Robert Lindsay Mackay:
in a pram.
aged 2, with his parents.
with his class from school.
with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
with Alan Hill Whyte.
during World War Two.
as an hospital consultant.
with hospital staff.
and Margaret, dressed for a wedding.
Margaret Brown McLellan:
at her graduation in 1923.
See RLM's Obituary from the BMJ and MBM's obituary by Alan L Mackay.
Apart from the stormy days of War I, I have not kept a diary. So what follows is the mixie-maxy of Memory, showing the Evolution of one of your kinsmen now well into his eighth decade.
Through my father, George, 1866-1940, the youngest of ten children of a crofter union, I may claim membership of the Clans Murray, Sutherland, Macdonald, Macpherson, and, of course, Mackay.
Their ruined crofts are to be sought for in the course of the 50 mile drive I have described. My father was a cautious, modest, industrious, (but never over-worked), rather pacifist, romantic Highlander who left school at an early age for the big city of Glasgow.
After a seven year engagement he married my mother, Mary Lindsay, 1869-1920. She was a Lowlander, her parents dwellers in Glasgow and Paisley, centres of big industry, and of culture. Her background was one of craftsmanship, music and song, art, reading, and membership of the Baptist Church. Her family names were Scott, Jack, Coubrough. Being city dwellers and not owning land I cannot trace them back further than my two great grand-fathers, one a weaver or designer of Paisley shawls, and the other a tailor. And this union produced me, who cannot make a good drawing of a Teddy Bear, does not know Gaelic like my father once did, and has difficulty in sewing on a button! Worse still, I cannot sing in tune, but I never fail to thrill with the music of the pipes!
1896-1909. I first saw the light in a flat at 42, Bank Street, Hillhead, Glasgow, on 30th July 1896, and three cousins, namely the two Nicolsons and Kate Buchanan, came across the West End Park to learn if it was a boy or a girl. We lived only half a mile from the University gates, and until I was 28 years old, and excepting war years, we were always within sound of the University Bells. On a February day this year, 1971, I looked into the 'close entry' at Bank Street. It was a double right-angled passage, dark as hell. In our time it would have gas lighting, now electricity.
My parents were Victorian in taste and outlook, staid, sober, reliable, loyal to each other as well as to my sister and to myself. Not dogmatic about religion or politics. Fairly strict disciplinarians... or they tried to be. Not very ambitious. Their faith simple, church-going, Liberals, Non-conformists, but certainly not rebels. "Dull", you may say with some truth, but what I probably needed. I look back upon them with affection and gratitude.
From Bank Street we moved to better flats at 138, Cambridge Drive, 11, Blythswood Drive and back again to Hillhead, to No. 9, Strathmore Gardens, now 41, Hillhead Street. Elementary school life was undistinguished. At Willowbank School I learned every swear word then known, and much about the facts of life from my schoolmates, for boys and girls shared the same class-rooms. It was about this time I took a prize for Biblical Knowledge, with 96% of marks, forsooth! What would I get now?
1909. Our move to Hillhead was because of educational zoning, and the nearness of Hillhead High School, then one of the best in the city. I was very happy there. The teachers were first class, dedicated to their profession and pupils, and the English Master was outstanding, for he transmitted to so many of us a liking for, and understanding of, literature, especially of poetry. Through the poems of Browning and others he gave us a philosophy of life and of love which endures among his pupils to this day. I never heard him employ the word "sex". He assumed, probably rightly, that sex was not a dominant, ever-present tyranny among his scholars in our age group.
Up until the move to Hillhead Street, my playgrounds had been the streets and "back-greens" of our flats. Dismal places in retrospect, but as boys we made the best of our surroundings, knowing nothing better. Or mischief was of minor degree and unimportant. But at the new school I was introduced to playing fields, tennis courts, and school sports. What a thrill, especially the struggles, the sweating and pushing and cursing of the rugger scrums, the contests with other schools, each above or below ours in 'status'. Friendships made there have lasted through life, four even surviving to this last winter.
