On Friday we buried Sandy in his family town of Penicuik in Midlothian. Those who knew him were enriched by the experience; those who didn’t are unfortunate.
For those that were not aware of the cause of his passing Sandy had a successful operation on a brain tumour, however, inoperable secondary growths finally defeated him.
Although we did not see each other from 1964, when I left 13 Signal Regiment, until 2009 when we met again at Bangkok airport it could have been less than a week. Both he and Kay made us as welcome as if we had been family.
His friends came from across the globe to pay tribute to one of the most generous people you could meet and they in turn reflected this generosity of spirit.
St Mungo's Parish Church
The service was held at St Mungo’s Parish Church and was taken by Reverend Peter Taylor who, having served with Sandy in 9 Signal Regiment in the late ’60s, left the army to take holy orders. Not that the two events could possibly be connected.
His daughter Fiona read for us and son Alisdair gave the eulogy. Rarely have I heard such a perfect reflection of somebody’s life. No remorse; he reached out to everybody, and it was large congregation, with stories of events that had touched all our lives at some point in time.
Sandy was laid to rest in the Kirkhill cemetery with a piper in attendance. The weather was kind and the rain held off.
Piping him home
The family held the wake in the Craigienield House Hotel and an a personal note I would like to thank Kay and the family for inviting me and their friends for making me so welcome – a special note to Jim and Susan who introduced me round.
We moved to the family home from whence we eventually made our individual ways back to various points across the country.
A very moving day and a fitting tribute to a wonderful person.
REME Junior Leaders Reunion– 11th & 12th November 2011
Confirmation the event is booked to take place Central England in the Cotswolds at the Wyck Hill House Hotel located in Stow on the Wold by the Fosse-way.
We have gained extremely good special rates for the event for Friday 11th November which are double rooms and single rooms inclusive of the Friday night dinner and banquet room and service.
As I have also set out in the programme events like last year for Friday and Saturday as most stayed for the Saturday night as well I have gained the special rate again for those who opt for the two day package.
I must stress due to the time of the year and the size of our party I was able to get the rates well below what they would normally charge and this I assure you is an extremely good location and Hotel for a weekend break before Christmas.
Arrive pm 11th November .
Meet at the Bar 6:30 7:00 pm Drinks Reception As before Red Blue and Yellow (or White) Handkerchiefs top pocket depending upon Rowcroft, Tope or Joslin.
Dinner 7:30 in the Lord Rissington Suite (Overlooks theWindrushValley).
After Dinner Speakers.
Move to Bar 11:30 for those who can’t sleep!
Breakfast 7:30 to 10:30
Convoy Tour of Cotswolds for those who wish to visit exceptionally attractive Cotswold Villages.
Departs 10:30 First Stop – Stowon theWold Town Square.
Very attractive especially interesting shops.
2ND Stop Lower Slaughter.
Mill stream and picture book scenes
3rd Stop Bourton on the Water.
Bourton is worth half a day just to walk around
Return to Hotel
Evening Dinner at special rate again for those who stay over.
Single Night Package 11th November
Double/ Twin occupancy room for 1 night ( Friday night ) Dinner Bed and Breakfast is £165.00per couple inclusive
Single occupancy room for 1 night ( Friday night ) Dinner Bed and breakfast is £120.00 per person inclusive.
Double Night Package 11th and 12th November
Double/ Twin Room for 2 nights Dinner bed and breakfast is total £320.00 per couple
Single occupancy for 2 nights Dinner Bed and Breakfast is total £240.00 per person
Please remember this also includes the dinner both nights and the restaurant is exceptionally good by reputation and listing.
Booking details are as follows:-
(Visit the website below)
The booking reference required for guests to book these will be # 60603 REME Reunion. Theywill need to take a 25% deposit from guests at the time of bookings, and then full pre-payment of the weekend 1 or 2 night package 2 weeks before.
Senior Event Co-ordinator
WyckHill House Hotel & Spa
REME Junior Leaders Reunion – 11th & 12th November 2011
Minutes from the re-union 12th November 2010
1) The vast majority of those who attended said they wanted another before we all get too old.
2) For record purposes the following picture covers the visit to the REME Museum on the Saturday:
3) At Mike Jackson “Josmic” website pictures are available of the Bramshill Hunt Lunch
No pictures available covering the Sunday morning departure from the Hotel in Wokingham due to the brightness on the November Sunlight!!!!
