This is a speech presented by Mulliadh 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.
Introduction by Ron Pond, Newfoundland Foresters Association
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,
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
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!
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