1911. Schoolboy minds and memories are interesting. Around age 15 I fell seriously ill with T.B. peritonitis, and for six or more weeks my life was despaired of by my parents. Glasgow milk was then delivered in open cans from open churns, and heavily infected with germs. In spite of the pains and discomforts of that disease, long continuing, apparently never abating (from my point of view) the possibility of death never entered my youthful head. My parents' anxiety and distress must have been as great as their attention to my needs was good. It was a most curious experience when I was at last allowed to walk out, alone, on a quite flat street, and to find that I could not make 50 yards without having to sit on a low wall for a rest because of utter muscle weakness and wasting. Finally I was able to reach a chemists shop and weigh myself weekly. And to report back home in successive weeks gains of 2, 5, 2 1/2, 1, 3 pounds! Was it the cod-liver oil, malt and iron? Or Vis medicatrix naturae?
But I got back to rugger, then into the First Fifteen, and played the game with zest until I was 28 or so, both for School and University.
1914. Well before this time I had become acquainted with Darwin's views and accepted them, scoffing at the dates in the margins of our Authorised Version of The Bible, dates calculated by Archbishop Usher (1581-1656), and inserted by someone into or onto The Bible. How many heretics has that table produced? 4004 B.C. brought Adam and Eve very close to my own ancestors; too close!
With the Students' Union only 1/4 mile from our home, it never had occurred to me that I had any other destination than Glasgow University. Every morning, at 6.30, one could hear the sudden onset of the riveters starting up in the shipyards only two miles off, on Clydeside, then the biggest shipbuilding centre in the world. What faculty to enter? I conned over them all, from Engineering to Theology! Just fancy! I knew I was not clever enough to get into the Indian Civil Service where our first class honours men went, nor was I willing to study into the small hours of the morning at any subject. Life was too bright for that!
1914-1915. An unhappy year! War had broken out. I had enrolled as a Science Student at both our University and the Royal Technical College. My friends were joining the Army, my mother was ill, my father against me enlisting. The deaths of five boys from my school at Achi Baba in the Dardanelles in July, one of them a great friend, decided the matter. Having about a year in the University Officers' Training Corps I was ready for a commission, anytime. My sentimental choice of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was accepted, with a heavy heart my father signed my papers, and I was off, to see a world far different from any of which I had ever dreamed. Thereafter, the Army 'took care of me'. I even got a batman or orderly to attend my needs! I, who had so few!
1915-1919. After a year, mostly in Yorkshire, training, I joined the 11th Battalion Argylls in France, in an entirely Scottish Division, the 15th, and from the battles of the Somme, Arras and Ypres onwards to the end of the war missed nothing of importance. These were not hand-to-hand fighting battles, like in previous wars. Even as a junior officer I never got near enough to see the whites of my enemy's eyes! Nor he mine! But I shared in the apprehensions and fear, in the dirt and discomforts, and joys and exultations of the time.
The mathematics of this war caused the officer strength of my battalion, as of others, to be renewed completely seven times, while I was with it. Some 50 officers were killed and about 200 wounded or evacuated sick or transferred. I do not have the figures for the casualties among our men. It was of course by pure chance that I came through, but I was encouraged continually by the camaraderie of my fellows, and sustained by my reading of the poets, notably Browning, Brooke, Julien Grenfell, Kipling and others. I always had a small poetry book, even in the trenches!
1919. What a year! The first ticket for demobilisation fell to me as longest with the battalion, among the officers, but I was on Paris Leave when it arrived and my friend Alex Pollock took my place. But I followed him, back to the University, a few days later. I visited my professor at The Royal Technical College, G.G. Gibson, a fine fellow, and told him I could not face a laboratory career, and was going in for medicine. At the same time my life-long friend Jimmy Stirling made a similar decision.
The University corridors, quadrangles, classrooms, offices and the Union were thronged with young folk who didn't know me, nor I them. For I was now 22 1/2 years old! Then, drifting back from faraway quarters of the war came my student generation. We were elders in a new community. Our numbers steadily increased. What stories we had to swap! But many had not returned. We realised that, day by day, as we sat for our first week or two in uniforms of all sorts, awaiting our civilian clothes.
I had of course to begin a mental stock-taking! I summarised that as WORK and PLAY (not PRAY, Dear Reader!) for the next five years until I should get a medical degree. Of course, there was a great deal more to the summary which would interest you! And my hopeful assumption that my lady friends would soon be married to others was proved accurate!
So 1919 began! Rugger, tennis, long walks around Bearsden and other places, classes in first year medicine and second year science. I abandoned The Creed, except the first four words. Interested in political debates in the Students' Union, which had been built on the plan of a minor House of Parliament, with voting corridors, Speakers Chair, etc. But I did not take politics very seriously except for the opportunity of learning to speak before an audience, and to argue. Maintained my interest in poetry.
Saw a girl, Margaret McLellan, in the anatomy department busy dissecting.
1920. Settled down. Busy year. Elected secretary of the Students Representative Council. Rejoined Officers' Training Corps, as a cadet, with other 'returned men'. How daft can we get!
1921. Spoke to Margaret McLellan, and sold a second hand textbook from the S.R.C. second hand library to her! A better year altogether. Finished B.Sc. Became President of S.R.C.
1922. Took Margaret McLellan to a University Dance. Student conferences and meetings keeping me busy. Also Students' Charities Day, which raised £4,600. A great 'binge' for some, and enjoyed by The City. Very well conducted. Police very helpful, enjoying the fun, which was clean and never destructive. Failed as a cadet in the O.T.C. Given a commission in O.T.C.
1923. Margaret McLellan qualified as a doctor, so did I. Will have to get down to thinking about the future, sometime.
1923-24. Resident posts in Western Infirmary, our teaching hospital. Taking D.P.H. classes, some by proxy. How low can a man sink! Very busy. Margaret is in a practice in Wolverhampton. Severe influenza in hospital and have to give up rugger before end of season. Give up my master key to all the University gates to Mr. Stitt, the Master of Works, a fine chap.
20th January 1924. Events proceed at a tremendous pace. Engaged to Margaret B. McLellan. Investigating prospects. Decide on trial of Wolverhampton, in general medical practice. Margaret gives up her post and I take it over, as assistant.
1925. Borrowed £100 from Margaret, added it to my war gratuity, bought furniture, married 6th June 1925, ("D Day"), settled into half share, almost, of practice after borrowing capital sum from my father. Took eleven years to pay it back, with interest.
Alan 1926, Sheila 1929, Mary 1932, Murray 1937.
Up to 1939. Full years indeed. Margaret as a Justice of the Peace, and holding other offices. Myself in general practice, following the teachings of my professors, and not convinced about their validity. Too Galenic.
1939. Having been on the Honorary Staff of The Royal Hospital, Wolverhampton since 1928, I have sold out my general practice, and commenced whole-time consulting practice, with emphasis on cardiology, with a few side-line activities for the lean years.
In 1936, along with a solicitor whom I did not know, advanced a young man, whom I did not know, £300 to start an engineering business. After two years found it would soon be bankrupt. Dismissed young man, appointed two foremen as directors.
1939. Another War! What to do? Children all young and strong. Margaret very fit. Myself not fully stretched. Rejoined Army in January 1941, with Margaret's permission. Appointed as physician to a neuro-surgical unit, "the nut-crackers". A bit of a surprise, that was! Sent to Middle East. That was another surprise! Then Lieut-Colonel i/c Medical Divisions in several general hospitals. Visited Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, Jordan. Back to U.K. in 1943.
In 1944, went to Normandy. A campaign of tremendous exhilaration, co-operation and efficiency. Saw my old 15th Scottish Division going into action again, this time in lorries, instead of foot-slogging. Visited the back lines of the Battle twice on my half days. Then to Belgium, to within a mile or two of where I had ended in War I.
Sent to Tromso in Arctic Circle, Northern Norway, to treat Russians who had fallen sick while prisoners of the Germans up there. Russians completely un-cooperative.
September 1945. Back Home, Thank God! Demobilised. What a welcome home!
