A Scottish Sojourn
It is quite marked. Every time I travel north of the border I feel more attuned, more at home. It’s as if the bombardment of day to day life can truly be left behind. My Grandad and Grandma on my father’s side were very English, and my mother’s mother (who we all knew as Nanny) was from Wexford in Ireland. It wasn’t until just before Nanny died that my Mum learned for certain that her father was John Baird from Oban (no, not he of television inventor fame). As far as I am aware John was from our only Scottish ancestral line.
I have two very early memories, which I will relate in reverse order. The second of these is walking alongside a pram being pushed by my mother on a pavement by a set of concrete railings for what seemed like an eternity. I always assumed it was by the tram tracks at Bispham but it transpired we were walking from my first home in Tyrone Avenue along Bispham golf course’s Devonshire Road boundary to the house when I spent the rest of my growing years in Norcliffe Road. The story goes that we had walked this mile or more with my Mum pushing my brother Tom’s pram, probably full of stuff that couldn’t be transported in the removal van. When we settled down in Norcliffe Road after that long journey the 3 year old me asked Mum “Can we go home now?” which set her off in floods of tears!
But my very first memory, and one that has recurred throughout my life, is of a silhouette of a man in a cap at the front door of Tyrone Avenue. I would have been about 18 months old. I told Mum about this when she was still very lucid about a year or so before she died, and she told me the following story. I knew that she loved John Baird because he lit up what sounds to have been a difficult early life. He was a riveter on the ships and would come ‘home’ only occasionally and make a fuss of her. He would also leave her outside the pub while he probably drank away his own money and very probably most of the meagre earnings that Nanny had been able to scrape together in his absence. Then one day he left, never to return.
One day there was a knock on the door at Tyrone Avenue as I sat playing on the hall floor. Mum opened the door to a knife seller – the man in the cap – and sent him on his way because she neither needed nor could probably afford to have her knives sharpened. An instant later she realised the man at the door was actually John Baird and sent my brother Colin and sister Janet after him with half a crown. That was the last time Mum saw her father who she cannot have seen since her early childhood, and that is the story as she told it to me.
It still doesn’t explain fully why I appear to feel so much more grounded north of the border. I like my Englishness, and it was pointed out by Dave Roberts when I was interviewed last year on Meridian 107FM that I have a ‘very English voice’. I also feel a similar but not as profound sense of belonging when I visit Ireland, so perhaps it’s not so much a sense of Scottishness as a strong affinity with our Celtic ancestry? It’s actually one of the wonders of life that these important questions can never be truly answered.
And so to my son’s 30th birthday celebrations. Duncan also loves Scotland so we celebrated his birthday in Aberfeldy. The following day he took me to the distillery for my birthday present, a Connoisseur tasting of five whiskies, plus the massive 57.6% one that the tour guide gave us before we sat down to sample the rest. Somewhat sozzled we left the car in the distillery car park and walked the 30 minutes back cottage in the pouring rain without a care (and without a car). Both of us wrote a song about experiences on our respective trips, so keep your eyes and ears peeled and one day you may experience them!
My Music Catalogue: https://johnreed.bandcamp.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuKuP-Z8UAg THE SUN GOES ROUND THE MOON
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZK9tCEmJ3k DRY THE LIFE
Produced by: http://www.heygamal.com/bio.html
Record label: ND4PRM
Official Photographs: http://www.frankroper.photography/portfolio/