Around the Rowan Tree, Day Three

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - SERIAL - Mar­garet Gil­lies Brown

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.

More to­mor­row.

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