In 1939, unknown to the children, Granny had been feeling unwell for some time. Eventually Auntie Annie and Mum persuaded her to have the Doctor come and see her. He wanted her to go to the Western Infirmary in Glasgow and eventually she agreed. We were all a bit upset. She was found to have something wrong in her abdomen and had to have an operation and a stoma. The ‘girls’ were told she might survive for about 6 months. Mum took me once to see her briefly from the ward door, as children weren’t allowed to visit then. Grandaddy was lost without her but Annie, who had no children, looked after him and we spent time at the Toll as did Mary and Kate. Nothing was the same though, without Granny. Eventually she came home and, while not so energetic as before, she coped with things. She no longer got down on her knees to wash the floor and make the chalk design round the edges of the scullery but used a mop instead.
The Doctor was wrong about the 6 months and Granny died in 1949 when she was 83! As the War advanced, and more stuff was rationed, Annie had a tough job keeping them supplied with coal. It was the only means of cooking and they had always been used to having the fire on all year round. The Toll had no gas or electricity, so Annie had to grovel every so often before whoever dealt with the Fuel and plead their case. She was sorely tried sometimes but worked wonders, and I don’t remember them ever being without coal or a load of wood. Grandparents who didn’t buy many clothes or sweeties were a big help to mothers of growing children by handing over some clothing coupons now and again!
Sometime later when I was with Granny one day, she said to me that she was like a bairn now and had to be sorted. Not knowing what she meant I went to the source of all knowledge. Mum told me what a stoma was and what the sorting bit meant. It seemed awful to me but, as Mum said, the alternative was worse. Granny was a strong woman and survived all these years till she became ill and again was in the Western. By then we lived in Greenock and had Ben, a golden retriever. I asked my boss if I could bring him to work with me and he agreed. So while Mum and her sisters were going to Glasgow most days, Ben travelled in the bus to Kilmacolm with me and lay quietly under my desk till lunch time and again till home time. I don’t think anyone but the staff ever knew he was there!
After Granny died the days of the Toll were numbered. Grandaddy couldn’t look after himself, always having depended on his wife. First he stayed with Annie and Bob in Greenock, but he missed the Village so he went to Kate and Stewart and I was able to see him at lunchtime. He just seemed out-of-place. Eventually Kate arranged for him to go into a home at Bridge of Weir and he died peacefully in 1956 shortly before his 89th birthday.
It was the end of an era for the Sinclair family. The Toll House was demolished some years later, which seemed to us to be vandalism as it was one of the few left. Annabel met a member of Kilmacolm Historical Society who said if their Society had been in existence at the time they would certainly have tried to save it. Even though the Bridgend Toll House is no longer there, Annabel and I still hold it in our hearts along with happy memories of all the family and friends who gathered there when we were young.
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal but leaves a memory no one can steal. (Quoted in Life and Work, seen on a headstone somewhere in Ireland.)