The old saying goes: Laughter is the best medicine. In addition, sometimes the strangest things can help one make, or accept, important, even life-altering, decisions. So we found out a few weeks ago. As a result, a new expression has become significant in our lives.

“Get Stuffed!”


First a bit of back-story. I (Gayle) grew up in an American-English speaking environment. To me the term “get stuffed” meant that one was preparing to overeat. Only after moving to Canada in my forties did I learn that “get stuffed” is a British colloquialism meaning, in the politer sense, “go away” or “get lost” or, in the cruder sense, “piss off” or worse. I became aware of the term while enjoying the satirical rants of Scotsman Jock McBile of CBC TV’s Royal Air Farce fame. Jock McBile, one of the most beloved alter egos of the late comedian John Morgan, was a mutton-chopped, kilt-and-sporran-clad curmudgeon, leaning on a cromach and using a thick burr to sarcastically and comically comment on current political and cultural happenings. His frequent climax to any dismissal of the antics of those whose actions met his disapproval was to tell them to “get stuffed!” as he marched off stage, menacingly brandishing his cromach. After marrying my own feisty Scotsman some 14 years ago, there were times when I wondered if Jock McBile’s cousin had come to live with me!


Now, what in the world does that have to do with me making or accepting life-altering decisions? If you have followed my blog, you will know that I started it to publicize the writings of my Scottish-born husband Ian and the books that he and I have produced over the past years. Recently, progress on future publications has slowed as Ian’s health has deteriorated. I’m struggling to continue with editing future books since care giving is taking up most of my time. As things settle down a bit with the provincial palliative care that has recently begun, I’m looking forward to finding more time to get back to editing our next book, Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story and, hopefully, progressing to other of our unpublished writings. But first, let me relate our most recent adventure.

Ian had a check-up with his GP to assess if his breathing distress (that had increased after his inoperable rectal cancer diagnosis in September) was being helped by a month’s dosage of morphine and whether it was time to curtail some of the other medications he has taken for other serious long-term medical problems like heart disease, a history of small strokes, peripheral neuropathy, GERD, hypertension and dementia. As the cancer would eventually be terminal, did he need to keep on all the other medications to prevent serious complications from other diseases? In other words, has all the medication become overkill? Ian is content to leave these decisions to me. (A daunting task indeed.) However, I already have lost my late husband to early onset Alzheimer disease and multiple small strokes, so have a bit of perspective to aid me. At the moment I’d prefer Ian not have a stroke that could cause paralysis so I could no longer care for him at home with palliative care until or near the end (which we would both prefer). So we opted for him to stay on Warfarin to aid in preventing a stroke, even though it adds to the bleeding from the incurable rectal cancer.

Next it was time for the clinic’s nurse to administer an annual cognitive test to decide whether Ian should keep on the dementia-slowing drug that he has been on for the last three years. His memory continues to worsen but the regression has slowed on the medication – a luxury that my late husband didn’t have as the drug wasn’t yet on the market when he needed it. Our nurse started the familiar test and I could see that Ian’s awareness of time had deteriorated since last year – “What year is it?” (“Well, it’s later than 1932.” – Smart Aleck – that is his birth year!) “Do you know what month we are in?” – (“Spring?” – hardly!) He could follow sequential verbal directions to take a piece of paper, fold it and place it on the ground, but only remembered one of the three words he had been given and then later asked to recall. “Truck,” readily came to mind but he had no recollection of “velvet” and “church” which he had repeated multiple times just minutes before. He correctly answered a few questions involving numbers and did not do too poorly in copying two geometric figures on a second paper. Then came the last assignment: “Write down a sentence, please.” I smiled thinking of what Ian had written last year. “I love my wife.” This time he readily jotted down a two-word sentence, handing it to the nurse with a smirk. She let out a hoot when she read: “Get stuffed!” There was a twinkle in his eye, though, so we saw it as a touch of sarcastic humour and not a nasty protest at the process.

Ian’s score was only a point below last year’s so I thought he should keep on the drug rather than taking a chance of his memory and abilities getting worse at a faster rate, even though this could also add to his bleeding. The medical staff thought differently, though, and recommended a trial period of 10 days off the drug to see if its absence made a difference. Those 10 days did not go well, however, as Ian had a growing number of disturbing hallucinations and worsening memory. As I still had about a month’s worth of the medication on hand, I started him back on it and will be monitoring him before we see the doctor again to assess whether to continue it. After only a few days, I’m encouraged that the hallucinations have lessened, though I’m not sure about the memory.


