Alan Skeoch
Oct. 9, 2020

Every year of my life I have met snakes in the summer time.  Garter snakes especially and the
occasional milk snake.  Except this summer.   No one has been found staring at me in the
barn or green house.   Usually they hide among the thousand flower pots I keep hap hazardly stacked
but not this  year.

A snake only scares me when I do not see the creature until I lift a flower pot or move a 
tool box.  One day a couple of  years ago there were a whole bunch of garter snakes in
the green house.  Lots of males, smaller than the females, but I was looking in the wrong place.
I should have looked above my head where she was  stretched out…maybe just inches  from
my head…watching me.  See if you can  find her here.

How did garter snakes get their name?   Because they looked  like the garters that men
once wore to hold their socks up?   Now who would do that.  My socks droop down.  Suppose
I wrapped a garter snake around my sock just for fun.  Nope.  Cannot do that this year.

Once I found a snake in my shoe.  Maybe it wanted to be a garter.

Frogs are in short supply.  Endangered by disease and the Sixth mass extinciton.  With few 
frogs there will have to be fewer snakes.  Sad bit true.   

Our grandson, Jack, is a great snake catcher.  He does  not kill them…meets them eye to eye.
His  dad once said that garter snakes  do not bite.  That was proved false when he caught a
big one and it latched onto his finger.  Most garter snakes are small but one was once found
that was five feet long.   

How many garter snakes  are found in North America.  About one million.  I thought there were
more.  One year we were visiiing Amherst Island and found garter snake balls in an old house
foundation.  Garter snakes all wrapped up together for the winter or maybe they were copulating.
Whups…I should not mention sex I suppose.   

Our uncle John Skeoch, Saskatchewan  farmer, had to abandon his  stone stone house on the 
prairies because garter snakes had taken over beginning with the foundation field  stone
gaps and ending up in the kitchen coffee cups.   Snakes  eye to eye with us in the kitchen.
Seemed  like more than a million must exist.  But that was forty years ago.  Today there
seem to be no snakes  in our flower pots.  

Killing snakes happens.  Especially snakes that carry venom that will kill humans.   Like rattle snakes.  Years  ago, Dr. Norm Patterson, geophysicisit, nearly sent
me to Arizona on a mining job.  Lots of rattlers down there.  So I read a  couple of snake books.  What should I do  if bitten or if a friend got bitten.
“Suck out the blood”  Imagine that.  How would I suck out the blood of my own leg?  How much blood?   How could  I do  that to a fellow worker?

No problem.  The next day Norm said he had changed his mind and sent me to Southern Ireland for the summer.  There are no snakes
in Ireland.  Another crew was  sent to Arizona.   I said nothing to them about rattle snakes.

We do  have rattlesnakes in Ontario  They are protected.  Our son Andrew has tried to discourage his son Jack from catching Ontario rattlers.

That light green grass snake is startling in colour but invisible in the grass.

Marjorie once caught a big garter snake with an equally large frog halfway down its throat.  She pulled out the frog and it hopped away.  The
snake was not amused.   Why tell you this?  Because it is Marjorie’s birthday today.  What has her birthday got to do with snakes. Nothing.
Just making the point that Marjorie, our son Andrew and his  son Jack love snakes.  And that love may save a few snakes  from the snake

alan skeoch
Oct. 9, 2020


EPISODE 136     THE LITTLE SKEOCH ABOUT TO BE  REBORN…thanks to a group of men who had a dream
and the collecive skills to build a lost car.

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

Thanks to Geoff Allison and his friends the Little Skeoch is about to be reborn.  What a surprise.  Even Covid 19
cannot stop these fellows.   They have had  help from donors of course but the prize…the little Skeoch…is their’s.

Yestereday when I sent out Episode 135 I sent a copy to Geoff but did not expect such a response because
the newspaper said  Scotland  was in lockdown due to Covid 19.   Well the virus has slowed things down
but the little Skeoch is now running.  If you read  Geoff’s letter below and follow his instructions  you will
be able to see the little car zipping from one garage to another.   The men have even been able to 
determine the lovely deep red colour of the 1920 Skeoch.   

Geoff has  given me permission to reprint his letter

April 2019 – First milestone ups the pace

On Oct 7, 2020, at 7:37 AM, Geoff Allison

Good morning Alan,

Sorry to hear of your sad loss, I hope your son is coping especially with the pandemic on top.

