An Editor’s Musing: Why do some writers “let it all hang out” instead of editing their posts or comments? How can comments be helpful?

Gayle as Esprit Editor    Gayle'e retirement party presentAt left  you’ll see a photo of “editor me” at my desk on one of the last days before retirement (in 2004) as Editor of Esprit magazine and Program Director for Evangelical Lutheran Women at our office on the second floor of Portage Place in Winnipeg. In addition I’ve included a photo of the gift I received at my retirement party in July 2004. As Ian and I were preparing to take off  for a retirement adventure driving down to Mexico in our newly acquired 35-foot motorhome, my boss chose to wrap an assortment of “helps” for that trip inside or underneath a large box decorated to look like our motorhome – complete with photos of Ian as driver and me as passenger.

After several years in Mexico, with trips up to Manitoba to maintain our Canadian residency, we returned to Canada for good. I hope to start blogging about our Mexico sojourn in the near future. Time will tell if I ever get to it. While there in Mexico I began editing Ian’s writings and am continuing that in our present home in British Columbia, as well as now contributing to his writings. Here my desk is in our little den and I look out the window at the low mountains surrounding our part of the Okanagan Valley. The desk is different from the one at ELW, but just as messy. That’s the way I work. I do not like a messy final product, however, and decided that it was time for me to have an editor’s rant about what I am seeing on some web blogs and in many comments that come into our site.

I don’t think I’m unique in claiming frustration when reading some comments on web blogs or even some particular web blogs which are so full of errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or just plain English that I feel compelled to edit them as I’m reading. Sometimes even understanding them is impossible, so I quit reading and trash the comment or close the web blog.

As I routinely check out other web blogs, I am more-often-than-not impressed by so many varied topics and excellent writing, but am also occasionally appalled by the lack of English writing skills by some bloggers. In those cases, I cross those web blogs off the list of ones I want to follow, no matter how interesting the topic might be. I find it painful to read something when I feel a need to correct practically every sentence. (As an aside: I lived in Germany for 18 years and ended up speaking passable German but would never in my life think of hosting a blog in German! I wouldn’t feel confident enough to do a decent job of it. My late husband who worked in a profession there, could easily have hosted a blog in German. Obviously his language skills were much superior to mine.)

My motto is: “check, double-check and recheck anything you post”, for it is easy to miss a word here or there if one doesn’t do so. I always try to self-edit any of my blogs and usually have Ian read through them before posting. That isn’t to say that I might not post a small grammatical or spelling error from time to time. It happens to the best of us. Almost inevitably after checking and re-checking the magazine I edited and having our executive director and a professional copy editor go over everything before publishing, I would find some little thing wrong when reading the issue after publication.

In the past I’ve found myself editing a lot of comments that come in on this web blog so that they can be understood. I conclude that quite a few of those who comment on posts do not have English as their first language and are obviously using an English-to-another-language dictionary when they make their comments. Perhaps they are taking an ESL course and have been given an assignment to comment on specific web posts. (Comments often come from the same site with different email addresses.) If that is the case, how I wish the instructor would at least give them some help in making the comments understandable. It is nice to get compliments or constructive criticism, but not if the comment cannot be readily understood and if the blogger receiving the comment has to edit it extensively in order to print it. WordPress usually identifies these type of comments as “spam”; in the past I’ve looked at every comment and sometimes chose to “un-spam”a few because I’d like to honour the intent. I have edited them for comprehension, though. I’m wondering if other bloggers have chosen to do this or if these type of comments simply get trashed. Here’s an example of one comment we recently received, showing the places where I have cut out more than half of the words and added clarifying words in order to get what I think the commenter intended.

“Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your [web blog.] augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.”

