January 8, 1931
Euan had travelled from Glasgow to Dundee by train and then walked from the station to the home.
He was weary, for he’d not slept the night before, his mind turbulent with thoughts of seeing his two lassies again. He felt excitement and trepidation together.
Now, waiting in the high-ceilinged corridor as instructed by one of the staff, he sat with his hands clutched tight round the brown-paper parcel he had travelled with winter coats for Jean and Nell, the best he could afford, purchased from Henderson’s Department Store on Argyll Street. They were meant to have been a Christmas gift, but it had snowed heavily for three weeks continuously in December and the trains had not been running, so Euan couldn’t get through.
He sniffed. The home had a peculiar smell about it; not quite the same as a hospital, but similar. He’d been taken to hospital in Glasgow when a steel girder struck him accidentally on the head. The wound, just above his eyebrow, had bled profusely.
“Best see about that,” the gaffer had said. So Euan had spent a couple of hours at Clydebank Royal Infirmary. It was the first time he’d been inside a hospital and the smell had made him feel sick.
The uniformed young woman who had answered the door to him returned.
“I’m sorry, Mr McIntosh,” she said somewhat sheepishly. “Mr Campbell says there are no appointments available today.”
“You need an appointment to see Mr Campbell.”
“I’m not bothered about seeing him, whoever he is. I’ve come tae get my bairns.”
“He’s the governor.” There was a hesitant pause. “Did you write to inform him that you were coming?”
“No,” Euan said, rising to his feet. “I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to get through. The trains have not been running with the snow, you see. It held me up. Are the bairns here?”
“It’s school-time, Mr McIntosh. There are no school-age children here at this time of day. Only babies and small infants.”
“Right.” He nodded.
The woman stepped closer.
“What did you say the names of your two daughters were?”
“Jean and Nell.”
Her eyes narrowed and she cast them to the floor, deep in thought.
“Jean and Nell.”
“They’re maybe known by their proper names here. Jane and Helen.”
“I look after the infants,” she murmured.
“Jean and Nell are nine and eleven.”
“Oh, yes,” she said, lifting her eyes to meet his steady gaze. “I do know them. But they’ve been ” She stopped and her expression changed visibly to one of discomfort. “Wait here, Mr McIntosh,” she said, her voice quieter. “Mr Campbell will need to sort this out.”
“Aye, because they’re coming awa’ wi’ me today. That’s why I’m here. I’ve come through from Glasgow to collect them.” He ran his hand through his hair. “I’m sorry I’ve not got an appointment, but I’m here now, and I don’t intend to leave without my lassies. I’ll just bide here till they’re back fae the school.”
“Sit yourself down now,” she said, touching his arm lightly. “I’ll see if I can arrange a cup of tea for you.”
He watched as she hurried down the corridor and then, at the far end of it, disappeared through a side door.
Not be long, he told himself. This was the day he’d been working towards for a whole year, and soon he’d be reunited with his bairns, and before the three of them travelled back to Glasgow later that afternoon, he intended for them to pay a visit to the Pettigrews’ to see how baby Douglas was getting on.
It was queer, he thought as he sat patiently waiting, that he’d heard nothing from Marigold for several months. At first she had been very good at replying to his enquiries, and had sent him lengthy accounts of how well Douglas was progressing. Inside her last letter, received in October, she had enclosed a photograph of Douglas sitting upright on a rug at the seaside. It had been grand seeing that picture. The wee lad had a bonnie smile on his face, and he looked healthy and well-cared for.
Marigold had written on the back of the photograph of Douglas, July 1930, Burntisland, Fife, which suggested to Euan that she, Hugh and Douglas had holidayed there, and that inspired him to begin thinking about a trip for himself, Jean and Nell for the coming summer. It was a popular tradition in Glasgow for folk to sail “doon the watter” during the Fair Holiday, when the yards and factories all closed, and he fancied the idea of a week in a boarding house in one of the resorts on the Clyde coast. His landlady, Mrs Spinks, had recommended Saltcoats.
“Plenty entertainment there,” she’d said with the authority of someone who had spent many a happy summer’s day on its promenade.
His imagination had flared with images of donkey rides and ice-creams.
“Jean and Nell would enjoy that,” he’d said, thinking he’d already saved a tidy sum, with the work he did at Fairfield Shipyard being far better paid than the jute mill.