Glen Discovery in GlenLyon

Morag MacKay MacLeod

 21 January 1926 to 29 September 2016
By Peter Lawrie, ©2016
A young Morag MacKay MacLeod Morag was a much-loved Sister, Mum, Grannie and Great Grannie as well as a friend to many. She passed away peacefully at St Olaf’s Care Home in Nairn, on Thursday 29th September. This is a celebration of her life composed by her eldest son, Peter Lawrie, with contributions from other family members.

Morag was an exceptional lady with great charm, energy, zest for life, warmth and above all, kindness. She had a knack for putting people at their ease, and was very well-liked. Morag was not rich or famous. She was not a celebrity, but she went about her life, doing good as best she could.

Morag had a wide circle of friends in her church and in the wider Inverness community, she had a passion for helping others, often driving around to pick up friends to help them with errands, take them shopping and to appointments. She also volunteered in the WRVS shop at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, and the Highland Hospice shop in Inverness town centre.

Morag MacKay Rasche in her 80s
Baillie Joseph MacLeod Morag’s grandfather was Joseph MacLeod JP, MBE from Kildonan in Sutherland. Born in 1862, Joseph was a prominent Land-Leaguer in the late 1880s and 1890s. He gave evidence to the Royal Commission on the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in 1892, on behalf of the crofters of Rogart, Sutherland. He later wrote a biographical account of fellow Land-Leaguers in ‘The Highland Heroes of the Land Reform Movement’, published in Inverness in 1917.

Moving to Inverness in 1901, Joseph resided with his family at the foot of Lochalsh Road, Inverness, just a few hundred yards along from where Morag spent her retirement years. Later the family moved to 21 Ardconnel Terrace and after 1929, to ‘Langwell’, in Crown Drive. Joseph was a member of Inverness Town Council for many years, a Baillie and Magistrate as well as the Liberal party organizer for Inverness-shire.   In 1933 he was awarded the MBE for services to the Burgh of Inverness.

The family of Joseph and Lexy MacLeod in 1917
Joseph married Lexy MacKay from Rogart in Sutherland, hence Morag’s middle name. They had three daughters and a son. Johan, or 'Sis' in 1891 and Alexander usually known as Alasdair, 1892, were both born in Brora, Sutherland. Then came Anne, or 'Nan', born in 1895 and finally, Williamina Catherine, known as 'Wilrine'. in 1897

Four generations at Gartymore, Ann MacLean Joseph MacLeod Kathleen Clark with mother Nan Clark in 1926 Alasdair began training as a dentist in 1909, but his studies were interrupted by the Great War. In February 1917, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Cameron Highlanders and later seconded to the Machine Gun Corps. On the 1st of August 1917, day 2 of the Battle of Passchendaele, he was taken prisoner and spent the next 18 months in German POW camps.

It is believed that he suffered in a poison gas attack and the effects of this may have continued with him after the war.

On the 23rd of August 1917, the family received a postcard from Karlsruhe camp, through the Red Cross, advising that he was uninjured but in need of a food parcel and clothing.

The picture on the left is of four generations and was probably taken at some time in 1925, shortly before Morag's birth, at Gartymore, Sutherland. From left to right - Morag's Great Grandmother Ann MacLean (1830-1927), Grandfather Joseph and cousin, Kathleen Clark, the daughter of Morag's Aunt Nan.

red cross letter 1917
gravestone at tomnacross On his return from Germany in February 1919 Alasdair resumed his dentistry course. But the University record shows that he did not attend classes in 1920.

In Edinburgh, Alasdair met Norah Chew from Salmesbury, near Blackburn in Lancashire. Perhaps Norah was the reason for leaving the course, because they soon married and their first son, Torcul was born on the 13th January 1921.

Torcul passed away in June 2016, aged 95 and is buried at Tomnacross burial ground, Kiltarlity, alongside his parents and his sister Morag.
  Apart from Alasdair's early death in 1957 and Norah's in 1966 aged 72 following a fall, the family proved to possess the genes for long-life.

