Allan McGhee: Frugal but Generous

Mr McGhee lived on Queen Street in Castle Douglas next door to Jim and Doreen. He loved the Rae’s dearly and was apparently heartbroken when they announced they were moving only round the corner to a bigger house with a cracking view of Carlingwork Loch and beyond. Still, they remained very close until his death and many of his possessions are now heirlooms in my family.

Allan Bertrum McGhee was born in Glasgow in 1900 to John and Margaret, joining his elder brother Andrew. When Allan was only 4 years old, Andrew, then aged 6, died, leaving Allan as an only child. By 1911, 10 year old Allan is not living with his parents but instead with his uncle Andrew at Ayr Prison. I was initially confused by this revelation – not many young boys would be imprisoned in an adult jail! I was thankfully reassured to learn that Andrew was in fact the Governor of Ayr Prison. Andrew held that post for some time, it would seem, as it’s the retired occupation listed on his 1931 death certificate. Past Allan’s birth, I can find no trace of either of his parents. Since census records for 1921 and 1931 have not been unsealed yet, I have no idea what Allan did between the ages of 10 and 30. Aged 31, he married his first wife, Hannah McGaw. Sadly, Hannah died during and as a result of childbirth less than 2 years later. I found neither a birth or death certificate for the baby, suggesting it also died. (Until fairly recently, stillborn babies were not recorded as births at all since they did not survive. I think that has now changed to recognise that they were alive.) Allan found love again later in his life and married Maren Jorgensen in the late 1950’s. Given his and his new wife’s ages, it is understandable that they had no children together, although by all accounts they shared a happy life. Maren died in 1981, leaving Allan as a widower once again. Allan died in Dumfries in 1991, aged 91.

I was only 6 when he died but his name was mentioned a lot in stories that Doreen told me in the years after his death. Andrew had never married and with no siblings or children, Allan left most of his belongings and affairs to Doreen. My family still owns and rents out his home on Queen Street, the fancy (only ever on display, far too nice to stick your Sunday roast in) China serving dishes were displayed in Doreen’s home and are now divided between my dad and his brother, and we have many of his personal effects which Doreen deemed important enough to keep. Mr McGhee always looked after Doreen and her family, gifting my dad and his brother their first cars. While incredibly generous to those he love, it seemed he preferred to live a more frugal life himself. My dad often recounts the now-famous take of Mr McGhee’s own car. Back then, lots of things we would now consider standard fitted on a car had to be paid for as optional extras. Mr McGhee had no desire to pay more than necessary for anything so declined to buy everything offered to him, including mudguards. If you’ve ever driven around Dumfries and Kirkcudbrightshire, you’ll understand why mudguards are somewhat useful! Instead Mr McGhee sliced up a pair of his old Wellington boots and stuck them to the car. Ta-da – homemade mudguards!

Something I knew Doreen had kept tucked away safe was some war medals. They were still in an original woven envelope addressed to Mr A McGhee, Governor, Ayr Gaol. As a youngster I assumed A McGhee was Allan McGhee. With my new knowledge I know they were sent to Andrew McGhee, his paternal uncle. There are 2 medals, both from WWI, 2 pins, presumably from the regiments served in, and what I think is a soldier’s medal of some kind. The latter is engraved on the back with Pte J McGhee, Andrew’s brother and Allan’s father. I would like to search further to find out more about John’s military service and potentially find out why Andrew would be sent his brother’s war medals in an official delivery. I had initially thought perhaps it would be nice to return the medals to a living relative, to somebody I thought might be their more rightful owner. It’s dawning on me now that they were returned and looked after by exactly the right people: Andrew, Allan, Doreen and now me. With no relatives, there is nobody to remember any of their stories or their service. John McGhee served his country and that deserves to be recognised and honoured. Every person deserves to be remembered, but who remembers people that don’t have anybody to remember them?┬áSo I gladly adopt the McGhee’s into my research to ensure that at least somebody knows their story.


Jim and Doreen: A Diamond Duo

Sixty years ago today, this photograph was taken:
Jim and Doreen's wedding photoApril 1st 1955 was the day Miss Doreen Brown became Mrs James Rae. She was very proud to be Mrs Rae. Even when she re-married after being widowed, she made it clear that she would always be my Granny Rae. Neither Jim or Doreen survived to see their diamond anniversary but today I am remembering it.

This sparked a fun conversation with the family I work for today about first dates. Mrs Boss described how she lured Mr Boss to their first date by pretending she had an extra ticket to a show (the ticket was intended for him all along). My uncle just knew he was going to marry my aunt and decided he just couldn’t wait to ask her: they were engaged less than two weeks after their first date. They’ve been married for over twenty years now. As for Jim and Doreen, they met at a dance in the early 1950’s. I knew Doreen to always be honest and straight talking so I imagine that she made it clear she liked Jim. Jim was a gentleman but presumably less forward than his future wife, since he got his friend to walk Doreen home at the end of the night. It clearly didn’t matter who walked her home; from then on, Doreen was Jim’s girl.

I look forward to the day I am able to tell my children and grandchildren about this handsome pair. Today I simply wish this legendary couple a happy Diamond Anniversary.