The pandemic closed our Shed in March, and the lockdown rules in Scotland, being the most stringent in the UK, mean that we are unlikely to re-open before April 2021. We are trying to keep our previously active members in touch with each other via email, telephone and video conferencing. We have also managed to move some of the Shed activities to individual’s homes so they can progress their projects within isolation/distancing rules. More than half our members have managed to keep projects such as 3D printing face masks, engraving, bicycle and engine refurbishment alive – and the biggest of these re-locations was the Skeoch. I recommend our Skeoch webpage https://dalbeattiemensshed.co.uk/skeoch to you for a brief history of how the project has progressed. We moved the car and workshop equipment out in June, primarily to improve the health and wellbeing of one of our members with advanced Parkinson’s. Since that time the project has accelerated almost to completion.  Apart from some minor adjustments the vehicle [less hood(canopy) and radiator badge] is finished awaiting space in a paint shop for finish painting – see the September update on our website. I am re-scheming the unveiling of the finished car as our original intentions have been crushed by the pandemic. We were hoping to display the car at the 2021 Scottish Motor Show, 100 years after it’s first exhibition there in February 1921 – but the Show will not run in 2021. Our reserve intention was to display the car in the Glasgow Transport Museum  thus keeping the launch near to where James Skeoch’s daughter resides, and close to an airport for people wishing to fly in – the museums are closed for the foreseeable future too. At present it’s looking like a triple launch: we will display the car in the picture window of Paterson ATV [ https://www.patersonatv.co.uk/] for a couple of weeks after completion for Dalbeattie townsfolk; I am working with the Chief Executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association [SMTA own the Scottish Motor Show], to put together a multipage article for their trade magazine [https://content.yudu.com/web/fiqy/0A4403c/autoretailerissue02/html/index.html] aiming for the February 2021 edition; and finally I am working with the organisers of the RHS,  Royal Highland Show, [https://www.whatsoninedinburgh.co.uk/event/084117-royal-highland-show-2021/] to see if we can display the Skeoch on the Dumfries & Galloway stand in June 2021. The RHS is held adjacent to Edinburgh airport so is close to Glasgow and James Skeoch’s daughter as well as being convenient for anyone flying in.

Picking up on a couple of items in your 132-4 newsletters 
You were chasing Skeoch heritage in Bute. Before our Shed closed for the pandemic we had a visit from a relative of one of our members who has gaelic as is his first language, and the Skeoch name was discussed. The visitor reminded us that in Scots gaelic the root ‘ach’ means from, and Skeoch is probably a corruption of Sgitheanach meaning from Skye! Just a thought.
I liked your pictures in 132 – I toured NE USA and SE Canada with my daughter in August 2019 and spent some time in Toronto, we enjoyed the scenery but it was not as colorful as your photos. My daughter returned to Toronto with 2 of her colleagues in October 2019 too. My annual break with my daughter this year was Nashville, Memphis, Natchez and New Orleans in September but that was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Good to hear from you again, stay well


A piece of software discovered by Dave Higginbottom designed to colourise old monochrome photos has revealed more detail on a profile picture of the Skeoch (see image) and revises our understanding of the tyre and coachwork finishes.

William Kennedy offered to share the proceeds of his 9th June 2019 Orroland Gardens open day earlier this year, giving us a target date for having a rolling chassis to display. Planning this event has galvanised fundraising, procurement and build activity.

Both the engine and gearbox restorations have been completed to the limit of parts available, along with a part 1920s B&B carburettor donated by Keith Dennison. This puts pressure on procuring springs and wheels which, as major cost items, in turn puts pressure on fundraising.

The second tranche of Dalbeattie Rotary’s donation gives us the confidence to order springs from Jones Springs (Engineering) Ltd of Wednesbury, and wheels from Barrie Brown of Windygates, Fife.

Later in the month Keith and Chris Dennison visit to donate a beautifully restored magneto. Work on the chassis concentrates on finishing, dressing, mounting and aligning the pedal, brake and countershafts.

Good old-fashioned fabrication skills resolved two of the our ongoing build difficulties – a new hand built starting handle & support bracket is now robust enough for repeated use; and a process of hand beating long louvres into bonnet side panels was developed using a profiled concave die machined by Donald. Coachwork progressed with the fabrication of rear wings and front wings (inner and outer). Work started on the upholstery, rubber flooring and windscreen support frame.

An oil leak appeared during tuning and adjusting engine controls which will probably require engine removal and rebuild to resolve. We are still looking for a better carburettor which is configured so that the fuel supply line doesn’t run too close to the exhaust.

The full story is unfolding step by step.  I hope you feel the same escitement we feel.  It is almost too hard to believe.

July 2020 – Two steps forward, one step back



(also called  The Skeoch Motorcycle  Car)

alan  skeoch
Nov. 27. 2018

     REVISED OCT. 2020 (slightly)

It has  now been  two years since I touched base with the men rebuilding The Litle Skeoch Motor Car

in Scotland.  It is a daunting task.  We had planned on a  visit to their workshop but sad events
got in the way…and  Covid 19 makes such visits difficult today.  How the world has changed.
Maybe I can get a progress report from Scotland.  Meanwhile I feel this story should be part
of the Episodes (#134) just in case it gets lost.


Maybe we should bring back the LITTLE SKEOCH MOTOR CAR.   It was small,, cheap and  simple…sort of  a  4 wheel bicycle  seating two people with a chain drive and  small

motorcycle  engine.  So small that only two very slim people could  ride in it since the

car was  only 31 inches  wide and a  little over 8 feet long.  

Some of  you may think this  is some kind  of joke.  Wrong.  In 1920, James Skeoch built his first Little Skeoch, then entered it in a Scottish auto show and sold it
in ten minutes.   All  told less than a dozen Little Skeoch’s  were built in his small factory.  Ten  were quickly purchased at that auto show. Price?  180 pounds…which was the cheapest car in the show.  None have survived.   Sadly in 1921 a fire  consumed  his little factory and as  a  result the Burnside Motor Company in Dalbeattie,  Scotland, ceased to exist.

Skeoch utility car

The original Skeoch Utility Car.