4) As so many have called for a repeat re-union we have done a bit of research as to what we could do and where we could hold it. I would appreciate your comments and hear from those who will be attending?
5) Firstly the Northern Guys would like the venue this time to be a little more central. I have had proposal for Birmingham, Manchester Liverpool and Stratford Upon Avon. PLEASE ADVISE YOUR PERSONAL PREFERENCE. The most popular will win the day.
6) Friday 11th November Hotel Dinner as before, We will arrange special rates as before.
Dinner Reception 7 to 7.30pm.
After Dinner Speech’s by three attendee’s on the subject “My mostEmbarrassing Experience whilst I served in the Army. Votes from the audience afterwards will reward the winner with a Bottle of Scotch Whiskey.
7) Saturday morning event and Pub Lunch to be arranged for those staying over..
8) Return to Hotel in the Evening for those who wish to stay over again as before. An informal Party Dinner.
9) Depart Sunday morning
Obviously some will only wish to take part in part of the Friday night dinner re-union which we all understand. But as the last time’s Saturday evening was laced with some very funny stories, it promoted the idea of selecting volunteers for the after dinner speech sector on Friday at our next one.
Please let me have your feedback
Incidentally I’m assured by two members that if they have to, they will swim all the way back from Australia this time as they do not intend to miss it again.
REME JLU Reunion - Corps Museum Arborfield, November 2010
A couple of years ago Barry Johnson first contacted me with a madcap scheme to have a reunion of the 1960 intakes of the REME Junior Leaders Unit at Arborfield. Of course there was never a chance of this ever happening but, as I’ll sign up for anything, I said; ” sure I’ll come along”. It is a tribute to his tenacity and organisational ability that slowly but surely he persuaded more and more people to sign up and make this look like a viable proposition.
The final result was a gathering of some 50 veterans and their ladies, covering the era of ’58 to ’67, congregating at the Moat House Hotel on 12 November 2010.
REME JLU, Poperinge barracks, CIRCA 1961
Josephine and I arrived, dumped our bags in the room and headed for the bar for a much needed sandwich and a beer.
It's true - honest?
I was quite taken aback ny the cry of: “There’s Jacko, I’d have recognised him anywhere”. I would like to think that this was a tribute to my good looks rather than having seen my up to date photo somewhere.
We did get a cup of tea and a sandwich and were preparing to head back to the room to change for dinner when somebody (Alan?) suggested a quick one at the bar. In the army a quick one could last for three or four days! As it was it only lasted for an hour.
I hooked for this team
We congregated again in the bar some little time later to indulge in a few reminiscences, which seemed to be directly proportional to the number of G & Ts consumed, until we were summonsed to the dining room.
One could not fault the meal or the service and by the time we reached the sweet course we were in good form for Barry to present his presentation of life in the JLU.
A number of inmates had supplied photos for this and whilst there were many good memories there were a few sad ones. The loss of Dicky Bird in a canoeing accident was particularly poignant for me as I was one of those who went to his funeral as a pall bearer. Another story was told of when Barry, Allan, Jock Steen and I went AWOL in protest at the inhuman treatment. I lasted around 18 hours and then returned. The other three were picked up in London by the police and held for three days.
Quaint and curious costumes
It says something for the system that none of us was ever formally punished for this and we did actually achieve some changes. The architect of the abuse signed up to be a priest – nuf sed!! Whatever they threw at us, however, made us what we are today and without the discipline and organisation I for one would never have achieved anything. There were two stories that also give an indication of life in those days. One had got a job but hated it and told his father. The said father said not to worry son and took him down to the recruiting ofice and signed him up. Another went home on his first leave and found that his parents had moved and never gave him a forwarding address!
The other saving grace was sport and other extra mural activities. These got you out of mundane duties such as moving the coal from one bunker to another or peeling potatoes for the cookhouse.
We were eventually ushered out of the dining area and back into the bar, not quite kicking and screaming I must admit. There followed much more reminiscing interspersed by the necessary lubrication of the vocal chords. With the exception of Barry’s good lady the girls bade their farewells at various points and eventually there was a small core group who intercepted the Reading Pipe and Drum band who had returned from their dinner night. As there were a few ex military and RAF persons among their members this was an excuse to delay leaving for another while. I have the dubious privelege of being the last to leave the bar!
