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Authors: Doris Davidson

Cousins at War

BOOK: Cousins at War
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Cousins at War

This eBook edition published in 2012 by

Birlinn Limited

West Newington House

Newington Road



Copyright © Doris Davidson, 2005

The moral right of Doris Davidson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-84158-416-4

eBook ISBN: 978-0-85790-522-2

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library


Part One

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Part Two

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Part Three

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Part Four

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Part One
Chapter One


January 1940


As in most cities, the west end of Aberdeen is home to the upper class – the professors, surgeons, solicitors, bankers, et al. – and also to those with less
remunerative occupations who have been fortunate to inherit sufficient money to meet the rates demanded annually by the council for the privilege of dwelling there. The Rubislaw Dens – North
and South – are two of the most prestigious streets, quietly impressive and lined by magnificent granite houses, where the owners keep themselves to themselves. Neighbours are not in the
habit of running in and out to borrow a shilling for the gas meter as they tend to do in the tenements of the east end, and if any fall on hard times, or are beset by misfortune, they do not
broadcast it. Appearances must be kept up at all costs.

The Potters lived in the broad, sweeping arc of Rubislaw Den North. Martin was a solicitor; his wife, Hetty, had been an Ogilvie before their marriage; seventeen-year-old Olive attended Miss
Oliver’s Private School for Girls – high fees and an expensive green uniform; Raymond, fifteen come April, was at Robert Gordon’s College for Boys – high fees and an
expensive navy and gold uniform. They were a typical family of their district.

On the afternoon of 1 January, 1940, Olive Potter ran up the wide curving staircase in something of a temper. She had looked forward so much to the dinner her mother was giving for all the
family for New Year, and things had not gone as she had planned. She was wearing a brand-new dress, a green crêpe-de-Chine, with short puffed sleeves, which her mother had said in the shop
wasn’t suitable for this time of year, but she had got her own way in the end, as she always did. The bodice was moulded round her, with ribbons stitched in a V just below the neck then
sweeping down underneath her full breasts and tying in a bow at the back. She had borrowed her mother’s make up, taken extra trouble with her hair and knew that she was looking her best. All
of this effort had been for her cousin, Neil, but he had scarcely looked at her, and Raymond had put a match to her fuse by saying, in that sarcastic way he had, that she looked as cold as a fish
on a marble slab. She had been cold, but she didn’t want to admit it.

When she reached the landing, Olive threw open her bedroom door with such force that it banged back against the wall, but she grabbed it and slammed it behind her. They would all hear and she
didn’t care. Why couldn’t Neil have been nice to her for once? Their mothers were sisters, and for as long as she could remember she had been sure that he was the boy she would marry
some day, but he had never shown one iota of affection for her.

Flinging herself on the bed, she pummelled the pillow in frustration, her fair hair swinging round her neck, her oval face pink and scowling. Why couldn’t he see that she loved him? He was
just ten days older than she was, but he had no time for her. Even when they were quite young, and had been taken on those boring family picnics, Neil had preferred to play football with Raymond
rather than play games with her, and she could still remember how annoyed she had been, but as she grew into her teens she had realised that all boys of that age were shy with girls. They were both
seventeen now, however, so how much longer would it be until he grew up?

Turning on to her back, she wondered if she was stupid to love a boy who had no prospects – even when he was finished his apprenticeship, he would just be a mechanic – but once they
were married, she would make him find something better. He was good with his hands, and she had brains, so there was no reason why they shouldn’t set up a business of some kind. Yes, they
would be married one day, she was quite determined about that, and it would be no use him trying to wriggle out of it. The thing was, she didn’t want to wait too long. If she could just get
him on his own, he was bound to succumb to her charms and fall in love with her.

A soft tap on the door made Olive sit up. She didn’t want to see anyone, but if it was her father, he would haul her downstairs no matter what she said, so she tried to keep her pique out
of her voice. ‘Yes? Who is it?’

‘It’s Patsy. Can I come in?’

‘I suppose so.’ What did Neil’s sister want?

‘Dinner’s out,’ the younger girl said, apologetically, as she came in, ‘so I said I’d ask you to go down. Why did you run out like that?’

Never having had much time for Patsy, who was too much of a goody-goody, Olive didn’t hide her annoyance. ‘It’s none of your business!’

‘I know it isn’t, but I can guess. You’ve got a lovely new frock on, and Neil didn’t say anything about it.’

Mollified by Patsy’s admiration of her dress, Olive gave a sigh. ‘He wouldn’t notice if I’d nothing on at all.’

Her fifteen-year-old cousin gave a little giggle. ‘I bet he would, but he still wouldn’t say anything. He’s shy with girls, you know.’

Olive stood up then. ‘I may as well come down with you.’

Martin glowered at his daughter when the girls went into the dining room but Hetty said, ‘Olive, I’ve put you next to Neil, and Patsy can sit beside Raymond.’

