Saturday, 14 March 2015

Memories of Mum

Margaret Mackie Buick Reid

Memories of Mum on Mother's Day

As we reach Mother's day it is natural my mind turns to memories of my mum. Margaret Mackie Buick Reid.

Mum died in 1984.  She was born in Stonehaven, a small coastal town on the east coast of Scotland just south of Aberdeen.   Her father was a police sergeant and as such, moved around the region a lot.  Mum grew up with a younger brother and sister and she said her greatest love in her childhood was her piano.  I think she would have liked to pursue a career in music but, with the outbreak of the Second World War, she joined the Sick Children’s Hospital in Aberdeen as a nurse. 
She moved to Strathcathro Hospital near Laurencekirk which was build especially because of the war.  It is still being used today with typically concrete buildings that were only supposed to last for the duration of the war. 

Mum and Dad on their engagement day
at Turretville Brechin
While at Strathcatho she met my father.   Courting was different in those days, very circumspect.  My dad was 12 years older than her, an experienced man who had spent much of his adult life in the army in India.  Her parents most definitely did not approve.  Neither of them talked much about that time, except for one tale of the day they were sitting on a fence and Dad found a lipstick in her purse.  Telling her she had no need of it he threw it into the field behind them and thereafter it was always the Lipstick Field when we passed it.  For years my dad had me scouring it for a sight of the lipstick tree.

Despite opposition which was to shape and sadder her all her life, my mother was the first nurse to marry at Strathcathro Hospital.  The Matron too disapproved and immediately put her on night duty.  
In the early years, they had two babies who both died, not unusual in those days, but heartbreaking nevertheless and they adopted a little girl.  Later my brother was born and seven years after that, I was born.   

She didn’t have an easy life and I’m sure she missed many of the privileges she had enjoyed with her parents.  Then again, life was hard for most ordinary people in post-war Britain.  Once the war ended, my father insisted his wife didn’t work, by which he meant work outside the home.  Mum supplemented the household budget with selling eggs from her chickens and later, when they moved to the town, by sewing and by picking raspberries in the summer.   She made a lot of our clothes and pickled and preserved and jammed with the best of them.

 They had settled in Kirriemuir in Angus just before I was born and Angus in the 1950s was ‘berry country.’  Miles and miles of fields were heavy with raspberries and they were harvested by local and itinerant workers.  For some reason Dad didn’t put his foot down about this, perhaps because it was the money set aside for our annual holiday.  Also it was something that Mum loved.  She enjoyed the chatter and friendship in the fields and I suppose it was a complete change of scene for her.  Personally I never saw the attraction, I hated it.
So Margaret Buick Reid was wife, mother, nurse and musician.  She cooked and baked, she knitted, she sewed, making a lot of our clothes including my wedding dress.  She loved to garden, when my father let her, although they finally seemed to compromise on which part of the garden was hers.  She would play the piano for hours – old Scottish airs, light opera and musicals for our sing-a-longs, classical for herself.  I can still see her swaying gently on the piano stool completely lost in the music.    

nurses with bobby's hats
She left me with so much: a love of music and reading, skills with sewing and knitting although not much skill in the kitchen.  She also gave me a keen interest in Wimbledon.  I don’t watch any other sport, in fact I don’t even watch any other tennis tournaments, but I wouldn’t miss Wimbledon.  With Mum, every year, for that fortnight, we ate salads for tea, something my dad teased her about endlessly.  All the housework was done in the morning and if it wasn’t finished, too bad.  Then at 2pm sharp she would have the ironing board set up in front of the telly or she would sit down with her knitting to watch every ball played.   In our household there was a strict rule that when visitors arrived the television was switched off – unless it was Wimbledon fortnight, but then people knew better,  if they visited they would be expected to watch the tennis.

 This year, as I watched the dramas unfold from Wimbledon, I knew just how she would react: she would love the gentleman that is Roger Federa and delight in his new babies; she would tell Nadal to wear a proper pair of underpants and Andy Murray to stop acting like a moody teenager and grow up.  She would have watched every single game of the longest game in history and would have wanted to hug the loser, and she would have been proud of the standing ovation given to the servicemen honoured on People’s Saturday with a seat in the Royal Box. 

Such are my memories as we approach Mother's Day - and maybe that is the way it should be. 


  1. What wonderful memories of your mother - and shared so delightfully. I truly enjoyed your stories of your 'mum'.

  2. Ann this is beautiful, I love the way you write about your Mum and your memories, lovely ....