Smokey Joe


Many years ago, in fact more years than I care to recall, I met a man in a pub in Inverurie. I had seen him a few times along the bar and imagined him to be some big landowner or at the very least some rich son of a gun.

Deer-stalkered, he sat at the end of the bar swapping conversation with a few cronies. The conversations usually revolved around Africa, or Boston, or sometimes Portugal. Intrigued, I inveigled myself into his company.

It proved to be a good move.

Eventually he featured in a Leopard article or two as ‘Retired Railway engineer Joe Strachan’ and his tales of gunslinging ambushes on the railway route between Victoria Falls and death by landmine on the Mozambique railway lines will no doubt feature in an intended novel.

Imagine my surprise when, during a visit today, he revealed that a street in the Zimbabwe province of Harare is named in his honour.

Both Google Maps and something by the name of Geoview.com record that:
“Strachan Street is next to Ardbennie and is located in Harare Province, Zimbabwe. Strachan Street has a length of 0.55 kilometres. But it is splittet in separate ways.”

I love the word ‘splittet’.  It’s so … African.

Joe is pretty much confined to the house nowadays. Not that he has been naughty. Just that the old legs are a bit shaky.

On a fairly recent outing we went to Fittie then on to that Inversneckie Café on the esplanade. I had soup and a bread roll. Joe had a couple of cigarettes and waited in the car.

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire

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