War II had been an easy one for me, but for Margaret quite the reverse. When Hitler was about to invade I had left her with my old Boche automatic pistol (of War I) and ammunition. She would have used it, alright! She had the care of the four young children, the house, her practice as a factory doctor, plus her magisterial, municipal and social duties, plus the difficulties of rationing of food, fuel, clothes, petrol and inability to travel far. She had the work and the fatigue, while I had the excitement and mobility.
The spirit of those days was wonderful. I would like to record that my senior colleague in Hospital, Dr. J.H. Sheldon, knowing that I was due for an early discharge from the Army, booked a fine generous list of private patient appointments for me, beginning on the day I resumed work, saying they were to be my patients.
1945-1961. Busy years for both of us, with Margaret in addition taking on London Committees at the Home Office and elsewhere, with myself on the staff of four hospitals. Yet we managed good holidays for 20 years at Abersoch, North Wales.
When 1961 came, I was well prepared physically, philosophically, and psychologically for retiral from practice. I gave up my rooms and my medical library without a sigh. Margaret, being much younger, of course, still works on! She will cease to be on the active list of Justices at the end of 1971, but will be well qualified to attend annual dinners!
1971. Retirement! I am so out-of-date, that, like my colleagues of a similar age, I am quite unfitted for medical work 'just to keep my hand in'. There are 9 grand-children to entertain, whiles. In 1965 we went round the world to broaden our outlook, having a week or so in Peking and several in Japan. We flew over Vietnam then, and drew conclusions which time confirms.
Here, local pursuits keep us busy... church architecture, archaeology, wandering along miles of footpaths we have heard of in our busy time but not had the opportunity to tread. Then there is this family history, and Margaret starting on hers... a very respectable lot too! We entertain the grandchildren well and cheaply at the private swimming pool at our hospital!
18 years ago we had a house built for us overlooking beautiful country. We named it "Strathnaver", and enjoyed it with our children and friends, for 15 years. Now we have a wee house, a wee garden, in a wee cul-de-sac, away from traffic noises, and only an hour's walk away from the town centre.
We are fortunate in our friendships of all dates, with men and women whose integrity is unquestioned. They arrive here sometimes 'out of the blue', and we make a night of it.
Then there is reading. I enjoy being read to, and Margaret elucidates many an obscure passage of poetry for me. Women seem to have that faculty. We read mostly poetry, and have no liking for the modern stuff, so-called.
We read the Bible, whiles, and critically, on Sunday nights. Margaret can't stand St. Paul because of his arrogance and of his attitude to women (nor Henry James, either!). Meanwhile, I distrust the epistles attributed to him because I am aware that modern and even Catholic scholars know that no more than four of these epistles were written by him. I suppose I must have heard a thousand sermons in church in my life-time. My clerical friends have given me up, but one does play golf with me weekly. My position remains now as it was in my Twenties, quite clear. A belief in God, and acknowledgement that the 11th Commandment is the only one that matters, for it includes the 10. A belief in my fellow-countrymen in spite of their occasional follies, mingled with a bit of fear about their future, And finally hope and trust in the Family.
Philosophy? Well, I've given it to you!
A word more!
I enjoy reading Robert Burns, but only in small doses.
My contacts towards the end of my University years with some men of eminence, in the Press and Politics, greatly changed my early, and doubtless, foolish ambitions.
"I dropt my schemes, like idle dreams, And came to this conclusion, O. The past was bad, the future hid, Its good or ill untried, O, But the present hour was in my power, And so I would enjoy it, O".
And to keep your feet upon the ground, the firm of which I was an original director in 1936 is still functioning. I go there once per month in my retirement, and receive much enlightenment about the world of business. What a world!
When Saint Peter meets me knocking at The Gate for admission, he'll probably say: "Mackay, Man, ye've seen an awfu' lot, but whit hiv ye done?". I think I will have to agree with his observation, and I'll have to admit that much more has been done for me than I have done for others. But, maybe, He'll let me in, along with the others... well, fill in the blanks for yourself. I'd like to meet some folk, long dead, and mentioned in our family history. Who? John Murray, I and II, Andrew Mackay of Queensland, Ann Matheson with her quiet humour. Her Matheson Grandfather, young Donald Black, not long wedded and who fell before the Gates of Jerusalem. How appropriate! Alan Macdonald, of the crater at Messines, and especially Margaret Mackay, "Crupach", the Lame One!
