Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father's Day: A Tale of Two Scots Lyrics

Dad and me, Victoria Street, Gorebridge, 1962 (Tattie Raw)
He met the world as a Dalkeith boy,
Raised from a shaft at Monktonhall
In a well-oiled cage,
That locked away his dreams.
The song, Lucky was written by Dalkieth boy Fish (of Marillion fame) and has always been a favorite of mine.

My dad was raised in Gorebridge, just a few miles from Dalkeith, and his shaft wasn’t at Monktonhall Colliery, but nearer home; at the deep coal mine called the Lady Victoria. I’ve been in the cages of both mines, and know the darkness that creeps into your psyche as the human elevator descends, sending you into the depths of the earth. Each journey down, like visiting Hell for eight hours. Conditions underground sapped your strength, your health, and your hunger for life. The dust killed your lungs, and your respiratory system. My dad worked for the National Coal Board all his life; from boyhood fifteen to a jaded fifty-two, when he retired early.

I’m not sure, however, that the cage ever locked my Dad’s dreams away. He was born in 1933, and was a young boy through the Second World War. Times were hard, rationing lasted many years after Hitler took the poisoned capsule, and life went on.

Gorebridge Primary School Class Photo, 1945. My Dad is the one on the lower right.

Dad married Mum in 1957, but they stayed in the same village. It’s where my brother and I were born. Mum and Dad both lived all their adult lives there; very static, very ordinary, almost boring. They both died in the same house they’d been allocated when they were in their twenties. They’d been happy to stay there for almost fifty years.

So, you see; I’m not sure if dad had any unrequited dreams at all. Give him a fishing rod by the side of a river, or a comfy chair and a John Wayne film to watch, or stick him in his greenhouse, and he was as happy as a proverbial pig in clover. We grew tomatoes, and by all my recollection we supplied half the neighborhood. We reaped the harvest of his innate generosity in unusual ways. I still remember the night we got pheasants from the gamekeeper at Yair Bridge on the river Tweed (I think there was more than tomatoes involved here, I seem to remember a bottle of whiskey or two...). Dad was delighted at his prize, anticipating a wonderful home cooked version of "pheasant under glass". We hung the birds up in the greenhouse to mature, and we went to work the next day. When we arrived home dad went to check on the birds to find they had disappeared. Imagine his chagrin when he discovered Mum had thrown them in the trash, saying they "stunk tae high heaven!"

The Hall Men: Me, Brother Kevin, and Dad  (with longsuffering Mum, Kathy)

I mulled these thoughts around in my head for a day or two as I thought about writing a Father's Day post about my dad. Then yesterday afternoon, the day before Father’s Day, I was outside in my Kansas garden and working to tie my tomato plants to canes. I caught an unmistakable whiff of 'tomato plant' from my fingers and BAM!  I was back in Dad’s Alton greenhouse in Gorebridge, aged about ten. Back in those days, it was my job to water, feed, and to pollinate the flowers by ‘tickling’ them with a rabbits tail. I spent a lot of time in Dad's greenhouse.

Lyrics swept into my head, The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics. The song was written by Mike Rutherford (Genesis) and B.A. Robertson, who’d both recently lost their dads.

I wasn't there that morning when my Father passed away
I didn't get to tell him all the things I had to say
I had moved to America before Dad died, and I wasn’t there the day that he passed, so the words were poignant and oh so fitting. I smelled the tomato on my fingers again, just to feel the memory, just to feel the tears roll down my cheeks, just to remember him.

So, I’ll remember the smell of tomato plants on my fingers, John Wayne films, and the feel of a trout on the line, and as I do so… I’ll remember Dad.

A collection of my memories of Gorebridge, available in all eBooks

Now, due to the demand of my friends still in Scotland, available in paperback on Amazon.

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