Once Henry and I went up to Aberdeen to take Kath­leen out for a meal. To our older eyes, her ap­pear­ance was slightly shock­ing

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - SERIAL - Mar­garet Gil­lies Brown

Amonth or two be­fore she was seven­teen she was off to Aberdeen to seek her for­tune. Lind­say was still liv­ing there along with a few of their friends. Richard had not as yet sold his flat and that was where all the fun was. Kath­leen loved fun and par­ties and the com­pany of peo­ple her own age. I wasn’t too wor­ried as her ideas were sen­si­ble but I wor­ried about the times she was liv­ing in.

Kath­leen was a very dif­fer­ent girl to her sis­ter Mahri. Mahri was quite con­tent to con­form to the ways in which I was brought up. Mahri wanted to be pro­tected by the fam­ily. Kath­leen did not.

“Mum, don’t you dare come and col­lect me from the disco,” she would say. “I’ll just die of em­bar­rass­ment if you do! I’ll get a taxi. Don’t worry, I’m per­fectly ca­pa­ble of look­ing af­ter my­self.”

Kath­leen was an in­de­pen­dent girl, truly of the new gen­er­a­tion. Be­fore she left for Aberdeen I tried to in­stil into her some of my val­ues but know­ing all the time that she would have to go, to a cer­tain ex­tent, her own way.


I was well aware that rev­o­lu­tion by the young was noth­ing new. It had been go­ing on since time be­gan. I had re­volted against some of my mother’s ideas.

My mother hadn’t wanted me to go in for nurs­ing, which she con­sid­ered too me­nial a task for her daugh­ter.

I ar­gued end­lessly over racism or any di­vi­sions in so­ci­ety, ev­ery­one was equal and in some ar­eas things had im­proved. I had wel­comed my mother’s mo­dem ideas. “There is noth­ing a women can’t do, there is no such word as can’t in the dic­tionary,” she had al­ways said.

How many artists, writ­ers, com­posers or sci­en­tists had been lost to the world be­cause of taboos on women do­ing any­thing out­side the home?

How­ever, with the ad­vent and easy avail­abil­ity of the con­tra­cep­tive pill, it seemed to me that what had been a grad­ual lib­er­a­tion of women had taken a step too far.

The more and more com­mon oc­cur­rence of young men and women liv­ing to­gether un­mar­ried came late to the farms and vil­lages and was dif­fi­cult for the older gen­er­a­tion to ac­cept.

It seemed to be an ero­sion of all the prin­ci­ples we held most dear. Now with the pill, no longer need the wo­man be left hold­ing the baby. She was truly lib­er­ated. “Like men” it was said, but what was free­dom? Were men free?

“Shades of the prison house be­gin to close upon the grow­ing boy.”

The words of Wordsworth ran through my head. In my view the fam­ily was the most im­por­tant in­sti­tu­tion – the build­ing block of so­ci­ety. Now the fam­ily was be­com­ing se­condary.

“What work do you do?” was asked of women. “Look af­ter the fam­ily”, for women of in­de­pen­dent mind, was not the cor­rect an­swer.

Kath­leen did find it dif­fi­cult in Aberdeen. It was very dif­fi­cult to find work with­out spe­cific qual­i­fi­ca­tions but even­tu­ally she found a job in com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion, get­ting young girls off the streets and into clubs.

Once Henry and I went up to Aberdeen to take her out for a meal. To our older eyes, her ap­pear­ance was slightly shock­ing. She was wear­ing all the mod­ern gear with her hair wild and un­combed, as was the fash­ion at the time.

“Why don’t girls make the best of their looks, not the worst of them?” I won­dered to my­self but didn’t say. When ques­tioned about her ap­pear­ance she said: “I dress how all young peo­ple dress to­day. It re­flects a non-con­form­ist at­ti­tude.

“Young peo­ple are re­belling against be­ing ‘sen­si­ble’,” she added.


“Be­sides, if I dressed dif­fer­ently I would have no rap­port with the young peo­ple I work with. They wouldn’t trust me.”

Af­ter get­ting a paid oc­cu­pa­tion, Kath­leen’s next am­bi­tion was to travel.

“I’ve got a re­turn ticket to Turkey,” she told me one day when she paid one of her brief vis­its home. El­speth and I are off next month.” El­speth was a new friend whom I hadn’t met.

“Oh Katy! Why Turkey and where will you be stay­ing?”

“I dunno,” she said. “We’ll find some­where. We’re fly­ing to Dal­i­man.” I men­tioned pack­age deals but this was anath­ema to the young, only for the old, I was told, and that meant any­one over 25, ac­cord­ing to Kath­leen.

I wasn’t, how­ever, too wor­ried about her trav­el­ling abil­ity. Once, when she came with me to see Mahri in Ger­many, we had nearly been in real dif­fi­culty over tick­ets for the train to take us to the air­port.

We ran out of for­eign cur­rency and nearly missed our flight. I was much more wor­ried than Kath­leen was. “I’ll sort it out, Mum,” she said and did.

As promised I got a post­card from Turkey. “Hav­ing a won­der­ful time; white moun­tains, bril­liantly blue lakes, very eastern and dif­fer­ent, you’d love it.”

When she came back I asked a lot of ques­tions. They’d found the peo­ple very hos­pitable and eas­ily found a place to stay.

“But the men, Kath­leen?” I asked, hav­ing heard of these eastern, warm-blooded types and their re­la­tion­ships with western women who, in their es­ti­ma­tion, had fallen low.


“If ever we felt threat­ened, I de­vel­oped a ner­vous twitch in my neck and El­speth started talk­ing to some­one in the sky. They soon thought we were clearly mad and avoided us like the plague.”

Kath­leen’s next ad­ven­ture with her friend El­speth was to In­dia. This time for a longer stay.

She kind of knew what to ex­pect when she got there, hav­ing lis­tened to her brother Ron­nie’s ex­pe­ri­ences, but she was hor­ri­fied, just the same, at how the poor had to live.

She learned of things that were al­most in­con­ceiv­able to her, hav­ing been brought up in a se­cure home.

How it had been the cus­tom, and still was prac­tised to an ex­tent, for wi­d­ows to be thrown out of their homes of­ten with their chil­dren.

Some­times life was so des­per­ate for them that they sold their chil­dren cheaply to peo­ple who maimed them and used them as beg­gars.

Kath­leen told me how dif­fer­ent life was for the young­sters she was in charge of.

“Last time I took them to the pic­tures they moaned and groaned be­cause I was de­layed by traf­fic and was five min­utes late.”

“You should have told them that in In­dia they would have been sold for less than the price of mut­ton.”

“Aw, Mum,” she said in her ‘you just don’t un­der­stand’ kind of voice.”

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