A Heartfelt Reflection by a Scottish Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter.
“In The Days of My Youth,” is a poignant poem by my late Mum, celebrating her Scottish upbringing as a lighthouse keeper’s daughter in the early 20th century. Discovered posthumously, it enriched her memorial in September.
I am delighted to share with you a heartfelt and nostalgic poem titled “In The Days of My Youth,” written by my late Mum. This poignant piece beautifully captures her cherished memories of growing up in the far North and West of Scotland, where her Father served as a dedicated Lighthouse Keeper for The Northern Lighthouse Board.
Written several years ago, this evocative poem reflects Mum’s deep affection for her family and the unique upbringing she experienced. Her words vividly paint a picture of the sunlit summers, the clear and cool sea, and the joyous moments spent with loved ones. Mum’s connection to her roots and the surroundings shaped by her father’s role is evident throughout the verses.
It is with a mix of emotions that I share this poem, as Mum passed away earlier this year at the remarkable age of 97. The discovery of her poetic talent was serendipitous, thanks to my Sister-in-law, Pati, and her son John, who found the verses in a letter Mum had sent them to their home in the USA. The poem was a hidden gem that added a special touch to the celebration of Mum’s life in September. It was a moment for our family to come together, bear witness, and pay tribute to a truly remarkable woman whose life was both fruitful and well-lived.
I hope you find solace and joy in Mum’s words as we reflect on the legacy she leaves behind through this beautiful piece of poetry.
In the Days of My Youth, By Johan S.S.B. Stewart*
In the days of my youth, the sun always shone on long summer days. Rain fell only during the night, refreshing the world I knew. In winter, snow and ice seemed to last forever, providing opportunities for moonlit sledding and skating on the Curly (but beware of the spring!)
In those youthful days, the sea was clear and cool. Clear water and shiny pebbles, tiny fish between our toes, and small soft crabs scuttling underneath. Fishing from the pier, taking home my catch, with Mother lighting the fire in the black grate, and onto the heavy iron frying pan.
Clean the fish, dip in beaten eggs and flour, and into the hot buttered pan. Oh my, crisp and delicious.
In those days of youth, once the tide went out, we waded through the sandy pools, feeling the flat flukes camouflaged, lying still, and then caught between my fingers. Or from my father’s small boat with the brown sail, we’d place the wooden box with the glass panel under the skipping little waves. With a long wooden pointed stick, we’d spear the flounders on the sand below. The sky, turquoise blue, pink, and purple, like butterfly wings as the sun set over Iona.
In the days of my youth, we climbed trees, made dens from the bushes, played hide-and-seek, release, cricket, and sold glass jars and bottles for ½ penny until we had enough for the cinema in the afternoon. To see Flash Gordon, the Intrepid Space Man, or the Clutching Hand. The latter was horribly, excitingly terrifying, and I can still see the large shadow on the wall as each episode ended.
In those days of youth, people were friendly and kind. My Father, Mother, Sister loved me.
In the days of my youth, I read and read. The D.K. Browster novels of the Jacobites, Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel books, Dickens, Thackeray. As the Nazis gained power, the books of Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, Gunner Ashe, The Fox of Maulen, etc. – all anti-Nazi and anti-war – and the later novels very funny. Then Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, the pre-war novels of India by Edith Caldwell – a bit of religion included – and so forth. I read everything I could find, Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows.
In the days of my youth, we went to Sunday school and church. God was in his heaven and on his earth. In Sunday school, we were given a small card on which was written a proverb. Mine always seemed to read “Lead me not into temptation,” which I endeavoured to follow, as far as refusing to eat a toffee apple bought with the penny meant for Sunday school collection, one day when my sister and I played truant. I threw it into the sea greatly to my sister’s chagrin at the waste. The smell of mothballs takes me back to the waft of mothballs that followed the walk of the Godly in their fur coats, as they went down to the church altar at communion time. “You are forbidden to attend the Lord’s Table” thundered the minister; I could never quite reason out why. We heard the gossip about the minister’s son, Donald, who “strayed,” but never found out what he did wrong.
In the days of my youth, innocence was all around. Friends were friends forever.
As the days of my youth faded, ideas of what life was changed. Adulthood with all its adventures, questions, and excitement lay before me, and the Days of My Youth were gone forever.
I don’t know whether you enjoyed this, but I love you very much. You three dear children are the best gift the Good Lord gave me. I am eternally grateful.
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