I was born towards the end of the Second World War, in Abernethy, Perthshire, the ancient Pictish capital with the famous Round Tower, in a wee two roomed house at the bottom of the main street (last door on the left before the corner where you go round towards the Cree's Inn). The house was called "Meadow View" then. The "meadow" was where Kinclaven Gardens is now, which I am told were the "common grazing's". There were no houses there then of course, and my mother kept a few hens up there. There was a burn running down the side of the field, part of which you can still see and which I fell into on several occasions!
The house had two rooms, a living room and bedroom, with a bed recess inside the back door. We had no running water and an outside toilet, but there was a washing house! The water had to be carried in with pails from a tap outside the back door. There was no kitchen, just a wee alcove with a curtain across. If you look at the end wall you can still see the wee window where the alcove was.
I was the fifth child born to my parents and was what was known as a “late baby”, there being a gap of almost 16 years between my elder sister and myself! My mother always said I “kept them young” but I don’t think my father ever got over the shock! The story goes that I was delivered “ben the hoose” by Dr Tullis, who was the local GP. The Newburgh Nurse was in attendance as the Abernethy nurse, Nurse Peattie had the flu. I weighed in at 10lb and I am sure Nurse Peattie must have been disappointed at not Being at my birth, after looking after my Mum during her pregnancy!
My mum always said my birth was a “Nine Day Wonder” in the village, and people were quite surprised when she appeared pushing a pram! Apparently, after the birth, Dr Tullis carried me through to the living room and handed me to my sister, who was nearly 16. My sister told me the nurse said she was amazed she had never seen the Dr carry the baby through before! I suppose he would have handed me to my Dad, but he was ill in bed, with diarrhoea! He was in the "threequarter" bed in the “bed recess” at the back door (remember them?). My mum had a bad haemorrhage after the birth and had to stay in bed for a few days. Dr Tullis told me about this a few years later when I consulted him with a sore ear while visiting my sister in Newburgh! He remembered delivering me and started telling me about it but I just wanted him to look at my ear! Nowadays mum would have been whisked off to hospital, no doubt. I was bottle fed, but apparently I grew like a mushroom and never looked back, apart from having whooping cough when a few months old! Someone who had it apparently coughed all over me when I was in my pram at the front door! I was fed on National Dried Milk and I remember seeing the tins in the house years later – recycling isn't anything new!
I was also given “Virol”, which was a malt extract, and cod liver oil and orange juice. My Mum used to say I spat out the cod liver oil! She said she used to give it to me in the bath because I made such a mess of my clothes! Can't say I like the taste of it to this day but one must try and keep supple! My feeding bottle was boat shaped and had a teat at one end and a valve at the other. I remember it being in the house years later, in fact I used to play with it with my dolls! I don’t know what happened to it, probably got broken, but it would be an antique nowadays!
One of my earliest memories must be being pulled by my Dad on a sledge in the snow, In the main street, which would probably be the winter of 1947. No cars to worry about then!
I remember my Mum telling me it was a hard winter and a lot of burst pipes etc. My brother James (Jimmy), was in the RAF at the time, and she said he was sent home on leave because of the bad weather. Dad also used to tell stories of being out with the horse and snow plough at Glenfoot, to keep the roads open, in case the doctor or nurse had to get to somebody who was ill or in labour. He used to say the snow was so deep they hung their jackets on the telegraph poles!
My Dad had a wee garden, or allotment, off Dead's Lane, the wee lane going up to the Church from Cree's Inn. He grew vegetables and fruit and kept bees, and I have a clear memory of him tending his bees with his hat on with the veil, and "smoker" in hand!
There was a black range in the wee living room at “Meadow View”, and I can remember being bathed in a white enamel bath in front of the fire. I also remember my Dad making toast at the fire with a toasting fork – it was always “plain” bread, we used then, not “pan”. He used to ask if I wanted “Plain Jane” or “Curly Kate”, that was what he called the two ends of the slice – Plain Jane was the straight end and Curly Kate the round end! Sometimes it was gey black, especially if it fell off the fork into the fire! Somehow it always seemed to taste better than done under a grill or in a toaster! I also remember him making apple fritters (apple rings dipped in batter and fried - I suppose my mum would have made up the batter!) The Orchard (which was an orchard then!) was owned at that time by a gentleman who didn't live in it, and my mum and dad looked after it for him, and they used to get apples as part payment! They used to sell the apples, pears and plums for him and I remember the school kids used to buy them at lunchtime.
Talking about bread, I remember I used to be sent to the baker's for a “half loaf” - that was from the days when the loaves were baked together in twos, and they were pulled apart to make a “half loaf”. Sometimes I would be told to get half a dozen “teabread”. The ladies behind the counter would sometimes give me a half meringue! I used to wonder if everybody got one, or if it was just me! The Clarks had the baker's then and I used to play with the Clark twins, Ian and Margaret. I used to be sent to get the “papers” as well, I think it was the shop where the clinic is now, and Mrs Christie across the road used to give me a three-penny-bit, or an orange, for collecting hers. I also remember being sent to buy a pair of “stockings” at Kate Walker’s shop for my mum - fully fashioned 30 denier with seams! I can also remember being sent to Thomson Ramsay the butcher for the mince and sausages!There were a lot more shops in Abernethy then, than there is now, including two, if not three grocers-cum general merchants, a Post Office, a Butcher, and a Baker.
