Note to General Readers:  Sorry to insert this episode as it is a Skeoch vignette of limited
interest to those of you looking for excitement !  In these episodes I try to balance interesting
stories with a dab or two of family history.  Call this a dab of family history .  The  pandemic 
gives all of us time to dab bits of family history.  I know hat from he email letters  I get back
from some readers.  


alan skeoch
Dec. 2020


Look up top, far right.  That is the last image anyone ever saw  of James Skeoch… riding in a 1918 troop 
carrier to or from a rest break at a YMCA cafe in France.  I think this picture was sent to me by Tina Skeoch
from the Skeoch farm at Corunna   Tina corresponded often with James.

James was  the oldest child of James Skeoch sr.  When World War 1 broke out he volunteered o
join the Canadian army and was eventually shipped with other Fergus volunteers to England and then to the trenches  of  France.

His enthusiasm did not last long..  Somehow at least one  of  his letters escaped the eyes of the censors
and  was sent to my father, Arnold (Red) Skeoch.  In that letter James states clearly that his brothers
should not join he army.   The letter gave me the feeling that James did not expect to survive the war.
Arnold was  unlikely to join the army anyway as  he was  only 12 or 13 when the war began and 16 or 17
when the war ended.   Dad’s brother John,  however, was prime military age and  seems to have
taken his brother James advice.

alan skeoch
Dec. 2020


P.S.  Two decades ago I spent one winter laboriously transferring the hand written  Skeoch letters of
the  1830’s and  1840’s into typewritten form  Soon to be transferred to digital  form.  These  letters
are  interesting  but a little difficult to put into context.  At some point in the mid 1840’s a  decision was
made  to leave Scotland.  Not all the family migrated. Some were left behind, particularly the elderly. 
Most came to Canada.   Some to the United States.
Why?   Were they pushed out of Scotland by misery?  Or did they see a chance of great wealth in pioneer farming
in Canada?   Push  or pull.?  I found both.

One other branch moved
to  St. Croix, Virgin Islands where they owned and ran a plantation.  A book was written about
that branch titled  Robert Skeoch, Cruzan Planter.   We became  aware of this branch of the family
when my wife Marjorie suggested we look up Skeoch’s in a Scottish phone book while on tour in the 1960’s
The  visit was wonderful… elderly Skeoch farm family closely associated with the Virgin Island
branch.  Back in Canada when  we told  Aunt Elizabeth about that she packed  a bag  and
flew to the Virgin Islands to meet any she could find. 

Another  flourishing branch high tailed it to Australia.  We write back and forth
often.  The connection was made in the strangest way.  I discovered that I was
not the only Alan Skeoch…there were three of us unknown to each other.  The third
was a dentist in California who recently passed away before I could bother him.

Back in Scotland  the family seems to have thrived as well.  Even to the point of trying
to establish a car industry by manufacturing The Little Skeoch in 1921.  Unfortunately the
factory caught fire and burned to the ground.  Today, however, some enterprising men
in Dalbeattie, Scotland, have successfully rebuilt a  model of the Little Skeoch.  Look it
up on the internet…you will even see the little car moving.


In a subsequent Episode I willi include copies of the Skeoch letters even though it is doubtful
they will interest general readers.  Wait!   Give me time.  I can  find a  hook that might make
the letters of broader interest.

ENJOY  the picture of James  Skeoch above.  You  do not have to be  a relative to find
that photo interesting.  Worth researching even.

OF ALAN’S EPISODES”  (I do not blame you.)


Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: December 27, 2020 at 7:41:44 PM EST


alan skeoch
Dec 2020

Dateline:  Dec. 1992
Place:  90 mile beach, Cape Rainga, North Island, New Zealand

“Christ Almighty…there going to hit us head on!”

WE loved that car…but it was scrap in the twinkling of an eye.

“Christ Almighty…there going to hit us head on!”

