Thinking back to my early youth I realise that I was
particularly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to see much of the Middle East
and to experience a life style that really no longer exists. It is this which has prompted
me to develop this homepage as perhaps some of the folk I used to know might appear and
say hello after all those years! <grin>.
I was born way back in 1951, January 31st, in Glasgow at Rottenrow Hospital. My folks decided that it would be better to
introduce me to the world in Glasgow instead of
Abadan, part of
Iran. So.. having done the deed I was
exported back to Abadan when I was six weeks old. I'd like to say I enjoyed my flight but
to be honest I really can't remember it <grin>.
My Mother and myself in Abadan when I was around 6 weeks old!
Mother in our house in Abadan
Mother December 1958
My Grandparents on my Fathers side showing my
Father as a young lad.
A picture of my Grandfather on my Mothers
side taken in the garden of our house at Croftend Avenue, Glasgow
A picture of my Grandmother on my Mothers
side taken with my mother centre, and her sister Linda on left and other sister Anne on
First picture is more family shots from around 1932
and second set is from my parents travels in Australia in 1949
Mum and Dad at M. S. O. Party in Ahmadi in Kuwait
Mum at home in Ahmadi
Dad and myself in Ahmadi
YOUNGEST REFUGEE OUT OF IRAN 1951
When I was 6 months old I had the dubious honour of being the youngest refugee when the
British were kicked out of Iran. You can read a bit about this on BP's homepage where they mention the trouble they had back in
1951. I even got my picture on the front of the Scottish Daily Express :-). This was in
the days of Anglo-Iranian Oil. I'm told that bullets were fired over my cot in the days
just before we left so guess I was rather lucky as I'm still here! :)
My Father and I think this was him in his office in the Anglo-Iranian Oil
Company in Abadan
My father was an accountant in those days and had been site accountant in Little Aden, now
part of Yeman. He used to tell stories
of his days there where they slept on the boat and then walked over a man made jetty of
barges to get to shore. Later they progressed to a kind of tented village and eventually
more solid accommodation came along. This was just after the war in 1946 but I've still
got some excellent colour movie film of some of his time there.
My parents, John & Sybil McIntyre in
retirement at Grangemouth.
My father, John McIntyre
My mother, Sybil McIntyre
After we were kicked out of Abadan we came back
to Scotland where my father got a job with Wimpey building the then BXL plant at BP's site
in Grangemouth. That was when we bought our house which is still in the family today.
I came across a photograph album in
a box I hadn't opened since my move from Scotland to Canada and so I have
scanned it in here!
After the contract was over we moved to Malta. At that
time my father was working for Wimpey on a NATO project and we lived in Valetta in a block
of flats overlooking the harbour. It was a tourists dream looking over the ancient harbour
but I best remember the cheese cakes!
By this time I was 5 so do remember some of my days there. I remember going to the Tigne
Army School and being met by the school bus with an Army sergeant in charge. I also
remember the Palm Beach Hotel where I can say that there wasn't another building in
sight.... later some friends brought back photos of the Hotel and it was surrounded by
buildings. I also remember the Maratta Club... great gardens, basket chairs and tables on
the lawn with white table cloths and people bringing out tea and drinks.
Mother almost had a heart
I was learning to swim and used a
air ring to keep me afloat. Problem was when I decided to jump into the
pool and then went right through the ring <gulp>. Lucklly as I kicked of the
bottom I came back up right where the ring was so was able to grab on.
My class photo at Tigne Army School,
Sounds great... just wish I'd been a bit older
so I could have enjoyed it more. We left Malta after 2 years there when I was 5.5 years of
age and my mother and myself went back to Scotland for 6 months while my father joined the
Kuwait Oil Company. After the obligatory 6 months were out we joined him out there.
Me in Cub uniform in Ahmadi
Member of the BOAC Junior Jet Club
I remember the VC-10 aircraft as it was the first
aircraft to have air conditioning while on the ground.
This was truly excellent when one was flying from Kuwait.
I'm the goalie playing for the Anglo-American
School team picked for an International match in Ahmadi, Kuwait in 1960
Mother and myself in Kuwait
My Father, and I think this was in our house in
My mother doing a jigsaw and another doing some
I guess this is a picture of my mother while I was
at boarding school and my father
A couple of interior pictures of our home in Kuwait
and a few pictures of Kuwait
This is a picture of a meeting my father attended in
Switzerland. I think it might have been in the late 1960's and it was a
worldwide meeting of BP personnel. My father is sitting at the end of the front
row in the left of this picture. Should anyone know what the meeting was about
I'd be happy to add in that information.
And a few more pictures from Switzerland
One of my Birthday Parties
I actually won a raffle prize
Heading out on our bikes
The local swimming pool
Sooty and Sweep
In Red Indian Costume
Archery in our back garden in Ahmadi
My mother and father on the porch at our house in
Ahmadi (1/9th Ave)
My Father was in the Masons and these were some of
his Masonic medals
I used to go to the Anglo-American school in
Ahmadi, Kuwait and had a decided American accent
in those days. Mind you my Aunt Anne and Uncle Paul were Americans so at least I could
speak their language :-).
Pictures of Aunt Anne and Uncle Paul
KOC was joint owned in those days by Gulf Oil and BP but field personnel were mostly
Americans and hence my accent. The days at that school were excellent and I just remember
having a great time. At 10.5 years of age I was bundled of to boarding school at Dollar
Academy in Scotland. Of course there were howls of protest... not about boarding school..
but most of my friends were going to school in Switzerland and I wanted to go there!
The schooling in Kuwait was
excellent and so were the facilities. We first stayed in a house in Kuwait
then them moved to what they called PMQ's (Permant Married Quarters) on 1/9th
avenue which was just in front of the Bachelor quarters.
I learned archery and played in
the football team and there were many clubs you could join.
I remember we had a great gas
fire while I was there and Red Adaire arrived to put it out. He used my fathers
mainframe to calculate at what angle to drill to cap the well. It was just like
the pillar of fire they mention in the Bible.
And speaking of the Bible we
attended the little church in Ahmadi where the Presbyterians and the church of
England served for a 2 year term in rotation. My father was very friendly with
the church of England minister Harvey Phillips whom we later stayed with in
Dartmouth in England where he had control of several churches in the area. I
mind I bought him a snuff box for his birthday.
BOARDING SCHOOL AT DOLLAR
I enjoyed my time at Dollar and I
used to return to Kuwait during the Spring and Winter breaks but my parents took their
annual leave during the Summer so they came over to Scotland then. We did have six months
in Paris which was fantastic. I particularly remember the street shows where they played
to the people in the buildings and we used to throw money down to them which they caught
in a sheet. I also remember they had loads of miniature golf courses... of course we also
saw all the usual tourist sites. I do well remember that at that time I liked tomato
ketchup with everything... we had gone to this restaurant to have a meal and I'd ordered
fish and wanted tomato ketchup... well the French not to be outdone made up a special
tomato sauce for me.. not ketchup to be sure but excellent. That got me started on other
sauces so you could say the French were responsible for improving my eating habits.
One of my visits to Kuwait coincided with another threatened invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. I well remember the paratroopers
coming out as I arrived back one day from school to find half a dozen of them greeting me
when I got home. That's when I learned to play cards and do a few card tricks!
<grin>. The paras got some time off to come into Ahmadi to get a rest from the
sun... and get the benefit of air conditioned accommodation.
The guys had a really rough time there as they landed in the desert during the summer when
it could be 130 F in the shade. Talk about frying an egg on the car bonnet is quite
correct.. I did it! One tale I remember was the then Scottish minister of the local church
was so horrified about their conditions that he spent all his money buying them soft
drinks, etc. He was due to return to Scotland as his term was up and it was only by chance
that it was discovered he had no money left. He was forced to take that days collection so
he at least had something for when he got home... but that was all he would accept.
KUWAIT AND PROHIBITION
In the early days of Kuwait alcohol was allowed but during our years there it was
prohibited. Of course, the folk that could brew their own were rather popular <g>.