I also remember we had a “wireless” which had an “accumulator”, which had to be “re-filled” at one of the shops. I used to get this job. I suppose I must have been about five by this time, but I have often thought it was a bit dangerous for a wee girl to be doing this! Of course no TV then, it was all "wireless", and I can remember my Dad listening to the football on a Saturday afternoon, or the Dance Music on a Saturday night!
We must have had better summers then, I remember my mum used to put up one of those screens at the front door, you know, the green and white striped affairs on hooks, so that you could leave your door open! I also remember I had a wooden swing, and if it was raining and I couldn't play outside, my Dad used to screw the swing into the lintel of the bedroom door and I would swing away to my hearts content in the "lobby"!
Sometimes my mum would take me to Perth on the bus, on the old Alexander's "Bluebird"! Sometimes it was the train. Passenger trains still ran from Abernethy then, and that’s where I met my first little friend, Carol Neill. Carol's gran used to take us down to the park where we played among the trees and pretended we saw fairies! She used to say I was like Little Red Riding Hood as I had a little red suit, coat, hat and "pantaloons" (remember them - with buttons up the side and elastic under your foot!)
I remember once being terrified by a terrible thunder and lightning storm. I must have been about 4, and had been visiting my big sister, who by this time was married and had a little boy, and lived at the other end of the street. I remember her telling me to hurry home before the rain came on, but too late, it got very black and the heavens opened! I just remember standing there in the street, petrified, and screaming my head off, until somebody rescued me, but by this time my Mum was coming up the street to meet me - I think she heard my screams! No mobiles, or even phones, in those days! I do remember my mum telling me years later that she was just as terrified of thunder and lightning as me, even after she was grown up, and she used to hide under the coats in the "lobby"! She used to tell me the thunder was just the coalman delivering coal!
I'll just mention here that in those days the Bett family went round the village selling coal with the horse and cart, and the lovely big Clydesdales. I also remember the Shepherd family who used to come down from Stewarts Hill with their donkey and cart to get the "messages"!
In the Square, just where the Clinic is now, there used to be a water trough called “The Bink” (or "Binque"), and I remember an old man used to sit there sometimes when we children were playing about, and he used to try and catch us round the neck with his walking stick and pretend he was going to put us in the water! Don't think he would get away with that nowadays! I also remember the black iron water wells that were located in various parts of the village, in particular the one which stood near the gate into The Orchard (like the one in the garden of the White House).
My Dad worked on a neighbouring farm, Jamesfield, and cycled the two miles every day to work, with his faithful collie, “Mark”, running alongside. They had sheep on the farm, and sometimes my Dad would take me down to see the wee lambs, and he used to tie a cushion round the bar of the bike and I sat on this, and hung onto the handlebars! They obviously didn’t bother much about “Health and Safety” in those days! Apparently, when I was about four or five, I tried to take my little friends down to see the lambs, but went the wrong way and got lost, and the alarm was raised, and everybody was out looking for us! Apparently, my friend Margaret Smith's mum had a cake in the oven which got burnt while she went to look for her! There were German prisoners who worked on the farm, and some of them made wooden toys. I was lucky enough to get two or three of these toys – one of them was a piece of wood with a handle (like a table tennis bat but square) with four chickens carved out of wood, fixed to it, pointing into the centre, with string tied round their tails and through holes in the corners of the piece of wood, and the strings were attached to a weight. When you moved the “bat” in a circular motion, the chickens “pecked” at “crumbs” painted on the centre. I kept that toy for years, and still had it up as far as the sixties, but it must have “got lost in the flitting” because I don’t have it now. When the War Time Exhibition was on in the Abernethy Museum, there was one the same, which I think belonged to a local farmer, who is the same age as me, so he must have got one too! My Mum also got a carved wooden parrot, with a lead weight in its tail, which swings on a stand, which I still have to this day. How it survived I don’t know, probably because it lay in a drawer for years!
I once had to be rescued from the pond beside J E England’s Potato Store. My friends and I used to play there in the mud and catch tadpoles, and my wellies got stuck in the mud and I screamed blue murder and had to be rescued, again! I also remember when an Alexander’s bus skidded on the ice and fell into the pond! I think it was November 1948, and I would be nearly 4! The pond is no longer there, having been filled in a few years later. We also used to play in the Den, and catch minnows in the burn, and of course there was no Glenlaw Place or Glencairn Place then, just a field! The houses at Den Park hadn't been built yet, only Hall Park. Among my little friends then were, Lyn Adamson, Sandy and Margaret-Ann Gardiner, Carol Neill and Margaret Smith.
I started school at Easter 1950, and that summer we had our class photograph taken in the playground. It was quite unusual as we are standing in a circle with two children in the centre, “The Farmer’s in His Den” style, and the photo appears in Frank Zwolinski and Jimmy Swan's book about Abernethy, and also appears in the School display in the Abernethy Museum - my only claim to fame!
My Uncle Dave and Auntie Lizzie sometimes used to visit. Uncle Dave had a motorbike and sidecar, and he parked it in the wee lane at the Cree’s Inn. It had a big rubber horn that you squeezed and I used to like to “honk” it! Auntie Lizzie sat in the sidecar, she didn’t like on the back of the bike. I remember being a wee bit frightened of all the “biking gear” that Uncle Dave had on! He had a funny “chain mail” type helmet, then he put the goggles on. He also wore a long black shiny coat and trousers and huge gauntlet type gloves! I remember all the kids standing looking at the “yoke”. They had probably seen a motorbike before but not a motorbike and sidecar! Uncle Dave used to tell a story about my mum, when he once gave her a lift on the back of the motorbike when it was raining, and she kept her umbrella up all the way!
In March 1951, when I had just turned six, my father decided to change jobs, so, we moved to an estate four miles from Blairgowrie called Tower of Lethendy. I had just completed my first year at school in Abernethy where my teacher was Margaret Martin. I didn’t enjoy that first year very much, I seemed to cry a lot! Mrs Martin always had her favourites in class, and I wasn’t one of them! I distinctly remember I always got the hard bit of plasticine!
One day, we all trooped down to the Station, crossing the main road, hand in hand, with Mrs Martin leading, supposedly to wave to the Queen (the present Queen’s mother) who was to be passing in the Royal Train. However, it was all in vain, because the blinds on the train were all down – she must have been having a “kip”, but we waved anyway! I also remember going to the Christmas Party at School, and we got green jelly, and I remember there was a Santa, and being told he had arrived in an aeroplane! I also remember having a Birthday Party, “ben the hoose”, with the coal fire on, and my cake was on the cake stand that my Mum always used, green with pink roses. Apparently one wee girl, Nora, gate-crashed my party, but my Mum let her stay, as she had forgotten to invite her anyway!
I also remember, on my last day at Abernethy School, Mrs Martin wishing me well in my new school etc, and she let me take my bowl of bulbs with me! We had all taken bulbs to school to watch them grow and she said I could take mine!
I do remember the Powrie Park as it was then, there was no pavilion of course, but there was a tennis court, and the swings and two wooden see-saws were down where the turning point is now, behind the pavilion!
I think I can remember being taken to the Williamson Hall to see a film, perhaps someone could confirm this? I can’t remember what it was now, possibly “Snow White nad the Seven Dwarfs”.
I remember very well the day we "flitted" from Abernethy to Lethendy. My granny was going with us, as was my brother Sandy, who was going to work on the farm with my dad. I can remember all the stuff being loaded into the furniture van, which was Loves of Perth, and then we went down to the Abernethy Hotel for our lunch. I think Mrs Jamieson had it then. After lunch we all piled into the van! My mum, granny, and me in the front beside the driver, and my Dad and Sandy and the dog Mark in the back.
I seem to remember there was a compartment above the main body of the van. There were two bikes in there as well! Henry the cat also went with us, so she (yes she!) must have been in there somewhere too, in a basket covered with sacking! I remember the driver stopping on the way to check they were all ok! Mark, the dog, who had been my Dad’s faithful work companion, came with us, as the farmer, Mr George (Geordie) Miller, said he would probably pine for my Dad if he was left behind. So, Mark lived out a happy retirement at Tower of Lethendy, until he had to be put to sleep at the age of sixteen because he had become deaf and blind. My mum wrote a poem dedicated to him, as follows:
(On the death of a favourite old collie)
Dear auld Mark, ye’re day is done,
Ye’re weary een are closed at last,
In your lang sleep ye quietly lie,
Oor freend an’ pal for years gaen past.
The twa lang miles frae hoose tae ferm,
Ahint the bike each day ye’d run,
Tae herd the sheep wi’ ye’re master there,
In winter’s snaw and summer’s sun.
Ye’d tent the sheep wi’ canny care,
An’ whiles ye’d gie a wee bit bark,
The yowes and lammies gently guide,
As, eidently ye did ye’re wark.
In winter nichts afore the fire,
Ye’d dream the evenin’ oors awa’,
In summer on the doorstep lie,
An’ wag ye’re tail tae ane an’ a’.
Ye were a bonny weel-faured dog,
When first ye cam’ amang us there,
Ye’re plumy tail wi’ tip o’ white,
Ye’re saft broon een, an’ coal-black hair.
But saxteen years is a guid lang age,
An’ lately ye’ve been failin’ sair,
Ane o’ ye’re bonny een was blin’,
An’ ye were sae deaf, ye couldna hear.
We miss ye sair oor guid auld dog,
But weel ye’re worthy o’ ye’re rest,
An’ maybe in some doggy heaven,
Ye’re young again, amang the blest.
Ann K Smart
Evelyn Scobie (nee Smart)