Skeoch Utility car advertisement

Burnside Motorworks

Pictures of the Skeoch production line were retrieved from Skeoch  family albums.   Not exactly an automated  factory.
But the LITTLE SKEOCHS were real mini cars and seemed about to make a big splash in the booming car market of the 1920’s
until  fire ended  the enterprise.  Everything became a  blackened  pile  of scrap  iron.

James Skeoch moved on.   His skills were valued.  He had a  long successful career and  died  in 1954.
Not many people, by 1954, were even  aware that there was  such a  car as the SKEOCH.   Memories are short especially since 
none of the Little Skeochs  survived.   Gone  Gone Gone.    

Well, not quite.




…Then  along came GEORGE ALLISON and his men from Dalbeattie, Scotland…who
plan to put Humpty togehter again.

FOR BBC  SCOTLAND NEWS ,  Feb. 27, 2018

Drive to rebuild ‘forgotten’ early car

By Nichola Rutherford
BBC Scotland News

27 February 2018

image captionThe Skeoch Utility Car was built using parts normally used to manufacture motorcycles
When James Skeoch designed and built one of Scotland’s firstaffordable cars, he must have dreamed of huge success. 
With a price-tag of just £180, the first Skeoch Utility Car was the cheapest on display at the Scottish Motor Show in 1921. 
It sold within 10 minutes and a further nine were quickly snapped up by customers keen to join the automobile revolution. 
But within months Skeoch’s business was in ruins. His uninsured workshop in Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway, burned to the ground. 
Since then the Skeoch Utility Car has been largely forgotten by all but keen historians of Scotland’s motor industry. 
Now, almost 100 years later, plans are are being drawn up to recreate the so-called “cycle car” in the town where it was manufactured. 

image captionThe Skeoch car was the cheapest on show at the Scottish Motor Show in 1921 and apparently sold within 10 minutes
The ambitious project has been taken on by a group of mainly retired local men, known as Dalbeattie Men’s Shed. 
Using some of the original parts and working from the original drawings, they hope to build a working Skeoch car in time to mark its centenary. 
Motoring enthusiast Martin Shelley approached the Men’s Shed with the idea for the project after reading about the group on the BBC Scotland website last year. 

image captionBurnside Motor Works in Dalbeattie, where the Skeoch was manufactured, was devastated by fire in December 1921
The group, which meets in a workshop in Dalbeattie twice a week, was named Shed of the Year for its efforts to “help as many local people as possible”.
“Using the Dalbeattie Men’s Shed’s energy, enthusiasm and skills to recreate the car seemed like a match made in heaven,” Mr Shelley said.
He said “cycle cars” were first invented in the early 1900s and they got their name after using motorcycle engines and wheels. 
They became increasingly popular after World War One, when soldiers returned home from the front line, having become used to driving. 
Skeoch radiator badgeichef.bbci.co.uk/news/320/cpsprodpb/4D35/production/_100156791_skeochbadge.jpg 320w, ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/480/cpsprodpb/4D35/production/_100156791_skeochbadge.jpg 480w, ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/4D35/production/_100156791_skeochbadge.jpg 624w, ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/800/cpsprodpb/4D35/production/_100156791_skeochbadge.jpg 800w” src=”https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/4D35/production/_100156791_skeochbadge.jpg” width=”976″ height=”549″ loading=”lazy” class=”css-evoj7m-Image ee0ct7c0″ style=”margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant-caps: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; display: flex; width: 800px; height: 450px; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 0px; right: 0px; bottom: 0px; left: 0px; -webkit-box-pack: center; justify-content: center; -webkit-box-align: center; align-items: center; object-fit: cover;”>
image captionThe Skeoch radiator badge was among the original parts found in the home of Mr Skeoch’s son following his death last year

image captionDalbeattie Men’s Shed have also been given an original engine and gearbox with which to build a Skeoch car
Mr Shelley said: “After World War One, the ordinary working man was much more used to the idea of riding a motorcycle or driving a car so they knew about the technology and now they wanted to try and build their own cars. 
“In the early 20s, there was a huge flowering of people making these cars. As it turned out, Skeoch in Dalbeattie were the only people in Scotland to ever attempt to make these things commercially.”
The original drawings and parts – including the radiator badge – were found in the Wishaw home of Ron Skeoch, James Skeoch’s son, after he died last year. 
Mr Shelley said he hoped they could be used to capture the “spirit” of the 1920s vehicle. 
“You could make a replica of the car which would pass muster, using a modern engine and a modern gear box and using modern parts. But the spirit of the car is very much based on the parts that were available in 1920,” he said. 
“This project will be very like the original car and that to me is what the joy of the whole thing is.”

image captionFiona Sinclair hopes to be able to sit in one of her grandfather’s cars

image caption“It’s going to be something for posterity,” said Geoff Allison of Dalbeattie Men’s Shed
The granddaughter of James Skeoch, Fiona Sinclair, is also involved in the project. 
She never knew her grandfather – he died in 1954 – but she hopes that her mother – Skeoch’s daughter – will get the chance to ride in one his cars.
“I think it’s going to mean a lot to my family,” she said. “It’s tragic that the fire put an end to his ambition. 
“I’m actually rather hoping I can physically get to sit in the car, I’m not quite sure I could be trusted with driving it. 
“It’s only got two gears apparently but I think it would be rather wonderful. What I really hope is that my mother gets the opportunity to actually sit in the car as well.” 
The project is “immensely exciting”, said Geoff Allison, the secretary of the Dalbeattie Men’s Shed, which has members with engineering and mechanical skills. 
“It’s engineering-rich, it’s Dalbeattie-rich, it’s community-rich, it fills so many of our requirements,” he added. 
“It’s big, it’s going to be eye-catching, it’s going to be something for posterity. It’s got a lot to recommend it.”


