IN LOVING MEMORY OF IAN MOORE-MORRANS

 

Ian Moore-Morrans,loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, musician, author, raconteur, master machinist and craftsman, Scottish to the core, and all-around larger-than-life character, died suddenly at Misericordia Health Centre, Winnipeg on Friday, February 22, 2019 at the age of 86. Born in Glasgow, Scotland on May 2, 1932, Ian Morrans was raised, along with his elder brother Archie, by their mother “Wee Chrissie” and grandmother Maggie in a one-room attic slum in Campbeltown, a small, picturesque fishing-and-whisky-brewing town on Scotland’s Kintyre Peninsula. His formative years as part of the poorest family in town were spent trying to get enough to eat and stay warm during the years of the Great Depression and World War II. Ian enjoyed and did well during his school years, though his formal education concluded when he was 14. During adolescence as a blacksmith’s apprentice, Ian also began a lifelong love affair with music making while wavering between the strictures of the Salvation Army and the “worldly pleasures” of the outside world where he excelled at ballroom and Scottish country dancing.

 

Life began to improve when Ian joined the Royal Air Force at age 18 in 1950. He served five years as an aircraft engine mechanic and bandsman in the United Kingdom and then Egypt. In the latter, he experienced the consequences of the Arab “walkouts” that eventually led to the Suez Canal crisis. Ian was one of those chosen few who were selected to learn how to make palatable water for the British troops. He went on to supervise water filtration plants in isolated desert assignments while on loan to the British Army.

Finally returned to the RAF and back to Britain in 1954, Ian met Mary Fraser from Motherwell, Scotland, who had become his pen pal during the Egypt years. They were married on December 29, 1954. Ian completed five years of military service in 1955 and then began civilian life in the Glasgow area (though for a few years also part of the Territorial Army, i.e., a “weekend warrior”), first as a bill collector and a tram conductor followed by jobs related to his military training: machine-fitter, industrial mechanic, overhead crane operator and eventually shift scheduler at a steel mill.

Two daughters were born to Mary and Ian: Audrey in 1956 and Shirley in 1958. In addition, Ian and Mary cared for Mary’s elderly mother, Susan Fraser. After her death, Ian got “itchy feet” and began to think of emigrating. Misled by the inflated promises of an unscrupulous Government of Ontario official to choose Canada over Australia, Ian, Mary and the girls endured a winter sailing over the Atlantic in 1965, including a collision in the St. Lawrence Seaway. They soon found Ian’s promised machinist’s job hadn’t materialized and the cost of buying a house had been enormously downplayed. Misadventures in finding and keeping jobs and a suitable place to live in Canada led Ian to conclude that he had only moved “from poverty to poverty.” It took them five years to finally obtain the level of affluence they had reached in Scotland before emigrating.

Ian never did completely take off his “traveling shoes”!  His working years in Canada, 1965-1997, found him at many different machining jobs and residences in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, including four times in Winnipeg, where he eventually retired on his 65thbirthday in 1997. Besides many small machine shops, Ian worked for significant lengths of time for Douglas Aircraft, Northwest Industries, the Royal Canadian Mint and Burrard Iron Works. Occasionally, when machining jobs were unavailable, he found work as a building superintendent, driving his own delivery truck, teaching metal machining in an adult night school program, or even delivering pizzas. Recessions in Canada contributed to many lay offs and moves to seek work. Other times, moves were made for a better job or climate, family considerations, or just to satisfy the soul of a nomad. Despite the extreme climate, however, family ultimately drew him back to Winnipeg. (It was there, at age 44, Ian gained his “Grade 12” certificate through the G.E.D. program.)

After retirement, Ian and Mary moved north to the Flin Flon MB/Creighton SK area. There, Ian dove into his creative side big time: joining the Community Choir; performing in a community revue; organizing and soloing in both Robbie Burns’ and St. Patrick’s celebrations; acting in the play, Tom Jones; and joining the local writer’s guild.

In 2000, Mary and Ian returned to Britain, exploring retirement in the Old Country. However, they had become too “Canadianized” to stay, so relocated to Nova Scotia – a touch of Scotland and halfway between Britain and Manitoba (where their growing Canadian family was located). Ian relished his two years there, entertaining in many Scottish celebrations and ceilidhs while living in New Glasgow and then Pictou. Mary was unhappy away from the daughters and grandchildren though, so returned to Audrey’s in Winnipeg while Ian attempted to sell their house. Ian moved back to Winnipeg (5thtime) in October 2002. One week later, Mary, tragically and unexpectedly, died.

