My Dad’s a Goldfish – Wishing I’d listened

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I’ve been sifting through a box of the Goldfish’s old photos wishing I’d paid more attention to the things he told me: about his childhood, his school days, his army days, his life as an adult on Islay (as opposed to my life as a child on Islay).   

I know he was in the Lovat Scouts. I think he joined up in 1944, which is when he turned 18. I think he may have done his initial training near Aberdeen. He was at some point stationed at a prisoner-of-war camp but I’m not sure where – possibly what’s now the Barony Agricultural College – though he told me of wonderful models the prisoners made of water wheels and bridges. He went to Greece, via Italy and when he talked about being in the army it was usually about that time in Greece he talked. He was stationed in Athens, billeted with a family there. Image200714143218-000

I know he loved it there – the people, the sunshine, the historical sites. I remember him talking about the fun of bargaining for things in the markets until the Americans arrived. They had so much money in their pockets and everything was, in their eyes, already so cheap they saw no need to bargain. Prices shot up making it harder for the British soldiers and taking away much of the cultural exchanges enjoyed before.

Anyone he served with still alive will be in their nineties. Maybe, though, their sons and daughters are, like me, now wishing they had paid more attention to the stories they were told. Maybe they have some old snapshots with faded names scribbled on a couple of them and are wondering about the pals their fathers had in Greece.

Here are some of the photos the Goldfish kept all those years. I’d be pleased if you could share far and wide just in case one of them rings a bell with someone whose father was in the Lovat Scouts from 1944. Some if not most of these photos seem to be taken in Salerno on their way to Greece. He also took many in Greece but mainly of the sites he visited rather than people. However, many photos remain to be sorted out.

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On the left is someone called Trevor. Possibly in Salerno.

 

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John Dunlop on the left

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John Dunlop second from the right – others unknown

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John Dunlop in the centre

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Tea time outside the tents. John Dunlop on left. I’m assuming this is the camp at Salerno before they went to Greece.

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In Greece? Unknown person on the left.

 

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Man on left called Bob

 

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On the back of this photo is written: Taken at the camp in Salerno Thursday 28/12/45. Dad was 19.

 

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Dad is not in this photo of what I take is a football team.

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Unknown soldier but must have been a friend of dad’s for him to have kept it.

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Dad on right on second row.

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John Dunlop on left, front row.

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RMS Otranto. This is not the HMS Otranto from WW1. RMS – Royal Mail Ship – became a troop ship and I think John Dunlop sailed to Italy in it or from Italy to Greece.

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91 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – Wishing I’d listened

  1. Wonderful photos, Mary. I too wish I had listened and asked more questions to the tales I heard when I was young. You think, then, that you will always be able to ask… and then you can’t and are left with just fragments of memory.

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  2. I think we all end up wishing we’d listened more. I gleaned quite a lot from my mother but my father could never remember anything and told me to ask my uncle but I never saw him often enough to have a really good question and answer session. Questions that never occurred to me when they were still alive haunt my days now! These are wonderful photographs to have, Mary. I do hope someone comes out of the woodwork with a connection to your father.

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  3. Wonderful pictures. I started young asking questions, writing it down and writing letters. Today I continue to regret after working to collect all that material, I sent it to two relatives who promised to continue since I was unable to at that time. But they didn’t. On one side of the family “the Nidas” a distant cousin published three large volumes . Keep on digging. Place pictures and questions on British and Canada military(Army) websites. I am connect with one in Canada.I will look it up and get back to you – if I can.

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    • Thanks, Mary. How sad you’ve lost all the material you collected. I thought I’d be able to find something on a Lovat Scout website but couldn’t even find dad’s name. I’m sure I didn’t make it up! I’ll keep trying. I never heard him mention Canadians when he was in Greece but definitely Americans – being free with their dollars. It would be wonderful if you found out anything. Thanks for trying.

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    • I wrote a reply to your comment, Mary and it vanished! I’m trying again. Thanks so much for dropping in. Good for you to have asked questions but what a shame you lost all the material you collected. I tried looking up a website for the Loval Scouts but didn’t find dad’s name. I’m sure I didn’t make that up so I will keep trying. It would be wonderful if you could find out anything though I don’t remember him mentioning Canadians.

