“I have high hopes.”

J’ai Bonne Esperance, indeed!

When I first told my Grandma (Mary Templeton Brown) that the Craig family motto, J’ai bonne esperance, meant ‘I have high hopes’, she rolled her eyes and chortled, “Aye, high hopes, indeed; that’s all we bloody well have!” Gran had a wonderful turn of phrase, and never missed an opportunity to have a dig at the ‘Craigs’. You could never pull the wool over her eyes, and she would often say in her broad Glasgow accent, “D’ya think ma heid buttons up the back? Well, ah tell ye, ah’m nae as green as ah’m cabbage lookin’!” My favourite of Gran’s sayings (which Robyn has adopted) was “Ach! It’d gie y’ the boak!”

Not one to retreat from a hearty donnybrook, my grandfather, Thomas [5] Craig, was never slow in retaliating with a good broadside at the ‘Browns’, who he always likened to the family in The Sunday Post cartoon strip, The Broons. “Well, Maw Broon, if it wisn’a for the Craigs, ye’d a’ still be livin’ in a wee but ’n’ ben in the Gorbals!” What Granddad might have missed as he jested in the luxury of my Aunt Joyce’s beautiful home in Bearsden, was that their present comfortable circumstances were due mainly to his lovely daughter having married a successful bookie, Jim Strachan.  Jim and Joyce had long left the squalor of the Glasgow slums behind, and had decidedly moved up in the world — and my grandparents lived for the later part of their lives with them at Bearsden. After my grandparents had died,  Jim and Joyce moved to the magnificent Boquhan House in Stirlingshire, then, in their later years, to California after Jim developed Alzheimer’s. Joyce and Jim have now long passed, but I still missed them dearly.

“Let majesty flourish”

The Craig, Brown and Strachan families were all fairly typical Glasgow folk when my father was born in 1927. They lived much as their parents and grandparents before them had done: in tenement flats of one or two rooms with a shared toilet on the landing. The men worked mainly in the shipyards or engineering works, while the women were wool and linen dyers, dress-makers or housewives. My Gran, though, became an exception to this, as she worked as a window-dresser for the big Jewish department stores in the Gorbals, and this provided our wee family with an extra income for almost all her working life. I’ve left it to my father to tell that story in his own words on another page (see My Early Life by Iain Craig).

So, as flamboyant as these clan badges and mottos might be, the reality for both the Craigs and Browns is that we have evolved from very working-class roots, and our association with the more aristocratic chiefs and their family estates would be very remote indeed.

So, what do we know of these branches of my family? Well, the following is an overview to prepare the reader for the more detailed stories in other chapters.