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I was told I had 'too damn much edjimicaishon'

By Lily Byron

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Lily Byron, aged 11.
Lily Byron, aged 11.

Recently I wrote about Jock Galloway and "Slamp". Well, I couldn’t leave out Danac, could I?

Danac’s proper name was, I suppose, Donald MacLeod but I never heard anyone using that name.

He did have a by-name but since we were never allowed to say it in front of him or any members of his family, I will refrain from using it here.

He was probably about 70-years-old when I first knew him. Although he had plenty of relatives in the area, he lived by himself in a wee house up the hill from ours in Church Street and was one of our frequent visitors.

He was a cheerful character, of small stature and very deaf. I picture him in his belted raincoat, collar and tie, tweed bonnet and highly polished shoes – dressed to kill for a night out in Fergie’s bar.

I think his idea was to accompany my father to the pub but my father always complained that he arrived much too early. He would often come in on his way home too.

I feel ashamed, now, of the fun we made of him as youngsters, because of his deafness.

However, Danac enjoyed a laugh and didn’t seem to mind.

After a few drams, he used to take swings that would put him nearly off balance. Maybe that too was due to his ear problems.

He loved music but, probably because he was deaf, his attempts at singing used to send us kids into fits of laughter.

His favourite one was: "Go and leave me if you wish it... never mind, You can keep your love and I’ll keep mine", all half-spoken, half-sung in a monotone.

One night he arrived at our house about seven o’clock, looking very smart in a whitish raincoat.

"My word, Danac, you’re looking ‘spaideil’ tonight", said my mother, admiring his coat.

"Beilt (boiled) the bugger in Daz!", he said, proud as any housewife.

My mother always made "a droppie" tea with something to eat in the evening. One night we had bread, butter and home-made cheese, which we had brought home from Auntie Mary’s in Rosehall. We couldn’t get Danac to understand what it was and after a minute or two he said, pulling bits out of his mouth, "Hellish bones, boy! I had a bit myself and I beilt it for two hours and it was still tough!"

He’d been in the Navy during the war and sometimes talked about amusing experiences he’d had but his voice would trail away and we could only understand bits of what he was saying.

Once he told us about a group of them sitting for hours in a northbound train at Invergordon.

"We sat and sat and the train wasna moveen. We looked out the window. Notheen doeen. Then someone went to find out what was happening. The bloody Navy went off with the engine!"

Sometimes he would come with my father to meet me off the train when I was coming home from university for the holidays. I would get a great welcome from Danac, followed by a scolding. "Hello Lilya boy! Grand ti see you home! Are you no’ feeneshed at that collage yet? How long have ye do?’

"Another two years!"

" For God’s sake lassie, you know what’ll happen ti’ you. You’ll go like A-------’s daughter. She went off her head with too damn much edjimicaishon. She hanged herself!"

A severe warning indeed!

On another occasion, on a New Year’s evening, after my mother died, we three sisters, all teenagers, were at home alone, after visiting our good neighbours Jock and Mrs Fraser.

("Why does she get her full title and I’m just Jock?")

We heard a faraway voice calling.

We went out to the door and stood in the dark, listening. There was no one there but as we listened more intently we heard the voice again. We ventured out, trying to judge where the voice was coming from. We reached the road, looking in both directions. It seemed to be coming from further up the road, near Mrs Mason’s.

A new street light had recently been installed, just outside her house and there was Danac, lying by the roadside, shouting, "Elick, put oot that damn light. Elick, are yi’ heareen me? Put oot that damn light and let a man get some sleep!" (Elick was his nephew who still lives in the area.)

Poor Danac, he’d had a bit too much to drink on his first-footing rounds!

We helped him up and took him home with us, to sober him up and give him some food and warmth. He stayed with us by our fireside until our father returned. Our dad would have seen him safely home, as he often did.

Sadly, while I was living in Edinburgh, I received a letter from my father telling me that our old friend Danac had been killed by a car, on his way home from Bonar one Saturday night.

A sad end to another of the old characters that were part of Ardgay life.

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