Scottish Memory Lane -
Return to Scotland
Boeing 757, Air Scotland at Glasgow. The airline operated from 2003 to 2005.
Coming back to Scotland after a long spell abroad can be a great experience but it can also be difficult to adjust to the changes that have taken place, particularly after a long time away.
I'm hoping that readers will send in their own stories and memories of their own childhood in Scotland. All contributions should be sent to Scottie@RampantScotland.com.
Recently added stories have placed beside their title.
I thought I would add this to Memory Lane, because, although I am proud to be a Scot, I was not born in Scotland! Because my Scottish Dad was in the army, I was actually born in Cairo, Egypt. I was only about a year old when the regiment was sent to India to a barracks near Hyderabad. (The graphic here of Golconda Fort, Hyderabad is © McKay Savage via Wikimedia Commons) and my very first memory was sitting up strapped in a 'pram' and smelling the odor given off by the heat of the tropical sun on the pram. I heard a voice somewhere and my mother left me and walked out of sight, so I started crying very loudly until she returned!
After an Interesting childhood in India, I remember very clearly the return journey to Scotland. We first travelled by train from Meerut (Graphic here is Mustafa Castle, Meerut at night, © MMKhan22 via Wikimedia Commons) which is about 40 miles North of Delhi, to Bombay. On the first day, about 7 P.M. we arrived in Agra, and stopped to allow people to go and see the classic Taj Mahal, on a clear night with a full moon, a most beautiful view, and I fell asleep on the train, and didn't see it!.
The next day, we entered a jungle area in the Northern Deccan, the southern triangle of India, and the train began to slow down quickly and stop. We wondered why, until we looked out the window and saw a large herd of elephants emerging from the trees on one side, and disappearing into the jungle on the other side. The jungle on each side of the track had been cleared for some 20 yards or more, so we were able to see the herd being led by the females with the very young, and the large males in the rear. I thought my eyes might pop out of my head!
We boarded the troop ship S.S.Nevassa ( I think), on a Friday, but did not leave until the following day, because, I was told, the crew believed Fridays were unlucky to start sailing on!
It seemed no time at all when we were approaching Aden, to turn and sail up the Red Sea (Graphic via Wikimedia Commons) ) We stopped in Aden to refuel, and then headed North up the Rea Sea, and as we were passing Abasynia, now Ethopia, my mum told me that my uncle Alec was ashore there building something that extracted fresh water from sea water for, of all people, the Italians who had invaded the country! I hadn't the faintest idea of what she was talking about, but asked her if I could see my uncle from the ship!
It was November 1935, and I was approaching my 7th birthday. We reached the gulf of Suez (graphic here via Wikimedia Commons), and in no time at all, it seemed, were sailing along a huge ditch in the desert that I was told was the Suez canal. On we went to Port Said, where my Dad was called upon to leave the ship, because there was another British cavalry regiment in Cairo that needed his help to deal with sick horses. Thus we lost our Dad for more than 6 months!
We continued on, through the Mediteranian, through the straits of Gibraltar (graphic here © Hans_Lohninger via Wikimedia Commons), north into the stormy English Channel, and finally past the Isle of Wight, to dock at Southampton, and walk down the gangplank to be met on the dock by the former Colonel Fitzgerald who had retired from the Royals some time before. He looked down at me, held his hand out to shake mine and give me a two shilling piece, and said "happy birthday David" because it was December 2nd, and his birthday, too!
Now the train journey began. First to London, then the long run to Glasgow in a second class carriage, and as the train slowed down as it entered Central station, there appeared a man running along the platform beside waving his hand, and my mother exclaimed " There's your uncle Bill." As soon as the train stopped, he jumped on board, dashed into our compartment and hugged my Mum. He helped us out, and there waiting for us, was a group of people, my family. Thus began the beginning of my change from "Army brat', to proud Scot!
David Picken, now in now in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
When my mother died suddenly during our second year in Canada, in 1967, I was unable to come home because we just did not have enough money, having spent much of it in getting settled in Brandon, Manitoba, where I had a teaching job; but that is another story.
