The Narrative of Gordon Sellar Who Emigrated to Canada in 1825 by Gordon Sellar


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Page 1

Mother kept on working, mostly out of door jobs, washing or
house-cleaning, a neighbor being asked to look after me. When I got old
enough, she would tell me, while I was in bed, where she was going, and
in the evening I would go and meet her. Sometimes, not often, she got
sewing to do at home and these were bright days. We talked all the time
and she taught me much; not simply to read and write and cast little
sums, but about everything she knew. My reading book was the gospel of
John, which she said was fullest of comfort, and it was then my faith in
Christ took root. There could not be a more contented or cheerful
mother, and her common expression was that when we did our duty
everything was for the best. She had a sweet voice, and when she sang
one of Burns' songs neighbors opened their doors to hear her. I was
nearly ten when a bad time came. Mills closed, the streets were full of
idle workmen, and provisions got dear. Mother got little to do, and I
know she often went hungry that I might be fed. She might have got her
share of the relief fund, but would not think of it. She told me time
and again, to be independent. That hard winter made all the families in
our close draw nearer to one another, and every hour there was some deed
of helpfulness. The best friends of the poor are the poor. We were
struggling on, hopeful and unmurmuring, when the word passed from
landing to landing one morning that the boy who was sick in the first
flat had been visited by a doctor, who said he had typhus. Mother took
her turn in sitting up with him at night until he got the change and it
was for the better. It might be a week after, I went to meet her on her
way home from the place where she had been at work, and saw how slow she
walked and the trouble she had in getting up the stair to our room. She
gave me my supper and lay down on the bed to rest, for she said she was
tired. Next morning she complained of headache and did not rise.
Neighbors came in to see her now and then. I stayed by her, she had
never been thus before. When it became dark she seemed to forget herself
and talked strange. The woman next door gave her a few drops of laudanum
in sugar and she fell asleep. When she woke next day she did not know me
and was raving. Word was taken to the hospital and a doctor came. He
said it was a bad case, and she must be taken to the hospital at once,
and he would send the van. It came, the two men with it lifted her from
her bed and placed her on a stretcher. A crowd had gathered on the
street to see her brought out and placed in the van. I thought I was to
go with her, and tried to get on the seat. The helper pushed me away,
but the driver bent over and gave me a penny. The horse started and I
never saw my mother again. I ran after the van, but it got to the
hospital long before I was in sight of it. I went to the door and said I
wanted my mother; the porter roughly told me to go away. I waited in
front of the building until it got dark, and I wondered behind which of
the rows of lighted windows mother lay. When cold to the bone I went
back to our room. A neighbor heard me cry and would have me come to her
kitchen-fire and she gave me some gruel. Sitting I fell asleep.

I was told I must not go into our room, it was dangerous, so I went to
the hospital and waited and watched the people go in and out. One
gentleman with a kind face came out and I made bold to speak to him.
When I said mother had fever he told me nobody could see her, and that
she would be taken good care of. I thought my heart would burst. I could
not bear to stay on the Gallowgate, and so weary days passed in my
keeping watch on the hospital. On Sunday coming, the neighbor who was so
kind to me, said she would go with me, for they allowed visitors to see
patients on Sunday afternoon. We started, I trotting cheery in the
thought I was about to see my mother. The clerk at the counter asked the
name and disease. He said no visitors were admitted to the fever-ward.
Could he find out how she was? He spoke into a tin tube and coming back
opened a big book. 'She died yesterday,' he said quite unconcerned. I
could not help it, I gave a cry and fainted. As we trudged home in the
rain, the woman told me they had buried her.

I had now no home. The landlord fumigated our room with sulphur, took
the little furniture for the rent, and got another tenant. Everybody was
kind but I knew they had not enough for themselves, and the resolve took
shape, that I would go to the parish where my mother was born. Often,
when we took a walk on the Green, Sunday evenings, she would point to
the hills beyond which her father's home once was, and I came to think
of that country-place as one where there was plenty to eat and coals to
keep warm. How to get there I tried to plan. I must walk, of course, but
how was I to live on the road? I was running messages for the grocer
with whom mother had dealt, and he gave me a halfpenny when he had an
errand. These I gave to the woman where I slept and who was so kind to
me despite her poverty. I was on London street after dark when a
gentleman came along. He was half-tipsy. Catching hold of my collar he
said if I would lead him to his house he would give me sixpence. He gave
a number in Montieth row. I took his hand, which steadied him a little,
and we got along slowly, and were lucky in not meeting a policeman. When
we got to the number he gave me, I rang the bell. A man came to the
door, who exclaimed, At it again. The gentleman stumbled in and I was
going away when he recollected me. Fumbling in his pocket, he picked
out a coin and put it into my hand, and the door closed. At the first
lamp I looked at it; sure enough, he had given me a sixpence. I was
overjoyed, and I said to myself, I can leave for Ayrshire now. I wakened
early next morning and began my preparations. I got speldrins and
scones, tying them in the silk handkerchief mother wore round her neck
on Sundays. That and her bible was all I had of her belongings. Where
the rest had gone, a number of pawn tickets told. I was in a hurry to be
off and telling the woman I was going to try the country I bade her
goodbye. She said, God help you, poor boy, and kissed my cheek. The
bells at the Cross were chiming out, The blue bells of Scotland, when I
turned the corner at the Saltmarket.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 10th Jul 2020, 12:28