At home there was a new addition to my bedroom along with several changes. The addition was a hospital bed complete with cot sides or as I call them, rollover bars. It was a strange but secure feeling being back in my bedroom at home, even though its appearance had changed radically. My bed was now on the opposite wall than when I was last sleeping in it. My computer desk, computer and printer, also my metal chest of ten drawers were all gone, they were moved into the space in our kitchen that was normally occupied by a round wooden table. All the time that I was in hospital, it had never occurred to me that I would never drive a vehicle again, particularly the Motability cars I would probably be leasing every three years up to the time I had no need of them, after all I could be in receipt of Mobility Allowance until the year 2028 if I am spared that long. However I have almost decided on a drive-in vehicle which would allow me to drive up ramps at the rear of the vehicle and into the back of a people carrier that had had its floor lowered. I know such vehicles are available because my friends have seen them in operation outside. I would need to purchase such a vehicle with my Mobility Allowance over a period of 4 or 5 years. Apply for a grant to adapt a vehicle from a standard vehicle into a custom made one. I have been leasing my present vehicle for a little over a year now, so by the time year 2003 comes round will have given me ample time to decide on an appropriate vehicle.
During that week I had a visit from the co-ordinator of Parkgate Care Services, namely Sue Williams who went through the details of what my personal needs were and how their organisation could assist. I was allocated two carers for every morning and one carer in the evenings to assist Eva in helping me into bed. One of the first carers who was assigned to me was Sue's daughter Claire. She was a typical Lancashire lass with her undeniable Lancashire accent, perfectly natural since she was born in Blackpool. Then there was Sharon from Lochmaben, a smashing girl but too full of her own problems which she insisted on foisting them on to me first thing in the morning. She had a loud booming voice that I couldn't escape from no matter how hard I tried. In July of that year, Sharon began courting a lad from Dumfries, set herself up in a basement flat with him and a man who she had went to school with.
Sue decided to move back to her home town and a new co-ordinator was appointed in the shape of Sandra who was around fifty years old and a really super person. Sandra hailed from Portsmouth originally and had a lovely accent. She was really mad as a hatter, the few times she paid me a visit as my carer the first I knew of her presence was her high pitched voice singing tarun taraaa after knocking lightly on my front door. There was an absolute plethora of carers who alternated their care visits, but there were too many names to mention, one I do remember was called Cath.
I cannot recall the exact date but it was a week day when Cath had helped me in the morning, and it was around ten o'clock when I was eating my muesli and enjoying my first coffee of the day, Cath was sipping her customary cup of tea. The sliding door to the living room slid open and a voice asked me how I was keeping? It was the voice of Barry Armstrong, who is a lifelong friend who had moved back into Langholm after his 18 year long stint at driving heavy goods vehicles in the United Kingdom, all over Europe, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Barry had to cease driving because it had been the cause of his deteriorating leg and spine arthritis. He had been pronounced 'unable to work' through disability. He came into the room and I introduced him to Cath, who developed a little girlish smile, as did Barry. I couldn't define what I had witnessed at the time, but in hindsight it was probably Cupid's arrows hitting their target. During the next seven days Barry told me that Cath was the woman he was going to share his life with. Within the space of two weeks he had gave up his ground floor flat in Albert Place and moved in with Cath and her daughter Lorna who both lived in a cottage at Byreburnfoot near Canonbie.
Approximately six weeks later they told me that they wanted to get married. I volunteered to contact Reverend Eddie King, but through miscalculation of dates I mistakenly booked the wedding for 23rd September, which after working out which Saturday in September it was, fell on the same day as the Eskdale Agricultural Show and the Muckle Toon Vintage Rally. We left the booking and decided to go with that date. On the morning of the wedding I needed to dress in a regular pair of trousers, normally I wore joggy bottoms for convenience and practicality. Also a regular shirt and tie, I had to wear my soft leather, velcro-fastening shoes owing to my feet being so swollen I was unable to wear regular shoes.
