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Katie Reekie, My Mother

My mother, Catherine "Katie" Reekie

My mother, Catherine, "Katie," was born in St. Monans in 1898. Her family home was the house at the top of The Cribbs, near to the middle pier of the St. Monans harbour. Sometime in the distant past it's my understanding that her father Peter Ferguson’s forbearers came from somewhere in Perthshire before coming to St. Monans. The clan Ferguson of Strachur are descended from Fergus Mor, son of Eric who founded the Kingdom of Dalriada in the early 6th Century. Peter was a maker of fine furniture. Her mother Minnie, as was the custom of the day, was a homemaker.  Unlike today, in these days the job of wife was no small task, as there were none of the labour saving devices that we have today.  Peter was quite a character.  At one time he was convinced that he could fly.  He made quite an elaborate set of wings that he strapped to his back. On the day that was appointed for take-off, most of the villagers went with him to a bridge, the parapet of which was his point of departure.  Just before take-off he said to his gallery, "Now don't go away for I'm just going for a short hover."  He took off, plummeted to the ground and broke both his legs and several other bones.  Another time one of his ventures was to make a submersible.  He placed his creation in the bottom of St. Monans Harbour when the tide was out.  His plan was to get in it, let the tide rise to cover over him, then at some later time he would surface his craft.  Well it didn't, and he was very lucky to finally extricate himself.  For a moment he was more dead than alive.

He loved to play pranks on us, his grand children.  One time I, with Noel and John, my two brothers, went to see him.  "Come in to the workshop.  I've something to show you," he said. Hanging near the ceiling by a system of pulleys was a coffin which he said he'd made for himself.  He lowered it down to the ground.  The lid of the coffin was hinged and had a big window in it so he could see out.  He got in and closed the lid and asked us if we thought he had enough elbow room. When he did die he was buried in his glass windowed coffin in St. Monans churchyard.

My mother, Katie, was 16 when she went to work in a shop in Elie, three miles away from her home in St. Monans.  She told me that she never walked but always ran the distance each way.  Her route was to follow the pathway just above the shoreline between the two villages.  She had a very good voice and she told me that she sang as she ran.  What spare time she had, her passion was singing and water colour painting. Her three favorite subjects to paint were the Auld Kirk at St. Monans, the Lady's Tower and the Elie Lighthouse.

After my dad and mother married they lived in St. Monans for two years. My sister, Minnie, was born there in 1920.  In 1921 they bought the house called The Cross just across the road from the Earlsferry Town Hall where in due course my elder brother John was born there in 1923, I in 1926 and my younger brother, Noel, on Christmas Day 1929.

Our home in these early days before electricity came to Earlsferry had none of the labor saving appliances and gadgets that today we take for granted. No central heating. No on- demand hot water. No washing machine. No electric dryer. No electric kitchen range. No slow cooker.  No microwave. No electric small appliances. No garbage grinder disposer. No dishwasher. No refrigerator, No vacuum cleaner. No electric shavers for men. The list goes on and on. In the evenings our home was illuminated by gas light. What a job it was being a mother in these times. As widowed Grampa John lived with us, my mother Katie had to find food and every day prepare meals for our now family of seven. In addition Katie made many of her own clothes and many of the clothes for the rest of the family which involved endless hours of knitting and sewing. Katie was at all times washing clothes in a wash tub then hanging them on a line to dry which in the wintertime was quite a chore. But she did have two labor saving devices that helped with the washing. One, an "Acdo" Plunger, -- a round copper gadget with holes in it and with a long wooden handle, like an overgrown potato masher and the second, a great iron mangle with huge wooden rollers to squeeze out excess water. Bless her heart. When I became a teenager and our house had electricity and when John, Noel and I had enough money saved, the first thing we did as a present for our mum was to buy her a Hotpoint washing machine and for our dad a Philips electric shaver.

Without nylon to reinforce wool our socks and the elbows of our jerseys needed darning most every day. The soles of our shoes had to be kept in repair. Our hair was home barbered. Yes, compared to today, the list goes on and on and on. In these days when a young woman was pursued by a suitor, why she didn't bolt for her welfare and sanity is almost beyond comprehension. Love I guess.

My dad, Tom, died in 1958 when he was 78. With 18 years difference in their ages my mother Katie lived on till 1992 when she was 94 years of age. She survived my dad by 34 years.  She lived the latter years of her life in a very remarkable way. About a year after my dad died, mum gave away most of her money. When she was asked where her money had gone she just smiled and said, "I had no need for it and I knew many others who did so I just gave it to them as I saw fit." She went on, "I have a home that's warm and paid for, I have a big garden that provides me with flowers and vegetables, I have all the clothes I need, I have friends who continuously bring me fish and meats and I have a widows pension that provides me with whatever else I need. I had no need for the amount of money that I had."  One Christmas I sent her a  warm winter coat. Later I was told that after she opened the package and saw what was in it she tried the coat on then left the house and gave the coat away to someone she thought had more need of it than she did. On being asked why, she responded, "I have a warm coat and if I should ever need another all I would have to do is to make my need known and I'll have immediate offers of several coats."  

For these last thirty odd years of her life her routine was to get out of bed at about daylight. After getting dressed she made her bed then tidied up her home. A small breakfast sufficed after which she spent about an hour in her garden where she planted, hoed or did whatever her garden needed. In addition to growing all of her own flowers and vegetables she gave away to others the bulk of what she grew. Several days in the week at about eight o'clock she put on her coat and walked about a mile to the bus stop at Elie. After getting on the bus she bought a ticket to wherever. When she came to some place she signaled the driver that she wanted to get off. She then walked until she came to some house where she went to the door and knocked. After the door was opened she said, "I'm Katie Reekie. I'm free for the day and if you can use me for the day I'd like to do whatever it is that you might need doing. I know how to cook and do house work, I know how to garden, I know how to clean windows. I know how to paint whatever you have that might need painting. I would like to spend today with you. I ask nothing for what I do other than  a glass of water or a cup of tea and a small snack at lunch time. At about four she left to get back on to the homeward bound bus. This was her mission. I was told that in her latter years there were times in the winter that as she walked home in the dark the last mile from the Elie bus stop she had been found laying wet in the rain at the side of the road as the result of overdoing what she'd been doing. After being taken home and a doctor summoned there were times that the doctor insisted that she stay in bed for several days. I'm told that the next morning she was off and running doing her thing. Happiness came from within her being and nothing could stop her from helping others. 

This is how she lived until very near the end of her life. Just before she left on her final journey she gave me her small glass dish that held her favorite cowries and shells from Earlsferry's beach.

My hazel eyed mother Katie




The Cross-Where my brothers John and Noel and I were born.

 Family tartan