The Guardroom, Poperinghe Bks, now Corps Museum
The next morning, following a hearty breakfast, we assembled in the foyer at 9.30 and made our way to Arborfield and the REME Corps Museum. I do not think that there was anybody who really remembered the area as it was 50 years ago. I certainly didn’t. What I did remember was the Guardroom a replica of which has been built onto the front of the museum and forms the entrance foyer, coffee bar and shop. Here we were welcomed by the curator who proceeded to give us a guided tour. They had retrieved the photo albums and cuttings from the period we were in residence and it was a really nostalgic event.
The Likely Lads 50 years on
After posing for a group photo we took off for the Bramshill Hunt for lunch. This is the subject of another post – click the link. From here we returned to the hotel and from thence our various ways.
A truly memorable reunion, I only wish I could put names to all the faces.
If anybody feels the inclination would they please tag the photos or send me the position and corresponding name
The last time I was in the Bramshill Hunt was illegally, as a REME Junior Leader, around 1962. The staff certainly have not been there since then, much to young and pretty. Apart from this I do not really remember it at all, just the sneaking through the woods to get there.
One thing that did confuse me a little were two banners outside emblazoned with “come on you Irish”. Never did get to find out what they were in aid of!
It is now part of the Green King Group and, I believe, under new management. Barry Johnson had dropped them in the orders a couple of hours before we were due to arrive so at least they were forewarned that about 30 people were going to descend on them.
In general they coped pretty well although a couple of people had to wait an inordinatley long time, probably due to the fact that they only had staff available for a normal Saturday lunch time.
I had picked the cheese and ham ploughmans lunch and I can say that it would have been hard to beat.
The cheese was a chunk or real cheddar and the ham actually tasted of ham. Add pickled onion, Branston pickle and a section of french stick and you have the perfect accompaniment to red wine or a gin and tonic (Josephine got the last of the red wine in the house!)
I think everybody else was suitably impressed with their choice and, at just over £10.0 for two of us it was indeed value for money.
Unfortunately it is unlikely that I will be in Arborfield any time again soon.
Apparently the Saddle club has now been disbanded. It provided great sport whilst I was at 9 around 74 and 75 in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion. Dave and Penny(?) ran the show during some of this time and the top horse was Saladin, a grey stallion. Regretfully I do not remember the names of many of the horses, or members for that matter, though I think Jane Wells was also involved in the organisation.
Feeding our Foal
We bred a foal as well during that period. There was also quite a quite a strong drag hunt and, if I remember correctly, the ladies early morning hack was an extremely well supported weekly feature.
Looking for the hounds
My favourite competitions were the military skills at which I did far better than the show jumping for some reason.
Exhilarating, definately; terrifying, sometimes: the most vivid memory of my husky racing period is bouncing down a mountainside near Bernau, in the Schwarzwald area of Germany, underneath the sled and with no way of getting the team to stop! It was probably one of the fastest runs I ever made!
How to start a team
To the questions: “Are you still racing” and “Do you still have Siberians”, the answer is no. The former is because one needs to live near the snow and to be extremely fit and the latter because, although huskies of various breeds are now common as pets, they are essentially working pack animals.
Press cutting from “The Field”
Having said this it was a wonderful period and I will be ever grateful to the support I got from the Royal Signals in particular, the Intelligence Corps and the army in general for sponsoring the vets bills and giving me the time off to train and race my team for the European Championships as well as a number of other club races. I should also include the REME whose workshop I borrowed to build my 8 dog travelling kennel which was based on a mini sun frame.
Playing Father Christmas in Helmstedt
Not only did I get a great thrill out of racing but there was also some great sidelines, the main one acting as Father Christmas taking presents to schools on the last day of term.
A little bit about Schlittenhundrennen, Sled dog racing:
All races take place over two days and results are based on the combined times for the two runs. For the three dog class the distance is normally between 5 and 6 km and for 5 dogs 10 – 12 km. The big teams, 7 – 12 dogs run over around 20 km. Most of courses are round mountain tracks so one spends a great deal of time running behind the sled rather than standing on it.
The Nugget Trophy
Trail Club of Europe – Championship points ’04
For anyone interested the European championships were staged at 4 venues, Tannheim in Austria, Bernau in the Schwarzwald, Bruneck in the Italian Tyrol and Saignelégier in Switzerland.
