This is a speech presented by Mulliadh(Mooley) Kelly at the 2002 NOFU Reunion dinner, describing her early life in Scotland, meeting her NOFU husband and her arrival and subsequent life in Newfoundland.
Our guest speaker is the former Elizabeth Ormiston, who was born and raised in Scotland. Her father served in both W.W.I and W.W.II. Some people have nicknames or petnames given them when they are young, and our guest speaker is no different. Her grandfather called her his darling, or little dear, in gaelic. This lady married one of the Newfoundland Foresters, Dan Kelly, and became the lady we know as Mulliadh ( pronounced Mooley) Kelly. Mulliadh and Danny had three children born in Scotland and when they came to Newfoundland they decided that, in self defence, the Newfies should outnumber the Scots, so they had ten more children. The Kellys made their home in Gambo, then in Gander, then back to Gambo, where Mulliadh lives today with a number of her family close by.
Hi everyone! My name is Mulliadh Kelly. Welcome to the Newfoundland Foresters Association 23d. annual gathering and meeting. Ron Pond, our own very capable president, has asked me to share some of my memories of pre-war and wartime, how it had affected me personally, and how I had met Danny, my late husband. I could write a book. However, I will just give you a few of the memories. The special ones I will keep for myself. They are precious.
Before the war, I led a very happy, but strict life like we did in those days so long ago. My mom and dad had a farm and guest house. We bred Highland ponies and Highland cattle. My grandfather, Edward Ormiston, won first prize with a black highland mare named Mountain Polly at Olympic Stadium in 1897. My father and brother won again in the 1950's with a stallion. The bred names are gaick,croila, strathmashie and craggdhu. My brother Cameron and his three boys are still involved, so it is fourth generation. He led the parade on horseback one week ago at Blair Atholl Castle, home of the Duke of Atholl, which I had the honor to attend. But I sat in a cart. Getting old, I guess! Dad fought in World War one 1914 - 1918. He was a sniper in the Cameron Highlanders, and then trained commandos at Achnacarry with Lord Lovat in command in the second world war 1939 - 1945. When I finished school I spent most of my time helping with the animals, playing golf, tennis, badminton with the local team, and went to movies. Usual things most young people did in those days. Then everything changed. In 1939 Hitler invaded the countries in Europe and war was declared on September 3d., 1939. I remember so well my father calling us all to go to the sitting room, my mother, sister Bunty, brother Cameron, and myself and the servants to listen to the declaration of war on the radio. I was sixteen so it didn't mean much to me at the time. However, it changed everything. I went to deliver gas masks (Dad was in charge of the home guard) to outlying farms and crofts with a friend, Annie MacRae. Most people didn't know what was going on.
When we got back to the village of Newtonmore, where we lived, we went directly to the railway station. The trains were bringing women and children north to the highlands from the towns of Edinburgh and Glasgow. They were evacuated as the government was afraid the Germans would bomb and gas all ports in Britain, especially the towns and areas where factories were located. We had 27 children and 2 mothers billeted in our home that night. Some mothers did not come with their children. They probably worked or some such thing. Three of these stayed until the end of the war, but most left and went back home. Guess they got homesick! Within days, most of the young men in the village and surrounding districts were called to war service with the Cameron Highlands Territorial Army.
They fought in France and were the rear guard for all who were trying to escape by boat across the English Channel at Dunkirk to England. Most of the local boys were taken prisoner. Many were killed, including two boys who I went to school with and worked for my father, David MacLaughlan and Alister Begg. Davie's brother went back to look for him and was taken prisoner, was reported killed, but turned up at the end of the war.
Everyone dreaded the postman's knock, as that is how people were notified.
I volunteered for work with the Red Cross. I was seventeen that December. We did all kinds of things. Rolled bandages, collected spagrum moss which was used to pack wounds, got packages of food, clothes, cigarettes, etc. to send to the prisoners and other troops who were fighting in all parts of the world. We also tried to keep in touch with writing letters. By this time many people were called up for war service. Women went to work in the factories to make ammunition and whatever was needed for war. We had a blackout. No lights were to be seen, as planes flying over would bomb. We had an alarm system, when they came within five miles of the coast this sounded. My mom would take us all to the food cellar downstairs in the house and stay there until the all clear siren went off. Food was rationed, and stamps for clothes. We had camps everywhere where the soldiers from Canada, Australia, all over.. Britain, India, the Scottish Highland Light Infantry and the Canadian Forestry Corp, training in the hills. The Newfoundlanders arrived in February 1940. There were six camps and a sawmill camp at Laggan, about ten miles from us. Once they got settled they started to come to the village. The first two I met were Joe Mackay and Tom White. They used to go to dances, etc. We had card games and teas and entertainment for them. I met Danny in 1940. We started dating on the sly. Newfoundlanders were out of bounds to us. I told you dad was strict. But I think it was love at first sight for us. We were allowed to ask some of them to Christmas dinner at our house in 1940. Of course, knowing Danny it was mostly Gambo boys. I can't remember all the names. There were about a dozen, Patrick Kelly (Danny's cousin) Tom, Leo Kelly, Jim Dooley, I think Kevin Hawco and Jim's brother Jack Power (Salmonier) to mention a few. We were allowed to go to the dance in the village that night, Bunty and I, and Mary Leslie (one of the servants) had to go as a chaperone. We soon gave her the slip that night, ha! ha! That same spring the Newfoundland Forestry Unit took over our house for offices and residence for office staff. GlanBanchor Lodge. I have many happy memories of it. It is called Lodge Hotel. I used to visit it for old times sake and slide down the bannisters for fun like we did when I was younger.
