Mr. John McPherson February 1, 2013
It is with great personal interest that I read “Hopeman 1805-2005”. I received it from my sister, Eileen Cameron from Forres, for Christmas 2012. I will try to be as brief and concise as possible, but with all my memories and recognition of several of the people mentioned in the book, it will be difficult.
My name is William David Martin McHardy and I was born at the Wards, Roseisle, Burghead, on September 19th, 1929, to Frank and Christina (Dunbar) McHardy. I have two sisters, Eileen who was born May 11, 1932 and Ann who was born March 29th, 1936. (This picture was taken in 1942 at the Wards—myself, Ann and Eileen) I was in Scotland almost three years ago and took my daughter and her family to see all my old haunts.
We went to see the Wards and noticed that there is a new neighbor across the road—The Roseisle Maltings and Distillery.
My father became a gamekeeper on the Ardgye Estate in 1921 following his demobilization from the after WWI. My parents got married on December 5th, 1928. My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1935 and died on September 20th, 1942. My father became head gamekeeper in 1927 and stayed in this position until March 1946 when we left to live in Epsom, Surrey, England near where his 2 brothers and 2 sisters ran a market gardening business. During the war, my father was involved in home security as he knew all of the countryside around where we lived.
When we got to England, I went back to technical school for one year and then went to Cheshire, England in 1947 and worked on a dairy farm until May 1951, when I immigrated to Canada. WWII had been over for 6 years and I felt I was in a rut, going nowhere. I have been in Canada for almost 62 years now and have done well. I worked in the aircraft industry for A.V. Roe from 1952-9 where I was involved in the Avro Arrow project, DeHavilland Aircraft and Spar Aerospace until 1992 when I retired. At Spar, I had the opportunity to work on the Canadarm for the Space Shuttle and the International space station.
I married Elizabeth Jean Ward in October 1959 and we had 3 children.
I attended a one room school in Roseisle from 1934 to 1939 and then on to Duffus HG school in Hopeman for class 4 and 5 followed by high school for 3 years. I graduated in 1944 with my junior matriculation certificate which stated “special aptitude and interest in Science” signed by Mr. George Adam, the Headmaster and Science teacher. My jobs in the aircraft industry involved calibration and certification of test equipment so it seems like Mr. Adam was correct in his assessment of my abilities.
(These pictures were taken at the Hopeman harbor in May 2010)
During my 5 years at school in Hopeman, I got to know many children, some from the surrounding countryside like me. We were considered jokingly as farmers or plough jockeys by the “Houpmin Loons”, but we got along fine. I told my grand-daughter that I rode my bike to school, uphill both ways and she did not believe me until I showed her the road that I took on our trip 3 years ago. I had to ride up the cemetery Brae past the BBC transmitter and then through the Collach to Hopeman each day. I remember it being very windy some days and sometimes, I got blown off my bicycle! On the way home, I took the road at the east end of the Collach up the hill will the wind on my back past the radar station at the top of the hill and then on past the two Old Town Farms and down to the Brae to Roseisle and then to the Wards.
I noticed that the school in Hopeman had undergone some renovations and additions since I was a student there in the 30’s and 40’s. The two infant classes were housed in a building on the southwest corner of the school playground near the front entrance. I don’t remember seeing this building when we were there in 2010. When I was a student, classes were offered for children from the infant class right up to high school in the same school. I understand, the Hopeman school is just a primary school now and the high school students go to Lossiemouth or Elgin.
Mr. John McHardy, as mentioned on page 6 of your book in the article “1862—100 years of Hopeman History”, bought the first house to be built in Hopeman on Cooper St.
My great grandfather’s name was John McHardy and his son, my grandfather, was David McHardy. About 10 years ago, one of my cousins in England discovered that John and David were both born at Weddershill Farm, pictured on page 106 of your book. David McHardy was born on January 23, 1866 and died at Cooperhill near Darnaway Castle in 1921. His father may have been born about 1840-45 (?). I am wondering if the John McHardy mentioned in the book was my great grandfather. I will try to get some more information about John and David from my cousins in England.
