Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Basic run down of my life

I went to school in the early 70's. The school had a very active Cadet Corps. Lots if schools had Cadet Corps. Every summer I went to a six week Cadet camp run by the Army. First year I got Army basic toned down slightly. Second years I took Rifle coach course rest of High school I was Rifle team captain even when we moved and I ended up in an open corps ( not affiliated with a school rare at the time ) now school corps are rare. Rifle teams use bb guns that happened just after the changed the rules allowing girls to join Cadets and their Mother;s complained to the Government. I had been tested along with 100's of others who had completed the same training after me the spring break after my rifle coach coarse. The test was a week long. Somehow I placed first nationally in the testing. The top candidate in the testing in each command was commissioned as soon as the meet the minimum requirements for an officer. Advanced high school and age 18,In the year before I qualified I was sent to Banff in the Rockies and took mountain climbing, white water rafting advanced leadership and a number of 5 day hikes most of which included climbing two mountains and went on one glacier travel training course. The next year I took an Officer's Basic course that summer since my BDay was in Jan for a year since we were also promoted the first day we got commissioned for a year I was the youngest full Lt in Canada. Next year I commanded a platoon at the same camp I had done basic at. Following years I taught mountaineering and Glacier at Banff after some extra training. Shortly after returning the Outgoing and incoming Colonel's at the Reserve unit the Cadet Corp was affiliated with asked me to Transfer to the primary Reserve. I took four blocks of Infantry Officer Training at a Regular Forces base in on a base near Ottawa and in another in Nova Scotia. I took a great number of shorter courses. As soon as I transfered though I took a drop in Rank to 2Lt for a short I became a Platoon Commander and Continued as a Platoon Commander for the next 5 years. I held many second jobs which changed from time in addition to my Platoon Commander duities I was just at the end and after the viet-nam war and the forces both regular and reserve were short of officers. Eventually pressures from work and working full time nights while going to school full time days was getting to be to much and work was not covering annual military leave not even for two week camps so I left at the time I had met the serving prime minister and really distrusted him so I left. I was working for the transit system and became a subway, streetcar and light rail mechanic. each was considered a separated licensed trade and each required slightly different college diplomas. As they were very related courses there were many I didn't need to take to earn the 2nd and 3rd diplomas. Only 4 out the 10,000 people who worked at the company were qualified on all the electric vehicles. I know nothing about buses. Near the end of my 29 years there I developed Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder. Very possibly because of all the suicides and suicide attempts. During high school in addition to rifle I was varsity wrestling and track. As hobbies or sports I took Judo and Karate Judo starting as a young boy. I never stopped going to school at least part time until I got sick. I was married twice the end of my first marriage was a terrible mistake she is/has been/ always will be the love of my life. My second marriage was tough and she left the day I ended up in hospital. I lost the house and being in hospital also the contents while I was in hospital. First two years I was sick I was in a mental health group home for the panic disorder then moved in with my Mom for a short time then moved to the closest town where I still am. 25% who have this do get better as suddenly as they got sick it is considered a type of PTSD, likely a form of survivor guilt as while I was a subway mechanic and a jumper was alive at the scene when I got there I was usually able to keep them alive till the paramedics arrivied. Sometimes they were sick at first and I had to continue trains do more damage then they may see again in their carreers. There are thousands of paramedics but were on 24 subway emergency mechanics between all shifts and off days the minimum number were four the maximum was 8. My illness makes it very hard for me to go out even short distances I no longer drive for fear of freezing behind the wheel. There is no legal rule against me driving, I am only trying to be responsible. I have been sick since Feb 18 2002 and am still hoping and praying to get better. i live in a huge ward well over a thousand miles church is 46 km away and average attendance at the ward is 85 there are 200 members only 110 are active ( I got the number from the bishop by phone ) I have only managed to get a ride to church once and have only had a home teaching visit once since I moved to this ward. I could not see home teachers in the group home as I could only visit in the common room and the town had no Sunday bus service. I tried walking to church only about 3 miles a few times but it was very hard on my panic disorder. What else. Oh all from school except when I passed the highest Japanese course the local colleges had I took lessons at the cultural center. I'm not near one anymore. I'm fair at English, French, Latin, Japanese, can use a little Tagalog and mandarin and hope to bring those up to decent levels this year. I also plan on adding Russian and Spanish. i do have B of M's in all the languages I mentioned except Latin ( I don't think there is one ). That is basically my life to date. Oh when I turned 25 I heard so often at church that every single male over 25 was a menace to society. After several months of that I became inactive and remained so for 20 years. The only other SA or YSA male in the ward at the same time left the same week I did only I think he did so in writing. I just couldn't take the constant being called basically a criminal. I was the only member of the ward who was or had been in the service since WWII and Was saving a life on average every couple of months. Over my time with the company I probably dealt with 50 suicides and saved 26 to 30 attempts. I still hope and pray I get better I have a dog I "inherited " from my step daughter. He is in very good shape save for being blind but he despite being in good shape is getting very old. He was rescued from a puppy mill and based on how long we have had him what the vets estimated and the records the had for breeding purposes at the mill he is close to turning 27 in march. The record for a dog is just shy of 29 years. His name is Rocky and he is a soft coated Weaton Terrier. I have a friend who is my dog walker and does my shopping for me. If anyone is interested that is basically a run down of my life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