Of Alasdair's sisters, Sis reached 85, Nan 92 and Wilrine, 93 Torcul lived to reach the age of 95 and was active and continued driving until only a few months before his death in 2016.

Sheila and Morag both reached the age of 90.

The family with Kathleen at Culloden cottage 1929 Alasdair joined the Civil Service, and eventually became manager of the HMRC Tax Office in Inverness. To begin with he was seconded for periods away from Inverness for training, so Morag would be born in Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

Soon they returned to Inverness and moved to a cottage beside the road from Inverness to Culloden, south of the town. At the time, this was a rural spot with very few other houses nearby. In recent years, it has been swallowed up by inexorable urban expansion.

Torcul was followed by Sheila in January 1922; Angus in January 1923; and Iain in June 1924. These five children were separated by only 5 years, so life must have been hectic in the Macleod household. Maeve was born in 1929 and finally Duncan in 1936.

Tiny Morag weighed just 2 pounds at birth on the 21st January, 1926 and nobody expected her to survive 90 years. She spent her early months literally wrapped in cotton wool. Older brother Angus referred to her as his birthday present as her birthday coincided with his. Being such a small baby and having to fight for life definitely shaped her character as she continued to battle all through her life.  Despite her diminutive stature she had an inner strength and determination that belied her size.

In the picture (left), dated 1929, the children are Iain, Torcul, Cousin Kathleen with baby Maeve, Sheila, Morag and Angus. Morag looks to be a mischievous imp and there's already that cheeky twinkle in her eye!

Later the family moved to a cottage at Essich to the West of Inverness. Today, the line of cottages are in a lay-by off the re-aligned road, with new bungalows springing up like mushrooms in all directions, but in the 1930s there was space all around to play in.
Feeding the hens, Morag is nearest the camera
Morag in Observer Corps 1945   Alasdair seems to have had a difficult manner, perhaps due to his harrowing experiences in the War. Life in the 1920s and the Depression years of the 1930s must have been very difficult with a large family.

At the end of the Second War, in 1945, following service in the Observer Corps, Morag enrolled on a typing course and met Lorna from Drumnadrochit who became her lifelong friend. Lorna passed away in Dundee in September this year, just a week before Morag.

While serving in the Observer Corps at RAF Dalcross, Morag met John Lawrie, an aircraft engineer. John was from Manchester. Apparently, John cycled from Dalcross to Essich to meet Morag’s parents but was not well received by her father.

One day, the family had arranged to meet at the Balmoral Restaurant in Eastgate. Morag was expected to join them but instead Alasdair was handed a note telling him that his young daughter had romantically eloped with John for Manchester. Morag was just 20, while John was 26.

  John Lawrie in RAF in 1940
Glen Villa Moston Lane with Jean's shop In Manchester Morag met John’s parents, John Forbes Lawrie and his wife, Laurie Helen MacGregor. JF Lawrie's father had come to Lancashire from Tillicoultry, Clackmannan in the late 19th century. They lived in a large old house, Glen Villa on Church Lane. The house had extensive grounds, especially a wooded ravine or 'glen' with a stream, deemed unsuitable for development plus a line of letting garages. Glen Villa has long gone, replaced by a modern housing development, but the 'glen' is still there as the Google Earth image on the right shows.

JF Lawrie had acquired a number of 2-up 2-down terraced houses. Peter never did discover how many there were, but there seemed to be lots. Today, most of the sites are occupied by an Asda superstore.

There were five children of whom John was the second youngest. The family warmly welcomed Morag and she married John on the 26th March 1946. To begin with, they lived at Acomb Street in Moss Side, a Victorian suburb which has since acquired a bad reputation. Peter was born when they were there, but shortly after they moved to one of grandfather’s houses at 48 Dalbeattie Street, Blackley. Duncan and Gordon were born when the family lived here.

John’s sister Ida lived at 44 Dalbeattie Street, with her two children Ian and Helen. Brother Clarence emigrated to Australia in 1961 with his family. Youngest sister, Helen who everyone called ‘Billie’ became a district midwife, while Jean operated a baker's shop at one end of Glen Villa.