My first trip back was in 1977, with my wife Audrey, and our two daughters, Barbara who was 16, and Christine who was 15. We had to go by bus into Winnipeg, fly from there to Toronto, and then to London, because in those days there was no direct flight to Glasgow. We actually landed at Gatwick airport, where there was a railway station, collected our luggage and boarded the train which took us to Paddington station 9see graphic © "Elahguet" via Wikimedia Commons, and took a taxi from there to King`s Cross, where we boarded the train to Edinburgh, because we had decided to show our daughters as much of the land where they were born as we could in 2 weeks, but left when they were 3 and 5 years old.
We arrived in Edinburgh, took a taxi to our hotel in a square in the `New Town`, just over the hill from Princes street, and went to bed at 7 P.M. exhausted by the time lapse between Scotland and Canada! We also woke up at about 5 o`clock the next morning, and had to wait until it was 8 to get breakfast, and were delighted to hear the Scottish accent of our waiter! We spent that first week visiting the castle (pictured here), Hollyrood House, the zoo and various trips around the countryside, the borders, Sir Walter Scott`s` house, and then took what was known (then) as the `blue train` to Glasgow Queen street Station, and Taxi to the hotel we had booked that faced onto the north side of Queen`s Park. We phoned my dad`s`house, that my brother and his family took over when my mum died, and Jimmy drove down to our hotel, and took us all back to our first home in Scotland. It was a joy to see the old place again, and my family. The rest of our trip was spent touring. Loch Lomond, with a sail up the loch, the Trossachs, and Burns cottage, and showing our daughters where Audrey and I stayed in Prince Edward street, just a short walk down Victoria Road from the hotel, when we were first married. Thus our girls learned about the land of their birth, and saw their family relatives.
After that, it was the trip back home to Canada. We were stuck in Gatwick airport for 7 hours because of a strike by airport workers in Spain! When we finally took off, it was very interesting to have a stop in Iceland, and then the landscapes of Northern Canada. It was relief to see familiar scenery as we approached Brandon on the bus (that's the Brandon Fire Station in the graphic), and regret to be at the end of our trip, but joyful to be home safely.
David Picken, now in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
[EDITOR's NOTE: As a result of my own piece on my first day at Busby primary School, David got in touch with me - because he had taught in the same school (though our paths never crossed). I went to Eastwood Secondary School later - and David again taught there - but at a different time from my years there. But I was able to send him a class photo from Eastwood and he immediately recognised the teacher standing beside the class! It's a small world - really!]
A Nostalgic Trip to the Dear Green Place
I took advantage of a "window of opportunity" during the first 2 weeks of March in 1998 and decided to visit my Native City - St.Kentigern"s 'Glaschu' known now as St.Mungo's Glasgow.
I arrived armed with raincoat, sweaters and a camera on what I hoped would be a revisitation to the scenes of my childhood.
Alas - the politicians had beaten me to it! Many of the old haunts are now but a memory. I was particularly interested in visiting the Gorbals area and as I made my way from Queens Park to Eglinton Toll, much seemed the 'same' (The graphic here shows Eglinton Street in the Gorbals as it used to be; graphic © Robert Kelly via Wikimedia Commons) However, from there on the dream was shattered. Dixon's Blazes iron works, ""the Bad Fire" of my childhood was gone, along with most everything else round about. I pressed on and " lo and behold!" Abbotsford Chalmers Parish Church, refurbished, stood at the corner of the new Cavendish St. I walked along the street to, unbelievably, #10 where I used to live, albeit a small residential block. And there across the road was Abbotsford Primary School. The ravages of fire resulted in it being boarded up and it was "under offer". My camera shutter was clicking away as I made my way to the front gate, and I was delighted to see the heads of John Knox and David Livingstone still gazing out above the main door.
