Dorrit describes starting work and meeting her future husband. She goes on to tell about us about living in Dundee and having her family. She shares how other members of her family settled in America and Canada. Finally we learn about how she came to write her book “In My Pocket” and about her involvement with the setting up of the Scottish Annual Reunion of Kinder.
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D.S: So when I was seventeen, that would be 1949, I went out to New York and then to Canada and met them all again. My uncle was quite concerned about my career. The Gallimores had paid for my education; it was really good of them. The school wasn’t the kind of school that you left when you were fifteen but I did. My uncle paid for me to go to Skerry’s which was a secretarial college. They had advertisements for jobs and there was an advertisement came in for a job in a lawyers’ office. Mylne & Campbell it was called. It was in Castle Street and I went there. My boss was the Secretary of the Scottish Lawn Tennis Association so that’s what I was involved in, not legal work. That’s where I met Andrew because when I rang the bell it was Andrew who came to the door.
INT: And he was training to be a lawyer at the time?
D.S: That’s right. That was my first job and I was there until I went to Brazil.
INT: And by that time were you engaged?
D.S: I was engaged just about three or four weeks before I went to Brazil. I was a very naive girl. I really was. I don’t think I could have stayed myself and people didn’t live together at that time.
INT: Oh no
INT: Absolutely not, that would be terrible.
INT: Your reputation would have been tarnished.
D.S: Absolutely. So, I got engaged and then about a month later I was on the road to Brazil. The Gallimores emigrated to Brazil when I was nineteen and I went with them and stayed there for a year and a half until Andrew graduated and then I came home and got married.
We went to Dundee where I had the twins in Maryfield Hospital. We had managed to get a couple of rooms. Before, I had the children I used to spend all my lunchtimes going around the house agents because we couldn’t afford to buy a house. Andrew was earning £7.50 a week, you know. The house was up two flights of stairs and next door was a rag and bone merchants in the Seagate. It was like something out of the Sunday Post. Andrew had to climb up the pole and hang the rope out and hang my washing out the window.
And then from the Seagate, we went to Kirkton and I was expecting again. And Susan was born seventeen months after my twins.
INT: You had your work cut out
INT: That’s quite a lot!
D.S: She was born in the house and nI was out of bed, I had to get my family allowance at the post office. At that time people just left their prams outside; they never took the prams into shops. A woman came rushing into the post office and said, “Come out at once! – your twins are throwing your baby out the pram!” It was a big Marmet pram; at one time there were four children in the pram.
INT: So you said you’ve got a son as well?
D.S: He was born ten years after Ruth was born. Ruthie was born I think it was twenty-two months after Sus. I think she must have been one of the last children to be born at home in Prestwick you know, because the doctors always had women going to the hospital. I think nowadays it’s changed. Ruthie was born in ’58 and David was born in ’68 and they were both born in April.
[We returned to discussing what happened to Dorrith, just after the war, when she visited New York and Toronto]
INT: But you never considered before that, going to live with your remaining relatives in Canada?
D.S: Do you know something, I was homesick when I was there..
INT: For Scotland?
D.S: I was homesick for Scotland. My aunt was lucky because when she got to New York the people she had worked for in the leather industry were also living there. They had got out and they were living in New York. Her boss’s sister, Mina Balin used to take me out with her son and girlfriend, Claude and Inge. Claude and Inge have just had their sixtieth wedding anniversary. When, Auntie Alice was working, she went to the boss’s house and introduced me there and there were two things that really, really impressed me. One was chocolate ice cream and the other one was the toilet paper.
INT: Was it soft?
D.S: Oh it was quite different from ours.
INT: Yes ours is rather hard.
INT: Bronco, we had Bronco here I remember.
D.S: Well all those years ago, you were too young to know, but all these years ago it was Izal toilet roll.
And Izal toilet roll had poems on every second or third leaf and that was one of the reasons I learnt English.
They were about Izal but it was like nursery rhymes by Izal incorporated. So anyway, I was lucky to even get staying in New York because I was on the Queen Elizabeth and when I got to New York they wouldn’t let me off because I was too young – you had to be eighteen before you were allowed to go yourself. So I had to stay in the boat overnight, everybody else had left and then the next day my aunt had managed to get a bond for me, to allow me to stay. I thought I was on my way Ellis Island but she’d got this bond for me to stay but I had to leave in two months. I went over to Canada and there was my Oma and Opa whom I hadn’t seen all these years. Do you know, it was ridiculous, I was so homesick. I was just homesick for Scotland and I never slept at night and I didn’t know what to do.
INT: And were they thinking they were bringing you to keep you there?
D.S: No, no
INT: No? But you must have suspected they thought that?
D.S: No, they talked about that in 1939 and then there were these boats that were sunk and that was the end of it. I never did get over. But I was homesick and they didn’t know what to do and my Uncle Ernst took me to a Scottish night at the theatre and Robert Wilson was singing and I was fine after that. [View video of Robert Wilson on Youtube]
INT: So tell us a wee bit about the book that you’ve written.
D.S: It’s just my journey.
INT: But it’s not just a journey.
INT: It’s a lovely children’s book, a lovely book.
D.S: I’ll let you see it.
INT: And did you write that for your children or your grandchildren?
D.S: No I didn’t. I was a member of Ayr Writers’ Club and they were looking for people who would write stories for children who weren’t good at learning; there was a name for that.
INT: Learning difficulties?
D.S: With learning difficulties. So I wrote this story and I just would do little sentences. I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. Ayr Writers’ Club asked Alison Prince who lives in Arran to come and talk to the club.
