Mrs Elizabeth B Mackay

Attribution: not recorded or unknown

Muir of Ord locals

The account which follows was written by Elizabeth Beatrice MacKay (nee Cameron) when she was approaching her 90th year and is reproduced by courtesy of her son, John C Mackay.

Betty Cameron was born at Dunellan, Muir of Ord, on 25 November 1909, one of a family of four of Duncan Cameron and his wife Helen, her sisters being Christina Mary (Molly), Helen (Nelly), Isabella Florence (Florry) and brother Duncan Murdoch (Duncan).

We were a very happy family, respecting each other and having good fun. Father was always busy in the shop; we thought a lot of him. He was Chief Elder in the old UF Church, Seaforth Road, and we knew a lot of ministers there. He was also JP for Ross-shire. My Mother was very popular in the village. Folks came to her for advice in their troubles and she was always willing to help.

We all attended Tarradale Primary School, which was next door to us so we hadn’t far to walk. Mr Alex Fowler was headmaster but he was called up during the 1914-18 war, so Mr Maclean (Old Kenny) came back. My mother used to teach with him before she married but at this time there were three lady teachers from infant room upwards: Miss Paris, Miss Urquhart and Miss Mackenzie.

If you were naughty you could get a ‘pandy’ which was turning the palm of your hand towards the teacher and she would chastise you with the strap, a long piece of leather with three tails cut. My friends were Jessie Thomson, Sally Macdonald, Bella Logan, Maggie Macdonald; though having so many sisters I didn’t need friends.

I used to play Ketelie and Skipping on the pavement by the side door, mostly by myself. I collected a lot of flat stones and made them into classes. Florry played with me sometimes. There were five beds, and you had to go into each by hopping on one leg, not touching a line or putting a foot down. Then there was skipping – a rope with handles, a small one for each individual person, or a long one with one person at each end and all the pupils, 9 or 10, jumped in and over the rope. It was great fun and more sociable than by myself.

My sisters were all very good to me. They took me to school and looked after me but when I reached that age, there was no younger person to take to school so I was very delighted when Aunty Margaret allowed me to take cousin John. I thought it was great.

We all stayed in Tarradale School till the qualifying exam, or 11-plus nowadays, then went to Dingwall Academy. We went by train every morning. Molly and Nelly were very clever, Molly being top of her class most times when she vied with Tom Callocat, half-brother to Alistair (Nita’s husband). His father taught at Marybank.

Nelly composed lovely poems.

When it came to my turn, Molly and Nelly were away at St George’s in Edinburgh, so Florry and I became very close. Duncan was sort of left out, but he became very friendly with Danny Fraser, a crofter down the Black Isle Road and used to see him nearly every afternoon after school. He wasn’t very clever, but was great on elocution and drama, so mother sent him to Edinburgh where he had lessons from Alistair Sim, and was great with the local amateur drama people when he came home.

Flor and I eventually went to Inverness Royal Academy and I went to Elm(?) Park for a short while (down by the river). After that I studied at home and got my Prelim. certificate. Mother and I went to Aberdeen where I sat the exam at Marischal College. Then I went to Edinburgh to study medicine. I stayed in Muir Hall with other girls doing the same. My friend was Mavis Elliot from the Midlands.

Flor and I had fun at home. She went into the shop while I was preparing for University. We went to church affairs – choir etc. I taught in Sunday School. Nita came with me.

Before leaving Tarradale, Flor and I went twice a week to Corriemount where Mama would visit her mother and sisters, Aunty B., Bella, Teenie, Christina and Mary, who was a trained nurse with the RRC (Royal Red Cross). Granny used to sit with her shawl on by the window in the dining room. Then we would go down to feed the hens. I loved scattering the oats to them. There were two bantams, one who would fly up and perch on Granny’s shoulder to our amusement. We got biscuits and cheese. Flor didn’t like cheese so I got it all. We went out to play croquet on the front lawn. If Molly or Nelly were with us, we played tennis on the side lawn. We also explored the vegetable garden and helped ourselves to the ripe peas in the pod, which MacPhail the gardener did not approve of. There was a lovely archway between veg and flowers, two herbaceous plots which were beautiful. Uncle Willie, John’s father, was very keen on the garden; he was also musical and had a tuning fork with which he tapped a desk to get the note to start the singing in church. There was no organ then.