Excuse the profanity if you can.  People in crisis often appeal to Jesus whether they
are believers or not.  Two cars smashing together on a New Zealand near empty 
 highway should have  been  deadly.  Head on!  Head light to headlight…engine to
engine.  Glass shattered by heads hitting.  Metal folding like cardboard.  Blood flowing
like water.  Voices screaming for the Almighty.  Jesus!  Jesus! Both cars held young people
who were fit.  Bashed, broken, bleeding … all alive but needing medical treatment
immediately.  This was not a good place for a head  on collision.  Not that
there is ever a good place for that.   Andrew Skeoch and  Keith Merker along
with two girlfriends had  been windsurfing on 90 mile beach on the west coast
of New Zealand’s North Island.  Carefree.  Two Canadian  boys on their chosen
world  tour.  Two New Zealand  girls enjoying the exhilaration of youth.  No one
dead but injuries were grievous.  Four Kiwis in the other car…girl with broken arm.

“Hello, Air Ambulance!  Get a chopper up to tip of 90 mile beach right away.
Car accident.  Head  on for Christ’s sake.”
“How many hurt?”
“They are all hurt but three girls need to get to Auckland fast.”
“And the boys?”
“Send an ambulance…quick. Two Canadian lads.”
“It will take hours to get there and get back to hospital.”
“We are stabilizing the  boys.”
“Who is speaking?”
“Police Officer Clark”
“Police  Officer?’”

“Archie Moore…”
“Are you sure you’re OK?”  Any others hurt?”
“Everyone was hurt.  Joanne has a broken jaw.  

“How did it happen?”
“Looks like one  car was rounding a hairpin on wrong side of the road.”
“No, Kiwis…”
“Sounds like it could have been fatal.”
“Bloody true…lucky the cars were big…some  protection.   And the kids are fit.”
“Any danger of delayed shock?”
“Don’t think so…that danger was  over long ago.  They were not 
found  for a couple of hours.  All  are conscious.”
‘We’ll send an investigator…mind if a reporter tags along?
“No…get a move on, goddamnit.”

Marjorie and I did not get a phone call from Andrew  until a couple of  days had
passed.  He  wanted us to know.  Nothing hidden.  Feared over reaction.

 But both he and Keith were hurt
and in the Aukland  hospital.  To phone right away, he  felt, would cause panic back home.
In the meantime the boys had to make a big decision.  They could be flown back to Canada.
Insurance covered that if necessary.  Two days passed by  and  they were mending.  Andy had
his nose nearly severed and  Keith had the steering column rammed into his lower body.  Injuries that
seems bad when their heads went through the windshield.  But two days later seemed OK.


“Hi Mom, how are things back  home.  All ready for Christmas i bet.”
“Oh, Andrew, how nice to hear from you.  How is the world adventure going?””
“Bit of a problem.  We got in a car accident…”
“But we are fine.  Bruised…mending.”
“Any others hurt?”
“Everyone hurt…some worse than others.  Joanne has a broken jaw.  Claire
has a lot of soft tissue injuries.  Both girls and one from the other car flown to
Auckland by air ambulance.  The car is a write off.”


ON Oct. 7, 1992, both of our sons left home.  To say it was a surprise is an understatement.
Kevin had  taken a job with the American School teaching English in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The Soviet Union had just collapsed and Eastern Europe was in chaos.  Most citizens  of
Slovakia were looking westward to places like Canada and the United States for help. Most.
Not all.  There still remained many supporters of the communist ideal.  We felt Kevin was
stepping into a morass.  As he was.

Andrew, on the other hand, and his friend  Keith Merker had decided to head westward. 
“Where are you going, Andrew?” 
‘ Across Canada, down to Los Angeles  and then
across the Pacific…island hopping to New Zealand.”
“We have some.  Get jobs  along the way.”
“Sounds a little chancy.”
“if I get in a tight corner, I will call.”
“No car?”
“We will buy wrecks…cars  heading for the scrap heap.”

And they did.  One car they bought in the U.S. had no side
windows so when they dropped  in on Victor Poppa’s place in California he
made them Wooden windows.   On a side venture to Arizona they 
were advised  to get out of the state by a friendly police officer. “Stick around
here with that car and meet a different cop…you will wish you never heard
of Arizona.”
John Steinbeck, were he still alive, would have added a  chapter
in either East of Eden  or the Grapes  of Wrath.

Island hopping across the Pacific…Figi and so many others…turning
to road kill for supper on one occasion.  Never cooked the thing though
the thought seriously about it.  Island hopping.

