Saturday, 4 March 2006

Memorial Number One

On the second of January this year my Granny finally passed away. When looking through a small suitcase she kept in a hall cupboard I found a stack of "memories" that meant something to her. Included in this collection was a speech made by one of my Dad's cousins at their Golden Wedding back in 1991. I've supplemented it with a few photos that I found in the drawers back home.

The "Family" - 1969 (Back row: (Uncle)Ian Ritch, Edwin Heddle (Grandad), Lena Heddle (Granny), Johanna & Bill Rosie, Ian Heddle (my 'paw'); Front row: (Auntie)Marion Ritch (with Phyllis on her knee), Keith & Willie Ritch, Kathleen Heddle (my 'maw') and Me - she was pregnant with Derek at the time)

The Golden Wedding of Mr & Mrs Edwin Heddle
Speech by
Fraser Murray

"Earlier tonight you might have noticed Marian speaking to me at the table first, and then Ian. Marian was ordering me not to include one of my jokes – Ian wanted to know what it was.

First of all I would like to say a special welcome to the guests who have travelled to Orkney especially for tonight.
Jackie & Mary – from Shetland;
Alan, Gwen & Sheena – from Aberdeen;
Alan & Audrey – from Canada;
Billy & Isobel, Graham & Johanna, Norman & Irene – from Thurso.
(When you are mingling later on and you find yourselves speaking to someone that you don’t understand – they’ll be the Thurso ones!)
Finally a very special welcome to Gladys – Lena’s bridesmaid of 50 years ago.

Ladies and Gentlemen. This function must be one of the best kept secrets since the Council fixed the date of the official opening of the new Burwick pier. About a month ago I got advance notice of our celebration when Ian phoned me. Our conversation followed the lines of the “Good news/Bad news” type jokes. You know the sort of thing – the good news is that you’re getting an invitation, the bad news is that we want you to make a speech. Time will tell whether it’s bad news for me or you. I did say to Ian could I not just pay for my tickets like everyone else!

Having accepted the task (I’m easily led) it started me thinking about the influence that Edwin and Lena, and indeed Voy, had on me over the years.

As a youngster, being dildered about in the back of the hatchery van at 30mph on a Sunday afternoon (it was a Bedford GT!) kids don’t normally like visiting but going to Voy was different. I could watch TV – and Lena always had good things for tea.

When I was older I stayed out for holidays and it was an amazing contrast from living in cramped conditions in the town, to having space of the countryside. I always thought Voy was posh as well. At home our living room-come-kitchen was so small you could hardly move. Voy was that big and posh that they had a sitting-room that nobody was allowed into!

When my own wedding plans were under way Edwin thought he would pass on some of his worldly experience to help me along. His own honeymoon was grand he said – because he got shortbread for breakfast – that disna last long though and it’s no long before you’re back to just bannocks. His second piece of advice was to watch out because women change – I often think, he said, o’ all the pleasant bits o’ lasses I kent when I was younger and wonder where all the awkward old buggers o’ women come fae. Then he gave me our wedding present and I looked at the label to see that it said “from Edwin & Lena” – I expected it to say from “Edwin & Wife”. He said we wouldn’t need to right away but it would come in handy after a year or so – it was an electric blanket!

Silver Wedding (Back row: Ian, Grandad, Dad; Seated: Marion, Willie, Granny, Mum)

For farmers, working and family life is very close-knit and to be successful needs co-operation and good organisation as well as delegation. Lena was left to look after the men, the sheep, the hens, the house, etc. Edwin concentrated on the larger issues like, should Britain join the Common Market. The fact that Edwin relied on Lena to do so much is illustrated by a true story. When Lena was in the advanced stages of labour at Voy (with Ian) she picked the most inconvenient time – Co-op day. Edwin was getting frustrated because the van was outside and he couldn’t find a shopping list and didn’t know himself what to buy. Resourceful as ever he just went to the foot of the stairs and shouted “wife, are ye needan anything fae the van?”

Silver Wedding - cutting the cake

It might surprise you to know that there is a bit of one-upmanship with farmers. The first time Allan came home from Canada he was trying to impress Edwin by the size of things over there. “I have one client with a farm that would take me 3 days to drive round” he boasted. “Aye” said Edwin, “I used to have a car like that as well. That’s why I started buying Fords fae Bill Rosie.” Things are changing though and he is getting more adventurous. He is now driving round in a Renault van of all things – he has an ulterior motive though as he thinks it will be easier to slip through the French farmers’ picket lines when he expands into Europe in 1992. The latest inside information is that he is thinking about buying a Honda. Lena rebelled though, saying she is far too old to wear leathers and a crash helmet. She’s since calmed down a bit now that someone told her they make cars now and not just motorbikes. Of course they always get on best when they go out for a run in the car with Lena driving. Now that they are looking at a new car the salesman asked if they would prefer a manual or an automatic. “A manual one will do fine” says Lena, “because Edwin automatically shouts at me to change gear.” Driving skills are second nature to the Heddle’s of course. I remember my Mum telling Dapa that she would be far too nervous to drive to which he replied “nonsense, if you meet anything on the road all you have to do is slow down to give them time to get out of your way.”

This has been quite a year for family get-togethers with Bobby and Thelma’s Silver Wedding, my (21st!) birthday party, and now the crowning glory of a Golden Wedding. Indeed we’ve been together on so many occasions this year that we are almost on first name terms again.

Tonight we celebrate 50 years of commitment and success in the slightly plusher surroundings of the new Standing Stones Hotel, compared to the barn dance in Deerness in 1941. For Edwin it has been a period of constant change in farming as he has had to move from one grant scheme to the next. Lena has been the rock of stability throughout – behind every successful man there is a good woman (making sure he behaves himself)! The qualities that come to mind are hard-working on the farm, in the community and on bringing up the family, caring, kind and considerate – and Edwin’s no a bad soul either.

Ruby Wedding - December 19th, 1991 (Back row: Marion, Ian, Phyllis, Willie, Keith, Derek, Mum, Dad; Seated: Allan, Gladys, Granny, Grandad)

Seriously Edwin and Lena have a lot to be proud of having brought up their own family they can now enjoy their grandchildren. I’m sure that they have been good to us all and of course that is why we are here tonight – despite the weather from all aerts – to recognise their kindness.

So Lena, lang me you continue to grow your flowers, and Edwin your tatties and keep singing Edelweiss.

I would therefore ask you all the be outstanding and drink a toast to Edwin and Lena."

Diamond Wedding - December 19th 2001 (Marion, Grandad, Dad, Granny)

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