After I had breakfast I proceeded outside to our residents car park where the three steam traction engines were being driven off their respective low loaders. This was the usual place these machines were off-loaded ready to lead the vintage vehicle parade which ended at the Castleholm where they parked up for the day. There were many other vintage vehicles such as tractors, motor cars, motorbikes, heavy goods all preparing to join in the parade. The parade of eighty vehicles started off at ten o'clock led by the Langholm Pipe Band for the seventh consecutive year. I had plenty time on hand as the wedding wasn't scheduled until 2.00pm.
I went back into the house to watch television until we had a very early light lunch. Eva and I along with Scott and Mary Armstrong all travelled in my car to Gilnockie Tower, venue of the wedding ceremony. We arrived a good twenty minutes before the start of the service. It was glorious weather, there were only a few small clouds in the sky, consequently it was pleasantly warm as we were all bathed in sunshine.
It was ten minutes to two and we were all summoned inside to join in the wedding ceremony. There were around twelve people squeezed into the small room that measured approximately 8 feet by 10 feet. Reverend King carried out the traditional ceremony, wedding register signed by those who were required to do so, then several relatives took photographs of the bride and groom. When we emerged from the tower we were ushered onto a particular area of grassed land behind and to the side to have the official photographs taken. The wedding party and relatives all having had their photographs taken prepared to jump in their respective vehicles, the main one carrying Cath and Barry was a white Rolls Royce. The trip to the reception hotel, the Cross Keys in Canonbie only took five or six minutes via the by-pass, most of the time taken was in exiting the Gilnockie Tower track road which was pot-holed and uneven.
We arrived at the Cross Keys hotel car park where Eva and Scott manoeuvred me out of the car and into my wheelchair using the roof hoist. I was assisted across the road and into the entrance door of the hotel, through the foyer and into the entrance to the restaurant area where I manage to greet a few guests before I was pushed up the room to be placed at the top table. After Barry had made his speech I followed on with mine which revolved around the bride and groom. Cath's brother Tom gave his speech, and I carried on the proceedings by reading out the wedding cards. Throughout my speech a young grandson of Cath's was crying and sobbing, so much so that at times I could barely hear my own voice above his. Somehow I managed to complete the speech, later on I found out that the child had somehow found a puddle that was made from the early morning's rain I knew nothing about. He was crying because his trousers had dried out but were chafing his legs, hence the tears. The final wedding duty to be carried out was the cutting of the wedding cake by Cath and Barry. After the reception we headed back to Langholm, Eva and my sister Christine, accompanied by Scott and Mary went to Canonbie to attend the wedding dance and going by the reports I received the next morning, everyone had enjoyed themselves.
The time of year would be about the middle to the end of February when media reports announced an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It was discovered that it had spread all over England and Scotland through sheep sales at Longtown. The most cases were discovered in Cumbria with Dumfries and Galloway coming a close second, the total foot and mouth cases amounting to 178. It may not look like a large number but when one realises that every 'case' is a farm with all its sheep and cattle destroyed, then the reality becomes more apparent. Apart from the animals on the infected farms, the government in their wisdom culled all farm animals which were within 3 kilometres, with no exceptions.
Movement of farm animals was totally forbidden, in the spring there were lambs dying of hunger because the mother ewes were denied access to their lambs, consequently they died in their thousands. There were cases of pet farm animals being destroyed because they lived within 3 kilometres of an infected farm, irrespective if they had any signs of foot and mouth. There was one particular case of a woman who transformed her bungalow house into a sheep pen, filled with straw and sheep troughs because the 5 sheep were not only of a rare breed, but were her pets. The killer crew arrived, along with government representatives and killed her sheep, whilst the lady wept. There was no justification for the killing of these animals because they NEVER had any contact with other farm animals and had no sign of the disease. Slowly but inexorably the death tally rose and the only solution at the time to dispose of the dead animals was to burn them, so large pyres were created and the animals burned.
There were horror stories that were passed around by the disposal workers that lambs were being born as the mother ewes burned. These pyres ceased in April when government scientists realised that the smoke that was given off from the burning carcasses was highly toxic. There were also accounts of farmers killing their own sheep and cattle because the government slaughterers hadn't arrived. That was when more cases of inhumane killing were reported, farm workers shooting at sheep with high powered rifles, and hitting the animal three or four times before they were brought down and finally killed.