When I went up to the kneeling stool to be capped in 1923 for my M.B. degree, the student audience suddenly burst out singing:
"Old soldiers never die, never die, never die, Old soldiers never die, They only fade away"
What breath-taking hope these words convey!
R L Mackay. 6th May 1971
Margaret B McLellan, 21st August 1975:
Today is my 75th birthday, bringing greetings from all the members of our family, amongst them phone calls from California, USA and Tasmania. What a joy to be remembered by such a loving family.
These 75 years have been very full ones, embracing as they do two World Wars and all the disruptions and havoc wrought by them; cars, aeroplanes, space capsules, radio.
My parents lived in a tenement in Partick, Glasgow - on the fourth floor (so that my country bred mother could see Ben Lomond), where I was born, still in Queen Victoria's reign, 1900. We were there until I was three, although I remember little of the place, except falling down the stone stairs and getting a huge bump on my forehead, necessitating the application of a penny piece to reduce the swelling!
We moved to a new terrace house in Scotstoun, then a growing suburb, on the main through route to the City, where my father worked as an overseer in the G.P.O. He was the eldest son of a Presbyterian Minister, who seems to have been a better carpenter than a preacher.
When my brother (William, named after the Rev. William) and I were old enough, we paid an annual visit to Stirling in July to visit at Manse Crescent, to which address he had returned. There at the foot of the garden was my Grandfather's wonderful workshop, from which emerged wooden wonders, such as a four-seater motor car and a wheel barrow. The latter was used by my grandchildren; the former was the joy of the youngest in Scotstoun. Four of us would get in, complete with parasols for the two girls, at the top of a hill, and went faster and faster as we reached the foot, unless we were "couped out" on the way down.
My brother, three years younger than I am, and his friends were motor bike fiends in their teens. Our garden had always a tent erected in summer and was the rendezvous of children of the neighbourhood.
We went to the local school - both of us. I remember well my first day, when I was 5 years old, being dumfounded by a class of some 60 children. I was asked by the teacher if I knew anyone. "Yes", I said, after a good look round, "I know Jack Maitland". "Well", said teacher, "you can sit beside him", which I did, making an enemy of him for life!
When about 11 years I went to Hamilton Crescent School, Partick, which after a year moved to a new school at Hyndland. I cycled each day backwards and forwards, even for lunch, in all weather, passing the Whiteinch Park, where the petrified forest was discovered, known as the Fossil Grove: millions of years old.
We holidayed in the West Highlands most years, my Grandfather Brown accompanying us. It used to be a great thrill to have the West Highland Train stopped specially for us at Arrochar at some unearthly hour in the morning for our journey to the Connel Ferry, Loch Etive. One day the train was late: the general factotum enquiring of the engine driver the cause received the astonishing answer, "Oh Aye, We had a bit o' trouble with a fish in the tank!"
My Grandfather Brown, a retired head master loved asking questions. On an expedition with him along a Highland road we met a local youth driving cows and calves, calling to the latter in Gaelic and to the former in English. My grandfather, enquiring the reason, was given the answer, "Well, Mister, ye see the calves havn't learned the English yet".
Then Grandfather retired to a home on the river Leven. The back gate opened onto the tow path, along which I often walked with him before breakfast as a wee lassie. He once walked me the two miles by the river to Alexandria to see my and his first movie (silent) in the Town Hall. It was Pearl White in a hair raising thriller jumping from trains etc. I well remember standing on a plank at the back of the gallery as excited as my old Grandfather, watching the new wonder.
In fact there have been so many new wonders in my lifetime.
I well remember seeing my first motor car and the first aeroplane. This was in Stirling during the first air race round Britain. Pre-war days, I suppose 1911 or 1912. Even the cows and horses raced round the fields, much disturbed by the strange "creatures" in the air, making such a din. Stirling still had horse drawn trams, which to ride in was a great thrill.
