My dad

'The lights of Atholl Palace burned bright at night just like a fairy castle'.

And so we found ourselves, close members of the McKinnie family, sat down for afternoon tea at the
Atholl Palace Hotel, the location my dad viewed so magically when he first saw it, a lad aged 5 or 6 years old from a tenement in the east end of Glasgow in the midst of the 1930s Great Depression.

I love being with family back home in Scone... it happens all too infrequently. And although the reason for this visit was a sad one, following my dad passing away on Friday 08-July, I know he would have enjoyed seeing his sons and daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren, wider family and friends all together. Also really satisfying to see how Becky, Beth and John got on so well with all their Scottish cousins. Just a pity David's broken leg meant he couldn't travel.

It was all arranged in a bit of a hurry, made more difficult by the fact that 20,000 Jehovah's Witnesses had descended on Perth for their annual get together. Bed and breakfast vacancies were rarer than hens' teeth. So we stayed at the Murrayshall House Hotel, on the hillside overlooking Scone.

On Thursday evening we found just about the whole family round at mum's giving her support. Dad's drink cabinet is a bit of a legend within the family... everyone knew he had a fair collection hidden away but the joke was no one ever saw more than one bottle at a time. So as the padlock was broken open ~;0) it was no surprise to release some quite exotic liquors into the light of day as all drank to his memory.

The Friday ceremony was of course sombre. A service at St John's RC Church in Perth before a quiet Scots piper led ceremony at Fonab cemetery in Pitlochry. We left Dad in the shadow of Ben Vrackie in the location he so loved to have an afternoon meal at the Atholl Palace Hotel.

On Friday evening we found all the male members of the McKinnie family (excepting David) at Scone Bowling Club furiously attempting to outdo each other at 50p a time dominoes. Lots of banter and general bonhomie, particularly when brother Andy chose a vulnerable time to pop to the loo... just about to start a game, the worst possible hand was selected for him, four dominoes full of sixes and fives. We all had loads of fun watching him innocently trying to play the hand as best he could.

We had a great family weekend, saddened by the fact my dad couldn't be there to enjoy it. Hopefully the eulogy I gave in church did him justice... I've shown it below to give a better idea who my dad was, along with some photos of the weekend.

Today my brother Andy and his son Michael were hoping to climb Ben Vrackie to put some of the earth from dad's grave on the summit and to bring a stone back from the top to go on dad's grave, but unfortunately they'll have to leave it to later since the weather beat them.

There's so many good things to say about my dad, but he asked for his eulogy to be kept short so I'm going to speak about a couple of things I know were really close to his heart.

The first is his love of Pitlochry. This afternoon he'll be heading off to his resting place in the cemetery there. Pitlochry is a lovely place and I knew he liked it, so much so that he bought two houses in view of Ben Vrackie. But clearly his love of Pitlochry was far more deep rooted than many of us realised.

Dad first went to Pitlochry when he was about five or six. His dad, John Sylvester McKinnie, was a stoker on the railways. It was a tough job, the main function being to shovel coal into the engine furnace to keep the steam train barrelling along. One of the perks was an entitlement to free rail tickets and the family started travelling by train each year to Pitlochry for their annual holiday.

Now, viewed from the comfort of the 21st century there seems nothing remarkable about that. But dad was a kid from a tenement in the East End of Glasgow, a Glasgow severely hit by the 1930s Great Depression. His dad had a good job but the family were surrounded by unemployment and deep deprivation. So an annual holiday in the countryside would have been something to cherish.

Not your typical bed and breakfast though... Aunty Kate's cottage was where they stayed in the first few years, on a hillside overlooking Pitlochry, with running water provided from the burn outside. The lights of Atholl Palace burned bright at night just like a fairy castle (dad's words) and Ben Vrackie loomed over a village that even then fairly bustled with visitors brought by the railway.

So it's no wonder dad loved enjoying the sparkling Highland air and wide open spaces with his family. He loved it so much that as a lad he returned year after year, even cycling the 60+ miles to be there in his summer holidays.

And his love of family holidays continued when he had his own brood of five. I remember train rides to Fleetwood in Lancashire, farm holidays in the Lake District. I have a picture at my bedside from one of these trips... of my mum, brothers and sisters all smiling and looking very smart, dad behind the camera lining us all up. Lunch would be banana sandwiches in the back of the car, mum furiously buttering for all she was worth to keep up with the phenomenal consumption.

One year dad managed to borrow a caravan and decided this was to be a full-on first towing experience... he was taking mum and us five kids from one end of the country to the other, all the way from Scotland to Cornwall. I remember as night set in running out of petrol just yards from the overnight camp site, having to hop out at Cirencester to retrieve a stray hubcap, of the car wheezing up hills with a queue behind. The car did a lot more wheezing and stopping on the way back home because of dirt in the fuel pipes, but we had a fabulous family holiday, one of many.

And that was dad's second great love, that for his family. He liked nothing better than to be with his family, with his sisters, with mum to be amongst us sons and daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren, with all of us laughing and joking, telling stories, reminiscing on old times.

Dad lives on in all 22 of us... through our mannerisms, our way of speaking, our optimism and can do attitude. Even in his two great grandsons Connor and Sammy he's there, both left handed like dad, both of whom peer back at me with dad's pale blue eyes.

He'd love seeing us all here today, together for him and mum.

Thank you everyone for coming to celebrate Dad's life.

A small selection of the family gathered on Thursday evening to support mum and investigate dad's drink cabinet.
An early session of 50p a time dominoes, and brother Andy (in the background) makes the fatal mistake of nipping out to the loo.
The second session of dominoes and all is still general bonhomie.
Brother Bob awards me the triple pot to much dissatisfaction all round. I'm the handsome one on the right of the photo, desperately trying to get the money out of Bob's grasp.
The view from just above dad's resting place showing Ben Vrachie, the Atholl Palace and looking towards Aunty Kate's cottage.
Sunset view from Scone looking towards Pitlochry.

1 comment:

  1. So sorry to hear of the loss of your Dad. My Dad passed away in January 2010 and was a lover of Scotland since his time based at Lossimouth in his naval days. I visited Pitlochry in February this year with my mum,daughter and sister when stopping at Loch Rannoch.It was cold and snowing but still had a good time.


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