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Credit: Karen MacDonald
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A Seaforth Highlander

By Karen MacDonald

...he is gone but his stories are part of the Spirit of the Highlands that draw me back.

My father was born in 1919 and grew up on a croft at Ardmair, a small community north of Ullapool. The extra money drew him to join the territorial army and as a result he was first in line to be called up when war broke out, joining the Seaforth Highlanders. He didn't talk much about it but certain fragments of that time were often repeated until they became embedded in my own memories. Now he is gone but his stories are part of the Spirit of the Highlands that draw me back.

He talked of interminable train journeys home on leave that seemed filled with the sound of babies crying and how, by the time he arrived home it was almost time to about turn and head back again. He told of the huge mushrooms they would gather in the French meadows and cook up for breakfast and laughingly related coming upon buried stashes of wine and brandy, obviously hidden from the Germans. The French farmers were often bare footed in wooden clogs despite bitter weather. He described sleeping under canvas and marching up dark frozen roads weak with bronchitis, only able to continue because the tight proximity of his fellow soldiers kept him propped upright. At that time the kilt was still worn and they would run a candle down each pleat to kill the lice. Being too late to escape from Dunkirk he was among those on the last boat from St. Malo.

On demobbing he chose a suit jacket over the tweed then regretted it. A bit of revelry ensued and on arriving at his station to disembark he stuck his hand through the glass door to grab the handle mistakenly thinking it was open. He was made to pay and regretted that too.

His brothers Ian, Roddy and Kenny also served in the Seaforth Highlanders; Duncan, the Navy and Willie the RAF. Their stories deserve to be told separately and remembered also. Kenny alone did not survive, dying at twenty four from TB of the spine and bone contracted in the field.

Three men in army uniforms and kilts along with a man in a suit, seated, pose for a photograph. Image provided by Karen MacDonald

The MacDonald sons from Ardmair

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