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Anne Elizabeth Margaret Rennie


Anne Elizabeth Margaret Rennie, more commonly known as Mum to me, was born on 11 October 1936 at 9.45am at Balbardie, Bathgate to Gardiner (Gerry) and Marion Hill and was a younger sister to Gardiner. Balbardie House was a Robert Adams Mansion built by Alexander Marjoribanks in the 1790’s to house his new wife and eventually 17 children. The Marjoribanks also owned lands at West Calder at this time. Before you get too impressed…..the Hills rented an Apartment in the big house and had numerous neighbours.

Mum was christened on 4 November 1936 and had a happy time growing up at Balbardie however in 1940 she ended up at Tippethill Hospital suffering from Diphtheria, something which was pretty serious in those days. She was kept in isolation for a couple of months and her family was only able to see her through glass. When she  got home she was unable to walk. As you know we were in the middle of the Second World War, but the family, friends and neighbours made the best of it………………and had a number of Hogmanay parties, according to my Granny’s diaries at the time. (These diaries are really interesting and give an insight to life back in the forties and fifties. Looking in some old paperwork of mum’s we found a letter to Julian Fellows of Downtown Abbey Fame suggesting there was a story waiting to be written. The response from his office was thanks but no thanks.)

At the time Balbardie House and Estate was owned by the Edinburgh Merchant Company. Gerry and with son Gardiner interested in farming, expansion was required. A huge number of options were explored before the Hills ended up at Bughtknowes in the Bathgate Hills. This was a step up and everybody mucked in (or even mucked out!) on the farm. The family was devastated by the death of Gerry in 1949, aged only 49. Despite the family upheaval Mum was pretty studious at Bathgate Academy but left when she was only 16 to go to Moray House Teacher Training and became a primary school teacher.

We maybe think youngsters go abroad early these days, often at the end of school. Mum went to Paris when she was 18 with friends, the start of lifelong enjoyment of travelling. Apparently wine was cheaper than water so they lived on wine and bread. It was rather embarrassing when the left their accommodation with all the wine bottles clinking in their luggage. Whilst at Bughtknowes Mum was pretty active and regularly played tennis, went ice skating and went to the pictures at least weekly. Bughtknowes also seemed to be party central with regular visit from cousins and friends with picnics and trips to the beach. We seem to have a huge number of photos of mum posing in a swimsuit, if fact one of her granddaughters was heard to say that she was such a babe. Someone else also thought similar and mum and dad got married on 9 April 1960 and a whole new chapter begun which lasted through thick and thin until now. Their happiness was complete with my arrival in 1961, followed by Douglas in 1964 and Marion in 1968. Married life started in the Kirkgate (sadly no longer in West Calder) followed by 2 years at Mossend then we moved to Muirhouse starting our long association with Harburn. Life was good at Muirhouse (I still think of it as home) with many great times and we got to know many neighbours, both farming and non-farming. It maybe took us a little longer to understand our non-farming neighbours! During this time a number of Rennie rituals began including Saturday night. This consisted of collecting the pink Evening News and fish and chips all round in front of the telly. If we were really lucky we also got Gillespies ice cream. Latterly another favourite became Cream O Galloway down besides us at Gatehouse. Another regular visit was to Uncle Gardiner and Aunty Eleanor at Bughtknowes, Bathgate, where one of football’s oldest derby was held, the Rennies versus the Hills. Occasionally fathers joined to add experience and on field advice. One particular game was extremely close until the Hills made an inspired substitution and Adrienne joined the game and made such an impact that the Hills ran out easy winners. These games could last hours sometimes only finishing after it got too dark to see anything!

Mum was extremely house proud and someone close to me was somewhat puzzled when the morning after the night before was asked to comb the tassles on the couch. I do however need to mention two attempts at decorating that didn’t go exactly to plan. Once when the kitchen was decorated in condensed milk……………a pot of water was left on the Raeburn overnight with a tin of condensed milk gently simmering. Eventually the pot boiled dry and the tin exploded. Guess who got the blame for that! The second occasion was when mum and dad decided to tile the wall at the backdoor. They decided that the only way to get a level was to start from a line three quarters of the way up the wall and work down the way. Unfortunately with nothing to hold up the tiles they started sliding down the wall. It became a game of vertical twister which lasted most of the night!

As visitors to Muirhouse might have known, there were 4 doors which could be locked when mum and dad went to bed. When we went out at night, especially when it was a late night, it was a lottery if all 4 doors were unlocked! And according to Marion you had to avoid the squeaky fourth step on the stairs.

By the late 90s Dad’s health was such that he decided to retire. Muirhouse was sold and Douglas and family moved to Fife. Both me and Marion found ourselves down in Dumfries & Galloway. One of us at the end of the world, and one beyond the end of the world! Mum and dad were delighted to be able to build Phantassie in Harburn and enjoyed a relaxing time visiting friends and family and playing a part in the wider Harburn community. Dad’s health deteriorated further and sadly we lost him in 2016. We were immediately concerned how mum would cope and even had some conversations about her moving. However given her independence it was no surprise when she said her life, her home and her friends were in Harburn and West Calder, and no way was she moving. I can only say a big thank you to everybody who looked out for her over the last three years.

She was still driving up to the very end, although big journeys were too much for her, although we managed to arrange a rota to get her down to Dumfries & Galloway. Just last week we heard such a story when she was travelling down to Port William. Marion was driving mum in her car and Gary was driving the girls in his car. Marion was following but pulled out to overtake at the Glen just outside Dumfries. As they were passing Mum raised her hand to give the royal wave, but it very quickly turned into the Harvey Smith gesture. Not sure who was the most surprised but Mum giggled all the way to Port William.

I hope these brief comments prompt a few memories in everyone and I look forward to chatting later. The last time we were in Mum’s company it was to see The King and I, which she thoroughly enjoyed, although it was not quite as good as the Harburn Players. Marion saw her on the day she died and was probably the last person to speak to her, somewhat appropriate in my mind.

In closing and echoing Frank Sinatra, Mum lived and died and did it her way.

Thank you.