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  4. Like so many of us I wished I had listened more or asked questions – but that generation did not communicate like they do today. Mind I’m happy to tell of earlier times but the younger folk are too busy to listen,

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    • Exactly right, Lucinda – too busy with their own lives, which is probably as it should be! But then, when they are older they’ll start to wonder and we’ll not be around to answer!

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  5. I love the photos. They really were the “greatest generation “.

    Hope you get some responses from people who recognise these wonderful young soldiers. (About a year after I did blog post about my father’s military service, I heard from the son of someone who served with him. )

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    • Thanks, Barb. It would be wonderful to hear from anyone whose father served with mine. I’m becoming increasingly fond of those photos. I have to say, though, the ones which moved me to tears were taken on Arran. I’m still not sure if they are of family or friends of family and am hoping my aunt in Canada might know when I send them to her daughter.

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  6. Mary, it’s lovely seeing all these photos. What I particularly like about all of them is the fact that in all the years that we knew your dad, he never changed. His facial features, smile,the twinkle in his eye and his stance were the exact same, from the first time I can remember him as a wee girl to nearly the last time I saw him (apart from his stance). Mum and Dad and I used to visit Burnswalk often and while the adults chatted away I played in the other sitting room with some game or other and always a few pieces of home made tablet. Maybe if I had stayed in the same room I might have overheard some of the stories they used to tell each other, or if Mum and Dad had still been with us they might have helped. I do remember much laughter coming from behind the door and quite often falling asleep thinking I’d been forgotten about. The joys of being so young…… !

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    • You are so right about him hardly changing, Ruth. I find it really easy to spot him in the old photos. It seems daft now but when I was young we had a tea caddy with the Queen and Prince Phillip on it and I thought then my dad looked like him! Now I look at dad’s photos and woder how I could ever have seen a likeness! You should have listened at the door to hear what they were talking and laughing about! It might have been your mum telling some of her ghost stories.

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  7. Hi Mary, if even one of the photos has bagpipes in it let me know and I can use that to get clues from Piping people. I love seeing reference to John Dunlop rather than the Goldfish. For me, he’s a person again! I’ve worked too long with disabled people who often become known by things other than their name. Xx

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    • Thanks, Janette. I’ll have a look for bagpipes though I don’t remember seeing any. There are a few photos of the parade ground but I didn’t post them as they were taken from too far away to distinguish anyone in them. The point you make about using dad’s name makes me wonder if in the book I should refer to him by name. What do you think? Someone asked me if I use the name Goldfish to distance myself from what was happening but it was simply because I don’t use any names.
      I write a short story about a disabled person and the problems he has starting with trying to persuade a carer to use his name: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-12th-june-trouble-with-socks-by-mary-smith

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      • I would definitely refer to him either by name or initials like you do with DH. To me a Goldfish isn’t a person, yet he was very much a person obviously. Can you believe that only recently someone described their niece to me as ‘a vegetable’. I fought back tears. I know you don’t mean it like that and I know how very much you loved and love your Dad but others may not know that. I felt great joy and relief to see his actual name. But even initials or the likes might be more human-like than the Goldfish. Just going to read your other piece………..

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        • ….just read the ‘socks’ story and it rings so totally true with me. I see this ALL THE TIME!! Even in this day and age. All the ‘sweetheart’ ‘darling’ talk also bugs the life out of many an elderly or disabled person—so patronising, and infantilising. So much further to go in the areas of understanding, respect, valuing……….Brilliantly written piece though highlighting so many of the issues all in one short story. Thanks for drawing my attention to it Mary……..

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          • I’m pleased you enjoyed it. It was written after a friend complained about being called ‘pet’ by the staff member who’d just asked how he’d like to be addressed. She simply didn’t listen. And he did experience great difficulty in getting his own clothes.

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  8. Lovely photos of your dad Mary. I hope someone will be able to help you with the gaps in your memory. Excellent idea to have a blog like this. One day I hope to do the same for my dad. I’ve recorded aspects of his life story which is fascinating as he travelled extensively abroad and has always been a wonderful raconteur. Reading this has inspired me and made me realise I should do the same for my mum. Next trip up to Edinburgh I must ask her!