EPISODE 133    SKEOCH WOOD, (ISLE of Bute, Scotland)


alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

“Can I help you, lad?”
“Yes, do you have an empty prison cell?”
“Why, son…looking for a place to sleep?”
“No need to sleep in jail…let me see what I can find.”

It was early September, 1960, and  I had just got off the Scottish  ferry to Rothesay on the
Isle of Bute.  My money was almost gone but I dearly wanted to see the Skeoch Wood, a
forest on the northern edge of the holiday town of Rothsey.  Somewhere I had  read
that local police stations could provide emergency  shelter.  

Just getting to Rothsey was a shot in the dark as the expression  goes.  My job doing a mining
geophysical survey  on the south coast of  Ireland was over and I was  slowly making my way
to Prestwick Airport for the flight home to Canada.  This  was a grand  adventure for a 22 year
old Canadian so I tried  to cram in as much family history as possible.  Mom told me she
found the Skeoch Wood  on an old post cart.  

Was this forest connected  in any way with our family name?  I thought so.  But how do I
interview a tree?   Actually I felt lost when I found the Skeoch Wood.  It was not the forest
I expected. 

“Got a place for you … just down the street, very reasonable
bed and breakfast.  Better than a jail cell.”

“Too bad about the forest…One hundred years ago you could get lost…could
hide in there.”
“What happened?”
 “Two World Wars and  The Great Depression… removed a lot of trees.”

And no one  I spoke  to Knew anything about the name Skeoch.  Someone must know but
I had no luck.  Rather a disappointment but the Skeoch Wood was a kind of
namesake.  Maybe  Skeoch is both a place name…and a family name.  The best 
meaning I got for the name was Geilic for “Hawthorne” or that a Skeoch was “a hawthorne
branch thrown across a field opening as a gate.  Who knows if that is true. Does relate to
trees though. So I left
Rothsay, caught a bus to Prestwick and flew home to Toronto.  End of story.

Well not quite.  By pure chance in 1998 I came across THE TENTERS OF BUTE, an article
written by Jenny Chaplin in The Scots  Magazine (Vol. 148, N.1, January 1998).  It was
the subheading that caught my eye:

“SKEOCH WOOD was  home to hundreds of  men, women and  children who, through
no fault of their own, had no roof over their heads.”

Rothesay once had  four large cotton mills that employed a lot of workers…perhaps hundreds.
Cotton processing boomed in Rothesay until 1835 when the market collapsed and all the
workers were suddenly unemployed.   There was  no safety net.  The workers could not pay
rent … could barely feed themselves and stooped to stealing turnips and whatever else was
near at hand.   So, from 1835 until the  1920’s,  nearly a century, these industrial workers
and their children retreated into the Skeoch Wood.  Hidden.  They became known as
the Tenters of Bute because they lived in makeshift tents and hovels.  No running water, 
no toilets.   The  Skeoch Wood became  a desperate  place.

“The trek to the Skeoch  Wood had begun (in 1835). And throughout the  1800’s and
on into the early  years of  1900, the Skeoch Wood was home to hundreds of men, women
and children who, through no fault of their own, had no roof over their heads.”  (Jenny Chaplin)

It might be expected that the occasional visitor to Rothesay, as I was in 1960, might take
a nap in the Skeoch Wood to save a bit of money.  But it must have been startling to stroll 
through the Skeoch  Wood in 1835 or 1855 or 1895 and find hundreds of poverty stricken
families sleeping … living …deep in the forest.  

They were not even allowed to beg unless the had a “Begger’s Badge”…only 26 such
badges were issued.

One elderly woman walked barefoot (I assume) to the Rothesay police station in hope
of getting  shoes. When she  admitted she  was 69 rather than  70 she  was sent away
“with tears streaming down  her face.”

THE police in Rothsey turned this old lady away when she  needed shoes badly.
The  police  in Rothsey, in 1960, found me a plae to sleep  other than a jail cell.
These  stories just do not fit well.

Selling cockles and whelks earned a little money but when  too many tried to sell
this low level  food they were rounded up and moved away from town.  Rag picking
was another way to try to make a living. 

Some  Local residents of  Rothesay referred to the Tenters as “The dregs of humanity”…and
that was in 1899 when they were offered a trip to the poorhouse in Greenock which
they refused.  Better to live  in a rag tent in the Skeoch Wood than enter a British
Poor House.  Earlier, in 1878, The Society For  Assisting Poor Wives in Their Time
of Need …that was the full name, imagine that…the  assistance was to “Lend”
a bagful of clothing for one  month.  Lend.  not Give.

Sympathy was felt by some…rejection by others…all focused on the Skeoch Wood.

 1885, a Plea for the Poor:

   “Hard times are at our door…
   We never saw before
  Such deep distress through poverty
  As many do deplore.”

When  did it end?  When were the Tenters of Skeoch Wood dispersed?  There was
no specific time.  They disappeared in dribs and  grabs.  A  goodly number left
in the immigrant boats heading to South Africa, Australia, Canada, etc.  How  
could they afford to do so?   Local people held bazaars, antique and  collectable sales
as they do today.  It was in the interest of Rothesay to do so.  Rothesay had become
a tourists town.  Tourists liked to stroll through the Skeoch Wood I imagine.