Here is a picture of my Grandfather, David McHardy (on left smoking a pipe) and the local battalion of the Seaforth highlanders:
My uncle, John McHardy, age 21, is in the front row, 3rd from the right. This picture was taken in Hopeman in early August 1914. They were on their way to Elgin to get the train to England to finish off their training before being sent to war. You can see the Ben Nevis Inn in the background of the picture. At this time, my Grandfather, David and his family lived at Upper Backlands farm near the Old Town Farms and the younger children, Frank (my father), Colin, Nancy, and Charles went to the Keam school. Emily and Nell, my father’s older sisters were finished school and working at this time.
The Inland Lake, mentioned on page 20 (map on page 3) existed prior to the disappearance of the Village of Culbin. At some point in time, the opening to the “Laich” closed up due to shifting sands, creating an inland lake. I remember reading about this when I was in school. My birthplace, the Wards, is less than 10 feet above sea level as is the land to the east towards Charleston and Roseisle. After the access to the sea was closed off, there was seawater left behind and a hand dug drainage ditch called the Mullie Burn to drain the salty water from the low area at the bottom of Ardgye farm and other farms in the area. The sandhills to the west of Burghead were planted with bent grass and trees to stabilize the sand by the forestry commission in the late 1800’s. When I rode my bicycle to school in the 1940’s, the trees along the straight bit of road by the old Burghead football pitch were just showing above the fences and heather. My Dad’s bees did a good job making heather honey if the summer weather was not too cold and wet. He sold some honey to a grocery store in Kingussie and kept some for us to eat at home.
In the late 1930’s, the Kinloss and Lossiemouth airports were constructed and Rosevalley Farm was turned into a flat landing field for aircraft. It was vacant for about 2 summers and only one aircraft landed there by accident. It was a Harvard trainer flown by two student RAF fighter pilot trainees who were having fun chasing the large herd of “Stots” grazing on the plentiful crop of grass. They went too low with the wheels up and the propeller blades hit the ground, abruptly ending the flight. They had a lot of tough questions to answer. I remember seeing the plane and taking pictures of it. Before WW2, Rosevalley became a practice bombing range for small bombs and out in Burghead Bay, a floating target was anchored for larger bombs. I remember one cold night in winter, one plane dropped two 250 lb bombs about 300 yards from the Wards, just on the other side of the railway. My father complained to the bombing range officer and the Commanding Officer at Kinloss. I’m sure a few choice words and phrases were exchanged, mostly in the CO’s direction.
Kinloss and Lossiemouth airports were operational in 1940-41. Twin engine Whitley Bombers like the trainees flew would take off with 4 Sea Mines in the bomb bays—the doors would not close due to the size of the mines. We watched them struggle to gain altitude over our house as they were on their way to drop the mines along the Norwegian coast around Stavanger, etc. Many did not come back to base and we just hoped that they landed in Aberdeenshire or Banff. The BBC news said bombers attacked the Norwegian coast but never said how many aircraft failed to return.
Lossiemouth airfield was attacked twice by the Luftwaffe just at dusk on both occasions and one cloudy, almost foggy Saturday morning, I heard an aircraft approaching from the sea around the Mullie Bothy area. It sounded different and as it was flying low, I could see it was a Heinkel 111, likely on a photographic misson. After it passed, going inland towards Elgin, there was a roar of aircraft engines from the Lossiemouth direction and then machine gun fire out over the sea. Again, there was no report on the BBC news about this event. Lossiemouth had 6 or so spitfire fighters at the time. (1941—Spring?)
