FAMILY

At this point, I'd like to reverse some steps, and cover stories which I have omitted in the telling of all the foregoing.  I mentioned my maternal grandparents and other members of my mother's family, but a little more detail is called for to tell the full story.  My grandparents died within a year of each other in the mid-twenties, leaving Molly and Annie in their house at Birkenshaw Street.  Annie was the oldest of the family and was a retired ladies' tailor.  Briefly, in the twenties, she had owned and operated a little Sweet Shop in Baillieston in partnership with  Miss Somerville.  (Maiden ladies were always referred to as "Miss" So & So back then).  Miss Somerville died in 1923 and Annie went back to take care of the aging parents.  Aunt Molly was a fully qualified nursing sister who had served throughout World War I in Queen Alexandra's Nursing Service, a quasi-military nursing service which manned field hospitals and forward stations in France.  After the war, she was employed by the West of Scotland Nurses Association, which hired out nurses to wealthy and aristocratic people who required care at home.  Aunt Molly had all the campaign medals of World War I and the Royal Red Cross, which was awarded for gallantry and service directly in the front lines.  She lived at home with Annie, and when my grandparents died, they bought a large detached house in Milngavie.  Aunt Molly lived on there until she was nearly 90.  Annie died in her early eighties and I don't remember exactly when -- but sometime after the war years ('50s or '60s).  For many years, Molly lived by herself in Milngavie, and my sisters Peggy and Kit alternated going over there to help her keep it clean. But eventually, after a broken hip and other infirmities of old age, she moved to a retirement home in Milton, near where Peggy lives, and died there in her 98th year.  She still had mainly red hair, which grew so long, she could sit on it and, even at that age, very little grey.  My mother's other siblings were Johnny, who was a butcher by trade and emigrated to New Zealand around the turn of the century, and Bob, who was also a butcher, but who worked as a buyer, attending cattle sales and buying for wholesalers in the meat trade.  He lived in Armadale Street in Dennistoun with his wife, Mary.  They had no family and when Mary died, Bob took to his bed and died within a few weeks.  This was in 1948. 

The only other sister died at the age of 17 before 1900.  Johnny's son, Bob, who would be about my age, came to the U.K. in 1940, with New Zealand Troops.  After a visit to Scotland where the family met him, he was shipped overseas, supposedly going to North Africa, but before they arrived there, the Germans had attacked Greece and the New Zealand troops were diverted to Greece.  As it turned out, they were too late, and the New Zealand troops were met in Crete by the Germans and were marched off to prison camps without a shot being fired.  Bob spent the rest of the war in Stalag VIII B. 

My grandparents and aunts were very much of the old school who believed that "children should be seen, but not heard," a common Victorian sentiment.  So there was not a great deal of interaction between them and us Cathro kids.  They were kind enough, but without much warmth.  My grandfather would send some of his fresh eggs to the family, and, usually at Christmas, a plump chicken.  That's about all I remember.

My father's family was headed by his father, Alexander, his mother, Sarah Thompson Cathro (who died December 1915), and their children, Mary, who married Eddie Dale and lived in Kirn Argyllshire.  Eddie Dale was a chef, and in between the odd jobs in big hotels, worked on private yachts.  His last job, until the early sixties, was as part-time chef and full-time caretaker of the estate of the Duke of Westminster.  His wife and ample family never stayed anywhere but Kirn and he only visited there once in a while.  The last time I met him was in 1960, when I was on a trip with the Masonic Club of Harland's.  The next in line was my father, William, born in Carnoustie in 1882, before the family moved to Glasgow.  My dad was an engine fitter by trade and an excellent draughtsman and engineer.  He married my mother, Margaret Alice Merilees, on June 18, 1907, when he was 24 and she was 21.  They shared a birthday on July 21. 