As irascible as he gets at times, I’d like to keep my old sassy Scotsman around awhile longer if possible. I’ve also started to tell him to “get stuffed” a few times when he gets carried away. That usually brings a chuckle, followed by a cuddle, which helps to alleviate the grumbling. Here Ian is a few years ago, all decked out to sing at the Okanagan Military Tattoo when he was still able to walk with the help of a cane (instead of a cromach).

Ian summed up his “get stuffed” afternoon with: “If you have a choice, it’s better to laugh than to cry.” The day following his medical exams he was so exhausted after our outing that he hardly got out of bed. At least it gave me some time to do some creative writing and fuel another blog post.

As difficult as care giving is, I’m determined to help Ian in these last years (or months) to make life as positive as possible and try to keep myself healthy and productive at the same time. Thank God for palliative care that offers growing support, as it becomes needed, and for the love and concern of family and friends.



What encouragement old friends can bring, even those who live far away. A recent letter came from Friedemann, a dear friend from my days living in Germany in the 1960s and ‘70s. He had recently lost his wife, Maria (another beloved friend) to cancer and was writing to comfort me after hearing of Ian’s cancer diagnosis. His profound words bear repeating:

“I am really grateful to you for keeping in touch with me and now with the follow-up news on Ian’s health crisis which will no doubt continue to occupy you both. I was sorry to hear that surgery is no safe option for Ian and do hope and pray that he remains without pain and comfortable and that you can both continue to live your interesting lives together.

“I seem to detect a note of optimism in your account–but then you always had what is basically a positive attitude to life, and although I have never met Ian, from your letters I have the impression that he is a person who prefers to see the bright side of life, too–a very healthy attitude (that I sometimes wish I had more of). Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Maria and you always got along so well, way back in the Heidelberg days. You both might have had good reasons for complaint in your lives, but you always managed to see the silver lining: a result of being embedded in your faith?

“Anyway, I do hope you can both find something to look forward to and enjoy each day. I often think of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, i.e. give us today what we need just for today (and tomorrow we will ask again).

“A month or so before Maria died she wrote an article for a magazine in which she quoted a poem by a German cabaret artist, writer, author of children’s stories and actor who died in 2005, Hans Dieter Hüsch. The poem apparently appealed to her way of thinking–I imagine also to yours and Ian’s—(In German–which you presumably still read? ):


Ich bin vergnügt, erlöst, befreit.

Gott nahm in seine Hände meine Zeit,
mein Fühlen, Denken, Hören, Sagen,
mein Triumphieren und Verzagen,
das Elend und die Zärtlichkeit.

Was macht, dass ich so fröhlich bin
im meinem kleinen Reich?
Ich sing und tanze her und hin
vom Kindbett bis zur Leich.

Was macht dass ich so furchtlos bin
an vielen dunklen Tagen?
Es kommt ein Geist in meinen Sinn,
will mich durchs Leben tragen.

Was macht, dass ich so unbeschwert
und mich kein Trübsinn hält?
Weil mich mein Gott das Lachen lehrt
wohl über alle Welt.

Hanns Dieter Hüsch


“In English (roughly!):

I’m cheerful, redeemed, set free.

God took my time in his hands,

my  feeling, thinking, hearing, speaking,

my triumphs and despondencies,

the anguish and the tenderness.


How come that I’m so cheerful

in my own small domain?

I sing and dance to and fro

from the cradle to the grave.


How come that I’m so fearless

on many gloomy days?

A spirit comes into my mind

that seeks to carry me through life.


How come I’m so light-hearted

and no gloom has hold on me?

Because God teaches me to laugh

at the whole world no doubt.


“So I hope God continues to give you both your daily bread and brighten your life for as long as God sees fit.

“Cheers and the very best of wishes.

(nicer in Latin: Pax et gaudium–et fortitudo = peace and joy–and strength!)”

Previewing “Twitterpated” As We Celebrate Our Wedding Anniversary

Previewing “Twitterpated” As We Celebrate Our Wedding Anniversary

We’ve just closed a nostalgic celebration of our 13th wedding anniversary with a return to the site where we met in June 2003 at Grace Café on north Henderson Highway in Winnipeg. Though we were seniors then, we are even “more senior” today and Ian is no where near as spry nor talkative as he used to be. In fact, due to mild cognitive impairment, he has forgotten so much of our story that we are super grateful that he shared his memories in writing while he still could. Most of his next memoir, Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story was written by 2007, but it hasn’t yet been published. Gayle is presently editing the memoir (and embellishing it here and there as she finds gaps and inconsistencies). She is plugging along as fast as her care giving duties permit. In the meantime, she read parts of the memoir’s last chapter to Ian this afternoon before we drove north to have a lovely meal at our “meeting place.”

