A childhood album of Colin Gubbins

from McVean family photographs

All reproduced by kind permission of Colin Houston with copyright: reserved.

Page first posted November 2010: first exhibition in Penicuik Town Hall 15 January 2011

 

SIR COLIN MCVEAN GUBBINS

  Colin Gubbins as a boy
image copyright Colin Houston 

Best known as Britain’s Director of Special Operations during the Second World War, Colin Gubbins was a great grandson of Alexander COWAN the Penicuik papermaker, his mother’s maternal grandfather.   His mother’s father Colin McVean had been Chief Surveyor of Japan


Gubbins children Tokio Tokyo 1897
image copyright Colin Houston Colin Gubbins 1897 Tokio Tokyo
image copyright Colin Houston
The Gubbins children in Tokio 1897

 
The third child in the family, Colin McVean Gubbins was born in
Japan in 1896 to Noni and Jack Gubbins.  His father Jack (John Harington Gubbins CMG) had been born in Agra in 1852 and worked in the British consular service as Oriental Secretary in the Tokio Legation.  His mother Noni (Helen Brodie McVean) had been born in Japan in 1868, and was the eldest child of Colin McVean and Mary Wood Cowan.

Gubbins family Karuizawa about 1898
image copyright Colin Houston

Karuizawa about 1898
image copyright Colin Houston

Gubbins family Karuizawa about 1898
image copyright Colin Houston

The Gubbins family at Karuizawa summer resort about 1898

 After his first years at the Tokio Legation, young Colin “Cockle” Gubbins came back to Britain with his brother and sisters and became familiar with Killiemore House, Kilfinichen, his mother’s family home on the Isle of Mull, where his kilted grandfather Colin McVean “Himself” held sway.  He later went to school at Cheltenham College.

British Legation Tokio Tokyo Japan about 1899 with Gubbins family
image copyright Colin Houston

The British Legation at Tokio about 1899

British Legation Tokio Tokyo Japan October 1899 Gubbins family
image copyright Colin HoustonHugh Una and Colin Gubbins 1901
image copyright Colin Houston

The three older Gubbins children: Colin with his older brother Hugh and sister Una

Noni Marjorie and Helen Gubbins 1902
Gubbins family
image copyright Colin Houston

Colin’s two younger sisters Marjorie “Mousie” and baby Helen, with his mother   

Colin Gubbins and dog Active
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston   Colin Gubbins 1903
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Life at Kilfinichen

Kilfinichen from the Ard
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Killiemore House Kilfinichen from the Ard
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Killiemore House Kilfinichen from Tiroran
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Killiemore House Kilfinichen Gathering apples with Colin Gubbins Oct 1902
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

 

Betsy McLean Kilfinichen scones
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Carding wool Kilfinichen Betsy McLean
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Spinning wool Betsy McLean Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Betsy McLean, wife of Hector the Kilfinichen shepherd

-wonderful company, she was a woman of great intelligence and skill

Gubbins children Killiemore House Kilfinichen 1902
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Colin Gubbins Loch Scridain
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Colin Gubbins rowing Oct 1902
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Gubbins family 1902 Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Picnic at Ballyvoulin
Colin McVean, Colin Gubbins
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Loch na Keal from Ulva
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Picnic at Donald Goldies Sept 1902
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Grandfather (“Himself”) in the kilt as usual, Colin is in sailor suit at right

Elsie McVean, Gubbins children Sept 1902
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston
Gubbins children on tennis court
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Picnic Colin Gubbins grandfather Colin McVean abt 1902
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Una and Colin Gubbins sledge
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Colin Gubbins pipes
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Hugh and Colin Gubbins with grandparents Colin McVean and Mary Cowan 
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Grandfather (Colin McVean) and Grandmother (Mary Cowan) stand between the boys

Hugh and Colin Gubbins with grandparents Colin McVean and Mary Cowan 
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Colin Gubbins as a boy Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Hugh Gubbins fishing
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston  Colin Gubbins fishing
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Hugh and Colin Gubbins fishing 
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Hugh & Colin Gubbins fishing, and swimming with Una

Gubbins children swimming
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Hugh and Colin Gubbins swimming with their sister Una
Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Hugh and Colin Gubbins  
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston Hugh and Colin Gubbins 
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

McVean and Gubbins family sailing to Iona on the Armide
image copyright Colin Houston

McVean and Gubbins family Oban Scotland around 1905
image copyright Colin Houston Oban Scotland around 1905
image copyright Colin Houston

Oban Station Scotland around 1905
McVean and Gubbins family image copyright Colin Houston

From Mull to Oban and the Caledonian Railway to Stirling and the South

 

Dondo Donald Archibald Dugald McVean
Killiemore House Kilfinichen
McVean and Gubbins family Mull Scotland
image copyright Colin Houston

Uncle Dondo (Donald Archibald Dugald) McVean (born 1870).

An officer in Rattray’s Sikhs he had been Winston Churchill’s tentmate in the Malakand Field Force

 

A childhood album of Colin Gubbins

from McVean family photographs

All reproduced by kind permission of Colin Houston with copyright: reserved.

Page first posted November 2010: first exhibition in Penicuik Town Hall 15 January 2011

 

Many more photographs of  Colin Gubbins’ grandparents: MARY WOOD COWAN & COLIN MCVEAN

 

Educated at Cheltenham College, at the age of 19 Colin Gubbins entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, serving throughout the Great War with the Royal Artillery.  In September 1916, as Lieutenant Colin Gubbins, R.F.A., he gained the Military Cross while serving on the Western Front .

In 1919 Gubbins went to
Russia where he served under General Edmund Ironside and General Anton Denikin in the White Army. He also served in the Anglo-Irish war of 1919-21. His experiences in Russia and Ireland gave him clear insights into the nature of guerrilla warfare. He joined Military Intelligence and wrote a series of pamphlets on the subject including The Art of Guerrilla Warfare, Partisan Leader's Handbook and How to Use High Explosives. 

Gubbins argued that for guerrilla warfare to succeed it needed daring leadership and a sympathetic population. In his pamphlets he provided practical information on how to organize a road ambush, how to immobilize a railway engine and how to kill the enemy.

By the outbreak of the Second World War Gubbins had reached the rank of brigadier. As the author of British Army manuals of guerilla warfare, at the outbreak of war he was rapidly despatched to
Poland as Chief of Staff to the British Military Mission there and witnessed Poland’s fall in 1939.  He was among the first people to report on the effectiveness of the German Panzer tactics.

 

In October 1939, following his return to Britain, Gubbins was sent to Paris as the head of a military mission to the Polish and Czech forces under French command. Gubbins was summoned from France in March 1940 to raise the "Independent Companies" — forerunners of the British Commandos — which he later commanded in the Norwegian Campaign (April 9 – June 10, 1940). Although criticized by some for having asked too much of untried troops, he was a bold and resourceful commander, and was awarded the DSO.

 

Back in Britain, he was directed by General Headquarters Home Forces to form the Auxiliary Units, a civilian force to operate behind German lines if Britain were invaded. As part of this task he continued to maintain contact with the Polish, Czech and Norwegian forces in exile which by the late summer of 1940 had been hastily billeted across Scotland and England in a variety of locations.

 

In November 1940 Gubbins became acting Brigadier and, at the request of Hugh Dalton, minister of Economic Warfare, he was seconded to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), set up to "coordinate all action by way of sabotage and subversion against the enemy overseas".

 

"Probably the most significant personality within the entire organisation was a Scot who had moved across from Military Intelligence. Brigadier Colin Gubbins wrote most of the Army's manuals on guerilla warfare, and it was his vision and his authority that eventually became the driving spirit behind SOE."

“Described as 'a real Highland toughie, bloody brilliant, should be the next CD', he was short enough to make me feel average, with a moustache which was as clipped as his delivery and eyes which didn't mirror his soul or any other such trivia. The general's eyes reflected the crossed swords on his shoulders, warning all comers not to cross them with him. It was a shock to realize they were focused on me.”

 

Maintaining his existing connections with the exiled forces, Gubbins was given three tasks: to set up training facilities; to devise operating procedures acceptable to the Admiralty and Air Ministry; and to establish close working relations with the Joint Planning Staff.

