Author Archives: wendywelch

Jock, since ever I saw your Face – –

Jack is very late this week – – –

One of the good friends I made fairly late in both our lives was the wonderful Jock Duncan. He had been a singer all his life and steeped in the traditions of his native Aberdeenshire, but didn’t record anything until he was seventy years old. His repertoire of ballads and songs were very authentic and rooted in the soil of his land, but he continued to learn new songs written in traditional style

Jock had moved to Pitlochry in Perthshire, where I was hosting a monthly radio show that went out live in the 1990s. Each time I’d finish by asking Jock to put the kettle on. So, many of my radio guests were conducted down the ten minutes to Jock’s house where his wife Frances would set out an impeccable tea with biscuits.

Wendy sometimes went with me and on one occasion I did the usual ‘kettle, tea’ sign off and we headed down to Jock and Frances’ house. What we didn’t know was they’d been visiting their son in Aberfeldy and heard me on the car radio. We arrived to find them as usual with everything ready, but only found out later they’d arrived a few minutes before us! That was what they were – always thinking of others and how to make them welcome.

I remember when Duncan Williamson was my radio guest, taking him to meet Jock and they immediately respected each other as important in the folk revival, despite their very different approaches to the ballads. As usual Duncan was talking while Jock was listening.

Later, when I started doing small group tours of Scotland for Americans I’d make a point of taking them to meet Jock and Frances and though they hardly understood a word Jock said they were always charmed by him and the welcome they received.

RIP Jock – 1925-2021


Filed under between books, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Taking the Lid Off

Yesterday I did one of those strategic early morning Walmart runs. You know: the aisle-organized list, the double mask, the full body sweatsuit: prepare to raid at dawn.

As is usual when making this foray, I went to the canning aisle first. (It used to be cleaning supplies to look for bleach wipes. Things are improving.) If you’re a canner, you know why I go there first. If you aren’t, don’t worry about it. The point is, when I arrived another woman with a gater mask stood in front of the empty section.

She eyed me sideways and I did the same to her. Were we after the same scarce resources?

Half-pint jars were my quarry. Which they had. As I put a couple of cases in my cart, she said, “My mom died.”

I said, “I am so sorry to hear that. How are you doing?”

She said, “It was March 20, 2019. She canned a lot.”

“Does it comfort you to use her stuff?”

She cocked her head, considering. Above the mask her eyes concentrated on the shelf, but she was seeing something else.

“Yeah, it does.” Her hand moved to a thing that claimed it was a “grease catcher,” a kind of modified coffee pot doohickey. A lot of doohickeys have come out since the pandemic started and newbies began entering traditional preservation methods with money to spend.

“My mom kept all the grease from when she cooked, but she kept it in a kind of an old skillet with a screen over it. It didn’t look like this.” Her hand rocked the coffeepot-esque thing back and forth in its box with a faint rattle.

“Lotsa weird devices coming out. You still have hers?”

“You know, I don’t know. I haven’t seen it in years, but there’s still some boxes to go through. Some days it feels like yesterday, but it was two years ago. She missed all this craziness.” Although her hand gestured to the empty shelf we both knew what she meant.

I didn’t say the other words we were thinking: two years ago today.

Aloud I asked, “Are you looking for lids?”

She nodded. Hence the side-eye when we met. We might have had to arm wrestle.

I grinned, then realized she couldn’t see it. “Aren’t we all? Last I bought some without price gouging was at Target. I don’t know if you live near one?”

Rural people will understand, but for those who wonder why I said that to someone in the local Walmart, these places are beacons for 40 miles around. Sure enough, she lived in a small town about 30 miles away. This was her nearest box store.

We exchanged Intel on where we’d last seen rings and flats, who was upping the prices, places to check on retail and the online markets. She told me about her mom’s biscuit recipe and her love for fresh tomatoes. She still uses her mom’s clothes peg bag and some very old pins that her mom had from her mother. “The smell of fresh laundry, or fresh cut tomatoes, bring her right back like she’s standing there.”

I nodded. “The smells get us every time, don’t they.”

We wished each other luck on the lid hunt, and started to move away.

She paused. “It was nice, talking about my mom. It’s been awhile since I just talked to somebody I don’t live with.”

“I liked hearing about her,” I said.

And we parted.


Filed under crafting, Life reflections, small town USA