My Great Grandfather's Memoirs

The Memoirs of George Watson Hall
Born May 22, 1888 at 175 Hawkhill, Dundee.
(Written in 1961)
This is written for the information of my family and as I don’t remember many phases of my life
there will be many blanks and the present day young will find it hard to believe this story. But
anything I put down here really did happen. No matter how farfetched you may think them.
First, my family tree.
On my mothers side there was Captain Mill and his Ann. There was a romance here. Mrs. Mill
was the daughter of a Major in the Army. And his wife was Lady Annie Shand. Captain Mill
sailed his ship between Dundee and London (sailing ship) and he met his wife at Wooloch were
the Major was stationed as paymaster. Captain Mill and Ann eloped got married and came to
live in Dundee. They had a daughter who was my grandmother. She married Jethro (Jemmson)
Watson a ships carpenter or Sunderland. He retired from the sea and became a cabinetmaker. In
Sunderland my grandmother learned French polishing and worked with him.
They had two daughters and a son. Jethro Watson seems to have been a very hard man and my
grandmother left him and ran off to Dundee taking her family with her. Their names were Polly,
Rebecca and George. As they grew up grandma began to drink heavily and had a man friend
named Smith. About this time my mother went to live with her grandmother Mill and stayed
with her until she married. I knew Granny Mill very well and at times stayed with her during the
day while my mother was at work. She was a kind gentle old lady. Everything in her home was
spotless clean. When I knew her she was in her 90’s having been born in 1806. It seems strange
as I am writing this in 1961. Over 155 years ago.
There is quite a story about Granny Mill. When her husband retired from the sea, he bought
some property at Bernard St on the Hawkhill and when he died (long before my time) he left the
property to his wife. But a relative named Jack Blair who acted as factor and collected the rents
for her became the villain of the piece. He gradually took the running of the property to himself
and gave Mrs. Mill what he saw fit. I knew him well. His wife was a flashy dame and they had
a daughter about my age! Well Blair and his wife with their heavy drinking and high living got
into debt. One day my mother visited my Granny and found her in tears. It seemed that Jack
Blair had brought her some papers to sign. That turned out to be he had sold all the property to a
business man, but needed Granny’s signature to make it legal. When my father heard this he
went after Jack Blair and as you say now beat him up. But when Blair went to Granny Mill and
said he would have to go to jail for fraud if she did not sign she did so. He told her if she did not
he would cut his throat. So through that rat and the silliness of our folk he got away with it. The
property should of course have come to my mother her sister and brother.
I know this is true as we lived in a room in one of the cottages and Jack Blair lived there also.
PS: In later years I met Lisse Blair at a dance and saw her home. They lived in a slum and were
two Wrecks.
Now for my Father’s family. Grandfather James Hall came from Aberdeenshire. Grandmother’s
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name was Nicoll and came from Fifeshire. They were two very nice folk. Grandfather lost his
sight for some years before he died. Grandmother Hall was a real Scots Housewife. They had
two sons James and William. James the oldest was a stonemason and lived in the USA for years
but came home got married and settled down. He had one daughter who was struck down with
Polio as a young girl and remained a cripple all her life. My Aunt was very respectable and
Snooty and as we did not grade up to her we saw and heard little of them in our childhood.
Uncle Jim was not a bad chap but very much under his wife’s thumb. But he had plenty of guts
as I will show later in this diary.
My father started off as a stonemason but broke his arm and was unable to continue in the trade.
He became a undratinter (?) in a weaving factory where he met my mother who was a weaver.
They were both good looking good singers and liked parties. They had many friends and liked a
good time. They fell in love and got married in 1881.
As I have already said my father seems to have gone around with his head in the clouds. But, I
am afraid he never had his feet on the ground and must have been a problem to my mother. Who
in spite of her love for parties was a very hard worker and clean and tidy in herself. There were
three sons born to them. They oldest James next William and last George. There was roughly
three years full of adventure. He was the leader of this mob, and the best swimmer and diver in
the district. There were no prizes for swimming in those days. Willie my second brother was
different. Rather a sullen chap and a bit of a bully. Between them they saved me a lot of
knocking about. Boys were very rough in those days. So when I happened to be cornered by
some gang out for trouble the fact that I was the Hall’s little brother made them lay off. So this
spared me a lot of grief. Thanks Jim and Willie.
I was born 22/5/1888 at 175 Hawkhill Dundee. And in my first year had about all the trouble
that a child could have. The doctor did not expect me to live. One morning after having fits the
previous day, the doctor came in and seeing my cradle empty he said “So it is all over then.”
And was surprised to see me in my mother’s arms, looking well.
The first home I remember was at Lyons Close in the Hawkhill we lived above a fish shop and
Jim and Willie used to raid the smoke shed for some lovely smoked haddocks. We had a
German Lady living above us with her little girl. She had run away from a hard husband in
Hamburg. I could not have been more than three years at this time. But there was a song she
used to sing. Valder Slure that was how it sounded and believe it or not over fifty years later
when we were on holidays on the German Rhine. We made friends with a bus driver who sang a
lot to us. And I told him of this song and hummed the tune as I remembered it. Was I surprised
when he sang it again for us. I seem to have a knack for remembering songs as you will see
We moved to another home at Bernard St. also on the Hawkhill. And this is where life really
started for me. I have a memory of my Mother carrying me over to Granny Hall’s. She looked
after me while my mother worked in fact she was the person who I seem to owe most to for
building me up. He broth and porridge and mealy dumplings still linger in my memory. And I
have not forgot the recipe for the soup. I used to be sent out for 1 ½ d worth of carrot and
neefr(?) and leeks. And ½ d worth of peas and barley and 2 d worth of boiling beef that made a
dinner for about six at least. The men of course ate the beef. I never tasted meat until years
later. But the mealy dumplings which were dropped in the broth were grand for our tea.
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Now our home in Bernard St. was a single room with two beds we had an oil lamp that was
placed on the table and lavatory was outside at the end of the yard. It was just a long pole where
one sat and the men came in once a week and shovelled it out. The ladies used a pail in their
own home and slipped out after dark to empty the slops in the Midden. This is how things were
for most working people. And of course we did not think it crude at the time.
Now during the first two years of my life there was trouble in our family. After I was born my
father went off to USA to join uncle Jim. The fare was three pounds sterling. He stayed for a
year. Leaving my mother to make the best she could of it. Well she got tired of this and went
off to Sunderland to her fathers people leaving Jim and Willie with Granny Hall and me with a
woman who was looking after me for her. No one knew where she had gone. And I was handed
over to the police who put me in the poorhouse. When Granny Hall found out where I was she
had me out quickly. For in those days it was a disgrace to be in the poorhouse. I can’t see why.
Anyhow, my mother returned and we were together again. My father came back from the USA
and this must have been the Lyons Close period.
Now I must go back to my christening. George Watson Hall named after my mother’s brother
who was a sailor and went to the Arctic whaling every spring. (Dundee had a whaling fleet in
those days). George Watson was a harpooner. That was the same job when they killed the
Whales by hand with harpoons and lances. He sailed to the Baltic mostly during the rest of the
year. However he overstayed his time and missed his ship. They had a big drinking party. It
was the custom in those days to go on drinking until every one was broke. Anyhow he signed on
with another ship for an Atlantic voyage. These were all sailing ships. That was the last we saw
of Uncle George. For he was washed overboard during a storm. The only news our family had
was through the newspapers. A paragraph saying that George Watson aged 42 was lost
overboard. Just how dumb my family must have been. They never inquired about it or even
noted the name of the ship. He was only 24 not 42. He was a fine sailor and had a watch
presented to him for saving his Captains life at sea. I still have a hymn given to him by his
sweetheart. I am proud to be his namesake. There is a story about his death. My mother had a
bit of second sight as we used to say in Scotland. On the date he was reported to have died. She
had a dream and saw him struggling in the sea amongst big waves. And was so upset she visited
Granny Mill the next day to tell her of her dream only to find Granny Mill had the same dream.
The strange thing is the news of his death did not reach us until months later. And now back to
my life.
Our friends at this time were mostly sailors and their wives. And there were always parties when
any of them were going off on a voyage and another when they returned. Especially the Whaling
trips. I can still remember the din they made singing sea shanties and I even remember some of
them. My Uncle George’s best pal brought me an eskimo suit of sealskin and a little harpoon.
He taught me an eskimo song and I had to stand on a chair and sing it. I can still remember it.
However our home life was not a happy one. My father and mother could not get on together
and were always bickering. And even when they were both at work there never seemed to be
enough money. Drink seemed to take most of it. But this was the rule in most working class
homes in Dundee. Granny Hall’s and Granny Mills was the exception they did not drink. At
Bernard St. I started going to school and how I hated it. Poor Willie had the job of dragging me
to school every morning. To be shut in a classroom was Hell to me and remained that way until
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I left school for good. I can still picture the look of dismay on one teacher’s face when I told her
my name. She said “What, surely not another Hall.” As I said before my two brothers toughness
made life at school a lot easier for me.
About this time Grandfather Hall died. He had been blind for some years although he worked all
the time. He was a fine man gentle and kind. We all loved him.
Before I was six we moved to Paton’s Lane off the Perth Road. This was to be the happiest time
of my childhood. We had two rooms and much nicer surroundings though the sanitary
arrangements were the same as Bernard St. As my mother and father both worked we boys went
to a cook shop for our dinner. A penny got us a bowl of broth and a baf(?). And that was the
standard dinner for kids in those days. In some cook shops we could get a small plate of mashed
spuds and gravy. And later on we got a bowl of hashie and a baf(?). Hashie was live and lights
hopped up. Mostly lights. Ps in English lights are sold as cats meat. (Editors note I assume he
means as cat food.) However I was very happy in those days in spite of the fact that I was not
very strong and kept having the bile. On one day I felt the sickness coming on and asked the
