Bill White - Maybole Memories
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Cover    |   Introduction   |   1920's   |  1930's  |   Memories   |   More Memories   |   Destiny

I would be about seven years of age, Tommy about four. Our granny was looking after us this night, my mother and Nessie were probably at the Old Silent Picture House. Granny was nearly blind and lived in a small one roomed house in Old Manse Close, no gas or electricity, but it was her home and she always made us welcome. Tommy and I played as boys do with anything that came to hand. One of our favourite toys were hand made “tanks”. I used to make them from old bobbins by cutting V’s in the edges of the reels to make serrated wheels, a rubber band, a piece of candle and a match stick provided the means of propulsion, we used to play for ages on the stone floor. The tanks would climb the uneven floor, attack the so called enemy, good fun. But this particular evening we forgot the tanks and started to wrestle each other, we must have got too boisterous, for suddenly Tommy let out a yell and rushed over to granny for comfort, she soon stopped his crying and wiped his tears and his nose on her apron, then took him on her lap where he fell asleep. Mother duly arrived and turned up the oil lamp and reached out to pick up Tommy, when she nearly fainted from shock, Tommy's face and jersey were covered in blood, and it took some time to satisfy my mother he was unhurt. Poor old Gran hadn’t known his nose was bleeding when she used her apron to wipe his face, her poor eyesight, and in the dim light she had spread the blood all over him, making him look like a serious injury case.

During the General Strike, 1926 I think, times were hard. Everything either stopped or slowed up, we searched everywhere for firewood to keep us warm. Landowners and farmers wouldn’t let us on their land to collect wood. As a family we were lucky to have Uncle Dodie (Donald) on the Glasgow to Stranraer Boat Train, he was a fireman and somehow contacted my mother and arranged with her a spot on the railway line where he would throw out shovel fulls of coal for us to collect when the train had gone past. So it happened every so often the White family, each carrying a little sack, would secretly leave town to walk to the appointed venue, where we would search beside the track to find the precious coal, we would then sneak back to town with our little sacks and enjoy the warmth provide by Uncle Dodie Campbell.

Another little perk we used to enjoy, particularly in the Strike, was the food supplied to us via our local poacher. Hercules Spiers and his family lived at the top of our street, and everyone knew he was a skilled poacher, and whatever he couldn’t sell to hotels and eating houses he let needy families have at cut prices. As a result, we being a family without a breadwinner, were always offered anything Hercules had going, for a family living close to the breadline, we often sat down to a meal of salmon, trout, venison, pheasant etc. and always rabbit was available.

The Campbell family from Glasgow often visited my mother before the war. Auntie Jessie was I think my grans sister. She had five children, Jean, Jessie, Donald, Hugh and Jimmy. Maybole and Girvan were their favourite spots. Auntie Jessie always gave us children a silver thrupenny piece on her departure, this was a fortune to us. We also used to get the odd penny or halfpenny from the uncles and aunts, it was no wonder that we looked forward to an invasion of the Campbells to Maybole. They were a very musical family, and Dodie always brought his dulcimer with him which ensured a sing song each evening, accompanied with a few drams to improve the singing.

I remember on one occasion collecting all the empty beer bottles to return to the licensed grocers, who would give me a penny or halfpenny for each bottle returned, depending on size. I was to buy a quarter of butter as a family treat from the proceeds. The empties were packed in a large brown paper bag, and I set off in the rain on my task. The way to the High Street was via a very steep road called The Red Lion Brae, I was almost up to the High Street when the paper bag, weakened by the rain and the weight of the empties gave way, and the beer bottles started rolling down the hill, much to the amusement of the passers by, I was so embarrassed, afraid these neighbours would think my mother was a secret drinker, that I kept repeating to each person I met as I recovered the empties “Good job they don’t belong to my mother”.

From the age of 6/7 I delivered early morning rolls, and after school hours bread and cakes for Fairley the bakers, this brought in 4 shillings per week plus tips I received towards the families upkeep. My mother allowed me to retain some of the tips myself. This job wasn’t too bad in the summer time, but was really really awful in the winter, when snow and ice were about or it was cold, wet and windy, I shall never forget the warmth and smell of a bakers workshop at about six in the morning in January, in Scotland. It was to me like entering heaven.

We made our deliveries from a board about 5 feet long by 18 inches wide, a sheet was placed on the board and bread was place on the sheet which was then drawn up at the sides and knotted at the top. We placed a leather pad on our heads, and the board was lifted onto the pad and off we went. After some time on the job the neck muscles became so developed that all the lads could balance their board without the use of their hands.

After 2/3 years I left the bakery and did a milk round for a local farmer, which was much better for me as I helped out on the farm at weekends, and after school at harvesting time. I enjoyed working the horses and being involved with the dairy herd, and taking the shire horses to the blacksmiths.

Sundays in Scotland during the 20s and 30s were drab days, best clothes and church service followed by Sunday School usually until 2 p.m. in the afternoons we were allowed to change to “auld claes” and bare feet and be free until Church Evening Service. Walking expeditions were the usual youngsters pastime on Sundays. One such afternoon a group of us visited Culdoon Hill where the Covenanters memorial was being repaired after being struck by lightening. There was plenty of builders equipment lying around to keep us amused, then someone suggested a ladder would make a good sleigh if we could find a nice grassy slope, not too steep and well away from the quarry, and the stoney area around it. After many failures we found a good run, so we all selected a spot to sit, except the tail pusher, he had to push us off, then jump aboard. We had picked a good run because the pusher never made it, we had picked up speed immediately and were gaining speed as we shot down the hill, until we suddenly came to an abrupt stop as the front of the ladder dug into the ground, and the rest of it suddenly became a catapult and threw everyone of us into the air and down the hill we tumbled. All but one of us jumped up laughing and shouting with glee, we had found a good game to play, all except Jim Broom, he was the last boy and a lightweight, he had been thrown much further downhill and had landed on his knees on stoney ground, he was quite badly hurt and we had to take turns in carrying him home on our backs, almost four country miles. We never ever attempted another sleigh ride.

Among the many jobs my mother had when we were very young was a cleaner, washerwoman, child minder etc. to the family called Dent. Mr Dent owned two fish and chip shops and a sweet shop, plus some property in the town, an Englishman who had adopted Scotland as his country. His son Alan Dent became a famous theatre critic around the 1960s, and wrote for the press and magazines. Mr Dent owned a country house in the Straiton Hills, it probably was at one time the shepherds bothy. He offered this to my mother for a weekend break, so off went mother and family to walk the six miles or so to the hills. I really only remember walking back on the Sunday just as it was becoming dark, and becoming afraid as the owls started hooting and hunting their prey in the gloaming. It was very scary, as the country roads in those days were mostly just tracks through the woods. However! Little did I know worse was to come to spoil our weekend break. We arrived at our house door in the dark, we lived in a one roomed house but were lucky to have gas light available, we all followed each other into the room and waited while my mother found the matches and lit the gas mantle. We looked round the walls, ceiling and floor, then as one we all rushed out onto the street, the house was alive with cockroaches. I shall never forget that night. I have lived to see much squalor in Algeria, Tunisia and Persia, but never anything like this. Apparently the Pest Controller had sprayed the adjoining house for fleas while we had been away, so all the streets fleas and cockroaches had sought sanctuary at 13 Society Street. I remember I didn’t feel clean for weeks, long after the Pest Controller had visited our house. I still hate cockroaches even now.

Cover    |   Introduction   |   1920's   |  1930's  |   Memories   |   More Memories   |   Destiny