For the duration of the meal, Olive was much happier. Neil couldn’t avoid answering her when she talked to him, and if he showed more interest in the conversation going on around them at
times, it was only because he felt shy with her. At least he felt something.

‘I miss Ishbel and Peter and the children,’ Hetty remarked, as she and her sister Gracie cleared away the first course dishes. Ishbel, their youngest sister, had
only recently moved to New Zealand to join Flo and her family, who had been there for some time.

Gracie nodded. ‘Me too, but Peter was set on it, and it’s just as well they went in May, for they couldn’t have gone once the war started. It’s likely they saw the New
Year in at Flo’s, so at least Ishbel was with one sister. It’s sad to think we’re the only two Ogilvies left in Aberdeen now . . . but Ellie’s just in Edinburgh and
Donnie’s in South Norwood.’

When her parents were seeing the visitors off at the door – Auntie Gracie said not to bother going out because it was too cold – Olive went up to her room. Her window overlooked the
driveway where Uncle Joe had parked his car and it gave her a chance to have one last glimpse of Neil and hear if he said anything about her to Patsy. She was rather ashamed of her tantrum now, and
hoped it hadn’t put him off her. It was Joe Ferris who passed the remark as he jiggled his key in the frozen lock of the car door. ‘Olive’s getting a lot worse as she gets older.
She’s a right spoiled brat.’

Gracie gave a loud ‘Ssh!’ but her husband paid no heed to her warning. ‘It’s Hetty’s fault, though, for always giving in to . . . hah! That’s it, at
last.’ Opening the door, he slid into the driver’s seat to let his family in.

Olive closed her window and walked over to switch on the light. She didn’t care what Uncle Joe thought of her, but it wasn’t nice to be called a spoiled brat, and she should try to
curb her temper in future.

As Joe drove off, Patsy turned to her brother. ‘I know why Olive took the huff, and it wasn’t Raymond’s fault. She’d a new dress on and you didn’t tell her she
looked nice.’

Neil snorted. ‘She’ll have to wait a long time for that. She’s a blinking pain in the neck, always has been.’

Their mother looked round from the front seat. ‘Olive has a vindictive streak in her, Neil, so you’d better be careful how you treat her. Don’t say anything nasty to

‘I can’t help how I feel about her. She’s off her head.’

The Ferrises’ home in King Street was far removed from the luxury of Rubislaw Den, but it was the only place Joe had been able to find a suitable shop when the council condemned his
premises in the Gallowgate, and it was better than some of the other tenement-lined streets. A wide thoroughfare, it ran almost due north from the Castlegate to the bridge over the River Don. Their
first-floor flat, above a butcher and a few doors along from Joe’s grocery shop, had originally been meant to have a kitchen, parlour and two bedrooms, but Neil and Patsy were too old to
share, so their parents slept in the parlour and the only public room was the kitchen.

None of them had relished the idea of sharing the lavatory on the half-landing with the other first-floor family, but it wasn’t too bad, after all, and Mrs Mavor never missed her turn in
cleaning it. All six tenants used the outside wash house, which was awkward for Gracie after having one to herself for so long, but being able to put up her ropes on the four clothes poles on the
patch of grass in the backyard was better than having to zig-zag them across the wash house, as she’d had to do before, and her washing had a lovely fresh smell when she took it in.
Unfortunately, her turn came only once a week, so, in between, she had to rinse odds and ends in the kitchen sink and dry them on the pulley that let down from the ceiling. But the neighbours were
very friendly and stuck rigidly to the rules about outside cleaning, so that the entrance lobby, the passage out to the back green and coal cellars, even the stairs, were all kept spotless.

As usual when she went home after visiting Hetty, Gracie started talking about her sister’s lovely house. ‘It’s not that I’m jealous of her,’ she said, when Joe
pulled a face, ‘for I wouldn’t be happy living in the West End. I’m a down-the-towner, as Olive sneers about some folk. It’s what I was born and what I’ll be to the
day I die, and I’m not ashamed of it. We’re every bit as good as the toffs, and my family has never had to do without. You get three good meals a day, your clothes are washed and
ironed, I put your shoes into the shoemaker to be soled or heeled as soon as they need it. I defy any mother in Rubislaw Den to do any better.’

‘Nobody’s arguing with you,’ Joe exclaimed. ‘I don’t see what you’re getting so het up about if it’s not jealousy.’

‘It’s not! It’s just . . . oh!’ Gracie broke off, then said, a little sheepishly, ‘I suppose I
a bit jealous, but not the way you think. You work a lot
harder than Martin and you haven’t got half what he’s got.’

He patted her hand. ‘I’ve got everything I want, lass – a lot more than Martin. I’ve got a home I can relax in, not a showpiece, contented children and a better wife than
any man on this earth.’

BOOK: Cousins at War
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