Glenbuchat Heritage

35 Dr Howie, The True Family Story
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35 Dr Howie, The True Family Story

Dr Howie's family story.

(I am grateful to Mr Magnus Petersen, grandson of Dr Howie for this version of Dr Howie’s life which corrects the mistakes in the above comments by Evelyn Waugh. It was prepared for his children so that they would know their family history.)

The above picture shows;
Dr Howie with Mrs Hoyes
Miss Farlie, Dr Howie’s housekeeper

Click here for the original Waugh story

“My mum was the daughter of the doctor in Strathdon and Glenbuchat who was a very interesting man indeed. His name had been Phadlallah Elias al-Hawi, and he had come from Shweir in the Bekaar valley just outside Beirut, in what is now part of the country called Lebanon, though in those old Victorian days it was all part of Syria. When he was still in his teens his father had married a new wife, and my grandfather, your great great grandfather, did not get on with his new stepmother. So he ran away from home and went to stay with a man who was either his uncle or his cousin and who was called Ghosn al-Hawi. Ghosn al-Hawi was blind, and so he had decided that the best career he could choose (since the family was Christian) was to become a preacher. He made a plan with Phadlallah, that he would try to get trained as a preacher, and he would try to arrange for Phadlallah to be trained as a doctor. Then the two of them could settle down in Syria, and Ghosn would look after the souls of the people by being a preacher for them, while Phadlallah would look after their bodies and be their doctor.

The two of them managed to get help to achieve this plan, probably through one of the Scottish Missionary Societies that was trying to spread Christianity in that country. Ghosn did indeed become a preacher, after receiving training in Canada, where he married a Canadian wife, with whom he returned to Syria where they had a successful career.

Phadlallah went to Edinburgh, where he was looked after by a lady called Mrs Hoyes, who also had a holiday home in Ayrshire. To begin with because he was still in his teens he went to Moray House school, but then he went to Edinburgh University as a medical student, and after the usual period he qualified as a doctor, after also spending one year in Paris in France to get extra training in obstetrics (looking after women who are having babies).

However Phadlallah had enjoyed his life in Scotland as a student so much, as well as meeting all the friends that Mrs Hoyes had, that he decided that he didn't want to go back to Syria again. He saw an advertisement placed by Sir Charles Forbes, the Laird of Newe, for a doctor to serve in the remote countryside of upper Donside in Aberdeenshire for the parishes of Strathdon and Glenbuchat. He applied for the job, and immediately became close friends with Sir Charles Forbes, and was given the job. He remained there for the rest of his life.

One of the interesting items I have here is a bedspread that was embroidered by Miss Fairlie when she was an old lady staying as retired housekeeper in the doctor's house, on which she stitched a number of pictures of notable events in the doctor's life, including a representation of the old car whose photograph you have and the stitched replica autographs of a number of distinguished visitors to Craignahullie, the house that was built by Sir Charles Forbes for Dr Howie in Bellabeg, and which continued to be the doctor's house there for many years, till one of the doctors sadly commandeered it as her own private property and sold it, since when there has been no doctor's house there.

The name Craignahullie I have been told means "Rock of the Treasure" and was the name of Mrs. Hoyes' holiday house in Ayrshire, after which Dr Howie named his house in Strathdon.

Another interesting item I have is a splendidly bound photograph album with the initials P. el H. titled in gold on the cover, containing many photographs of many people who were coming about Mrs. Hoyes' house when Dr Howie was staying there. My guess is that the camera and photograph album were given to Dr Howie as graduation presents when he qualified. I attach two images from the album

In the pictures above, one is of Dr Howie as a newly graduated doctor I believe, along with Mrs Hoyes, and the other I believe is of Miss Farlie, at that time Mrs. Hoyes' companion, but later as I said in my essay for my grand-daughter, Dr. Howie's housekeeper in Strathdon

Shortly after Phadlallah moved to Strathdon, he heard that Mrs Hoyes had died, and that her old housekeeper, Miss Fairlie, had nowhere to go to. Because Phadlallah himself was then needing a housekeeper, he asked Miss Fairlie to come and do that job for him which she did for many years. Another old friend whom he met after that was a young lady called Miss Jane Edith Fleming whom he had met while he had been on holiday with Mrs Hoyes in Ayrshire. Of course it would not have been respectable for Miss Fleming to call on the doctor while he was staying alone, but when he had a respectable elderly housekeeper there as well, it was all right. Jane Edith Fleming in due course married Dr Howie - for that is how he changed the spelling of his name when he decided to stay on in Scotland, since that is a nice easy name for Scots to spell. Jane Edith Fleming's father was James Nicol Fleming and he had been a millionaire, but had then lost all his money and had also helped the City of Glasgow Bank to go bust in 1878, which had been the big financial scandal of the day. I don't suppose, if her father had remained a respectable millionaire, that Jane Edith Fleming would have been allowed to call on Dr Howie, let alone marry him, since she would not have been expected to marry anyone who was not of a good Scottish family. However since her dad had spent some time in prison for fraud in connection with the terrible bank scandal, her mum was perhaps prepared to allow her to marry this man, who at least was a respectable doctor. Otherwise of course I wouldn't be here, and neither would you.

