Wednesday, 17 June 2009

15 August 1942

The prison siren has gone twice in the past hour.  It is now 11.30 am.  Perhaps practice, perhaps not.  Long in bed till 9 am.  Yesterday afternoon did my rib no good by throwing ball which had gone over line, back on to field.  Quite forgot I was not fit but the action reminded me of the fact very sharply.  dimmed light all last night.  At 9 pm the most wonderful astronomical phenomenon I have ever witnessed.  A shooting star or comet of a brilliance which turned the darkness to daylight travelled across the sky from the east to west.  The light lasted at least 10 seconds and I thought at first that it was a parachute flare.  Let us hope that this is a happy omen of what is to come.  The direction from which the star came is the right one and it is starts we are looking for.


During my years in the Bank many changes occurred within the family circle.  I may be somewhat lazy as to the exact date but it was in 1923 I think, that my grandfather died.  My grandmother followed him the next year and in 1925, I believe, the family of still unmarried aunts and one uncle emigrated to America.  It may seem strange that when referring to grandfather, grandmother, uncles and aunts, these are always of my mother’s side.  The reason is because my father was the only member of his family in Aberdeen.  When I was very young, grandfather and grandmother Smith stayed in Northfield Place.  in thinking of grandfather, a picture forms in my mind of myself standing at a table, with the top of which my head is just at a level, watching with greedy expectant eyes while a fairly tall, grey haired and rather gaunt man is preparing to break up a large peppermint ‘pandrop’ with the hammer he has in his hand.  That is my only memory of grandfather Smith.  He must have died when I was about 3 or 4 and then my grandmother removed to Edinburgh to take up house with her youngest son.  She returned to Aberdeen some four or five years later, staying with us for a few months but later taking up residence in a small house in a side street of Powis Place, the name of which escapes me.  I recollect her a small bent body, still fresh complexioned, blue eyed and with her greying brown hair drawn tightly back from her forehead and gathered into a ‘bun’ at the back of her head.


2.30 pm had just been to doctor from 12.30 t0 2.10.  We go in batches of 5 or 10 at a time and come back in the same way, being searched both going and coming.  My rib is not broken, probably only a severely strained muscle.  the part painted with iodine, sunbaths and rest advised.  We have a new doctor, an Indonesian, Sastrowirojo, I believe his name is.  Door of hospital was open, so saw and waved  to Sparkes.  We have just been issued with 2 packets of 20 Mascot cigarettes each.  Today we begin 5th month here and this is only the third time we have got cigarettes.  On 13 June we got 40 Davros cigs and on 17 July 20 Mascots.


My only vivid recollection of Grannie Smith is seeing her wandering all over the house peering at everything while drying her face after washing.  It was a habit of hers to do this and I know it used to amuse my sister and myself greatly.  I do not think she could have been a type to inspire affection otherwise my memories of her would no doubt be much clearer!  From what I gathered in after years, I believe she was the type of mother who disapproved of daughters in law on general principle and consequently relations between her and my mother were not cordial.  In my father’s family there were four sons and one daughter.  The eldest son, David, emigrated to Canada many years ago.  As far as I am aware, he never married.  The second son, John, was my father; the third William, killed in a railway accident a few years ago, was married and resided in Glasgow as did also the only daughter, Jean, who, I understand had made an unfortunate marriage and was consequently pretty much lost sight of.  The youngest son, James, residing in Edinburgh, was also unfortunate in ,matrimony and divorced his wife after a few years.  I do not believe that correspondence passed between the brothers and sister and consequently the uncles and aunt on my father’s side are known to me practically only from hearsay.  My maternal grandfather, George Mackintosh Riach, was a clever man and gifted with great organising ability.  In a higher walk of life, he would doubtless have achieved distinction.  As it was in a humble way, he was well known in Aberdeen and, when younger, took a very active part in the support of various candidates for municipal honours.  He claimed descent on the maternal side from the Mackintosh as the result of a misalliance between a groom and a daughter of the illustrious family, but how many generations back, I never heard tell.  Every Saturday evening a sort of forum was held at my grandparents’ house where the politics of the day were discussed and argued with various members of the family, my grandfather, so to speak, occupying the chair.  There is no doubt that he possessed a wonderful insight into things political and a keep foresight of the trend of events and, young as I was, then, I used to enjoy these Saturday evening parliaments.  During the War, we were deprived for the time being of the Aberdonians famed morning rolls – in local parlance, ‘buttery rowies’.  How it came about I cannot recall but on a certain occasion I found myself competing with my grandfather on a poetic contest in connection with this circumstance for a wager of a penny.  The family were the judges and on the appointed evening, grandfather read his poem, which went as follows:

Oor forefathers likit their bannocks and ale
And aye kept good store in their bowies
But for enjoyment what niver can fail
Is a breakfast wi’ buttery rowies.

For general acclaim I won the penny by submitting the

Ode to the Departed Buttery

Broom an’ crisp, ye used tae lie within yer paper buggie
Far be ye noo, say I, ma bonnie buttery rowie?
But soon, I’m sure, ye’ll come again to cheer oor hairts forlorn
An’ we’ll see ye on the table aince mair at breakfast ivery morn.

The breaking up of the family, more or less inevitable after the death of both grandparents, brought to an end the joyous Hogmanay reunions which had characterised the ‘Clan, as we called ourselves, from my earliest years.  My uncle Joe was by the time married and settled down in London.  My aunt Innes, Margaret (Peggy), Eliza (Betty) and Charlotte and my uncle Johnnie, also John Wilkinson, Charlotte’s fiancé, emigrated to America, settling in Detroit.  Charlotte and John Wilkinson later went to South Africa and now live in Maraisburg, Transvaal and have one daughter, May.  Some years after the general emigration, my uncle Joe, with his wife, Winnie and their two children, George and Pamela, joined the American contingent in Detroit where all still reside.  It is a rather unusual fact that I have never addressed my aunts or uncle by such titles but always by their Christian names, as between brothers and sisters, but how this came about I do not know, although it is probably due to childish license being allowed in this respect until it became too late to remedy the defect.


Out from 3 to 4.15 pm.  Only one ball game.  Chinese were not out with us today but have had their outing by themselves later and now playing a ball game against the Indonesian team.

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