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  9. Love the photos Mary. It seems like your dad had many tales to tell. I would have lovd to have known more about my dad too, and it seems we never realise this until it is too late. Thank goodness that we at leat have some memories of our time spent with them 🙂

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    • Thanks, Judy. From the comments on this post it seems like we are all the same – leaving it too late. When we were young and heard the stories we switched off. At least, I’m afraid I did. Or, I heard the stories but didn’t ask any questions which would have let me learn more. It makes those memories we do have all the more precious.

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  10. Handsome man your dad Mary. Oh I wish I had know more about my dad too. I tried to ask him but he couldn’t remember much, except snippets. He ended up spending most of his adult life in prison as you know, and an alcoholic. But he had a life before all that, a very different one. After he died (it will be a year on 17 July…), a cousin I haven’t seen since we were teenagers got in touch with me via another cousin and sent me lots of family photos including ones of Dad as a baby, child and young man. I found out more from those photos and about my grandparents than I ever knew from him.
    I so much hope you can find out more information. I will share your post.
    I read your last two posts about gallstones with a shudder. My youngest son has been admitted twice recently, the second time the night of the Blogger’s Bash, but I didn’t know until I got on the train back on Sunday morning, diagnosed with acute choleycistits, the infected and inflammed gallbladder you talk of and he’s only 24. He needs surgery to remove it in a few weeks. He too has to stick to a low fat diet. I am afraid of seeing him in so much pain again, he passed out cold with it, so frightening.
    I am so sorry for all your father went through. xxx

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    • Thanks for commenting, Sherri. I’m so glad you have some photographs of your dad and other family members even if your dad wasn’t able to give you many details.
      I’m sorry to hear about your son. I believe the pain is excrutiating. My nephew (early 30s) has just had his gallbladder removed. He’d had stomach problems for a year but the GP didn’t think it was anything major. He eventually went to A&E and was admitted immediately. He had enough stones to make a necklace apparently! They took the stones out first then removed the gallbladder and he’s as good as new now. I’m sure your son will be fine after the op. Once the gallbladder is out the need for a low fat diet is not so great.
      I hope July 17 won’t be too painful for you – try to do something nice.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My pleasure Mary, I really hope you find the information you need, wouldn’t that be great to find someone who knew your father, or at least served in the same regiment? Do keep me posted… And thank you for your kind words about my son. That’s great to hear your nephew was much better after his surgery. It seems to be a pattern I hear from others, this ongoing stomach pain that isn’t taken seriously at first. I’ve come to understand from my research this acute gallbladder pain can be quite serious if not treated as an emergency at the time. Wow…that’s a lot of stones! I’m sure he didn’t take them up on the offer to wear them around his neck 😉 It will be a huge relief to have the surgery over with, his appointment is at the end of July with the surgeon, but he’s on the cancellation list if another comes through earlier. The sooner the better.
        And bless you about the 17th…you are very kind… ❤

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    • Thank you. I have many more but unfortunately, as with most of those I’ve posted, no names on them. I’m sure there is a box somewhere in which I saw his discharge papers so I’ll be doing more digging and sifting. Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

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        • I had a quick look at a website for the Lovat Scouts but couldn’t find dad’s name. I’m going to search through his papers to see if I can find anything else which would tell me what unit he was with. He may not have been with the Lovat Scouts throughout his entire service but I’m not sure. None of the photos are clear enough to be able to make out the cap badge.

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  11. Wonderful post Mary I could feel the love. And the photos are fantastic. It is frightening how fast the world changes and how fleeting everything now seems to be….God, I’m old..Do I sound old. I do don’t I!

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    • Thank you, Paul. Glad you like the photos. And you are right how fast the world changes – we’re probably all getting old. I think you have to be to start being really interested in who your parents were and what they did in their younger lives.

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  12. Wonderfully poignant photos, Mary. We always forget/ ignore that our parents had lives before we came onto the scene. Must admit these brought a lump to my throat. I have so many ‘unnamed’ photos as well.

