June 21 in history

June 21, 2009

On June 21:

1644 The Scottish parliament first imposed an exise duty on alcoholic beverages: a duty of 2s 8d “on everie pynt of aquavytie or strong watteris sold within the country.” 


Obverse of the cross.

1854 Charles Davis Lucas hurled a shell from the deck of  HMS Hecla, saving the lives of all on board, for which act of bravery he was awarded the first Victoria Cross.

1957 Canada’s first female cabinet minister, Ellen Fairclough was sworn in.

1964 The Beatles landed in New Zealand


His story

April 25, 2009

My father came to New Zealand, from his home country, Scotland, in the late 1930s. He worked for relatives on a station in the Hakatarmea Valley.

 

While there he joined the Otago Mounted Rifles as a territorial. When war broke out Dad enlisted with the 20th Battalion and went overseas to fight in Egypt and Italy.

 

He was badly burnt when a tank exploded and spent a fortnight in a saline bath. He was later taken prisoner but managed to escape and find his way back to allied troops. Dad was one of the soldiers described by Battalion commander Jim Burrows as those magnificent men after the break out from Minqar Qaim.

 

He didn’t talk much about what the war was like – but we do have a photo of Dad and four others which illustrates it: They were part of the company of 120 who started the battle of Ruweisat Ridge, and those five in the photo were the only ones left on survivors’ parade at the battle’s end.

 

When his active service finished after the Battle of Casino, Dad stayed with the New Zealand army and was posted to London as a driver. One night he was called to take Lord and Lady Freyberg to the Dorchester Hotel. The only vehicle available was a three tonne truck so he put a chair in the back for the General and Lady Freyburg sat in the cab.  When he pulled up outside the Dorchester, beside Eisenhower’s car, the doorman rushed up to direct him to the tradesman’s entrance. However, Dad ignored his agitated “round the back Chum”, helped his passengers out and drove off leaving the doorman speechless.

 

After the war Dad sailed back to New Zealand. He was manpowered to the freezing works at Pukeuri where he worked 18 hour days, six days a week. Then he got an adult apprenticeship as a carpenter in Oamaru.

 

Dad died in 1999 and as I wrote on the earlier post about my mother’s memories, I have lots of questions I regret not asking him.


St Andrew’s Day

November 30, 2008

If there’s such a thing as genetic memory, it kicked in when we got to Scotland eight years ago.

It wasn’t a feeling of coming home, that’s definitely New Zealand, but there was a sense of familiarity and recognition.

The prosaic explanation for this could be similarities in the landscape which made me realise why the Scots felt at home in the southern South Island. But the romantic in me put the sense of connection down to the knowledge that this was the land from which my forbears came.

My mother’s grandfather and all her great grandparents were Scottish. My father was born and brought up there and although he moved to New Zealand in his late 20s and spent nearly three quarters of his life here and loved the land he chose, he also retained a close affinity to the land of his birth.

In many ways he became more Scottish as he aged. The kilt which was worn only when he went to Scottish Country Dancing when my brother and I were children, became a staple part of his wardrobe and his clothing of choice for semi formal and formal occasions. Even now, nearly nine years after his death I meet people who tell me they remember Charlie in his kilt, greeting them at the church door on Sundays or addressing the haggis on Burns night.

For all the great inventions and distinguished people that have come out of Scotland, St Andrew’s Day doesn’t get the recognition that St Patrick’s Day does. While I’m quite happy that it hasn’t been commercialised my tarten genes called for a post in recognition of Scotland’s patron saint.


%d bloggers like this: