Postman. Tall. Red hair. Died N.G.
I have not yet ventured to ask Dr. John Buchanan for notes on members of his family. He will be the king pin of such memoirs himself. Some day I will acquire courage to approach him.
I don't know where Neil comes in, in the family order, but when we first met he was postman delivering letters at our house in Hillhead Street. I think it must have been my father who first told me that Neil was my cousin. Then of course Father never talked much about any of his relations, and only gave information when I asked questions about them, and then incompletely, e.g. Uncle Andrew, who drank, and Aunt Margaret who had one husband after another (only two in all), and somebody else "who carried stories" (like I do!).
Anyway, non-information about the family was a basic fact of Mackay life in our home, and Neil fitted into it. I never remember him being in the house. It's strange. Perhaps Father thought he could not ask him to come in while he was working. Perhaps Neil would not have come in if he had been asked because he "was on duty". So I never got to know Neil, alas.
I do not remember whether it was before or after War I that we saw each other. He had succeeded an old postman, Mr. Gibson, with some six gold stripes on his sleeve, each representing 5 years of service, and with whom I was on good terms. Neil had some gold stripes too, I forget how many, so he was considerably my senior.
I seem to recollect him as taller than myself, and a lot older. He had sandy hair. His walk suggested a bit of a slouch, not uncommon in Glasgow. Strong build. He had a quizzical smile, especially when he looked at me as if to suggest that there was something coming to me and I would learn sense in time. (How right he was!). He was alert, could pull my leg, though I do not remember any subject of conversation with him. He seemed to have the understanding of things, big things, but I do not know what big things. I learned years afterwards that he was a keen Conservative in politics and believed in the British Empire. The kind of chap who would put a Union Jack outside his window when the Monarch rode by. Of his fate I know nothing at the moment, but will hear by and by. (or is it bye and bye?).
But he had a son, Dr. George Buchanan, who deserves a separate page, out of respect to his father. And we will bring him into this series, in due course, perhaps, although he is a cousin ONCE REMOVED.
Before leaving this sketch on Neil, I must mention the Buchanan Smile. Neil had it. His brother, Willie had it too, George (the M.P.) most of all, and young Dr. George also shows it. Dr. John, too, but tinged with more seriousness and reflection. Helen, not at all. It is best summed up in these lines (Author unknown):
"Life is all a variorum, We regard not how it goes, Let them talk about decorum Who have characters to lose"
One could write too much into a smile, but his was an honest one. The owners seemed to recognise that LIFE is CHAOS anyway, adventure and experiment should not be despised, but rather, seized with both hands and exploited. Wisdom was thus gained, but the perfect world still eluded. They all learned that by the fifties. And settled down. And the broadest smile of all (George's) earned Winston Churchill's benison when he retired from Parliament.
I think this smile came down from the Buchanan line, and not from the Mackay or Murray grandparents.