Generation: C

John Lindsay

Born: 1867 Died: 1946
Father: Robert Lindsay
Mother: Mary Jack

Agnes Gemmell


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[Picture] [Picture] John Lindsay. 25Feb1867 - 6May1946. (RLM's Uncle)


It seems strange to me now that as a boy I did not seek to learn more about the youthful years of my own parents, aunts and uncles. On the other hand, I think my own children get bored when I start to talk too much about my youth, especially if I repeat the stories!

Anyway, I don't know much about what John did in his young days. I have the impression that he had a year or two with Stewart and Macdonald in their soft goods warehouse before he moved to J. & W. Campbell & Co., to become a traveller for them, firstly in the Glasgow area, and then later, for many years, for the area around Perth.

He travelled by train to small villages, taking one or more "skips", i.e. large wickerwork trunks, filled with samples of the goods he hoped to sell. These were weighty, and entailed the hire of a cab, or car, or of a man with a barrow to accompany him round the shops he intended to visit, the owners of which were usually forewarned by postcard.

Often he had to rise very early in the morning to catch a train. His hour of return was usually uncertain. Then after a meal he would sit down conscientiously to make up his order sheets for the various departments, parhaps taking an hour or more, and then he would go out to the post box, even to the G.P.O. if the order was urgent. The goods were silks, cotton hosiery, flannel blankets, etc.

I remember going with him once through Fife, visiting King's Kettle, Ladybank and Falkland, conveyed in some horse-drawn vehicle, meeting his customers in their shops, and then having a magnificent steak and kidney pie followed by rice pudding at an hotel. A fine day that was. Where do all the kidneys go nowadays?

He was a most successful traveller, with a cheerful red complexion, and a hearty laugh. Always full of stories, although he never told me the bawdy ones. Parents didn't in those days! At meals he always looked round for Yorkshire Sauce, probably because hotel meals tended to be dull, and he built up the habit.

His firm amalgamated with Stewart & Macdonald when he had put in some 30 years service, and this entailed dismissals. He was one. But he immediately got a similar traveller's job with a Dundee firm to work round customers he had served so well in Perthshire. This lasted for some years, until, I think, he had worked long enough and he decided to retire.

In his retierment he took up golf enthusiastically, playing a few holes each day on a very hilly course at Craigie, Perth, until his sudden end from a cerebral haemorrhage somewhere about the age of 80. I never heard of him being ill.

But the above is all too pedestrian.

He was an active wee chap, about 5 feet 4 inches in height. It was only with the greatest difficulty and after repeated attempts that he managed to get into the 5th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, as a Volunteer and Territorial. But his keenness was immense and he became a colour sergeant in due course. He took great care of his uniform and was always well turned out, spending long periods on polishing before each parade. He enjoyed the nights in the sergeants' mess, and as he had a fine singing voice he must often have been in the centre of the party. He always had some photo of his messmates around the house. Ultimately he received the Volunteer medal after many years service, being very proud of it. Douubtless we will hear of his Home Guard Service in Perth, from Agnes and John.

The battalion dances were great fun, and I have a photo somewhere of my mother dressed in the Mackenzie tartan worn by the battalion when he took her as a guest.

In spite of having whiles tasted his father's beer in his youth he scarcely took any alcohol, and he rarely smoked. Throughout his life he attended the local Baptist Church, but he never took office. The Lindsays never had any religious doubts.

Some time after the death of his brother Robert, John married Agnes Gemmell, Robert's widow. To do this, the couple had to go to New York for the ceremony, as marriage to the widow of a deceased brother was not then legal in Scotland or England. It was an extremely happy marriage, saddened at first by the loss of their first young child from diptheria (22/4/1914 - 8/10/1917), but gladdened by the presence of their second, Agnes, now Mrs. Stewart Cook.

Up to the outbreak of war in 1914 I saw quite a lot of him. My earliest recollections are centred round the musical sing-song in the evenings at Havelock Street. The songs in which they all joined were the sentimental ones popular at the time, e.g. "Thora", "Alice, Where art thou?", "Come into the gargen Maud", "Jessie the Flower o' Dunblane", "Caller Herrin", "Home, Sweet Home", some student songs, and those of Robert Burns. Their favourite hymns, too, were of the sentimental type.

John was the ideal uncle to me. Many a half crown I got from him, plus perhaps one of G.A. Henty's stirring stories for boys at Christmas. He wrote a beautiful hand, and my name was always inscribed on the fly-leaf with the date.