The police officer that I met in 1960 must have been amused.  Maybe, later,
afer he had  found me a room rather than a jail cell, he had a pint with
friends in a Rothsey Pub and  said.

“Guess who asked to be  put in jail today?”
“One of the original Skeoch’s from the Skeoch Wood.  A kid.
He did not even have a tent.”

alan skeoch
October 2020

P.S.. In time,  Some of the marbles began to fit.  Take the LITTLE SKEOCH MOTOR CAR
of which less than five were built before the factory burned to the ground in
the 1920’s.  Some car buffs in Scotland are rebuilding that car.  Then there
is the question of  St. Skeoch.  Who was he…she?  A mystery that still
remains.  How could  we be offspring of saints?  Wait a second, saints do not
have to be celibate do they?

Skeoch is a rather odd surname.  Then again
there are many odd surnames of people around the world.
So , being odd, is noting special today.  But back in 1960 when I was  much younger I had the chance
to look into ur family name…to maybe confirm or reject the legends that circulated through the family.


Keep this final note secret between you and me.  Some veterans of World War II told  me
the Skeoch Wood was a great place for lovemaking.  I have no idea if  that is true.

EPISODE 132 CLOUDS …. WHAT DO YOU SEE? Don’t take the world too seriously…have some fun


alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

I love reading puffy clouds…seeing things in their shape.  People, animals, atom bomb tests, swimmers, bird houses in shape of one room schools, etc.….
Doing so can be kind of  fun.  Nobody gets hurt…no image remains in the sky very long.
And, most amusing, other people see different images.

Of course reading clouds sounds suspiciously like the Ink Blot Test…Rorschacht test (he was
a Swiss psychoanalyst looking into mental illness, particularly Schizophrenia ).  Very popular
in the 20th century…less popular in our new century.  So take it easy.  Do not read too much
into the images as some kind of pseudoscience.  You do not need to see a psychiatrist…psychologist…crystal  ball reader.

The reason  I am sending Episode 132 is simple.  Suppose you are trapped  in semi-isolation in
a single room or small apartment or condo.  You cannot go out because of Covid 19.  And  you are
bloody well bored to death.  Well, look out the window  and see what you can see in those
puffy clouds that cover the sky periodically.   Have some fun.  Do not take yourself too seriously.

To  avoid the charge of  Narcissism ask your partner or  friend to tell you what he or she sees in those
clouds that are reshaping themselves  all the time.  I will bet you cannot agree.  No  big deal.

Here are a couple of cloud formations 

In my mirror I see a woodpecker on the left…or maybe a chicken.  You are not looking at the mirror.  (I was parked by the way)

Turtle …on the wires near bottom right.

Here I  see a large man resting on his back with one knee raised…or  big beer belly.

Here See a person swimming…arms his side, head raised  out of the water… a man….no clearly defined arms…dog paddling maybe
…I also see an hand with fingers creating image  of a long necked ostrich.

Here I see  a rock singer with guitar and pants with huge cuffs…circa 1960’s…centre of picture

Angry clouds…dead centre is a beast with big teeth , head angled  upwards..biting….raised eye sockets…elongated  head  like an
alligator…that is a stretch  of imagination…disagree….look slightly right of centre…head angled upwards as if biting.
Far right…could be an atom bomb test…or long necked creature with huge eyes peeking from behind cloud…yes, long necked creature
peeking from behind a cloud…right side, middle.

I see Marjorie…”Alan, you can be insufferably stupid “

I see a birdhouse shaped  like a one room school.

See a gate to a look alike Roman  Latifundia (joke)…really see nothing

An atom bomb explosion

Your turn…I don’t see anything.

Here  is a swimmer or a diver leaping arms outstretched

Have some fun.  

alan skeoch
Oct. 2020



alan skeoch
Sept  2020

Trophies across Canada

At war’s end, Sir Arthur Doughty, the Dominion Archivist, was named Controller of War Trophies and charged with gathering trophies and bringing them back to Canada. While many Canadian trophies were sent to the Imperial War Museum, thousands returned to Ottawa. In early 1920, the government’s official collection consisted of 516 guns, 304 trench mortars, 3,500 light and heavy machine-guns, and 44 aircraft.

Initial plans for a national war museum to house this collection, the official war art, and other artifacts were delayed or ignored by successive governments. The collection remained with the Dominion Archives which was soon sending pieces of it across Canada in response to requests from communities, veterans groups, schools, and military units. Cities or military bases often displayed large war trophies in central parks or in or near prominent buildings, and sometimes included them with local memorials. Acquired in the burst of patriotic enthusiasm that marked the immediate post-war period, many gradually fell into disrepair. During the Second World War, hundreds were donated to scrap metal drives, incorporating former German weapons against the new Nazi enemy.


alan skeoch
Oct. 2020

We made a fast stop to look at the salmon running (lumbering is a better word) their way
up the Ganaraska River which runs through the centre of Port Hope.  With Covid 19 lurking
who knows where, we were careful and maybe unwelcome visitors.  So we found an empty
parking lot and rushed to get a look at this poor salmon.