I had her staying with me and I told her about my story. She said, “Could I send that to my agent?” So it was Alison Prince that started it all. Before that I had been at a conference and I had got commended or highly commended by Anne Fine.
INT: Oh, she’s a great writer
D.S: We got on very well with her. Between her and then Alison Prince, they got it all started. Alison sent the story to the agent in London and it went from there. It took a long time.
INT: It’s beautifully illustrated.
D.S: That’s Gerald Fitzgerald. He’s super.
INT: Did he just read the story and choose how to illustrate it?
D.S: No it was the publishers who appointed him. He lived in Arran too funnily enough. I had to cut the story right down and it came out well as a picture book.
INT: It’s very good. It’s a very moving story about a child. It’s called “In My Pocket” isn’t it?’
D.S: Yes that’s what it is.
D.S: It’s been quite a success you know; it’s been good. There was the English version and then I had write the American version. Their ending was different from our ending.
INT: It’s been translated into a number of languages hasn’t it?
D.S: It’s also published in German. I try to keep it light because when speaking to children I think that’s the bits they’re going to remember.
[We then we talked about Dorrith’s relationship with the Jewish Community].
INT: Talking of the Synagogue…
D.S: I go once a year or so.
INT: Do you?
D.S: I do. I go to the, to Mendel’s
INT: Do you?
INT: For the Shul in the Park?
INT: The Shul in the park?
D.S: The Shul in the Park
INT: So Judaism still is part of your life?
D.S: I was part of the Jewish Community! I’m proud of my background
INT: But how did you end up being Church of England and your husband Church of Scotland?
INT: You’re very ecumenical certainly.
D.S: I know, absolutely. When I came over the granny got a hold of me, that was Granny Gallimore and within a week, I was going to the Sunday school.
INT: Ah right. But would that not have been Scottish?
D.S: No she was an Episcopalian.
INT: I see.
D.S: It wasn’t the Church of England I went to I think it was just the local Sunday school. But I never really got mixing with Jewish people and actually the Jewish community, when they knew I was going to get baptised wrote to my grandfather – I didn’t even know the Jewish community knew about me. But they wrote to my grandfather and said, “Do you know that Dorrith is going to be baptised.” And he wrote back and said, ‘Well, you know, you never were here for Dorrith when she needed you.’ And that was that.
INT: Which is a fair comment.
D.S: It was, it was really. But I call myself a Jewish-Christian
INT: Fair enough
INT: I think that’s fair enough
D.S: Or something like that
INT: And from the time that you were with the Gallimores, did you have anything to do with the Jewish community?
D.S: Do you know, it’s funny. I remember once going to some party. There must have been a Jewish community in Edinburgh. I took a friend and she’s never forgotten it and neither have I. I don’t know, would it be Sukkot or something? Maybe that’s what it was. I think Rosa was at that party too.
INT: Really? Rosa Sacharin?
D.S: Yeah. I think so. She was in Edinburgh at that time. But, but now and again Mummy Gallimore would take me down to meet Doctor Turk and I’ve got pictures of Doctor Turk’s garden.
INT: And when did you meet other refugees? Not till you were quite grown up then?
D.S: Well, yes. I’ll tell you, the only one I knew was Rita McNeil; her husband worked in Ear Nose and Throat in Ayr. I don’t know how they heard about me. It’s funny because Rita McNeil was at school with Billy McCulloch who was Mummy Gallimore’s nephew. I think he must have told us about her.
We had to go to a big office in Edinburgh and see about something to do with compensation, something like that. And Rita McNeil was there along with her foster mum. But that’s the only one I knew and I didn’t know I was part of Kindertransport; I’d never heard the name.
INT: Dorrith when I first said that we were coming out, that we wanted to interview you, I thought you said something quite interesting. You said, “Why? Because I haven’t done anything” and I said, “Yes you have” and then you sort of said casually, “Well I did start it off.”
INT: Would you like to explain
D.S: It was Joe Metzstein and myself. We actually, had our first meeting in London. I don’t know how but we managed to get quite a lot of people.
INT: Is this SAROK – which stands for what?
D.S: The Scottish Annual Reunion of Kinder. I think some people had got their names in the index of the brochure from the London meeting. I think we got some people from there. Also I talked on the wireless and I had an article in the Sunday Post. That’s how Gisela who lives in Kilmarnock had found out about it. She had got the Sunday Post and she had read the article. It was in other the papers as well.
INT: And so they all came to you.
D.S: And Joe. Joe had got Joe, Leo and Danny and Isi Metzstein – the two sisters, they live in America. That’s a wonderful story, you know the whole lot, the five of them all got over in the Kindertransport. All at different times.
INT: And their mother, and his mother as well.
D.S: And their mother got over too but that wouldn’t be a Kindertransport but she got over as well. But people wrote to me and when we had our meetings, you know, we brought all sorts of interesting books and then we had an exhibition with the pictures. And the library in Ayr helped me and we had about twelve display boards.
D.S: What happened was that I had a holiday home in Ballantrae and one day Margaret Sanderson who lived just two or three doors down came to see me and she said,
“Dorrith, there’s somebody been on Woman’s Hour and she’s looking for people like yourself and this is the phone number. Will you phone her?” So I phoned and within three weeks I was helping to publicise the reunion in London which a thousand people were at. It’s fantastic. And then Joe Metzstein and I got all these people from Scotland together and that’s where it all started. But I hadn’t known anybody before then. Leo Metzstein – he was the very first Kindertransport boy I’d ever met; he came up to the house.