teacher to be excused but he told me to sit still. The result was I vomited on the floor and was
punished pretty hard on my hand and legs. Willie told my father and when he saw the marks he
came up to the school to see the schoolmaster. However he and the schoolmaster turned out to
be old friends of boyhood days. And after a chat about old times and a warning to behave myself
the thing ended. But my weakness resulted in my being sent to the country for a fortnight and it
did me a lot of good.
While at Patons Lane my Mother took me on a trip to Belfast to visit some friends. Jim was now
at work as a halftimer. Well this life was too good to last. My father took a Saturday afternoon
job collecting for a dentist who sold teeth on the instalment plan. He did well for a few weeks
and the dentist suggested that he take a full time collecting and drumming up trade. He was to be
paid so much in the 1 pound. Well he jumped at the chance. Well after several months his pay
was down to a few shillings a week.
He got a bike and started making friends with people who were in a much better position than
him. And as he dressed well and looked well we saw little of him. Then as a last straw he went
down with inflammation in the lungs. And my mother had to leave work to nurse him so all our
income was Jim’s 3/6 a week. It may seem strange now but we were regular church going
people all this time and when we got a visit from a church Elder to see how we were getting on
all the help we got was advice to be thrifty and make a pot of soup with a Ham bone. Well we
got deep in debt at this time especially as my father had to get beef tea made with steak. Well
when he recovered he had only one lung and we were up to the neck in debt. So he decided to
do a moonlight flitting. That means moving out after dark and leaving all your debts behind. So
we did just that and a new chapter of my life started.
I think my age was about eight. But before leaving Patons Lane let me describe the big events in
my life there. First my first dip in the river. I slipped and fell in and was drifting away when Jim
spotted me and had me out in a jiffy. Then there was these trips out to orchards to steal fruit and
the excitement of being chased by the police. Yes Patons Lane was the happiest time in my
We now moved to the Vault a street close to the Greenmarket. The house was a very old one. It
Page 5
had been the town home of some rich man in the old days but now divided into two roomed flats.
The walls were all wood panelling. My father was now keen on opening a stall in the market his
first venture was a stall full of soap and small gadgets. A sort of cut rate business but this did not
go too well. Next it was a coconut sky stall and this was no better. But somehow we drifted
along on Jim and Willies halftime pay. I did my best to help. I used to get up early in the
morning and go down to the fish dock and scrounge a few fish from the porters. And then off to
the bakers for some old cakes and scones. And later I got my mother to give me 4 d and I bought
a dozen evening newspapers. Sold them and gave my mother 6 d so that was 2 d to the good. It
all counted in those in those days. I also visited the hamcurers where we got 2 d worth of
cuttings. It all helped.
My news stand was at G L Wilsons corner. In after years when I passed the spot. My mind went
back to the cold windy evenings I spent there trying to sell my last few copies. But I was
growing up now and the going to school was my most hated chore. Now that Willie was at work
I used to stay away almost as often as I went and got some well deserved hidings for playing
truant. That is what we called playing hokey. I used to hide my books amongst the lumber
being used to build the famous ship the Discovery. Later to take the explorers to the North and
South Pole. But once I pushed my books under a shed on a building site. And a chance in a
thousand my uncle Jim was working there. He took my books up to our home. My address was
on the front page. So another hiding for wee Geordie.
Now from my early days I was always a wanderer and a dreamer and later on a keen reader. I
loved to be alone in fact as my mother said I was an odd laddie. When not at school the harbour
was my attraction. I wandered around gazing at the ships. Especially the fourmaster sailing
ships which brought the jute from India. Some of them looked grand with snow white decks and
shining brass. I would have sold my soul to live on any of them. So different from the smelly
whalers. As the harbour was my whole life from about four I could go on writing about it for
pages. I fell into it twice. Once while playing on a wood raft and once when showing how to
dive, I could not even swim. But that was a perfect dive and I came up with my cap still on. Of
course I was fully clothed and they got me out okay. But when I got home soaked through my
mother started giving me a hiding. At that moment a person came to the door and when she told
him what had happened he made her get down on her knees and thank God for my rescue. A bit
of luck for wee Georgie.
Jim was working now on fulltime and Willie on halftime. So I was very much on my own. Now
one incident happened about this time that I would not blame anyone for not believing it. I was
still in my eighth year. When there was news in Dundee that the Inniskilling Droogens were to
march through the town on their way to Barry camp. I was so keen to see as much of them as
possible. On the day they were to arrive from Perth I hid my books as usual and set out to meet
them. I got as far as Invergowlie before they came in sight. That swell uniform the horses and
the mounted band had me captivated. I followed them right down to Barry camp. Stayed an
hour or so then set off home. I did at least 24 miles on a penny worth of broken biscuits. And
me not yet nine.
Things were much the same at home. My mother still kept the home together. My father was
still trying his luck in the greenmarket and the endless rows. We boys had a very thin time. Jim
got fed up and joined the Black Watch Militia. He was just 16 then. He did six weeks training at
Perth Depot and then six weeks training in the summer. His first camp was Barry and he came
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home for a weekend leave. As I have said we were great friends and when he left home on
Monday morning to join his unit we went to the station together. As soon as his train moved off
I set off too. All the way to Barry camp once more. I arrived there in the afternoon just as Jim
was returning from the shooting range. He managed to get me smuggled into his tent. He and
his buddy fixed it up for me to sleep between them and I was stuffed with food. Although the
men in that unit were just about the toughest in that part of Scotland they were ever so kind to
me. In return I polished their buttons and brushed their boots. Well this went on for two days
until the Provost Sergeant spotted me and I was shoved in the guard tent. They thought I was a
thief. But when the unit returned from a route march Jim was brought over and the matter
cleared up. And they even let me stay on until the left the following week for the south of
England. But Jim had to send a post card to mother telling her where I was. And I was moved to
the Quartermaster stores tent to sleep. My mother came to see me and went home quite pleased.
That was a wonderful time. The men were very kind to me. Most of them were tramps and
jailbirds. But to me they were a grand set of men. When we parted at Barry Station some of
them gave me pennies and even their swagger canes. Every soldier had to carry a swagger cane
in those days. So when they pulled out of the station giving me a cheer I suppose they looked on
me as a mascot of a kind.
Now even with my pocket full of pennies I started walking home as usual. These tow trips to
Barry Camp still stand out in my memory. And now no doubt you may wonder why I was
allowed to wander off like this. Well I was always wandering off somewhere and always
returned safe and sound. As a four year old I had gone for a walk with another little boy. He got
scared and started to cry. When a passerby asked me if we were lost my reply was. “He is but I
am not.” My mother told me this story. I don’t remember being lost at any time. But perhaps if
I describe Dundee of my boyhood days you will understand why no fuss was made over my
adventures. The town depended on the Jute mills for employment. And the mills mostly on
female labour. There were four jobs for them for every one there was for males. As a result
there grew up in Dundee a group of men called the ‘kettle boilers’. Who did not work but were
kept by their wives or girlfriends. But almost all wives went out to work. And as in my case
after the birth of a baby the mother as soon as she recovered got some old woman to look after it
during the day. As work started at 6 am in the morning and ended at 6 pm she did not see much
of her child and when she did she had no time to nurse it. In fact we kids were a burden to our
parents and they never let us forget it. The death rate amongst Dundee babies was about the
highest in Britain. Now Dundee was the most Drunken town in Scotland. Streets like the
overgate, scouringburn, westport and the Greenmarket had a pub every few yards. And on
Saturday night the Overgate was a terrible place. Drunks everywhere, about a dozen policemen
patrolled up and down in twos and they were big six footers from the Highlands when a fight
started they just grabbed them and off to jail they went. And those policemen were tough they
twisted the men’s arms until I often thought they would break. But the women were the worst.
Often I have seen them strapped down on a barrow kept for the purpose. Screaming with a
bunch of kids running behind cheering and laughing. By the way Dock St. and Lockee with it’s
Bog a Tuperwry(?) were as bad as any.
The wages were very low and almost everyone was in debt. The only people who made more
than a pound a week were the weavers. And they had to work damned hard to make that. Of
course the tradesmen made up to 3 pounds but to us they were the middle class and never mixed
with the millworkers. My uncle Jim was in this grade and while he liked a drink he never mixed
with the lower class. So we saw very little of Jim or aunt Lissie who did not drink or allow any
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in her home. Of which she was very much the boss. They had a daughter about my age but of
course she was brought up in a different world from mine. How I envied her and all the kids
who had nice respectable homes. To me Uncle Jim’s home was a palace and aunt Lissie and
Cissie were Ladies.
But back to my story. Now not long after the Barry camp business Jim came back form training.
He was about 17 now and my father got a job with a travelling show and was away most of the
time. My mother started to make friends with some people who’s morals were pretty low there
was plenty of drinking and sex. My mother picked up a man friend John Thompson who worked
on the railway. He brought lots of whisky to their parties and used to bring my mother home
when she got drunk. Well after some weeks of this Jim got Willie and me together he told us
that he had caught my mother and Thompson together and he was so disgusted that he said he
would never look at or speak to our mother again.
He joined the Regular Army he was still under 17 but said he was 18 and Willie and I were left
with mother. I just did not know what it was all about. (to the pure all things are pure) However
things were coming to a head. Sometimes mother did not come all night and at last she did not
come back home at all. Willie were left for several days. We had no food and went real hungry.
However a neighbour found out and sent a wire to our father who was in Aberdeen at this time.
He came straight back home. He sold off the furniture and took us to live with Granny hall. I
can never forgive him for that. Granny had only one room. I slept in bed with Granny and father
and Willie slept on the floor. This was all shock to Granny and after a few months she died in
