Blantyre to Bermuda and back

An article from the Blantyre Gazette on Saturday 17th July 1948, tells the captivating tale of a Blantyre woman who found love at the other side of the world. It reads as follows:

“Seventeen years ago (1931), May McGregor decided to leave her parents home at 161 Stonefield Road, High Blantyre and travel the 3,800 odd miles to Bermuda, a tiny island out in the Atlantic. Her brother William, had been out there five years previously and May thought she would go there for a holiday. But as she herself admits now, it turned out to be a long holiday.

Three days after landing at Bermuda, at the age of 17, she found romance in the person of a young Bermudian named Alfred Franklin and six months later the Blantyre girl became Mrs Franklin.

May, born in 1914 in Blantyre,  came back to the town in 1948 and at the time of this article is here (1948), living at the home of her parents Mr and Mrs David McGregor at 13 Nursery Place, to which house the family moved just over a week ago. Bermuda is only 3.5 hours flying time from the United States and is regarded as a Millionaire’s paradise. There is no poverty on the island which covers an area of 19 square miles and the inhabitants live in varying degrees of comfort. Most people own their own houses, but like Blantyre the island apparently suffers from an acute housing shortage.

In an interview with the Gazette’s representative, Mrs Franklin stated that people who contemplated emigrating to the island wouldn’t stand a chance of getting a house. She knew of couples who had arrived in Bermuda but had to return home almost immediately with no hope of being housed.

bermudaBermuda is a British Colony, but unlike Britain itself, there are no shortages. Food and clothes are plentiful, no coupons required and the only items to which have any degree of rationing applies are butter and sugar. Although food is plentiful, it is nevertheless very dear, much dearer, Mrs Franklin says , than Blantyre. If you are a smoker, however, Bermuda is the place for you. Cigarettes are 1/4 for a twenty pack and four ounce of tobacco for 4 shillings. She remarked, we dont know what a ration book is.

Mrs Franklin’s husband is a building contractor and has his own business which is flourishing. She has 3 children, two boys David aged 15, Gerald aged 12 both of whom stayed with the father and two and a half year old Mary Lou who accompanied her mother on the long journey back to Blantyre to first meet her grandparents.

Mrs Franklin remarked how struck she was at the bitter cold in Scotland and on the strength of that alone, says she could never think of permanently returning to Blantyre.

During the war years, Mrs Franklin had the pleasure of meeting Charlie Bell, a sailor from Dixon’s Rows, Blantyre. Bell’s ship at set up at a Bermuda port and it was Bell who took steps to seek out Mrs Franklin, remembering her from Blantyre. When he reached her home, he was given a grand reception and during several days stay, was offered utmost hospitality.

To reach England from Bermuda, sailing on a troopship, Mrs Franklin and little Mary Lou took eleven days, and the single journey cost a total sum of £58. They expected to be here in Blantyre for several month and return by normal passenger ship at a cost of around £100. (about £3,200 in today’s money). It’s a lot of money she said, but worth it just to see her “ain folks” after so many years away from Bonnie Scotland.”

Reading back through this, i can only imagine how exciting that must have been for a 17 year old to be on the other side of the world herself, and can in that circumstance understand the desire to meet new friends very quickly. Photos of Bermuda look simply stunning and anybody can see the attraction of living permanently in such idyllic conditions. It must have seemed truly like paradise. It is sad though that May spent 17 years of her life away in another place before returning to see her family and have to wonder if it was the last time she saw them. She certainly seemed like a woman intent on living her life the way she wanted it without intervention from family.

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  1. Blantyre to Bermuda, David McGregor was my great grand mothers 2nd husband. My gran lived in Victoria St, round the corner from auld Davie

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