked workmate hurriedly made him safe by lashing him to the planking. Now he too was beginning to feel the effects of the gases and began the perilous descent.

David McWhirter an engineer at the Works hurriedly joined the gathering crowd at the foot of the chimney, and, despite the fact that he had had no experience of heights, started to climb the ladder, followed shortly afterwards by his assistant William McLelland. 

David reported that “As soon as we got to the tackle we fixed the steeplejack in a bosun’s chair, but the fixing was a mighty difficult task and not by any means free of danger. There was not enough room to allow our freight to pass between the platform and the chimney, and so there was nothing for it but to put him out over the edge of the platform and let him swing free.” 

David shouted the order to lower away and the steeplejack was safely brought down to earth. 

Later both David and William were presented with the Edward Medal First Class from King Edward. 

The connection between David McWhirter and our family is through the Armours. David’s wife was Ann Armour 1869-1935. 


Jean and I a few days after my 56th birthday


Thought I'd let my doctor check me,
'Cause I didn't feel quite right. . .
All those aches and pains annoyed me
And I couldn't sleep at night.

He could find no real disorder
But he wouldn't let it rest.
What with Medicare and Blue Cross,
We would do a couple of tests.

To the hospital he sent me
Though I didn't feel that bad.
He arranged for them to give me
Every test that could be had.

I was fluoroscoped and cystoscoped,
My aging frame displayed.
Stripped, on an ice cold table,
While my gizzards were x-rayed.

I was checked for worms and parasites,
For fungus and the crud,
While they pierced me with long needles
Taking samples of my blood.

Doctors came to check me over,
Probed and pushed and poked around,
And to make sure I was living
They then wired me for sound.

They have finally concluded,
Their results have filled a page.
What I have will someday kill me;
My affliction is old age. 


Leonard Lewis, a friend of ours, 
who died on 2nd December 2005 aged 78.

He and I met at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire where we were doing our National Service. We soon became friends for we shared a keen interest in all things connected with entertainment. We joined the station concert party where he was a jack-of-all trades and I provided the music. For one of our shows we had the professional assistance of Ralph Reader of Gang Show fame who was on our station planning that year’s RAF Pageant at Olympia.

One of our cast was a civilian worker Bunny Shayler, a comedian who had his own small group of entertainers outwith the RAF. Leonard and I joined them and we did quite a number of shows around Oxfordshire. I remember going to one village in the wilds where, on our arrival at the hall, Bunny was greeted with “Are you the man from the BBC?” (He rather traded on the fact that he had once been on BBC Midland Children’s Hour). Not long afterwards though, he appeared on radio in Hughie Green’s “Opportunity Knocks”, and I was one his supporters who accompanied him to the live broadcast in the Paris Cinema, London.

This is a photo of Leonard with me taken sometime in the late 1950s. 

After demob Leonard worked in rep at Morecambe and Ashton-under-Lyne before going to the Library Theatre, Manchester. I met up with him again when he came to Glasgow to join the BBC as a TV production assistant. He and his wife Jean and their three little girls came to live in Lenzie.

In 1963 his work took him back to England, and his family followed. From then on, his name appeared regularly in Radio Times as director or producer of Z Cars, Softly Softly, When The Boat Comes In, The Good Companions, Flambards and others. 
Before he retired, he was the executive producer of the long-running BBC soap "Eastenders."

When Leonard died, the playwright Alan Plater wrote a very fitting obituary which appeared in the Guardian on 11th January 2006.


Take the time to laugh - it’s the music of the soul.
Take the time to weep - it’s the feeling of a generous heart.
Take the time to read - it’s the source of knowledge.
Take the time to listen - it’s the strength of intelligence.
Take the time to think - it’s the key to success.
Take the time to play - it’s the freshness of childhood.
Take the time to dream - it’s a breath of happiness.
Take the time to live - because time quickly passes and never returns.
Follow your path -
Go, live and become!

The last line will mean more to people in France for “Va, Vis et Deviens” is the title of a film released in 2005.




Saturday, July 8, 2017


BACK IN THE 1930s . . .

I REMEMBER the school dentist was a German. In those days there was a great deal of bad feeling towards Germans, and I don’t think he would have much of a chance in the popularity stakes. The school doctor had a poor rating also, and it was joked that, if a child reported to him for an eyesight test, he would recommend a tonsillectomy. Much later I got to know him and he was a very pleasant old man. 