As the weeks passed the piles of dead sheep and cattle mounted, so much so that the Army was deployed to dispose of many carcasses, they were tipped into massive trenches from huge tipper wagons, then buried totally. Worries about the dead animals' putrid fluids filtering into local underground water courses became evident, but didn't materialise into anything, as far as we know. The disease affected people all over the United Kingdom, many directly such as farmers, but large numbers of people in the tourist trade, hotel proprietors, shop owners and many service companies. Many people who were employed in the meat trade such as butchers, meat factories that produce prepared meat products, particularly for the export market. The priority at the moment is obtaining compensation for farmers who have had their herds and flocks destroyed, some had been built up over two or three generations. The Eskdale area is starving for compensation according to the local Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser newspaper, apparently the area has been ignored by the Scottish Executive according to local councillor Denis Male. Later on in July there was a public statement made by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods (MAFF), that one-third of the animals had probably died unecessarily. Through the paranoia and panic that had prevailed in the early months of the outbreak, some veterinary surgeons, possibly those enlisted from Europe or Scandanavia, hadn't waited for the animal test results to arrive which would have confirmed the presence of foot and mouth, or not, so they issued orders for entire herds and flocks to be destroyed prematurely, there was over a million disease-free cattle and sheep needlessly killed.
The 2001 Common Riding was a very unusual one, owing to the foot and mouth disease that had affected the sheep on a number of local farms and the neighbouring lands, a prudent decision was taken not to allow the normal numbers of horses and their riders to participate in the annual celebrations. The CR principals consisted of the 1976 Cornet, John Murray, celebrating his Sem-Jubilee year, right-hand man, Steven Hotson, and left-hand man, Darren Irving, that was the full contingent of horse riders. I was attended to by my carers as normal, and after a good breakfast was about to make my way up the street in my fully charged battery powered wheelchair at approximately ten thirty when the heavens opened, but the heavy rain persisted for only twenty minutes. We started off again and at the top of Townfoot the brass band followed by a parade of townspeople turned at the junction of Townfoot and High Street, so we took the opportunity to link in behind them. We walked up the High Street and when the main parade veered off up the Kirk Wynd we filtered into the crowd to the left in front of our post office building. A few minutes later John (Popple) Elliot was assisted onto the back of a horse and stood upright to cry the second Langholm Fair. After John had finished his duty and climbed down from the horse, we remained on the street for twenty minutes or so and chatted with John Halliday first, then Billy and Betty Elliot from Kemra Bank. Betty corresponds with me via her Sky email service on a regular basis, I reply via my computer email service. Eva and I, along with my sister Christine after our chats, headed in the direction of the Crown Hotel where we made a bee-line for the outside bar. We had two or three vodkas with coke, then decided to keep going in a northerly direction to the Buck Hotel where we had several more of the same drinks apiece. It was ironic that the people whom I remember from last year were standing or sitting in the same places. After an hour or so we took a southward course down the high street and carried out a right-wheel manoeuvre at the Market Place and headed down Lairds Entry with the intention of looking in at the Royal British Legion Scotland's social club, where it was open house all day. It was quieter than normal compared with former years, having no more than twenty people sitting around tables in the main dance hall area. We had a couple of drinks, then went to Helen Jackson's house where she had been preparing barbecued sausages and kebabs with a variety of snacks, dips and coleslaw.
Early in the year 2000, Parkgate Care Services lost the contract for caring in Langholm and area and were replaced by Burnfoot Care Services. Sharon, yes another Sharon, paid me a visit and we discussed my needs and how many carers I would be allocated, and how often. My social worker from D & G Social Services, had arranged the meeting, and this was not unlike a repeat performance of Parkgate introduction. Day after day I was introduced to various carers, Jenny who is the senior carer, Agnes, Margo, Anne, Shona and Dawn from Langholm, and in the last month Liz, Catriona and Pauline. So I am well cared for, each morning Jenny and one of the other carers give me a bed bath, each Monday and Friday I take a shower assisted by two carers. They assist me to dress, transfer me into my wheelchair, and prepare my breakfast, a plate of muesli with three or four prunes. I then have an opportunity to catch up with any local news, gossip and scandal, if any.