Aunty Teenie had a marvellous party on New Year’s Day. We got turkey and plum pudding in which there were hidden coins and favours. Afterwards, in the drawing room, we played games, charades, minister’s cat, and danced eightsomes, foursomes, etc., then sang round the piano, Uncle Willie leading us, Duncan reciting. All the family in the vicinity were there: Camerons, Forbes and anyone visiting.

John and Beatrice Forbes had three children – Tina, Ian and Donald – but they lived in London where their father was a doctor so just came North in summertime.

Donald and Chris Forbes had three daughters – Margaret, Winkie and Isobel. He was a banker in China so only came when on leave. Margaret, who was Katherine Margaret, was killed in London during the bombing. Winkie was Christine Dorothea but was always called Winkie.

William had three – John, Nita and Bunty. They were always there; we were all very friendly.

Aunty Lizzie, who was the youngest, and Uncle Willie MacLeod had five children – Hetty, Jock, Bill, Dorothy and Betty. The first three were doctors but they all died doing medical research. Dorothy is still in Inverness. Betty died of appendicitis while still a little girl.

We all enjoyed the New Year Day party and would not allow Aunty Teenie to discontinue it. She also played the piano for our singing and dancing.

The maids in our own house and Bridge Mount (Uncle Willie’s house, uphill towards the bridge) also enjoyed it as they went up to help the Corriemount maid and had a great time in the kitchen. I remember Katy, our maid, who was such a nice sensible girl.

Entertainment was cycling or walking. I loved my bike; spent most of my time going here and there. Mama’s favourite walk was down the East Old Road to Arachs Hill. We used to climb it and run down again but it is no longer there, being flattened for council houses.

On Sundays we walked round Urray and mostly met the two assistant bankers, Matheson and Guthrie, who continued their stroll with us. There was just the one stone, Forbes, in the churchyard of interest to us. Now there are so many: Duncan and Helen Cameron; Molly, widow of James Maclean; Florry, widow of David MacRae; my husband, Dan MacKay, and our dear daughter, Ann; Nelly, widow of Ian Morrison; Duncan Murdoch MacKay.

Florry was friendly with Digger Tuach. They decided to go to the choir trip. I think it was to Loch Maree. I trekked along with them. Mr Fraser, our minister, and his wife were accompanied by their two nephews and sister – Duncan, who was minister at Invergordon, and Tommy, still a student in Edinburgh, who came down to paddle with me in the loch, then asked me to come back with him and his friends in their car.

I became quite friendly with Tommy. He took me out often to the theatre, booked seats in the upper circle, usually the Lyceum, and I thought he was mean not taking me to the dress circle, which would have been miraculous on a student’s income. I think it was myself who was mean. He took me home to Muir Hall, the medic’s hostel where I stayed. He hugged me tightly in the porch before going in but I was too shy to let him kiss me. Some of the girls remarked on the poor fellow waiting in the hall and another said “Cameron’s boy” disdainfully, but I didn’t care much as I wasn’t in love with him.

When on holiday at home I used to run Nelly to Tain where she was teaching and called at the Invergordon house. Tommy came back home with me, much to Dad and Mama’s surprise and we spent the day together; another time we went to Kilmorack. Nelly came with us and we had a nice time, only three wasn’t very enjoyable for Nell. Afterwards we split up. He got another girl and I got Dan. I remember meeting Mrs Fraser on the way to shop at Forbes’. She told me very apologetically that Tommy was engaged, but as Dan had just showed me our own engagement ring, no one was hurt.