The Wire – March 81
One starts in the unlicensed class. To obtain a licence you have to compete in a number of races and finish within the average time set by the licensed teams. I got my licence after winning the Austrian and Italian 5 dog “Digger” class races in ’82. From there on one is competing for the Nugget Trophy against teams who can train on snow for most of the year. The best 3 results out of the four races count towards the trophy and one receives 1/10 gram of pure gold for every minute one is better than the average race time. e.g. If the average time for all runners over two days is 65 minutes and your time is 55 minutes you earn 1 gramme of gold.
My best placing was 9th out of about 22 teams and for this I won 3 grammes of gold (worth about £80 at today’s gold price).
It was quite a wrench when I left Germany for the last timer and had to sell my team, but they all went to other kennels so I knew they would be well looked after. Christine took Bambi back to the UK as he was really too old to go to a new team.
Intelligence Corps Magazine 1981
In ’83 a reporter from The Soldier came to Bruneck and wrote an article on my achievements. This was after I had qualified for my licence and hence the 7th place in the licenced class
The Soldier Mar-Apr ’83
I would pay tribute to my ex, Christine, without whose dedication I would never have achieved the success I did and whose love of the dogs (and taking them to shows ) knew no bounds.
This is an awfully belated post on golfing with Sandy McKinnon in Thailand and is really just an excuse to publish the photographs.
For those of you who were at 13 Sigs from around ’60-’64 and/or 9 Sigs from ’64-’69 you may well remember Sandy; and Kay as well during the Cyprus stint.
They now live for most of the year in Bangkok and were good enough to invite Josephine and I to stay with them in March on our way back from Cambodia. Unfortunately the photographs from my camera have disappeared into the ether but a couple taken on my mobile on the Muang Ake Vista golf course have survived. (surprise! surprise!).
It is hard to make a riveting story out of a long walk along a canal unless one is Claire Balding or a waterways enthusiast. I can say without fear of contradiction that I am neither of these and, after the first six or seven miles, the effort of putting one foot in front of the other was enough to put most other considerations way down the priority ladder. Having said this I feel bound by a sense of duty to my many and very much appreciated sponsors to give some flavour of the weekend in general and the 15 mile hike from Bingley to Leeds in particular.
Saturday 19th June – Arrived at Leeds/Bradford Airport about 10am, after a pretty uneventful journey, to find the temperature around 10° and a gale blowing. This was not quite what I expected and certainly wasn’t dressed for. Rummaged in case at bus shelter and found cashemere pulli which helped a bit!
The Old Post office Leeds
Eventually reached Leeds station and discovered that the hotel did not open their check-in until 2pm. Luckily Leeds is a pleasant city with some great architecture and I was able to pass away the time visiting the central market and a couple of the malls and watching the Yorkshire world go by from one of the innumerable coffee houses.
I eventually booked into my hotel, pottered about a bit and had just decided to have a couple of hours snooze when I had a phone call from Jim Malone, who was on the Skipton – Bingley section, asking why I hadn’t showed up. This was a strange query as I had never intended to be on the Skipton-Bingley leg. An inexplicatble feeling of guilt overcame me so I felt duty bound to catch a train to Bingley and meet them.
I walked about a mile or so along the canal, which included going up both the 3 and 5 rise locks.
5 rise lock, Bingley
It’s supposed to be flat!!! I eventually joined up with the happy band and we walked back to Bingley and thence into the Foundry Hill Bar opposite the station for a (well earned??) couple of pints. Great little pub with really pleasant staff and a great line in Saltaire Blonde Ale. Real Ale at around £2.00 a pint, “eh up” lads (and lassies)! From there back to Leeds and a wash and brush up prior to dinner which Tom (or Julian if you prefer) organised in the bistro of the Queens Hotel; he being in residence there. (That’s an almost Caesarian Gallic Wars construction). Dinner was excellent and made even more enjoyable by the waitress and waiter on duty in the restaurant. Their efficiency and sense of humour are qualities that seem to be lacking in too many staff these days. We had an extra couple of drinks in the bar to finish off the night – Well one does doesn’t one.