her sleep with me lying along side of her.
We stayed on in this home for some time and I started staying away from school as usual. At
last one of my schoolmates told me he had taken a letter from the teacher to my father. So I
knew there was trouble ahead for me. And made up my mind to leave home. So I went back to
my old home at Patons Lane. Where my old pals stood by me they brought me bread and jam
and what they could pinch from their home and got the key of their cellar so that I could sleep
there at night. This went for a few nights until a Lady who lived in a large house nearby heard of
me from her little son who was one of the gang who was helping me. She asked the boy the
fetch me to her. And as by this time I was getting a little weak I went with him. She was ever so
kind there were tears in her eyes when I told of my misdeeds. She gave me a bath and a good
meal and then sent for my father. When he arrived she made him promise he would not punish
me. As he was getting a bit heavy handed by this time I was very glad. But he forgot his
promise and I got what I deserved.
Now shortly after this we had a comic episode. My father was in the volunteers and went off to
a Weekend camp from Friday to Tuesday. He left us about 2 shillings to see us over for food.
Well Willie got some of his pals over and started playing cards. We lost the money and with no
food we still had Sunday and Monday to go. First we went out to the Perth Rd and stole some
turnips and beans out of a field and the next day to the stonegate to gather welks. We managed
somehow but it was a laugh afterwards.
Before leaving Patons Lane I must tell of a character who lived in the next street Step Row. This
man was named McGonagle he was a poet and an actor. He dressed up with a slouch hat and a
cloak like one of those men we used to see in plays. Of course he was a bit crazy and used to
sprout poetry at us kids. Once when some boys were firing peas from those tubes we had in
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those days. He turned around and drawing himself up said. “If you please stop throwing those
peas.” It is strange now for he is now famous as the worst poet in Britain. Some of his gems are
still told. But I could tell stories about him for an hour on end. He had a son who was a lovely
singer. Often when playing cards and he was skinned someone would say sing us a song Jock
and we will stake you again. Believe me you had to be good to get money out of those men. I
made a few pence being a lookout for the police at times.
But our Hawkhills days were nearly over the landlord ordered us to leave the place at once. And
another chapter of my life began. We now moved to garret in Brown St. and of all the dumps we
lived in this was the worst. It was full of bugs, you could smell them as soon as you opened the
door and the walls were covered with marks where someone had killed one. My father now
worked as an undertenter in Gilroys a huge mill that looked more like a prison than any prison I
ever saw. Being the only one who was not working my job was housekeeping and at 9 years of
age one is not too good at that. So after making a mess of the porridge one morning I got whole
meal instead of fine oatmeal and the result was terrible. So I got the sack. My father said he was
fed up feeding me and told me to my mother. So with a spare shirt wrapped in paper that was all
my wardrobe. I set out for the address given me by my father. It’s strange how they kept tag of
each other. It was not a very grand welcome I got from my mother. But I was used to that and
her Garret was a lot nicer.
I soon settled down at Bains Square which was near the Cowgate where John Adamsen lived.
(My Cousin) was what we called the headringer of his crowd that means he could fight everyone
in it. So things were not too bad here. Of course I was still too young to be a member of the
gang. Another chap and I were just hangers on as we used to say. Johnnie Johnstone was his
name we palled up. Nothing much happened at Bains Square. Except life was not so hard. But
I just would not attend school. There was one incident here I will never forget. After a spell of
being absent the school board officer arranged with my mother to come up one morning to take
me to school. And after a bit of a struggle in which I got behind the bed and held them off. I
agreed to go with him. But when we reached the school gate I broke away and made a dash for
the WC. Where I jammed the door and would not open it. After trying to get me out. The
officer went off for the janitor and I ran off, free once more. Now I just can’t think why I was
not sent to training ship as bad boys were in those days. And I would have welcomed it. For my
home life was very unhappy and while at my mother’s that John Thompson was always in the
background. Somehow I was overlooked so my wandering still continued.
I think I must have been ten when my Father and Mother reunited and we moved to a home at
Dailys close on the Hilltown. It was a two room flat and we settled down to the old way of life.
But not for long. My father suspected mother was meeting John Thompson again so he watched
her and caught them together. He turned her out of the house and that was their last parting. We
moved to a single room downstairs and I once more became the cook and washup. My father
now worked in Walkers factory. And I started to work on halftime. We should have done well
my 3/8 a week Willies 8/- and my father’s pay was quite enough to keep us in some comfort.
But Father dressed well and had a set of Drinking pals so money was always scarce at the end of
the week. There was a joke in Dundee that when we went home for dinner on Friday we opened
the door and threw our cap in the kitchen. IF it was thrown out again you just went off to work
with no dinner. Well that was not far off the mark with us. However Father used to mix up
some oatmeal and margarine in a frying pan and sometimes add an onion. That was dinner. And
for tea I was sent to about the dirties grocers ever. Willie Whiteside for a penny worth of cheese.
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Perhaps 2 d worth and we had that and bread for our tea. This Whiteside was a character he ran
a mission and he used to give the kids sweets to come there and sing hymns. He was still there
when my own family were growing up. I always remember his shop everything was in a jumble
it was one hell of a mess. But he sold everything by the pennyworth which was a godsend to the
Now two big changes came about at out Dailys chore home. One was the gas ring. Before that
everything had to be cooked on a coal fire. A slow business when we only had one hour for
meals and the next was the incandescent mantle. At Bernard St. we used an oil lamp at Patons
Lane it was gas with a what was called fishtailed burner. Just an open flame. Very useful when
we got up at 5 am for making a cup of tea. There was a nail knocked into the mantlepiece on
which was hung a tin flagon. When it boiled we had tea and a piece of bread. That kept us
going till nine when we had breakfast usually a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea and a roll. For
dinner at 2 I was sent to a cook shop for a can of soup and that was dinner then for tea at six
perhaps some bully beef or perhaps what we called heelpads. This was mince patties mostly
gristly at 4 d a pound. But on Saturday we had a blow and 2 d mutton pies for dinner. I never
stopped loving them and sometimes smokies for tea (Smoked haddocks) another grand meal.
But Sunday well that much depended on how drunk our father got. Sometimes he brought home
a load of sausage or some kind of meat he got as a bargain. By this time he had got a job acting
as a super on the theatre at 1/~ a night. But as he spent that on booze well it was not much help.
One laugh we had here was when he went off to camp with the Volunteers. Willie and I who
were spending our holidays in the usual way trying to keep alive until next pay. Well we had
arranged to tramp down to Barry Camp to see him get a meal or two and bring home some food
to keep us till the weekend. Well we were afraid we might sleep in (No alarm clocks in those
days, a man used to knock us up on working days). So we decided to take turn about of keeping
awake for to get an early start. Well I took my turn of being on guard. But when it came to
Willie’s turn he fell asleep and we did not wake until nine in the morning. However we made
our trip to Barry and had a good feed of stew and on leaving father got us a large piece of meat
named skirt. Well we boiled it for hours but it was so tough we had to get rid of it in the end.
Before going any further perhaps I may describe the life of a halftimer. In Dundee on reaching
11 years of age. Your parents could have you placed on this halftime system. It was that we
worked half the week and went to school the other half one day at school and one day at work. It
was a nice supply of cheap labour for the jute mill owners but it was hell for the poor kids. We
worked a ten hour day from 6 am to 6 pm and went to school every second day. Making it a 56
hour fortnight. I disliked mill work almost as much as school. I hated that shut in feeling. And
life in the mill was grim in those days. I became a rove shifter this was changing the full roves
on bobbins for empty ones. We had so many machines to work on that we had little time to
ourselves. We had to find the empty roves to replace the full ones this meant racing around the
spinning frames to get them. When a rove was ready to change. Now the boy in charge of the
rove and our head shifter or as he should have been called ‘Slave Driver’ received a bonus for
extra output. And just to keep us on our toes. The had shifter carried pleated length of leather
called a skull cracker. And the shifter who was last to finish received a whack on his behind
with this. It stung quite a lot. I have often thought that the slaves in the deep south had nothing
on us. The school we halftimers attended was tough too. The teachers were more like wardens.
But I could not blame them. They had a lot to contend with. With a different lot of boys every
day. And we were no baa lambs I can assure you. At home I was still the underdog. On my day
at school I had to leave the breakfast ready for father and Willie. And when I got home from
school. I had to run the messages make the beds and get the tea ready. No time to spare I assure
Page 10
you. On top of this there was my home work. This left me no time for play. And at last I
decided no more home work. This brought me punishment at school. But I stuck to my point.
So every morning at school I started off with six wallops on my hand with the strap. However I
soon found a way of easing the blows of the strap. I usually wore one of Willies castoff jackets.
And the sleeves were so long that I had to turn up the ends. But before punishment I turned
down those sleeves and by pushing my hand forward instead of drawing it away as instinct told
you I saved myself a lot of pain. While on half time the Boer War started and Jim with Black
Watch were ordered to South Africa. He came home on leave before going away. And we used
to plan our future together. For he was like me a dreamer. I was to join his unit as a drummer
and we were to be together all the time. But I had to wait until I was fourteen. I still have a
photo of Jim taken on that leave. He was still bitter against our mother and passed her by in the
street. Well Jim went off to the war he was still only 18 years old. Things at home were much
the same except that I started staying away from school again. And got away with it owing to
the mix up with the mill and the school. So I got lost in the system. But in the end I was caught
and went through the mill in the usual way. I was sacked from my job and got myself a job as a
grocer’s message boy. I should have been 14 but no one worried the grocer was pleased to have
a good worker and as my pay was 6/~ a week my father was pleased. But that grocer kept piling
the work onto me and as my hours were from 8 am till 7 pm six days a week. And my boss