Going to School In Hopeman
Several of the articles and photos mention the names of some of the school mates. Geordie Towns (page 106) was 5 years older than me but his brother, Allan was in my class as was Irene McPherson who lived in one of the Council houses on Dunbar St. (pg 32). The photo on pg 64 shows the group of fishermen at the bowling club. Danny Jack (#3) was a year younger than me but I recall the unfortunate event in 1940 when he lost part of his leg. Murray Davidson was in my class, and he was killed along with another boy who I did not know when they picked up a mortar and it exploded. Gavin Main (Thock) was also in my class. The names of other classmates come to mind including George Garden, Innes Stuart (his dad was a baker), Gordon Catto (his dad was the church of Scotland minister at Duffus), John Young, Forbes Ingram, John Christie, Gordon McLean, Iris McKenzie, Netta Russel, Isabel Thain, Isobel Beale, Jean Robetson, Margaret McDonald and Margaret White. I saw John Christie and his wife, Jessie Munro at a party at my sister, Eileen’s house in 1976 when our family was in Scotland on holiday.
During the war, the pupils at the school put on concerts to raise money for the Red Cross under the guidance of the teachers. Miss Gladys Milne, the music and French teacher, looked after all the musical arrangements and had those of us who could sing or play a musical instrument perform. George Garden played piano as did several others. I remember George was a very good student—first in the class. I played the fiddle as did Ellis Smith and others. Miss Milne was a great pianist and accompanied us on the fiddle. She played in a local dance band and knew all of the tunes without the music. In high school, she taught me to read and write music. The fiddlers all started out with lessons at age 6 or 7 years old. I had lessons from Mr. Logan from the “Broch”. I had trouble understanding him as he talked in adult terms and at 6 years old, I did not understand ½ beats and other technicalities. I was afraid of him and refused to have any more of his lessons. I was told by my Dad not to be so stubborn but I won the argument and he found a new teacher in Elgin, Miss Kim Murray, who was excellent and had good assistants like Willie McPherson and Ella Taylor. They were pupils of hers and were very good fiddle players. Ella also played viola, cello and piano, but not all at once! I had lessons every Saturday—7 miles by bike to Elgin. My fiddle lessons came to an end at the beginning of WW2 but I kept at it by myself and listened to Scottish country dance music on the BBC radio.
In England, I did not play very much but when I came to Canada, Mr. Innis, the farmer for whom I worked the first summer I was here, loved fiddle music and had me play each evening. I met up with some young men in the next village who had a country music band going and I joined in. We still get together to play once in a while, even now, in our old age! Mr. Innes told me that there was a big fiddle contest being organized in a town called Shelburne called the Canadian Open Fiddle Contest (August 1951). He wanted me to enter the contest. I wondered how I was going to get there since it was over 40 miles away. He offered to take me to the contest. Two evenings before the contest, I got a surprise as he had a Toronto newspaper reporter and a photographer at the house equipped with a kilt which was big enough around for two of me. They took my picture (I did not wear the kilt!), asked me some questions, wrote an article and the next day, I was on the front page of the Toronto Telegram along with a story about the contest in Shelburne. I was quite nervous at the contest as there were many fiddlers, young and old. I did not play until about midnight. I played well and the judges picked me as one of the 10 finalists to play on the CBC radio on Saturday evening. I was not in the top 3 but did win some money as one of the finalists which was quite nice as I could use the money at that time. Over the years, I have played in many fiddle contests, including the Shelburne contest each August. Last year, (2012), I came in 3rd place in the over 56 class and was also awarded a plaque as the oldest contestant at age 82 and 11 months. (see photo)
I took quite a bit of ribbing from the other contestants as we have known each other for a long time. I still have the fiddle I brought from Scotland in 1951 when I came to Canada. It was made by George Dyker in 1938 in Forres.
In spite of all the local dialects and versions of the name, the “French Smuggler”, “Haut Mont” referring to the “Tappoch of Roseisle” being visible from a distance out to sea, makes sense. Would it be possible for these sailors to see Ben Rinnes’ peak (almost 2800ft)? On a clear day, we could see it from the Wards, even though it is over 25 miles to the south. We could also see the Nelson Tower in Forres, the Newton Tower and Ben Wyvis to the west, and Morven to the North. I could see them all from the old coast guard station in Burghead (now a small museum) when we were visiting in May 2010. We also visited Culloden and the Roman Well in Burghead on this trip.
I really enjoyed reading your book. It certainly brought back many memories. I hope you find my ramblings and comments interesting. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.