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

My first bike was given to me free by my cousin Jean Smith, she had given up cycling on getting married. It was a ladies racing bike with dropped handlebars, lightweight frame and racing wheels, for a young boy a perfect present. The fact that it was a ladies model was of no account, I would be the envy of all the street. I could ride a bike, we owned a real old banger, an upright ladies, Nessie claimed this as her property, but I rode this old bike more than anyone. Often it was run on flat tyres, as we couldn’t afford tubes and tyres, it had no pedals, just the spindles remained, which meant that great care must be taken by the rider, if your foot slipped you could end up with a badly bruised shin bone.

Jean had sent the bike by rail from Glasgow, so on the day it arrived I was ready and waiting, eager to get home to show off “my bike”. I wheeled it out from the station, mounted and sped off down the hill towards home. I got some 30/40 yards downhill when I stopped pedalling and was promptly thrown head over heels over the dropped handlebars, I had forgotten this bike had a fixed wheel, a common feature on club racing bikes in those days, no freewheeling. I believe the reason was cycling clubs travelled in pairs, and if 30/40 members were cycling as a group, a fixed wheel ensured much better control of your bike, as you had a very efficient additional braking system available.

I would be 12/13 years of age when I became the owner of “Esmaralda” as the bike was christened, and from then on cycling became a major part of my life. Cycling was so enjoyable before the war, the roads were comparatively free of cars, the air was clean, camping was available everywhere. With a bike, a primus stove, a billy can and a small bivouac, a boy could be free to roam, limited only by time and leg power.

Esmaralda was the first of many bikes I owned, and will always be a favourite. I rode it into the ground, any other bike I owned was never christened “Esmaralda”, that name was special to me and used within the family now and again e.g. my old gangster type Buick (Horace owned this car in Abadan) qualified for this honour! My cycling days were halted by my mother who barred me from my hobby, gave away my bike and gear following a bad accident I had at the club race weekend, that’s another story.

Jimmy Kennedy and me cycled everywhere on summer evenings if we had no brass band practise, we were off to Ayr or Girvan. On our evening runs we would cover 20/30 miles, and the last 2/3 miles home to the town hall were treated as a race. Many evenings there could be about ten of us, and always we finished our spin with a race. Jimmy and me belonged to the “Hard Riding” group of our club, there was a social group where wives and girls joined us at weekends. The “Hard Riders” usually camped out at the weekend, I could only join this group if Jimmy would pitch my bivouac before nightfall, and to allow Jimmy do this the distance from Maybole had to be reasonable, as I had commitments to the dance band which meant that my travelling to the camp site always commenced after midnight. Before I joined the dance band at about 18 years of age cycling and brass banding took up most of my time, from about 18 onwards cycling became more of a luxury when I had free time.

Many of my friends were out of work or able to get employment for only two or three days each week, this meant that often many of them couldn’t join us at weekends because they needed a new tyre or tube for their bike, and couldn’t afford them, so it became the custom before the weekend to check for money problems, and often those of us in regular work were called upon the put a penny or tuppence into the kitty to sub one of our mates.

Jimmy was a good racing cyclist and often competed at professional athletic meetings which toured the country. My racing was limited to club events, and that ended after an accident. It was a road race planned over side roads that I was not familiar with, which resulted in my inability to control my bike on a hairpin bend and I finished up in the ditch. I was quite seriously injured, I fractured my scull, and had bad facial, arm and leg cuts and bruises, I was off work for some time, and when I recovered I found that my bike and all of my gear had gone, and I was banned from cycling, my mother had had enough. It was quite some time before I was allowed to buy another bike. Unbeknown to my mother I often rode as number two to Dave McEwan on his tandem, until I got the ok from my mother to resume cycling.

One of the consequences of my bike accident was to lead to the end of my brass banding. I had constant problems with my top front teeth, which finally ended with a partial dental plate. I was a front row cornet player, but moved to solo horn, but was never really comfortable playing with a dental plate, so gave up the band. I still played in the dance band on trumpet, but had bought a saxophone, and eventually concentrated on the new instrument, and only played trumpet for special feature such as Scottish Dance numbers and duets.

Albert Holmes was the pianist/tenor sax in The Metronomes Dance Band, a few years older than Jimmy and myself, he was always messing about with broken down motor cycles and motor cars, but he really shocked us when he bought a motor boat. Albert should have known better, he bought this boat from Alex Eaglesham, who was worse than Albert in salvaging worn out engines etc. Albert moored his boat at The Maidens, a small fishing village near Turnberry. Albert persuaded Jimmy and me and several others to spend a day cruising the bay. Against our better judgement we agreed, and set off for Broderick on the Isle of Aran. We got off Dunure when the engine packed up, we drifted for hours, fortunately towards the coast, until the engine fired up and we proceeded under power back to port, hugging the coast in case the engine packed up, until with a grinding noise, and nearly going overboard, we finished up on a flat rock, “Shipwrecked”.

You will have gathered by now that Albert was no seaman, he had taken us too close to the shore at low tide! We had no alternative but to await the turn of the tide to re-float the boat, and hope that no serious damage had occurred. It was gone midnight before we got going again. There were several leaks so we had to constantly bail out until we struggled into harbour. I arrived home about 2-30 am, put my bike in the wash house and then found I was locked out, once again my mother had had enough of me and my bike!!! I knocked and pleaded to be let in with no success, until I said I had been shipwrecked. Suddenly the door was opened and I was given a heroes welcome, all was forgiven, the tea pan was dug out and over a cup of tea I had to tell her the full story, which I admit now was not the truth, being boys we had all enjoyed the experience, but the version my mother heard was designed for my benefit, and I milked this to the full.

Albert asked us to come with him to The Maidens the following weekend to help him make his boat seaworthy again, we arrive at the harbour and Albert suddenly realised his boat had gone. Albert enquired of the local fishermen where his boat was, and with a great deal of hilarity they pointed to the berth and said it was still there. We went along the harbour wall, and sure enough we found the boat, on the seabed. Albert had tied up in the dark after our experience the previous weekend, but was unaware that a large anchor was in the sand immediately under the boat, and of course when the tide went out the anchor stove in the boat. That was the end of Albert’s sailing days and maybe just as well for all of us. 

Early 1939 or maybe 1938ish I gave up work, we had a contract for the band in Girvan which provided a good income for me, but Jimmy and I were getting restless in Maybole, we had travelled much on our bikes and seen lots that tended to unsettle us, we tried to join the Army as Bandsmen, but we had to join up first then take the musical exam, and if we didn’t pass we became ordinary private soldiers, neither of us wanted to take that chance, so we tried to join up as members of pleasure ships or liners orchestras, but couldn’t ensure we would stay together, so Maybole still remained our base. I was playing afternoons and evenings at weddings etc. but most of the time I was spending alone and soon lost any ambitions to become fully dependant on band work for a living. My brother worked for Wilts Creameries at Kirkmichael and was well thought of by the manager. I knew the boss’s secretary Nancy Keen who had been in my group at the Academy. Nancy got me an interview which I didn’t think was going too well for me, when the manager asked if I was any relation to ‘Big Tam’, when I said we were brothers he said “start on Monday, if you are half as good as your brother you’ll do”. I remained at the Creamery for about six months until September when I left Maybole forever to join the army (1939).

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