My great-grandfather was very young when he arrived in
from a very small town in the Canadian prairies. He was very old when he told
me this story and he only told me then because
he’d discovered my secret. His secret, too. England
He was on his way to
training with the Canadian contingent just before the war. When he arrived,
they measured him for a uniform and sent him along to a small room in a dingy
hallway in the back of the building. He wondered about that, he said, because
only he and one other boy stood outside the closed door. York
They waited a few minutes then an elderly man with a shock of still red hair and a
And then the elderly man started asking questions. The other boy was obviously a farmer and the questions obviously made him uncomfortable. Do you have a well on your farm? How did your family find that well? Do you have a tradition of dowsing or divining in your family? The other boy was dismissed. His answers were all shrugs or noes.
But he, my great-grandfather said, answered yes to all of them. And then the red-haired man asked if he used a rod and when he said yes, he nodded. You’ll go to this new unit, he said. It’s experimental but…
"We used our skills to ferret out mines and tunnels. There were only a few of us and we were called sappers though that wasn’t what we did. We found mines or other unexploded ordinances for the sappers. They wouldn’t waste us on defusing things – they needed us." He smiled at me and said, people will need you, you know. Your skills are useful.
No one had ever said that to me before. No one had ever called me anything but weird or witchy or creepy. To hear that from him, to hear his story, changed my life. Or at least my attitude to my life and now, whenever I feel scared or worried or unhappy about the skill in my hands, I think of his story and his confidence in me and I carry on.