Another recent commenter asserted that, though our blog’s content was good, many of the posts were “rife with spelling issues.” Well, that got my dander up! I did, however, calm down and try to address what I thought might be the problem. Here’s my answer:

“We’re surprised to hear that you find several of our posts ‘rife with spelling issues’. We are wondering if you might be pointing out our use of the British way of spelling English words, as opposed to the American way. (An example would be the use of “ou” in place of “o” as in “neighbour.” We are Canadians and so use the British way of spelling. I (Gayle) am the blogger and, though American-born, changed my way of spelling sometime after I emigrated to Canada and became editor of a Canadian magazine. I’ve kept up that way of spelling in retirement and, as Ian is British-born and I edit his writing, that method has worked out well for us. Then, too, Ian speaks Scottish-English so when he writes about Scotland in either his novels or memoirs, he uses what I call “Scottishisms.” Some of those words are only found in Scottish-English or may mean something entirely different in Scotland than they do in other countries where English is spoken. We’ve pointed that out in some of our posts about his memoir, “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada.” I had quite an education in “Scottishisms” when editing that book! In addition, I had to turn off the spell-check as my word-processing program gave up on providing corrections! Of course, even editors sometimes need to be edited; however, I try to double-check whatever I post. We’d be interested in hearing from you further so that you could point out some examples of those spelling issues. Looking forward to hearing from you.” To date, we have received no further communication on this subject.

That brings up the challenge when commenting on web posts of exactly what to say. Sure it is nice to have affirmation that someone “enjoyed” a post or found it “awesome” or “educational” or “informative.” But does that really help the blogger to know how they are connecting with the reader? In haste I, too, sometimes choose to just give kudos by checking the “like” button on a post; but if I take the time and REALLY like or dislike something I try to comment on it. How did I feel when I read the post? Intrigued? Scared? Amused? Why and how? Perhaps the blogger was promoting a book, a picture, a poem or a piece of music that he/she had written, drawn, photographed or performed. Did the blog catch your interest so that you plan to order the book or picture, quote the poem or obtain the recording? Did the post remind you of a happening in your own life or a person you met or an emotion you felt? Then describe that connection. You might wish to reblog the post, giving credit to the writer and quote your reaction to it on your own blog or on Facebook, Twitter or the like.

Conversely, if a post draws a negative response from me and I think it can be constructive, I’d like to think that I would be willing to document why I had that response. Although I didn’t post the following comment on a novel writer’s blog but instead posted it on Amazon after reading the novel, here is an example of how I could make both a positive and, I hope, constructive negative response to the novel on a writer’s blog:

“You have written a well-rounded story about a group of characters, each flawed in a unique way, all seeking redemption. Your background in counseling is evident throughout; perhaps that is what makes your story so believable. Your prose is clear, yet poetic. Your descriptions of both characters and scene are captivating. I would have given this book five stars had it not been for the unnecessary profanity which I felt cheapened the narrative, especially those instances when the name of Jesus was invoked through cursing.”

I send a challenge to bloggers and commenters alike: If you can’t edit your own postings, please, please find someone who can do the edit for you.

Please and thanks in a spirit of kindness and mutual understanding. Keep the relevant and understandable comments coming!

Gayle Moore-Morrans
P.S. In the meantime we have recently received a comment (perhaps sent in error?) which went on for several hundred words.  The comments were obviously a multiple choice list of helps for would-be commenters who needed guidance on how to word comments they wanted to make on various posts. In the past the comments we received from that particular commenter had included, solely or partly, promotions for his web blog that included little or nothing about the post he was supposedly commenting on. Many of the multiple-choice comments he included sounded similar to many of the comments we have received from a number of people over time. Thus, in the future I intend to honour Word Press’ use of Akismet to check incoming comments and rate them as “spam”, then delete the spam comments without reading them. Most of us writers and editors who blog find it difficult to have enough time to do our writing or editing what with all the other duties and distractions of life. We don’t need 276 comments in our “Spam Comments” section. That is the number I encountered last week after not checking the comments for about a week’s time. For the first time, I chose to permanently delete all those spam comments without even looking at them.  I truly appreciate the efforts a number of commenters make in sending in compliments or kudos on our posts, or even criticisms when they are constructive. However, I’m trying to promote our books or share views on writing, photographing, reminiscing or life in general and am hoping to glean relevant information from other bloggers instead of spending valuable time reading, rewriting, replying to or trashing umpteen comments a day. I am sharing these words in hopes that others will understand my frustrations and those of other bloggers who are surely having similar problems with unwarranted comments. Perhaps some of them will attempt to correct their comments or have them edited by someone else or those who just want to advertise their own blogs will cease and desist. At least I won’t have to relate to them if I trust Akismet’s weeding out those comments.

