Tag Archives: Spanish Civil War

Just for a change, a little bit about me, my father, cold Scotland & the Cold War

Me (aged 1) with father near home in Campbeltown, Scotland

Me (aged 1) with father near home in Campbeltown, Scotland

Of course, my recent blogs from the Edinburgh Fringe just skimmed the surface. I was seeing around 6-8 shows per day for three-and-a-half weeks. I realised halfway through that I should, perhaps, have included a list of the shows I had seen with, perhaps, at least three adjectives on each.

Perhaps next year.

I had been going to blog today about Machete Hettie, one of the comedy acts who turned up at The Grouchy Club and who I went to see perform in Leith on Sunday. I wrote about her last year .

But I do not have the time today.

I have to go up to the Highlands and meet a man at a post code.

He – under the circumstances, quite reasonably – has not suggested a specific meeting place. Just a time and a post code which covers an area. And then we will find each other by chatting on mobile phones. I can see he might not want to say he will be at a specific place at a certain time, under the circumstances.

I am leaving Edinburgh around 8.15am (just before the draconian parking restrictions start at 8.30am).

This is earlier than I need to, which will leave me spare time.

I might go to Lossiemouth on the way up or the way back.

Lossiemouth in the north east of Scotland

Lossiemouth in NE Scotland – the beaches are better than this

My eternally-un-named friend partly grew up in Lossiemouth… as well as Malta, Cyprus, West Germany, Northern Ireland etc. Her father was in the RAF. Lossiemouth was/is an RAF base. She remembers the idyllic sandy beaches at Lossiemouth – and also clothes freezing on the washing line in winter.

I grew up partly in Aberdeen, not too far away. I remember the idyllic sandy beaches and sand dunes when I was a child. We lived in Mastrick, a council estate on a hill where, in winter, my mother used to wear an overcoat when she made the beds on cold winter mornings.

My father ran away from his home in Wigtownshire to join the Royal Navy in 1936, just in time for the Spanish Civil War in which we allegedly took no official part, though he remembered his ship dropping off individual men near the coast of Spain who made their own solitary way to land.

He was a radio operator on Navy ships. He was based in Malta in World War Two and, after the War, he got a job with a company which supplied marine radar to fishing boats. The radar bounced off the sea bed and showed up any shoals of fish. He was originally based in Campbeltown, on the Kintyre Peninsula, where I was born.

My father in 1976 on the beach at Clacton

My father in 1976 in retirement in Clacton, England

When I was three, he was moved to a bigger part of the same company, based in Aberdeen, where I went to school. My father serviced marine radar on the fishing boats in Aberdeen and along the coast to the west – including Lossiemouth – and further north up to Wick and Thurso.

At least, I think he serviced the fishing boats in Lossiemouth. He might have gone there later.

Because, later, he moved down to his company’s headquarters in London and he used to occasionally go out ‘on site’ to inspect the company’s on-shore radar and equipment on ‘sites’. This was during the Cold War. The sites were military bases and mostly defence bunkers. He had to have security clearance – ‘positive vetting’ – for that. I think he mentioned that they had gone way back to his childhood and had talked to his schoolteachers. He knew where the entrances to the bunkers were and their layout. It was a long time ago in another world.

Machete Hettie celebrates in a Clerkenwell street last night

Machete Hettie in a London street last year

Maybe he went to Lossiemouth in that incarnation of himself rather than the fishing boat incarnation.

I have never been to Lossiemouth. So I thought I might go today.

I might take photos of where my eternally-un-named friend used to live as a teenager. But she says she can see it on Google Streetview anyway.

The world changes every day.

And the story of Machete Hettie’s adventures in Bulgaria will have to wait for another day.

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A series of coincidental accidents

My mother and father went to school together in Whithorn, a small town in south west Scotland.

They were aware of each other’s existence, but my father was a year older than my mother and in a different class, so they did not really know each other and were not friends.

My father ran away from home to join the Royal Navy, but they told him he was too young and sent him home again. A year later, when he was old enough, he did join the Navy, just in time for the Spanish Civil War. Britain was not involved, but my father’s ship took British men to the Spanish coast to go ashore in small boats at night.

A few years later, one day, during the Second World War, my father was home on leave and was walking along the main street in Whithorn. My mother was walking along the street too and saw him.

“I heard you had been killed,” she said to him.

“No,” he replied.

A few years later, they were married.

A few years after that, I was born.

If you should meet me, remember we are only there because of a long linked chain of chance encounters stretching way back to the Big Bang.

Anything can lead to anything.

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