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Life as a Scot in California

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Early Catbow Memories

Posted by berkeleyscot on June 26, 2009

For the first four years of my life in the Catbow I knew only Mam, Dad, Granny and Granda the neighbours and relatives who lived close by. I did not know they were not my relatives and added ‘Auntie’ or ‘Uncle’ to their names.

I was aware of my surroundings, from a very early age and understood much more than I could articulate.

I knew that Dad and Granda went to sea during the week and sometimes were away for longer.  Mam and Granny each had their ‘own ends’ of the house, but Mam did most of the work in the house. They didn’t have an easy relationship and I know that Mam wanted a house of her own.

I was aware of the tension between them. Dad seemed unable or unwilling to do anything about it and just tried, ineffectually, to keep the peace.  Granda didn’t get involved at all. First World War guns had rendered him completely deaf and communication was difficult.

I spent a lot of time with adults and didn’t play with children of the neighbourhood very often. I couldn’t keep up with their active games and I fell a lot. I didn’t know I had cerebral palsy and figured that out for myself later. Dad used to say I had ‘a weakness.’

They did their best for me, but they had limited resources.

So this was how ‘OorMargit’ began, sitting on a creepie by the fireside, in the evenings, listening to the neighbours’ gossip and stories.

I absorbed everything they said and learned to speak the Doric before I learned to speak English.

On the left is me in 1953 in the Catbow before the road was made in 1963. On the right I’m posing for a professional photographer who came to the house.

Catbow 1953Posing in 1954


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