Some of my earliest memories are of visiting Jean in her bakery behind the shop and waiting in anticipation of the sweet remnants from the bowl of whatever cake mix had just gone in the oven. Sometimes I was even allowed to serve in the shop! Jean passed away in March 2016, aged 97.

Former Glen Villa wooded ravine, thanks to Google Earth
Morag with sister-in-law Jean and father-in-law John Forbes Lawrie Morag, Peter and John Duncan, Mum and Peter around 1955 Gordon not very happy Family at Blackpool beach
On the left is Morag, sister-in-law Jean and father-in-law John Forbes. The picture is taken in the wooded ravine or 'glen' within the grounds of Glen Villa. Morag, Peter and John Duncan, Morag and Peter Gordon not happy At Blackpool beach: Behind, Ann Kavanagh, a neighbour, then from left to right - Cousin Helen, Duncan with ?, Cousin Ian and Peter
Duncan, Gordon and Peter about 1958 Peter was born in June 1949, followed by Duncan in October 1952 and Gordon in November 1955.

We had a car which I remember as a 'Commer Shooting Brake', MXJ749, but a web search suggests that it was a 'Hillman Husky' derived from the Commer Cob. We also had a TV - a cabinet with wooden doors hiding a tiny screen. I vaguely remembers a programme with lots of men on horses and big, funny hats, which was probably the Coronation.  We also had a dog, Jeff, a wonderful Old English sheepdog, pictured with Duncan.

Duncan with Hilman Husky MXJ749 Duncan and Jeff
Ida did not keep well and passed away in 1957, so cousin Helen, came to us every morning for Mum to comb her long hair before she left for school. I think that Mum had to do a lot of parenting for Ida’s children.

We had freedom to jump on our bikes and race around the open space behind the house. Later we explored further, especially through the extensive Boggart Hole Clough parkland at the top of the street.

Mum took us regularly to Church and Peter sang in the choir for a time.

School was Alfred Street Primary. Looking at the map today, the walk from home to school was only around 500 metres, although it seemed a long way to a five year old.  In the days before the Clean Air Acts, with coal burning fires in all homes and many belching factory chimneys, there were often thick, smelly smogs, through which we would have to almost feel the way to school.

Peter's primary school days came to their conclusion with the eleven-plus in 1960 and a large envelope through the post listing the name of every school in Manchester, topped by the Manchester Grammar.
  Alfred Street Primary - now Harpur Mount Primary
John worked as an electrical engineer on the night shift at Ferranti. He took on freelance work too, fixing all sorts of electrical devices and rewiring houses.

Granddad Alasdair died in 1957 at Creraig by Kiltarlity, the croft he and Norah had taken on later in life. Granny Norah then moved to a semi-detached villa at 10 Southside Road in the Crown district of Inverness. John rewired her house, with 5-year old Duncan crawling under the floorboards to pull the cables through. John also rewired Caddonfoot Manse where Aunt Sheila had married the Rev. Donald MacCuish.

It was a great shock in June 1960 when Mum took the three of us on the train to Inverness without Dad. That was the end of their marriage and they divorced several years later.

A trivial but long-abiding memory for Peter of this was the chuff-chuff of the steam-hauled train and its clickety-clack along the rails for hour after hour, followed by, when we arrived in Inverness, a deep, slow thumping, which turned out to be the pile-drivers for the new bridge over the River Ness.

Inverness Royal Academy which Peter entered in 1960, since part of Inverness College, but now up for sale Peter entered first year at Inverness Royal Academy, despite being a year younger than the rest of his class. It was a struggle to catch up.

Duncan joined the Crown Primary, while Gordon started his primary schooling at the Crown infants, where the headmistress was his 'scary' Great Aunt Wilrine.
The Crown Primary School still in use today
Gordon, Peter and Duncan at Castle Grant about 1963   When we arrived, Granny Norah somehow squeezed us into her house for a few weeks. Later in the summer, after a short stay in her brother Iain's flat in MacDonald Street, Morag obtained a 6 month joint tenancy during the winter of a detached house in Glen Urquhart Road. A lovely house with a large garden, but with no electricity. There was gas lighting in the principal rooms and parafin lamps or candles upstairs. Hence the low rental which was shared with a single lady.

