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A fascinating history...

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Gordon Boyle


Eighty years ago, 850,000 children of school age and more than 500,000 mothers with children under five left their home for a journey into the unknown.

Railway platforms were full of chattering children and an army of volunteer helpers were on hand to make sure this evacuation went smoothly.

The purpose of this evacuation was to reduce the risks of death due to the expected avalanche of bombs that was predicted would be dropped on English cities by the Germans.

The bureaucrats in charge of this project were unable to grasp the full traumatic impact of this decision.

Evacuating this number of children out of urban areas into the countryside where there were limited schooling and health facilities resulted in child neglect.

In many country areas children went without education and medical supervision. Special schools for those with disabilities and child welfare clinics were taken over for use by the civil defence. Within months of the evacuation close to one million children had been without education, health services, school meals and milk for more than four months.

This evacuation of children from the cities was not confined to England, and in the West of Scotland where there was a great deal of heavy industry, children were evacuated to the countryside.

One small boy who lived in the Gorbals area of Glasgow was one such evacuee and he was despatched to the small Isle of Tiree 40 miles off the Scottish coast in the Atlantic Ocean. It was quite a journey for a small boy to make on his own.

He travelled by train for 100 miles to Oban where he had to travel by boat for four hours to reach his new home.

He was one of the lucky evacuees. He was taken to a small farm where a loving couple with no children welcomed him and did what was necessary to make sure he was looked after and happy.

Island life in those days was tough and whilst there was enough food to go around it was not plentiful. The farm provided some of the needs of the family and life was tough but happy.

Unfortunately, a bomb killed both the Mum and Dad of the young evacuee and the couple looking after him then set in motion the necessary procedures to adopt this young man.

After school the young evacuee started working in the building trade employed by a local contractor.

By now his new Mum and Dad were getting older and he took on responsibility for looking after them whilst continuing to hold down a full-time job.

After the couple died, he inherited the farm and by this time he had started his own small building business on the island.

He married a local girl and they had a boy called Ian and sadly three years ago he passed away.

How do I know this story of the boy from the Gorbals in Glasgow? Well, having decided to renovate a derelict cottage on the Isle of Tiree word got around about myself and my wife Eilleen. One day last year when we were over in Tiree there was a knock on the door.

When I opened the door, Ian was standing there and after introducing himself he asked for my help as he was starting a small distillery.

An interesting world.

Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at gordonboyle@hotmail.com

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