Childhood memories of George Bell - A Scottish Youth

Growing up in Scotland post World War 1

By Veronica Payne

Photo:Bouncing Baby George

Bouncing Baby George

George came to Eastbourne reminscence sessions at WRVS Russell Centre in Spring 2007 and shared his memories of growing up in Scotland post World War 1.

Lappie Farm

I was born approximately a quarter of a mile from Maiden's Bower, at Lappie Farm in Fifeshire, Scotland on 10th July 1917. My older brother William was also born at Lappie. My grandfather had died some years before I was born and my father took over the managing of the farm for his mother. When I was about two years old, my grandmother decided to retire and my father had the option of breaking ties with Lappie and branching out on his own, which his two older brothers had done previously. This was the common and well known practice in farming in those days.

Intentions of going to Canada

My father and mother and us two boys moved into Drumley Farm at Kingsbarns near St. Andrews in 1919. My parents sold the farm in 1926 with the intention of going to Canada. Mother had two sisters there and they sent glowing reports of the wonderful opportunities out there but, unfortunately, 1926 in U.S.A and Canada was the year of the Wall Street problems and strikes so at the last moment everything was cancelled. (Editor's note: 1926 was actually the date of the General Strike in Britain. The Wall Street Crash was in 1929.)

We returned to Strathmiglo, which was my mother's home village, by this time I also had a younger brother David. Dad bought a contracting/haulage business in Kinross, with horse drawn vehicles, unfortunately that was a mistake as motorised vehicles were just coming into popularity, so he sold up quickly and back to Strathmiglo we came. The whole family were happy to be back home, as Lappie Farm was only two miles from Strathmiglo. My parents knew everyone so it was indeed home. We all enjoyed the village life, there was always something to be involved in, the village school encouraged all the pupils to be actively involved in sport, so as I became older I make good use of the village green as there was always a group of us boys similarly minded.

The Maiden's Bower

As the years passed on, walking was very much enjoyed and nothing more so than taking the well-worn path to the East and West Lomonds , they were our favourite destinations. We were very familiar with all the quick routes and being extremely fit we could do the hilltops in a short time. My favourite spot was the Maiden's Bower, a massive rock at the foot of the West Lomond hill which has attached to it a large amount of wonderful tales of history and folklore.

When I was in my late teens I had four chums, we were always together, social dances in the village hall and visiting neighbouring villages, we always had something to do, no television distractions in those days and we had to walk wherever we went. We became very good friends with five girls from Auchtermuchty, it being two miles from Strathmiglo. They also enjoyed walking and, hearing us talking about the Maiden's Bower, they were keen to see it, so it was agreed that a Sunday being a rest day we would visit the West Lomonds. It was arranged that the girls would arrive in Strathmiglo on the 9.30am bus, (if I remember correctly) we only had one coming through from Auchtermuchy every two hours on a Sunday.

They arrived suitably attired for walking, complete with knapsack containing food, thermos and whatever was needed for a whole day, to be met by us with haversack slung over our shoulders complete with sandwiches, tin or enamelled mug and "billy can" (an empty tin can from the kitchen, boiled and washed, two holes pierced in the top edge, with a short length of wire threaded through the holes and strung across in a loop to make a handle) that was a "billy". This was filled with water and boiled on the fire; when boiling you added the amount of tea leaves you required depending on the strength of tea you wanted (there were no such things as "tea bags" then).

We set off to the west of the village up past the village hall, immediately on your left was a wide track very much used by young and old people, some taking the dog for a walk or just out for exercise, and many courting couples. Continuing up this track after about a mile you would reach a point between the East and West Lomonds which obviously gives you a choice of taking the left or right fork. We are on the road leaving the village known as the 'Dryside', I don't know where it derived it's name but my Dad always spoke of the dryside as if it had been named that for generations, so everyone accepted the name without question. My guess is that it was so named because either side of the road was a dry stone dyke or wall, not very high, built with stones large and small without mortar or cement. An art performed by farmers and their workers of bygone years.

An 'eerie feeling'

We carry on walking for about a mile or so, distance and time always disappear when in good and pleasant company. We eventually come to a gateway on the left side of the road, a little further on is Lappie Farm, we open the gate to go through, not forgetting to close the gate. We are now on a well worn path, it has been trampled on by countless walkers throughout the years, which leads to West Lomond but before we reach the hill we come to the Maiden's Bower and Bannet Stane. What a quiet, peaceful, noiseless spot to arrive at, this huge massive rock which gives off an eerie feeling, when you think of all the strife and secrets of generations it must hold as John Knox's Pulpit is a short distance around the corner of the hill. Then there is the cave hewn into the rock, the Maiden's Bower. When Pearl (my wife) and I visited the Maiden's Bower soon after the last war the cave seemed to be larger than I remember and gave the appearance of having been lived in.

Giant mushroom

We were able to show the girls how to get onto this massive rock, it cannot be done from the bottom side but if you walked up the hill a little distance you can then get to the top very easily. Alongside this rock is another phenomenon of nature named the Bannet Stane which can only be described as a giant mushroom. The older people of Scotland in the old days always called a flat cap, a 'bannet', so perhaps that's where the name comes from. It is difficult without seeing it to envisage this remarkable natural huge stone balance on a centre pivot but no doubt it has been standing there for centuries, the top edge of the 'Bannet' is approximately four foot from the main rock. Now that we are on the massive rock, we are as young men the world over, we have to show off by jumping the gap onto the Bannet Stane. Thinking about this now, I must admit it was a very foolhardy exploit to say the least.

After all the romping around it's about time to eat, first we have to get a little fire going near the rock, there is plenty of debris about, dry heather and lots of old branches from gorse and shrub, most of it comes down off the hill during the winter. Once this has been accomplished we go with our 'billy' cans for water, there is a small stream bubbling out of the ground a short distance away, from previous visits we know where to go. We have a drink of this cold, clear, crystal water, if we had been commercially minded we'd have started bottling this nectar, but alas this is years ahead of supermarkets selling Highland Water. I am positive this water was much better than any you can buy, more so it was free.

Back we go with our 'billies' of water to boil. When you put them on the fire you had to be careful they didn't tip over and spill, so sometimes you had to hold the 'billy' upright by means of a long stick through the wire handle. When they boiled in went the tea, so you had a lovely cup of tea. The tea wasn't probably as good as mother makes but we enjoyed it, it tastes much better when you improvise and make it yourself. Sometimes we would have potatoes with us that we would roast in the embers of the fire. If in the mood we would climb the hill but most of the time we were quite content to loaf around, playing silly games. We always had a ball and a pack of cards, we did enjoy each other's company. For the ensuing years the 'Maiden's Bower' became our favourite summer haunt to while away the long sunny summer days which we used to have.

This page was added by Veronica Payne on 25/03/2008.

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