This was the way they ended up at 90 mile beach on the North Island
of New Zealand.  Let me tell the story from Andrew’s own words.

“We bought the four door Ford for $2,000 which was all the
money we had.   No worries for we felt we could sell it for
that money or more when we were done.  It was a great car for
a surfing holiday.  We met Joanne and Claire and  pooled  our 
resources.   We had the car. They had  the food  money. Nice 
girls who had  won a lottery. Surfed all  day in shark water..
We drove for miles up the beach…as far north as we could go
to Cape Rainga.  Car got stuck trying to clear a sand dune
 so we had take a run at the dune to bust out onto the road.

Then one hour later on a hairpin curve a New Zealander was cutting
the curve  and hit us dead  on.  I flew through the wndow cutting my nostril
in half.  Keith crumpled the steering wheel  with his body and  sliced his kneecap.
Joanne  broke her jaw on the head rest.   Claire had soft tissue injuries to
most of her body.   In the other car a girl in back seat broke her arm.  Boys
in front were protected by the seat belts.  I know..I know..we  should have buckled.

We collided at 6 p.m. but did not get help until two hours later.  No traffic up
Road ends at the ocean…goes nowhere. Eventually some cars came. Wrapped
girls in bedrolls…chills, maybe shock.   Policeman named Archie Clark came and called for an air
ambulance for the girls and ground ambulance for Keith and me.  We did not
reach hospital until midnight.  Next day there was an article about the crash
in the Aukland Herald.

The investigation concluded we were not at fault (which is easy to see in photos).
We then had to decide whether to head back  to Canada or wait out the injuries
and continue.   I waited a few days before calling you.  Afraid to spoil your Christmas.
Then Archie Clark offered to take  us to his farm over Christmas.  He found us
jobs and fed us.  Boar hunting with his sons.  After that we headed for the south island and then over to
Australia.  You sent us some money and we made a little washing storefront 
windows wherever we  went.  All we needed was a couple of  squeegees and
a pail.   

The girls?  We never  saw them again although I keep in touch with
Joanne on Facebook.   Both girls are married with children as are  Keith 
and me.  I wonder  if  there are many police  officers like  Archie Clark.”


Hi Andy, 
You havent changed a bit!!!I found my box of travelling stuff in the loft yesterday and thought i would see if i could find anyone! Hard to beleive it was over 18 years ago. It was only last year that i had to have jaw surgery to correct my bite since the crash. Hows your nose?
Do you still see Keith. I see Claire, she lives around the corner from me and our children go to the same school. She is still travelling all over the world as an air hostess for BA. She is married to Andy has Ben whos 10 and Jessica who is 7. 
How is life with you? I see from your photo you are still surfing!!!
Love to hear from you
Love Jo

WHEN MARJORIE AND I TOOK ANDREW  TO NEW ZEALAND…hardly any danger of a speeding collision

Kiwi birds are hard to find.  This one was attracted to the beer bottle between my legs I think.

Campgrounds in New Zealand are wonderful…full kitchens.

That was sometime around  1993.  The years when the Soviet Union was collapsing.  We were able to experience
the collapse first hand when our other son, Kevin, called to ask  us over to Slovakia for a week…which also
turned out to be a grand adventure.

alan skeoch
Dec. 1990


Note:  Episode 208 will  come a little later.  It is complicated and
needs  a little more research.  while  combing through my pictures
I came across these two photos…reminded me of an adventure i
had almost forgotten.


alan skeoch
Dec.  2020

Some time ago
Andrew, Marjorie and I decided  to explore some hidden  beaches on the
east side of New  Zealand’s North Island… Taranga location.  Not very 
far from the the Maori grave of  my cousin Roy Skeoch whose Maori wife, Anna
and family we came to see.  

Black volcanic rocks with glass like needles rose  sharply above the beautiful beaches.

We did not pay much attention to the fact that those beaches were
getting  smaller and smaller and the surf was at the same time
becoming angry.

Too late.  Our escape route was  closed…no footpath remained… just churning
surf.  Our only escape was  over the volcanic base of Mount Taranga.

We thought it was funny at first.  Then we became aware that there
was no place to hide.  Marjorie got a bit ripped.  In the end Andrew
carried Marjorie over the rocks.  That gave me a chance to get
two fast pictures.   Afterwards we decided to name our kitten Taranga
in memory of this bit of surf and rock and  churning water.