Perhaps readers of this blog will enjoy a preview of selected excerpts from  Came to Canada, Eh?‘s chapter entitled “Twitterpated.”

To set the scene, Ian who was widowed in 2002, has decided at age 70 not to sit around and mope but to enjoy life and pursue the dating scene again after almost a 50-year hiatus. He joins a senior’s centre and dances up a storm, dates a few women he has met there and finally has a few unsatisfying encounters through an online dating organization. Then things change when Gayle enters into his life.

Then I thought I’d go for broke and sent a smile to a much younger widow (age 60) who was “religious,” had a professional position and was interested in music, reading, writing, travel, good wine, fine dining, history, conversation, and a lot of other things that interested me. We exchanged a few e-mails, thought we’d be quite compatible and then arranged to meet at a place she suggested. I had originally thought her name was Irene, as that was the handle she used on Lavalife. Just before we were to meet she disclosed that “Irene” was her middle name and that she really was called “Gayle.” While I was sitting in Grace Café, a Christian coffee house at the north part of Henderson Highway, I was kidding around with one of the waitresses. I knew right away when “my Gayle” walked in, even though I’d never seen a photo of her. Just as if this were a casual encounter, Gayle joined in on the chit-chat with the waitress and I, just as casually, invited her to join me.

I told Gayle I’d never been in this coffee house before and asked if she had a recommendation for something good that I could order. She replied, “Why don’t you try a chia tea latte?” (I think I could have drunk anything this very good-looking woman suggested and found it delicious!)

During our ensuing non-stop conversation, I found out that she was the editor of a Christian women’s magazine. (Hey, every writer needs his own editor, doesn’t he?) She seemed intrigued with my accent and asked me lots of questions about Scotland, indicating that her heritage on her father’s side was mostly Scottish. She told me that her maiden name was “Moore” but that she knew little about her father’s background as he had pretty much adapted to the Swedish environment of her mother’s side. She was born and raised in North Dakota (was American, in other words), had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and religion and served as a Lutheran parish worker before marrying her husband, Gus, who was a Lutheran pastor. They had lived 18 years in Germany where Gus was in graduate school and then served as a parish pastor. Then they moved to Winnipeg where he served a Lutheran church before taking an early retirement at age 58 due to early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He had died six years previously at age 62. Presently her two children, a daughter, 26, and son, 21, still lived at home with her.

We ended up closing the café and going in search of somewhere else to continue getting acquainted. We did find another one (Salisbury House), and spent more than an hour and a half there.

I asked Gayle if I could see her “tomorrow night,” and heard her say, “Well, I’m busy tomorrow night…” (just what I was expecting), but was delighted to then hear her say, “But I’m free on Friday.”


Friday couldn’t have come soon enough for me! We went for a walk along a beautiful creek meandering into the Red River, took pictures of each other and then drove to the Forks and had dinner. We continued to talk and talk and talk.

The next night I invited her to my house to watch a film. (I spent the day cleaning things up–my housekeeping hadn’t been the best up to that point!) The movie I chose was one I had recorded some years before, a Scottish film entitled, “The Bridal Path.” This is a film that Gayle loves to watch nowadays but at the time she said she was really in the dark–could hardly understand a word of the Scottish accent!

Our snogging after the film certainly convinced me that I was head over heels in love and Gayle seemed just as intrigued with me. (Wow, and she didn’t think I was in kindergarten!!!! Interesting how one can act so naturally with some prospective partners and so awkward with others. )

So “here’s us” (I had to get that Scottishism in), two seniors, both widowed, who felt and acted like teenagers and couldn’t have been more thrilled or surprised by it all. Gayle pronounced us both “twitterpated.” She had to explain that one to me, as I had never seen the movie “Bambi” and so didn’t know the story of the two fauns, Bambi and Fayeleen, completely taken with their newly discovered passion and the rabbit Thumper teasing them about being twitterpated. Later I looked up the word online. Here are the definitions:

“1)to be completely enamored with someone/something. 2) the flighty exciting feeling you get when you think about/see the object of your affection. 3) romantically excited (i.e.: aroused) 4) the ever increasing acceleration of heartbeat and body temperature as a result of being engulfed amidst the exhilaration and joy of being/having a romantic entity in someone’s life.”[1] Whew! I’ll buy that; very appropriate word!


By Sunday, on our fourth date, I couldn’t wait any longer: I proposed! (We both had quickly realized we’d met our “soul mate” and this was a concept I’d poo-pooed for years. Now I understood what it meant!) Gayle immediately said, “yes! I couldn’t have been happier.

