With Scotland full to bursting as tourists from every part of the world take advantage of the weak Brexit pound it has been difficult to find accommodation for our few days away.
The west coast in particular is under pressure so we dumped our plans to introduce Helen to the over-used NC500 route around the north of Scotland and headed north and east to The Land that Time Forgot in search of the wooden hut I was born in during a howling March snowstorm over seventy five years ago. My two older brothers have tried to find the hut and failed so I didn’t hold out much hope of stumbling across it either.
This thumbnail photo taken in 1942 with me in my father’s arms and my non-impressed older brothers – two years old Jim and four years old Charlie has the hut for a background.
The hut looked sort of ‘well worn’ back then so I doubt very much if it would have lasted the intervening seventy five years till now. The old man was on leave from his regiment in ’42 prior to being posted to the Mediterranean war zone and had a lot to go through before he would return to us unscathed in 1946.
Judging by our smart new clothes his demob pay would appear to have gone a long way and there’s a bit of ‘army discipline’ evident with our normally unruly hair brushed and bryllcreamed into submission —
The only bedroom to be found for our four nights away was the one with the four-poster where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert rested on the night of Sept 4th 1860 – exactly one hundred and fifty seven years ago. All good Queen Vic left behind was the bed – the wallpaper and a picture of herself looking very regal —
A quick ‘shufty’ outside showed that things hadn’t changed much in these parts either for I can remember pulling a two furrow trailing plough with one of these old Fordson tractors when I was sixteen years old —
Ah – the grey Fergie – going even further back I ‘drove’ a petrol/paraffin version of this as well —
Fortunately for me my new-found friend was steeped in tractor lore and was able to explain the starting procedure for the single cylinder Field Marshall similar to the one my dad drove in the early nineteen fifties. My memory has my dad whacking a cartridge with a hammer to start her but my new buddy tells me there was much more to it than that.—
First you turn the flywheel by hand to put the piston at top dead centre – then there was more fiddling – probably with a decompressor before inserting said cartridge – give it a good whack with the hammer and if god is in his heaven she will burst into life!
Who would have thought way back then that wee Danny Finnie would grow to a height that would make a big Field Marshall look small —
The simple little red Massey Ferguson 35 was to be the last tractor I drove before leaving the farms for a job in engineering —
They transformed the workplace on the farm and I couldn’t believe it when the whole manufacturing process was sold and moved en-bloc to the former Yugoslavia. Even to this day every small farm in Croatia has an as-new Massey Ferguson 35 working in the fields and I believe they are still produced – around Zagreb.
Still with the vintage theme – there were Morris Minors galore on the street —
An occasional Triumph —
matched with a very tidy MGA —
and so on —
and so forth —
My favourite was the Toyota Stout similar to the one I drove in Dubai a long time ago. I think it had only three speeds plus a high/low box – with very wide balloon tyres running at low pressures she was the best thing I ever came across to tackle the seventy miles of sand dunes and dry wadi beds through the inhospitable mountains between Dubai and Al Fujiera —
Helen had bumped into an old Sherpa friend from her time in the Himalayas – Nima Kanchha Sherpa to be precise —
I resorted to playing ‘tunes’ on the singing bowls to get her on her way or we would have been there all day – for I had found the impossible – a Helen sized car —
It was a surprise to find something modern – a UFO had arrived overnight from who knows where —
A three wheeler based on motorcycling principals – it tilts up to forty five degrees either side when cornering —
Didn’t I tell you – UFO – I understand they are all the rage in Jupiter —
Enough of motor cars n stuff – we had a train to catch and go find our missing wooden hut —
We were offered this beach hut but the paint looked too fresh to be the one we were looking for —
Our route took us over the heather and pine clad hills —
to Strathdon – I could tell we were getting close to my birthplace when even the village was named after me —
Here running is their thing and one passing athlete offered to take our photo while he jogged on the spot with me holding his gundog on the lead – it kept running too – oh how we laughed —
A snippet of ordnance survey map given to me by a friend many many years ago had survived under lock and key with my passports and was my secret weapon. My old buddy Ronnie was also from this area originally and had marked a spot on the map to within a few yards of where I was born —
A chance meeting with a former neighbour – ninety two years old Annie Bain put us in the right direction as she seen our old woodcutter’s hut burn down while standing at her back door. It was shortly after my mum – brothers and I had left the area and my dad had gone off to fight a war. Annie was seventeen at the time and said it had gone up in flames when a paraffin stove was accidentally kicked over by it’s new occupant who had come home from a village dance slightly worse for wear after too many drams.
The old farm steading next to the site of our old wooden shed was converted into a beautiful home by it’s current occupant Paul several years later —
and after tea and cake at his kitchen table Paul kindly showed us where this double garage now sits on the site of my birthplace —
Could have been worse I suppose —
Being born into an old woodcutter’s hut in a forest with grass growing up between the floorboards and a wild March snowstorm raging outside then seventy five years later sleeping in a queen’s four poster – can’t really complain now can I 🙂