Mind you there was so much bad alcohol brewed that KOC turned a blind eye and let the labs
do testing to ensure it was fit to drink. Very kind of them.. who says big industry
I first played golf when at Prestwick as the golf course was through the wall of
our back garden. I'd have been around 5 years of age at that time. I then
played in Kuwait where there was no grass and all sand. There was a kind
of stiff rubber mat that you tied of from. The fairway was just dessert
and the greens were finely oiled sand with a harder oil border around it.
When you finished putting out a green keeper would go around with a stiff brush
to wipe out your foot prints and ball tracks. We used to play with a red
golf ball as it was easier to see than a white one.
When I returned to Scotland I
mainly played at the golf course at Dollar where I went to school and then I
became a junior member of Glenbervie Golf Club which was just outside Falkirk on
the road to Bannockburn and also at Grangemouth Golf Club.. I got to a 6
My father was friends of David
Anderson who owned the Tom Morris Golf Shop at the 18th Green at St. Andrews. He
was a kind of agent for David and arranged for him to supply golf clubs to many
of the people in Kuwait. When my father retired from Kuwait David gave my father
a full set of Tom Morris golf clubs complete with golf bag. He then passed
them onto myself and I used them for a number of years and they are currently
sitting in my basement in Canada.
I stopped playing when I got my
own business as I simply never seemed to get the time to play. I did get a
chance to play at a new 9 hole course outside Bannockburn but on my first swing
I completely missed the ball which shows how bad I got from not playing.
BP BOARD DIRECTOR
I well remember one flight back to Kuwait when I was sitting beside this man on the
flight... he made out that he didn't know anything about the oil business so I was telling
him all about gathering centres, and pointing them out as we came into Kuwait airport.
Anyway he seemed quite happy to listen to me. Well some nights later we were off to the
little theatre they had there when this chap comes up to me and shakes my hand and saying
how nice it was to see me again. My father looked on in astonishment and asked how I knew
him... turns out he was one of the main board Directors at BP in London :-) Of course I
realised then that he'd just been very nice to a youngster on the plane. Funnily enough my
father always said that working for BP overseas was like working for a different company
when compared with working for them in the UK.
BEING SPOILED IN KUWAIT
Kuwait was an excellent place to live but to show you how you were spoiled rotten... the
local club.. Hubarra club.. had it's own swimming pool, indoor and outdoor picture houses,
billiard room, dance hall, restaurant, etc. Well I remember as a 9 year old.. remember by
liking for tomato ketchup.. well I'd just shout for a boy and order chips and tomato
ketchup. Thinking back that was really being spoiled!
OUR COOK PAUL
We had a cook called Paul.. actually that was his surname but that's what we called him.
Paul was excellent and had his own accommodation area at the back of the house. He taught
me to play football and showed me a few illegal tricks as well.. I even played in the
traditional Scotland England game on New Years Day... I was the goalie! We won of course..
Scotland always won in our games.. quite unlike those adults! We used to get marched onto
the field with bagpipes playing and the local Sheik was always there with his family.
Anyway.. Paul also got me riding a bike... I remember my father deciding he hadn't enough
puff so delegated that training to Paul. Actually one good thing was that my father taught
Paul to drive so he could take my mother around.. and as a result of that Paul got a job
as chauffeur to an Indian General when he want back to Cochin in India. Paul left Kuwait at the same time my
parents retired back in 1967. He said he really couldn't break in another family
Here is Paul looking at our wee Christmas Tree
Of course Paul was my pal so when the folks went out for an evening to the cinema and we
figured something good was on we'd wait until they left. We'd then run to the cinema... it
was convenient that there was a small hill outside the outside cinema so you could sit on
the hill and watch the film.. you could hear it as well although not too well. Of course
when it finished we had to race back to beat my parent returning... and of course they
were none the wiser! :-)
KUWAIT SOCIAL LIFE
Social life... well it was great! Think of a club and we had it.. yacht club, motor club,
fishing club, model aeroplane club, Go-Kart club, archery club.. and on it went. There was
never a shortage of things to do. I remember one day we got the chance to go out on one of
the sea going tugs which escorted the tankers in. The small motor launch we went out in
was almost sunk in heavy seas but we eventually made it to the tug. One of the most
gigantic Persians I've ever seen just grabbed my arm and hauled me over onto the tug. It
was like I was just a feather... he did the same to my father so we both made it onto the
tug. I have to admit that we didn't think we'd have ever got on from the launch without
that Persians help. Anyway we had a great time and I wasn't even the least bit sea sick.
Actually the only time in my life when I did feel sea sick was on a ferry across to
Denmark and it had stabilisers!
I also got the chance to visit
the Neutral Zone where the Japanese were drilling for oil. I well remember that
they had fresh milk which you didn't get in Kuwait at that time and what with
the meal and all that great tasting milk I can say I was stuffed! I was
then asked if I'd like steak and eggs and went a bit green at the thought.
KUWAIT, THE HEAT
Oil of course was important and in Kuwait there was so much gas that they burned it off
and so it was free. It seems daft but during the winter we really did need a gas fire in
the house as it was real cold. The change in temperature was such that 130 degrees during
the day could drop to 60 degrees at night and so it felt really cold. Of course if you'd
just arrived from Scotland you felt like you were walking into an oven when the aircraft
MY INTRODUCTION TO COMPUTERS
My father was in charge of the computer dept at KOC and so my introduction to computers
came early with big ICL mainframes.
My first computer with my father standing
back right :-)
I remember that the room was huge... had to be air
conditioned and had copper grids screening the windows. To think how things have
progressed since is quite amazing. I remember my father talking about 4k of memory on his
mainframe when he got an Amstrad PCW computer with 256k of memory as a present!
My father decided on ICL rather
than IBM and had to justify his decision to the London board of BP. He
said with ICL he would have two engineers in situ in case of problems whereas
with IBM they only provided one engineer for the whole of the Middle East.
The managing director of Gulf oil asked my father one day why he had an
engineer reading a book and not doing any work. My father said he was very happy
with that situation as if he wasn't there that meant the mainframe was down.
Of course by being at boarding school and resident in Kuwait I never saw television, apart
from an odd program or two, until I was around 17. This meant I came from a generation
that learned to read, listen to music and attended parties instead of sitting at the
goggle box. In Kuwait there were always parties on and of course as most people had a stay
in cook it was rather easy to organise. Great times were had by all! The BBC overseas service was a must to catch up on what was
happening... of course sometimes the reception wasn't that good which was highly
READING AND BOOKS
I've always enjoyed reading and while I read just about anything at all Science Fiction
has always been a favourite of mine. Am very keen on Anne McAffrey and particularly
enjoyed her Pern series (there is an alt.fan.pern newsgroup). I reckon to buy around 5
books a month and also subscribe to the Readers Digest Condensed Books. I think we've got
every one since they started the series... my parents first took them and when they died I
continued the subscription. In fact on their 100th issue they repeated one of the stories
from the 1st book and I was one of the ones that complained about a repeat! <grin>.
Today I also enjoy books from
Modessit and also Nathan Lowell.
Dollar - Welcome to Our World
Dollar Academy gave me a great education... I really enjoyed the school and all the
facilities they offered. Being a boarder was actually quite easy... I was in Dewar House
with a Mr Oliver as our house master (although I now understand it's now a girls boarding
house). An excellent house and I have to say that I don't believe there was any bullying
or such in all my time there. I'd certainly recommend the school to anyone thinking of
placing their kids at a boarding school. The other good thing about Dollar was that it is
in the country.. so as boarders we got the chance each Sunday in the summer to go off on
picnic teas. The house provided us with appropriate food and off we would go. There used
to be an excellent river running through Glen Devon and it had two excellent sizes pools
where swimming was excellent. I remember taking a friend back there in later years to show
her where we used to go and was horrified to see a reservoir had been built on the spot
I was quite an athlete at Dollar... I well remember that a
friend of mine, Ron Johnston, and myself would go in for the annual cross country race. We
always finished last equal <g>. Mind you I don't know who made up the list but
whoever it was did a very fair job in that in the first race I had my name at the top
bracketed last equal and the next year Ron got his name above mine :-)
I was also in the Scouts and then
in the RAF Cadets where I became a Sergeant and also obtained a marksman badge
for 303 rifle shooting. I also did the Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award which
included a number of activities such as 2 nights camping, taking up a sport and
I chose Judo, doing charity work - I helped to distribute coal to needy people
in the town. I also earned my Amateur Radio Operators certificate. And I got a
hole in 1 on the Golf Course and won a bottle of Dewar's whisky which was
promptly confiscated by my boarding house master although I was allowed to take
it with me at the end of the term. I also became confirmed in the Church of
Mind you on reflection I wasn't
that happy with the boarding house master as he was the head of mathematics but
that was a subject I was having real problems with and he never offered to help.