On the morning of 20th August all appeared to be normal regarding the carers, but slowly I sensed that something was wrong by their body language. It became evident that they had received their work rosters for the week and they were unhappy about the allocation of carers to assist the local clients. Dawn had had her hours reduced from thirty per week down to three, consequently she had no other alternative to resign from caring by that particular service company and managed to secure a job fairly quickly by a local figurine production company I am pleased to say. Shona suggested setting up an independent care service for the elderly, disabled and infirm for Langholm and surrounding area, to which all carers agreed was an excellent idea, so enquiries were to made at the Langholm Initiatives office in the Town Hall to see if they could assist in organising such a venture. On 23rd August Shona discussed the idea of setting up a local care agency and by all accounts the reaction from the Initiatives office had been favourable.
Over the last thirty-five years I have had personal contact with all the
Poles in Langholm. There were the regular visitors to our house, some came
to see my stepfather either socially or had came for a haircut and a
good old blether in Polish. There were times that I met them in their favourite watering hole, be it pub or hotel or occasionally when out walking.
A gentle-natured Ukrainian who lived in John Street and who had the reputation of being an excellent cobbler, he brought his laundry along to my mother every week because he had no washing machine. Formerly to living in John Street, he lived with Wull and Doreen Corrie at the Stubholm. I knew very little about his background, but what I do know is, he was always courteous but he never accompanied the other Poles to the pubs as far as I know. An odd time he would purchase a bottle of dark rum at Balfour's where I worked as a teenager for three years, then invite me along to share his ring of Polish sausage that he'd bought in Carlisle. Sometimes we would share the cost of the rum.
Down Wapping Lane lived Stanley Skeczek, who I can honestly say have never
met anyone who was so kind, decent, honest and caring, and I shall never
forget him. He was found dead in bed this morning, 26/04/99 I am sad to say. Strange thing was, he telephoned me on the morning of the previous Friday asking if it was alright to pay me a visit, I thought at the time that it was a little strange. He walked down to my house that afternoon and we had a grand blether. It was fortuitous that he did come down because I was having a little difficulty in spelling Polish names for this very section of this page.
Stanley as I stated previously had lived many years in Wapping Lane, he was one of the 'platoon' in the war, and was at one time a lodger in our house, 'Extonall' for many years, and saw the Zemla kids grow up through the years, that was young Joseph, Christine, and myself.
Joe now lives in Christchurch in New Zealand with his second wife, Elspeth, daughter of the late Baillie James Harkness, Christine now living on own her own in her flat at Townfoot.
Pawel Bortko had a lodger called Rogucki, pronounced Rogootski, I have just
found out his first name today. He was never seen unless you frequented the local hostelries. He wasn't a bad sort as I remember him, all his money most weeks went to the minimum of food, usually a dozen or so tins of PEK Polish Pork, most of them were stored away for a rainy day, a loaf, a packet of cornflakes, and the remainder was spent on dark navy rum. I believe he is alive and lives in Annan, or was the last time I heard, he was reported to be totally blind, that was three years ago. Quite a character in the days he lived in John Street, Langholm.
Michael was a weel kent face for many years in town because he drove the
ashcairt, and was a regular in the Eskdale Hotel public bar, this being his favourite watering hole. He enjoyed a good bit banter with Wull Rathie, the barman in those days. He was a good friend of Joe Z and often he would come for a blether on Sundays if Joe was in the garden. He was a hard-working man, typical of his fellow Poles at home in Poland. He was very well known throughout the town because he ensured that he got to know people well. He was a coal deliveryman before he secured his driving job with the council. He is survived by his two daughters, Angela and Margaret, both of whom work as auxiliary nurses at the local Thomas Hope hospital.
