MarySmith’sPlace ~ # Islay #CancerUpdate#42

Thanks to Wee-sis, she and I finally made it to Islay together for the first time since we left the island in 1961. My last visit to the island where we were born was over twenty years ago although Wee-sis has been going more recently.

I spent the weeks before we went terrified I wouldn’t be able to go because cancer cells would suddenly multiply or my throat would stop working or something. In fact the worst that happened was a filling coming out (M&S salted caramel Florentines – delicious but not recommended if you have dodgy fillings). I was able to get an appointment to have a temporary filling put in.

The after our return I had an appointment to meet with the oncologist and tried, mostly successfully, to put it out of my mind and not dwell too much on the decision I knew I had to make sooner rather than later. I’ll do an update on that meeting in my next post.

It was a magical week packed full of memories. It was a week of connections old and new, of friendship, laughter, good food (pizzas by the sea, Indian curries, home cooking and posh restaurant) and drink. We were taken on a mystery tour and picnic (the most amazing potato curry and puris) one day; on another we visited the Singing Sands. We didn’t get to visit all the beaches I remember from my childhood but we managed a few and we watched seals watching us and saw thousands of Barnacle geese.

If you can zoom in on this pic the grey dots are not stones but geese!

The dentist on the island has bought the house Wee-sis and I were born in. He and his wife invited us to see it. Wee-sis doesn’t remember it (she was only three when we left) but I could still recognise the layout of the house – the front hall (which seemed so much smaller than in my memory), the curved staircase, my bedroom, Dad’s office …

In the round church in Bowmore, where we were christened, we found our names on the Cradle Rolls on display.

Cradle Rolls in Kilarrow Parish Church, Bowmore, Islay
Interior of the church known as ‘The Round Church’.
The main central pillar of the church is of timber.
The Order of the British Empire awarded to the Rev Donald Caskie, born in Bowmore. He was minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris when the Germans invaded in 1940 and stayed to help British Civilians escape. He later helped British and Allied service personnel escape (for which he received the OBE) until he was captured by the Gestapo. A German padre saved him from being executed. His autobiography (1951) is called The Tartan Pimpernel. He died in 1983 and is buried in the church cemetery.

And I found the name of my best childhood friend, born two days before me.

Friends reunited after 60 years

She and I were the first babies the new doctor on the island delivered. She and her family left Islay some years after we did but she has relatives still living on the island and visits regularly. We managed to meet for the first time in sixty years. We would need days, probably months, to catch up properly on our respective histories.

Pizza by the sea night – cooked in a pizza oven in a garden overlooking Loch Indaal
Cows because why not?
The Singing Sands
They have a lot in common – sheep and geese.
Carraig Fhada Lighthouse, near The Singing Sands

It was a wonderful trip but exhausting. Towards the end I was definitely flagging and had to turn down an invitation to a girls’ night party, which I’d been looking forward. However, my energy levels had dipped too low. I also dropped out of a walk with Wee-sis and her dog because I was concerned I might not manage the return part. I cried as I made my way back to the car, hoping anyone seeing me would think it was the wind bringing tears to my eyes.

It was an emotional week with a feeling of a circle being completed and a final farewell made.

Kildalton Cross, one of the finest. most complete Early Christian crosses in Scotland.

187 thoughts on “MarySmith’sPlace ~ # Islay #CancerUpdate#42

    • Oh, Mairi, I can’t thank you enough for arranging for us to get together. And for the visit to Lochview (I now it’s not that now but it always will be in my head) and to the church – been searching my bookshelves for my (Dad’s) copy of The Tartan Pimpernel to re-read! You helped make it a fabulous week.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a wonderful post, and I’m so happy for you that you were able to make this trip. The house you lived in… what a moment that must have been. Glorious pictures, too xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  2. -hugs- The magic land of childhood. I was four when we landed in Australia and spent a year in Wagga Wagga. Wagga back then was a sleepy country town that revolved around cattle and wheat. It’s changed a lot, but it sounds as if your Islay has remained much as you remembered it. I’m so glad you got to reconnect.

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  3. What a fantastic trip with sister, long-time friend(s), cows, geese, an old church and amazing scenery. I enjoyed every minute with you. Yes, as we get older, we realize how important it is to re-visit our roots. Helps us feel a bit more rooted. ❤

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  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore Blogger Daily – 3rd November 2021 – #Booklaunch Jessica Norrie, #Islay Mary Smith, #Roundup Carol Taylor, #ReadingPeeves Pete Springer | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  5. How lovely to have visited your childhood home, Mary. Isn’t it strange how they look so much smaller when we visit as adults? You must have had some great memories while walking around it.
    Thank you for sharing your trip and photography with us. Even though you had to turn down some of the planned events, it must have been a wonderful time, especially the meals on the beach. However, remind me never to try M&S salted caramel Florentines. They sound rather lethal. I think I’ll stick to salted caramel marshmallows that I’ve found in the Christmas aisle at Waitrose.
    Sending hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a wonderful trip and I was happy to share it on my blog to enable me to relive it all again! I was really surprised at how small the front hall appeared – I guess when we remember our childhood, we ‘see’ things as they looked to our small sleves!
      Salted caramel marshmallows sound like a safer – and delicious – option 🙂 Hugs back.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What an incredible trip down memory lane, and such beautiful country ~ your photos show a view of the Scottish isles as I would imagine. Healthy, fresh, and for those with a strong love of the land. I am too amazed at how things look so different (smaller) as adults, feels like a different lifetime ago 🙂 My favorite photo was of the lunch with you and your old friends ~ and what looks to be a few bottles of nice Scotch Islay is known for 🙂 Thank you for sharing – I’d like to visiting the smaller areas of Scotland next time I am there. Take care ~

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  7. Dear Mary,
    I don’t know whether it is silly to connect with you again now you’ve passed, but I’ve done some crazy things in my time, and being “creative” seems to justify almost anything.
    The bells have tolled for you in the blogging world and our dear friends Sally and Geoff mentioned you not just in passing, but in recognition. I haven’t been to your blog for quite some time, but popped round out of respect, and I am also lamenting a dear friend of mine who died from cancer at age 44 a few months ago. We spent last New Year’s Eve together at our place, and there were only 4 guests due to the Covid restrictions. So, it was an intimate, meaningful night and after an eight year battle with cancer she was cancer free and quite optimistic about the new year. 2021, she said, was going to be a good year. Tomorrow, night NYE 2021 is going to be hard for me, as it will be for your loved ones, although we were friends not family and certainly not your beautiful husband and sister, your son and those incredibly close to you. The people who love you more than life itself and have had to let you go.
    Anyway, I wanted to tell you, in case we hadn’t touched base about this that I’m an Islay descendant, and I really appreciated your photos here as I’ve never been able to go there. I am descended from the Johnstons – Angus Johnston and Mary Campbell.
    Anyway, I will keep reading more of your story backwards and thinking of you.
    Best wishes,


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