One Saturday in November, 1947, our worst nightmare struck and I've had nightmares about it all my life. I was asleep in bed that Saturday, after working the nightshift, and I was awakened suddenly by someone, I don't know who, yelling something about an accident. I became aware they were talking about Margaret and Helen. As I hit the floor and got dressed, I realized there was a police officer there. When I was fully awake, I saw it was Charlie McArthur, a friend of mine.
It turned out that Margaret and Helen had been on their way to a Girl Guide outing by tram and when they got to Ferry Road Yoker and the tram stopped, Margaret jumped down and was immediately struck by a bus making an illegal pass. Helen was the horrified witness left behind on the tram platform. Margaret had been dragged for 20 feet by the skidding bus and her right leg had been severely injured. Charlie McArthur had been driving toward Clydebank and although it was not in his territory, stopped to see if he could help. The accident was inside the Glasgow boundary, so Glasgow police had to handle it. Charlie discovered who was involved and immediately came to tell us and brought Helen home.
I had no car then, but I got a car to take us to Yorkhill Hospital, where we met with the surgeons, who told us how serious the injuries were. I explained to the surgeon that I was an amputee and knew the difficulties and implications. After our discussion, he said that he would call in a plastic surgeon to determine how much of the limb could be saved. A meeting was set for 8 a.m. on Sunday morning. After the two surgeons had examined Margaret, they came back and told me that the limb would have to be amputated just below the knee and the rest of the leg would require a good deal of skin-grafting and plastic surgery. I don't have to write what my thoughts and feelings were about the situation. Any parent knows and can empathise. That weekend was the ultimate nightmare and even writing about it 45 years after is just as painful. On that Sunday, Bessie and I waited till the first dreadful operation was over, and both of us shed a lot of tears. Later that week, it was decided to move Margaret to Ballochmyle Hospital in Mauchline, Ayrshire, because that was where the plastic surgery unit was located. This was the beginning of a long, painful series of procedures to build up that poor, damaged limb. Apart from two or three occasions when she was allowed home for a week, Margaret spent about two years there. Mauchline is about 45 miles from Glasgow and Clydebank about nine miles from Glasgow, so visiting, which was allowed on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, was a tiring, tedious journey. We had to get a bus to Glasgow, change at the bus station to a bus to Kilmarnock, then on to a special bus which went directly to the hospital. On Sundays, the bus from Glasgow went direct to the hospital. I made the trip on Saturday and Sunday, and Bessie did it on Wednesday, too. The first time we went there, we travelled in the ambulance with Margaret and a nurse, and although Margaret was wrapped in blankets, we were frozen stiff. The ambulance was unheated and it was icy outside. I don't want to go into all the details about the various procedures, but it is sufficient to say Margaret survived. I believe Margaret was changed radically after it all. Her mum and I were forever changed.
I think that was the beginning of Bessie's health problems and, in fact, she had a miscarriage in 1949.