I REMEMBER that, like so many children of that time, I had to have my tonsils removed. I’m guessing I would be about 6 years old. The operation was done in the newly built clinic and I think I was there for two days. As usual my mother worried a great deal, for a little boy of my age had died getting this done.

I REMEMBER that as a youngster I often had bad toothache, a consequence of the iron medicine I had to take. On one occasion, late in the evening, the pain was so bad that my father took me to a dentist who lived nearby. His wife opened the door to us and said she was sorry but “My husband has retired for the night.” My parents thought it was a disgrace that he wouldn’t help a little boy in pain. We learned some time later that he was often the worse of drink, so perhaps it was just as well he didn’t attend to me!

I REMEMBER when an American uncle of my father visited us in the mid 1930s. He and a brother had emigrated around 1895 and, after they had settled, had been joined by their families. He was the first American I had met and he made a big impression on me. 

I REMEMBER someone else who had an American accent. He was Scottish but had been a printer on transatlantic liners. He married Aunt Nessie, a sister of my mother. One evening when I was very small she called at our house. I had been expecting my favourite aunt, and I told her “I didn’t want you. I wanted Cissie to come!” What a horrible little boy!

I REMEMBER another occasion of which I’m ashamed. It must be one of my earliest memories of my father’s parents’ house. I’ve no idea why I did this, but I told Grandma Jaap “You’re bad!” and slapped her hand. 

used to try composing haiku and this is an example -
many years have passed
but I'm still remembering
that old wrinkled hand


This is Grandma, probably 1900-1906

and Grandpa

He was the first of 4 John Armour Jaaps. The second was one of his sons, then I came along, and finally my cousin who lives in Australia.


Peter Sharp was a Kirkintilloch man who, like so many others, began his working life as a weaver. He later became a travelling book-seller, and gained quite a reputation as a poet. He died in 1886. 
This is part of a poem which won him a prize of one guinea from a Glasgow newspaper.

Aye haud on, and thankfu’ be,
Though little be your store;
And labour on wi’ eydent haun’
To mak’ that little more.

Discontent will break the heart,
And tak’ the strength awa’,
But cheerfulness sustains us aye,
And mak’s our labour sma’.

[Aye Haud On = keep persevering, lit. always hold on,
wi’ eydent haun’ = with a diligent hand,]


I wonder if anyone in my father's family knew about the Jaap who killed his wife? Perhaps that was something that was hushed up. 

On the 8th of May 1891, the Glasgow Herald reported that James Jaap aged 70, who lived in the Anderston district of Glasgow, appeared in court charged with the murder of his wife Isabella. The jury found him guilty and the judge Lord Young said that, in view of the prisoner’s age and the fact that he was “a religious man who endeavoured to preach to others” he would restrict the punishment to 18 months imprisonment. Surely a very lenient sentence in those days!

Is there a connection between James Jaap and our family?  We found his birth record in the archives for 1822.  It shows that he was born in Paisley, but we have no known family connection with that district. We do have a James Jaap born around 1824, a member of the Dalgety Jaaps of Fife from whom we are descended.


This vintage advert brought back to me something I had completely forgotten.

In the 1930s Hall's wine was well known for claiming to have healthy properties. When it began advertising in The People's Friend, the Scottish Women's Temperance Association complained to the paper's proprietors that, since the drink contained alcohol, the adverts should not be published in a respectable paper. The anti-drink groups were very strong in Scotland in those days and the People's Friend stopped taking the adverts.

Founded in 1869 the People's Friend is published by D.C.Thomson and Co. This is its front cover today, bright and colourful. How different it was when I was a boy.


Finally, a few intimations from church news letters -

Thursday night - Potluck supper. Prayer and medication to follow. 

Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

Our Easter Sunday Service began with Mrs. Prym laying an egg on the altar.


from now on 90plus will be updated every alternate Saturday


Saturday, July 1, 2017




1) In 16th century Scotland, the minimum age for marriage was 14 for boys, 12 for girls.

2) In 1791 a labourer earned 3 old pennies per day, a carpenter 6 old pennies per day and a mason one shilling per day.

