Davie Miller (1927-2006)
Davie Miller died on Sunday 21st May 2006 – the following eulogy is reproduced with the kind permission of his family.
There are 3 Davids in our family. There’s me – young David, our father’s nephew David Smith – big David and there is our Dad, Old David.
Old David was born on the first of March 1927 at Sunnyside Cottage, Culvardie here in Nethy Bridge. His parents wanted to call him David Andrew Millar but as the initials spelled DAM they compromised and called him Andrew David Millar – but he was to be referred to and known as David.
His parents and sister Marjorie were actually living in Glasgow but had travelled to Nethy to ensure that he was bom in his granny’s home – Sunnyside Cottage. After his birth they returned to Glasgow and lived in Athelstane Road in Knightswood. It was here that he met Jimmy Cant who was to become a life-long friend.
Dad’s father Andrew was from the Kingdom in Fife and he was a Marine Engineer who, up until the birth of Marjorie, spent long spells at sea. Following the birth, he gave this up and took on a post with the Clyde Trust so that he could spend more time at home.
In 1938 Dad’s mother and father decided to move to Nethy to take on the tenancy of Dell Lodge and to run it as a Guest/Boarding House. Unfortunately within a few months our Dad’s father died and his mother was left to run Dell Lodge on her own. Dad had many happy childhood memories as the house was filled with many interesting characters with some returning year after year.
It was during this time that Dad first became interested in the outdoors and particularly in wild birds. As he would often relate, it was his mother’s brother, another David, but known as Davvie – Davvie Stubbert who taught him everything he knew about wildlife.
He certainly taught him well as Dad could identify every bird by its call as well as by sight. In the lead up to the Second World War children were evacuated from the cities and, amazingly. Jimmy Cant his friend from Glasgow came to live with Dad in Nethy where they were able to resume their friendship.
Dad left Nethy School when he was only 14. At his time, he was also one of the youngest members of the Home Guard. One night they were on patrol near Loch Garten. They had one gun between them which happened to be a machine-gun. This machine-gun was given to the person who knew most about guns – the best poacher in the area.
Suddenly, out of the woods a roe-deer ran across the road in front of them. Needless to say instincts overtook the poacher and the roe was quickly, though messily, dispatched. They all went home with a piece of venison.
By the time he was 16 Dad joined the Merchant Navy as a Cabin Boy working on supply ships plying routes around Iceland and The Faroe Islands. These ships were targets for enemy submarines and some ships in his convoys were sunk. Luckily his ship The Lochnagar survived.
He left the Merchant Navy in 1945 and joined the Medical Corps. This took him to Austria where, initially, he was on a train which travelled through the country picking up refugees, the wounded and the dead. This culminated in him spending almost 2 years working in a military hospital in Klagenfurt. He was very fond of Austria and after many years of threatening to return he took our mother Barbara there and enjoyed showing her round his old haunts.
On returning to Nethy he was surprised to find a young German called Paul Gerlach doing odd jobs around Dell Lodge. Paul was a prisoner of war who on capture had been sent to the prisoner of war camp in Nethy. Paul and our Dad were the same age 19 and they became life-long friends and Paul returned year after year to meet up with Dad and his sister. Marjorie.
When Dad met and married our mother Barbara, he was a steel-erector. He was working locally erecting electricity pylons. If anyone mentioned the Lecht he was always quick to tell us that this is where the highest pylon above sea level is built and he was part of the squad which included Sandy Fraser, Pop Tarvis and Shockie Smith from Dulnain that built it.
The work took him to England and that is why I was born in Halifax. When I was older and complained about this he reminded me that he had done me a favour as it meant I was eligible to play cricket for Yorkshire!
His squad were responsible for building the pylons that carried the electricity into Britain’s first Nuclear Plant at Windscale now known as Sellafleld.
When our mother’s father died in 1956 we all returned to Nethy where Dad took over the tenancy of the Mill of Garlyne. He didn’t really know much about farming and he had to try and learn quickly. He learned from our mother and from local farmers. In the early days Colin More worked alongside him. Through the years he was indebted to the support, help and guidance he received from Hamish Cameron.
Soon there were 4 more children. Jean, Shirley, Gordon and Ruth and it was hard to make a living solely from farming. So during the late 60’s he took the bold step of buying and then renting out Seeburg Juke-Boxes to local hotels and bars. He was good at this as he had good people skills and folk liked dealing with him and he gradually built up a good business. He was also installing sound systems in hotels. We remember dad and Hamish Cameron travelling up to Achiltilbuie to install one. He said it was great having big Hamish with him as he had the strength of 2 men and he didn’t have to bother about trying to fit a step-ladder in the car.
Dad was a good shot and as a family we literally lived off the land. We ate pheasants, rabbits, hares, deer, wild ducks and wood pigeons. He loved fishing and he, Hamish, Willie Grant, Davie Smith and others would drive and then walk miles to seek out new fishing grounds. So we were well used to eating brown trout, sea trout and very occasionally salmon. For some reason, however Dad always preferred tinned salmon – easier to catch I suppose. He enjoyed the grouse shooting season and he spent many happy years beating and loading on the moors of Dorback.
Dad was a very easy going person who found it difficult to say no to people. He was always ready with a kind word and smile. He hated any cruelty to animals, man’s inhumanity to man and litter. He was very fond of listening to music. When anyone visited they had to listen to whatever record he had just bought such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson or Brooke Benton. He developed an interest in jazz mainly because of our mother’s cousin, Bobby Gordon, who is a professional clarinet player. It is his music which is playing today. He and my mother were thrilled to see him playing at the Blackpool Jazz Festival in 2002 and at the Nairn Jazz Festival in 2004.
Central to Dad’s life was his family – his wife Barbara, his sister Marjory, his children his grand children, Cameron, Rory, Jack. Calvin, Ruby, Lucy, Euan and Catriona, his niece Marjorie and his nephews, David, Ali and Andrew, his daughter-in-law Elizabeth, and Evelyn, Christian, Hugh and Tanya. He and his sister Marjory were very close and they saw each other almost every day. He and my mother enjoyed a long, and very happy and loving marriage. They truly enjoyed each other’s company and in later years nothing pleased them better than taking off on a long drive together exploring the countryside and also entertaining the many friends who visited them.
My sisters, brother and I all have special memories of Dad. He fired off 2 shots from the shot gun every New Year at the Garlyne; we remember him being in great fits of laughter at comedy programmes on the television including Tom and Jerry. Some of his catch phrases were: ‘he’s a great bloke’ ‘watch out for ice at Huntly’s Cave – even in July’ ‘look at this great bargain I got at Matalan ‘he couldn’t box kippers’ ‘for crying out loud’ ‘hurry up or we’ll never get parked.’
Such is our mother’s way of coping with her grief that she cannot bring herself to be here today and she has remained at home. It will be a help to her in her grief that so many of his friends and family have come to pay their respects today. Thank you for being here with us. Dad bore his illness bravely until the end. He never complained about the pain and discomfort that he inevitably suffered.
The family would like to thank the medical services in particular the staff at Grantown Health Centre and at Raigmore for all their help. Special thanks should be given to District Nurses Shona McCulloch, Debbie Kinnaird and Brownie McCaIlum, Marie Curie staff, Christina, Arthur, Carol and Aileen Smith from Nethy. Mcmillan Nurse Diane Wheeler. Doctor Mathers and Doctor Carroll. They all tended and treated him with wonderful compassion and dignity. Dad’s only request for his funeral was that there should be no long faces. He said that he had had a long and happy life. Please celebrate that with us today.
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