He was a very straight forward, uncomplicated character, who never appeared to have any problems, political, religious, economic, public or private. He rejoiced in the pleasures of music, art, scenery and good company. I never heard him damning the government, nor saw him becoming angry. Life probably passed smoothly for him. He was contented with his lot.

Agnes Cook, his daughter in Grand Cayman wrote to me on 24th October 1969 thus:

Today is the birthday of my mother Agnes Gemmell Lindsay, so I feel that it is fitting that I should write about my father tonight as I sit remembering my parents with love and thankfulness.

My father was quite a character and provides much material for me to record. It would amuse him greatly if he could read what is being written about him. I can hear his hearty laugh over the telling of his funny stories, all true experiences of his travelling days. There was a strong bond between us, and my memories of him in my childhood and teenage days are of his companionship, understanding and great interest in all that I did.

We both loved the theatre and music hall, and he considered it part of my education to hear the English language properly spoken, especially in Shakespeare which was put on in the Perth Theatre, often by well-known actors and actresses. A resident repertory company provided excellent plays and performances and hardly a week went by without us attending.

One highlight one year was when we visited my cousin Robert and his wife Margaret in Wolverhampton and were taken by them to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford on Avon. We had a "slap-up dinner" and I was permitted a glass of white wine which made me feel very grown-up and sophisticated.

In retirement my father still loved to travel and would go off on an occasional cruise with Mr. Strachan, a bachelor friend who had been one of his customers. My mother, always conscious of her duty, stayed at home to look after us. Now I realise how much of a sacrifice that must have been for she too was a traveller by nature and had been far afield in her younger days.

Family life was always happy and quarrels were unknown as both my parents had a good sense of humour, and on the odd occasion when Mother would haul Daddy "over the coals" for some slight misdemeanour he would jokingly answer her "Oh. well, Dear, it's no use having a man if he hasn't any faults". And so the situation was laughed off.

My father loved sport and golf was his favourite form of exercise. He would rise early as on business days, shave, and dress in his "plus fours", ready after a hearty breakfast of porridge, bacon and egg to join his ageing friends. They would play and then talk politics and local affairs until lunch time. The winning of the game was unimportant.

On a Saturday afternoon the sport was football, and he had a season ticket for the stand at St. Johnstone's Park, where he would cheer on the local team. Shooting was another favourite sport, and he won many medals for rifle shooting at the ranges in his Volunteer days. He never shot anything live, and had not desire to use his skill in this way.

It is not surprising that he kept fit and healthy, for up until he died at 80 years he walked for miles each day, and every evening after the radio news at 9 o'clock he would don his overcoat and cap, reach for his walking stick and be off for "his wee bit walk". This generally meant a mile or two, and bad weather did not deter him. He kept a pair of spats always by the fireside in winter ready for cold nights, and a muffler was warmed and wrapped round his neck. Off he would go, and then after an hour or so he would return with his rosy cheeks cold and glowing from the night air. After a cup of cocoa - no whisky for him although he never condemned those who indulged - he was off to bed, having removed the dying embers from the fire to help the kindling in the morning.

Although kind and generous both Father and Mother were thrifty. He died peacefully in his sleep and it was his wish that there should be no mourning, no pulling down of blinds, no flowers. He had lived a full and happy life and was ready to meet his Maker.

John Lindsay, his nephew:

An excellent uncle and step-father to John Lindsay, Junior. He appeared, from his stories, to have had a happy childhood, especially when his mother rented a cottage for a month or so at Largs, during schooldays and later. Grandfather Robert would go down at weekends.

John's first job was with an auditor and accountant, John McCallum, 1880-1882. When John left this job in 1882 his employer gave him a book of poems!

John was too high-spirited to sit all day at a high desk stool, so he found a more active job as a Commercial Traveller, selling sash curtains of the net variety, going all over England and Wales. Sometimes he was away for six weeks. During these journeys he indulged his taste for the theatre and music halls. After retirement John became a regular Monday night attender at the Perth Repertory Theatre.

During World War I he served in the local volunteers, being too old to join the army.

He was very fond of music of the popular type, but symphonic music was a mystery to him. He had a good tenor voice, and would sing to Agnes' piano accompanyment and John's violin. One of his favourite songs was "Mr. MacNamara's Band". "In religion he had a simple faith and was a good living Christian. He listened in regularly to the B.B.C. "Lift up your hears" and to the Sunday Night Epilogue.

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