The next day my bubble burst, however. Gayle e-mailed me from work. I had sent her something with an attachment and she e-mailed back that she had just realized we weren’t compatible (no more explanation)! I got on the phone and called her office, completely upset. She then laughed and apologized for upsetting me but said that we weren’t compatible because she couldn’t open my attachment–she had a Mac and I had a PC! Then she said that we’d need to have a serious discussion that night. That left me on pins and needles waiting to see what was up.

That evening she explained that she had confided in a good friend, their secretary at work, who had been appalled that she had agreed to marry me after knowing me for only about a week. Gayle said that her friend felt she had to slow things down and withdraw her acceptance of my proposal “for the time being” as we really needed to take a little more time to get to know each other better.

My reaction was, “Okay, I’m not happy about this but I’ll go along with it if that’s what you want. I have just one thing more to say, however. If you decide you want to marry me in the future, you are going to have to ask me. I won’t do it again!”

I’m happy to say that it only took her another week before she proposed to me! And this is how it happened. We had been talking about our mutual talents for writing. I had told her the story of agonizing over the birthday poem I’d written for Mary for her 60th birthday and that Mary hadn’t really appreciated it. Gayle replied that she dearly would have loved to receive such a poem written just for her. In fact, she said, she’d love to receive a love letter from me.

Well, I pulled out all stops the next day and composed a doozy–most of which is a bit too personal (and steamy) to quote here. I’ll just include the conclusion, “I love you; I love you; I love you. Without you I would be nothing. The one thing I know for certain is that we were meant to be with each other. I’m sure you’ll agree that this love of ours has been manufactured by One who cares for both of us, that it was He who made the introduction, then left it for us to make it work. Till we are together again, from your own WEE (I hope ‘adorable’) Scotsman, who worships the very ground you walk on. IAN XXXXXXX———OH GAYLE, MY DARLING, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT HURTS!” And I meant every word of it.

A return e-mail shot back indicating that the love letter had worked its magic. Gayle worded her “proposal” in “code,” however. It was something like, “Would you consider joining our two names when we get married (sooner rather than later) to something like “Moore-Morrans?”

Well, I couldn’t reply quickly enough, “I don’t care what name we use, as long as you’ll marry me!” In retrospect, I’d even have dropped “Morrans” and just taken the last name “Moore.” But I didn’t think of that at the time and, anyway, Gayle likes the double-barreled name, which I still find a bit “highfalutin’!”


The week after we met Gayle invited me to attend worship services at her Lutheran church where she was actually going to deliver the sermon as part of an Evangelical Lutheran Women’s annual service that was one of the programs that Gayle was responsible for at her job. I was intrigued by her obvious talents and curious about the type of service in her particular denomination. This also gave me a unique glimpse into Gayle’s sense of self confidence and “moxey” when, after the service a woman I had got to know at the seniors’ dances came up to me with a quizzical look on her face saying, “What are you doing here, Ian?” She seemed genuinely surprised to find out I was a guest of Gayle’s. Turning to Gayle, she boldly asked, “How long have you been dating Ian?” Gayle’s answer? “None of your business!” (I loved it!)

We had been together every day for about a month, usually at my house where we would have some privacy as her almost-grown children still lived with her. We reluctantly departed late each night as Gayle returned to her home.. . . .

Gayle and I had decided to have a traditional Scottish wedding. Since my Prince Charlie jacket was gone, I needed to get a new formal jacket to go with the kilt. It seemed appropriate to order an Argyll jacket since I’m originally from Country Argyll and the handle I had used when Gayle and I were hooking up on Lava Life was “Argyll.” I located a Scottish-Canadian who had a Scottish shop in the basement of his house. Gayle and I went to his shop so that I could order and be fitted for this jacket which is slightly less formal than the Prince Charlie jacket but which is more versatile, in other words it can be formal, semi-formal or informal depending on the type of shirt, tie and waistcoat one wears with it. It doesn’t have tails and is a longer jacket which has silvery (nickel-plated) Celtic-design buttons on the sleeves and front.

As the shop owner measured me for the jacket he made the remark, “Man, are you ever a Pict!”

Surprised, we both asked, “What do you mean?” I knew that the Morrans family had originally come to Campbeltown from Northern Ireland (my great-great-grandfather). In other words, my family heritage was Celtic. However, they had been in Scotland for several generations so had intermarried with families whose origins might have been in Scotland many centuries. The Picts were the original tribe of people who had populated what eventually became Scotland.

His answer was: “The Celts and the Picts had different body types. You can tell someone of Pictish heritage by the short legs but inproportionately longer torso and arms. That fits you to a tee, Ian.”