I did get 100% on my arithmetic O level. In these days we had O and A
level exams which is a lot different to what they have today. I got 6 O's and
three A's at my final exams which was actually enough to go the University but I
decided not to go there. I left at the end of Grade 5 so didn't do the final 6th
Welcome to Dollar Academy
One of Scotland’s largest and best performing schools, Dollar Academy prides
itself in providing an education that meets the highest standards. This is a day
and boarding school for boys and girls aged five to eighteen.
A camping holiday to Sweden. My first car a Fiat 600
and the tent with my friend Bob Brearly who I haven't been in touch with for
some 40 years.
MY EARLY CAREER
Well when I left school I joined WP & JA Scott, (now Scott Oswald & Co.)
chartered accountants training to become an accountant. I had the grand salary
pounds per year! When I left three years later I was on 480.00 pounds per year! I joined
British Home Stores in Coventry as a Trainee Manager and had a fantastic social life.
Can't say I enjoyed the work much but the social life was excellent... loads of parties..
I remember I stayed for a time in the top flat of a multi-storey building and coming back
home at night got into the lift with a policeman.. who told me he had complaints about a
wild party on the 12th floor.. what floor are you going to... Err.. 11th will do nicely!
On reflection I will say that the
training given by BHS was terrible and so I decided on trying another form of
I should say I had applied to
Marks & Spencer but going down to London for the interview I arrived on time but
it took them 3 hours to see me. In fact as they hadn't offered any
explanation as to why they were running three hours late I'd just stood up to
leave when they came in for me. They asked me where I was going so I just
said to the toilet but to be frank I was fuming so I probably flunked the
interview as I was very short with them when answering their questions. I've
always regretted not telling them I was leaving due to their rudeness.
After my year with British Home Stores I joined Gallaher Ltd the tobacco manufacturers as
a salesman. Now this was an excellent job in that I had been earning around 1350 pounds
per year but this new job gave me 1450 pounds plus company car and free cigarettes! WOW! I
was in the realms of luxury! <grin>. Actually I really enjoyed this job and spent
lots of time down in Devon & Cornwall, all over Wales, North, South and West... and
have to say that the Welsh are excellent people. Especially in the West and South... great
people. Some of my best times were spent down there. I really worked all over England from
the Midlands down. I was still living in Coventry at the time and so when
working in Devon and Cornwall it was a 7 hour drive and so I had to leave on the
Sunday so I could be ready to work on the Monday.
I broke quite a few sales records
in my time with Gallaher and International Tobacco Sales and would have been
happy to stay with them but was told it would take at least 5 years to get
promoted to Area Sales Manager so decided to seek faster progress elsewhere.
Anyway.. as I wasn't getting promoted fast enough I decided to turn my hand at selling
insurance... well after getting people to buy cigarettes I figured it was now time to get
them some life cover! :) I joined Hill Samuel Unit Life Services as a self employed agent
based in Birmingham and after around 15 months left to join Legal & General as they also allowed you to
sell general insurance as well as life, pensions, etc. I can't say I was overally successful but the Legal & General agency was just starting to bear
fruit when personal situation made me change my focus.
MOVING ON TO CARNATION FOODS AND RETURN
I was just starting to get established when my father had a heart attack and when I went
back up to be with my folks in Scotland I also discovered my mother was losing her
eyesight. So.. I figured I should move home to help out... and not being able to transfer
with Legal & General I sought another job and got the District Sales Managers job with
Carnation Foods looking after the 6 man sales team in Scotland.
This is myself preparing a sales meeting in
our garden in Grangemouth.
Mind you it was a bit of a shock
as I was taking over from the old District Manager, George Black, who had been
with Carnation for over 25 years and he was now one of my sales team. Then there
was Danny McIntyre and Walter Beattie who were also over 25 year veterans.
So I was definitely the young one in this team. Mind you I think I got on
well with them all. Walter Beattie had been writing a book about the
railways and he let me read a bit and it was awesome! I hope he got it
published. Danny was a great gardener and won many prizes in the local
Had a great time with Carnation and this is where I got my
first introduction to computers.
The Sales Director of Carnation
was a chap called Ron Brown. There was a meeting in Glasgow to explain the
new Bar Code system that was then taking America by storm and he wanted to
attend but as he couldn't he told me to attend and send him a report.
That meeting really turned things
around for me as it was clear that computers would really take over and would
likely make a huge difference to sales organisations in particular.
My aunt in the US died and left
me $20,000 in her will. I used most of that to purchase an Apricot
computer with 256k of RAM, a 10Mb hard disk and a 720k 3.5" floppy drive. I also
purchased an 18 pin colour dot matrix printer and some good business software.
I was soon producing some great reports for my customers and also for the
company complete with colour graphs.
It was during this time that my father retired for the
second time as Data Processing Superintendent at BP in Grangemouth.
This was my fathers retirement picture that
went into the local paper.
EX-GOLF CLUB CAPTAIN DIES My father died September 1986 and got this write
up in the local paper:-
ONE of the prime movers behind the establishment
of Grangemouth golf course at Polmonthill has died.
Mr John McIntyre, 141 Bo’ness Road, Grange
was 77. He died suddenly at his home on
A founder member of the steering committee
formed to put the
case for an 18-hole municipal course to be built in the area, Mr McIntyre went on to
be thefirst treasurer of the club when it opened in 1973. Four years later, at the age of 68,
he was made club captain.
the early part of his career working for
major chemical corporations, Mr McIntyre
latterly worked for BP Chemicals in Grangemouth as superintendent in the data
Grangemouth club professional Mr John Black said:
"John was a lovely person who worked long and hard to get this golf club
"He was always a man you could respect and trust. Grangemouth Golf Club members
have a lot to be grateful to John McIntyre for."
captain, Mr Norrie Wardlaw, said:. "John was one of the men who stayed in
the background but always carried out his duties in a responsible and efficient
fashion. His death is a sad loss to
"He will be greatly missed. I for one am very grateful
for all his efforts. He was a fine
Mr McIntyre’s funeral was to Falkirk Crematorium
on Tuesday. As a mark of respect the golf club lowered its flag to half-mast on
Mr McIntyre, whose wife Sybil died last year, is
survived by a son. AIastair.
John McIntyre died on July 13th 1986
at Grangemouth, his death certificate stating that he was born on July 7th 1909.
Isabella Fowler Brown was born on
October 21st 1911, registered at Yoker. She died on August 24th 1985 at
Grangemouth. (I always thought my Mother's name was Isobel although she actually
hated that name and everyone knew her as Sybil).
I was with Carnation for some 7 years and then the company was taken over by Nestle and we
were all made redundant. It was at that time I decided to start my own computer business
as I'd been working with computers for some three years and reckoned I could be a better
dealer than most of the ones I'd visited. So.. off I went and started up my business...
START OF MY OWN BUSINESS
At first I did some training.. then got an introduction to BP through an association I had
with another computer company. That company went down the tubes but as I at least had done
a good job in BP a guy there by the name of Bill Stevenson decided to take a chance and
gave me an order for some software. Since that order I established my own company Almac
Computer Services Ltd. in 1988 and things just continued to grow. I was doing mostly small
jobs for them but they then asked if I could supply PC's and when I said I didn't actually
have enough money to buy them for resale they helped me out with the first few orders
paying on delivery. That was a great help and this allowed me to establish credit terms
and never looked back since... so thanks BP!
