The Lady of St. Monans -
This is a story of one of Scotland’s most beautiful sights to behold, her people. Ena is the 87-year-old mother of the neighbor at the Harvest Moon Inn, St. Monans, (back in the day, spelled St. Monance) where I am put up. A series of combined old fisherman’s cottages, a one off, sheltered, just around the harbor corner at 12 Forth Street where, in my room I can still catch the faintest whiff of a century gone fisherman’s oily hair cream (or maybe it is wood oil). I met Ena’s youngest daughter Margaret at the Inn over tea – Margaret said I should ring her mum up as she had many great stories to tell, if I could understand her broad accent. Ena lives just at the top of the hill. As we walk towards her house, the sky opens up a cloud burst and by the time I have walked up I am dripping at her door. “Come in dearie.” “Don’t ya worry bout tat – ya ken?” (you know). Ena is wearing a beautiful print of a dress, slightly flared and ending at the bottom of the knee. She has a white cardigan on and a delicate chained necklace. Her fine silver hair is perfectly coiffed and she has lipstick on. Ena has just come from church. She welcomes Fiona (the innkeeper and friend of Margaret) and I into her parlor and fetches us some tea. It is just what you do here. You are always offered (and expected to accept tea). Tea is not just the drink. It is almost always served with some kind of biscuit (cookie). Ena has prepared a tray with five different kinds of biscuit, including chocolate dipped cookies, petit-fours, and fine china to hold our drink in. Her tea pot has a cozy on it as she will need to keep the tea warm for our entire visit. Once we have been restored and dried out a bit, Ena brings out her box of treasures – pictures and her family history. Her parents, grand-parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are represented. Pictures of all the weddings on down the line are framed and tidily arranged throughout the neat as a pin cottage. Next she pulls out an ancestral chart that dates back to the early 1700’s and reviews both sides of her family with us. Lastly, she opens her hands revealing pictures of her posing with several of her beaus. Yes, Ena had a throng of male attention back in the day, Ena was what you would call “a looker.” Very wholesome, down to earth, girl next door sort of a looker. As far as I am concerned, Ena still is. She is the most lovely, bright and beguiling 87-year-old I have ever met. She explains how she still puts on her “lippy” even when taking out the rubbish, as prior beaus have appeared out of the blue on her doorstep, you never know when one might turn up, the ones that are still alive that is ‘ya ken?’ I asked Ena about war time in St. Monans. She remembered all the windows being painted black. She told of how a boy down the road had gone to feed his rabbits at night. He used a pen light and the German’s bombed and killed him and his mother. No lights - lights let the enemy know where you were. There were low-risk prisoners of war, mostly Italians, who helped harvest on the farms and were allowed to go around freely. Most of them ended up staying and marrying local women. Also polish soldiers who were over here with their leading general in command, helping the war effort as their country had been taken. The Polish soldiers were so handsome and they all liked to dance, were good dancers, some of them stayed on after the war as well. Lots of dancing in those days. No one seemed to mind except the local boys - the war brought in a lot of competition. Ena laughed, then proceeded to break out old love letters from the box, men, several who were at war, writing her and professing their love. Bill wrote about her sparkling eyes and how he tried to make her angry as her eyes sparkled even more when she was mad. Joey wanted a picture of her. Arthur was bartering chocolate for kisses. The bulk of each letter revealed in great detail their day to day life in the military as if telling her would keep a thread of normality constant. Each voice was different: Billy was mischievous - a good dancer, Joey was clearly homesick and miserable, Arthur was romanticizing and nervous that she would find another. You could get a clear sense of who these men were by the way they wrote.
She had not ended up marrying any of them. They had all become policemen. She met her husband David when she was eight. "He was always there, ya ken?" David had also been a policeman. “Must have been the uniform, ya ken” she said. I asked Ena if she ever got out dancing these days. She smiled a graceful smile and answered, “Oh aye, ya ken?”