always saved a nice long message until the last so it was nearer 8 pm when I finished. At last I
asked for a raise in pay. He refused and as usual gave me a bog box of groceries to deliver just
as the shop was closing. I took it to the door laid it down and walked off. So that was that job
finished. I next got a job as a van boy. But this did not last long. Our boss was a bully and I
can’t stand that. So out I went again and back to the ill once more. Now about this time
something happened to change our whole life. Our father still dressed well and like most older
people in our class had a drinking spree every Saturday. He fetched home some strange things
once it was a big dog which he had tied to his bed. When he awoke in the morning he asked who
the dog belonged to and in the end chased it out of the house. Another he got a Russian cat from
an actress. He still worked in the theatre at times. This cat was a terror. No one could get near it
except me. I fed it and even when it scratched it never punished it. We became great pals. If
anyone laid a hand on me that cat just sprang at them and if I cried she used to cry too and fuss
around me. Strange I could not make friends with people. But I loved animals. But when we
got up one Sunday morning and found a woman in bed with our father it was a shock. This was
Janet Blacky. We had only one room remember. So things were a bit strange. Especially for
Willie who was in his sixteenth year. Well Janet stayed on with us. She was a weaver and knew
my mother. And shortly after this we moved to a new home at North Church St. There was two
rooms so the strain eased off and Willie and I became more or less boarders. This was the start
of another unhappy spell.
I felt things were all wrong and was ashamed of the set up. But as I knew very little about sex.
That angle never worried me. But I stayed away from home as much as I could. And when I
saw that young lads were wanted to sell chocolate at the theatre. I went after the job. There was
a crowd after the job and only six were required. It seemed hopeless and I was surprised when
the theatre manager pointed to me and after asking my name and age. Which I said was 14. I
was not yet 13. I got the job selling chocolate at the gallery six nights a week. This kept me
away from home most the time finishing at the mill at 6 pm and getting to the theatre at 7 pm
after a wash and a change. There was not much money to be made in the Gallery but at least it
kept me out of the way. And I always made enough to bet me a big salmon sandwich.
Afterwards I was promoted to the pit. And the money I made went on food and clothes. I got
Page 11
Willie a job there but he was sacked for not keeping himself clean and tidy. Now at this we got
the news that Jim had died.
I felt the world had come to an end. My wonderful and all our plans were no more. My father
made this an excuse for going on the booze more than ever. And he made our Sunday morning s
a nightmare. Saying he would cut his throat and generally making a scene. What a life we had
especially as Janet kept stiring him up against us. I kept out of her way most of the time. But
Willie was not so fortunate. He got the heavy end of the stick. At least that was a change.
Before this I was always the whipping. Things came to an end at Church St. very suddenly. My
father on his usual spree on a Saturday night. Met John Thompson and beat him up. He was
arrested and taken to prison. On Monday morning he was fined one pound and when he came
out he was so upset he sold off our home and we all went off to Glasgow.
I was sorry to lose my theatre job. I enjoyed the plays and made some friends, in fact saw a new
world. However I was not yet fourteen and had to tag along. Now Glasgow was a new world to
me. We went to live at my cousin David Adamson’s home. He had left his wife and was living
with a woman named White. Who’s father kept a doss house in Dundee. I write this now for a
after years this was to mean a lot to David. I did not like Meg White as the more I saw of her the
less I liked her. However back to my story. There was only one room in that house so we all
slept on the floor. However David got another place at Burnside St. off the Garseube Rd. I give
this address as this was the wildest tenements in Glasgow and that is saying plenty. We lived in
back lane on the top floor there were no stair lights most of the flats had no doors. They had
been used for firewood and an old blanket hung up in its place. And on Saturday night it was
like a madhouse. With screams and curses and drunk in bed with another man. He cut her throat
and walked into the Police Station and gave himself up. Dundee was a Sunday School compared
with this.
However we settled down and my father and Willie got work in the foundry where David
worked. I was told to find myself a job. My first one was a flop. It turned out to be handing out
bills around the doors. I went on strike by dinner time. The man in charge of us begged me to
stick it out fot day. We were miles away from Glasgow so I had to hang on for my fare home.
Well when we got back they guy must have shopped me for making trouble. While the other
stooges were sent home, I was given a barrow and told to collect some more handbills from a
shop half a mile away. I took off home. When I told my father he sided with me and said he
would be happy to meet my boss and punch him on the nose. It was a real swindle you worked a
fortnight before you got a weeks pay and if you packed up. No Pay-
My next job was in the Evening News and this was a job I really liked working in the dispatch
dept in the morning and sweeping up the place where they sold the papers to the newsvendors.
There was always a few coppers laying around on the floor and I used to make to price of a cup
of tea and a big roll and butter. That was from 6 am till 9. In the afternoon we went off with a
reporter to police court or meetings or anything that was on. We then took the reports back to
the office. We were timed in and we had to be snappy on the job. In the afternoon we helped
with the also helped with the parcels. My first fun was form Hope St. to Maryhill. I stood on the
back of a Tram and threw out the parcel at the newsagent as we passed all the way out New City
Rd. and Garbrastd St. As I stayed on this job I got on very well and was soon promoted. I got
put in charge of St. Enoch’s Station. The vans brought the parcels and I wheeled them to the
trains. There was no time to spare so I had to be smart. We were allowed a lot of spare time to
Page 12
spare so I had to be smart. We were allowed a lot of spare copies to square the guards and
porters and I worked up a sale amongst the business men and on Fridays my pay day I was on
top of the world. Going to the theatre and even got a pair of glasses and an airgun and all the
food I wanted. On top of this my boss offered to get me a job in the composing room. By this
time we have moved Burnside St. to Buchanman St. a much nicer place.
Now before I go on further there is a funny story about my nights at the theatre in Dundee. One
week we had some of Shakespeare’s plays. Hamlet, Macbeth and so on. Those two were pretty
bloody with lots of dead men and murders. The first play on Monday was Hamlet. As I was in
the stalls close to the stalls everything was very real. To enjoy the play I had hidden my basket
of chocolates at the bottom of a dark passage. Now while Hamlet was saying he wanted to meet
the ghost of his murdered father, who had been haunting this part of the castle suddenly a green
light shown right above me as so close that I could have touched it. Was a tall figure in
shimmering dress and a long veil the face was green. My heart nearly jumped out of my mouth
and my hair seemed to stand on end. I was scared stiff, later I had to go down the dark stairs for
my basket. I dashed in and out again pronto. This was not the end for all the way home I dashed
past dark entries, and kept in the middle of the street. But the worst was yet to come. You see it
was around 11 pm when I got home as a rule and the streets were empty at that time on week
nights. The close we lived in was the exact same as the one next to it. We lived in the ground
floor there were no stair lights in those days. So when I got home I dashed into the close and
banged on the door. My father or Janet usually let me in. But this time there was no answer at
first, then a soft footstep and a rattling of a chain and the door slowly opened. There in front of
me was a figure in a long white gown. That was the scare of my life. I let out a yell and ran. It
was then I found I was at the wrong close and the wrong house. An old lady lived there, she had
a chain on her door for safety. I told her the next day how sorry I was. I am sure that was the
biggest fright of my young life.
While I am on this subject I will get back to Dave Adamson and Meg White. Now Dave was a
chap who left home early and tramped around the country. Mostly from Dundee to Glasgow.
He had slept in closs houses. There was where he met Meg White in their place in Dundee. He
would not go home as the girl he had married was dead lazy and drank. Their home was filthy.
However back to my story. I think he had three kiddies by his first wife who were in a home.
When he settled in Glasgow he sent for those kids and strange to say they all died one after the
other. Now as I said before Med White looked whicked to me with cold eyes. I thought her real
heartless. However later on they had a daughter. Meg’s father died and left her some money.
David divorced his wife, or rather got her to divorce him (My mother worked that crafty one).
They got married, Dave prospered sold his doss house to John his brother and took over a
photographers business and did well at that. Last I heard of them he had a filling station in the
USA. John sold the doss house and took a pub in Glasgow. He was called up later in the war
and was killed in France. I will speak of their sister Aggie later on.
Well from the time I took that job at selling chocolate there was only one spare night each week
so I only saw the mob Sundays and was very much on my own. That was how I liked it and
during my stay in Glasgow I made no friends. I was never unhappy except at home. Willie and I
were never to friendly. He was so much older and bad tempered. However when it came to
standing by each other we never failed in that. My father was much closer to Willie than me.
Until Janet came along and put him out in the cold. As for me I was never anywhere else so it
made little difference. But, one incident sticks out when I felt hurt in more than one way. My
Page 13
father got a letter from the War Office with Jim’s medal and the money he had left. Jim always
promised to send me a keepsake from South Africa. And when Willie who had some money
from Jim’s Will. He told me there was something for me too. So after waiting some time I asked
my father about it. All I got was a punch in the jaw that nearly knocked my head off, it laid me
out on the floor. I never felt the same about my father after that. I had got beatings in plenty but
all more or less deserved. This one was too much. Later I found Jim had left me 30/~ and South
African (ticky) 3 d piece which were looked on as lucky charms in Britain at the time. I would
have been happy to get the (ticky) alone for I loved Jim. About this time my father took me up
about my job at the Evening News. I liked it and got on well with the Boss. I had 1/~ a week
more than the other boys. What he wanted to know was I learning a trade. When I said no he
told me to pack it in and get a job learning a trade and I got a week to do it.
I wonder what kids who live in homes where there is love and kindness like my cousin Cissie
would feel if they were landed in a life like mine. My oldest son sent me a letter saying that I
had always taught them to stand on their own feet. To be independent, and that I was all wrong.
He said we should help each other. It sounds grand but in my 72 years I have not met the kind of
people whom I could depend on. Except in the war years. Which in spite of the hardships and
danger. Were the happiest of my life. But back to my story.
