Around the Rowan Tree, Day Three
Some of his critics said he would make a good vet but on the whole he was loved and I could see me having a happy birth in his care
Henry had been our lodger for a year or so while we lived in Edmonton. Scottish like ourselves, he had come back to Scotland recently to attend the wedding of his sister.
“Just a thought,” said Ronald, “I don’t think he is meaning to return to Canada and he did tell me he would love to start up business here in Scotland if he only had somewhere to start from.
“It could be a help to him to get him started and he was so helpful to us and I like him. We get on well together. It would probably only be until he got established.”
“What sort of business?” I asked. “Welding is his trade, making things, building – it could be useful here too.”
“What’s another mouth?” I laughed. “Henry would be very welcome. He was no bother and the kids like him. They are a bit short in uncles and he’d make a good one.
“He could have the old maid’s bedroom. It has its own stair near to the back door which would give him a sort of independence.”
“That’s fine, then. I’ve got Henry’s number. I’ll give him a ring and ask him to pay us a visit.”
Within the next week, just as he had done in Canada, Henry came to live with us.
There were many changes within the next five years. Henry left after spending a year with us to go and work on the new Hydro Electric scheme situated at Loch Awe.
The change that gave me the most joy, however, was the birth of two more children. I had always wanted a large family and two years after we had settled in, Lindsay (who was called after his grandfather) was born.
“Could I please have the birth at home?” I had asked the village doctor.
“How many babies have you had?” he asked. “Five,” I told him. “This will be my sixth.”
“Well, nowadays you are supposed to go into hospital after the fifth one but I think I could stretch the rules if you promise that if there’s the slightest hint of trouble you will go into hospital.”
“Certainly,” I said.
“Och, I shouldn’t say, but I’ve always thought the best babies are born at home,” he confided.
Dr Edington was new to me but his reputation went before him. “Brilliant at babies,” the district nurse had told me. “And loves them, will get up any time of the night.
“I get into real trouble if I don’t call him in time. I’m well qualified to bring babies into the world myself but not long after I came here there was a very straightforward birth to one of the village women.
“It was the middle of the night. Och, I thought, I won’t bother disturbing the doctor and my patient thought the same way as me. What a mistake! I got a real ticking off.”
Dr Edington was a smallish, squat man with a cheerful face and an easy manner. He was from Glasgow originally and had that humorous easy way with people that many Glaswegians have, treating everyone as if he or she was a close relative.
His first name was Robert and in the village he was known affectionately as ‘Peel Bob’. He acquired this nickname through regularly handing out large white pills with M&B imprinted on them.
When he wasn’t sure what the matter was, if anything much at all, M&BS were what he gave you, be it for sore throats, upset stomachs or nervous disorders. Even his children called him ‘Peel Bob’.
Once, when his teenage son was asked what he had been doing that morning, the unexpected reply came: “Helping Peel Bob to shovel oot a lorryload of M&BS.”
His way of talking to patients certainly wasn’t learned in college but he understood the people and they him. To the stout and cheerful Will who worked in the butcher’s, he would say: “It’s like this Will. If you don’t give up smoking you’re done for.”
And to Mrs Nielson, the widow who owned the pub, when she sent up her barmaid to get something for her varicose ulcer: “How can I tell what’s wrong with her leg by looking at yours? Tell her to come up herself.”
When she did eventually come she would tell him that it had been bothering her much of late. “You see, I’ve been busy trying to get the stones off the ground at my new house.”
“I’ve seen you with your barrie and your big backside,” he’d tell her. People didn’t take offence at what he said. They could understand him and tried to follow his advice.
He was particularly good with children, babies and old folk. The latter he visited regularly whether they needed him or not, just to see if they were all right. And children, including my own, pretended to be ill sometimes just to go and see him.
He had failings. He would be the first to admit that he was not a good diagnostician. “Funny all my query appendixes have turned out to be pneumonias this year and vice versa.”
Some of his critics said he would make a good vet but on the whole he was loved and I could see me having a happy birth in his care.
It was in the cold month of February that Lindsay was born. In the middle of the night, of course. A fire was burning brightly in the upstairs bedroom. The light was out and strange shadows flickered on the wall.
The kindly nurse had elected to stay the night and was dosing by the fire while my great pains came and went. At last the doctor was called.
He had asked me earlier if I wanted ‘gas and air’. I’d always hoped to try to have the baby without sedation but had always been a bit scared.
“Och, you’ll manage fine without it,” he said. “But I’ll bring it just in case.” And so Lindsay was born unaided but for the doctor’s slow unhurried calm instructions. He was an old hand at the game.
He knew exactly what was needed and it turned out to be one of my best births. And, oh the joy afterwards. Once I was properly seen to and nurse was bathing the baby, Ronald took the doctor off downstairs. Fifteen minutes later he came hopping back singing, “Campbeltown Loch I wish you were whisky.”
Three years later Kathleen was born in the same bedroom. She was late in appearing – a week late, then a fortnight late.
It was October 1967. General Montgomery was visiting Perth. Ronald had very much wanted to be there. “Go,” I said. “It won’t be today.” I felt perfectly all right – too all right!
So off he went. Not long after, the pains started. I waited until evening and then phoned the nurse.