So there you have it; I was a Pict more than a Celt. I’m not sure that this has made much difference to me, but it certainly describes why all my trousers have to be shortened to 28 inch-length, but my shirts and jackets are normal length. The Scottish tailor who made my Argyll jacket and mailed it to Canada did a great job. I added a formal tuxedo shirt and black bowtie to complete the outfit. My sealskin sporran, sgian dbuh, green flashes, formal white stockings and black brogues completed the outfit.

Gayle went across from her office on Portage Avenue to a fancy bridal shop. She originally had in mind to buy a red gown to match my red tartan kilt. However, a magnificent, gold lace wedding dress caught her eye. When she insisted I come over to see her in it (and hang tradition), I saw that she was beautiful in it. It suited her to a tee! (I surprised myself by insisting on paying for it; though I still cringe thinking of the thousand dollars it cost! That was pretty painful for this Scotsman!)

We were married on September 7, 2003 at Gayle’s church, Sherwood Park Lutheran, in the East Kildonan area of Winnipeg. Our attendants were friends, Stan  (a Scottish-born Canadian with whom I played in a band at one time) and Alexi  (a lovely friend of Gayle’s). Stan wore a rented kilt and sporran. Alexi wore Gayle’s long kilt skirt and matching cape which she’d bought in Scotland years before.

Gayle likes to relate our preparation for the wedding at her house on Battershill Street. She and Alexi had been treated to a professional make-up session by my oldest granddaughter, Tammy, a makeup artist. Then they got dressed in the master bedroom while Stan and I donned our kilt outfits in the den across the hall. Soon the women heard singing and stomping from the hallway and came out of the bedroom to view a “parade.” Stan and I were marching up and down the hallway singing,

I’ll never forget the day I went and join’d the ‘Ninety third’

The chums I used to run with said they thought I look’d absurd.

As they saluted me, and gather’d round me in a ring,

And as I wagg’d my tartan kilt they a’ began to sing –

He’s a braw braw Hielan’ laddie, Private Jock McDade.

There’s not anither soger like him in the Scotch Brigade.

Rear’d amang the heather, you can see he’s Scottish built,

By the wig, wig, wiggle, wiggle, waggle o’ the kilt.[2]

Calan and Ian, my two grandsons, were ushers; my granddaughters, Tammy and Ainsley were punch servers at the church reception and granddaughter Tiffany presided at the guest book. Our three daughters participated as well. Audrey and Gwynne read the lessons during the church service and Shirley was emcee at the evening reception. All three served as hostesses for the church reception.

We were piped out of the church by a young lass of 15 years to an afternoon reception in the lower church hall with lots of friends and family present. During the festivities, I sang Gayle a Scottish song which she delights to hear any evening we do a little bit of singing.

“Oh, my love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.

Oh, my love is like a melody that’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, so deep in love am I;

And I will love thee still, my Dear, ‘til a’ the seas gang dry.

‘Til all the seas gang dry, my Dear, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun.

And I will love thee still, my Dear, while the sands o’ time shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Love! And fare-thee-weel, a while!

And I will come again, my Love, tho’ ‘twere ten thousand mile!”[3]

This was followed by a smaller reception for family and a few close friends in the Scandinavian Centre. (Gayle likes to keep her Scandinavian roots alive!) That night was a howling success. We had a delicious smörgåsbord (gotta get in those Swedish vowels or Gayle will correct me!) meal and then lots of music provided by friends and family.

To Gayle I sang, “Cailinn Mo Ruin-sa,” a beautiful Gaelic song. Some of the verses (in English) go like this:

“Dearest my own one, oh won’t you be mine,

Full of devotion, so modest and kind,

My heart’s full of longing and yearning for you,

Come close to me darling, you know I’ll be true.”

(I rewrote and combined parts of the next verses to reflect “our story”)

Do you remember when in Grace Cafe

I made your acquaintance on that perfect day,

Since then you are mine dear, the choice of my heart,

My promise I give you that we’ll never part.”[4]


Gayle and I concluded the reception by singing a duet, “September Song:”

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,

But the days grow short when you reach September.

As the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,

One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.

Oh the days dwindle down, to a precious few–September, November.

And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.

These precious days, I’ll spend with you.”[5]

This seemed appropriate because we were both “seniors” and Gayle had eventually come around to accept the fact that I was ten and a half years older. She said her late husband had been eight years older than her and she had always said if she ever married again it would be to someone younger than her! Then along came Ian, aged 71 to her 60 years. I made a promise to her then and there that I would live to be 100. I said when my 100th birthday came and I was interviewed by the press as to the secret of my longevity, I’d reply, while leaning on my cane, “SEX, every day; twice on Sunday!”

[1] Definition of “twitterpated” from the Urban Dictionary.

[2] First verse and chorus of Harry Lauder’s “Waggle o’ the Kilt,” written in 1917.