I knew him as Johnny York, he brought his wife Martha across from Poland in
the early eighties, sadly both have now passed on. Johnny was only a little over five and a half foot tall. He was such a contented and cheery person and he worked for many years as a weaver in Reid and Taylors mill, locally known as the "Factory". I have never heard if they had any children in Poland, they certainly have none in this country to my knowledge.
"No understand missus, no understand missus", was one of the phrases he would repeatedly utter when chatting with my mother, May. He will be remembered by many in the Drove Road area for his playing of the fiddle out of his open living room window, out of tune.
At the time when the English pound notes were being changed for smaller
ones, he had tied several bunches of notes with a length of twine so they
resembled a kite tail, then he lobbed them over the counter barrier in one deft movement and conveyed to the counter assistant that he required new notes.
A few Polish characters are no longer seen around anymore such as my auld pal Stanley Kukulka who changed his name to Wilson and who walked his huge
Alsatian dogs at four in the morning so they wouldn't confront anybody and
scare them to death. He was a very keen angler, the only Polish one in town, I think.
Roman Demkowicz, the woodsman who lived at the top end of the Lodge grounds in a dark green long wooden cabin. When I was still at school, going home, the long way round the Lodge grounds, I would sometimes meet him going home when he would slip me a rolled cigarette an odd time and always issued me the warning, "If you do not take it, I will tell your fadder that you were smoking.
He is survived by his wife, Karolina who lives
at 'Eagle' a bungalow in Wauchope Street. They never had any children to my
knowledge, and Roman never returned to Poland, even for a holiday, Roman died in 1995.
I remember also Richard Drapacz who lived in the cottage bungalow on the left
immediately past the old garages in the Lodge grounds. Richard was one of
the camp cooks at the barracks, he moved away over twenty years ago to
Cotehill between Carlisle and Penrith where he spent his last days.
There were two Polish lodgers whom I never knew much about, the first was
Pawlo Konisz (pronounced Pavlo) who was one of the boys that joined in the
pub crawls with the other Poles. Pawlo worked in the forestry as a
woodcutter after he was demobbed, a strapping bloke who by a twist of fate
was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time and he ended up being under that particular tree that fell on him.
He was rushed to Carlisle Infirmary, the old building, and had to undergo an extremely long operation which lasted over 12 hours I'm told, and because of this the surgeons were changed half-way, but unfortunately the second surgeon saw fit to administer another dose of anaesthetic which produced an overdose which his heart couldn't handle, and which killed Pawlo. He is buried in Carlisle Cemetery on Richardson Street and I recall visiting his grave over thirty-five years ago when in my teens.
The second Pole I was referring to was called Jan Kebus, who I remember
little about apart from his silver tooth which seemed to be a trait of a lot of Poles. Jan was always immaculately dressed in a suit, always wore a
necktie and was extremely mannerly. What line of work he was in was anyone's guess, but he didn't seem to be like any of the other Poles in Langholm neither in manner and certainly not in appearance. Jan moved to London and died about 1991 I am informed.
I can vaguely remember many years ago visiting Isa Egerton, who I believe
formerly lived down the lane that ran between Caroline Street and the ford
to the park over the River Wauchope. My mother and I visited Isa several
times at the cottage beyond the North Lodge where Isa lived with her husband Wladek (Wajo) Pohicz. Wladek was well liked among his work colleagues, he provided endless humour with his antics and especially his reactions to certain events such as attempting to catch his runaway workhorse in the woods, and of course his Polish swearwords, his most used was 'pszakrev kurwa', which is pronounced 'pshakref coorva' will be instantly recognised by anyone who is able to understand Polish, and for those who can't, will remain a mystery. After Isa passed on, Wladek moved into the small cottage immediately past Skippers Cottage where he lived until the mid eighties, he also passed on some years ago.
Aleksander Jarzyna, who has claimed the honour of drinking twelve pints of
beer in the time it took the town clock to strike midnight. Father of a large family who mostly live in town, first and foremost there is my young van boy on Pelosi's ice cream van, Stephen, who is now the proprietor of that self-same café and continues to drive around with an ice-cream van, now his. Then there is Brian, known locally as Zargo, Alek, his father's namesake who manages the Buck Hotel. Roland who I believe now lives at Hawick.
