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John Paterson


When I was in my late teens and early twenties I had a cat named Peter. The greatest thing about Peter was that he thought he was a dog.  If I was around, Peter followed me everywhere and wouldn't let me out of his sight. On days of fishing with a hand line from the jetty rocks behind the Elie Harbour or from the Fish Rock on which the lighthouse stands, Peter would sit beside me. 


Peter watched  the line as I held it and became animated when he noticed a tug on the line. He knew  just what was on the line and that his dinner was assured. Before going on a fishing expedition we dug a can of  lugworms when the tide was low on our Earlsferry beach. As I dug between the worm cast and the indentation in the sand at the other end of the lugworm's tunnel Peter watched my every motion and jumped up and down when a lugworm was spotted in the dug hole. (Also read about Peter on my "Winter Fishing" page.)


One day we went to fish at the lighthouse and lo and behold a man of about my own age was sitting on what was my and Peter's usual place to sit as we fished.  We approached the man and I very politely asked, "any luck?" to which with a big smile he told me that  he had just arrived and  had  made his first cast but so far not a bite. It seemed like the man wanted to talk and as the day was early and the tide was just beginning its 6 hours of inflow I sat down beside him not to fish but just to talk. I noticed that he wasn't using the magic bait of Earlsferry lugworms so I gave him some and almost immediately he caught his first fish which was a respectable sized flounder. We exchanged names and he let me in on what was going on in his life. His name was John Paterson, married but with no children. He and his wife lived in a high rise flat in Portobello, a suburb of the city of Edinburgh. He had come by train to Elie to spend his day fishing and to just sit on the rocks as he took in the beauty of all that was around him. He told me that he was not working as he was under doctor's care. I moved away about a yard or two and threw out my line and  we conversed as we both caught a fair amount of fish. He told me that one of his favourite places to go and fish was the River Clyde where he loved to fish for trout. He no longer went there as to get there he traveled on his motor bike which he no longer was allowed to ride. I volunteered that I had an almost brand new Triumph Thunderbird and I would be glad to come to Portobello to pick him up and he could show me his favourite riffles on the Clyde. So began a series of  most enjoyable fishing trips. Like me with my magic Earlsferry lugworms he let me in on his secret of deadly bait  to catch trout. Near the River Clyde where we fished was the railway junction of Carstairs where on a siding, railroad cars, that had been used to transport cattle to wherever it was that they were going, were washed down and cleaned with a hose. Underneath the washed out straw that lay between the railroad tracks were red worms about an inch and a half long that were absolutely irresistible to River Clyde trout. At lunchtime, on the banks of the river, we would build a small fire from dry twigs to "brew a drum" of tea. A "drum" for the uninitiated was either a Tate and Lyle tin can that had once held 2 lbs. of Golden Syrup or a same size can of Fowlers Black West India treacle. Two holes punched at the top of the can and a piece of bent wire served as a handle. On the way back to Portobello John would sing as we rounded the curves of the roadway and I was immensely rewarded as I knew that our friendship was a wonderful thing.  The last time I saw John, as a present and remembrance of him, he gave me his favourite little book that he had signed for me, the title of which is, "The Fisherman's Bedside book", a delightful little book published by Eyre and Spottiswoode of London. It was one of his prized possessions. Now it is one of mine. The fly leaf admonishes the owner to, "lend me not."


In the flat next to John, lived a young lady who I had met but only knew  by the name of Rhona. She worked for a company in Portobello by the name of Buchan that made Thistle Pottery and fine stoneware.  Rhona knew of my friendship with John and as an additional remembrance she made and hand painted for me a small dish with a fishing scene that she signed on the back with a big R, now one of the memories that hang on a wall in my den.


 Inside the fly leaf of John's book  is this writing.

 "Lend me not to another and I will be a quiet companion in all your wanderings. Whither thou goest there go I, through the eagle's air and over the wide seas; through heat and cold, calm and tempest and the changing years. When thou layest thyself down upon thy bed when the weary day is over read of me a little and thy dreams shall be sweet; of camp sheathings and murmuring willows, of the weir's thunder and the bright throats of streams. Ye shall dream of the jewelled fishes that live in these places; of  waterfalls, brown burns and the wild lillies; of the freshness of morning, the burden of noon and that tranquil hour when cockchafers are abroad and owls and fishes wake to feed.


And so shall ye sleep sweetly for I will ever be beside thee and none shall take me away."


In fond remembrance of John Paterson.