My Tunes: Jeannie Oban

Here is another of my earliest tunes, written around 1994, which I named after my maternal grandmother Jane Prosser. Jane was born in Oban in 1925 and was more commonly known as Jean. Twice married, her first husband was Edward Ritz from Alberta in Canada with whom she had six children.

Jean was a telephone switchboard operator in her younger days and she told me a story about being sent to work temporarily on Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. She caught the steamer from Oban to Lochboisdale in South Uist and took a small bus travelling north through the various settlements. At the first village the bus stopped at a house to let some passengers off. Instead of pausing for a minute and moving on as expected, those departing invited the bus driver and his passengers to join them for a cup of tea (and more than likely a dram). Jean was a little surprised by this but joined the rest of the passengers for a refreshment. After half an hour or so the passengers rejoined the bus and it continued on its journey north. At the next village the same thing happened, everyone alighted for tea, biscuits and whisky. Jean started to worry that she would be late arriving at her guest house in Benbecula and this worry only escalated as the bus stopped at yet more houses on the way through South Uist. By the time she arrived at her accommodation it was almost midnight and Jean was afraid that her landlady would be cross with her. She gingerly knocked the door and was greeted by a warm, welcoming smile and these words, “Ah, you must be Jeannie Oban. Well, the bus must have been quiet for you’re here early. Come away in, you’ll be needing a cup of tea.”

I loved this story and thought Jeannie Oban a suitable name for a tune. I think this may be the only tune of mine to be professionally published as it appeared in Merlin Music’s Session Book No 4.

Alcohol addiction blighted a good part of Jean’s life (and those who depended on her of course) but later, once she was free of her addiction, I believe her actions were an attempt to make amends for her failings. She became a campaigner for pensioners’ rights and sat in a European Pensioners’ Parliament in Copenhagen which brought together 500 pensioners from across the European Union.

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