An Old Married Couple: Reblogging “Date Night and the Wind Turbines”

An Old Married Couple: Reblogging “Date Night and the Wind Turbines”

Wonderful post. Thanks to Jen Groeber for reminding us that we are “an old married couple, late in life, on date night; enduring, steadfast, everlasting, beloved.” Words to cherish even in the midst of a what seems at times like endless illness and care-giving. Love prevails and God is always there with a steady comfort and helping hand.

jen groeber: mama art

IMG_9780 Wind turbines, out of focus
April 2014

I’ve been thinking about marriage lately. It may be the spring weather (finally), the birds looking for love in all the wrong places, mating for life and so on.

I think it’s the time in my life too, or our collective lives really. Among our friends our kids are mostly all in school (and by school I don’t mean clown school or college, I mean pre-school) and our parents are aging, looking to move, getting the scan or the X-ray or the biopsy. Some have even passed. We are the next “big” then, the next big mortal, permeable, vulnerable thing.

And I began thinking about marriage, how it’s so often like breathing or an old car or not throwing up.  It’s one of those things that you’re really not all that grateful for, at least not until it’s jeopardized, by illness or disregard…

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Another Campbeltown Story Inspired by James Collett’s Photography

campbeltown-from-beinn-ghuilean-pano-bw-wm-web

Thanks again to Photographer James Collett for this terrific picture of Ian’s hometown as seen from Ben Guillion, the mountain pictured in our previous post. We have made the following comments on James Collett’s Photography page where we found this photo:

“Another beautiful view of my hometown, Campbeltown, from Beinn Ghuilean (Ben Guillion mountain). I have a story in my memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” which takes place after World War II when I, as a boy, “salvaged” a machine gun from the wreck of an aircraft on Ben Guillion and lugged it to a hiding place in the middle of some whin bushes, much like those shown on this picture. I never was able to find it again (probably just as well.) Here’s the story which happened around 1946:

I think I was about twelve when the following happened. Just to the south of the town, and bordering on it, is Ben Ghuilean (the Gaelic spelling; normally now it is referred to as Ben Gullion. The word “Ben” in Scot’s English means “mountain.”) This is a reasonably-sized mountain. I have already referred to a small airfield five miles from town. This airfield was still used after the war to some extent for training Royal Air Force pilots. One foggy day a two-seater aircraft plunged into the side of that mountain, killing both airmen.

It was quite a climb to the crash site and, needless to say, there were lots of (morbid-minded) townsfolk who just had to make the climb, though they would never have considered doing so at any other time. Apart from the strenuous effort, it was well known that there were adders on the mountain. (Adders are a type of viper, a little over two feet long. The bite of this snake, while it wouldn’t kill you, would make you very ill for some time.) This thought didn’t bother us brave (or stupid) lads, as we spent quite a lot of time on various faces of the mountain. (I had killed an adder some time before and preserved it in alcohol in a glass jar to keep in the house. No one objected at first, but later I had to keep it where we kept our coal.)

No one was allowed anywhere near the crash site until the bodies of the two airmen were removed. People were collecting bits of this and bits of that—stuff that probably went into the rubbish bin (garbage) a few weeks down the road after they had lost interest in the incident. Not so with “yours truly.” I noticed that there were two machine guns, one on each wing, and I set about removing one. What did I want a machine gun for? Maybe I was going to take it to class for “show and tell.” Na, we didn’t have that silly exercise in those days. I really had no idea why I was taking it. I guess it is what the modern kids would call “cool.”

Anyway, I struggled with it for ages and finally got it free. Even today, I still marvel at the fact that I got a machine gun from an aircraft without having a spanner (wrench) or even a pry-bar. I carried the heavy thing down the mountainside on my shoulder to the foothills, where I hid it by throwing it into the middle of some “whin bushes” (furze or gorse). These bushes were evergreen, covered all over with long, sharp dark green needles, standing three or four feet high and at least that across, with nice yellow flowers. (They grow wild in Scotland, but I don’t believe they grow in North America, unless maybe on the east coast.)

I hid the gun because it was still daylight and I didn’t want anyone to see me walking into town with a machine gun over my shoulder. Besides, I had to walk past the police station! I would probably have been arrested (or worse still, maybe even talked about). So, what did I do when it was time to retrieve it? Well, I got hold of some old potato sacks (gunnysacks), my friend Ian McKenzie and his four-wheeled cart, and the two of us headed back up to where I had hidden the gun.

What do you know? It wasn’t there! Did I have the correct bush? “Look over there …. No … try this one … .” There were lots of clumps of bushes. We just about went crazy! I was quite sure that I had taken note of where I had hidden it so that I would find it again. It should still have been there. Well, the two of us searched for ages, all around where I thought it should be, but with no luck. Since the bush was very prickly, I had to get flat on my belly, as low as possible to try to avoid the needles and crawl into the bushes at every place I thought the gun might be. It was awful! We got all scratched and thoroughly disgusted before we decided that it wasn’t there. Remember that during this “carry-on” we little boys were wearing short trousers that came only to our knees.

What I finally figured was that someone had seen me hide the gun and, after I had gone, removed it and took it to the proper authorities. Either that, or I had got really screwed up and there is still a machine gun hidden among some bushes for future archaeologists to find a long time down the road. Anyway, it was a very stupid thing to do and I don’t know what my mother would have said if I had walked into the house carrying a great big machine gun. One thing’s for sure—I would have got a thick ear!

Quoted from “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” by Ian Moore-Morrans, copyright © 2012. Friesen Press.

 

A Photo A Week Challenge: Blue and White

Thanks, James, for another fine photo of Ian’s hometown area. He had Campbeltown’s mountain, Beinn Ghuilean (or Ben Guillion as Ian and others sometimes spell it), in mind when he penned his short story “The Moonlit Meeting” which can be read  by going to that section of our blog.

Ian describes the background to his story thus: “I wrote this short story around 2001 when I was living in Pictou, Nova Scotia. It was my first attempt at writing dialect, though this time it wasn’t Scots-English but Irish-English. I heard this dialect a lot as a youngster since my step-father, Bill Moorhead, was from Larne in Northern Ireland.

“When picturing ‘Mary’s Mountain’ I had Ben Guillion in mind, the mountain that I climbed many times just outside my hometown of Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula in Argyllshire, Scotland. On a clear day we could see the coast of Northern Ireland from Campbeltown.”

Am I a Co-Author or Just the Editor?

This is Gayle Moore-Morrans blogging. We previewed most of the chapters of Ian’s children’s chapter book, “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie” on this site last year and asked for some feedback from others as well as asking two of our great-grandchildren for input prior to publication – — Now-13-year-old Leland for consultation on the appropriateness of the book’s contents for his age group and now-8-year-old Hannah for some drawings to illustrate the book. In our post of March 21, 2013 I blogged Leland’s review entitled: “Wow!” A Recommendation for Ian’s blogged book, “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie.” I’m now ready to re-scan Hannah’s illustrations for the book as I’ve edited them on Microsoft Paint. Our new printer – an HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 is finally installed and ready for me to do the layout. Here is a preview of the book’s cover illustration showing the boy Jake, and, on his shoulders, his BFFs, Little Jimmy the budgie and Big Louie, the raven.

000-Cover Photo

I’ve usually been identified as Ian’s editor, blogger, publishing and marketing person. How should we recognize my role in this children’s book that has evolved over the years it has been in the making? Am I just the editor or am I also the co-author? In our previous post I re-blogged a very helpful post by Francis Guenette on how she is writing with her mother even though her mother is no longer living. That prompted me to reply to her my thanks for answering a question that my husband Ian and I have been mulling over the past months.

Here are my comments on Francis Guennette’s blog post “Writing with My Mom.”

               Wow, did your blog post on writing with your mother ever resonate with me, Fran! In fact, I feel it has answered a few questions I’ve had in the past year. As you know, our blog is mostly about my husband Ian’s writings. When I started out editing his stories about nine years ago I had just retired from my editing job, we had only been married a year and soon headed for Mexico in our motor home to explore retirement there. I relished getting to know him better through his writings, especially becoming familiar with his impoverished upbringing in Scotland during the depression and war years, his military service with the RAF in Egypt and his early marriage and fatherhood and then immigration to Canada. Editing that book was a true editing job in that I took his words and only changed them for grammatical reasons when necessary but then rearranged large chunks in a much more logical sequence as he had pretty much written it in a “stream of consciousness” fashion. When I found there were gaps or inconsistencies I returned the manuscript to him for additions and clarification. Though Ian was in his early 70s then, he was in robust health and had energy to burn. When he wasn’t writing he was entertaining by performing Scottish songs or teaching me his repertoire so that we could sing and perform together.

