Minnie Gallacher
Home ] Up ] Photo Galleries ] Town Guides ] Notables ] Community ] News ] Places ] History ] Search ] Contact Us ]

NEARLY forty years had passed since the last time Maybole woman Minnie Gallacher had seen, or even spoken to, her younger brother. So when the opportunity presented itself, and at the age of 82, Minnie didn't hesitate to fly to the other side of the world for an emotional reunion with her wee brother Jim Wilson. The last time Minnie and Jim, now 80, had been in the same room together, she had no idea it would be four decades to their next meeting, and that Jim and his young family would be setting sail for the faraway shores of Australia that very night.

Minnie explains: "Jim and his family came to our house in Hicks Avenue for tea and they gave no hint that they were leaving that night. Jim's two young daughters never even mentioned a thing. They left without telling anyone, including my elderly father, who was devastated when he found out." Before emigrating to the other side of the world, Jim had worked all over the country as an engineer in the pits, including a stint in the mines in Coalville, Leicestershire. After leaving Minnie's home that September night all those years ago, Jim and his wife Molly (Galloway) and family set sail on their six week journey to a new continent, and a new life. It was sometime during those weeks on board the ship bound for Oz that Jim contacted a cousin to tell him where he was going. When Jim's dad was told the news, he was devastated with shock and hurt, and father and son were never to speak again. Minnie and the rest of the family found it hard to understand why Jim would just get up and leave, but life went on, and the years quickly rolled on.

"I often thought of Jim over the years, but I had no address or phone number for him so it was impossible to get in touch. We never got an explanation as to why he just left." It was a surprise visit in 1999 from one of Jim's four daughters, Louise, that was to signal the beginning of their journey to meet again. Minnie's daughter Marion kept in touch with her cousin, and Minnie began to send Christmas cards to the Wilson family. An invitation to visit them in Australia followed, but Minnie's husband Davie became ill and plans were put on hold. Sadly, Davie died in 2000, and all thoughts of visiting her long-lost brother left her mind as Minnie grieved for her husband. However, daughter Marion began secretly plotting behind her mum's back to reunite brother and sister, for what would probably be the final time. Marion said: "I decided it was now or never, so I booked tickets to Australia for myself, mum, my daughter Stephanie and cousin Catherine. I came in and told her we were going and she didn't know what to say. She was a bit apprehensive but finally agreed."

So, on December 1st last year, the family boarded a flight to Queensland which took over 25 hours to complete. Minnie went on: "I had wanted to see Jim again because his daughter had said he was very ill and I knew I might never get another chance, but I was also wondering what I was going to be met with when I arrived. That was worrying me. It was a shock to see him again after all those years but he looked better than I had expected." Marion, who was only a year old when her uncle left, takes up the story: "The reunion was very emotional, and we were delighted but surprised that neither Jim or Molly had lost their Maybole accents. I asked him why he still had his Scottish twang and his eyes lit up as he thumped his chest and said 'because I'm from Maybole in here'. "All he spoke about in the five weeks we were there was Maybole. He was asking about different folk he had known before he had left, and we had to tell him most of them had passed away. "He said he was sorry he never came back to Maybole, and if he had returned home, he would have stayed."

Jim also reminisced about his younger days spent at the shore with his pals. One of the original infamous Maybole 'Shore Boys', only Jim and Bobby Paterson remain. For Minnie, there was no time for recriminations, and she never brought up the subject of Jim leaving without telling them and never getting in touch again. "We left the past, in the past," she said. "He was delighted to see me and he made us very welcome. It was very emotional meeting him again after all these years, and I didn't want to get upset in front of everyone, but I shed a few tears when I was on my own, and I think he did the same." Minnie, Jim and their three brothers were born and brought up in Maybole's Ladyland Road, and Jim was keen to know if the family home was still standing, which it is. "

Jim was in the Army," Minnie said, "and he wanted to know where his medals and his Glengarry bonnet were. I told him they had been left at our late dad's house, so I didn't know where they were now, but the strangest thing happened when we got home. I was going through some old bits and pieces when I came across his Glengarry, and I am about to post it out to him." Minnie, who was recently awarded a Scroll of Appreciation from Maybole Community Council for her contribution to life in the town, is a regular visitor to her youngest brother Ian's home in Canada, but she wasn't prepared for the effect a 25 hour flight would have on her. "It really was a long haul journey, but it was worth it because I was going to see my brother.

Despite not seeing each other for all those years, there always was, and always will be a bond between us because we are brother and sister. I was so relieved and very happy to see him again after a lifetime apart, and he actually reminded me of our dad. "The journey was worth it, but I won't be back as it's much too far. But I'm so glad I've got new memories of my brother." (Article from the Carrick Gazette. March 2006)