MacVicar, Angus. Salt in my Porridge: Confessions of a Minister’s Son. Glasgow: [Hutchinson 1971] Fontana-Collins, 197
Just a quick acknowledgement of a lovely little book that I found on a friend’s bookshelf as I was visiting Scotland ten days ago. Salt in my Porridge: Confessions of a Minister’s Son was originally published in 1971 by Angus MacVicar in memory of his father who died in 1970. MacVicar recalls his childhood and young adulthood with love and humour, capturing well the situation of all children raised in the shadow of manse or rectory. There are advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the disadvantage of feeling sometimes that one is always on display is compensated by the fact that the child of the manse learns early to be at ease with people from all walks of life from tramps to Moderators of the Church of Scotland.
MacVicar’s style is somewhat understated even when recording the heroism of his brothers in the second world war: one survived for twenty-five days on a lifeboat in the south Atlantic and another managed to find his way to British troops after having crashed his plane behind enemy lines in Burma. All in all, MacVicar comes through the book as the sort of person one would instinctively like, who would be an enjoyable dinner guest, slightly self-deprecating, kindly ironic, and empathetic. One knows exactly how he feels when he writes, “I keep groping towards truth and never getting there. I keep setting up ideals which have a habit of exploding in my face” (184).
Salt in my Porridge vividly evokes a strong sense of place and recalls a time and way of life long gone. Perhaps MacVicar allows himself some nostalgia, but he never becomes maudlin. With no little regret, I returned the book to its place on my friend’s bookshelf.