[3] “My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose” was written by the Scottish bard, Robbie Burns, over two hundred and fifty years ago.

[4] Traditional Gaelic song to a waltz tempo.

[5] “September Song” composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Wikipedia describes it as “an older person’s plea to a younger potential lover that the courting activities of younger suitors and the objects of their desire are transient and time-wasting. As an older suitor, the speaker hasn’t ‘got time for the waiting game.’”

–Previews from Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story by Ian Moore-Morrans with Gayle Moore-Morrans, ©2016


September 7, 2003

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.



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Robbie Burns’ Day is fast approaching on January 25th. I (Gayle) dug out my file and photos from an article I originally wrote in February 2005 when Ian and I were on our two-and-a-half year sojourn in Mexico. I’ve been put into a Scottish mood, having convinced Ian that we should attend this year’s Robbie Burns Dinner on Saturday, January 24th at the Ian at book reading in McKinnon kiltVernon Rec Complex sponsored by the Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band and the Arran Campbell Memorial Pipe Band here in Vernon, British Columbia. Last year Ian just didn’t feeling up to attending even after I altered his fairly new but way-too-big kilt (McKinnon clan tartan: McKinnon is the clan to which the Morrans family is a sept). The kilt was tailored for him several years ago when Ian had gained about 40 pounds while being treated with prednisone for almost five years. Once he went off the medication the pounds literally dropped off, which is what happened to his kilt as well once he tried it on for the second time! The above photo shows him in the McKinnon tartan kilt while it still fit. In the story that follows Ian is wearing his old kilt, a hand-me-down in the Royal Stewart tartan that Ian received from his former sister-in-law. (Not the correct tartan for him, but a Scotsman can’t pass up something free, and he was thrilled to get his own kilt at the time.)

This time it is I (Gayle, the blogger) who is acting as the Scottish Canadian author. To set the scene, we had set up temporary quarters at a small RV park on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest lake, in the mountainous part of central Mexico south of Guadalajara. It just so happened that all the other RVers in that park were fellow Canadians and a few of them had Scottish heritage as well. We met weekly for a specially catered dinner in the RV park’s lounge and had decided that it would be fun to have a Robbie Burns’ Dinner on a day close to his birthday. Ian and I had brought our kilts with us and the rest of the company improvised. You will note that I refer to Ian as “Scotty”, the name he became known as amongst our Mexican and ex-pat friends. After the event we met the editor of a local ex-pat on-line magazine and she asked me to submit an article telling of our unique evening. Here is the result, completed  by the slide-show of photos at the start of this blog post to document our party.

Article originally written for  an e-zine: Mexico Insights, published in Ajijic, Mexico, February 2005.

Roca Azul RVers Celebrate Scotland’s Robert Burns
by Gayle Moore-Morrans

Throughout the world on Robbie Burns’ birthday, (January 25), Scots, those of Scottish ancestry, various Scottish “wannabees” and poetry enthusiasts gather to celebrate the immortal memory of Scotland’s national bard. Not to be outdone, 18 Canadians residing at or near the Roca Azul recreational vehicle (RV) site on the western shore of Lake Chapala enjoyed a traditional Burns’ Night complete with tartans, pipe music, haggis and Scotch whisky, as well as recitations and singing of some of Burns’ famous poems.

Our illustrious director and entertainer was none other than fellow RVer Ian “Scotty” Moore-Morrans, sometimes known as “Winnipeg’s Mr. Scotland.” Originally from Campbeltown on the Kintyre Peninsula, Argyll, Scotland, Scotty welcomes any excuse to don his kilt, sporran, skean dhu (Gaelic for “black knife”, worn in the stocking) and Argyll jacket, and break into a Scottish/Gaelic ballad or spin a highland tale. He has entertained at Robbie Burns’ Nights and other Scottish-flavoured gatherings over the years, including last year at the prestigious Fort Garry Hotel (Winnipeg) for the Cameron Highlanders 2004 Burns’ Supper. He is also an enthusiastic member of the international Robbie Burns’ Society.

A neighbour, Carmelina “Carmie” (McPherson) Bourner who hails from “New Scotland” (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) and has spent a lifetime enjoying Scottish music, dance and tradition, agreed to serve as mistress of ceremonies for the evening. Other campers good-naturedly agreed to recite a Burns’ poem, give a traditional toast, bring along some appropriate recorded music or just come and participate in the festivities. The contributors quickly got down to business, digging through their CDs, writing up their pieces or rehearsing their poems while enduring Scotty’s coaching if they wished to attempt reading with a Scottish “burr.”