This is a picture of, from left, Craig Dunn, Vickie Mather and myself when we
were working as a computer dealership. Vickie was the Office Manager and Craig
Dunn did a lot of the support work and helped with the BBS.
I might add that I created Almac Computer Services
Ltd to run my new computer dealership and the BBS operation. Major changes
were made over a number of years. Like we used to sell a lot of Amstrad
computers to BP Chemicals but we went one better by selling an Almac customised
version. The standard Amstrad has a basic 8088 processor, 20 Mb hard disk and a
5.25" 360k floppy drive. We would purchase a single floppy disk model then
we'd ditch the standard processor and replace it with a V30 one which greatly
increased the speed. We'd then add a maths co-processor which also greatly
increased the speed. We'd then use the empty hard disk bay to add a 3.5" 720k
floppy drive and in the expansion slots we'd add a 32 Mb hard card.
We also produced our own Almac PC where we could
upgrade them by swopping out motherboards for a more powerful model and do other
upgrades. This then saved our customers a lot of money when they wanted to
upgrade their computers.
Due to my accounting background I was able to sell
complete computer accounting system and at the time used both Sage and Pegasus
accounting software. I remember working with a Shipping Group when
they phoned to ask if I could help get the Sage accounting system working for
them. When I turned up their accountant was tied up in a meeting so I just
logged in and got to work. When he eventually turned up he was impressed
at how much I'd already done but then asked "But how did you get in as it's
password protected?" Well just like today most people just use the default
password and never bother to change it so as I already knew the default password
(letmein) and as they hadn't changed it I was able to login <grin>
We would go well beyond the normal service levels so
in those days with the old MSDOS operating system we would build a customised
menu system which automated running various programs and doing backups of their
software. We'd also always give them a few hours of basic instruction about
using their new computer and software and how important it was to back
What changed of course was that PC's became normal
purchases and so we were unable to make a decent profit from selling them and
people would use our expertise and advice and then go off and buy one from the
local superstore. BP then put into place a global purchasing policy so as we
were a local company we could no longer sell our PC's to them. People life
Microsoft then went to corporate purchasing schemes and so with one thing and
another the writing was on the wall and that was when I expanded into the BBS
This was also the time I met Ranald McIntyre as he'd
retired from his insurance business and popped into see us one day and kind of
adopted us. He was the one that came in with a hot sausage roll in a
buttered roll and it became a favourite snack with us. Ranald had a Volvo
estate at the time and so he also helped to deliver computers to BP for us when
we were a bit swamped. He also became an instant hit with all the staff
and my next door neighbours as he would tell some great stories which we all
Since then of course there have been many changes
amongst which I started up a Bulletin Board Service (Almac BBS) with my then fellow
Director John Wilson. We really started it with the view to helping our remote clients.
They could upload a program they were having problems with and we could then fix it and
put it back for them to download. It saved hours in travelling time!
While we were browsing around in this new on-line community
we noted a large public BBS in Scotland was looking for someone to run it for 6 months
while the SysOp was off abroad on an assignment. We decided why not as it would increase
our knowledge and give us experience of a public system. So, in short the chap arrived
with some 300 floppy disks... his BBS! Well after a rather long time we got it all
installed on our network and off we went. The service grew to be the largest of its type
in Europe but of course the Internet made a rather big impact on it especially when the
Web came into being :-)
Pictures from my Almac BBS Server room which was in
the garage of my house.
Thanks to Ranald McIntyre for sending me these pictures.
We became members of various
email message networks such as RIME, ILink, Fido, etc. and so were reckoned to
be the 4th largest BBS in the world and the largest outside North America. This
meant we were the main mail hub for the mail networks and so worked with many other BBS's throughout Europe, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, and Africa.
Two of the people that made a
huge difference were Gordon Sibbald who we employed and Brian Bullen from
Stirling University who was head of their IT department and was an expert on
UNIX. Brian in particular was an example of what an IT professional should be
and to this day I still rate him as the No.1 person in the IT industry for both
knowledge and professional conduct.
My fellow director was John
Wilson who had actually sold me my first computer and who I persuaded to join me
to look after our BP service contract.
In these days most people used a
program like RoboCom which would automate the transfer of data between my
service and their own computer. So on your first visit using this software
it would automatically dial up at whatever time you wanted, log you in, then it
would capture a list of all the conferences (forums) and also the file list.
It would then log you off and then when you had the time to check out what had
been downloaded you could select what conferences you would like to read, mark
any files you'd like to download and then on the next run it would automatically
download the messages from the conferences you selected, download the files
you'd selected and then update the file list with any new files added since you
last logged in. This all meant that most of the work you did was offline
meaning you only went online to transfer the data.
Problem was when using the web
you needed to be online all the time to use it. That meant a quarterly phone
bill of £30 went to more like £300 and as my BBS members were not in local call
distance to use the web was very expensive. That meant they were leaving
in droves to find local call access. Despite promises from Scottish
Telecom we were not even in local call distance to Edinburgh or Glasgow. That
meant the writing was on the wall and so the BBS closed down and I ended up
selling the membership to them for £50,000 but it was the end of a very happy
and profitable time.
Of course now that the BBS was
down and my computer business was really not that profitable anymore due to
changes in working practices. Like I put two people into the large BP
Chemicals plant to do on site support. Both the people I put in could do pretty
well anything from fixing hardware and software issues, writing programs, making
up a computer cable and so much more. However BP then decided that all
such support people had to go through a new Management company before being
allowed to work in their plants and so yet again we lost a lucrative contract.
The two people I had put in I allowed to join that new company so they were at
least still well employed.
And so it was yet again time
to move on but this time I decided to just do something that I could work on on
my own. Having had up to 14 staff to look after this became a big change
in my life.
I thus just ceased to trade
although I will say I did a valiant attempt to turn the business around but
failed and so the business closed with some debts which I was unable to pay and
of course I also had to sell my house to repay my personal loans which were
So yes I did have to deal with
all the stresses of a company going into liquidation. It is interesting to note
that the only creditor that took me to court was my accountant. It's also
interesting that the reason I hung on so long was the promise I had from
Scottish Telecom to offer me local call access to most of the UK. I kept
going and was why I took out a personal loan to try and hang on but obviously
they didn't keep their promise and as noted above they ended buying my company
I will note that as far as the UK
went I was the first to offer public access to the Internet newsgroups for
people without unix access which was mostly people in the University, Government
and Defence sectors. I was also the first to offer web access to the general
public through my BBS service. I also got the Glasgow Herald onto the web
through a Lynx text based web service so they were the first newspaper in
Scotland to offer web access.
As at the year 2005 the Electric Scotland web site gets over
1.2 million visitors sessions per month with 94% of our visitors coming from outside the UK and
mostly from the US and Canada. Our public message WebBoard has now been
responsible for three marriages and there are lots of general friendships being
Due to social networking web
sites have also changed so at 2015 we now get some 1.65 million unique visitors
per year which is still a great reach into the Scots Diaspora. At this
time visitor traffic has changed a lot with 40% of our visitors coming from the
USA and 31% from the UK. The UK figure has been a major transformation and
can only conclude that Scottish Independence has made local Scots more
interested in their history.
We got a mention in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Newsletter, No.
14.1, Sept 2002, page 8. It reads as follows:
Electric Scotland now hold around 20,000 web pages on historical matters
pertaining to Scotland, Scots and people of Scots descent and is the largest
Scottish history site on the web. It has now also become the online home of the
Odom Library in Georgia and its Family Tree newspaper which is the largest
genealogy publication in the world and the largest Scottish publication outside
ELECTRIC SCOTLAND USA
As most of my business is now coming from outside Scotland I decided to create a
USA company and this was formed in January 2004.
