5. James Rae: The Popular Plumber

I never had the good fortune of meeting my Grandpa Rae as he died a few years before I was born, but I’m pleased he was always talked about as I was growing up. It helped me relate to him as real person.

Jim, as he was known, was born and bred in Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire. From all the stories I’ve heard, I get the impression he was an unassuming man who lived by doing the right thing. It seems he could be a bit shy and bashful at times. He met my grandmother Doreen at a dance and instantly liked her. After chatting and dancing, he insisted she was walked home… by his friend. He was apparently to nervous to do it himself! He was obviously confident of keeping her, even then. After they married, they had two sons and relished family life together. The town is quite a small town and even now, there’s a sense of “oh, you’ll need so-and-so then” when a job needs doing. If you needed a plumber, Jim was your man. He always did a good job at a good price, paid his apprentices fairly and was on call all hours if you needed him. Dad told a story once of a neighbour who had called the house in the middle of the night as she’d found her house flooded. There was no thought of charging her double-time because it was the early hours or anything like that. He was just straight in his van to go round and help. That was just his nature. When he was found to have an incurable tumour and therefore a short time left, he made sure his apprentices wages were taken care of so they wouldn’t be without.

My dad always gets quite emotional when speaking about his dad and I can understand why. My dad was barely in his twenties when Jim died in 1980 aged 50. They didn’t have much time together. Jim never met my mum, though he did know about her, and I know my dad found it particularly difficult to deal with his father’s notable absence on his wedding day.

When I visit Castle Douglas, I have a sort of ritual of things I want to do while I’m there, like my trip isn’t complete until I’ve done them all. One of those things is to visit the glorious Irvings Bakery, just as I always did with my granny when I was younger. A good friend and I went together a few years back and I loved telling her about these little rituals but one thing I’d never done was taken a tour of the bakery factory. We asked about it one Saturday morning and Mrs Irving herself showed us around the quiet factory (they don’t operate on a Saturday, instead just open up the shop). As we finished up the tour and chatted, she noted my accent was slightly different to hers and asked where I was visiting from. I told her, explaining that I liked to visit Castle Douglas as it was where my grandparents had lived. “Och, your Jim’s granddaughter!” she exclaimed and started into a short story of how she knew Jim and my granny. I struggled to keep my tears under control. I just loved that over 30 years since his death, people I didn’t even know still remembered him and his kind ways. It’s a very simple legacy but one I’m very proud he has.

My granny lived almost 30 years without Jim, although she did eventually remarry. She always spoke of him often, and kept certain trinkets and things of his around the house. She even wore the engagement ring Jim had given her every day, which I now proudly wear. When she died, I was devastated but knew she would be happy to be with Jim again. She was buried by his side on what would have been Jim’s 80th birthday. Together in life and now together for eternity, exactly how they should be.


2 thoughts on “5. James Rae: The Popular Plumber

  1. Pingback: 8. Doreen Hardie Brown: My Golden Oldie | Little Known Leaves

  2. Pingback: Adolf Kuechel: A Grateful Artist | Little Known Leaves

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