3) There used to be quite a number of French people living in Kirkintilloch.

4) Mary Queen of Scots with her husband Lord Darnley intended to come to the town in 1565, though there are no reports that the visit actually took place. 

5) It’s likely that King James IV passed through Kirkintilloch, because he had a short stay in a mansion in Campsie.

6) Bonnie Prince Charlie and his men marched through the town in 1746. One inhabitant shot and killed one of the soldiers who, it was claimed, had been trying to steal something. The Prince wanted to burn down the town, but some of the local leaders pleaded for mercy, and a fine was imposed.

7) The road through Kirkintilloch was the main thoroughfare from west to east - from Dumbarton through Glasgow and Stirling to Edinburgh.

8) In 1710 church elders were appointed to ring a bell on Saturday nights at 9 o’clock to warn drinkers that it was time to go home.

9) It’s believed that there was a settlement in the Kirkintilloch area before the Romans came, since Pictish graves have been discovered 17 feet further down than the Roman road.

10) Most local people know that the name Kirkintilloch means something like “the fort at the end of the ridge”. Some of the variations of the name in old documents include Kirkentolagh, Kyrkintullauch, Kirkyntulach, Kirkintholach, Caerpentaloch and the Pictish version Chirchind.


These photos of my parents in retirement are particularly good.

Robert (Bob) Graham Jaap 


Margaret (Pearl) Andrew Hardie


I remember that our parents insisted that we should always speak proper English, and we were corrected if we used a Scottish word. Broad Scots was the natural language of our grandparents of course, and I was recalling recently that the men in my father’s family, with one exception, were known by their Scottish names -
Robert (my father) was Rabbie, though outside the family he was known as Bob, George was Geordie (pronounced Joerdie), Walter was Wattie (pronounced Wah’ie) and the exception was John (pronounced Joan). 

 There were a few strange expressions in those days. When someone was repeating what they had said to someone else, they would prefix their quote with “sigh”. The vowel here was very short. As a wee boy this puzzled me a lot till I realised that the speaker was saying “Says I”, where we would say “I said” or “I told them”.
Another strange word was “ifwurspairt”. This turned out to be “If we’re spared” meaning - if God spares us, and was usually used when talking about some plans for the future. My father might say “If we’re spared, then next summer we’re going to have a vegetable plot there.” I’m sure people didn’t really bring God into it - what they were meaning was “all being well” or “if things work out” then we'll do such and such a thing.


There's nothing the matter with me,
I'm as healthy as can be,
I've arthritis in both of my knees,
When I talk, I talk with a wheeze.
My pulse is weak, my blood is thin,
But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

All my teeth have had to come out,
And my diet I don't think about.
Overweight and I can't get thin,
But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

Arch supports I need for my feet.
To help me go out in the street.
Sleep is denied me at night,
Next morning I find I'm all right.
My memory's failing, my head's in a spin.
But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

The lesson from this I've been told,
Is for all who are growing old.
It is better to say "I'm fine" with a grin,
Than to let people know the shape we are in.

I'm fine, how are you ?


Taken around 1978, in this photo I'm playing the Omegan Classical organ I had at that time

During my time as a club musician, I met some very talented amateurs. It was rare for those singers to have written music with them, and I had to follow as best I could. Since they usually didn’t know in which key their song was set, I would ask them to start on their own, and after a couple of bars I was able to join in with a suitable accompaniment.

I must mention that my knowledge of “pop” goes no further forward than 1960, and at times I was probably the only person in the club who didn’t know the number being sung. Fortunately the drummer knew his stuff, and was a big help to me.

Of course all the professional artistes had band scores, most of them very well written, and playing them was a challenge I really enjoyed.

For a while I played occasionally for cabaret at a golf club, and it was there I met one of their members - a very amusing amateur comedian. He reminded me of the American George Burns, and the audience loved his casual, relaxed style. I was so keen on his act, that I arranged for him to appear in the club where I was resident. And I was completely shocked! He was a flop! The poor man, away from his usual golf club fans, had a real struggle to raise a laugh. 

That was the one and only time I recommended an entertainer.


This is Wallace's Well, just a few miles from my home. It's said to be the place where William Wallace (1272-1305) had a drink shortly before being captured at Robroyston. He was handed over to Edward I of England who had him executed for treason.