I am actually very proud of the
way I've been able to develop the site and in fact over the years has
provided hundreds of millions in new tourism revenue for Scotland. Despite
that no Scottish company currently supports the site by advertising or content.
I'll demonstrate how I feel Scots
are a pale comparison to what they used to be. In history we went all over the
world and made a huge difference but it just seems to me the best of Scots have
left Scotland and left the also rans behind.
In 1998 I went to the USA to give
a talk to the Scottish Weekend being held in Moultrie, Georgia. They paid for me
to come over and paid my expenses and organised my accommodation. What I didn't
know was that the following weekend they'd organised for me to be the official
guest of the Jacksonville Highland Games in Florida where I had a write up in
their program brochure.
I was put up by the Games
chairman and in conversations it was clear he was a multi-millionaire and he
asked if I might include in my weekly newsletters some information about
Scottish companies. I was happy to do my best to oblige and when I got
back to Scotland I wrote to some 200 Scottish companies that were either already
exporting or clearly could export as they either had products or services that
would be in demand.
Imagine my horror when not one
replied to my letter and despite making many phone calls none would provide any
information. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. It was a free service I was offering and
with my already good reach into the Scots Diaspora it was a great opportunity
for them. So strike 1 against the Scots.
I then had dinner with the then
Governor and his wife in West Virginia where his wife was really interested to
see how the schools in West Virginia might work online with schools in Scotland.
She said if I could get interest in doing some projects in Scotland she's make sure her
schools would get involved. So again back to Scotland and after some 70 phone
calls to the Scottish Government, education departments and different individual
schools they expressed no interest at all. I mean out of this tourism and
business could have benefited as well as being a great way to promote online
education and global reach to our children. So strike 2 against the Scots.
Since then I have never managed
to persuade individual Scots, or Scottish companies or Scottish organisations or
our Scottish government to do anything. If I email any Scots it's rare that my
email is acknowledged.
I also gave a free banner advert
in the header of my site to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise but all I got
in return was a letter demanding I take it down. <sheesh>
I also offered to demonstrate how
I could improve the employment situation in the worst unemployment area of the
Highlands & Islands. I said I would give a free year to the project but I
did require office space and Internet access. I got a reply saying as I
didn't live in the Highland & Island they were not interested. <sheesh>
I spent a year with Falkirk
Council trying to get them to create a web site to promote the whole area to the
world. I walked the streets talking to shop keepers, local businesses,
local people, local newspaper and radio station. Nothing came of that.
I also worked with a marketing
company for almost nothing. Well I did charge £500 a year for my services.
The idea was to promote the local Oil and Chemical areas in Grangemouth as the
perfect place to locate a new Chemical Plant. The actual marketing
consultant had visited all the International companies and found when it came to
Europe most located their plants in Rotterdan in the Netherlands. He told them
of how Grangemouth had a direct pipleline coming in from the North Sea and how
we had brown field sites available, etc. He found that none of them had
considered Grangemouth as a location. However, a number said they would
consider Grangemouth now they knew more about the opportunities.
We built a web site for the
project under chemecosse.com and it became a great resource for information.
Like I gave a special presentation to all the contracters at BP at their theatre
in BP Refinary. It was packed and out of it all of them completed forms to
tell us about themselves. We had details on local contacts and company contacts
as some of them were International companies in their own right. We put up
surveys done with local people on how they would be happy to see more plants
coming to the area and highlighted the skill sets that were available. We also
published emission levels and other information that potential companies needed
At the end of the day we got
inquiries in from various companies and banks in America and around the world.
We also developed a news section where the local companies could send us in news
of their work and new contracts which demonstrated the quality of the companies
available to build a new plant.
So after the 2 year contract was
completed it was decided that Forth Valley Enterprise would take this over. I
provided them with the information needed to take this over and told them they
had six months left on the domain name to renew it. I didn't hear anything back
from them until the domain expired and then they contacted me to ask if I still
had a copy of the site as they had lost the backup I'd provided. So I
think this demonstrated the quality of the people employed by our Scottish
Enterprise Department. I think this was the final strike that convinced me
to move out of Scotland.
I told the Bank of Scotland how
they could use the web to make billions more for the bank by actively providing
web promotion to not only their own business customers but to all businesses in
Scotland. Initial reaction was great but then the Director I had been dealing
with wouldn't even return my calls. I said if he doesn't want to do
anything then perhaps he'd just tell me that and I'd stop calling but still no
contact was made.
I tried through Wendy Alexander
the then MP for Enterprise in Scotland to try to bring Scotland together to use
the web to promote Scotland. As a result Scottish Enterprise setup a meeting
with their own department web people and the then top 10 commercial web sites in
Scotland including my own. It also included the newspaper sites.
Essentially nothing could be agreed but we had a second meeting at Stirling
University but nothing came from that either.
I had previously stated at a
meeting with Scottish MP's that Scotland needed to work together to make the
billions in new revenue that could come from that. Instead they ended up
supporting individual web sites through grants. That has clearly been a failure.
It's like there are some 300
Highland Games in North America but tourism and business Scotland are simply not
represented at them. They can range from 10,000 to 150,000 or more in
Like the Family Tree Newspaper in
the USA went out of business and there was a great opportunity to purchase it
and continue it through Scottish tourism or business. The Editor for the past 15
years was willing to continue it but despite it reaching millions in North
America they showed no interest.
I also had a vision on how we
could bring Scotland together online in a giant database of information where
we'd split Scotland in to 1,000 areas. Each area would then build a giant
database of information which would have as a basis a yellow pages and phone
directory. To that we'd have added the ability for every family and business to
provide much more information about themselves with pictures and videos being
available. Bus and Train timetables would be included and each area would have
it's own weekly or even daily news. People from around the world would be able
to navigate around Scotland and even pick there own virtual home in Scotland and
get involved with the local community. I had all the people available that
could make this happen being led by the Professor who first created the
multi-user online game MUD at Leicester University.
I've also tried to take a real
community and turn it into a virtual one as well. I tried to do this with
Lossiemouth and also Gairloch & Loch Maree but
the local people wouldn't get behind it and so it failed. I still believe there
can be enormous benefits from mirroring a real community into a virtual one due
to is being a real live community. Facebook etc. are all virtual ones but in
my view we should make a real community a virtual one then you'd actually get to
meet real people in person.
And then the tourism industry in
my view are the very worst as they simply have no idea how to use the online
world properly and they are mostly very lazy people when it comes to promoting
their businesses. The major hotels groups to smaller B & B's are all
equally pathetic. Marketing people in the so called Marketing and PR industries
should be simply done way with as they are all mentally challenged and always
look for the easy solution... heaven forbid you suggest something that involves
them in more than an hours work as they'll do everything they possibly can not
do have anything to do with it. And by the way that came from a
Billionaire I was talking to a couple of years back.
I also still believe that all
countries in the world do a very bad job of promoting their countries as so
often they just seem to assume everyone knows the country whereas often they do
And so all of this decided me
that Scotland was no longer the place for me but what might the future hold?
SETTLING IN CANADA
During 2003/2004 I traveled around the USA and Canada spending time in Kentucky
and Georgia in the USA and then for 6 months up to Canada visiting Prince Edward
Island (PEI), British Columbia (BC), Ontario (ON) and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia
(NS). It was at the end of my six months in Canada that I decided it would be
great to settle in Canada and so after returning to Scotland for a couple of
months I obtained a work permit to get back to Canada and thus arrived back in
October 2004. In June 2005 I applied for Permanent Landed Status and received
that some 13 months later. I applied in November 2008 for Canadian
Citizenship although that will be a Dual Citizenship as I'm allowed to retain my
I might add that I've visited
several places in the USA, New York, Florida, Georgia, California, West
Virginia, Kentucky, Salt Lake City, St Louis, North and South Carolina, San
Diego, Michean, etc.