My mother had worked in the butcher's shop owned and operated at that time by her brother, Bob.  The shop was in Duke Street, Dennistoun and my mother was always very good at identifying a cut of meat, so the local butcher had to watch what he was selling her!  As parents and as people, they were as good as they come, but like my maiden aunts, not very demonstrative, but, as I realised and experienced later, either one would have given us the clothes off their back.  I had an example of that shortly after I was married years later, when I bought a second-hand radio set.  At that time, if you had a radio, you had to have a license to operate it, which was bought at the Post Office for 10/-.  My dad had been a radio buff from the very early days back in 1922, so naturally, he wanted to check out my "new" radio.  One Saturday night, he came up and checked it out and pronounced it first-class.  He then turned to me and said, "Did you get a license yet?"  When I said, "Not yet," he handed me a 10/- note and said I'd better get one right away.  This is a little thing, I suppose, but it serves to show the innate goodness in him.  Another thing about him was his caring for his young children and, I well remember him walking up and down with one of them in his arms, singing till they would go to sleep.  I suppose, in my time, he did it for me, too, but I remember Robert and then Mary as the baby of the family.  Later, he would do the same for my kids and I remember Margaret on the singing parade!  My father and his two sisters, Mary and Helen, were all pretty good vocalists. 

The next in age in the Cathro family was my Uncle Dave.  My recollection of him is seeing him come back from World War I, after serving four years in Egypt and the Desert with the Royal Field Artillery.  His rank was "Bombardier," which meant the same as Corporal.  He wore a khaki tunic buttoned up to the neck, with a bandolier over his chest, flared riding breeches bound from knee to ankle with "puttees" and, of course, spurs.  The outfit was topped off with a standard  British army cap with a patent leather "bill" in front, and held completely round on top with a tight-fitting wire frame inside.  A snow white belt (blancoed) round the waist and you had a Royal Field Artilleryman ready for anything.  When Dave went to war, he was engaged to be married to a lady called Nan Edgar, but somewhere along the way he got a "Dear John" letter and she married someone else.  However, somehow or other, her cousin, Jean Dalglish, took over where Nan left off and Dave married Jean.  Till 1923, they lived in Deveron Street in Riddrie and then went to Toronto, Canada, where they spent the rest of their lives.  They had a boy and a girl, but none of our family ever met them.  Dave and Jean came to Scotland in 1960 and I was able to drive him around to meet some old friends.  I met Dave and Jean once in 1972, in Toronto, but by then, she had Alzheimer's or something similar and he was well over age 80.  I didn't hear from them again.

The next in line in the Cathro family was Helen, who married John Murdoch.  John was a pastry baker and confectioner (Wedding cakes) with the City Bakeries in Glasgow.  They had two children: Jack, who became a high ranking policeman in Ayr, and Helen, who became a school teacher and later head-mistress of one of the most prestigious schools in Glasgow, Hutchinson's Girls School.  I don't remember exactly when John Murdoch died, but, upon his death, they left their home in Parkhead (opposite Celtic Park) and moved to Evan Drive, Giffnock, where they bought a detached house in a very classy neighbourhood.  I have no idea if either of them -- Jack or Helen -- are alive, but Jack would be about 84 and Helen about 80, now in 1994.    

Second last in line was Alec Cathro, who was a Captain in the Highland Light Infantry in World War I.  He survived the war, but on two occasions, he was severely wounded, and as a result, died around 1930.  He had been working as manager of the ex-officer's club when he died.  He was married to Jean, whose maiden name I forget, and they had a son, William, almost my age, who was in the Royal Navy in World War II.  He was badly wounded in one of the big Atlantic battles, I think with the Bismarck, and spent a long time in hospital in the U.S., before going home to die after the war.  This is as much as I know or remember about the Merilees and the Cathro families.

Just after I wrote the previous line, I realised I'd left out the youngest member of my dad's family, James, or as we knew him, Jimmy.  He married Isa Paterson.  When I first remember them, they lived in Tollcross in the east end of Glasgow, and on occasion, we would go visiting on Sunday evening.  Later, they moved to Brora Street in Riddrie, where they lived the rest of their lives.  They had no family, so they had nobody to follow them.  Now I really have written as much as I know about the two families from which I sprang.