Further down and into Gorbals St. the devastation of "Progress" was evident. A section of a beautiful old red sandstone tenement was all that remained of the original street on one side. It had been a Bank at one time and the ornate fascia still showed. At the back, the rear of the tenement back- close looked as it had been, except it was "boarded up". Across the road where once the Citizens Theatre stood was the New Version (see graphic). No improvement there at all. The row of statues depicting the Muses had been removed to preserve them somewhere, and I wondered what Duncan MacRae would have said about the theatre where once he had delighted my generation in Pantomime. Gorbals Cross itself had been paved-over, complete with its 3 poles and their huge clock faces. I turned left on to Carlton Place, fortunately spared from the "improvements', and crossed the Suspension Bridge. Gazing down into the dark waters of the Clyde, I wondered what the next millennia held in store for my dear auld Glesca Toon.
Boarding the Bus home at St.Enoch's Square I thought of the plans for the following days and what I would find. Is "Brigton Cross still there or has it gone to be with its Gorbal's cousin? Saturday morning brought the pleasant answer - yes there it was! (Graphic © G Laird via Wikimedia Commons) There was even an assembly of worthies at the street corners still debating whatever it was they were trying to put right in the world. I cut through Glasgow Green past the People's Palace (closed for renovations) to reach the 'Barrows" and a revitalisation of "the dream"
At last! There were the streets and buildings I once knew. Perhaps less of them, but still intact. Only the shop fronts had been changed as the old businesses moved away, but a few names from the past lingered on.. 1 picked up some old-fashioned boilings from the huge array of glass jars in Glickckmans ("at this location for 50 years") and edged my way through the throngs at the outside stalls of the 'Barras' Market.
The touts were still drawing the punters with promises of a "treat if you buy". their voices carrying easily to the back of the crowd, thanks to the modern innovation of chest-mounted microphones. The "wax cloth" of my youth had been replaced with "vinyl flooring" but the methods were still the same -"You can go up the Town and you'll see the same thing at twice the price / I've got to clear the lot today so I'm giving it away / Cigarettes and Taabaacaa, a bargain."
After a refreshing pint in the Saracen Head Pub. where a picture of St.Mungo's well hangs on the wall along with display cases of memorabilia from the earliest days of this possibly oldest pub in Glasgow, I returned to the covered over portions of the Barras Market, so thoughtfully provided by the McIver family. The next 10 minutes yielded a couple of treasures from this Aladdin's cave of books, oddments and assorted junk.; 2 copies of the collected works of Robert Burns, one a rare edition, for a few pounds ! I could have spent a week looking through the stalls but time was pressing and I contented myself with a last purchase of a Scottish Brass plate and a silver Sherry goblet, both at bargain prices. The vendors were happy, 1 was happy, and everything was right with the world and the Gallowgate!
Walking up the High Street to the Cathedral (pictured here) and Provand's Lordship I crossed over Duke Street and passed buildings which have remained, thankfully, untouched by the grim Reapers of the redevelopment Committee. Glasgow's Coat of Arms looks down from one of these tenements which also carries other embellishments on the stone work. I had never realized before how many of Glasgow's buildings were decorated with our unique Coat of Arms.
The following day I decided to visit the Museum of Transport, housed in the old Kelvin Halls - pictured here (though now moved to the Riverside Museum on the banks of the Clyde). Rows of vintage cars. Horse drawn carts and coaches. Bicycles and Tram Cars were all displayed in a fascinating collection complete with suitable props. I stood beside a tram stop and could almost hear the clippies voice on the Mosspark bound tram yelling "come oan get aff'!"
Close to the front doors I Found my Time Capsule! A complete 1930s street had been built with cobblestones, lamp posts, old Fords and Austins parked on each side with the lights from the shop windows reflecting off their paintwork.. Here were the retailers of yesteryear! Blackadders window had box cameras at 12/6 and the butchers fishmongers and bakers all displayed an enticing array of produce. I asked the lady in the box office of the Cinema for a ticket but she remained stoically silent, frozen in time like her surroundings.
A last look at the "down to the last detail' subway station, with its empty trains waiting to rattle off, like some mechanical worm, into the depths of the Clyde Circle, then I left the early years of the 20th Century and stepped outside to look across the road at the University and Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Crossing the bridge over the River Kelvin. I thought of it making the journey down to the Clyde and on into the Atlantic Ocean whose waters lap the shores of our great Country of Canada. There is where I call home, but Glasgow holds my heart.
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