I might just add that all the time I was in the
USA and Canada I stayed with friends of the web site who very kindly put me up
and fed me during the many months I was traveling. Towards the foot of this page
you'll see links to my Travel Journal and my Canadian Experience and this latter
one is an account of the progress towards settling in Canada and all the things
I'm learning as I get to grips with life here in Canada.
In 2005 I was appointed to the board of the
Scottish Studies Society in Toronto and at the same time arranged to leave my
Electric Scotland company to the Scottish Studies Foundation in Toronto so that
all the historical content can be preserved for future generations. It's
also been agreed to mirror the web site onto the MacLaughlin Library computers
at the University of Guelph as I sure don't want to lose any of the 100,000+
pages I have on the site and the thousands of pictures.
As at 2010 I decided to leave my company to the
Scottish Studies Dept. of Simon Fraser University as Guelph has now raised the
$1m required to establish a permanent chair of Scottish Studies so feel they no
longer need my help. I thus decided to leave it to Simon Fraser instead as
they still need to raise money there to establish a permanent chair.
As an update on this Simon Fraser has decided taking on the site does not fit
their mandate and so am now looking for a new home for the sites.
At this time the British Library have agreed to archive and index all my sites
and by 2021 they hope to have them all locally indexed so they can be searched.
Here is me after my trip to the US at Christmas '97 in
I'm on the left with Donna, Buck & The Innkeeper.
and this is me with my caffeine free Sprite which turned out to be almost neat gin hence my
and from left to right is me, Buck and The Innkeeper with Amanda in the front
Donna & Buck)
And here is me at New Year 2000 at Kinloch
Rannoch. There were a couple from Australia and the chap lent me his hat for the
And here is me in my messy office in 2001
And here is me in my new home office in 2002
Became an FSA Scot in 2002
Myself and Ranald McIntyre, Christmas 2002
Beth Gay and myself at the Scottish Weekend in
Moultrie, Georgia (2003)
Receive Honorary Membership of Clan MacIntyre
at the Scottish Weekend at Moultrie, Georgia 2003.
I was told this is only the second honorary membership they've awarded.
Sold my house July 2003 which has been in the family
for 50 years
And this is where it was situated
Celebrating a late 53rd Birthday at Moultrie,
Georgia. That's me on the right.
This is me in Kimberley, British Columbia, Canada
in 2004 modeling some new merchandise :-)
Became a Member of the Knights Templar on 1st
And here I am with my mantel, insignia and kilt
And here is me at the 2006 Investiture
Got elected as Vice President of the Scottish
Studies Society in Toronto during March 2006 and also elected to the board of
the Scottish Studies Foundation.
On 8th June 2006 was informed that my application
for Permanent Landed Status in Canada was complete and I was to send them my passport to
get the visa stamped into it.
In September 2007 got promoted to Knight Commander
of the Knights Templar (KCTJ).
In May 2009 became President of the Scottish Studies
Society which I held for one year.
On 28th October 2009 I was made a Canadian Citizen.
In September 2011 got promoted to Grand Officier of
the Temple of Jerusalem (GOTJ).
Grand Officier of the Temple of Jerusalem star burst
Grand Officier of the Temple of Jerusalem
On this date also started the Electric Canadian web
http://www.electriccanadian.com. The reason I started it is that I read an
article in the Globe and Mail newspaper where it said that Canadian Children
know little or nothing of their own countries history.
In September 2015 I at last arranged a new web
server to be hosted by Simon Fraser University and the windows server is now up
and running. I am now waiting for Steve to setup the web server on it and
transfer the data from the USA to SFU in Canada. I hope that the new server will
be up and running by the end of the first quarter in 2016. And at that time SFU will manage
everything from then on meaning my time with Steve will have lasted some 25
I might add that when I first met Steve May in the
USA he was always a most excellent person and did an outstanding job of looking
after the site and my servers. However around 6 years ago his wife divorced him
and this had the effect of making him a pale comparison of what he had been.
In this later period it could take months for him to do something that would
only have taken minutes to complete. He always promised to do something but
again months would go by before he eventually got around to it. A most
unsatisfactory situation and so am now happy to be leaving him behind but sorry
for him that his divorce so affected him to this extent.
I would however state that it was down to him that I
survived during the dot com burst. He essentially was able to extend me a good
credit line in a time when I'd run out of money as I was using his companies
servers to host my sites. I did repay him later.
David isn't doing too well these days and in reply
to an email I sent him he replied with...
MANY THANKS ALASTAIR, FOR THAT GRACIOUS REPLY WITH
THE FASCINATING NEWS OF DEVELOPMENTS.
THROUGH ELECTRIC SCOTLAND YOU HAVE MADE AN ENORMOUS
IMPACT FOR SCOTLAND IN NORTH AMERICA AND BEYOND. WELL DONE !
I KNOW SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY FROM PARTICIPATING IN
A SEMINAR THEY RAN IN THE WEE ISLANDS NORTH OF NEWFOUNDLAND ABOUT TEN OR
MORE YEARS AGO.
THEY WOULD BE AN EXCELLENT BODY TO CARRY ON YOUR WORK
WITH ELECTRIC SCOTLAND AND KEEP ITS MANY PUBLICATIONS AVAILABLE.
YOU ARE CORRECT ABOUT THE LIMITED ECONOMIC PROSPECTS
FOR AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND, BUT THEN THE HUGE DROP IN OIL PRICES IS
HITTING ALL PETROLEUM PRODUCERS - - PLUS THE IMPACT OF AMERICAN SHALE
OIL WHICH IS UPSETTING THE WHOLE GLOBAL MARKET.
ONCE SIMON FRASER UNI ASSUME MANAGEMENT OF THE
ELECTRIC SCOTLAND SITE, I'D LIKE TO CORRESPOND WITH THEM
ON "REFLECTIONS" AND THE OTHER DRAFTS YOU POSTED WHICH CONTAINED MY
ACCOUNT OF FISHING HISTORY AND THE LORE OF THE FISHER SECTOR.
WE ARE LIVING THROUGH A PERIOD OF CHANGE IN POLITICS
AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT - INCLUDING FISHERIES. OUR SUPPORTIVE
ORGANISATION - FAL - FISHERIES ASSOCIATION LTD. HAS JUST CLOSED DOWN.
ITS LEADER, RODDY MCCOLL HAS DONE HIS BEST FOR YEARS, BUT THE FAL
MEMBERS WERE ALL GETTING OLD LIKE ME AND VERY FEW REMAINED ACTIVE.
NOW - MOST IMPORTANTLY ALASTAIR, WE OWE YOU A HUGE
VOTE OF THANKS FOR YOUR UNTIRING SUPPORT.
BUT LIKE FAL AND SDA AND YOUR SCOTTISH CONTACTS, YOU
LABOURED ON FOR YEARS WITH PRECIOUS LITTLE SUPPORT.
I THINK THAT LACK OF SUPPORT FROM SCOTLAND MUST BE
THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT. IT IS A SERIOUS FLAW IN OUR PEOPLE THAT WE
FAIL TO RECOGNISE OUR REAL FRIENDS OR TO APPRECIATE GENUINE
OPPORTUNITIES BEYOND OUR SHORES. LAST YEAR ONE OF THE FINEST SCOTTISH
SHIP DESIGNERS WHO WAS AWARDED A PhD BY GLASGOW CALEDONIAN UNIVERSITY; -
TRIED TO GET THE SNP INTERESTED IN THE ENORMOUS MARKET IN THE FAR EAST
FOR BOATS AND SHIPS AND MARINE CONSTRUCTION.
NONE OF OUR LEADING LIGHTS IN HOLYROOD WOULD GIVE HIM
SO IT SEEMS WE ARE OUR OWN WORST ENEMIES! BUT YOU SAW
PLENTY OF THAT ATTITUDE, SADLY.
GOD BLESS YOU ALASTAIR, AND GOD GIVE YOU LONG AND
HAPPY RETIREMENT, AND MAY THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABOURS CONTINUE FOR MANY A
YEAR TO COME.