Mum started a job at a solicitor’s office and in 1961 obtained the tenancy of a two room flat at Castle Grant in Kingsmills Road.  Her determination and hard work paid off as she then joined the Crofter’s Commission as a Clerical Officer and the family moved into a bigger flat at Castle Grant, before obtaining a Council flat at 37 MacEwen Drive.

Duncan notes that most of his childhood memories were of an incredibly selfless Mum struggling mightily to make ends meet as a single mother.  Morag put aside any self-interest during those years as the boys grew up and she taught each of them the importance of discipline and hard work. 

  Morag at Castle Grant in 1963
Peter finds a jellyfish at Nairn beach Summer Holidays were often in a caravan on the beach in Nairn, where Peter found a jellyfish..

One year Morag splashed her year’s savings to take Duncan and Gordon on a boat from Oban to the Hebrides.  Duncan says that the only thing he remembers about that investment in Scotland’s wild west and the Minch was the side of the boat and Morag joined him there most of the time.

Morag regularly took the boys to Church. Her faith was very important to her and certainly helped her through some of the difficult years.  She tried to instil that strong belief in the boys.

The work ethic demonstrated by Morag clearly rubbed off on all three boys with them all taking on paper rounds with Tom MacDonald, the newsagent on Kingsmills Road, at a young age. One by one the boys moved on. Peter graduated in science at Andrews University in 1969, Duncan took an engineering degree at Liverpool, while Gordon opted to join the RAF as an apprentice in 1971.

Relaxing at Nairn beach with Ian and Helen's stepmother
After the boys had left to live their own lives, Morag married widower Ernest Rasche on December 31st 1970. Morag and Ernest moved to a new home at 224 Oldtown Road in Hilton, Inverness. Ernest proved to be the love of her life. The ensuing years were probably the happiest of Morag's life.

They enjoyed the next eighteen years together until Ernest died aged 82. During those years they travelled regularly to Mediterranean resorts, to the United States and extensively throughout Scotland.  Ernest was devoted to her and delighted in surprises which often involved champagne and weekend hotel stays.

Ernest Rasche   224 Oldtown Road with Wolseley 1500   Morag and Ernest on a Highland Walk
In the course of time, her three boys married and made her a grandmother nine times over. She had five great grandchildren, and a sixth, Rayf James, was born to David and Ashley on 21st October 2016.

Morag was a very proud and fastidious lady. If one sat down she would move you in order to straighten the cushion you were leaning on and make you lift your feet so she could vacuum under them and that never changed during her whole life.  David and Kirsteen remember that if they were told Granny Morag was on her way for a visit, there would be a stampede through to their bedrooms to tidy up before she arrived.  She may have been very small but they certainly weren't brave enough to risk her catching them with an unkempt room.

Granny Morag was also a large figure in the lives of her American grandchildren, often visiting in the summers when they were small. As the only girl, Melissa remembers receiving special counsel from Granny Morag after upsets with her three brothers.  She was certainly highly qualified in dealing with three boisterous boys! Granny Morag was a great penpal, never missing a birthday letter or Christmas card. Her letters often showed up as multiple pages of tiny print on very thin air mail paper and were always a joy to receive.

80th Birthday Cake Morag with sons, Peter, Duncan and Gordon at her 80th birthday celebration In January 2006, Morag celebrated her 80th birthday with many of her friends at Dalneigh Hall. All three sons and three of her siblings were present.

Click on the images for higher resolution

Morag with Torcul, Iain, Grace and Maeve at her 80thbirthday celebration
Morag's 80th Birthday Cake Morag with Peter, Duncan and Gordon   Torcul, Morag, Grace, Iain and Maeve
Four generations Here is another four generation photograph taken in 2012 at Morag's home in Lochalsh Road. From left to right, daughter-in-law Mairi Lawrie, grand-daughter Christina, Morag holding her first great grand-daughter Mairi-Anna and son Peter.

