Ike talks about his family and his B & B in Ullapool. We hear how grateful he is to May Wiles and learn what happened to his parents who were in hiding in Belgium
INT: Right, so you had already had your family?
IG: I had two children and I always joke with people they have the average intelligence between them, unfortunately not evenly shared out. So my son has Downs Syndrome and my daughter is brilliant. She is far more than average… so you know the normal distribution for intelligence that children are expected to be somewhere in the middle of the bow? And the normal..
IG: And 2.5% will be brighter than their parents and 2.5% will be duller, I got one at each end. Kate, I knew Kate was brighter than me by the time she was 12.
I didn’t mind, to me it seemed I should be very pleased that I got a very bright kid and I had. She’s now a consultant in clinical genetics working in Queensland and to me that’s a pretty fierce job. She knows what she’s doing and I joke that years ago she did as I said and we’ve reached a stage now where I do as she says.
INT: That’s old age for you.
INT: So and your son, where is he?
IG: He has Downs Syndrome and we had, he was a very bright Downs and apart from the first 10 years when he had lots of physical and mental, eh, physical illness problems. He had an imperforated anus for a start so they had to operate, he then got a blockage and they had to operate again and he got a thyroid deficiency but once they got it all sorted…
Frankly, he and I particularly, but his mum as well a bit, but he and I particularly had a ball. We had such fun together because he learnt to play snooker and when I played snooker or pool with him I never once made it easy for him. I always played as well as I could, which isn’t brilliant, and that meant he fought to beat me and I did the same with swimming and for years he couldn’t beat me and I would slow down so that I only beat him by a little and in the end he could beat me, no question about it at all and he won 70 or so swimming medals going into swimming competitions with other disabled kids. They had lots of competitions and they had staggered starts and they know the time the kids have swam their distance before and if they gain in a race by more than 3 seconds a length then they disqualify them. Ian never did that but he took all the medals going and he one year won the national trophy.
They put the top kids from each area into the national competition and we went and saw him win the national trophy. He was a superb swimmer. Ullapool pool, he would go in there with me three times a week and like me he would swim 30 lengths, I mean how many Downs kids do that.
INT(2): How many people without Downs Syndrome can do that?
IG: But I mean the Downs people normally can’t concentrate to that extent.
IG: But he certainly could and unfortunately now he’s got dementia as well and he’s in Fairburn House.
INT: Near here?
IG: Nearer to Inverness, about 12 miles from Inverness. When we had the car we used to go once a month and take him out to lunch. Now we go when we can, when friends are here and so on.
INT: So you were retired and then the decision to come to Ullapool.
IG: That was made easy because we came here on our holidays towing an old caravan for seven, I never remember if it was 17 or 18 years.
We fell in love with Ullapool and said we would retire here and the last year we came before we moved up here our friends, also in the caravan, said ‘Why don’t you…’ It was rotten weather ‘Why don’t you go look at the houses for sale?’
And this was one of them and the couple that ran this one also ran it as a bed and breakfast and they said well they had only put it on the market for one week and they were trying to find somewhere for themselves so we said ‘Well, keep us in mind if we are still looking we could be interested’ and I suppose what happened then was we decided we would travel for 6 months so we travelled for 6 months to Australia and New Zealand and had a wonderful time and then we came back and started seriously looking for a house and this one was still for sale and the price we paid, all the locals said ‘Oh! Too expensive’ but when you actually think what it would sell at now it’s frightening.
Ullapool Bed & Breakfast
INT: Where was Ann from? Was she from…?
IG: St Ives, Not from St Ives, From……Not St Ives
INT: In Huntington?
INT: So you came to Ullapool and you’re running a bed and breakfast, was it easy to start a business in Scotland?
IG: It was pretty easy to start a bed and breakfast.
INT: Is it?
IG: Oh yes, you just put up your sign. If you’ve got less than three rooms, up to three rooms you don’t have to sort of, register it as a business or anything. So we had two rooms that we let out because Ian had the downstairs room and we had one of the upstairs rooms. We let out two rooms and we always made sure our price was in the middle of the price range.
Not at the top or bottom but the middle and then we decided we would do the best breakfast in the village. So I used to bake all the bread, every breakfast they had a freshly baked roll, sometimes out of the freezer but it was a roll that we had baked, with every breakfast we got the best bacon and eggs and things that we could find. In the end I was making the black pudding and the sausages as well. I just liked making things and both the black pudding and the sausages were rather better than you could buy. I’m serious about that. We put slightly more spice in the black pudding and the sausages, we had it coarse ground by Bookers in Inverness and we bought the skins and we loaded the coarsely ground sausages with a bit of savoury stuff like pepper and salt and they were very good.
INT: So you got lots of people coming back?
IG: Quite a few came back but we are so far out that…Well we had one couple, a German couple I think it was, who came 5 years in succession.
IG: But we had quite a few people that had come a couple of years but often people don’t come this far north more than once, quite infrequent and we would allow them, I mean some bed and breakfast say ‘minimum of 2 nights’ we never did that. If they wanted to come for one night they came for one night and we enjoyed it we reckon that… oh and all the jam and marmalade was homemade as well. So they really had, and we didn’t put these little silly packet jams out, we used to put a dish of jam and a dish of marmalade and if they went right down the dish we just filled it up again. We did the breakfast very well, it was a superb breakfast and everybody that came here said that too.