I might add here
that thanks to contact with David I was introduced to Dr James Wilkie
and he provided me with papers from the Scotland-UN Committee who were
the organisation that actually was responsible for Scotland getting a
devolved government. There papers are available on the site.
I still do an odd
update of this page and still add an odd update to my Canadian
As of this date I am still living in Chatham, ON,
Canada and have been working on updating my home and each year spending time to
fix it up which included adding a new roof and doing a makeover of my kitchen.
Health issues have impacted me as being a diabetic
I've moved from pills to taking insulin and I've since lost the sight in my right
eye. I have regular visits to the local eye clinic.
In 2015 I suffered an extreme bout of the runs and lost
a ton of weight. While I could certainly do with losing weight I decided I
needed to seek some advice from my Doctor and she then ran various blood tests
and discovered I had thyroid issues and so more hospital work to correct that.
On my last visit to my Doctor she found my blood
pressure was excellent, cholesterol levels excellent and weight down a bit and
my blood glucose levels excellent. I'm still smoking however and to be frank I
don't think I'll be stopping that any time soon.
As I retire at the end of this month I have been
completing numerous forms to get my old age pensions in both Canada and the UK
and a private pension from the UK from my years at Carnation and this has all
meant another form so I won't get double taxed. So that means I've had to
complete a UK tax form and get it authorised by Canada revenue. That's all a lot
of work and the questions they ask are numerous.
Mind you on the plus side my UK pensions are worth a
lot more due to the falling Canadian dollar so that means my pensions will be
worth around 30% more than they would have produced at this time last year and
this looks to continue for the next 5 years or so. I've always said I'd
like to live until I am 70 and that's still the case today even though they say
that men now live to be some 83 years of age on average.
I have continued to work on both my web sites
www.electriccanadian.com and they
both have tons of content. However getting my pensions has made a huge
difference as my advertising income from both sites are around 70% down from
what they were this time last year. Most of my income came from Google
Adsense but it's now at the point where I can probably do better by ditching
them in favour of direct advertising so that's what I'll be working on this
year. I will now be able to live of just my pensions so advertising will now be
a bonus rather than a necessity.
On September 2016 I did my final newsletter for the
Grand Priory of Canada which is called the
Templar which can be found on my Electric Canadian site. I had said
I would do it for a three year term but ended up doing 4 years. It was a
In January 2017 I had a falling out with the Knights
Templar in Canada and as a result I got a letter in saying they were
going to remove me from the order...
Simon Fraser University decided not to host
my site and so it is now being left to Rev. Nola Crew and I have asked
her to either host it within the family or find an organisation to host
it. I am still talking to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland about
inheriting the site.
As 2018 is coming to a close I have
continued to add content to my web sites and am still enjoying my
retirement. I have now moved the hosting of my sites to 4GoodHosting in
Vancouver. This was simply because Steve wouldn't fix issues with
the site and he finally admitted that he didn't like the work.
And so during this year I managed to
transfer all the content and programs to the new hosting company.
While I am happy with the work they do for
me and how they got a number of my old programs working again I wasn't
happy with a sudden one off charge. I found that when the support
people couldn't fix an issue they escalated it to the next level BUT
that meant I would be charged for the work. This was never
explained to me and so I did complain and got a 50% reduction on the
charge. However I was still not happy as I felt I'd been cheated
and that the company had not been transparent with me. However I
bit the bullet and paid the new amount.
Overall the move has been a good one as all
the issues I had with Steve not fixing things have been resolved.
I thought I might need to replace my air
conditioning unit this year as it stopped working. However having
arranged to replace it the company sent in an inspector to check what
needed to be done and he found that the unit had blown a fuse and once
reset it worked fine. Mind you it is 24 years old so will likely
need to be replaced soon but hey an extra year or two of life is good.
I did purchase a small chest freezer as I
have been purchasing more food from the M & M food store which stocks
frozen products. I found their butter chicken curry meal to be
excellent and also tried a few other items which I also enjoyed so that
meant I needed a bit more freezer space.
As you may know in Canada you need to pay
for your prescriptions unlike in Scotland where they are free. I
asked the Diabetic clinic why I could get my insulin on prescription but
not the needles. That was when they told me I could actually get
an annual payment for needles if I just completed a form which I did and
now get an annual payment towards the cost of the needles.
All these little sums add up over the year
so it is certainly worth checking into things like this.
In Ontario Ford became the Premier of
Ontario and so the Conservatives are now in power after many years of
having a liberal government. A lot of us are optimistic for the
future but of course time will tell.
In Canada we had the renegotiation of the
NAFTA agreement with the USA and Mexico with President Trump looking to
cancel it. I have in fact been doing a lot of coverage of the Brexit
campaign in the UK and Scotland as it is probably the most significant
event for many years in the political progress of the country. I
confess I am all for leaving with a no deal as I think that is the best
way forward for the country. I am also very supportive of the CANZUK
grouping as I believe that together Canada, Australia, New Zealand and
the UK can work very well together. In fact I note that the Conservative
party in Canada agreed by 98% to work on this special deal after the UK
leaves the EU. Of course only a no deal would allow the UK to do
such a deal as the agreement negotiations so far wouldn't allow that to
This year I almost had a fire and the fire
brigade was called out. I was quite shocked by it as it was as a
result of me having a frying pan fire. Now I have an electric
cooker and what happened was that I had something cooking at medium heat
and was working on some prep work in the kitchen when I smelt something
burning. I turned around and noted that the element was bright red
and was at full instead of medium heat. I didn't actually know
that was possible. Anyway... the smoke set of my fire alarm. Now it
has gone off before but in the past the ADT folk call to check all was
ok. This time they didn't phone and so the fire brigade was called
out. Later I discovered that they had phoned but left me a voice
message which of course was not helpful.
Anyway...now that I know this can happen I
no longer leave the stove unattended. I could do a slow simmer for a
couple of hours and so could actually leave it cooking while I went out
to do some shopping. That will no longer happen. I ended up
purchasing a new cooker.
Since moving to Canada some 16 years ago now I have become a Canadian
citizen. I have documented my progress in Canada through the "My
Canadian Journal" link above.
In 2020 we are experiencing the Cova19 virus
and most are now what is called "self isolating". This means most
businesses and entertainment companies have closed down and so the
travel trade and various major sporting and other major events have been
cancelled or postponed.
I personally have not been affected as I
already work from home and my income is guaranteed as I'm now retired
and receiving a pension.
My Electric Scotland site is going from
strength to strength and is now being archived by the British Library
with quarterly updates. We now have around 60,000 web pages and
hundreds of pdf books for people to learn from and enjoy.
The ElectricScotland.org site,
which is a forum system, is also being archived by the British
Library as is my ElectricCanadian.com web site.
On 2nd January I lost my eye sight which was
a dramatic period for me but have now mostly regained my vision thanks
to an eye operation and some injections.
And that mow brings us up to date.
How I build Content on my
I thought it might be of interest to tell
you how I go about building the content on my web sites...
When I first decided to build a site about
the history of Scotland it was simply that I loved history but hadn't
really learned much of any Scottish history at school. And so I had
built a little content on Scottish History on my Almac Bulletin Board
System. So when I closed that down due to the web taking over I decided
to make this the new focus of my life.
I mentioned before that I went to James Thin
booksellers in Edinburgh to their antiquarian department to get my first
book that I could make use of on my ElectricScotland.com web site. This
was actually The General History of the Highlands, the Highland Clans
and Highland Regiments.
This six volume set was the start of my
History section and also the Clans and Scottish Regiments sections.
Back in these days there was no ocr'ing
software and no Internet Archive or any sources of online books.
This meant I had to type in books onto web pages and so this was quite
Toward the middle of typing it in ocr'ing
became possible which greatly accelerated the work by a large factor.
This meant I could now progress much quicker and so finished of the
first 6 volume publication quite quickly. This meant I was now
looking for the next project. At the time I was chatting with
Gregory Lauder-Frost down on the Scottish Borders and he suggested I
might tackle the Domestic Annals of Scotland and as he had all 3 volumes
he offered to lend them to me to add to the site. And so this was
when I started on the real building of the content.