Then we moved to Clune House in the village. Any excuse I could get to see Danny, I used. I would take horses up to the camps. They used them to haul wood. I had dinner there one day at camp 2 Laggan, waiting for dad to pick me up in the car. Uncle Jim Patrick Kelly from Gambo was in charge of the camps there. It was the first time I ate salt beef, or even seen it. I love it now with peas pudding, bread pudding, vegetables etc.
Love prevailed. Danny and I were married in the Roman Catholic Church in Kingussie in 1941.
War continued. We all thought it would be over in no time but it was not to be. The Yanks (as we called them) came late but we managed to land in France again on June 6th. 1944 with the help of the Canadians and commandos. The bombing was much worse and everyone was involved with war. The war was over in 1945. Oh boy! Were we ever glad and happy. We had bonfires, dancing in the streets, lots of bagpipe music and singing and parties to celebrate. All the surviving prisoners of war and soldiers, air force and sailors came home and very quickly life seemed to get back to normal again. We lived more like pre-war days. We would ride horses, golf, play tennis etc. Food was more plentiful, although we didn't have it as bad as other towns. All the towns were bombed during the war and many innocent women and children were killed. There were no more blackouts. Danny volunteered to stay an extra year to help clean up camps and camp sites.
We didn't leave for Newfoundland unitl July, 1946. We sailed from Liverpool , England on the SS Drottningholm, a Swedish American liner. It took five days. We docked in St. John's on the 18th. of July, 1946 and left by train. That night we arrived in Gambo about 1:30am July 19th. We had three wee ones by then, Elsie, Michael and Hazel. (Ormistons always were good breeders)
Gambo was a cultural shock to me. It was very different, with wooden houses. Different than what it is now, but I won't go into that. I am sure you remember what life was like in those days. Danny got work in Gander Airport with the Department of Transport as a heavy equipment mechanic in hanger 13. (he had done a correspondence course from Robert Gordon's Technical College in Aberdeen) He received a certificate in Automotive Engineering. He got an apartment in Gander and we moved to Gander in October. We went by train. It was called a weigh freight. We stopped everywhere along the way, picking up cars of wood etc., you name it. We left at 1:30pm and got to Gander about 7:00pm. It was dark then, but I was glad to be there (although I must say that Danny's mother, who belonged to New Brunswick, and his brother and sisters were so good......) It could have been worse, I guess, but I was so happy to have hot and cold water, electricity, lights and a phone again. We were the first on the Army Side, which is where we lived. Our children went to the first Catholic school that was opened in Gander, Father MacCarthy was priest at that time. He was very helpful to me as I took instruction in Danny's church the next year. I was brought up a strict presbyterian. Bunty was born in April, 1948. She is the only "Newfoundlander" I have. My husband Danny was born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. We were Canadian when the other children were born.
My mom died suddenly on December 28th., 1949 at the age of fifty-one. I was not able to attend the funeral. Planes went overseas once a week in those days. I was so upset, but I will never forget Ina Fry came to visit me (her husband worked in the same building as Danny, she was another war bride and she was of the Salvation Army faith) I really never knew her before, but she was such a comfort to me. We have remained friends. My sister came over for six weeks, which was such a blessing. I had nine more children, Patsy, September 1951, Theresa, who died at eight months "My Angel", then Danny, November 1954.
I went back home for a visit in 1956. Flew BOAC via Shannon, Ireland. It took us 8-1/2 hours. Takes only half that time now. We had moved to the Balavil Hotel in Newtonmore, so it was really different. Lots of people to meet me, but mom was gone. However, we had the same old piano and other furniture around us that we had when we were young, which made it home.
We moved back to Gambo in May, 1956. The road was through to Gambo and the ferry train took you from here to Clarenville. We had a garage and service station, built a house and then the kids started coming again. Born in Gambo were Heather, May 1957, Cameron, December 1958, Catriona, January 1960, Fiona November 1962, St.Andrew's Day (Patron Saint of Scotland) Elizabeth, September 1964 and Ewan, June 1966. Tom and Margaret Curran were great friends and I guess you all knew them. They are Patsy's Godparents. Tom told me I would have a baker's dozen. I laughed at him, but that's what we had. Many happy times we had in Gambo Hotel where Tom and Margaret lived. We always stayed with them. Unfortunately, they have both passed away. Tom will be arguing with somebody, I am sure. Could be Danny! Danny died the 6th. of July, 1984, 18 years ago. I still miss him, but life goes on. I am truly blessed with my large family.
There is never a dull moment. I have twenty seven grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. I have been in Newfoundland 56 years this past July. No regrets! We had our ups and downs, like most people. I have been shown so much kindness since coming. I have all you fine people to call my friends, especially Trixie and Lester Stoyles, Larry and Jean Gladney, Ester Power and, oh! so many more.
Thank you all so much! God Bless you! Let's have a great party!