FAMILY LIFE

   Margaret started school at Bearsden Academy and we tried to live as normally as possible.  It wasn't easy with food rationing and cigarette shortages, etc.  Cigarettes were a real hardship, and sometimes I would get home and find Bessie had none, and neither did I.  Many times, I went back out at 9:30 p.m., walked a half-mile to the bus stop and down to Anniesland, where a late-opening cafe sometimes had cigarettes.  If the cafe didn't have them, it meant taking a train to Partick, in hope of finding a "chip shop" or cafe open and selling cigarettes.   Bear in mind, this was during the blackout, and it was hard to know when a shop was even open.  I remember many times that I got back to Anniesland and discovered the last bus had gone and I had to walk the switchback up through Cannniesburn to Bearsden.  It made for a lot of stress and hardship. 

Eventually, we had to give up our billet and move back either to Nairn Street or Kilbowie Road.  We alternated, according to the sleeping accommodations at any given time.  In 1943, Elizabeth was expected, and one Saturday evening, I came into the house in Nairn Street and my mother suggested I call the doctor, because it looked like the birth was imminent.  I went to the call box at the corner and talked with Dr. McLeish, who arrived in minutes.  He called the Maternity Hospital to get her admitted immediately, and Bessie, mother and I set out in the ambulance for the hospital. 

Bessie was whisked away and mother and I waited and waited, until about 1 a.m., when a nurse came and said it didn't look as if the birth would be any time soon.  She showed us into what was obviously a birthing room, with two marble tables, almost side by side.  She gave us pillows and blankets and my mother and I slept there until around 6 a.m., when the nurse brought us tea and toast and said Bessie was still not producing.  So mother and I went home to Dalmuir.  When we returned at the visiting period, they said the birth was not anywhere near taking place.   After a couple of days of this, they finally discharged Bessie, saying that it was some kind of false labour. 

The following Wednesday -- 10 days after our Maternity Hospital visit -- I came home to discover Bessie had gone by ambulance to Airthrey Castle in Stirlingshire, where she had been booked to go in the first place.  Elizabeth was born on June 30, 1943 at 6 1/2 pounds.  As Airthrey Castle was about 40-50 miles from Clydebank and was one of the emergency wartime hospitals set up in Castles and mansions, I could only telephone for news until I was able to visit on the following Saturday. 

At that time, Saturday was still a working day -- 7:30 a.m. till noon, so after working the morning, I set out for Buchanan Street Bus Station by tram from Scotstoun.  When I arrived at the station, the queue was all the way round the block for the Stirling bus.  It was the first Saturday in July -- the traditional first Saturday of the summer holidays.  It took nearly two hours in line before I got on a bus.  I had to change buses in Stirling to go to Airthrey Castle.  Arriving at the gate, I found I had more than a mile to walk up the driveway.  I reached Bessie's room at nearly 6 p.m.  I don't remember getting home, or how I got home, but I must be one of the few men alive who spent a night on a slab in a labour room!

It was an experience, but well worth it all in the long run, and we now had another beautiful baby.  I am not the only one who thinks that, because when Elizabeth was just under a year old, in June 1944, the Singer Company, where Bessie's dad worked for many years, held their annual Sports Day.  Among many events was a baby show, and Grandpa Fraser saw to it that his granddaughter was entered.  She was the best baby in her class and was awarded the Silver Cup for Best Baby in the show.  She still has that cup on her mantelpiece today.

This was one of the happier memories of World War II and, in fact, by that time, the threat of bombing in our area had subsided somewhat.  London and the Southeast of England were still being harassed by V1-Flying bombs, and later V-2 rockets, but further north, the bombing raids had become fairly infrequent.  The other memorable event of this period was the wedding of Isabel and Harry Fernley.  Harry was in the Army and met Isabel when he was stationed in Glasgow.  He had gone abroad with the Army and served in North Africa and later in Italy.  By correspondence, the wedding was arranged for Harry's home leave and I was the Best Man.  It was a very simple affair.  We -- the bridal party -- Helen, Isabel, Harry, and I went by taxi to the manse where the minister duly married them. 

The night before, Harry had stayed with George and Kathy in Hillington, so on the morning of the wedding, I went by bus to escort Harry to Clydebank.  We stopped in a bar for a quickie drink before catching a bus back, and, as often happened in wartime, the whiskey was "off."  The pubs rationed the whiskey by setting up a few bottles, and when they were finished, the "Whiskey Off" sign went up.  Harry and I were well dressed in our double-breasted blue suits, gleaming shoes and, of course, carnation buttonholes, which told everyone we were going to a wedding.  When we were refused whiskey, the other patrons coaxed the bartender to give the bridegroom a drink.  And bless him, he brought over "two doubles" on the house -- free.  So duly fortified, we headed for Clydebank. 

After the ceremony, the taxi took us to Heugens to have the wedding pictures taken, then back to "150" to have what Grandpa Fraser always called a "Jollification."  In spite of wartime shortages, we had a great feed and several bottles of Scotch to keep the party in good fettle.  We were all in good spirits and feeling no pain by about 8 p.m., when a knock came at the door.  It was a messenger from Heugens to say that one of the pictures hadn't come out, and would the party (four of us) come back to the studio.  Straightening ties and combing hair got us more or less presentable, and back we went to the studio, maybe not walking too steady, but that picture turned out really well, even if we were a little smashed!

Next morning, Isabel and Harry left to live in Hayes, Middlesex, where they were to live for nearly 40 years.  And so, the war ground on, and I think we were by then inured to the blackout.  In fact, by then, they had put very dim, blue bulbs on the street lights, and it made it a little easier to walk around at night.  The S.M.T. buses had blinds on the windows, but the trams had the little blue lights inside.