While ocr'ing in this 3 volume publication I
read about how some 20,000 Scots had left Scotland to fight for Germany.
As of course we've had two world wars against Germany I was blown away
and decided I needed to find out more about this.
Well I knew of an antiquarian bookshop in
Stirling and so I headed there to see what I could find and thus I found
the book... The Scot in Germany... and of course purchased it right way.
I couldn't wait to get it up on the site and in turn that got me to
follow up with other books from the same author as he'd also done books
about the Scot in Prussia, Scots in Sweden, etc. And so this was
the start of my work on the Scots Diaspora. Since then I've always
looked for books on Scots anywhere in the world and that started my
whole Scots Diaspora section of the site.
Of course as I discovered there are also
many people of Scots descent living in England and so I spent some time
bringing some English history onto the site which also led to adding
some information on Wales but more importantly featuring content on the
As I was working on what else I might tackle
the next idea I got was from the Chief Librarian at St. Andrews
University. He recommended I purchase the 6 volume Gazetteer of
Scotland from the local bookshop in St. Andrews just a few doors up from
the 18th green at St. Andrews Old Curse. So in I went and secured
the purchase and got that up on the site.
I next got interested in exploring if I
could incorporate some current news from Scotland and approached the
various newspapers in Scotland like the then Glasgow Herald and the
Scotsman but they weren't interested in doing anything with me although
at the time they didn't have web sites. I then went after more
local newspapers but again got nowhere. I then discovered the
Scots Independent Newspaper which turned out to be a long established
political newspaper fighting for an Independent Scotland. So I thought
his might make a good match with my site so arranged to see them.
In short we did a deal to develop The Flag
in the Wind which became a great resource and we worked together for
some 10 years. Not only did we cover independence issues but also with
Peter, the then chairman of the newspaper, we build a great resource on
Scottish culture and also on the old Scots language. In fact Peter and
his wife used to come over every other week to record sayings, poems and
stories in the Scots language so people could listen to it as well as
read it. In fact all this work has been retained on the site when The
Flag decided to move to having their own web site.
We also used Peter and others to do the
Working life of an MSP and also did a tribute to the World Trade Centre
attack in the USA and also to record a Burns Supper and also a tribute
to Tartan Day in New York.
So of course this all added audio to the
site and of course later I took the opportunity to do some video work as
Now as I was starting to increase my work
load I was noting references to other books in footnotes in books I was
adding and some of them looked interesting so I started to hunt them up
as well. As I was still mainly dealing with books I used the facilities
of AbeBooks to find suppliers of these old books and again they were an
excellent resource. So I started to purchase more books online from all
over the world.
Some of these books were several volume sets
and through lots of references in them they led me to other books. So by
getting this list of other possible books I was starting to gain some
seriously good information. This led me to focus some effort on
types of books. And so I started to build some seriously good
information on the history of places in Scotland and to expand my
information on Scottish clans.
Then of course we saw the start of Microsoft
starting to scan books in from libraries around the world and then the
Internet archive got going and Google Books. So as these books were
already being scanned in and available for free this made a huge
difference in my obtaining content.
I thus started to focus on specific content
such as places in Scotland and I would use all those sites to search for
places in Scotland and so found a huge amount of books which I then
added to the site. And again this led to me discovering prominent
Scots and getting some wee biographies of them. This led to me
finding the 5 volume set of Significant Scots which I also added to the
site. This was the basis of my Famous Scots section to which I've
added to on a regular basis ever since.
Having got information about these
Significant Scots I found out that many were religious persons and this
led me to realising how important Religion was to Scotland and to Scots
and how they took that all over the world. This led to the development
of the Religious section of the site which is quite large.
Of course when you do a search for specific
terms you also find other books to do with Scotland and so I was always
also looking at those books to see if they'd be suitable to add to the
site and in this way I discovered some real gems.
Another aspect I found rewarding was to
search for books about Scotch as that was how the Scots were portrayed
in olden times. In fact I remember when in Canada I talked to a Harold
Nelson in Toronto and he told me his ancestors came from around the
Ayrshire area of Scotland where the Scotch American Land Company was
formed. He had been trying to find information on this company for
many years but had been looking for Scots and not Scotch and apparently
when in London he mentioned this search to a friend and he asked if he'd
tried to find Scotch instead of Scots and he said he hadn't thought of
that and hey presto when he changed his search to Scotch he hit pay dirt
and of course I also benefited from this and as a result I got up the
story of the company and how they ended up settling in Ryegate in the
I love reading biographies and when I did
the 5 volume set I mentioned above I followed up to see if there were
larger biographies available and found quite a few which again I've
added to the site. Over the years I have found many others and for
example I was looking to see if there was a history of the town of
Dollar in Clackmannanshire and in my search I found out about Robert
Dollar who was a great shipping magnate in the USA and so got a 2 volume
account of him up on the site. So this shows how searching for
something can find something entirely different but of equal or greater
importance. Robert Dollar was born and brought up in Falkirk in
So this is how much of my content has been
discovered but I also have to say that a good deal of content has also
come from visitors to the site. For example, John Henderson a
school teacher from Scotland retired to Cyprus and while doing his own
research discovered my site and for many years he contributed lots of
his own historical research as well as doing a brilliant job of adding
over 100 Scottish songs both text and audio. He was also a Dorric
language expert and wrote his own poems many of which he donated to the
As John was interested in poetry he would
send me in some information on other Scottish poets and that also led me
to do some searches myself and that let to amazing discoveries with
volumes of books on Scottish poetry. Also a lot of our regular
visitors would also send in some of their own poems which I was always
happy to add to the site.
And talking about Poetry I built a great
section for Robert Burns but was then Introduced to Frank Shaw who had
very recently decided to write for the then Family Tree Newspaper
published in Moultrie, Georgia, USA and his regular column was to be
Robert Burns Lives! but after only a few articles the newspaper closed
down. I was thus asked if I could take this on and was more than
happy to do so and after over 250 chapters it is still going strong.
And of course due to the Family Tree
newspaper closing down Beth Gay decided she'd like to continue it and so
created Beth's Newfangled Family Tree and we've hosted that ever since
in pdf format.
Likewise Donna Flood, a Matriarch of the
Ponco Indian Tribe, in the USA got in touch as she had found a Scottish
ancestor in her family tree. At the time she was trying to publish a
book on her ancestors but wasn't able to find anyone to publish it. I
volunteered to publish it on my site and ever since we've been good
friends and she has also added a lot of her writing to the site. And
through that relationship my work on Scots and the American Indians came
When it came to my Children's stories
section it started of by me discovering a couple of books on Scottish
Ghost stories and folk-lore. I then found a few books for children and
thought I'd add these to try and encourage more young visitors to the
site. This lead to Margo Fallis getting in touch as she was a children's
author and she was keen to write Scottish themed stories for them and so
after many years of collaboration she must have added some 800 stories
to the site.
I also got very interested in Agriculture
and Crofting and so set out to find out what more I could find and
having found a great deal that created our section on Agriculture.
I have also done a great deal on Crofting life and self sufficiency.
I then started to also add many video's to
the site from YouTube and so I revisited my places in Scotland started
to find some very good accounts and so started to embed these videos
onto the page. It's actually a bit of a problem as YouTube is not
reliable and so you might add a video from them one day and find the
next that it's been taken down for various reasons. However I persist on
adding them and replacing them when they go down as they say a picture
is worth a thousand words so a video must be worth almost an entire
So as you can see one thing led to another
and so over time I've been able to add loads of content. This is
why I have my own site search engine as when I used the free Google
search service, while it might find thousands of pages, it would only
ever offer the first 100 page links but now you'll often find hundreds
more by using our own version.
And then of course I started my
ElectricCanadian.com web site and using the same type of searching have
been building up a great store of content for that site as well.
As some 15% of Canadians claim a Scots ancestry pretty well anything to
do with Canada will mention Scotland or a Scot within the text.
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