Robert McClucky Waugh, My Scottish Grandfather

I never met my grandfather, but my mother’s description of him has brought him to life for me.  He was a small man, not quite 5’8”, and very slim.  He wore round spectacles and had bright eyes that shone when he saw his only daughter, Helen Marie.  He called my mother his “little gurl,” since his Scottish brogue was still strong and she said that he was the kindest man she ever met.  He died when she was in her mid-20s, but he had told her from an early age that no matter what happened to him, he’d always be right above her shoulder watching over her for her whole life. She told me that she felt his constant love until the day she died.

My mother said that all the men in her father’s family were coal miners in Rutherglen, Scotland and my grandfather and his brother came to the United States in search of a better life.  Ironically, that life didn’t exclude coal, but over the years, my grandfather moved from far below the ground to the administrator of the mine, which was not only a cleaner and healthier job, but also extremely well paid.  Mom described her life growing up as a time of privilege with her father making more money than the bank president in their small town of Bastrop, Texas, just 25 miles from Austin.  She said that was the time when “coal was king,” and her father drove a brand new Packard when she was in high school.  Since my mother was born in 1918, the date of that Packard would have been around 1936, at the end of the Great Depression.  It doesn’t sound as if my mother’s family felt the cruel bite of that era; however, their good fortune would soon end.  Only a year or so later – just after my grandfather bought his own coal mine – the entire country shifted from coal to natural gas for heating needs.  With that change, my grandparent’s life shifted, too, from affluence to a life with more struggle. My grandfather died of a heart attack in 1944 when he was seventy-two. I suspect it had something to do with the stress over that bad business decision, but then again, that’s a good long life back in that era, particularly for a man who had spent at least half of his time in coal mines.   

My grandfather sounds as if he was quite a fellow: enterprising, smart, kind, and good.  My mother would say those words only scratch the surface of how truly wonderful he was.  A man who came to this country and lived the American dream through the power of his own two hands and a clear head for management.  His undying love for my mother is something she passed on to me.  Before she died she said, “Never doubt that I’ll be right over your shoulder, watching over you all your life.”  

I have no doubt about that every minute of every day.  I suspect my granddad might be there, too.  Just adding a bit of quiet happiness to the scene.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s