                That way of working cooperatively continued after our move back to Canada two and a half years later. But it lasted only for a little over a year when a sudden illness brought him to death’s door and a long hospitalization, much of it while he was in an induced coma. Recovery from the near-fatal illness was a slow process. He was kept alive and healed by over five years’ treatment with prednisone; however, it is basically a poison which wrecked havoc on the rest of his body. A heart attack in 2010 necessitated five stents in his arteries and another regimen of medication, exercise and diet changes. Now at 81, he is pretty much a recluse, rarely sings, no longer writes and rarely even reads. He sleeps a lot and is lucid mostly late afternoons and evenings but doesn’t have the energy to do much with his pile of writings which still need to be published, nor has he been able to do anything about promoting those which have already been published.

               That’s where I come in. I’ve put aside the pile of writing I’ve done over the years, mostly on spiritual insights and family history and feel it is my “labor of love” to try to get the rest of Ian’s writings edited and published. However, as you’ve found with your mother’s writings I have been grappling with the fact that I no longer can ask Ian to do re-writes when I feel they are warranted. Like you said with your mother’s work, “I began to make changes and what I was doing was much more than editing.” Ian and I have discussed how to address the authorship of the next book which I hope will be coming out soon. Granted, he is the main author. He originally wrote the children’s story, nursed it through a number of revisions over the years and had sent it to several publishers even before I met him. It was hung up on the need for editing though. I now have done the editing but have also made a number of changes in the story and added a spiritual component to it which I felt was lacking and needed. It no longer is just the story that Ian wrote. I’ve also recruited our 8-year-old great-granddaughter to do the illustrations for the book and have extensively adjusted those illustrations using Microsoft Paint to make them more consistent and the characters more uniform. So how do we identify the authorship of the book? Ian and I have discussed this and have tossed around listing a co-authorship or a “with” authorship such as “by Ian Moore-Morrans with Gayle Moore-Morrans.” We’ve thought that perhaps the former gives too much credit to me and perhaps the latter makes it look as if Ian had a ghost writer (which certainly isn’t the case).

               I found your remarks helpful when you stated, “I will put the book out in both our names and claim co-authorship for my mom’s stories – though her name will appear first. No matter the work I’ve done, the one who came up with the ideas and the characters deserves first billing.” So I’m feeling more at peace with the “by author with another author” claim.

               What a great legacy your mother has left you and how wonderful that you can keep her memory so alive by working with her writings. I have the added advantage of still having Ian here with me so I can toss ideas and solutions around with him even though he can no longer physically do the re-writes and adjustments. I can even do future book readings and promotions for him without having to take along videos of him reading from the particular book. (Something I did twice in 2012 when I was able to travel to the States to do book readings/sales for Ian when he was unable to travel there because he couldn’t get travel insurance to go out of Canada.)  In addition, Ian has added an addendum to his will granting me full ownership of his writings, both published and unpublished and free rein in pursuing publication of any as-yet unpublished writings of his.

               I wish you well with your co-authorship adventure with your mother and plan to re-blog this latest post of yours on our blog at ianmooremorrans.com. Thanks for your insights.

Gayle Moore-Morrans

Fishing Stories and Reminiscences of My Stepfather

Fishing Stories and Reminiscences of My Stepfather

Here are excerpts from my memoir to go with James Collett’s excellent photo of a boat abandoned in Campbeltown Loch. To set the scene, I am 13 and am getting used to having a stepfather. An Irishman from Larne, Bill Moorhead had just married my mother, Chrissie Morrans. You might say that an abandoned boat in Campbeltown Loch helped to knit our relationship.

Fishing boat Argent, aground at The Red Rocks, Campbeltown Loch, Kintyre, Scotland.