This is an extract from the statement he made at his trial on 23rd August 1305.
“I can not be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance. He is not my Sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he never shall receive it. To the other points whereof I am accused, I freely confess them all. As Governor of my country I have been an enemy to its enemies; I have slain the English; I have mortally opposed the English King; I have stormed and taken the towns and castles which he unjustly claimed as his own. If I or my soldiers have plundered or done injury to the houses or ministers of religion, I repent me of my sin; but it is not of Edward of England I shall ask pardon.”


Finally, something to make you smile -




Saturday, June 24, 2017

When I was a child, my mother used to say that my father had been a pupil at the “ragged” school. Despite the fact that I knew this was not to be taken seriously, I used to picture him - a small boy dressed in rags. Much later I discovered that indeed there had once been such schools. 

It all began in 1818 when John Pounds a shoemaker in Portsmouth began teaching poor children in his workshop free of charge.

John Pounds 1766-1839
with some of his scholars

The concept soon spread with the work of people like Rev Thomas Guthrie in Edinburgh and Sheriff Watson in Aberdeen. There was a big leap forward in 1844 when Lord Shaftsbury founded the Ragged Schools Union, and by 1870, when the Education Act was passed, the number of ragged schools had reached 350.


And now a quick leap from a ragged school to my secondary school - Lenzie Academy. This photo shows the final year pupils in 1943. Counting the rows from the front up, I'm on the 3rd row, 3rd from the right.


   A row of bottles on my shelf
Caused me to analyse myself.
One yellow pill I have to pop
Goes to my heart so it won't stop.

A little white one that I take
Goes to my hands so they won't shake.
The blue ones that I use a lot
Tell me I'm happy when I'm not.

The purple pill goes to my brain
And tells me that I have no pain.
The capsules tell me not to wheeze
Or cough or choke or even sneeze.

The red ones, smallest of them all
Go to my blood so I won't fall.
The orange ones, very big and bright
Prevent my leg cramps in the night.

Such an array of brilliant pills
Helping to cure all kinds of ills.
But what I'd really like to know
Is what tells each one where to go.
- Anon


After the death of her husband Dewi, Brenda Rowland was going through his possessions and eventually came to his precious garden hut. Over the years he had kept a locked wooden box there and had refused to tell her what it contained.

So rather reluctantly and with some worrying thoughts, she decided to open the box. She was astonished to find it was full of old toys, obviously things he had played with and loved when he was a boy.
Lined with a 1937 newspaper, the box contained ludo, snakes and ladders, building bricks, skipping ropes, a little farm with animals, zoo animals, lead soldiers, a yo-yo, a wooden alphabet, marbles, and a clockwork train.
With no children to pass them on to, he had kept them all those years. 

Do you think he would sometimes open the box and handle those precious things which had been so important to him once?



This picture shows the Gypsy Queen on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Townhead Bridge, Kirkintilloch. The bridge, the original wooden one, has been raised to allow the boat to pass through. The photo must have been taken some time before 1914; that was the year St Mary’s was built and the church steeple would have been clearly seen between the bridge-keeper’s cottage on the right and the Temperance Hotel across the road.

The construction of the canal began in 1768 and took 22 years to complete. In the early days traffic of all kinds used the waterway and even in my childhood there were horse-drawn barges, fishing boats, coal-fired boats and pleasure boats like the Gypsy Queen.

This next picture, taken from the steeple of St. Mary’s, looks down on the bridge and the main street stretching south. The first building on the left across the canal is a public house. Following the “no licence” vote in 1920 all the pubs were closed, and that property became the police station. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, a public vote in 1969 resulted in a defeat for the "dry" supporters and licensed premises returned to the town. The building is now a pub once more.

Returning to the photo, the tenement across the road is the Co-operative Building always pronounced "cope." and this building is still there. Further ahead the steeple on the right is that of St. Andrew’s Church which was demolished many years ago. 


Finally -

I'm growing fonder of my staff;
I'm growing dimmer in my eyes;
I'm growing fainter in my laugh;
I'm growing deeper in my sighs;
I'm growing careless of my dress;
I'm growing frugal of my gold;
I'm growing wise; I'm growing--yes,--
I'm growing old.” 
John Godfrey Saxe