I started looking round for a trade and got a job as an apprentice tile setter and in a few weeks
could mix a batch of cement and sort and grade the tiles like an old hand. My tools were a spade
a sieve and a bucket. I was attached to a tradesman and we went on jobs all over Glasgow
together. He was a nice young chap. We put in some overtime too I think. My pay was 6/- a
week and 3 d an hour overtime. I got to like the job especially one when we were tiling a
bathroom on a rich American’s yacht at Point Horse shipyard Scotstown. However things at
home were getting awful. Janet had a baby and from then on we could nothing right. So at last
Willie and I decided to take the road back to Dundee. First we saw David Adamson. Who had
made the trip so often. He told us the best way was Glasgow to Edinbourgh and then across the
forth from Granton to Burntinsland, then to Newport across Fife and the Ferry to Dundee. So I
sold my airgun and glasses and with less than 5/-- a loaf of bread some marg. We set off on a
Saturday at midday we tramped on through Mothermill Hamilton and a lot of mining villages.
And after some adventures we arrived in Prinees St. Edinbourgh on a Sunday forenoon we had
walked all night and were very tired. But we still had to get Granton for the boat and when we
asked the way the people just turned away. They were a snoty lot there and I swore to come
back and blow the place up. I have disliked the place ever since. (Strange as it may seem during
the 1914 war I was returning from leave were stuck there for a few hours and during that the
German airships dropped some bombs on it.) We got to Granton and were just in time to catch
the boat. So we reached Burntisland on Sunday evening. We walked out of the town a short
distance crossed a field and settled down at the foot of a haystack ate some of the bread and
marge and settled down to sleep.
We were awakened by the Mill Buzzers in Kirkerldy at six the next morning. We were cold and
damp with the heavy dew. However after some bread and marge we went on our way. The
stiffness soon wore off and we tagged on and on that endless road. A real tramp caught up with
us and he was not a bad chap he kept us going and but for him we would have had to spend
another night on the road. At last we walked in Newport in time to catch boat into Dundee. We
had done 74 miles in less than 3 days on bread and dripping. I am sure Granny Hall’s food in
our early days helped. Now reaching Dundee we had a stroke of luck which I thought came only
Page 14
in books. For as we left the boat it was around 9 pm and Dark. We walked into the arms of John
Adamson our cousin and about the only person who could help us. He knew where our mother
lived. We had not seen or heard of her for several years and fortunately she had two rooms so
off we went to give her the shock of her life. Well we settled down with her and I soon got work
in the mill. A bit different from tiling but I had to get used to the ups and downs. And we were
away from that awful Glasgow home.
Before starting on my life in Dundee I must tell you how I kept on trying to get to sea. I wrote to
most of the training ships that boys and when the papers came Janet gave them to my father and I
got the usual belting. I will never understand why he did not let me go. It was not because of
any love he had for me. And he knew my heart was set on the sea. I also tried to join the Navy.
Willie signed the parents consent form. But bad teeth failed me. However I was back in my
home town. I never cared for Glasgow.
My first job was in the Batching flat at Walkers where I first started work. I was now 15 years
old and had a lot experience. Reading now became my chief hobby. I joined the Public Library
and read all kinds of books while most of my spare time was spent in the reading rooms. I also
discovered that around the Albert Square little knots of men stood debating with each other.
Now between the books and those debates I started to learn about the world around me. And
went in for heavy literature too. I read Gutben’s Decline and fall of the Roman Empire when I
was 16 some people never get around to that. And I used to attend any lectures there were. On
almost any subject. I was at least enlarging my mind and getting to understand things better than
before. There were some real clever men around the Albert Square and I used to stand some
nights until nearly midnight listening. But in those days there was no labour party and when a
speaker spoke on socialism he was stoned. But as things went on more men took the Socialist
line. But to me it looked a bit far fetched it took a war to teach me that most men are equal and
having a rich father did not make a clever man. But for the present I though Britain was
wonderful and would have gone to war to prove it.
However back to the mill life my pay was 12/- to start. I paid my mother 10/- and had 2/- left to
spend as my pay rose I got my clothes on tuck from what was called the tally man and I started
to dress and now and then go along with Willies pals. They went to the dancing on Saturday
nights. So I joined in but was too shy to ask a girl to dance. At 15 girls were something I knew
nothing about. And in spite of Janet Blackey and my mother I still thought all girls were gentle
and kind and good at cooking and sewing. Shows how daft I was. Well as time went by I got to
know better but it took a long time. In case I forget I must remind you John Thompson was still
in the background and my mother still had many doubtful friends. When she was to have a party
I stayed away from home until early in the morning and so did not meet the gang. But it was still
a bad life. I used to tell myself when I had a home of my own my family would not have to be
ashamed of me and get no red faces as Willie and I had trying to answer questions from time to
time. One time when things got too bad to endure any longer Willie and I decided to go back to
Glasgow. We started on foot by way of Perth this time we had no money for boat fares. By the
time we got near Perth it started to rain heavily and Willies foot which had troubled him ever
since our walk from Glasgow. Began to hurt bad so we stayed under a hedge most of the night
and started back in the morning tired and hungry. When we were passing a cottage by the
roadside there was a lovely smell of ham and eggs cooking. To us two it was a heavenly smell
and we swore when we were rich we would eat nothing but ham and eggs. So ended that
Page 15
Now I could not settle in any mill job and at that time there was nothing else for an untrained lad.
A few worked at trades and in the shipyards but that was a father to son routine. 99 percent of
the lads worked in the mill or joined the army those who could afford it emigrated. The whaling
came to an end when the big factory ships went to the Antarctic. The Dundee ships had a go at it
but the old slow ships did not pay. One crew were shipwrecked and spent a year on a small
island now named Dundee island. That is all that is left of our old whaling fleet. I have a P.C.
with a picture of some of them and will put it in this book. There was plenty of work for girls
but very little for men. We had as a result a lot of layabouts and fancy men (kept men). So it
was not easy to get out of the rut. I kept trying to get to sea. I must have been thrown off more
ships than anyone else in the world. So it was always back to the mill. At one time I had quite a
good job carrying yarn from the reelers and sewing up cop bags the yarn was bundled by a man
who came from another part of the mill. He let me try my hand at bundling it was a semiskilled
job and in no time I was doing a bundle as well as him. This was piece and paid well. As the
output grew the foreman said he would have to take on a new man for the job. So I asked for it
but was told it would to be an older man as it was heavy. I knew I could it easily and said so.
However the new man took over and just to rub it in I was told to teach him the work. After
saying just what I thought I was out of a job again. The foreman tried to get me to stay but I just
walked out. And damn me if the foreman in the other reeling flat asked me to work for him at
more pay. I had to inspect and carry the yarn. It was a more interesting job and my bundlers
friend let me help him. That is the one who showed me the job in the first place. Now my aunt
Polly worked in this flat. And as she was about the most skilled reeler there she got all the
special work to do. She and I must have been birds of a feather for we never spoke a word to
each other apart from good morning in the passing. I was still under 16 and had now grown keen
on joining the volunteers the 3rd Black Watch. And visited the bandmaster, I thought they might
make me a drummer but I was no drummer and the bandmaster told me to join as a private. But
being so young and skinny I was afraid they would not have me. However telling me to say my
age was 17 I was accepted. And oh the joy to have all that uniform and equipment it was heaven
to me. I put in my 40 recruit drills quickly and the instructors were the real thing regulars form
the staff. And they sure made us jump. I just loved every minute. My nickname became smiler
as I could not help grinning at the way we were chased around the more we were cursed the
happier I got. And in no time apart from shooting I was fully trained. And looked around for
something else to learn. Signaling took my eye so I joined this and started with the flags and
lamps. It was hard work and not easy to learn. But I was keen and became a Signaler we
marched in front of the unit with our rifles slung and our flags in our hands, Geordie was a
soldier. Of a sort.
My first camp was just wonderful. There were some real old soldiers in our section. They were
really reservists from the regular army but this fact was winked at by the officers. They led me
along by the nose but I learned a lot from them. If I paid for a drink someone was sure to grab
my change and they were so nice about it I just could not complain. Now it happened that we
went on a big field day or as you would say a sham fight.
I was attached to my own for sending and receiving messages and by wonderful I managed to
read a message sent by the enemy. I also spotted the people who received it. I reported to our
captain. This saved our whole unit falling into a trap and when the captain found out I belonged
to his company I was promoted to lance corporal and taken away from the signals back to my
coy. I could not believe it at first as Willie was in the same lot and as he was bigger and a lot
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older. I took it for granted it was him but the sergeant major soon put me right. Well after that I
never looked back. I joined the NCO class and passed my exam for sergeant and got my
corporal strips and in 3 years I was a full sergeant with a section of 25 men under me and I was
just 18. The youngest sergeant in the 3rd Black Watch. I still have my certificate to prove it.
Willie became my corporal. The joke was the two chaps who left because I was so young
rejoined and were placed in my section and had to take their orders from me. I just loved the job
and could really drill a company of 100 men. And the best thing was as a sergeant I had my
uniform all made to measure. With my red sash and sidearms I sure cut a dash.
But I am getting ahead of myself. By this time I had been going to Saturday night dances in a
little hall in the murrygate. The crowd I went with were all much older than me. There was
Willie, Jim Foreman, Pat Grant, Jack Campbell and a lot of others. They were really Willies pals
but I soon became one of the gang. But I was too shy to ask a girl to dance with me. Still I got
along somehow. Until I met a chap named Alise Ireland in the Black Watch he seemed to like
my company and were soon pals. Now he was a small thin chap with a big nose and anything
but good looking but he could get the girls. They all fell for him in a big way. He just treated
them rough and they loved it. I learned a lot about girls form him and could pick and choose.