New Zealand is very safe for tourists.  Great long beaches on both sides of
the islands.  Accessible.  The only danger, apparently, is from a tiny toxic
spider that lives under the rocks.

Well, not the only danger.

Shortly after we returned to North America with Andrew he decided to go back
to New Zealand with his friend Keith Merker.   Both of them kids who would turn
into young men while exploring the world  around them.  The danger?  The greatest
danger they faed in New Zealand came from fellow human beings.   

And at the same time the greatest rescue they experienced  also  came from
a human being…a New Zealand police officer.

I will try to put that story together.  I have the pictures.   

The pictures of this wild surf reminded me of those days and the adventures
we shared.   Our other son, Kevin, could  not go with us as he was a student
at the University of Toronto at the time.  He would have his own adventures  on
the other side of the world that might interest you.  Again…I have the pictures.

alan skeoch
Dec. 2020



alan skeoch
Dec. 2020

“What are  you doing in the garage, Alan?”
“Building a fire engine.”
“Fire engine?”
“Got the parts at a farm sale…parts  that looked to me  like a fire engine.”

Took me a couple of weeks to get this fire engine assembled and painted.
The very day we  Wheeled it out to the front lawn a  huge load of  kids 
arrived.   Came like bees smelling nectar.   I counted11 of them..may have 
been more.

But where is Andrew?  Lots of kids…10 of them, but where is Andrew?

“Here I am Daddy.”



alan skeoch
Dec. 24, 2020


When you were little boys.  Before you became teen agers and would
find  your parents less  dominant in your lives.  Before those teen  age
years  which we thought might be  difficult.  (Which turned out to be  untrue.)

Marjorie and I decided that the best gift we could  give you would be Canada.
So we planned to give you Canada.  We  bought a used  pop up tent trailer made
of chip board and canvas.  Camping seemed the best way to give you Canada.
We wanted you to touch the earth.  We wanted  you to realize how lucky you’re
to live in the second largest country on earth.

That means at least two grand  trips.  First to the east to dip your feet in the Atlantic Ocean
and then to the west to put bigger feet in the Pacific  Ocean.   The trips could have been
miserable failures with us  pulling you across Canada like a pair of stubborn mules.

So, for the first trip, we bought a  pair of handcuffs.   You were both going with us
whether you liked  it or not.   The dogs too…Sonny and Daisy…both Labradors. And a lot of other stuff
like  four bicycles, a Coleman stove, pile of groceries and a first aid kit.


The trip East was terrific.  Most of the trip you remember because you talk about it but this fragment you may have forgotten.
We crossed  to Newfoundland on a big car ferry..overnight…sleeping with other Newfoundlanders on the floor as it lifted
and  fell.  Then we drove west to Gros MorNe Park where another ferry took us over  a short patch of water.  Remember the fish and
chip store?  Real Newfoundland fried fish.   Complete with a long white worm in my chunk which amused you both.

Then we drove  up the coast alongside the Strait of Bell Isle heading towards St. Anthony and the wonder of the Viking
settlement at L’Ans aux Meadows.  Eric  the Red had landed and lived here 400 years before Columbus.

We  camped part way up the road.   Alone on the Newfoundland shore.

“You boys own this country…did  you know that?”

This story is about that camp.   By then the four bicycles strapped on the front of the truck were becoming a hazard so
we gave two of them to a Newfoundlander we met.  He was overjoyed.   Told us about the water.  “Whales out there…lots  of
them.  And lobsters by the truckload.  And codfish.  A good land, mind you.”   We had camped earlier on the west 
side of Newfoundland and seen thousands of tiny fish flip flopping and eventually dying on the rocky beaches.
Newfoundlanders gathered buckets of them  and hung them  on clotheslines with pegs.  “Good eating…that’s why
the whales are after them.  They try to escape and end up on the beach.  Millions of them survive but millions
also die.  Good eating.”

“Any capelins here on the Strait of  Belle  Isle>”
“Nope but lots of other creatures.”
“How do you  make a living?”
“Lobsters…trap them in season…sell them  to the three piece suit 
people  back in Toronto.”

