My Dad’s a Goldfish – Glimpses from the past


I know, I know, I’m hopeless at posting regularly! I really meant to put a new post up days ago but I’ve been doing a bit more rummaging through photos and papers in what the DH calls the Dad Archive.

As well as finding lots of army photos, I’ve come across paperwork from those days including the order of service when the Lovat Scouts were stood down in Greece, a lovely reference from his Commanding Officer and his Lovat Scouts cap badge.

I’ve not found any photos for the period from when Dad left the army to when he went to live on Islay where he worked for the next eight years. He took many, many photos on Islay including colour slides (not sure how to deal with them so happy for advice if anyone knows) and he loved life on the island. I think if it hadn’t been for me, he’d never have left. In those days – 1950s – the school only went up to Primary 7 after which pupils had to go to the mainland and be boarders. Mum wasn’t keen on this idea (to think I might have had the opportunity to fulfil my dream of going to boarding school –  though in fact I’d have been at an ordinary secondary school and staying in lodgings) and when a vacancy on the mainland came up, Dad applied and we moved in 1960.

This time, I’m leaving the army days behind (though I’ll come back to them) to show some of the photos from the Islay days. This is where I was born and lived for the first seven years of my life.


Dad and Mum on a picnic on Islay


Dad with Betsy the dog, who growled if Mum tried to chastise me, and Blackie the cat named with enormous originality


Dad on the peat bank on the back road between Bridgend and Port Ellen with Innes McLellan whose mother was my Godmother


In full song at a ceilidh in our house, Bowmore, Islay. Dad with his arm round someone who was not his wife! Both of them smoking!!


All the best parties happen in the kitchen. Beside the packet of Corn Flakes is our tea caddy which had a picture of the Queen on one side and Prince Phillip on the other. I always thought (when I was young) Dad looked like Phillip.


Now, he’s got his arm round yet another woman not his wife! I was going to say it was possibly before I was born but I think that’s a tin of baby powder on the mantelpiece.



Christmas or New Year – whichever, a good time was being had.


I love that they still wear their ties however wrecked they are! And the man in the front is sitting on Paddy, my dog on wheels with which I learned to walk.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Dad’s past on Islay. When I look at the ceilidh pictures I’m reminded of when I found a Gaelic CD at Dad’s. I put it on and within minutes he was singing along, though it was about sixty years since he’d last heard those songs.  The power of music and song.

69 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – Glimpses from the past

  1. Mary, irregular posts are my favourite kind because they are always such a lovely surprise! Brilliant Photographs. I grew up in a large extended family and they reminded me of those of my Mum and Dad with my uncles and aunts… Photographs now sadly long gone….It was great to see yours as they brought back so many memories. It was also great to see your dad in his prime. With much affection your mate Paul X

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  2. We have many hundreds of slide from the days when they were cheaper than taking photographs. My hb has some sort of conversion kit he is using to turn them into digital photographs which he is archiving on his computer. Will also have to store them on a USB as a backup. Or you can have that done professionally but here it is quite expensive to do.

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  3. Great old photos. What’s the title of the book the man to the right of the accordionist is holding? Can’t make it out. Did they speak Gaelic at the primary school as a first language , or not? You must have heard some great music in your first years – have you any liking or affinity with Gaelic language or music ? xx

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    • Sorry, I can’t make out the name of the book. The second line says 50 (maybe not 50 but a number) Scottish Songs but I can’t read the top line. I can enlarge so much then it becomes too fuzzy. It looks like a list of other song books ont he back cover. I’m sure many of the children spoke Gaelic as a first language but I don’t remember hearing it in the playground. I always wanted to learn Gaelic and finally started classes last year. The summer break has been long enough for me to forget just about everything but I’ll start back in the autumn.

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      • Yes I wondered if the man had a ‘words’ book and was singing along with the words. I went to Gaelic classes for a term but at the end of the term the tutor announced that that was our introduction to ‘Skye Gaelic’ and next term we would be introduced to ‘Lewis Gaelic’ which was really quite different!! However I’ve always remembered how to say ‘Mairi and Callum are working in the field’ and to this day am still looking for an opportunity to use it !

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        • It’s such a difficult language. My tutor always tells us to take off our English glasses and stop trying to sound out the words as if they are English because it doesn’t work! I don’t know that I can help with Mairi and Callum in the field – my sentences tend to be about the weather. And the colour of people’s hair!