But I still loved my books and lectures. Our crowd had meantime shifted to a bigger dance hall
the City Assembly Rooms. It was here I got into my first gang fight. Willie and I arrived early
at the dance hall and he took a partner for the first waltz. I stood in the doorway awaiting the rest
of the crowd. It seems Willie bumped into one of another crowd and they started to fight. They
were told by the MC to settle it outside. I did not know what happened until he told me he had a
fight on and he and his opponent were headed for the street. Behind him were the other crowd
and I knew what that would mean. Willie was going to be beaten up. So I stepped in front of
them and said let the two go outside and settle it and we stay here. I was asked who the hell was
going to stop them. They were all older and bigger than but you don’t think of that when your
brother is in danger so I said I will. The next thing I knew was that punches and kicks were
coming from everywhere however I grabbed one by the throat and hung on while they laid about
me. I am not sure what happened in the next few minutes. The girls told me afterwards that
some men chased the gang away. I was helped to my feet dazed and bleeding. I forgot all about
Willie and the fight and headed for home for I was in a mess.
After a wash up the worst of my scars was a big black eye. So I got hold of a piece of beef that
we had for Sunday dinner and lay back on the chair with this on my eye. Now here was a laugh,
I had not pulled down the blind and a lady who lived upstairs named Bruce I was always a
favorite of hers. She looked in the window and saw me there with a lump of beef on my face.
She screamed that Geordie Hall was murdered. I had to laugh sore as I was. Now back to the
dance hall. After finishing me off that gang went after Willie they tripped him up and kicked
him in the face amongst other things. He was knocked unconscious and left in a dark doorway.
Soon after this our own crowd arrived at the dance hall and were told what had happened. They
went crazy. The other gang had cleared off so our lads searched around until they found Willie
and got him on his feet. Then they started looking for the kid. Well they came all the way to our
home and then went looking for that other crowd but they never came near that dance hall again.
I have been in quite a few of those scraps since then but never took such a beating up. Some of
them were really funny. Like the one we had in a brister stall in the market where the whole
thing folded up and fell in on us and the woman in charge attacked the other gang with a big pan
and chased them away. We had to whip round to pay her for the mess. But I could go on forever
telling stories. One last one we were talking to some girls in the Greenmarket when one of those
Page 17
females tried to pick up John Campbell. She would not go away and he pushed her. She
staggered back and fell right over a staff full of crockery. When she was dragged out her skirt
was gone and she had only her blouse and a pair of those long knickers on. The crowd chased
her round the Market and we skinned out the other direction. The fights mostly started in pubs
where there was a room set apart for singing. We were a rough crowd in those days. Somehow
or other I did not belong to all this. I used to go off on my own. To the theatre or to some band
concert. And was much more at home listening to the debates at the Albert Square or in the
reading rooms. But somehow I always got back with the gang and in the end suppose just as bad
as the rest.
The volunteers was my greatest pleasure, as a sergeant I could go to any of the other units
dances. So at the 1st Black Watch dances I used to meet my uncle Jim and his wife and Cissie.
We were both sergeants I was proud to be up ends with him on that score. Strangely enough
when in camp at Barry as usual My father father turned up as a sergeant in the HLI so there were
three of us. He told me that the boos of my tile laying firm had written to him saying he would
like me to come back to my job and would count all the time I had been absent on to my
apprenticeship. I could not have been too bad. In the meantime I had left the job in the reeling
flat and was now on a bobber barrow in a copurnding flat. I now had 16/6 a week and got myself
a bike on the weekly payment system. After some months I got fed up with it and wanted to
send it back to the firm who owned it. But Willie who used it almost as much as me offered to
take it on and to pay the weekly instalments. So I handed it over. After two month I got a nasty
letter form the firm saying no payments had been for two months. Willie had not paid a cent.
Well that was our Willie he made life very hard for me at times. He had some nasty habits and
was still the Bully he had always been so I was not too upset when he left home during one of
our mothers drinking spells. He went to live with Pat Grant. Before he left Jim Foreman got
him a job at the Dundee Advertisers office. In the machine room on night work but he just
would not go to work. He slept all day all night too and in the end he got the sack. I was doing
all right at my barrow job. We had a nice foreman for a change. When the chap who had the
other half of the flat to keep in bobbers fell ill he asked me if I would try to do the two jobs until
he came back and so keep the job open for him. I agreed if I got the two pay packets. So for a
fortnight I did the two jobs and as the other job paid 18/6 I sure made some extra.
Now about this time the Volunteers were scraped and the territorials took their place our unit was
disbanded. So that ended that spell. Now I can’t remember just the proper order of happenings
so I will tell of things as they come to my mind. After the Army spell I fancied the Naval
volunteers but after a few drills with them especially on at boat drill I got fed up and did not sign
on. They could not pull an oar and our boat drifted with the tide. Now I had taught myself to
row and manage one all by myself so those nitwits made me sick. I also taught myself to swim
when I found out all our crowd could swim. I made up my mind to learn. Without anyone
helping me so by getting gout of my depth and paddling back to safety I finally found I could do
the breast stroke. I just hated asking anyone to help me. To be independent was my whole life
and I suppose now at 73 it will be till the end. It brings a lot of grief and pain but if that is how
you are made there is not much you can do about it. When I was 16 the crowd started to drink
and as a matter of course I joined in. But did not like beer a little bit and I think my drink must
have been one of the first cocktails it was whiskey and port wine. We called it a taper. But I
would have preferred a drop of ginger wine. But I had to keep in step with the others. About
this time our old Colour Sergeant came after me to join a company of the Army Service Corps
that was being formed. I was not too keen until he promised me two stripes and assured me that
Page 18
we would be taught to ride a horse. My mind went back to the Inniskilling Dragoons. We had a
nice dress uniform and spurs that jingled. So I got busy learning all I could about horses. When
we went into camp at Barry as usual. They made me orderly corporal. As I seem to have been
the only one who could be trusted out on the road on horseback. So I had some nice trips into
Carnoustie for the Mail. And I did fall off at least once. But it was great fun. This was a much
nicer crowd than the Black Watch. I did not have one scrap all the time.
I must return to the Black Watch days. We had some real rough chaps who took some handling.
I remember chasing one around the camp with a drawn bayonet. Willie just stopped me in time
and we had some real rough houses. In which Jim Petrie and Willie were very useful. Willie
was now a corporal and had charge of a tent. One morning we had eggs fried for breakfast.
Willie was serving them out one chap said he got a very small egg. Willie said if you are not
pleased you can the lot and crowned him with the pan. He looked funny with the eggs and
grease running down his face. Another time he asked a man to move out of the way for the
orderly to clean up the tent he refused and Willie hit him and knocked him out. To save Willie
getting a court marshal Patrie arranged with the chap to fight it out kidding him on that he could
beat Willie. Well he bit the dust again and Willie kept his stripes. I missed most of the rough
and tumble being a sergeant and eating in the sergeants mess. But one more story. I was put in
charge of about fifty who did not know Willie and I were brothers and Willie was my corporal.
Some of them used to grumble to Willie about having to take orders from a kid. Willie turned on
them and said “If you don’t do as he tells you I will knock your bloody blocks off.” It is strange
that he should fade away as soon as he got married and became a shadow of his old self. He
knocked me about a lot but would not let anyone else do it. Now when Willie went to stay at Pat
Grant’s home our mother was really hitting the high spots and had made friends with some
people who lived at Newborough and another lot who lived a Couper Angus. We seldom saw
her at weekends. And with John Thompson always around things were none too happy at home.
But as I only came home for meals and bed it did not affect me as much as Willie. Anyhow
when I was left alone it suited me fine. Looking after myself was nothing new for me. I had
done it since I was 8 years old. However back to my story. Jim Foreman the big redhaired chap
who had been Willies pal got friendly with me and we palled up together. It was him who got
Willie his job at the Advertiser Office. When he learned that I had already worked in a
newspaper office in Glasgow he offered to speak to Mr. Tomson the boss in the Dispatch
Department for me. Well he did so and the result was that I got a job there. And was I glad to
leave the mill for the last time. How I hated working in the jute mills. The pay was only 15/- a
week to start and I was getting 16/6 in the mill but that did not matter in the least. The job at the
Advertiser suited me fine. It was hard work and I never let hard work upset me. In fact I cant’
remember having a soft job all my life. I still went to my lectures and was reading more books
than ever. Mainly on Travel, History and Biography. I did not care much for fiction except
when founded on fact. And we had moved up at the dance halls. The girls were keen to get
dancing in our set. And life was getting a bit rosy. I think it was around this time that I first met
Jenny. At first it was her friend who interested me. But later we got together and I liked her
simple ways. The first night I took her home her mother who was drunk gave me a real showing
up telling me to clear off etc. This made me very sorry for Jenny and as you now pity is akin to
We had a very stormy wooing. Once my brother in Law to be jumped on me on my way home
one evening. And although he tore my shirt almost off my back he never came back for a second
dose. Jenny’s home was even worse than ours. Just enough furniture to get by with. And her
Page 19
mother was a terror. While the rest of the family were real wicked. I just could not leave her to
their mercy. So we got married and although we had not a cent and our clothes were all on tick
we were happier than we had ever been. Poor Jenny knew nothing of housekeeping and as my
pay was very small it was a struggle. But I was sure I would make a better job of it than our
parents had done. And at least hoped our family would not be ashamed of us.
Well now you can judge for yourselves. I made a lot of mistakes and paid dearly for them. But I
am not ashamed of my past life. I could have done better but I could have done a lot worse. It
has been a long journey from that single room in Bernard St. With five of us. And our little
bungalow in Hythe and to me it seemed like one long battle.
I do hope that the rest will be a quiet peaceful time and I hope all our family prosper and have
happy lives. We give them our blessing.
The end
George Watson Hall