Then it was my turn. As Scotty’s fairly new wife, I’d been indoctrinated into the glories of my previously little-known Scottish heritage. After I’d learned countless Scottish tunes and attended various Scottish events over the past two years, Scotty called me to the ultimate task! “I’ve got a great idea, Gayle; you can make the haggis!” Okay, I’m a fairly accomplished and adventuresome cook – but, HAGGIS? I’d eaten some samples (one very good, some not so memorable) while trying not to dwell on a few of the traditional ingredients – namely, mutton, suet, sheep’s heart and “lights” (lungs) and the non-eaten casing which consisted of a cleaned-out sheep’s stomach! But I’m usually up to a challenge. Obviously, the one cookbook I had in the motorhome did not contain a recipe for haggis. So, laptop computer in hand, I headed for an Internet café and did a search for “Robbie Burns.” An array of sites appeared with all sorts of instructions for hosting a Robbie Burns’ Night, biographies of the bard, the texts of his poems and a section on haggis. After downloading and printing the haggis section, I studied the various recipes, ranging from an excerpt from The Scots Book of Lore and Folklore to “Lady Logan’s Receipt from 1856” to a beef haggis and an “Americanized” recipe that could be baked in a meatloaf pan. The latter sounded more to my liking. I headed for a carniceria (butcher shop) searching for ground lamb and lamb’s liver.

“No, Señora, we don’t carry ground lamb. But you could buy a five-pound leg of lamb and we can grind it for you.” I declined, saying I only needed two pounds of lamb so perhaps I’d have him grind up 1/2 pound of lamb chops and would substitute ground beef that I already had for the rest. With a sudden, “Uno momento,” he disappeared into the back room, shortly reappearing with a partial leg of lamb that could be ground and would make about 2 pounds! Then I asked for lamb’s liver and was informed that the farmer who supplied their lamb meat sold all the innards to someone else. Okay, did they have any pork liver then? No, they had only beef liver (which I’ve been warned against in Mexico) and chicken liver (which I hate). My eyes rested on some pork pâté and I decided that would make a good substitute. With an added pound of not-so-lean hamburger (my “acceptable” substitute for suet), my meat supply was complete. To that I added minced onion, egg, oatmeal and about 4 times the amount of paltry spices that the recipes called for – nutmeg, ginger and cloves. The day of our Burns’ “do” the campground was treated to a delicious aroma emanating from the motorhome that flew the rampant lion flag of Scotland. At least we would be treated to something authentic in the way of a traditional menu for a Burns’ Supper.

That brings up the problem that Pat, our weekly communal dinner organizer, faced in trying to communicate with the Mexican cook about the proper menu for such an occasion. Most Burns’ suppers start out with cockaleekie soup. Then roast beef is served along with the haggis, complimented by “tatties” (potatoes), a rich beef gravy, green peas and “neeps” (mashed turnips). A typical dessert would be a fruit/cream/whisky-laced trifle. Pat and I were pretty sure that turnips were not available in Mexico so our recommendation was for the cook to prepare a chicken soup, some sort of beef, potatoes and other vegetables and leave the dessert up to her. The results proved interesting – but I’m getting ahead of the story.

Dressed to the nines in our kilts and laden with haggis and whisky, Scotty and I arrived at the clubhouse to the “oohs” and “aahs” of the other campers.  Pat had decked out the table with red and white flowers and a big tartan bow. Matching them was Carmie, our MC, dressed all in white with a nice Royal Stewart tartan sash. After seeing that all had a toast glass of Scotch, she invited us to the table. With her opening remarks she explained the background of Burns’ Suppers, that we were joining people all around the world on this day to commemorate Scotland’s most venerated poet in celebrations, poetry readings and song. We were invited to receive the haggis by standing and clapping time to the pipe music. Then Carmie joined our four-person parade to “Pipe in the Haggis.” As the “chef,” I had the privilege of carrying in the haggis, followed by everyone else present who wore a tartan – in this case, Scotty, Carmie and her husband Richard in his version of a Scottish RVer, resplendent in shorts, white shirt and tartan tie. At the “skirl” of the pipes, we did a complete circle of the banquet table and then took our places at its head. Then began the most important element of a Burns’ supper – the recitation of Burns’ “Address to the Haggis.”

Knife poised in mid-air, Scotty began: “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great Chieftain o’ the puddin-race . . .!” A few verses later he enacted the verse while stabbing into my luscious creation: “His knife see rustic-labour dicht, An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht, Trenching your gushing entrails bricht, like onie ditch; And then, O what a glorious sicht, warm-reekin, rich!” Finally ending this slightly unintelligible (for most of us) poem with “Auld Scotland wants nae stinking ware that jaups ‘n’ luggies; But, if you wish her gratefu’ pray’r, Gie her a Haggis!” he lifted his whisky glass and invited everyone to stand and toast the haggis. “To the haggis, Slainte Bha!”  (pronounced Slanje va – Gaelic for “good health!”)