Here,  a bushel  or two of live capelin have attracted  DAISY AND SONNY … dogs that became a fisherman.

This was a nice camping spot so we stayed  for two days or longer.

That was  when we discovered the lobster traps…dozens of them washed up on the rocky shore.

Some smashed all to hell

Others that were perfect.  

“Let’s see how many lobster traps we can collect, boys…stack  them up neatly.”
“Can we fill the truck with them, Dad?”
“Sure…pile them on the roof…three or four high…see
how they hold when we rev the truck up to 70 miles per hour.”
“What can we do with them?”

“Alan, there’s a fishing village up the shore a bit.  I bet these
are their traps.  Maybe we can carry them back to them.”

“And so began our Lobster Trap Rescue Episode.”

“These must be your lobster traps?”
“Reckon they could be.”
“We have gathered up a pile of them way up he shore…done this for you…
we even carried some  to your village.”
“Wish you had not done that boys.”
“Why not?”
“Because we get a  government grant to cover
lost lobster traps.  The more you boys bring
back here,  the less we get.  Understand?”

Kevin and Andrew did not understand.

The  Newfoundlanders had a better idea.

“How  would you boys like to meet a whale?”
“Meet a whale?”
“Sure…we can motor out a ways and meet a whale for  sure..
maybe more than one.   Ask your mom and  dad.”

And so we went whale searching…using a little motor boat…outboard motor.  Just enough
room for the four of us  and the Newfoundland crew of one.   Low in the gunwales.

I did not expect we would meet a whale.  But I was wrong.  We met two or
three.  Animals  far bigger than our little boat.  Animals that seemed to
know where we were.

“Remember what you did when  one whale  swam up and under our boat, Andrew?”
“You dived down on the floor of the boat and would not look.”
“I Felt like joining you”

“Dad,  do we really own this country…this Canada?”
“We do…we really do.”
“Makes me feel  good, dad.”


alan skeoch
Dec. 2020



alan skeoch
Dec.  2020

EARTHY is the best word I can you to describe those visits to the Skeoch farm on
the southwest corner of Fergus.  Earthy for sure.  “Would you fancy a beer, Alan?”
And Uncle Norman would lead the way to the barn stable where he kept a case
of Molson’s Golden tucked  under the hay of the first manger.  Why there?

Because Norman’s sisters had ‘taken the pledge’ so to speak.   Temperance
people.   Nice people…warm, hearty, educated, informed, leaders.  All of  this
including  the deep belief that beer and  other alcohols were a blight on the

That was a good thing.  Kept visitors out in the barn where stories always
seemed richer than  around the kitchen table.

Left to Right:   The  Skeoch Manure spreader, long retired but still admired,  then  Uncle Norman Skeoch (my Dad’s youngest brother),
the Jake Raison (first husband of cousin Jean Skeoch…Jake played box Lacrosse), Bruce Skeoch, Hubert Jim Skeoch (brothers from
the Skeoch farm on the North east side of Fergus), and finally Long John Skeoch … possible  to play dominoes  on his pants.


Jake and cousin Jean got married in Mimico.  One of the best weddings I ever attended.  All the Skeoch men were there in the back rows
of the church while the Skeoch women were attentively listening to the minister at the front.   My brother, Eric, sat  beside me for
a  while then he just disappeared.  Uncle Archie or Uncle Norman had reached under the pew, grabbed him by the ankle and
hauled  him in a game of  ‘pass the kid’  to other uncles and hangers on until Eric  got close to the women when he was released.

What a wedding.  Uncle Art and Aunt Mary and the Rawsons had rented a hall not far from the church.  It had a  kitchen 
walled  off from the main hall using thick paper board.  I know it was paper  board because Uncle Ernest (who  was really a cousin)
came smashing through the wall … pushed  hard by Dad (Arnold  Skeoch)  as they argued  about politics, or sports, or anything
worth arguing about.  In my mind I still see  his body as a kind of ‘cut out in paper board’ which made  a new door to the kitchen.

Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Greta,  Aunt Lena and  mom  acted  like mother ducks protecting ducklings.  They were determined that
the children  should  not enter the kitchen while the discussion was happening.  Someone had got beer into the hall.