We never made it.  We  got distracted by a large 77 mm field gun.  “Must be a Canadian gun,”
I thought until i  read the bronze plaque description.  The gun is … or was … German.  Heavy
wooden  wheels in excellent shape because of a Rotary Club restoration done back in 1000.
This gun was presented to the Town of Port Hope in 1919 as a ‘trophy of war’ that it might serve
as a memorial to the boys from Port Hope killed in its capture.

The expression “trophy of war” made me think “I wonder how many similar trophies of war  were
shipped  to Canada back in 1919?”

There were lots of them.  Hundreds..thousands.   One man, Sir Arthur Doughty, was named Controller of  War Trophies when
the First World War ended.  in 1920 Caada received  516 guns (like the Port Hope 77 mm field gun), 304 Trench Mortars,   3,500 light and heavy machine-guns 
and 44 aircraft.  

What happened to them?   Initially they were stored in Ottawa but not for long.  Towns and  cities across Canada sent requests for war trophies…as did veterans group, schools and military units.  

  Many got featured space in parks or near prominent buildings as  in Port Hope.   If there were so many then why did the Port Hope gun surprise me?

A great many of the trophies of war were aging…wood  wheels rot fast.  And scrap metals were needed for a new World War in 1939.  They were melted down and reformed
into more modern artillery in the war against Nazi Germany.  They went home as it were.

The fate of the larger trophies of war…the aircraft..is only partially known.  there were 792 Fokker fighting aircraft surrendered to Britain in 1919.  Forty four of them
came to Canada.    have any survived?

A seat of honour for a German artillery man…rough honour.

The fate of the larger trophies of war…the airplanes is only partially known.  Believe it or not Germany surrendered  792 Fokker Aircraf


By the end of the Great War, military aviation had come of age and was recognized as a vital part of modern warfare. The Armistice of November 11th 1918 required the German Army to surrender its most potent weapons of war, so as to discourage the high command from resuming hostilities. This agreement demanded the German army turn over 5,000 artillery pieces, 25,000 machine guns, 3,000 trench mortars, as well as “1,700 pursuit and bombardment airplanes, preference being given to all of the D-7s [sic] and all of the night bombardment machines”. As a result, by the opening months of 1919, 792 Fokker D.VIIs had been surrendered to the British, French, Belgian and American armies. Several dozen of these machines ultimately found their way to Canada, and yet the details of exactly how that happened have been all but forgotten.

From a Canadian perspective, the First World War was a pivotal moment in terms of establishing a sense of nationhood. Thousands of Canadians fought with distinction in the British flying services during the war. On the ground, the Dominion of Canada fielded its first Army-sized formation – the four, over-gunned divisions of the Canadian Corps. To publicize this significant contribution to the allied war effort, Lord Beaverbrook created a public relations machine called the Canadian War Records Office (CWRO). Working with him to construct and preserve a national memory of the war years was Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist and Director of War Trophies. Drawing largely on spoils of war surrendered after the Armistice, Doughty amassed an artefact collection including nearly fifty aircraft. Along with the rest of the trophy collection, these state of the art aeroplanes were intended to form the nucleus of a national war museum in Ottawa to commemorate Canada’s wartime sacrifices.

During the opening months of 1919, Doughty and a young Canadian staff officer by the name of Captain R.E. Lloyd Lott persuaded the RAF and the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) to share a portion of their aeronautical booty with Canada. In February and March of 1919, the recently formed Canadian Air Force (CAF) took possession of twenty Fokker D.VIIs from the RAF. The original intent was for the CAF to pack the aircraft for shipment to Canada, but No. 1 Fighter Squadron also flew them extensively alongside their standard British service machines. In part, this was because the experienced Canadian airmen felt that the D.VII was superior to their issued Sopwith Dolphins.

Today, assessing the degree to which the CAF utilized German aircraft is based on a number of primary sources. Among the most useful documentary evidence is a handful of surviving pilot logbooks. In addition to these, a number of official Canadian photographs – one of the many products of Beaverbrook’s CWRO – captured Fokker D.VIIs in CAF custody. In the spring of 1919, CWRO cameramen visited the CAF at Hounslow Airfield (southwest of London, between the modern Heathrow Airport and Kew Gardens) where they photographed Fokkers D.VIIs being used by Canadian airmen. A number of these photographs have since been published fairly widely, yet their Canadian connection is most often entirely overlooked.

The photograph showing a line-up of four Fokker D.VIIs (the nearest bearing the ‘RK’ insignia of Richard Kraut from Jasta 63) has appeared in a number of publications. Some rightly identify the location as Hounslow, but never has a caption indentified the serials of all four aircraft in the photograph, nor has anyone noted that they were being utilized by the CAF. Through an examination of original CWRO albums held at the Canadian War Museum (CWM), and an appreciation of context in which the photos were taken this author has deduced much information about the images in this series. Two other photographs of this same foursome, taken from different angles and showing a handful of CAF members, allow the four aircraft to be identified as Albatros-built D.VIIs bearing the serials 5924/18 [often misidentified as 5324], 6769/18, 6810/18 [the so-called ‘Knowlton Fokker’ that survives in Canada to this day at the Brome County Historical Society] and 6822/18. In order to extract this information, one requires access to all three photographs, an appreciation of their relationship to one another, and good quality scans or prints from the original glass plate negatives.


oct. 2020



alan skeoch
Oct. 1, 2020

WE got a huge return of sets and props from a big time movie.  I wrote a story with pictures.
… an  interesting 
story that may never be told.  Why not?  First, movies are quite secretive because they do
not want strangers wandering  around  making their sets useless.   Second, I asked some of the men delivering
our things to lift their masks so  I could get their pictures.  “They could be fired, Alan, you
cannot do that.” said Marjorie. 

