Saturday, October 20, 2007

Memoirs of a Fisherman's Son - Part 1, Chapter 1

Chapter I
In the Beginning

My arrival into this world took place at 8.45 am on 13th October 1917, in Ardersier.
At that time my father, John Cameron, was an able-bodied seaman serving on mine sweepers on the Dover Patrol. My mother, Margaret Jane Ralph - known affectionately as Maggie Jane - had decided, after the honeymoon at a cousin's home in Aberdeen, to leave 13 Park Street, Nairn where she had been brought up, to 'take a room' in her husband's place of birth, Ardersier. At the date of their marriage in 13 Park Street, 12th January 1917 my Dad was 38 years old and Mum 32 years; so they were by no means 'children'. This 'room' was north-most on the upper floor of 109 High Street Ardersier a few doors along from No. 104 where my mother's sister, Isabella, lived in the home provided by her husband, Alex Davidson, also serving in the Royal Navy. They had been married before the first war - possibly 1911. The owners of my birthplace at this time were Charles Ratcliffe, a retired Seaforth Highlander, who ran a market-garden, and his dear wife whom I came to love and knew as 'Granny Ratcliffe'.

On 24th November 1917 I was baptised by the Reverend J.C. MacKay, Minister of the Free Church in Ardersier, although Mum was still a member of Rosebank United Presbyterian Church in Nairn. Auntie Bella was a member of the Free Church simply because it was the custom for wives to adopt their husband's religious denomination. My mother, who had professed her faith in Rosebank Church in 1903, and throughout her life was a dedicated Christian, no doubt sought the companionship of her sister at public worship in the Free Church. However she did not maintain this very long! In the Spring of 1918 Mr MacKay found her gathering wild flowers on a Sunday afternoon when out with me for a walk with the pram. He condemned her 'desecration of the Sabbath'! She was never one to suffer in silence and the Minister heard more than he had bargained for from one who always felt free to enjoy the beauties of God's earth and was fully able to counter his allegations with her quotations from the Gospel. To add insult to injury the sermon preached in the Free Kirk that evening contained condemnation of, and no doubt - hell-fire upon, 'sinners who desecrated the Sabbath day, not only by walking with bairns in their prams but gathering flowers from the fields'. No wonder Mum forthwith changed her allegiance to the United Free Church of which the Rev. Alexander Robertson was the much loved pastor for the whole of his ministry. He and his good lady were 'tiny folk' being, like my mother, less that 5 foot tall. They had a fairly large family all but one of whom, were quite well known outwith Ardersier. One son, Rae and his wife Ethel (Bartlett) became world renowned pianists, playing two pianos as one.

Another son, James, became a Professor in the Divinity Faculty in Aberdeen. Others were in the teaching profession and one a Parish Minister, and in my recollection, all were delightful people.

When I was of an age to be taken out on my own, old Charlie used to take me for rides on his horse drawn lorry laden with vegetables from his garden I still have vivid memories of these wonderful journeys simply looking at the horse's tail as we drove along to Fort-George and back. Charlie sold his vegetables in the village and also at the Fort. Unfortunately on one mission the weather turned very cold with breezes off the Moray Firth and I ended up in bed with double pneumonia aggravated by measles which were affecting the village children at this time. Apparently the doctor told my mother at 9 o'clock one evening that there was no hope for me, she would just have to pray. Never one to be without hope - she called Mr Robertson (who lived only 50 yards away) to join her in prayer. This he did until, to use her own words 'the crisis had passed' at 3.00 am. Early that morning the Minister arrived with a bunch of flowers from the Manse garden and he was accompanied by the doctor - Mr Robertson had walked to the north end of the village and asked the doctor to come with him to see 'the Cameron boy'. Following that illness I suffered from asthma for the next 16 years.

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