Though mourning, Ian vowed to get on with life while he still was able. He proceeded to write with abandon, attend seniors’ dances and explore the dating scene. In June 2003, Ian met a much-younger widow, Gayle Moore Johannesson, whom he quickly considered his soul mate. They were married on September 7ththat year at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, combining their birth family names to form a new one: Moore-Morrans. After Gayle retired in July 2004, they moved out of the country to explore “RVing” and retirement in Mexico.

Ian had always wanted to write, but had never found the time until, at age 63, he started to record some of the stories he had been telling for years and creating new ones. He felt Providence had a hand in his meeting Gayle, who was then working as a magazine and program editor. As he put it: “Every writer needs an editor!” Their sojourn in Mexico cemented their collaboration as Ian continued to write and perfect his craft, while Gayle began to edit his growing pile of writings. They settled into the world’s largest English-speaking expatriate community on the north shore of Lake Chapala and joined the local writers’ group. During the years that ensued, they formed a publishing team: Moomor Publishing. To date, they have published four books: Metal Machining Made Easy(a DIY book); Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie(a time-travel, Scottish adventure story); From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada(a memoir, 1932-1970); and Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie(a chapter book about a boy and two birds). Gayle began collaborating on the writing as Ian’s health deteriorated. She maintains a website for their writings at ianmooremorrans.com. Caring for Ian in his later years has taken a toll on editing the rest of his writings but she hopes to soon finish editing Ian’s second memoir: Came to Canada, Eh? Memoirs of a Scottish Nomad (1970-2004).

Ian’s passion was music-making. With a beautiful tenor voice, he loved to perform. During his teenage years in the Salvation Army in Campbeltown, he readily got up to sing whenever called upon. Highlights in his adult life included soloing at a concert in Abertillery, Rhonda Valley, Wales and, years later, at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in The Pas, Manitoba. With his trumpet, cornet or trombone he was much more of a team player, starting his training at age 14 and going on for the next over-50 years in church and military brass bands, concert, dance and community bands and small combos in Scotland, England, Wales, Egypt and Canada. When he wasn’t singing or tooting a horn, he could be found whistling a merry tune, even at work from his machinist’s bench. In his later years in Canada and for two years in Mexico, Ian performed at various Robbie Burns’, St. Andrew’s or St. Patrick’s functions, church suppers, house parties, Winnipeg’s Folklorama Scottish Pavilion and other Celtic ceilidhs. In his mid-40s, Ian competed in an annual talent contest sponsored by the Associated Canadian Travellers. After several rounds in a variety of Alberta towns, he won First Place in the Variety Division, over 363 original solo contestants. In his 70s while living in Mexico, Ian encouraged Gayle to join him in entertaining. They both sang in the Los Cantates del Lagochoir and spent many evenings perfecting their Scottish duet style.

By 2007 they had moved back to Canada (British Columbia) where they became known as “Okanagan’s Mr. Scotland and His Bonnie Lassie.” For the first year, spent in Penticton, Ian continued his “full-steam-ahead” pace. Then, shortly after they had moved to Vernon, he was felled by a severe illness in August of 2008. BOOP (Bronchialitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia) nearly took his life and resulted in over five years of ill health before finally burning itself out in February 2013. By that time, he no longer wrote or used the computer. His vibrant personality only occasionally showed itself and he was much quieter than anyone who knew him before could imagine. Initially his health began to improve, though his memory started to diminish with an eventual diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.

In Summer 2015, they returned to Winnipeg (6thtime) to Fred Douglas Place, a seniors’ residence in downtown Winnipeg. By September 2017, Ian was diagnosed with an inoperable rectal cancer and continued breathing problems from lingering heart and lung issues, in addition to dementia. After a year and a half on palliative care at home, Ian was hospitalized just before Christmas 2018. He spent his final days at Misericordia Health Centre Interim Care, still proclaiming love for his “wee wifey” and family, his appreciation of Canada and his enduring attachment to anything Scottish. Though his voice was greatly diminished, he kept on singing to the end.