In her late 80s, Morag's health began to deteriorate and hospital spells were followed by her being fed properly for a number of weeks by Rhona until she was deemed fit enough to go home.  During these years her elder brother Torcul was virtually a permanent fixture in the house, as he kept a close eye out for his two youngest sisters.  Following a heart attack and stroke in early 2015, Morag spent some time in Raigmore. Sadly Alzheimers ultimately took hold of Morag, despite this she never lost that inner strength, sense of humour or that twinkle in her eye.

Finally it was arranged for her to move to St Olaf’s Care Home in Nairn at the end of 2015.  The family are very grateful to the staff for the loving and attentive care that she received in her final months. It's been a comfort to know she was well looked after.

Checking the restaurant menu on her last visit to America   Celebrating her 90th with a glass of wine   Gordon with Morag on her 90th
The menu on a final visit to America   Celebrating her 90th at St Olaf's   Gordon with Morag at St Olaf's on her 90th Birthday

Morag lived her life the very best way she could and never, ever, left any damage in her wake.  Her sense of humour, kindness towards others and inner strength will always be remembered and has left an indelible mark in all those close to her.

The funeral service was conducted by the Rev. Douglas Horne at the Kiltarlity Church of Scotland, Tomnacross on Saturday 8th October 2016 with interment thereafter in the adjoining burial ground alongside her parents and elder brother Torcul. Grateful thanks are due to Douglas for visiting Morag while she was unwell and at St Olaf's.

The presence of her three sons and eight of her grandchildren and their expanding families has been a testament to the resilience and determination of this remarkable lady. She will be sorely missed by all those that she leaves behind.

Interment at Tomnacross Saturday 8th October 2016 Close up of memorial stone at Tomnacross The pall-bearers were Morag's three sons, Peter, Duncan and Gordon, along with her youngest brother Duncan MacLeod. Cord holders, in sequence of allocated cords, were her eight grandchildren: David Lawrie, Benjamin Lawrie, Craig Lawrie, Kirsteen Williamson, Andrew Lawrie, Jason Lawrie, Christina Lawrie and Melissa Lawrie.

In attendance were Morag's surviving siblings, Maeve Grant, Iain MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod.
Tomnacross, Kiltarlity Church of Scotland, photo Craig Wallace

Several family members were unable to be present. They sent their condolences.

Niece, Monica McGee said: “Aunt Morag was an amazing lady. Her strength and kindness shone through. Her stoic management of pain in the last few years was amazing. She supported Torcul as he did her and they muddled along with him being 'Big brother'. Morag will be sadly missed by our family."

Niece, Iona MacCuish said: "Aunt Morag was a wonderful lady. I have so many happy memories of her. She will be greatly missed. "

Grand-daughter Christina (who was present) and her husband, Marcus Barcham-Stevens (who had been unable to attend) said: "Granny Morag was a remarkable lady, warm, good-humoured and loving, and Marcus and I feel her loss very deeply.”

Daughter in Law, Issy Lawrie said: “Morag was a lovely lady. I'm so glad I got to be with her one last time after Rhona's funeral. “

In conclusion, a few words about who we knew Morag as. Morag was baptised Morag MacKay MacLeod and would be known as that or just Morag MacLeod, to her parents and siblings, to her school friends and in her war service.

Two months after her twentieth birthday, Morag married John Lawrie and conventionally became Morag Lawrie. Speaking as her eldest son, that is the name I associated with my mum. She remained Morag Lawrie, despite her divorce in 1962, until her three sons had either left, or were about to leave home to make their own way in the world. John Lawrie died at the start of 1970; I came back from VSO in Kenya for his funeral in Manchester and Morag came down from Inverness to pay her last respects.

On December 31st 1970, she married Ernest Rasche and took his name until her death in 2016. It was as Morag Rasche that she was known to all her grandchildren, although they were all biologically John Lawrie's and bore his surname.

She was Morag MacLeod for 20 years, Morag Lawrie for 24 years and Morag Rasche for almost 46 years, more than half of her life.