Dr and Mrs Howie had three daughters, Kathleen (who died in 1918 of diabetes, just at the end of the First World War, and only five years before insulin was discovered which could have saved her life), Jean Nicol who was my mum and your great grandmother, and Cecil Don, who was my aunt Cecil. Dr Howie was also one of the first people in Scotland to own a motor car, which he got to try to help with winter transport in the snowy Strathdon winters. It was a Daimler Snowdrop, but was not found to be very reliable in snow, and in winter the horses and sledges still continued to be used for some time after that.

Jean Farquharson, told me that Dr Howie's advice about motor cars was:- "Plenty of petrol, plenty of oil - never wash your car!"

My mum had a very happy childhood in Strathdon, which she always remembered for the rest of her life as the happiest time of all. Sometimes I think that her memories of that time were too happy, and that she never allowed herself to think that anything else could ever match it. Of course after that there were many unhappy things that happened to her, starting with the time when her dad, Phadlallah, had to go to Gallipoli in Turkey in the First World War to serve as a military doctor, from which he came back as a sick man, only to find that his oldest daughter was dying of incurable diabetes. Then the Forbes family who had always been close to Phadlallah's family since the time when Phadlallah had first become their doctor, suddenly got into financial difficulties, and had to sell off the grand Castle of Newe and move away from that estate. However my mum did then go on to become a medical student at Aberdeen University, and after qualifying, to spend some time helping her dad with the doctor’s practice in Strathdon at a time when he was getting old and unable to manage as he used to.

After old Dr Howie died in 1934, my mum and dad got married, and his widow moved to Banchory on Deeside to stay in a house called Woodbourne.

So when my mum and dad decided that Cardiff was too dangerous a place for me and my sister, it was only natural that my mum should think the safest place for us would be Strathdon, and she arranged for us to stay in a farmhouse called the Coull of Newe with a family called Mason. I can just remember a little bit about that, which must have been the winter of 1940-41. The Masons had a daughter called Madge, that I used to think was a bit of a bully, though I expect she was OK really, but I was just a tiny frightened boy then, about Aidan's age, and away from my mum. The one who was certainly a bully was bubbly-jock the turkey-cock who lived out in the farmyard and was bigger than I was. He knew that I would run away if he chased me, and every time I came outside the door, he did just that.
There was also another smaller girl staying in the house, who was disabled in some way. I quite liked her because she was gentle, but I have forgotten her name, which is a shame. However we did not stay very long at the Coull of Newe, because when my Banchory Granny, Dr Howie's widow, heard that my sister and I had been moved up to Strathdon, she said to my mum, “This is nonsense. They would be just as safe here in Banchory, and this house is far more comfortable and convenient, and anyway I would like to have my grandchildren beside me." So after that Violet Dunn, my sister Lindsay and I moved in to join my granny's rather big household in Banchory. I can remember quite a lot about that time, though I don't think we were there for more than a year. “

Magnus also supplied this copy of a poem by J Rogie on the death of Dr Howie

James Rogie (b. 26 May 1896, d. 1977) from Corgarff .
He can be seen here with the Lonach Pipe band


THE DOCTOR
J. Rogie

Feg's but the man was richt weel kent
Twa score year mang them he'd spent
Tho's back was getting unco bent
and grey his pow,
O' changes up and doon the glen
He'd seen a fyow.

Clad in a suit o' hamespun tweed
Wi' hose made o' a sic like threed
A weel faurt hat upon his heid
A cloak aboot him,
If ye had seen him on the road
Ye'd never doot him.

His was the irksome job o' healin'
'Mang sick and sair he'd lang been dealin'
Frae dread disease to sma' bit bealin'
He a' had seen.
If yere complaint had him fair blaiket
Yere day wis deen.

New fangled cures he couldna thole them,
Aft hae we heard him sair deplore them,
Gin ane o' them ye'd lay before him
His heid he'd shak
Syne ower ye like a seething burn
His anger brak.

He whiles wis ill to understan
A cautious, dour, deep thinking man
If ane just hadna seen his plan
An fain was sperit
A canny sure aff han reply
Wad make ye feart.

His bonny dwellin on yon brae
Tae him was dear for mony a day
A cosier hame nae man could hae
Nor wealth o' gear,
Yet o' dame fortune's fickle froons
He'd had a share.

But pilgrims here nae time can claim
The simple anes, the great o' name
Maun gang ae day tae that lang hame
Mang mansions braw.
So a'e spring day there cam tae him
That gentle ca'.

The spring wi' green had decked the glade
A gentle breeze the treetops swayed
Dreich was the tune the pipers played
Wi' peetying moan,
But yet for him the day had broke
The shadows flown.

The fouk had come frae ilka airt,
Frae laird tae cottar took a pairt
Wi' tearfu' ee and sorra hert
They gathered roon
Syne in the auld and grey kirk yaird
They laid him doon.

Auld time will flee sae swift and sure
The weel kent folk will aye get fewer
Some new fledged lad will try to cure
Wi' drugs and pills
While oor auld Doctor's cured for aye
Frae a' his ills.




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