Uncle Ernest’s wife, Aunt Ayleen, had the warmest laugh  of anyone I had ever met.  She was an Arawak
from the Caribbean…loved us…she was a  hugger.   I don’t know how she
reacted when her husband smashed through the wall.  I do remember, however, that Ernest and Ayleen drove
mom, dad and us home that night.  Laughing. No hard  feelings.  No.  I do  not know who paid  for the wall.

What a  great wedding…”Hotter than a pepper sprout” but eventually ‘the fire went out.”

See Hubert Skeoch next to long John.  he was in the air force in  World War II.  Somehow he
got his teeth knocked out and they were replaced with some kind of plate.  He would swirl 
the plate around  in his mouth for the Amusement of Eric  and me when he lived with
us at 18 Sylvan  Avenue.  He hated the name Hubert…wanted us to call him Jim…which
we never did.

Long  John Skeoch and I  got the unpleasant job of being the executors of the Norman  Skeoch estate.  
We presided over the selling of the Skeoch farm and  all the equipment.  Norman  left the farm to all
his brothers and sisters  which was the death knell of the farm.  Had to be sold.  Sad  ending.  Wish I had the sense
to buy that manure spreader.  

Bruce Skeoch  was the historian of the bunch.  Father to Lloyd and Vernon.  He Kept the records as best he could.   The Skeoch women kept
a lot of the records as well.  When i showed an interest Aunt Elizabeth loaned  me the letters sent back
and forth to Scotland  in the 1840’s .  I laboured  long and hard transcribing them.  Maybe I got a little to 
close to the truth behind the Skeoch  migration.  Aunt Elizabeth got them them back.

alan skeoch
Dec. 2020



alan skeoch
Dec. 2020

Dad did  not buy presents.  Well, not quite true, one year he bought Eric  and me
a Red Rider BB gun and a long-playing portable record player.  We got them 
unwrapped and later discovered he was  able to persuade some store to sell
them if he put a dollar downpayment.  The rest of the costs was up to us…actually
up to mom as usual.  

That probably sounds terrible to readers who had a more normal family if such
ever really existed.   We took it in our stride.  You already know that the BB gun
only existed  for 1 day and  was then smashed against the Manitoba  Maple tree
in our backyard to the relief of us  all.  We sat the records player on the cedar
chest in the only bedroom in our house.  We had a nice stack  of old 78 rpm records
to feed the machine.  These also only lasted  a short time.  Eric sat on them…smashed
them all to hell.  Or maybe I sat on them.  Forget who but remember the shards
of broken records.

No one ever bought mom a  Christmas  present.  Never occurred to us.  She wrapped
presents  for us though which  was expected.  One year she got upset at this
one way  gift giving. “Does  no one ever buy a gift for me?”  That made Eric and
I suddenly think about reciprocal  giving and  we tore up to the furniture store
and bought her an electric table lamp with a base full of curves.  She was touched.
Put the lamp on the little  table beside her bed couch in the living room.  Rather garish
but she treasured it.  We felt justified in taking her gifts after that.  I think it cost
Eric  and I about $7….all our spare cash from the Toronto Star paper route which
paid us  half a cent per 3 cent paper.

No one really felt bad about this one way gift giving.  Even mom was  not disturbed except that one time.  Our big Christmas presents
for a couple of years was  the TTC lost goods auction sale at a run down store on Queen Street West.  All year long
the TTC  conductors  turned in lost articles to the transport officials.  Piles of them.  Then, sometime around
mid  December, the unclaimed  articles were dumped into huge cardboard boxes and auctioned off to whoever
attended the auction.  

Dad, Eric and  I were enthusiastic bidders.  Limited funds though.  But eventually we were able to get a big box
of things nobody wanted.   We kept the box closed until Christmas Eve or near that day.   Then dad  sat on the
couch that mom slept on…adjusted  his glasses…and opened  the box.  The box was so big that it would fit
a kitchen sink.  This was no tiny box holding a pair of socks.   This  was an immense box  of lost articles.
A Treasure trove.