And third, President Trump has tested positive for the Covid 19 virus.  Pence exposed? What does this
mean?   Is Biden vulnerable?  I thought Trump look sick in the debate…sure sounded sick.  Is Nancy
Pelosi third in line as takeover President.  Hope so.  Getting nervous.  I sure am.  Not 
that I will miss Trump.

So here is a series of pictures to make you feel less tense on this October day.


P.S,  Maybe I can send the movie story titled  RETURN LOAD once the movie is shown to the public months from now.
But do not hold  your breath.  Meanwhile go on this road trip with us.

Where are we?  “Alan, get your camera, I will drive  UP THE FIFTH LINE, DOWN THE FOURTH LINE OF ERIN TOWNSHIP…JUST

And so I left the drab brown soybean field where Andrew keeps his bees and became a passenger.  Pretend  you are
in the truck  with us.

Thanks … to whom?  To those of you who liked  our previous road  trip to Sheltered Valley and  Wicklow Beach…east of Toronto.
One couple even duplicated the trip (Pat Fry and husband Dave).   

Here we are North west of Toronto…

Soybeans  can be beautiful too…

Maple trees age, get tired, and collapse…sometimes with a burst of colour.

Poor Mr Lindsay, a bachelor with a top herd…he decided to move a  cow from one place in the barn to another…she turned
on him…gored him in the gut…bad…he dragged himself to the house to call for help…made the  call …but died.  At least
that is what I remember being told.  Cows  kill farmers  as much or more than bulls.  Keep that in mind.

“There, Alan, that is what I wanted  you to see.”

“Can anyone tell me the cost of this rig?  I am guessing around $200,000 dollars.  Little wonder that small farmers
have disappeared  and  corporate farmers are taking over.”

“Don’t take my picture!”


A few years ago I was asked to drive this stretch of  road in a new Japanese car … a commercial to be seen in
Japan only … why would the car company want a Canadian driver on a Canadian back road for the Japanese market?

Same stretch of road where I drove the experimental Japanese car…looking south this time. 

I remember a line from a poem … “My days are in the yellow leaf.”

addition to: EPISODE 129 .PM TRUDEAU VISIT TO PCI…First he had to take a leak

Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: September 30, 2020 at 11:29:52 PM EDT
To: Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@gmail.com>, Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, John Wardle <john.t.wardle@gmail.com>

Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: September 29, 2020 at 9:24:33 AM EDT
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@gmail.com>, John Wardle <john.t.wardle@gmail.com>

Note…I hope this story does not seem silly…then again what if it does…who cares?
John…take a look…you do not need to send the story out if it seems off the wall.

EPISODE 129     PM PIERRE TRUDEAU VISITS PCI…and has to take a leak

alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

   The small convoy of cars pulled up in front of Parkdale C.I. and out popped

Pierre Elliott Trudeau…our Prime Minister.  His detail close behind.  But not
fast enough.  A girl…a  student in Grade 10 or 11…launched herself like a rocket
towards Trudeau.  Faster than the bodyguard detail could intervene.   She reached
Trudeau and kissed  him.   He did  not flinch. Smiled and continued towards the front
door of the school.  It was the peak of Trudeaumania in Canada.  Her action seemed
significant to me.

If the hat fits , wear it.  Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green, Bloc….or no hat at al.   IN the long run Canadian political parties
are not that different…and that is something of which we should take pride.

Backwards!   We have not got our politics all backwards as in this picture.  Deep down we like each other.

In Canada, I believe we follow the Rodney King look  upon life.  Remember him?  Beaten up in California he asked the
police, “Why can’t we all get along?”  The  difference between Bananas and peaches, between tomatoes and lemons is
greater than the differences between Liberals, Conservatives, Greens and New Democrats.   We can ‘all get along.’  Let’s keep
it that way.  We can talk to each other.  Most of us do not even belong to a political party.


We watched the Trump – Biden show  last night.  Shocked!  Made  me think about the
day Pierre Elliott Trudeau visited Parkdale Collegiate many years ago.  that was 
a gentler time maybe.   But the more I thought about that visit the more I came to 
believe Canadian democracy has much to recommend.

One quotation comes to mind about the  Trump – Biden fiasco….”Democracy is a troubled spirit whose dream
if  it dream presents only visions of hell.”  That sure was the case last night.  Visions of  hell”
Even subtle suggestions of civil war.  A debate that was Out of control presenting visions of 
hell.    I  would not invite President Trump to speak to my class.   But I did indirectly
invite PM Pierre Trudeau to come … and he  came

(A Grade Ten class at Parkdale C.I, west end Toronto)

“OK, gang, I have an idea.”
The class hurly burly settled down and most of the grade ten
students at Parkdale Collegiate in Toronto seemed in a listening mood.
“I think we can cajole the Prime Minister to join us.”
“In person?”
“Yes, in person,”
“Why us?”
“Because our riding is up for grabs in this election.”
“What’s the plan, sir?”
“You simply write him a note…an invitation.”
“Would it not be better for you to write the note, sir?”
“Nope.  Trudeau likes young people.   He loses  patience with older people…particularly
teachers I believe.  Too pompous.”
“Any tips, sir?”
“Keep it simple.”