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    • Thanks, Judith. I’ve had a lump in my thorat a few times while sifting through the photos. I think because I knew how much these people once meant to dad. I would have said my parents led fairly staid lives (maybe everyone thinks that of their parents) but I’ve come across photos of them clearly whooping it up at ceilidhs on Islay!

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      • We have to take on board the positives, Mary. We only (meaning me, really) saw our mum and dad as parents… and not people. Shame we all need to get to a certain age to realise that. Yet we all did our best in their fragile years…. I hope.x

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        • Looking at the old photos, both the army ones and later, and seeing a person rather than a parent, I find it really difficult to get my head round how dad went from being so vibrant and full of life to how he was at the end. I’m sure he wondered what had happened to him, too.
          Our turn next! 🙂

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  13. Wonderful photos Mary. I think many of us all wish we’d listened more to stories we may have felt passed through one ear and the other over time. I”m happy to share on Facebook and Twitter. 🙂 x

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  14. Beautiful pictures. I share your regret: My father passed long before his time and even though it wasn’t unannounced, I missed a lot of opportunities to learn more about him as a person (and our family history). If only we could put an old head on a young body. What matters most is that there was love, though. ❤

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    • Thanks for dropping in Christoph. You’re right about love being there that matters – and there was that. I’m sure my son, who is now in his twenties, ignores my stories – but one day he’ll want to know. Maybe I can write some of it up for when I’m not here to answer his questions!

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  15. Mum was good at telling of their past but the best source I’ve had, lucky me, was dad’s letters to her from 1944 to 1948. So much neither of them told. One place to go might be the Imperial War Museum for records. They helped with my grandfathers’ WW1 records. I hope you source more material too. It is endlessly fascinating, speculating what they were up to.

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  16. A lesson to us all to ask for stories and ask questions when old photographs come out of the box, Mary. I always enjoy looking at old photos and old film. Whenever I visit an aunt of mine, who was 90 last February, she always brings a big box out that contains lots of old photos. I’m learning a lot from her and am so glad that I began asking those questions. She’s always delighted to talk about the ‘olden days’ as she calls them. One of my cousins, with my aunt’s help, is now putting a family tree together.
    I enjoyed looking at these photos you shared with us. What stories they tell, even if we don’t know the full background of who are in them and where they were taken. I hope you find some answers and will share them with us.

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    • You are lucky, Hugh, to have someone who can tell you stories and identify people in old photos. My dad’s sister, who is the only one left in his immediate family, is in Canada. I think I’ll have to go and visit her.
      I’ll certainly share anything I learn. I think I might be able to find out more about dad’s Arran connection than about his army days but who knows what will turn up.

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  17. We take it for granted that we can snap a million photographs on our smart phones but when you see these images it really feels like you are ‘seeing’ life. I used to love listening to my Grandad when he talked about being in the Navy. I could listen to him for hours. Wonderful post, Mary.

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    • Glad you liked the post, Shelley. I’m wondering what will happen to the photos we snap these days. I don’t know when I last printed out a photo to put in an album or just to share with others – all our sharing is done online now – so different from taking a photo, paying to have it developed and posting a copy of it to your pal.

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  18. You are so fortunate to have such a gold mine. All I have of my father is his last name. There isn’t even a photo… I believe you have a book there as you sort through it all.

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  19. Thanks, Mary. We all think like that (although my father didn’t travel much and it is easier to keep track of things). I hope you can locate some of the people in the pictures (or their relatives). I am sure they have bits of the puzzle and many questions too.

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    • Hi Olga, I am hoping there are other people out there wondering who is in the photos of their fathers or grandfathers. I feel as if I have all these tenuous links to total strangers!

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  20. Oh those photos, Mary. He was so handsome. I’m glad you have these remembrances and indeed they do make you ponder who are those other people in the photos and the stories behind them..

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    • Thanks, Christy. Dad would be surprised – and delighted – at how many people have left lovely comments about his photos. And he’d be tickled pink at how many have said he was handsome!
      I do wonder about the lives of the people with him in the photos. Dad was a great letter writer so I’m sure he’d have kept in touch with some of them but no correspondence remains.

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