As a very young lad, I would spend some time over at my grandmother’s home, on regular sleepovers, as they are called nowadays. My grandfather had passed on some ten years previously in 1937, and just over a year later, in October 1938, their youngest son Alasdair was lost in the Bayble drowning tragedy, along with three other village lads of a similar age - 20 and 21. They had only arrived back home days before, from Naval training exercises in the pre-war crisis.
In a small hall area at the foot of the stairs, a type of photographic scroll hung on the wall. I remember that sometimes I would take a chair from another room, and by standing on it, I could scrutinise the scroll at closer contact. The picture in the middle was of a man in a piper’s attire, the picture encircled with Laurel leaves, and a smaller picture of a pipe band underneath it, on a backdrop of red velvet cloth, were pinned nine medals, a glass front was encased in a small wooden frame.
Auntie Shonnag informed me, that the man in the photo was my late grandfather’s brother, their uncle, John Matheson, who had been killed in World War 1 while serving in the Canadian army She also pointed out to me, that her uncle John had a strong facial resemblance to my own father, and that was the first instant, I became aware of us having relatives in Canada.
John was the first of that family to emigrate to Canada (1910/11), followed later by his brother Norman, and in 1924 by another brother Malcolm and their sister Carstiona.
Carstiona came back from Canada in the late 1950’s, to live in Stornoway. She was unmarried, and though of strong religious belief, was very outgoing, and I have regretted, while in her company, not having quizzed her on their life in that country, especially to confirm to me that her brother Norman’s son Malcolm (Monty) had been a boxer in Canada and the U.S.A.
For the full story read the March issue of Back in the Day, out now