Memories of the fallen still resonate

PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 March 2018

Cpt Ian Mackenzie

$image.copyright

Liberal Democrat MP JAMIE STONE recalls a painful childhood memory and why it reminds him of the importance of a united Europe

It was the late 1960s, it was March, and my parents had left the Highlands for a few days in order to try to sell their wares in London – they ran a small cheese business.

As I was still at school and had to stay behind, I was sent to stay with two elderly spinster sisters called Mackenzie.

My word, they were kind people: and more than that, they were erudition personified. For they were both of the first generation of Scottish females to graduate from Edinburgh University.

In among all their learning – none of which they seemed to have forgotten – there was a practicality and bluff common sense. They were not given to hyperbole or undue sentimentality – and that was why I was so surprised when I came back to their house after school.

Both of them, Catherine and Dorothy, were clearly not themselves. Indeed, they were damp-eyed and given to pulling their handkerchiefs out of their sleeves. I looked down at what lay before them on the table. It was an ancient. yellowed newspaper cutting – the death notice for an Ian Mackenzie.

He attended Tain Royal Academy in his home town, and then Fettes in Edinburgh, and finally an exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford – a spectacular entry to higher learning in which he ranked higher than a fellow Balliol undergraduate that same year, the future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

Then the Great War came and Ian volunteered for the Seaforth Highlanders and the Western Front. He served right through the war, gradually rising in rank, until Germany’s last ‘big push’ in March 1918, only months before the Armistice and peace.

But it was so long ago. God forgive me, but I was startled and embarrassed by these two ladies grieving in this unexpected and public way. I didn’t know what to say. And of course I now realised that this particular March day would have to be the anniversary of their beloved brother Ian’s death, wouldn’t it? I mean, the First World War was all about those poems we were learning in English and stuff in history.

And yet those two old ladies and their tears...

Now that I am at the age I am, I can see that it would have been like yesterday to them.

In their minds Ian could have stepped in the door the same cheerful young man that he once had been – and with all that promise before him, promise that was utterly wasted. One letter that he had written from the Western Front expressed an interest in joining the Civil Service after the war.

The distance back in time for Catherine and Dorothy was the same as it is from today until my school days, the day of my tale. This vivid memory still seems like yesterday to me.

I now completely understand why Catherine and Dorothy were so sad that day. I guess that if one single event during my life instilled in me the realisation of the sheer horror and insanity of war in Europe, then this was it.

Of course I am a European. It would be a betrayal of the memory of two very special ladies if I was anything else.

Jamie Stone is the Liberal Democrat spokesman for the Armed Forces and MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £13

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.



Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European



If Yes, Name to appear in The New European



Latest Articles

ANTI-BREXIT EVENTS

Grassroots anti-Brexit campaigners are increasing the pressure on politicians ahead of a series of important votes this year. Here is a list of the events organised across Britain in the coming weeks and months.

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

The New European weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy