MAINLY FATHERMy dad was 33 years old when I was born in 1915. At that time, he worked in Parkhead Forge, a huge engineering plant, owned by William Beardmore & Company, Ltd., and located in Parkhead, Glasgow. The company was engaged in making field guns and manufacturing shell casings and other war materials.
Two of his brothers, David and Alec, were in the British Army. David was a Bombardier in the Royal Field Artillery and Alec was a Captain in the Glasgow Highlanders, H.L.I. Alec was badly wounded and ultimately died in 1933 of his wartime injuries. He had worked for several years as clubmaster in the Highland Officers Club.
As an engineer, my father had to remain in his job, which was essential to the war effort. He was there until the war ended in 1918. He then went to the Rothesay Dock in Clydebank to work as a maintenance engineer for the Clyde Navigation Trust and was engaged in the maintenance and repair of cranes, coaling hoists and capstans. As I have covered elsewhere in these writings, this ultimately moved the family to Dalmuir, a suburb of Clydebank.
My dad was a very good tradesman of the old school, and some of the things these old-time mechanics could do with a chisel, file and hand scrapers is almost unbelievable today. My dad never used a micrometer or a vernier gauge, but he could fit a bush to a shaft using calipers and a delicate touch better than many modern machinists with all their precision gauges. He loved his work and was always happy to discuss it with anyone who might be interested.
Outside of work, his joy was in his family and I well remember him with the newest baby in his arms, singing one of the many Scots songs he knew. When he was younger, he had a good repertoire to sing to his children and later to his grandchildren. When I was very young, I remember visiting with aunts and uncles and being entertained to a very lively song-fest around the piano. Later in my life, as a father myself, we often visited my parents on Sunday night and we all sang the old hymns as I played the organ. My dad's organ was a Mason & Hamlin with one manual. It was pumped with two foot pedals and had 11 stops and a "knee-swell," which made it louder. My dad used to play it using "Tonic-Sol-fa" music, not staff notation.
When my dad went to work at the dock, he met an old friend who lived near us. Johnnie Tate was an electrical engineer, and in 1920, he started dabbling in radio, which was just in its infancy. Johnnie got my dad involved and both of them built "crystal" sets, which could pick up some of the radio programs which were being broadcast on a rather limited scale in the beginning. By 1922, my dad had moved on to a "two-valve" set, which could even pick up London programs. We were all duly amazed at this new phenomenon. Looking back at my own life, I realize that I have been in on the evolution of radio -- which we called the "wireless" -- television, the automobile and from shaky old biplanes to the modern jet planes, which carry more than 100 people. I think my own life has carried more wonders than any other period in history, with many "miracles" in the medical field and astronauts going to the moon and beyond. I think the previous generations, like my dad's, paved the way for all these accomplishments.
My dad's friend, Johnnie Tate, went to Burma in the 1930's and he and my dad corresponded until about 1942, when Johnnie disappeared and was never heard from again. We assumed he had perished in the war.
I don't remember anything especially significant for the next year or two, but in 1924, my Mother, Peggy and I went to Millport for the month of September. Kit, who had left school by then, was working in a fruit and vegetable store, and did not come with us. My dad came on weekends. We had a great experience, totally different from Glasgow. We stayed in a boarding house on Guildford Street, which was run by Miss Merry. We only had to cross the street to reach the beach and the little boats which could be rented for fishing or rowing around the bay. It was a wonderful time for a city kid. Unfortunately, we had to go home at the end of that month and back to the routine.