So they wrote a letter.   Several letters as  I remember.  Written in Grade Ten language with
minimum of flattery.  Hand written…straightforward, some spelling errors.   Most of the students did not expect
the Prime Minister would ever visit our class.   But they went along with the plan.

And then, about a week later, we got a note from the Prime Minister…quite  personal.
The answer was a “Yes” he would visit our school…hopefully our class.

Then the whole adventure took on a life of its  own.

Unfortunately the visit was taken out of our hands as  the whole school  got excited.

“We will have to open the auditorium for everyone.  This is a great honour.”

So the visit was not to our classroom and, really, our Grade Ten students were sort
of shouldered aside.  That did not bother them as much as I expected. It bothers me
today.  Initially I thought One of the students
would introduce the PM and another would  do the thank you.  That was the initial plan
but staff changed it a bit.  Our staff of 60 teachers got excited.  The visit got to be
teacher dominated which was partly my fault. Trudeau sent word that he would like to to a Q and A with 
the kids.  Insisting the meeting be student centred.  That much I liked.  There were other
aspects of the planned visit that I did not like very much.  

A few teachers got really concerned that some of our outspoken and out of control students
would make the visit into a disaster by rude questioning.  Like “Mr. Prime Minister you only
came here to get votes.”  etc.etc.   Wild, even rude, questions did not bother me as I believed
Trudeau liked that kind of questioning from young people.

No matter.  Some teachers  decided  to keep a close eye on our more outspoken students.
And I was asked to chair the Q and  A from the stage.  The visit was getting goddamn pompous
but I agreed.  In retrospect that was a mistake.  A student should have had that job.  We had  
students that would have done a fine job sitting on stage with the PM.  A shy student would
have been terrific.  The PM would have liked that I thought.  

In short , we over organized the visit.  Too much teacher input.  Very little student input.
My Grade Ten class was not upset really.    None wanted the spotlight as I remember.
Now, decades later, I wish I had not chaired the meeting.  Trudeau would have loved to see
a student from the grade Ten class on stage.   He did meet some of them personally
though and that was quite wonderful.

As mentioned  the visit took a life of its own.  I was surprised when a day before
the official visit an RCMP detachment arrived with a sniffer dog…or maybe more than
one sniffer dog.  They did  not announce their presence but searched and smelled
the whole school  from basement even to the roof.  A search for bombs.  Wow!
This visit was getting the full treatment.   

Then, the next day, the PM arrived  with an escort of unmarked vehicles.  He had bodyguards
and also  political people with him.  But it was Trudeau who led the group.  We greeted
him at the front door.   Shook hands  He seemed a bit agitated.

“Thanks  for coming…(what should I call him?  I decided to use no special term)…My
class is very excited…flattered.”

PM Trudeau stil seemed a bit agitated when he leaned closer to me saying:

“Where can  I take a leak?”

“The principal’s office over here.”

And so he disappeared for a leak.

At this point one of our teachers sort of bulled through the crowd.  “Where is the
Prime Minister?  I just love him.”

I pointed to the Principal’s office and she zipped away in that direction.  She went
right into the office.   Trudeau  was taking a leak.  Apparently she stood  outside
the washroom door and greeted him.  I think he took that rudeness in his stride.
His bodyguards could not stop her.  I do not think a  CNR locomotive could have
stopped her.  It was no big deal anyway.

What is my point?  Not much.  It is just so human.  Nothing special…a normal

Trudeau then took to the stage.  He stood with an open microphone taking
questions from the kids just like any teacher wold have done in class.  it was
very laid back.  I was not needed on the stage snd had the good sense to
sit there and  keep my mouth shut.  Even when one  teacher moved in
on a student who seemed bent on embarrassing the Prime Minister. The kid
was removed.  Too bad.  Trudeau  would have liked a few sparks  flying.


Really our student experience  with political life in Canada was very relaxed…friendly, honest,
straight answers to questions.  The visit lacked pomposity.   It was so far
distant from the Trump – Biden debate.   Polite. Maybe  even boring.

What would  I do  if facing students today after the insult laden American Presidential 
debate?   How could I be impartial if I was an American teacher.  One thought 
came to mind.  “Democracy can  only work well if there are two political parties
that are not distant from each other…parties that we would  call centrists…neither
extreme left nor extreme right.   Parties not so filled with hate for each other that
they welcome the prospect of  violence.”   I read  something life that somewhere.
Seemed sensible to me.  I am not a member of any political party and have voted
for all three on different occasions.

Certainly I do not see the rift between parties as  deep and
hostile … The Grand  Canyon.   Full hatred.  Fire and Brimstone.  And 
that has a fascination for sure.  

Our political life cannot compare.   Boring.  Nice.  The Prime Minister
has to take a leak.  The school staff worry he might be asked a rude
question.  The  Prime  Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, responds to an invitation
by Grade Ten students.   So ordinary.  So nice.  No apologies.

You want to know something I suspected?  I do not think many of
my students knew whether Trudeau was a Liberal or a Conservative.
There was no big difference.  And that…that makes all the difference.

alan skeoch
Sept. 29, 2020