Then there are the lassies, Stella, who is Laura's immediate superior at her work which is at Reid & Taylor. Stella is married to Ronnie (Dean) Tait and they have a son, Paul, and a daughter, Virginia, affectionately known as Ginnie. She was one of my carers for several months in 1999. There is Krysia, married Brian Johnston who worked beside me in the Dyehouse, Jacj and Grace are his parents. Justine was married to Frank Jones, they are separated now,
Frank pops in to see how I am from time to time. Teresa, married Brent
Thomlinson, local auxiliary fireman who originally hailed from Gretna Green.
Franek's surname which is pronounced Navrotski and whose back garden butted
onto ours had a strange friendship with Joe Zemla in that they would meet on a regular basis and without exception ended their meetings with a tremendous argument which caused them to fall out for a month or so until they made up again, this became a regular routine for as many years as I can remember. Michael and Franek lived at numbers 6 and 8 Kirk Wynd respectively.
Franek is getting old and doesn't go out much these days, I think he has a problem with his back or his hips. His son Karl was in my class at school and was a good friend after we moved from Holmwood. Last time I saw him was at our class reunion in 1998.
Franek passed away on Wednesday 5th July and his funeral was held on Friday 7th July, 2000.
Father of Terence the painter and decorator. Ted, or Tedeusz as spelt in Polish has been an avid philatelist for many years and has a collection that would be the envy of many. When I was able to walk, Ted and I often had a drink together in the local masonic club. I remember four years ago on Remembrance Day, Ted asked if I was going to join in the parade in my wheelchair because he knew I wouldn't be walking any distance, to which I replied in the affirmative and he offered to push me to the church, then onward to the Remembrance Memorial in the Buccleuch Park where a short service was held for the local servicemen who had given their lives in two World Wars. After the service we headed back to the local British Legion Club where we had a bite to eat and a little alcoholic refreshment.
Ted died on Tuesday 4th July, my birthday, and his funeral was held on Friday 7th July, 2000.
The Following Poles Are All Alive As At 31/08/2001
Franek lives in a guest house in Edinburgh. The proprietor, who was polish, died several months ago. It is now owned and managed by his daughter Teresa, and my father gets on well with her and Peter, her husband, who is also Polish. Apparently he helps around the place setting tables out with crockery, cutlery and condiments etc. at different times of the day. He spends some time sitting inside the Saint James shopping centre, just watching the world go by. If the weather permits he is able to sit out in the house's back garden, which he enjoys. He has not seen his former Polish Army friends in Langholm for over 45 years, not that there is many who are alive. I hope to be able to visit him this summer time.
I have never known Eddie Szymkowiak really well, that is until I was
secretary of the local branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland. I was
also doorman on Saturday evenings taking entry money for dances, and that was when I learned that Eddie and his wife Ina were enthusiastic Scottish
Country dancers. Their daughter Kathleen attended the same school class as
myself and remained so throughout our secondary years. Kathleen married
George Beattie who died of cancer several years ago, to my knowledge they
had only one child, a daughter Shirley who was married in 1998. She remarried this year to a man called John Baxter who is a gamekeeper on the Westerhall estate.
Albert Kulik can be seen every morning around 9.50am when he and his dog return from there daily visit to the Langholm cemetery where he has been conversing with his wife Jean since she died a good few years ago. He walks his black labrador cross over a couple of trodden paths weel kent to Langholmites. He looks lost these days, obviously lonely, and with his advancing years becoming an ever-increasing burden.
Walter Humpa, I believe was a member of the Polish Army, but don't quote me
on that. Walter was married to Lila Purgavie for many years who died in
1995. He has enjoyed several holiday visits back to Poland in the last ten
Jan Wardas married a local lass by name of Marian Douglas, the daughter of a prominent builder of Langholm. At one time they were the proprietors of our High Street Fish and Chips shop who had a café area on the upstairs level.
I have never visited Poland, although I have had chances to go, but enjoyed
the company of many Poles in Langholm which was once a little Poland. The
Poles will always be remembered in Langholm as hard-working and big-hearted.