Abernethy, Aberargie and Dron News

Last date for submissions

31st October 2017

Date of publication

1st December 2017

MEMORIES OF A SEPTUAGENARIAN

I read two very welcome editions of The Village Crier and was amused at the tongue in cheek wee piece about “mud on the road” etc. Clearly that’s “The Council’s Job” to clear that up. There was what I assume was an equally tongue in cheek response. The “If we did not raise cattle, you would not get any steak” raises the answer “If we didn’t buy steak then who would pay the Marts, Feed Merchants, Agricultural Hauliers etc. etc. Still. That led to my most recent experience when a local farmer observed me looking at his beasts and told me “You won’t realise it but you are looking at your future Macdonalds” Read on.

I was born in 1941 in the bedroom of a farm cottage which shared a common wall with the byre of an average sized dairy farm. Although it’s not relevant I weighed fourteen pounds exactly. Just prior to my birth my mother was watching an aerial dogfight which resulted in a German plane being shot down.

My first conscious memory of our next home was of a wonderful memory of a German POW called Hans who was allocated to work on the farm He also kept ( I am told) telling my Mum that “I was not a nuisance” when I followed him about and jumped on his wheelbarrow as “he had children at home” The farmer had a well known Point to Point champion stallion called Tartan Tippin who stood over seventeen hands tall. He was my first “pet” and although he was regarded as difficult I really loved him.

Sadly my father contracted tuberculosis and slowed down a lot. The farmer wanted our tied cottage and we became homeless just before the end of the war. This was just before Christmas and my thoughts went back to that Christmas period.

My grandparents had a small acreage which they worked with horses and again I was able to fall in love with their animals. Peggy, who pulled the trap that took us to Edinburgh (along the routé of the tram dream), Billy, a stallion who at times was called in to be part of the team who pulled the Queen’s carriage on State visits, Star, a real character who could take a daft turn at the drop of a hat. Star actually ended up with Roberts’ Brothers Circus where we checked up on him for years and he was really happy.

I was given a small area where I could keep some pigs. I went around local farms and bought “The Crits” cheaply and fed them up for the butchers.

In the 70’s I moved to Berwickshire and on to a two hundred and sixty acre farm. We had a large silo for grain, dressed seed for a well known grain merchant ( who employed Finlay Calder) and leased sixty acres a year to JusRol for growing potatoes. On the farm we had around sixty “beasts” where the Charolais bulls Jesper and Jensen looked after their Simmental responsibilities. I never thought about the calves I pulled out then wiped them before giving them back to their mothers as “Steak or Macdonalds” or the favours I was creating for consumers. It was always a wrench when they went to market. You see I really did know what live cattle looked like. I won’t bore anyone with the names of my Suffolks, Saddlebacks, Muscovies, Banties over the years.

I was also an agricultural haulier and looked forward to the grain harvest but watched on with dismay as tractors got bigger and more and more local farmers delivered their own grain to the local granaries. My beloved Zeta was a poor relation to the new monsters. Still, I had loads of Record to deliver to Golden Won- der at Broxburn and loads of barley down to London which were destined for breweries in Nigeria. When I watch the current crop of “tractors” on the road I really wonder if any real research has been undertaken on basics such as braking distance, weight limits, lights, etc. Now that I am a septuagenarian it would be just my luck to get knocked down by one of these modern monsters. I have been unable to ascertain the braking distance for the big beasties. Bring back the man with the red flag in front and reduce unemployment.

Tom Cook