          • Something like ‘Mhairi agus Callum ag obair auns an achach’ – spelling questionable. But I’m still waiting to see a Mhairi and a Callum working in a field at the same time so I can use it, or for someone to tell me that they are, so I can tell someone else, if you get me!

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            • Actually the only word there I don’t know is ‘achach’ which I assume is field. But it’s Mairi, not Mhairi because Mhairi is the vocative. The Minister on Islay told my dad (who went to classes and I recently came across a notebook of vocabulary) the root of Gaelic is in Sanskrit – which is probably when Dad gave up!

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    • Thanks, Paul. I’ve noticed there a few with that car you like in the background. I never thought of using YouTube for music with Dad but we had a selection of cds always at the ready. Different ones for different moods.


  4. This is absolutely wonderful, the pictures are great and the snippets of 50s island life . The memories there I can share, the tea caddy the fact everyone wore suits all the time! My dad wore his suit to the beach and his hat ! I honestly believe he had his work clothes, a best suit a pair of trousers and a linnen jacket for the summer and a Mack. I also remember family parties which seem similar to yours. Dad being Irish close enough to your Scottish background I think! 🤗 A truly lovely post!!

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  5. I love the fact that they dressed so formally whatever the occasion, too! Your dad seems like a man that enjoyed life and liked to have fun living it. He looks so happy in all of the photos, as does your mum 🙂

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  6. It is so fascinating to see childhood photos, especially for those of us of a certain age! Ah, memories. I was very glad to see the advice re slides as I have a huge, huge number to transfer. I’m hoping the software mentioned works for Mac! x

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  7. Fantastic pics. The dress sense reminds me of the book I reviewed recently. You dressed up for celebrations, no matter where you were, even at home. No advice on slides but I hope you find a way of sharing them. Thanks, Mary!

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    • Thank you, Olga. Glad you enjoyed the pics. Dress was more formal in the 50s. The ceilidhs weren’t necessarily a particular celebration (except maybe the Christmas one) it was just a gathering of people in someone’s house – and any gathering led to singing.


  8. Such lovely memories and photos, Mary. Thanks for sharing them with us. There is such joy and happiness in all those photos. Back then, people may have not have had much, but they sure knew how to have a great time. I love how you spotted the clues in the photos. I bet finding these photos brought back so many memories for you. Looking forward to seeing more.

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    • Thanks, Hugh, glad you liked them. They do bring back memories but more than that they make consider my parents as real people. They so clearly had fun at these ceilidhs – while I would have been fast asleep in bed not knowing anything about what was going on downstairs. That’s a strange feeling. I do remember Paddy my dog on wheels and being told when we left Islay I couldn’t take him with me. I was seven by then and Paddy was nothing more than a metal frame but I remember being very upset.

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      • I wonder where Paddy ended up, Mary? I remember my sister having a push-along dog on wheels toy. It was a sheepdog which she would push around the house while learning to walk. I think I sat on it a couple of times but I was too heavy for my sister to push me around on it.
        As for parents partying, it’s something I can’t imagine either. But, I guess they did. I have a wonderful photo of my mum and dad on a night out. However, my dad seems to have another lady on the other arm. No idea who she is, but they are in posh dresses and my dad in his best suit.

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  9. Hi Mary, there is nothing quite like reviewing past photos, slides and letters of the past…must be exciting. Especially the thought of his life on the island and all the photos he took. As for the color slides, there are now great companies who process slides into digital format and do a very professional job. All you do is mail in the slides, and they will sort, copy and even repair the photos in digital format. 🙂

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    • You are right, it is exciting – I feel like I’m on a treasure hunt. And learning to see my dad as a person – separate from our father/daughter relationship – is really interesting. I will get the slides done and added to the growing digital archive.


  10. OH my gosh, these are so much FUN to look through. Everyone is happy and enjoying themselves. Made me think this: life is for the young. Is that bad? But my parents were the same – they had such a good time when they were young and even when my brother and I were small. Then….life happens.

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  11. I actually also went to boarding school for most of my childhood and adolescent years (grade 3-12). I just wrote a post about my experience in boarding school so that part jumped out at me 😀 loved your post!


    • Thanks so much, Dawn. I am so pleased you enjoyed my post. I’ll take a look at your post. I didn’t go because my parents moved away from Islay but I always loved reading boarding school stories when I was young. I don’t expect the reality would have matched my imagination.


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