I didn’t stay long in Muir Hall. I got digs in Spottiswood Street, had a very nice landlady who was so good to me when I developed appendicitis and was taken to hospital. I remember Dad and Nelly coming to see me.

I stayed there for quite a while and used to meet Aunty Bea, who was working as a nurse in Edinburgh. We had nice times together but I’m afraid I was always late for our appointments. However, I grew to love her very much and looked forward to our times together.

At home things were progressing favourably. Duncan MacVinish, a cousin of Dad (we used to call him Unkie Dunkie) came to stay with us during the summer. He brought his friends, Dr Macrae and son David, to visit us, so romance began between himself and Flor. They got engaged and we had a great wedding on June 19th. Flor had a lovely engagement ring – three diamonds set in platinum. Nell and I were bridesmaids and most folks in the village were invited. When the young couple left we covered them with rice and confetti. Dad, Mama, Molly and Duncan were of course in the forefront. Willie MacRae, David’s brother, was best man. There is a big photo somewhere.

A few days later Mama was at the school sports and was persuaded to run in the parents’ race. When we got home she didn’t feel well. The doctor diagnosed a heart attack and to our great sorrow she died on July 1st.

A few days before that, before Flor’s wedding, there was a fire at Bridge Mount; the Forbes’ home was burnt to the ground. I went with Mama to watch it; she was so upset. She kept saying, “My old home”. In the conflagration Florry’s wedding cake, which Simpson the baker had made a special job of, was burnt.

We all missed Mother so much. Dad was devastated. We tried to comfort him. I kissed his bald head. I think he felt it. After that I did not progress with my medical career and eventually gave it up, came home to help Nell in the house and Dad in the shop.

Then I met Dan. He had been appointed in Guthrie’s place to the Bank of Scotland, Seaforth Road, Mr Gordon’s bank, eventually transferring to the Dingwall branch. He took me to one of the ‘posh’ dances in Inverness. We became companions and decided to get married. Nita and I were teachers in the Sunday School. One Sunday on the way home I asked her to be my bridesmaid. Then things got moving. Aunty Margaret, Nita’s mother, took care of the dresses and both Nita and Bunty were beautifully dressed. I got a lovely dress, with pearls which I still love, in Young & Chapman’s. The wedding took place on 3 May, 1935, in the Queensgate Hotel, Inverness. We had three ministers: Mr Ewan Fraser, Muir of Ord; Mr Alex Cameron, Killearnan; and Dan’s family minister from Crown Church, Inverness; so Grandma was right when she thought “the cord was well tied” and so it was for we were always very happy.

My father bought us Riverside, Craig Road, Dingwall. There I made lifelong friends – Peggy Fraser, next door,was my dearest friend for many years; and Lily MacRae, No. 1. Margaret and Bobby Fraser and Norman MacRae were particular friends with my own two, John and Ann; indeed there were only three days between Bobby and Ann. They went to school together and took part in most things. John had a great passion for Miss Maclennan, primary teacher, who lived almost opposite, and searched the garden every day for flowers for Miss Maclennan. He was very fond of her and she of him (she was a cousin of David MacRae). The rector of Dingwall Academy, Alex MacKay, and family arrived in the big house, two doors along. Iain and John, of the same age and class, became great friends and still are.

My brother Duncan married Hilda Ingram at Invergordon, the ceremony being conducted by the Rev Duncan Fraser. They have been very happy, having three good-looking sons, wise, kind, cheerful, and now two lovely little granddaughters.

Eventually Florry married Dr David MacRae, who practised in Bow Road, London. They were much harassed by the air raids during the War.

Dan and I had two children, John and Ann, and were all very happy. John, who is very kind, still looks after me, along with his wife Meganne and children Alison, Ian and Marian. My dear Ann, who worked hard in Aberdeen Hospital, died in 1992. She will always be remembered with great love.

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