What do you suppose people forget on the streetcar?   Take a guess.  You are right.  There were usually a
few umbrellas…some working, others bent so badly they would  not unfurl.  The umbrellas were the first
thing pulled from the box.   Dad looked up…amused with each treasure.  Then there were gloves…lots
of gloves.  Most of them female.  Some in pairs…others singles. “These are for you Methusalum.” And mom
began to collect a pile of gloves.   Next were the scarves.  Again most of them were women’s apparel but
a few were suitable for Dad.  He wrapped them around his  neck.

In this  picture, however, Dad  had reached the near bottom of the box and he pulled  out a pair of
pants.   How could anyone lose their pants in the street car?  “Someone got off the street with his
bare ass to the wind,” said Dad  with his amused expression.  Deadpan expression. Not laughing out loud but an  expression
that made the rest of us howl.

There were other things…empty purses,  wallets,  hats…but that pair of pants took the cake that
one year.

A lot of  Christmases  have gone by now.  Lots of  presents have been exchanged.  Sometimes
the pile of presents make the Christmas tree seem  small.   Some great presents.

But to my mind this Christmas  of  the year 2020 could never compare with the Christmas
of 1953 or 1954 when Dad, Eric and I hauled that huge five or ten dollar box of umbrellas
and mismatched socks home to 455 Annette Street on the TTC streetcar and trolley bus.

Mom got most of the stuff…gloves, scarves, purses.   But dad got the pants which he never 
wore but held  up for us to see.   We could imagine some poor sucker getting  off the
streetcar with his “bare ass to the wind” as dad said in his usual colourful language.

alan skeoch
Dec. 24, 2020



alan skeoch
DEc. 2020

If you are easily offended stop reading now…wait for another episode…avoid this episode

“NOW,  Kevin, let me tell you how to smoke a good cigar.
First you nibble the round end…bite off a small chunk and spit it out…anywhere.
Next  you remove the label…White Owl  Invincible…expensive cigars.
Next  you lick the cigar like  it is a popsicle…get the taste of the cigar leaves…moisten  the cigar.
Next  you get a good wood match, strike it on your Jeans and  put the flame to the open end.
Next  you take a puff..couple of  puffs…not so much that you choke.
Next  you breathe out the cigar smoke before it gets too deep in your lungs.
Next  you now know how to smoke a fine cigar.”
A fine  cigar is a showpiece.”

(*Avoid getting judgmental.  Both boys do not smoke  ,..except for a cigar in memory of  Dad on rare occasions…very rare)
And neither do they  drink very much.  Now men with their own families.)

“Grandpa,  why does grandma insist  you smoke in the back yard or up at the corner of the street?”
“I do not rightly know Kevin.   Women…your Grandmother in particular..are very hard to understand.”
“AND why does grandma put your Limberger Cheese in the clothespin bag and reel it to the back pole?”
“As I said before, women  are hard to understand…as you will discover in due time.”

“And why do you call Grandma  “Methusalum” ?
“Now that I can answer.  Methusalah was the oldest person in the Bible.  And “Methooz” is older than me.  I like to remind
her of that.  Why do you say Methusalum rather than Mefhusalah? “
“Sound better…has a nice  ring to it.  I have improved the Bible.”  The short
 form is even better….”Methooz”
“Does she  like that name?”
“She has never objected.   You want to know something interesting Kevin?”
“Your Dad and your uncle…Alan and Eric…did not know her real name was Elsie  for the longest time.”

Life can be very strange.  We thought everyone had a mother snd father
similar to ours when we  were small.  The older we  got the more we
realized the Skeoch – Freeman  sets of grandparents were very different.
Both sets marvellous.

But the one thing we never appreciated was the way Mom held everything
together.  We took her for granted.  Being taken for granted is a rather backhanded
compliment.  She  seemed to like it that way.  No hugging  and  kissing.   Just the
warm  feeling that no matter what went wrong in our lives our home was
the safest, most forgiving, place.   

Mom, as I have mentioned, was a seamstress.   She could make  a sewing machine
do wondrous things. Her income came  from the sweatshops of Toronto.  For Eaton’s
she  made dresses as advertised in the Eaton’s catalogue and was  told “make the  front
look nice…do not worry about the back.”  

