Wonderful day

There is more to say about early days, but I’m jumping ahead to the summer of 1933 when a life-changing event happened. As always, we were often at the Toll and down to Greenock to see the Stroud family on Saturdays when we would walk along the town and through Marks and Spencer and Woolworth. The town was always crammed with people then. There was a fish shop we passed which had an open window with marble slab and a great array of fish. The centrepiece was always a huge one with gaping mouth and staring eye. I was four and just big enough to see over the slab to see the monster. I sometimes wonder if the parents walked on deliberately because I did tend to lag behind looking at everything. Anyway, I was slow to move and when I turned away they had gone. I was afraid, people were passing by and coming towards me and I looked in vain for Mummy and Daddy. I just stood there helpless – much longer and I would no doubt have howled. But they came back in a minute and rescued me, so I clutched Mum’s coat and held on tight! Ross’s Dairy was also a big attraction. You could see the bakers working and the cakes were on display. We usually bought some cream sponges on the way back to Grandma’s.

Getting back to Kilmacolm – life went on as usual, shopping in the morning, out to the park and so on, but later in the summer we walked to the Toll and a taxi always came to take us home in time for Daddy coming. Towards the middle of August a Saturday came when he took me to the Toll and said to be a good girl for Granny and he’d come back later. That was fine, I had my toys and picture books and the Burn. Grandaddy and I played there for a bit and picked some watercress and I had it in a sandwich for tea. Eventually Dad came back and off we went home. Mum wasn’t in the kitchen when I ran in. Dad took me into their bedroom and she was in bed and guess what? There was a baby with her, wrapped in a white shawl. I was struck dumb then asked, “Is it ours?” Dad said “She’s your wee sister and her name is Annabella Mary Sinclair Stroud”. I was so happy I cried. It was breath-taking to have a baby sister – she was mine! Next morning, the District Nurse came to bathe Baby Annabel and I knelt alongside ‘helping’. When I was splashed, Nurse said that if Baby was going to throw water at us she might have to smack her bum. I knew it was a joke, but she said bum – that wasn’t a nice word! I suppose every family has their own taboos and that was one of Mum’s, so when we were threatened with a smack it was on our dumpy. When we needed to pass water we went to the daisy. It was probably unique but it worked for us.

Baby with Grandaddy, cousins Nettie and Isa and proud big sister

Baby with Grandaddy, cousins Nettie and Isa and proud big sister

The next few weeks were great, and Annabel soon responded to voices and would turn her head to you. I was just about bursting with pride when we went down the street with the pram and people stopped us and said what a lovely baby she was. I helped to push the pram up the Toll brae and then wheel it in the gate to the back door by myself. Babies were dressed rather differently from now. I always ‘helped’ in the morning, fetching and carrying. After the bath and the powdering, the nappies – one muslin, one terry – were put on as triangles and fastened at the front with the biggest safety-pin I’d ever seen. Then the binder, a long strip of flannel which was wound around over the navel and pinned with a tiny gold pin. A wee vest was next, handmade with baby wool which had a silky thread through it. I was there when the wool was bought and used. There were rubber pants to cover the nappies then the petticoat, flannel, home-made and down past Baby’s toes, followed by a day gown. It was lovely, made by Mum of course, and round the hem and neck and sleeves feather stitch was embroidered in pastel shades. For nightgowns the back of the gown was longer and it folded up and buttoned over tiny toes, nice and cosy. They were embroidered too. Day gowns were wrap-arounds with tapes to tie. I saw them being made too, and the penny never dropped. Long gowns were worn for months. It was fascinating to see how Baby changed in the first few weeks. She would look at me when I spoke to her so I was sure she knew my voice. Life was wonderful, but…………

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