Tommy Weale pictured on his 95th birthday.

 

SEPTEMBER 2001 - NO. 119

Tommy’s going strong at 95!

If you didn’t believe in hybrid vigour, you would after having met Tommy Weale on his ninety-fifth birthday, writes Donald MacLeod. This smart, witty, and switched-on son of Strathy who was cutting 250 yards of peats a year all on his own until he was eighty, had an English father who hailed from Shropshire and a MacLeod mother from Strathy Point.

In 1968, he and wife, Janet MacAskill — she died in 1983 when only sixty-seven — took up residence in Portskerra where he has made his home ever since. Tommy now lives in the local care unit, Sinclair Court. “I came here on March 14 last year — I was the first resident. I like it here; the staff are very, very nice. I knew a lot of them before,” he added.

“I can remember when the Titanic was sunk, in 1912 — I can remember them speaking about it. In 1914 the war started — I remember that perfectly well. I was seeing the men coming and going in uniform.”

His mother died when he was young and Tommy was brought up by an aunt and grandmother. “The language of the home was entirely Gaelic. I learnt English at school. I had a bit before I went, but it was mostly Gaelic. Now I’m starting to lose the Gaelic because you never hear it any more.”

In later years, he would sing at concerts with people like Christy Campbell, Durness, who had relations in Ports kerra. The song he loves best is "Far an robh mi’n raoir".

Courting? “You couldn’t go far in those days — all you had was a push bike,” he recalls, a twinkle in his eye. In 1938 he married Janet, like himself from Strathy Point. Janet bore him two children, Cathie, who is married in Strathnaver and was for many years a district nurse, and Wilfred, Free Church minister in Ullapool.

Tommy’s first job was with Alec MacLeod of Baligill who ran a shop and car hire business. Then there were years spent on public works, including hydro schemes, the Churchill Barriers in Orkney, the wartime aerodrome at Dounreay and, until his official retirement, a job at the atomic power station there.

“We had good times in the old days, but people are better off now. You get a good wage if you are working. We were nothing more than slaves.”

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