Weddings and farewells

During the years when John and I were ‘marking time’ two of his sisters were married. Annie met Willie McQuaker when she was on holiday with her mother’s sister and family in Galloway. Willie lived with his parents and worked on a farm at that time. He was a man you couldn’t help but like, well-built and seldom anything but good-natured. They married in July 1953 at the Methodist Church with the reception at the Police Club. John came home for these events and I was invited to the weddings, too. He took a small part in Annie and Willie’s marriage service. For one of them I remember making a dress to wear. Getting married or being a guest was easier than nowadays. People just wore their best clothes, or something new that was suitable for any-time wear. There were no ‘mother of the bride/groom’ outfits and hats advertised! I remember all our family weddings as friendly, happy occasions with no special emphasis put on what people wore. Except for the bridal groups of course! Annie and Willie lived in a lovely cottage in Auchencairn. They had a wee girl, Helen, in December 1954 followed by a boy, John, in August 1956. Helen and John both now live in Castle Douglas. They found lovely partners. Helen’s husband is Ian Wemyss and they have a daughter Laura. John is married to Pamela and they have Jennifer, who recently got married, and Simon. Willie died, aged 79, in 2004 and Annie died in 2010, also aged 79. They are still sadly missed.

Elspeth and Ian

Elspeth and Ian

Elspeth met Ian McKay in Greenock and they married in March 1954. He was another great acquisition for the Mitchell family: friendly, helpful and a hard worker. Their marriage was in Martyrs and North Church of Scotland, which I think was in Westburn Square, reception again in the Police Club. Ian’s mother and brother had earlier emigrated to Australia, and by the following year he and Elspeth decided to follow them as ‘£10 poms.’ By then he was a railway engineer, so was the kind of young immigrant Australia needed. I was one of those who helped Elspeth to pack the huge cabin trunk they had bought. There were lots of tablecloths and bedding and small items which were easily packed, but larger items had to be left behind. It travelled in the ship’s hold. It wasn’t luxury travel by any means, but it got them where they wanted to be at low cost. They set off in August 1955, no doubt full of hopes and fears. It was a sad time for Elspeth’s parents, especially knowing it might be forever. They took a while to establish themselves and get jobs but eventually bought a house and seemed settled.

Thinking of parents’ sense of loss brought a memory to mind. When Annabel was still at school she and I would walk down to Princes Pier to see the big liners that came in quite often (considerably smaller than the present-day tour ships.) Several times there were folk saying farewell to their families before embarking on their way to a new country. There were so many people suffering such anguish as they saw their child walk away from them and going on board the ship. The awful finality of it struck us hard, and we remembered our grandparents who had lost two daughters to Canada and one to Australia. We usually ended up with tears streaming from our eyes in sympathy. We did see Elspeth and Ian again but more of that later.

I’ve already said how much I enjoyed my work in Kilmacolm where there were people I could visit. The rest of my time was pretty well filled up too. Occasionally, Mum and I would have an outing with Doig’s Bus Company. They operated in Greenock and had day tours which we enjoyed. One I remember was the Five Lochs, and another the Trossachs – I can’t remember the others. I was around the two Methodist Churches a fair bit. The Wesley Guild at Ardgowan and at Roxburgh Street, with John’s mother, the meeting called Bright Hour or something similar. And on Sunday, of course, plus being a Sunday School teacher and Secretary of the JMA I attended Ardgowan in the morning and Roxburgh in the evening. If the Superintendent was preaching at both places I got the same sermon twice! He said it served me right for following the preacher.

I went out with friends, over at Marion’s, and went to the pictures with Annabel occasionally. I enjoyed being at home with Mum, just being social while plying my needle. I bought plain pillow slips and embroidered the ends, same with sheets. I bought some lengths of ecru linen and made them into large tablecloths. Then I embroidered them and they looked great. They were well used when we married and every wash made them a little lighter in colour until they were cream. I gave one to each of our girls eventually so I hope they have kept them!

On Saturday nights there was always a full length play on the wireless and we all listened. There were good music programmes of all kinds, comedy shows and lots of other interesting things. On the few occasions I’ve been to a cinema in the last few years I’ve never felt a thrill just walking in. Most of the Picture Houses when I was young were luxurious places full of colour and ‘sumptuousness’ and filled you with anticipation for the great film you were going to see. Plus a second feature and a short comedy film and the News Reel. All for 1/6 (one shilling and sixpence). Might be about £3 to 4 now. Changed days! Anyway time rolled on till 1955 when we started planning our weddings which evolved into a double wedding. The long trail was getting much shorter and the end was almost in sight……………


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