Ian was predeceased by Mary, his wife of almost 48 years; his mother, Christina, and stepfather, Irishman Bill Moorhead of Campbeltown, Scotland; and his brother, Archibald Morrans of Peterborough, England. He leaves these loved ones to mourn his passing and celebrate his life well and truly lived: his wife of 15 years, Gayle Moore-Morrans; daughter Audrey German (Eugene/Carl) of Winnipeg; daughter Shirley Lee (Brien) of Flin Flon; five grandchildren: Tammy German (Brad Falk) of Calgary; Calan German (Lisa) and Ainsley German (Phil) of Winnipeg; Ian Lee (Debbie) of Creighton, SK and Tiffany Falk (Chad) of Flin Flon; nine great-grandchildren: Leland, Hannah, Caleigh, Logan and Madison German, Lexi and Alex Lee, Brayden and Haylee Falk; three nephews in the U.K. and in-laws in the U.K., the U.S.A. and Norway.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, Tudor Crescent and London Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, at 2 pm on March 23, 2019. Memorials are welcomed to SPLC Memorial Fund, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, the Salvation Army, Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart & Lung Association, Alzheimer Manitoba or another charity.

“So I’ll cherish the Old Rugged Cross, ‘til my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross and exchange it some day for a crown.”

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: 

Biography 

• 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

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.”

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.

Andy Stewart and “Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky”

'The Toon'

In our previous post we reblogged this gorgeous photo by Scottish photographer and blogger James Collett from Ian’s hometown area, Campbeltown, Argyll, on the Kintyre peninsula in southwestern Scotland. This has to be one of the most beautiful photos we’ve ever seen and it makes Ian a wee bit homesick.

Below is the promised excerpt regarding Campbeltown Loch and Andy Stewart from Ian’s memoir, “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada,” pages 31-32, copyright © 2012 by Ian Moore-Morrans.

“The loch at Campbeltown (a sea-loch) is in the shape of a horseshoe lying on its side with the opening facing east. (‘Loch’ is the Scottish word for ‘lake.’ It has a guttural ‘ch’ sound similar to that in the German word ‘ach.’ The sound is made by forcing air between the back of the tongue and the soft palate at the roof of the mouth. This is a totally alien sound to most English-speaking people, who generally manage to say ‘lock’.)

“Campbeltown Loch is about three kilometers (two miles) in length from the opening of the ‘horseshoe’ to the harbour at the western end. Guarding the mouth of this haven for sailors during rough weather is Davaar Island (two syllables, Da-vaar—emphasis on the ‘v’).

“The first lines of a song about Campbeltown Loch, I would like to think “us wee boys’ in Campbeltown gave to a certain wee man as the idea for a hit song he made famous in the 1960s— ‘Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky.’ (Some claim it was an old Scots folk song or a song based on an old pipe tune; others that it was written by Andy Stewart.) Whatever the truth, renowned Scottish entertainer Andy Stewart (now deceased) made it a very popular song in Scotland, possibly all over the world. You see, as we were growing up, three or four of us would go arm in arm down the street singing the first few words—’Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky’—that’s all we knew at the time. I like to think that Andy heard those few words sometime in Campbeltown and created a song around them. ‘Oh, Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky, Campbeltown Loch, och aye! Campbeltown Loch I wish ye were whisky, I would drink ye dry!” [1]

“The verses cleverly have the singer imagining how nice it would be if the loch were full up to the brim of whisky and he could anchor a yacht in the whisky-filled bay to go in for a nip and a dip ‘by night and by day.’ Clan gatherings would feature wading into the loch with toasts of ‘Slainte Bha’ (pronounced ‘Slanj-eh-vah’—good health). The only problem would be the police showing up in a boat and shouting, ‘Time, Gentlemen, please!’ I find this a fitting tongue-in-cheek ode to a town that once boasted of 30 distilleries and still produces at least two very fine brands of single malt whisky – Springbank and Glen Scotia.

“(I’m going to jump many years ahead now to the time that my wife and I went to hear him when Andy Stewart was performing in Winnipeg, Manitoba. When he was exiting the theatre, I went up to him and asked if I could shake his hand. That got his attention! I thanked him and told him that he had put my little town on the world map. Then I told him the story of us boys singing the only bit that existed away back then. …)”


[1] Chorus of “Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky” a Scottish folk song popularized in the 1960s by Andy Stewart (1933-1993).
 
Photo Editing Challenge: Song Titles

Photo Editing Challenge: Song Titles

Gorgeous photo of Ian’s hometown. It brings to mind an excerpt from Ian’s memoir: “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada.” We plan to reblog this and add an excerpt from Ian’s memoir that describes Campbeltown Loch, Andy Stewart’s song “Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky” and an encounter Ian had with Andy Stewart after a concert in Canada.