Sunday 2 August 2009

Apple of my eye

When I was a little girl I lived with my maternal grandparents.

My Grampa was the person in the world I loved the most, he was my world.

He was a very ordinary man, he married my Gran and they had 2 daughters, the youngest of whom is my mother. His family came over from Ireland at the turn of the century and my Grampa was the oldest. He had a brother called Richard and a sister called Sarah.

My great Uncle Ricky was an engineer in John Brown's shipyards. He had masses of hobbies and was very well travelled. He was very healthy, cycling and hillwalking, he was a very talented painter, my mother still has lots of his work and also the painting he taught me to do when I was 5. He was a violinist, he made all his own instruments and I am lucky enough to still have one. He played the fiddle for The Caledonian and Strathspey Fiddle Society. He was a conscientious objector during the Second World War but didn't go to jail as he was in a reserved occupation. He died 11 years ago of Mesothelioma which is a lung tumour which is caused by exposure to asbestos, of which there was plenty in the Glasgow shipyards of the time.

My great Aunt Sarah had very bad spinal damage and was very hunchbacked, she became a hugely talented dressmaker to make her own clothes and she made many of mine as a child, I remember with great fondness a long green checked taffeta party dress and to match it, a floor length bottle green velvet hooded cloak ala Scottish Widows. I still have her Singers treadle sewing machine from 1929 and it still works. I remember being allowed to open the drawers and play with all the reels, lots of beautiful colours. It was my ambition when I was a wee girl to be taller than my auntie Sarah, I think I did it about age 8. She did a degree in Russian and was a translator for the Russian Embassy. Neither she or my Uncle Ricky ever married and they lived together and travelled all through Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czechoslovakia. This was quite unusual in the 1950's and 1960's most Glaswegians went "doon the water" to Rothsay or Gourock at the Fair fortnight Glasgow holidays. As I say, the 2 of them lived together until she died after a short illness just before I got married.

Every Saturday, my Gran and Grampa would take me on the bus in Glasgow and to John Smith's bookshop and every week I was allowed to choose a book, they must have bought me hundreds. We then went next door to the health food shop where we'd pick up whatever Auntie Sarah and Uncle Ricky wanted, they ate stuff like natural yoghurt, cottage cheese and malt extract (which I got a spoonful every day in the winter and I loved) again not your usual Glasgow fare. Then we got the bus to Drumoyne and to visit Auntie Sarah and Uncle Ricky, I was always given a cup of tea and that was the only tea I ever drank. They always had unusual things at their house, I loved the Babouchkas and the ukelele. I liked the Russian childrens books with their colourful pictures and the strange writing. Sometimes I'd be taken to Elder Park on the way home.

My grandpa was a joiner and worked in Fairfields shipyards in Govan. He had a huge pride in his work and to him the highest praise was to say something was "Clyde built". He took a tin can into work to drink his tea out of and my Gran used to make his "pieces" (sandwiches) every day wrapped in the wax paper that the Mother's Pride plain loaf came in. He worked in that shipyard all his life and when he was made redundant early in 1975 he lived off his savings, never dreaming of signing on and claiming the unemployment benefit he was entitled to. It was a matter of his pride and self respect. He had a quiet dignity that I think so many of that generation of working class people had.

He made the bed I slept in, my beloved dolls house and a wee garden bench for me to sit on. He loved his garden and he had 2 beautiful lilac trees, one white and one lilac, a golden privet hedge and his pride and joy were his roses. He loved photography and there are a million photos of me and my gran but hardly any of him. He put them onto slides and we often had an evening where he'd put up his white screen and rig up the projector and we'd have a show.

I was the first grandchild and it would be fair to say that I was doted upon. He used to call me the apple of his eye, he carried my picture in his wallet alongside a St Christopher to keep me safe. He would talk endlessly of me and thrust my photo on anyone he met. Nobody was more loved than me.

I always remember him wearing trousers, a jumper my gran had knitted him, a tweed overcoat and always a flat cap.

When I was 9, he and my gran went on holiday to Ireland with my aunt and her family. Whilst he was there he suffered a mild stroke, he sent me a postcard and the writing on it was hardly legible, my gran had to finish it and address it. By the time it arrived he was dead. He went to bed that night and never woke up.

I wasn't allowed to go to his funeral but he was buried with the dark red rose I had cut from his garden.

My life was never the same.

Francis McTominie
20.05.13 - 30.07.75

An ordinary man to the world, an extraordinary man to me.


Deirdre said...

So lovely....we must all remember to cherish those we love..

Shirley said...

It's been 34 years you've been without your Grampa but he's still influencing you. What a tribute!

Style At Every Age said...

What a charmed and wonderful childhood you had surrounded by these caring and beautiful people. What a lovely post, yet another one that has bought tears to my eyes over the last few days. If only every child were this lucky. x

Working Mum said...

What a lovely Grandad. Even when cherished relatives have left us a long time, their influence lingers. A beautiful post.

softinthehead said...

What a lovely tribute, he obviously had a great influence on you.

Nota Bene said...

If you have to go, in your sleep is a good way. Shame you weren't allowed to go to the funeral...but you have all those fabulous memories to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

His legacy lives on in your tribute and your writing. I have no doubt he'd be supremely proud of you and your children.

Laura said...

He sounded a wonderful man. Good to see you take after him.

lisaq said...

Very touching sweetie. He'd be proud.

Subville said...

Just seeing the word 'grampa' is good enough for me today (yes, firefox dictionary, it IS a word)

Lovely post. ♥

auntiegwen said...

Deirdre - so true

Shirley - and he always will

Looking fab - I was incredibly lucky to be so loved

WM - thank you July/Aug always find me at my most melancholy

Softy - he was the most important person in my life and when he died I was orphaned, truly bereft. The whole story may come another day but beware it's a 3 hanky job

NB - I think that was the way then, only adults went and you're right I think sleeping away is how I would want my loved ones to go.

Mud - he'd have been proud of us all just because we were us, complete and utter positive regard, he was the best. I was very lucky.

Lolly - I wish I did, he was a fine man.

Lisa - I think he would, he was proud of everything I did, no matter what they were

Subz - grampa doesn't get used much now does it ? but that's what he was always called.

blueskyscotland said...

Beautiful post....