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A photograph of Emma MacLeod

Emma MacLeod

I was fair, but I was strict too

Born: 1922

Duration: 22m 46s

Type: Audio

Filesize: 20.1 Mb

Recorded: 5 May 2023

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About this recording

Three generations in conversation.

Born in 1922, Emma MacLeod was a centenarian when she recorded this interview in Thurso with her daughter Jennifer MacLeod and granddaughter Lauren Nicol.

Emma was originally called Jamesina, after an uncle who was killed in World War One. She was known as "Jimmy" until the age of four. Then one day a visitor, calling in for a rest while walking from John O'Groats to Lyth, suggested that Emma would be a nicer name.

Emma recalls how she attended Brabster school, using slates and slate pencils.

There is the intriguing story of Lady Fanny, daughter of the Earl of Caithness, and her ill-fated love affair with Emma's granny's brother, a handsome groom who worked at the Castle of Mey.

She remembers a childhood encounter on the shore at Gills with two leather-clad strangers who were evidently German spies, and tells of finding a sailor's hat washed up after the Royal Oak was torpedoed in Scapa Flow.

Emma talks about her own World War Two role in the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a Lance Corporal, Acting Sergeant. "I was fair, but I was strict too," she says.

Later in the recording, Jennifer reflects on the life of her late father John MacLeod (born 1917) and how his experiences in the North African campaign took their toll. She describes how he would speak German in his nightmares, and how she saw tears in his eyes while a piper played at Canisbay war memorial on Remembrance Sunday. "He was remembering them that never came back."

Jennifer and Lauren also reminisce about dances at Canisbay hall, and how Emma had her own way of dealing with potentially troublesome situations.

The recording was made around the time of the coronation of King Charles III and Lauren points out that Emma has now lived during the reigns of five monarchs.

The photograph shows Emma MacLeod, aged 100, with her daughter Jennifer MacLeod and granddaughters Lauren Nicol (back, right) and Julie MacGregor (back, left).


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