Then in 1914 came the Great War. Our teachers disappeared one by one leaving us with most inadequate substitutes. Then as the war went on our boy friends left for the front, many never to return. The devastating call of the news boys: "Special - Casualty lists - Latest" was heard incessantly. Thank goodness I did not know RLM until university days, which started for me on October 1918.
The summer vacation after leaving school was spent by me in a factory, the "Albion Motor Works", which like other works was turned over to munitions. I was too young to do this work, but was given an office job in the "Finished Parts Stores". My first introduction to the world of industry. I was even allowed to distribute the morning's letters to the bosses of the many departments.
University life was grim in 1918, especially when a severe flu epidemic struck us, but on 11th November 1918 the Armistice was declared. News came to us at Q.M., i.e. at Queen Margaret College, where we were at a physics lecture, which we all promptly left and rushed down town to celebrate the great news. That evening saw a torch-light procession of students and others move thro' the crowded streets of Glasgow. Some of us found ourselves in the mob at Central Station and later in the gallery of a theatre. Such rejoicing and such chaos and such sorrow for the men and women lost.
11th November 1919 saw a wonderful assembly of ex-servicemen as well as students in the Bute Hall to remember with two minutes silence those killed in the '14 - '18 War.
We had 100 women and 400 men in my year. We all struggled along to qualify as doctors; five years of it at that time. Then the great day when one did at last pass one's finals and was duly "capped". Of course there were lots of fun and games during the process. We played hard and worked hard and made our way as best we could.
My parents could not afford my class fees. I had a Carnegie interest-free loan of £90 to help towards expenses. I payed this back in full some years later. Your father [RLM] paid his expenses out of his War Gratuity (which was greater as a Sub-Lieutenant than what he received as a Lieutenant Colonel after the Second World War).
Then came the day when one "went down" and sorrowfully left all one's 'Varsity friends. I came to Wolverhampton and worked as an assistant to my Uncle, Dr. William Brown, doing my rounds of visits on a cycle. I got to know how people lived and worked in this busy industrial Midland town.
Then we decided to get married and settled down in Wolverhampton where we have lived and worked very happily for fifty years.
At first we lived in a wee rented house in Woodfield Avenue, but after five years there and the arrival of two children we moved to a Georgian house in Penn Road, "Springfield House", where we consulted in the afternoons and had casualties on our doorstep from time to time. This abode was a three-storied old fashioned house with a large enclosed garden at the back and a yard where we had many Bonfire parties, with Jack o' Lanterns turnip lanterns hung in the rows of poplar trees as well as Halloween games like ducking for apples in the kitchen, and Fancy Dress in the lounge.
Two more children were born here, amid great rejoicings, especially at Christmas when we had splendid parties.
Then came the Hitler menace and the awful year of appeasement, before the Second World War was declared. Off went the "Old Warrior" to sign up in R.A.M.C. After sad partings he sailed for the Middle East, via the Atlantic, with all its submarine hazards and escorts of warships, round the Cape to Cairo, where Rommel was advancing menacingly. The "Nutcracker Suite" (Head Injury Unit) was the unit to which RLM was attached at first, but as the unit went into the Desert Campaign he was ultimately sent to a Hospital at Sarrafand, near Jaffa. We at home learned this from a code that we had devised in a letter from the Middle East.
At home we struggled along with rationing of everything including petrol, for which we had coupons as I was doing a War-time job as Factory Examining Surgeon. I had plenty, for use only in town radius. To enable me to attend concerts in Town Hall I used to visit the men on Night Shift in factories.
The dangerous trades like plating chrome etc. necessitated fortnightly visits and inspections of workers. Chrome ulcers of noses were common, as well as of feet, from leaky gumboots. Goodyear's black shop was one of the places I had to visit. "You can't come in here, Miss, it's much too filthy" said a worker to me once. "Why not?", I replied, "If you can work in it!". Conditions in some factories were deplorable, e.g. in pickling shops and sheradising - both treatments of metals to prevent rusting. Still people worked with a will to see the war finished.
We ran a canteen for soldiers, seven women of us forming the management committee being responsible for a day each. My day was Thursday on which I ran three shifts of some 20 helpers on each. We had lots of Dutchmen as customers, owing to the centre for the Dutch Army being at Wrottesly Park. Then came the USA into the war, bringing lots of G.I.s of all types from cowboys to niggers.
These were busy days, what with domestic affairs, school journeys, works visits, Council meetings, Court and canteen work. I was so tired some nights I went to bed after I had tucked the children in at 8 pm. On the Town Council I served as a war-time co-opted member for two years, on the Health, Education Art Gallery and Committees, as well as doing all my magisterial work. Chairman of Juvenile court involved attendance as well as Petty Sessions on Mondays. 1936 I was made JP (Justice of the Peace) and was sworn in to the uncrowned King. I served until 1971.
Feeding the family was a difficult task. One Christmas I as perturbed about the menu but was assured by Mrs Barber, who looked after our Consulting Room in town, that she could supply me with a chicken, which she was rearing on the kitchen hearth from a day-old chick. So we managed somehow, until the joyful day when "Father" came home, only to go off to Norway for the rehabilitation of Russians in captivity in Hospitals run by Germans, who had by then withdrawn from Norway.
VE day followed amid great rejoicings and much relief. Bombings in the Midlands had been fierce on Coventry and Birmingham, Wolverhampton becoming a dormitory for these places. I did examination work for G.N.C. (General Nursing Council) before and during the War and well remember arriving at Casualty Hospital in Bath Row the morning after the first land mine had exploded nearby. The work of the Hospital and exams went on although the staff had been on duty all night dealing with casualties dug out of the destruction caused by the serious raid. Wolverhampton sent water on several occasions to Birmingham and Coventry when water mains had been damaged by bombs.
Post-war years brought a problem of school and university education, and ways and means of meeting them financially. Still, once the breadwinner was back at work consultations brought in more each year and we managed.
In 1953 (Coronation Year of our Queen) we built a new house (costing £6700) on Pattingham Road, on an acre of land we bought for £1000 after the war. We ultimately got a permit to build to limited specifications and finally, after nine months gestation, our house was completed and we moved in. Such a joy for us to have a house with such an extensive view and a garden to cultivate.
On November 9th 1951 Alan married Sheila Hague and settled in London.
In December '53 Sheila was married to a fellow architect and we entertained the party at Strathnaver as we did again in December '55 when Mary married a fellow medico. In 1958 Murray, after graduating B.Sc. at Birmingham, went on £100 on a world tour with his cousin Rogan reaching Persepolis in Persia and coming home to Strathnaver both with beards - Murray's black and Rogan's red! In '59 Sheila went to USA to join Peter in California with her baby Alan Eric.
In 1961 RLM retired from the NHS and that Autumn we left on Queen Mary for USA and California, returning on Queen Elizabeth in April 1962. We went to Mexico on the trip, visiting the pyramids at Chichenitsa and Uxmal.
In 1963 Judith and Murray married at Boston, USA.
In 1965 we did a world tour visiting Bangkok, Hong Kong, China (Peking and Canton) and Japan and on via Honolulu to San Francisco. It was fascinating for us to see how the peoples of other lands lived, especially in the Far East. In Peking all was quite peaceful as it was not 'till 1966 that the Cultural Revolution broke out, when all was chaos again.
In Spring '73 we again visited Sheila in California and came home through Canada, visiting various distant relatives in Vancouver, Regina and Windsor.
6th June 1975 we celebrated our Golden Wedding with a party of 100 old friends and relations at the Pattingham Village Hall, the catering ably carried out by our competent daughters-in-law. Mary came from Tasmania to be with us and Sheila later in October joined us for a wonderful holiday on Crete.
P.S. I ought to give some ideas of prices of goods throughout these years. When we were married in 1925 beer cost 5/- per dozen bottles. Eggs cost 9d per dozen, delivered in a horse drawn trap at the door, for pickling for winter use. Suits at fifty shillings, shoes at 25/- to 30/- per pair, butter 2/6 per lb., margarine 4d to 5d per lb.