Quoted from “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” by Ian Moore-Morrans, copyright © 2012. Friesen Press.

  Life was still not rosy for Mother even with her “new found respectability” as Bill turned out to be quite lazy. He would work for a little while, then complain that his heart was bad, quit the job that he had, and then lie around doing nothing for months. Then when he did work, he very often got drunk and gave her a lot of verbal abuse. He never did give my brother or me any trouble, though. I guess he knew better. He was pretty smart when he wanted to be. Quite often, he would reminisce about old times in Larne when he and others would make illicit whisky (“poteen” or homebrew). “Poteen boys” he called them. Then he would show me a photograph of a small motor boat that he said he had built himself during his younger days in Larne. I was so fed up hearing all that he did, that I eventually let it go in one ear and out the other. It seemed to me that all Irishmen bragged a lot about nothing! I don’t mean to suggest that we were enemies, though; mainly just the opposite.
~*~
    Bill taught me quite a few things, among them how to make netting needles that the local fishermen would buy to mend their nets and how to make the best catapult in town, one that was different from any I’ve ever seen, even today. (A catapult in Britain is called a slingshot in North America.) For all Bill’s faults, we got along very well. He certainly wasn’t dumb. He taught me things that I never would have learned if he hadn’t been around. I don’t know what my brother thought of him, for he never ever mentioned Bill to me either positively or negatively. (Actually, my brother never mentioned anything to me, period!) I think, perhaps Bill and Archie thought similarly of each other; and I don’t think it was complimentary either way.
    Regarding the catapult, Bill explained details like making a small hole in the centre of the leather pouch that holds the stone to reduce drag by letting air through while the stone was shooting forward. He taught me to reduce the “Y,” leaving just a stub on the bottom leg and cradling the other two legs with the thumb and forefinger. The securing system of joining the rubber to the leather was very elaborate, quite unusual with all the loops of leather that he used. It was actually quite easy to hit a tin can about ten meters (30 feet) away—impossible with the ones my friends and I had made previously. Best of all, Bill emphasized one very good rule: never shoot at any living thing!
~*~
    One day while I was playing with my friends I heard, “Ian, will you come with me, please? I need your help.” Bill had never said this before, so I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out that he had found a small row boat washed up on the shore just outside town. The stern was all smashed away, and I mean totally gone. I think it would have been classified as “flotsam.” It was perfectly legal for Bill to take it. Wreckage found on the shore was considered “finders keepers.”
    “Help me to carry it to O’Hara’s yard and I’ll fix it up; then we can go fishing.”
    “Sure, Bill,” I replied although my thoughts were, ‘How the heck can ye fix this when the whole back end is missing?’
    But, boy, did he ever fix it! You would never have known that it had been damaged, except for a little different shade where the new wood appeared. The boat was classified as “clinker-built” (overlapping boards). I never did watch him work on it and I’ve often regretted it. I thought he was just doing his usual bragging. I couldn’t believe it was the same little boat when he asked me to help him take it to the water. He had also managed, (how, I don’t know) to have two oars and two row locks (oar locks) and “hand-lines” so that we could use the boat right away, plus a rope to tie it up when we weren’t using it.
    Use it we did! We were never short of fish after that. It was only Bill and I who went fishing; my brother always said “no”, although he would certainly eat his share. We would go out in the evening, usually around seven or eight p.m., spend an hour or two at the most, and return home with cod, mackerel, or flounder. There was plenty of fish. In less than an hour, we usually had enough fish to last us a couple of days, plus some for Bill to sell.
~*~
Just after the onset of the war, the Admiralty had commandeered an enormous “yacht” (not a sailing boat) that belonged to Lord and Lady Docker. It was renamed the “HMS Shamara” and had its own permanent berth at the old quay. This ship would go out every night around eight p.m. and return early the next morning. Nobody knew what she did. Whenever we were going fishing, either Bill or I would check whether she was still tied up, or if she had left the pier. When she was tied up, we fished close to the shore, just west of the small warning beacon, to get us well away from her wash as she passed on her way out. When she was out we fished nearer to the middle of the opening as there were more fish there. (The opening was only about a thousand feet or 330 m. wide.)