Start of the Final Leg - Bingley Station
A not too arduous start to the day, for me at least, meant breakfast at 7.45, and then on to Leeds station to catch the 9.00 train for the short trip back to Bingley, to start the walk back to Leeds!. One could get dizzy with all this toing and froing . In the Bingley station car park we were joined by other members of the team who had been staying at various points West over night. It was here I caught up with Terry Ireland whom I had not seen since ’64: might only have been yesterday, just picked up our last conversation which had involved beer and minis!
Only 38 bridges to go
We were blest with perfect weather, the sun was out but there was a gentle breeze which made it ideal for walking. Before too long the group split up into about three or four sections with the “professionals” out in front and the rest of us in small packets chatting away about times past, or whatever! The great thing about going in the Leeds direction is that the locks are all downhill so that the only uphill bits are where the tow path goes over a bridge. I have only admiration for those of the party who walked more than one section and am amazed at the two stalwarts, Julian and Kevin, who covered all 9 sections and 127 miles. Of course it must be said that they practiced beforehand! But as it was not a game it was not ruined (Apologies to Flanders & Swann).
The Ice cream barge
After about an hour or so we came upon an Ice Cream Barge, so designated because it sold the said product rather than being made of it. Moored under a large tree it made the ideal point to take a well earned break and, we were told, there was nothing else along the path for a couple of hours at least. Then off we set again past the factories and mills of Saltaire and Shipley. My first wife was a Shipley girl but that is another story!
From here on it was a fairly uneventful walk until, about an hour and a half later we came across a canal side café.
Tom lays out the strategy
I had acquired a raw little toe by this time so it was a relief to stop, remove my sandle and, being much the wrong shape to do it myself, get Terry to apply a plaster. During this break who should appear but Maxi Wilson, of 13 Sigs Fame back in the 70’s, who just happend to be out strolling along. More reminisences! As a hostlery this was not the the most efficient I have ever been in – It took nearly 20 minutes to get a cup of tea, by which time everybody was wanting to move on so I ended up with a scalded mouth. Took my mind of my toe though!
We moved on towards Apperley Bridge which was our designate lunch stop and en route I was met by Lynne and Mick Shepherd, ex RAPC and 9 Sigs rugby player extraordinaire, who had driven up from Nottingham to make a donation to the cause. We had not met for, probably, fifteen years so there was more catching up to do. We arrived at the George and Dragon and somehow, due to excellent real ale coupled with lively conversation, I forgot to order lunch and so it was that I left foodless for the afternoon stint. This was probably a good thing as rumour has it that it is not good to do too much exercise on a full stomach!
Terry having teamed up with the lead group I joined Andy and Kamie Beer to form a mutual support section for this session. This is one of the prettiest stretches of the canal, passing through Rodley, with its period terraces on the bank, and Calverley Bridge, where an old friend whom I met whilst on my Greek Interpreters course in Corfu in ’72, has a riverside cottage. By this time we were beginning to feel the strain and we were counting down the bridges.
225G at last
But they got there first!
The start of the industrial skyscape of the Leeds suburbs were a welcome sight and when we found that bridge 225A was followed by 225D it elicited positive euphoria. Then, there it was, 225G and the end of the line. So about fifteen minutes later, and some 7 1/2 hours after leaving Bingley, we joined the first group at Wetherspoons for more excellent real ale. It is a pity that they did not run to foot baths as well!
The final resting place - Wetherspoons Leeds Station
I did it - honest!
Unfortunately a number of the party had to disperse home and Tom succumbed to an attack of terminal tiredness so it was a small party, Kamie, Helen, Maria, Andy and me that attended a final dinner an adjacent Indian Restaurant. For the first time I can think of I cannot remember the name but I do remember the outstanding chicken liver starter and generally authentic food. It also had a good line in Red Wine.(if anybody who was there can enlighten me as to the name please do it in the comments.) It was a pleasant way to end an exceptional weekend.
I had to be up at 4.30 am to get a taxi out the the Airport for my 7 o’clock flight. Monday was definitely a day to be forgotten.
The most important part of all this is the “unofficial” final tally of sponsorship which amounts to just under £5,500. This is a really impressive total and is a credit to all those who took part, those who supported and especially to all those of you who put their hands in their pockets when asked. On a personal note I would like to give special thanks to Julian (Tom) McMahon for involving me in this enterprise.
Also thanks to Kamie and Andy Beer, Julian, Maria. Laura and Tom for their photographic contributions
SEE THE SLIDESHOW -click on the pic to go to full size