Now in 1975, butter 30 to 40p per lb., = 6/- to 8/-; eggs 40p per dozen = 8/-; suits £50 to £100+ and shoes £8 to £18 per pair.
Margaret B Mackay, 1979
Since this is now 1979 I had better bring this recital of events up to date.
In November 1976 Alan and Sheila celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary. Alan has been a Reader of Crystallography at Birkbeck College now for some years. He travels abroad a lot visiting other universities, giving papers and attending conferences. His family are all now grown up and looking forward to university courses: Robert at York, Andrew at Trinity College Cambridge (His Father's College), Claire at a London Polytechnic.
At Mary's invitation we were asked to spend Christmas '76 with them in Tasmania. So we flew out on November 22nd to Singapore, where we spent a couple of days and enjoyed the city's new and old attractions, the Jade House, etc. We then continued our flight to Melbourne and over to Wynyard where the whole Kille family were on the airfield to welcome us. We had a two months trip to New Zealand, visiting correspondents at Wellington, Fielding, Danniverk, Christchurch and in the South Island. It was fascinating to see the vast farm lands with thousands of sheep and cattle and to meet Mackay and Murray descendants who had emigrated from Scotland last century. We flew home in one long, very wearisome flight via Melbourne, across central Australia to Hong Kong, Delhi, Frankfurt.
From here onwards we were much involved with Jessie's declining health until her end on 26th September 1977.
In May 1977 we attended a Gathering of the Clans in Edinburgh - 200 Mackays foregathered from the ends of the earth at a Dinner. RLM wore his kilt, borrowed back from Alan for the occasion. RLM's booklet on the Clan Mackay was duly lauded and has caused a considerable interest, especially amongst overseas members of the Clan. Each Clan dispersed to its own home ground. We went to Sutherland thro' the lovely Strathnaver Valley to Farr where the Chief, Lord Reay, opened a Mackay Museum in and old 18th Century Church.
In October '77 we were joined by our daughter Sheila in a fascinating trip to Sousse in Tunisia where we engaged the colourful sights in the towns and villages and the Roman remains at Carthage, Dougga and El Djem.
Christmas we spent with Murray and Judith and the children in Birmingham, joined by Alison over from Tasmania for her first visit since emigrating from Hull four years ago. She is now a graduate BA with honours of Hobart University.
Murray works away at his engrossing task as a Reader at Birmingham University on Road Accident Research. He is now a world wide authority on this important subject and attends conferences in Europe, Australia, USA to discuss ways and means of making roads safer for all users - cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists.
1978. Claire was married in the early part of this year and produced our first great-grandchild in the Autumn.
We two continue in our quiet way, enlivened by visits from members of our family and our 9 grandchildren, whose future development we watch with the greatest interest.
Dictated today, the 10th May 1981 at mid-day, by Robert Mackay.
The Right Reverend George MacLeod, MC, DD 32, Learmouth Terrace, Edinburgh.
My dear George,
You are one of my life-long friends and intimates and I am sending you this note by my son Alan.
There are two obiter dicta which stand out prominently from all your utterances:
No. 1. When we were walking to the quayside at Iona with Lady MacLeod, Margaret and your three children, you turned to me and said: "These three children are worth the whole Iona Movement".
No. 2. Last time you visited us you said: "I don't know whether Jesus Christ had the power to perform miracles, but I am certain that he did have the power so to perform."
I still disagree.
It is curious that these two disharmonious expressions should apparently come from the same source.
I hope that you and Lady MacLeod and family are all flourishing and also the Iona Movement.
I am in poor health but I have not lost courage. Margaret joins with me in wishing you all well.
Yours very sincerely,
Father added in a firm voice: "I think that will shake him up!"
RHM: This was dictated to my father, Alan, in the presence of my mother and grandmother. It was done in a perfectly clear voice and evidently had been thought out in every detail before delivery. I was not present, but I saw my parents later. Both were shaken by the experience. My grandfather was not coherent again and died a few days later.