So mom worked with other women.  Lots of them.  Eric and I felt we had dozens of mothers
because mom made sure we met all her friends who seemed to love  us…like Joyce Bannon
and Annie Smith in the picture with Mom and  Dad.  Her friends all gave  us boxes of chocolates
each Christmas.   So we  lived in a circle of women.  Not men.   Dad was the only man.
Which leads me to one  of the most endearing stories about him.  I may have told this
story before but it is worth hearing again and  again.

Mom and dad lived in a rooming  house at the time…house full of women machine operators.  Dad was
the only man.  Which he did not particularly like.  “Too many goddamn women.”   Goddamn
was one  of  his favourite words as was ‘son of a bitch’ and ‘bastard”.   Manly, right?

Well  dad arrived home one night and found Joyce in the apartment with mom…I was
a baby in the crib.   Dad did not like this.  He had to do something to assert his
manly nature.  Ahah!   The radio…a big floor model.  Dad went over to the radio
and said loudly.  “Look at this Mathooz, I can write my name in the dust.”

Then Joyce piped up with one of the best Zingers I have every heard.  “Oh, Red,
isn’t it wonderful to have an education?”   

We have told that story over and over in our family.  So many times that 
even Dad gets a grin on his face.

A weird thing happened a few years ago when  I was asked to be the
guest speaker at the University of Toronto Women’s club.  I thought the women
would enjoy stories about Dad.  I was wrong.  There was a dead silence
most of the time.  A silence that got deeper and deeper with each
story.  At the end, my high school French teacher whispered to me.
“You poor boy!”

She missed the point completely.  Mom and dad were terrific people who
kept Eric and i feeling lucky to have such interesting  parents.

Here is the opening of that speech.

“Ladies, my father, Red Skeoch, loved nicknames.  He  never called us Alan
or Eric.  Most often  he referred to us this way.  “I have two sons, one is
a gutsy bugger and the other is as stupid Joe’s dog.”   This was flattery.
Dad spoke in opposites a lot of the time.  He called me a ‘goddamn fool’
most of the time which meant he like me.  I knew that.  Was I the gutsy
bugger or the son that was stupid as Joe’s dog?   My brother when
he became a teen ager called Dad up on that term.

“Dad, that expression ‘stupid as Joe’s dog’ makes no sense.  Just how
stupid was Joe’s dog?”

Dad got a gun on his face that was a mile wide. He  had been waiting years
for that question.

“Eric,  Joe’s dog was so stupid  he jumped over nine bitches to screw his own shadow.”

That was the introduction to my speech.  No one laughed.   And I still had 40 or 60
minutes to speak.  So I kept the stories flowing.  And the silenced deepened.
Hence the term “You poor boy”.  

Marjorie commented that it was unlikely  I would be asked back to speak again.
And I have not.

Some of you have heard these stories before.  They are worth repeating.
Mom and dad were so goddamn human.  Makes me cry.

So many more stories.  Outlandish  But, oh, so human.

I only ever brought one of my girlfriends home.  That was Marjorie.  She and dad got along perfectly.  His
extremes of behaviour were accepted.  Once he knew that there was nothing Marjorie  could do wrong.
She had  to give up trying to breast feed our boys because dad showed up at our house every day… it seemed.
I think Dad  liked  Marjorie more than he liked the horses where he blew all his money.  And when
Marjorie showed an interest in the racetracks  of southern Ontario, dad thought she was a perfect

alan skeoch
Dec 2020

P.S/  “Should I send this or not, Marjorie?”
“The only part I do not like is that definition of Joe’s dog…crude”
“Dad would never have said that in your presence.”
“I guess Joe’s dog cannot be avoided…certainly removes
you from the Speakers Club.”
“I am not sure about that…look at what Trump has said.”



alan skeoch

“Dad, would  you look after Andrew and Kevin, today?”
“Marjorie, mom and I have a meeting…”
“Harumpf…Where must I do the babysitting?”
“At the farm.”
“Suppose I could do that…might be able to teach
the kids a few tricks…lesson in life as it were.”

And  so  he did.   We arrived to find both boys smoking cigars…White Owl  Invincibles.  Kevin
removed his stogie for the picture.  Andrew persisted with his.

Arnold Red Skeoch was unconventional in all that he did.  Memorable as a result.

How  would  you react if these were your kids?

alan skeoch
Dec. 2020