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I've decided to give up writing.

It's been a long time since I have posted anything here. However in the past couple of days I have been thinking and decided to give up writing.

Any further writing I do will be strictly for my own amusement and I will only post it in very rare cases.

Why would I do that when normally I enjoy writing. It's simple really. I have found that when I write or even talk of events in my life there are some people who swear those things do not happen. Perhaps I am senile and imagining what has happened in my life. Repeating myself several times does not help.

So for those of you who did enjoy those things which I in the past I chose to write thank you.I had considered writing a set of memoirs or perhaps an autobiography. However since I'm apparently not qualified too as I don't know what I have done ie that doesn't happen. I won't be writing such a thing or anything else of any kind of personal historical items at all. After all it is not like am writing so descendents to know what my life was like as I have none. From a Darwinian point of view I am a complete failure. My genes have not been passed on. Whatever I was or was not passes on when I do.

Once again thanks to those who did enjoy what little writing I did and may have found any use in it.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Proust Questionaire

A friend sent this to me and I found it very interesting in helping me examine myself. I'd recommend it to anyone. When I got it I had expected it would take a long time to answer. Was surprised when my response completed was sent back only about 20 minutes later. Think the main thing was to be honest, makes for quick and revealing answers.

MARCEL PROUST was a French writer who believed that people must know and understand themselves before they could know or understand others. He developed a list of subjective questions that he felt would help reveal to people their true selves and the inner personalities of those around them.

Respond to the questions in any manner you choose, briefly or at length. The point is to be honest with yourself. Some questions may require a few minutes of reflection, but many are best answered by recording the first thought that enters your head.


That John Lennon was right and there is no heaven. Get there or not it's a worthy Goal.


Hopeful but with challenges to be over come.


Enjoying a good movie or television series I missed while growing up


Hannibal Barca


My Father


Mike the Computer in Heinlein's " The moon is a harsh mistress "\


Father, Grandfathers, some of my military leaders, a couple VC winners I was Lucky Enough to meet. Save for Dad most now passed on


My Mind but there are times I think I've lost or at least misplaced it.


Teaching Climbing in Banff in 74 and studying it there in71


Can sometimes talk to much


Same answer as the one above this one.


Arrogance. I don't mind pride but Arrogance is false pride. I.e. I'm proud of being something I had no control over.


Collecting books and movies I like


I hopefully haven't made it yet, don't know where or when.


I'm missing some front teeth due mostly to a childhood illness, However I wear a mustache and most people are not aware I smile with my eyes rather then grin. I find dentures uncomfortable and destroy the taste of food.


My Mind, I'm often given too much credit I don't feel is deserved. Sometimes I do deserve it but no one is on all the time.


National Security or to avoid hurting someone's feelings. Not sure which is more important.




If I did I would no longer be the me I now am. I would however like to no longer be ill, sick, disabled call it what you wish. I'd like to have my health back. Mental and Physical.\


Hopefully it has not happened yet.


The mountains closely followed by the woods so in the woods in the mountains.


Good manners


Also Good manners




Dependability within reasonable limits. I.E. Don't help me at cost to yourself of any significant amount.


1st choice in aid or defense of others. Second peacefully painlessly in my sleep, Owing no one and leaving something to others.


I don't think it would matter. Hopefully as something which could and would do some good in the world.



The most useful inspirational book ever written ( yet to be written ) and of use to the most people


The motto's of the four scouting groups. Beaver's ( Sharing ), Cubs ( Do your Best ), Scouts ( BE PREPARED ), Rovers ( Service )From the song by Edith Piaf


Only easy question here. William Graham Tolland III, My Maternal Grandfather now passed on but never forgotten.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sorry for the being last then prolific

I apologize for not writing lately. There is a reason. The computer I use for email and things like blogging is in a part of the apartment I don't Air Condition ( don't want to risk overload old wiring and I do air condition the other half of the place so I'm mainly catching up on old tv and movies I missed for various reasons growing up and working mostly afternoon shift. Some of the stuff I have found is from before I was born and I'm close to 60 ) In fact I estimate if I just watched the old stuff I have for 10 hours a day it would take me 2 years to watch it all ( you should see my DVD collection ) some very rare stuff I have had to find and download.

Anyway the heat here has been record breaking and persistent. July had 18 days with high temperature warnings ( usually accompanied by smog which really doesn't apply here, UV and Pollen count warnings ) If anyone does have to go out. Zinc Oxide is very cheap sells in the baby section for $2 a bottle or less and is the main ingredient in most sun blocks. By itself is SPF 100 it is what professional climbers use. If you don't know the SPF rating is the number of minutes you can spend in the sun before it is equal to one minute without any kind of sun block. You may notice in climbing movies about very high altitudes they have white under their eyes. That is thick Zinc Oxide as high up there is less atmosphere to have filtered out the UV. I once saw someone get 3rd degree burns in 20 minutes because he decided to get a tan not realizing how intense the UV was at 11,000 feet and having lots of it reflected back as well as we were surrounded by Glaciers.

So in a nutshell Zinc Oxide cheap, effective non toxic and also good for diaper rash.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

About time right

It has been a long time since I blogged anything. I need to be in a decent mood to blog while I often have been those days I was not in the mood for writing. My apologies, I should write more. Today will be just be a few things. Things I do that I think make my life better and therefore should pass on. 1. A friend asked me what I used for inspiration and after mentioning the scriptures ( and they don't have to be from my own religion. In fact one of the tenants of my own religion is that is something is good it comes from God so make it your own ). However the topic changed and like the idiot ( or ID Ten T error which is if you take a look spells idiot just doesn't sound insulting. Till they get it and by then you usually get a laugh ) What I was trying to say as the friend mentioned not liking self help books in general was this. Get a book of quotations. The best one you can or even a few. Then go through it with a highlighter and mark any you think uplifting or useful under any conditions. I also like to collect military insults because there is much truth in them. My favorite is " Brechin, no one is totally useless you can always serve as a horrible example " This despite never placing less than in the top 3 on any course and once placing 1st nation wide. Two. pocket or belt for men purse. Get yourself the best multitool you can. If the knife blade does not lock cut it off and also carry a knife with a locking blade. a blade that can slip is very dangerous. For a woman they should be in a purse. Also for a woman if you think you are being followed open the knife and carry it. However a can of spray on deordorant is better than mace in the eyes. Soldiers are trained to ignore CS or CN gas CS is military grade tear gas CN is police grade. No one I know of can ignore the deodorant. Or carry a spice jar of the hottest spices you know of I include washabi the powder kind you can find in a sushi section plus hot powdered peppers label it hot wing spice and pour some in my hand. If needed throw in face very effective. Also not illegal anywhere ( mace is illegal in Canada except for the Army it has been replaced by pepper spray for the police except in riot situatons. Thats all for today Sid

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gross Domestic Product.

In these days of bank collapse, Nation's overburdened by debt I think we should for a side step and hopefully laugh.

I one got a friend Monogrammed toilet for Christmas. I feel this may well qualify as Canada's gross domestic product.

For the states like rubber dog poop.

for Scotland it may well be Haggis ( which is actually my favorite food.

So anyone got any other ideas for GDP for any country?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Science Future

A fall had a friend and I discussing changes in science in our life times. I mentioned my Dad who has trouble walking now has one of those buttons you wear around your neck. He has used it once when he fell and couldn't get back up. Think it was a case of most things in the bathroom are very smooth and he kept slipping. An ambulance was sent and they got him up and checked he hadn't injured himself.

We have all heard the expression " Help I've fallen and I can't get up " it's most often used as joke by people drinking. However not many know why the saying is well known. It was the first works spoken on the first 911 call. Back then you had to give your address etc. Now it appears on their screen before they can even answer. if you use a Cell phone even if you don't use gps the gps chip activates when you dial 911 and sends them your location. Don't worry if you can't speak keep the line open as an open line with no voice is top priority even ahead of someone who mentions murder. They assume you can't speak for any of a variety of good reasons.

However we spoke of what is to come. Many things which were science fiction when we were kids are not only common today but more advance then dreamed of then. I predict as the population ages and medical monitoring improves we may wear something like a watch which will monitor vital functions. Something goes wrong they may call you to tell you say blood sugar has gone high or low. Heart is too fast etc but if you hit a button or can't answer help may be sent. The funny looking belt buckles in the first Star Trek movie were supposed to serve that function you only know if you read the book they left it out of the movie but later series episodes had away team vitals monitored and beamed back if something happened. It's also in the new movie. At the start when the Captain beams to the Romulan ship the monitor his vitals.

The aging population is likely going to have devices we don't have now. A blood test can tell you sugar levels for months or if you have ever had a heart attack even if you didn't realize it. A device can measure antioxidant levels in your system a good indicator of Cancer risk. At the hospital blood oxygen levels are tracked with a laser led on your finger. I'm sure much more is to come and in time it will become first things we can track at home as I do my Heart rate and Blood pressure and blood sugar but something which will track them constantly. First something we can tell the doctor in time something which tracks us all the time and tells us something is wrong and what.

Just my view of some of the writ ting I see on the wall

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Male Potpourri

The other day a friend and I came back from walking the dog and had picked up some dog treats. Coming in winter you tend to notice changes in scents more, my Mom always had a potpourri going. They tend to be floral but while nice isn't very masculine. When we opened the pack to give the dog a treat instantly the whole room was filled with the smell of bacon. It gave the two of us an idea. Aside from walking into a bakery one of the nicest smells is to walk in on the smell of home cooking. Now bacon treats at low levels are property of the dog. If something falls on the floor it's property of the dog. I think most folks with dogs tend to follow that custom. So how would one create a home cooking smell?

A tack and hanging a bacon scented dog treat like mistletoe does the trick lasts a few days which is longer than potpourri and when you take it down the dog still wants it. Only problem is so far Bacon is the only smell I have come up with. Have no desire for Tuna but if other ways to imitate home cooking or even better fresh baking can be done I'd love to hear your suggestions.