Next on the program was Richard Bourner who imparted some brief but witty remarks about the manufacture of single malt Scotch whisky, to which we also stood for another wee dram and “Slainte Bha!”

After Scotty prayed Burn’s “Selkirk Grace” (“Some ha meat and canna eat; Some wad eat but want it. But we ha meat and we can eat and tae the Lord be thankit.”), “The Meal” followed.

We first enjoyed a delicious tomato soup while our hosts tended the outside barbeques – roast beef had become Biftec. That’s where any similarities to the traditional meal stopped. The steaks were accompanied by prickly pear cactus leaves and a medley of creamed, cubed white vegetables – probably peeled zucchini and celeriac. The meat varied from nearly tender to “shoe leather quality.” As each plate was served I went around the table to add a small portion of haggis. Some were a bit hesitant at first, having heard all sorts of disparaging remarks about it. After tasting the steaks, however, the haggis became more popular. In fact, the dish went around the table three times and I finally put the last two pieces aside so that Scotty could have a “wee drop” for breakfast the next day!

Following our fruit cup dessert, we retired to the camper’s recreation room to begin our ceilidh (pronounced kaylee), a Scottish celebration where everyone has a chance to contribute to the program – through song, dance, recitation or whatever. Al Laplante gave the traditional speech “To the Immortal Memory,” in which he outlined how Robbie Burns’ deep love for Scotland fired his ambition to write in the Scottish vernacular, resulting in the creation of a unique brand of poetry, full of character, integrity, humour, satire and lyrical harmony. Even though he only lived from 1756 – 1796, his popularity is still on the increase two centuries after his poems first appeared.

After Scotty treated us to a musical rendition of Burns’ well known, “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton,” it was time for Bryan St. George to present the “Toast to the Lassies.” He mentioned that, though we women present came from a variety of different backgrounds, for this evening we were all “lassies” – more specifically “RV lassies” – and that we were particularly to be recognized for making comfortable homes for our men despite our small living quarters. Then it was time for the “Response to the Laddies.” Linda Rae responded by inviting all the lassies to raise their glasses in toast to all the men present who had such good taste in women!

Continuing on with our poetry readings, Pat Laplante gave a good attempt at a Scottish “burr” while reading “Coming Through the Rye.” Ian Rae followed with a rendition of “For a’ That an’ a’ That,” Burns’ tribute to universal brotherhood which ends with the ringing, “It’s comin’ yet for a’ that, that man to man, the world o’er shall brithers be for a’ that.” Scotty and I sang, “Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon” and then we heard, “To a Mouse,” in which Burns, a farmer by trade, apologized to a wee mouse whose wee house his plow had disturbed – a good example of Burns’ search for universal meaning in the commonplace.

The evening concluded as Scotty led us through a singalong of Scottish songs, followed by some Scottish country dancing, an impassioned speech by Ross Hamilton about brotherhood and understanding amongst people and his demonstration of hand puppet “dancing” to a Scottish reel.

In the words that my hometown newspaper used to end all party reports: “A fine time was had by all!” Oh – I almost forgot! Our wee dog, Peppy, who accompanies us almost everywhere, joined us for the ceilidh portion of the evening. He slept through most of it but when it came time to join hands around a circle to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” Peppy decided to participate. Trotting into the circle, he took up his begging stance on hind legs with front paws pleadingly chopping the air. Scotty and Ross separated their hands, each taking him by a front paw, and we continued our singing and circling. As the Brits would put it, Peppy was “as happy as Larry!” Another Scottish wannabee!

Editor’s Review of “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada”

I (Gayle) thought it was about time I got around to reviewing Ian’s autobiography, volume 1, for the Goodreads site. I listed it, recommended it and gave it 5 stars some time ago, but, with developing this blog, I haven’t had time to get a review written until now. It is posted below.

*****”I highly recommend “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” to anyone interested in: 


• Scotland during the Great Depression, World War II and the post-war years

• A teenager’s life in the Salvation Army in the late ’40s

• Music making, especially Scottish folk music, brass band music and tunes of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s

Life of a common airman in the Royal Air Force of the early ’50s

• British military life in Egypt during the pre-Suez crisis days

• Emigration from Scotland and immigration to Canada in the mid-’60s

The writing style is folksy, humorous and honest. Ian tells it like it was!”

Gayle Moore-Morrans, September 2012


Another Campbeltown Story Inspired by James Collett’s Photography


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.”