One night, however, neither of us had remembered to check. We were right in the middle of the opening to Campbeltown Loch, between the island and the north shore, getting ready to put our fishing lines in the water when Bill asked me if the Shamara was out. I told Bill that I wasn’t sure, but that I thought she was out. Big mistake! It was almost dark and we had our lines in the water when suddenly we heard the “swoosh…swoosh” of Shamara’s bows breaking the water. In the late twilight, just before darkness fell, we could just make out the massive bow of this big ship heading straight for us. I grabbed the oars and rowed like mad, hoping I was rowing in the right direction. Bill started to shout, “Ahoy, Shamara; ahoy, Shamara” at the top of his lungs. I can still see the dark outline of the ship coming straight for us. She was showing no lights whatsoever (and this was peacetime—after the war!). I continued to row like mad, and all the time Bill was shouting his head off. (Bear in mind that this ship was just slightly smaller than a frigate!)
    Bill shouted to me, “Get low in the boat, Ian, as low as you can and hold on to the sides.” He did the same. She missed us by no more than 40 or 50 feet (ca. 16 m.)! We bobbed up and down like a cork, oars in, as we clung for dear life to the edges of the little row boat. (There weren’t any rules about life jackets at that time, and we wouldn’t have been able to afford them anyway!) Bill knew to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible to help prevent capsizing; that was why he told me to get as low in the boat as possible. After that incident we made double sure that we checked if that ship was at her berth before we left to go fishing!
~*~
    We’ve all heard “big fish stories” at one time or another. Well, here’s another to add to the list. It was always Bill’s policy to ask my mother if she wanted to go fishing with us and she always said, “No thanks; you two go and catch fish and that will please me just fine.” At least, she almost always did. One evening when Bill asked her, she just about floored both of us by saying, “Aye, okay, Ah’ll go oot wi’ ye.”
    We were at our usual spot between the island and the mainland (yes, the Shamara was already out!), our lines were in the water and Bill had shown Mother what she was supposed to do.
    “Go down until the sinker touches bottom, Chrissie; then lift it just off, and then touch it down again ever so lightly so that the hooks are a few inches above the sand. That is where the cod are.” (Cod are “bottom-feeders.”).
    Both Bill and I had landed a few fish and Bill was teasing Mother about coming fishing with us, asking when she was going to catch one. Suddenly she cried, “Ah think Ah’ve got one; will ye help me?”
    “When yer pulling like that, Chrissie,” Bill laughed, “and nothing is happening, it means that yer caught on the bottom.” (Remember too, that she was a really little lady!)
    “Well, if Ah’m caught on the bottom, maybe you’ll fix it for me.”
    “Okay, I’ll loosen it for ye and I’ll show ye what t’ do so that you’ll know how to do it in future …. Hey Ian, I think she’s really got somethin’ here, look at the line, it’s going all over the place now …. Hey, wow! It must be a dandy …. C’mon over here and give me a hand.”
    Well, I did go to help, and it took both of us to pull in this great big cod! (Keep in mind, we didn’t have rods; we used hand-lines and had to haul the dark, rough twine in with our bare hands.) We didn’t have a means of measuring the fish; in fact, no one ever thought of doing that in those days. The only indication we had was that the commercial “fish box” we always put our catch in was about 26 inches (65 cm.) long. (Every fish we had caught before always had fit inside the box.) As “Chrissie’s fish” was a full head and tail over the ends, it probably measured about 33 inches (84 cm.) or more long. That was some fish!
    Of course, this episode totally spoiled our “fish stories” from then on. Any time we were going over the evening’s catch, we would hear a little voice in the background saying something like, “Do ye remember the fish that Ah caught, you two?” That was the one and only time that she ever came fishing with us! (Yes, Chrissie, God bless your heart; you’re dead and gone now but I well remember the fish you caught!)
(end of quote)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

So many of James Collett’s photos remind us of stories from Ian’s memoir, “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada.” This photo that James just posted brings to mind Ian’s story of his stepfather Bill Moorhead building a boat from the remains of a wrecked vessel abandoned on the shores of Campbeltown Loch. We’ll post pertinent excerpts from the book along with this reposting of James Collett’s photo on our website: ianmooremorrans.com. Thanks for sharing another amazing photo, James.