 

Despite frustrations, disappointments and a shortage of aircraft, he persevered with training organizers and dispatching them into the field. The first liaison flight to Poland took place in February 1941, and during 1942 and 1943 European resistance movements aided by SOE scored notable successes, including a raid on a heavy water production plant in Norway.

 

In September 1943 Sir Charles Hambro resigned as executive head of SOE, and Gubbins, now a Major-General, was appointed as his replacement. He immediately faced an attack on SOE's autonomy mounted by the Foreign Office, GHQ Middle East, and the Joint Intelligence Committee. Despite the firm support of his Minister, Roundell Palmer, 3rd Earl of Selborne, it was not until 30 September 1943 that a modus operandi was agreed on. Gubbins' position nevertheless remained precarious, and in January 1944 there was a further attempt to dismantle SOE, following the revelation that SOE's operations in the Netherlands had been penetrated by German intelligence.

 

As head of SOE, Gubbins co-ordinated the activities of resistance movements worldwide, consulting at the highest level with the Foreign Office, the Chiefs of Staff, representatives of the resistance organizations, governments-in-exile, and other Allied agencies including particularly the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS).  The organized resistance was more effective than Whitehall had expected; in north-west Europe, where SOE activities were under Gubbins's personal control, General Eisenhower later estimated that the contribution of the French Resistance alone had been worth six divisions.


After the war Gubbins published Resistance Movements in the War (1948).  In 1946, when the Special Operations Executive had been disbanded, the War Office had no suitable work for him. He became Managing Director of a Scottish carpet company, Grays at Newton of Ayr close to Prestwick Airport.  All carpet factories had been required to produce light engineering products to government direction during the war and the industry was gearing up to resume its former trade.  Grays was a big firm producing high quality woven carpets under the trade name Ayrtoun for government, hotels, Embassies and airports around the world with a workforce of over 1000.

 “He gave the impression of someone of great character, but someone who definitely should not be messed with.”  .

 

The well-appointed carpet factory of William Gray & Sons, Ayr, closed in 1974 images

 

Colin Gubbins spent his last years on the Isle of Harris and died on 11 February 1976.

A childhood album of Colin Gubbins

from McVean family photographs

Page first posted November 2010: first exhibition in Penicuik Town Hall 15 January 2011

 

 

see full wikipedia entry

 

Film of Grays of Ayr held in the Scottish Screen Archive:
PERFECTION UNDERFOOT

Ref: 7748  Date: 1964*

Sound: silent  Colour: col  Fiction: non-fiction Running time: 34.31 mins 

Description: A promotional film produced for William Gray & Sons, 'Ayrtoun Carpets' of Ayr, & the processes involved in carpet manufacture from start to finish.

