My Dad was born in a tenement in Balfour Street in Embra, youngest of the seven children of a master baker. The family moved back to Easter Ross in due course. He was bright and the first of his family to go to University. Being sensible as well, he chose to go to the Uni of Embra. Started to do Divinity but backslid and ended up with an MA in English and History. Trained as a teacher and went off to darkest Fife where he met Mum on the sprung dance floor of the Methil Bowling Club.
Come the War, Dad was initially in a reserved occupation but joined up as a Gunner. Thirty years later, he was still fighting the venal, Socialist scum of Fife County Council who had docked his pension contributions because he had volunteered instead of waiting to be conscripted when the rules changed.
Commissioned into the Royal Engineers and stayed on after the war, eventually reaching Lieutenant Colonel. Kicked into Civvy Street when there were cutbacks in the early 60’s. Went back to teaching but never settled. Got a job as a civilian instructor in an Army Apprentice College.
An ordinary man and an ordinary life in so many ways. He never gave me anything else but total support even if praise was usually in short supply. He just expected you to get it reasonably right.
A year ago, I was watching the Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph and saw the Beachley Army Apprentice College Old Boys marching. That was where Dad moved when Hadrian’s Camp AAC closed down. Dived into google and found a site celebrating Hadrian’s history.
Prominent thereon was the following poem. That’s my Dad that wrote that. He was proud of being a Scot and equally proud of being British. I intend to honour his memory by fighting to save the Union.
- Bard’s Farewell
‘When the far flung Roman legion ruled the world, with iron hand,
Conquest brought them to the region known to them as “Cumbria’s Land.”
Northward cross the Tweed they sallied where they met the doughty Scot.
Driven back, their ranks soon rallied on this ever – hallowed spot.
Led by Hadrian – famous warrior- here they built a mighty Wall
As the most effective barrier to the raids from painted Gaul.
This the start, then, of our College on this wild and wind – swept site,
Roman soldiers seeking knowledge.Trade by day and Prep. By night !
How they loathed this northern stationStanding frozen on the wall.
How they cursed the Scottish nation who prevented their recall
To their homeland, where their fellows nightly joined in orgy glorious,
Or with wild applauding bellows cheered, as lions were victorious
O’er the Christian Martyrs, weekly. While they shivered wet and weary
Northward, through the darkness bleakly, peering o’er the landscape dreary.
Shields and spears they nightly burnished crouching frozen on their “pits”.
In their barracks, Spartan – furnished, moaning sadly, “We were ‘nits’
To have joined the Roman legion as apprentice charioteer
To be posted to a region where the State controls the beer!”
Not for them a two years’ training followed by a posting home,
But the prospect of remaining all their service far from Rome.
So down through the passing ages, Hadrian’s flourished on its own;
Wrote its name in History’s pages long e’er Aborfield was known!
But alas! the Roman nation was besieged by savage foes,
Legions left their northern station. O’er the wall, the wild wind blows.
Towers and stonework swiftly crumble pillaged by marauding bands;
Farm – carts on the ramparts rumble; desolate the College stands.
Till the war lord, Hore – Belisha, built a fresh camp on the site,
For the newly – formed militia who restored this Country’s might.
On the ground the spiders sprawling sprang up swiftly, strange and stark.
Came recruits from dawn to dark.
So the College, once more thriving, those as “rookies” here arriving
As trained soldiers were “passed out”.
Centurion tank and armoured carrier, Bren guns, sten guns, PIATs, too,
Spitfires roar near sonic barrier where the Roman eagle flew!
Men from every allied nation drilled where Hadrian used to train;
Learnt new skills in preparation of assault on France again.
Victory came and Hadrians settled, peacefully to routine fare;
Hussars’ horses, highly mettled, pranced about the barrack square!
But some Minister of vision chose it as a R.E.M.E. College,
And the War Office made provision for the spread of modern knowledge
To fitters – gun, VMs and others brought from Scotland’s furthest straths,
Torn from arms of loving mother here to learn the joys of maths!
Though at first success came slowly, soon a sense of pride arose
From beginnings poor and lowly,Carlisle’s name illustrious grows.
Cups were won for hockey, shooting,cricket, running, rugger, too:
Colleges on equal footing, soon the might of Hadrian’s knew!
Boxing and athletic meeting, Pipe and Brass and Corps of Drums,
Every College risks a beating, when to Hadrian’s it comes,
Trade results and education fav’rably compare with most.
A/T. from this happy station,“We’re the greatest!” proudly boast.
Lowland fells and Scottish heather, training grounds beyond compare
Bracing winds and Carlisle weather, snow–clad slopes and champagne air!
No other camp throughout the land could match Carlisle in any way:
The “Q” brief passed – new barracks planned –Building to start without delay!
A rosy future stretched ahead until a bitter blow revealed
That Hadrian’s camp was doomed instead to move, en bloc, to Arborfield!
And so, ere long, this ancient site will once more rumble to decay
And Hadrian’s eagle soar in flight while sprawling Spiders rot away!
Yet all who served here must ensure, Carlisle’s traditions never fade
But through the years unchanged endure in memory of the part She played,
In training them as craftsmen skilled and sportsmen worthy of the name.
Their debt to Her will be fulfilled if they preserve Her honoured name!