INT: And the community of Ullapool, what’s that like?
IG: Well we reckon that they are the nicest and friendliest people you could meet anywhere.
Where Ann is in Lochbroom House the care home, I was in there for 6 or 7 weeks because with my first stroke, I’ve got minor epilepsy and they gave me some drugs which weren’t controlling it entirely so they gave me another drug and between the two they knocked me out and the result was Ann was here and I was largely looking after her.
And one day I went to put something in the freezer, which is in the garage, and I walked down the steps outside and you probably discovered there are two steps and they are quite large and instead of walking down two steps I walked down three which meant I went flat on my face and I couldn’t get up.
So Ann pressed her help button, my neighbour came along, who was a good friend, in fact the man you are staying with, Mike. He came along and because I am a bit of a lump he couldn’t lift me but he called somebody in off the street and I remember them dragging me into the house. I don’t remember anything else until I woke up in Lochbroom House and of course because Ann couldn’t really look after herself she got there too and in Lochbroom House they have lots of staff coming in on shifts and without exception they are fantastic people, without exception.
They are kind, friendly and have the patience of saints. I wouldn’t have half the patience they’ve got. There was one man down there who’s got slight dementia and one night he got incredibly aggressive with the staff and frankly if that had been me, I would have said
‘Well stay where you damn well are until you decide to cooperate’ but they didn’t, they just had the patience to keep working with him and ignore all the aggression. I would have found that very difficult.
INT: So, did you do things with the community? How did you learn to be in, you know, to be accepted by the community, to be in it?
IG: Well, I mean, all most at once I was on the committee of, what was it? The swimming pool? I was on one of the committees for 8 years; they tried to get me on the first year I was here and I wouldn’t accept that but the 2nd year… I’m trying to remember, this shows you my memory. I was on one of the local committees. I think it was the swimming pool but I was on one of the committees for 8 years and met quite a few people that way and just being round.
And when we used to come here on holiday every time we came up and went into one of the shops we would get greeted with ‘Nice to see you back’. Now where else would you find that? I mean, it was just a lovely atmosphere there are two or three people that we probably wouldn’t get on with brilliantly but on the whole they are really nice people.
INT: Well that’s nice.
IG: And the pace of life is much more sensible here than it was down in Hertfordshire and you know we’ve been back a few times because our friends Dennis and Brenda live in North London and when we’ve been back, we just… the hustle and bustle, just terrifying; I like it here much better.
Ike’s identity and his reflection on life.
He talks about his roots and his family and what happened to his parents.
INT: So do you think of yourself as English in Scotland or German/English in Scotland?
IG: Well, I have never thought of myself as German weirdly enough, despite having been born there. I think I have always thought of myself as English in Scotland but as you can see I’m not really English.
INT: And Kate grew up in England?
INT: So she’s English?
IG: Oh, Totally.
IG: And the interesting thing is my parents, although they were in Germany when I was born, they are both Polish.
IG: Both my parents were Polish by origin but you know Poland wasn’t very nice to Jews.
IG: And so, they both got out of there and they met in Germany and married in Germany.
INT: We always finish up with sort of reflections on life, you know, we were talking about the Kindertransport yesterday. So what is your reflection on life, of the life you’ve had?
IG: I think I’ve been extraordinary lucky.
I’ve had a good home. May Wiles who married and became Mrs. Gibson, her husband when they were over 80, they went… I mean Esther who only stayed with her for 4 years, Esther had them out to Australia to her eldest daughters wedding, the two of them and they loved that.
But Esther was in Australia fairly soon after nursing training whereas I’ve always been in England and my reflection on my life is that I’ve been extraordinary lucky. May Gibson/ May Wiles… May Gibson gave me a good stable home and later on I had power of attorney and we always used to go see her until she got so that she wouldn’t have recognized us, she was in a nursing home and she finally died at 103.
But, you know, I did have a good stable home and I actually believe that’s probably… The main thing I think, people think it’s the true parents that are the most important, I actually think the people who bring you up are the most important.
INT: What happened to your parents?
IG: We know they got as far as Belgium and were in hiding and there was a young daughter in the house…
and my eldest sister… when they were in the WAAF and she went to the house where they were hiding and she got a very distinct impression that the daughter had given them away and she was spitting tacks at the daughter whereas I had a slightly kinder views.
I thought, this girl at the age of 12 had people staying with her parents that would have endangered all their lives and she tolerated it.
If she did give them away, we don’t know that, but if she did my reaction is she survived three years of what must have been intense pressure and she finally cracked and as a 15 year old, I can’t have a lot of blame for her. Obviously if she did. We don’t know that she gave them away but if she gave them away how can you blame her? The strain she must have lived under for 4 years or 3 years.
INT: And what happened then?
IG: Well I’ve got a document that says they were on the transport to Auschwitz.
INT: Which we have.
INT: So they were sent to Auschwitz?
IG: They were sent there but never arrived. That’s it, that’s the document