Shotlist: GRAYS OF AYR - PRESENT - title - shots of Caledonian Steam Packet Co. steamer Duchess of Hamilton entering Ayr harbour, tying up at pier - gangway is raised and passengers disembark - gvs harbour, fishing boat and fish lorry (1.47) gvs of Sandgate in Ayr, looking towards town hall, traffic and Western SMT buses - view along Sandgate from above - shots of Robert Burns statue, Burns' Cottage in Alloway, Burns Monument and Burns Monument Hotel (3.03) shots of designer Helen Turner painting rose bush beside Brig o'Doon at Alloway, c/u shots of roses and painting - cut to int shots in designing room in Gray's factory, Turner copying rose painting to squared paper - shots of designer painting floral design on paper - shots of head of department Jim Galloway talking to design staff - c/u designer working on pattern - gv of designing room, shots of women transferring designs on to squared paper, Jean Scott tracing a design outline - shot of woman painting coloured background on paper - Helen Turner and other staff discussing designs (6.26) shots in loose wool blending department of Gray's factory: wool in canvas bails being fed into hopper - teased wool blown into holding bin, then removed and thrown into vacuum duct - shots in spinning department: operator loading wool into carding machine hopper, wool being weighed on pivoting scale, shots of wool passing over carding rollers then on to narrow conveyor belt - gvs start of spinning process, strips of wool passing through rollers, strands of wool wound on to reels, reels placed on to spinning frame - shots of wool being wound on to bobbins (10.11) shot of colourist checking wool colours for a design - shots of woman working on test design by hand, design checked by head colourist Mr Cahill (11.36) gvs in dye house: trolley of wool being prepared for dye vats, placed on suspended poles - shots of dyer measuring dye on to paper, adding it to vat, lowering wool into vat and removing it (13.40) shots in laboratory: woman checking fibre under microscope, machine checking dye quality, testing yarn for tensile strength, machines testing carpet for durability and abrasion (14.59) gv spool winding department for Axminster carpets, shot of bobbin table and carpet design - shots of yarn being wound on to metal spool, spools placed on pallet and numbered (16.52) shots in weaving shed: spools of yarn fitted on to machine, wool fed in by hand - shots of women placing spools on chain of loom - shots of electronic diagnostic panel - shots of narrow Axminster carpet being woven - c/u shots of shuttle moving back and forwards across the loom (20.00) shots of broadloom carpet being woven - fun sequence in which lab assistant demonstrates practical versions of the lab tests, stamping on a carpet square with heavy boots and flattening it from the top of a fire escape with a '5-ton' weight (22.10) shots in Wilton weaving department: shots of operator and loom - shot of woman preparing punched cards to operate loom - shot of bobbin creel behind loom - shots of carpets being woven - gvs of finishing room, women at tables correcting weaving errors by hand - gvs of broadloom cropping machine at work, carpet surface being trimmed - shots of carpet going through back sizer machine, to stiffen the back of the carpet - carpet coming off conveyor, lapped on to pallet - carpet passing through broadloom cropper - shots of woman inspecting carpet before measurement - narrow carpet passing through measuring machine on to roller - shots of women cutting carpet into short lengths for 'bed sets', then ironing on 'Ayrtoun Carpets' label on underside, stitching end on Singer machine (28.51) shots in stockroom: men remove carpet roll from shelf, open it out on floor and cut it to size, then package it in canvas bag and mark it 'Copenhagen' - workers tie up bag ready for transportation - shots of packages with c/u shots labels, 'H.E. The Governor, Malta, The Palace, Valletta', 'Nigeria, Tanganyika, Dar-Es-Salaam' - shot of barrow coming out of doorway, Ayrtoun Carpets lorry driving away from factory (32.08) gvs of 'Empress of Canada' at pier at Greenock?, shots of packages being craned on board from tender, then sailing away down Clyde, past Cloch lighthouse - THE END (34.31)

 

Killiemore House, Isle of Mull contained this book which was later sold:
Lyra Celtica: An Anthology of Representative Celtic Poetry. Ancient Irish, Alban, Gaelic, Breton, Cymric and Modern Scottish and Irish Celtic Poetry.
SHARP,
Elizabeth, (Editor); SHARP, William, (Introduction and Notes).:
Book Description: Lawnmarket, Edinburgh: Patrick Geddes and Colleagues, MDCCCXCVI [1896]. 8vo. 19 x 12 cm. lii + 443 + [3] pp. Text includes introduction (35 pp.), notes, including biographical sketches (50 pp.) and 23 pp. publisher's catalogue. Celtic patterned endpapers. Top edge gilt, others uncut. Original green cloth with blind stamped celtic designs on front and rear covers; gilt spine title and decoration; blind stamped front cover title. Pages showing slight browning; head of spine rubbed; spine title dull; front joint weak and with splits (1.5 cm) at head and tail; neat, dated (1897) name and address (Killiemore House, Isle of Mull) on verso of ffep. The Celtic Library. First edition. G +. An important collection. Bookseller Inventory #2104

 

Many more photographs of  Colin Gubbins’ grandparents: MARY WOOD COWAN & COLIN MCVEAN

 

Colin Gubbins in Powell and Pressburger’s “I Know Where I’m Going

 

Colin Gubbins ancestry

 

Lives at kosmoid.net

Penicuik GREATS

 

COWAN family ancestry & descent

POLISH FORCES IN SCOTLAND IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR

 

 

MILESTONES IN THE STORY OF THE GREAT POLISH MAP OF SCOTLAND

 

 

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