I was born in the year 1926 in a beautiful village in Scotland. I had four brothers and one sister. My father was born in this village; my mother came from a town 10 miles away. Te village was called a “miners’ village.” Most of the men who lived there were miners who worked in mines many miles away. We had a town clock that chimed every hour till 11pm. Our main street had a school, a church, several stores, a movie house, and a railway station. Te village I lived in was a few miles from the Duke of Hamilton’s Estate. One morning in 1941, as we awoke our family listened to the radio and learned that Rudolf Hess, Deputy Fuhrer to Hitler had landed his solo in a German plane in the village of Eaglesham, not too far away from our village. He had come to speak about peace talks with the Duke of Hamilton. We could not fathom how his plane got so far inland to Scotland without being shot down. Tis is a part of history I lived through. Our primary school was at the bottom of a hill and the River Avon ﬂowed by. We also had a beautiful park with many beautiful ﬂowers, and benches to sit on. A little stream of water divided the park. Across the way was a large house, which in Scotland we called a manse. Te people in our village called it a haunted house. Tere was a story that circulated saying that many years ago there lived a soldier in this house. Tis soldier was stationed in India and fell in love with a beautiful Indian lady. Te soldier married her, they came back to Scotland and settled in this beautiful house. It was rumored that after sometime living with him she was unhappy and wanted to go back to India. Te soldier went back to India to join his regiment, however his wife was never seen again. Every night around midnight a ghost was seen in a white sari ﬂoating around the grounds. Te people in the village were very superstitious and would stay away from this house. Of course we don’t know if this is true, but everyone believed the house was haunted.
My mother came from a well-to-do family who owned two ﬁsh stores, but my father’s family was poor. Father worked as a clerk in a factory when he married my mother. Ten the depression came, my father lost his job and had to work in the coal mines. It was the only work around, so many people had lost their jobs. It made him a very unhappy man, for he had to be up in the wee hours of the morning to walk many miles to the mines. Tere was no transportation.
We were very poor and lived in a house with a thatched roof. It had only one large room with two beds ﬁtted into the wall. Mother and father slept in one bed and my four brothers slept in the other. My bed consisted of two chairs moved together. My sister stayed with my Grandmother who lived not too far away, that was my father’s mother. Tere was no electricity in our house, only kerosene lamps. My mother did her cooking over the ﬁre in an iron pot. Our toilet was outside in an outhouse, in an alleyway which was so very cold in the winter time. Mother made her own rugs from scraps of rags from old clothes. We had to bathe twice a week and water was heated over the ﬁre and poured into a large wooden tub.
My childhood was not a happy one. My brothers and sister were 2 years apart. I often wondered how my mother adjusted to the life she had with my father, for she came from a house that always had a housekeeper and plenty to eat, and never wanted for anything. She had two sisters and two brothers. Her parents were always busy working in their stores. She never complained about how hard her life was and it was a life of poverty.
Our life at primary school was a nightmare. Teachers were very cruel and beat us with a stick or with a belt across the hands if we didn’t bring in our homework, pencils or notebooks. We were so poor that my mother didn’t have money for the six of us for school supplies. I can remember running home crying because my wrist was swollen from the strap. My mother was not at home, so I ran to show my grandmother and she put ointment on it. When my father saw it he was angry and wanted to go to the headmaster’s to complain, but my mother said it wouldn’t do any good for they won’t stop using the strap.
Te winters were very hard for us, we didn’t have the proper clothes or boots. My father only worked 4 days a week. He was very slim, not a physical person, and working in the mines was too hard. He started to drink a lot and was a heavy smoker. He liked to play the horses, so whatever he won he used on drink. Never once did he share any winnings with mother to help us out. My mother was too proud to ask for help from her family and she would not ask for charity from the government (which she would have gotten because of our hardship).
When my brothers were 12 or 13 they had little jobs after school: one worked in a grocery store, one delivered papers, one worked for a carpenter, and the other one helped deliver coal. Each one brought home a few coins and groceries which made it easier for my mother.
My mother’s sister was blind and she lived with her mother. She was highly educated and had a degree in music. In my grandmother’s house, a room was set aside for her to teach piano and singing. When I was 12 years old, my mother put me on a bus to the next town where my aunt lived, and she would be at the bus stop with the housekeeper. When I arrived I stayed for the weekend and I became her guide. I would take her shopping and go for long walks and she would become a great inﬂuence in my life. I looked forward to these weekends. I had my own bed, plenty of food to eat, and I got a few shillings for my help. I gave the money to my mother.
Winter time was the worst for us. Many times, I went to school with holes in my stockings. I would put black polish over the holes so as the other kids at school would not tease me. My shoes had holes in them and I frequently had soaking feet from the rain or snow. My mother had a brother who managed one of my grandmother’s stores. He also had a large family. When he wasn’t in the store, he would take his van with ﬁsh, poultry and eggs and travel to farms well out of the town to sell ﬁsh to the farmers’ wives. Every Friday night around 6:30 or 7pm, he would be on his way home I would stand near the church on the main street and wait for him. He would give me ﬁsh that was left over and a few pennies for myself to buy some sweets. Tose nights were cold and I stood in a shelter to wait for him, for my mother needed the ﬁsh. It took 15 minutes for me to run home. My mother was happy for it meant two days of dinner.