Night Call

By Alexander John Nicoll

The only light that dark night came from the small lamp on the front of my bike. In the black-out even little chinks of light would bring a visit from the Air Raid Wardens. From late September of 1939 there were obvious signs there was a war on, as Polish soldiers, survivors from Europe, had been stationed in the area. A farm servant’s son, I had started secondary school in Blair the week war on Germany was declared, all the streets were familiar territory to me. (Yes, it was just Blair to me, never the full name ‘Blairgowrie’.)

Well, my schooldays were now over, and I was in employment as a farm loon. I had hopes of joining the forces, and was a member of the Air Training Corps (ATC). Cars were few in those days of petrol rationing, and as I cycled along the Perth Road, the place was deserted. It was, and still is, a residential area, of large houses, with green spaces between. As I passed one of these spaces, I heard a loud female voice crying “Help”. I hesitated, and slowed the bike. No, I thought, I won’t get involved. Farm work was hard for a thin, scrawny loon like myself, and it was tiring trying to keep up with full-grown men. No, I need to get rest and sleep, I kept telling myself as I pedalled home. An uneasy mind meant a restless night.

I did eventually join the forces, and served a short period in the Royal Navy. I saw no action; the war was over before I finished my training. After demob, I had various jobs in industry, got married and had a family. In my late thirties, I embarked on a new and rewarding career in probation and social work in Dundee, which saw me through to retirement. In all these years, despite the trials and responsibilities of life, the memory of a certain night has not dimmed down. It is lurking in that wee box, out of the ken of the rest of the world.

My two daughters, both in the NHS, give unstinting help to their widowed dad in my sheltered house. We are in daily contact, and have regular outings for visits and meals. I have all that I need here, and my health is such that I rarely require to consult a doctor. I have partial deafness, though, and have hearing aids. Never the less, as I stare out of the back window in the direction of Blair, a call keeps repeating in my head. It is as clear as on the night I first heard it. There is no escape. It won’t go away.