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A Step on the Road to Freedom
Chapter 3


As in the Forces in wartime, there was a strong bond of comradeship among the members of the Y.N.A. which was evident on social occasions as well as political. Most of us shared a love of the outdoor life and music.

Although the Reid Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Mary Grierson, was not of great standing by today’s criteria, Saturday afternoon concerts of the standard classics were greatly enjoyed, despite the occasional wrong note, and the laborious climb to the cheap and very hard seats in the "Gods", otherwise known as the "Upper Circle"

On one occasion, however, we did have a real treat, with the great tenor Gigli performing - now that was something to be remembered.

Many weekends and summer holidays, rain or shine were spent locally in the Pentland Hills, the Borders, and in the Argyllshire or Perthshire Highlands. George Campbell Hay’s manuscript notebooks (now in the National Library of Scotland) confirm several well remembered outings by our members. Here are some of them:

Saturday 11 May 1940
"I walked with lain Haig from Leadburn to Peebles down the eastern flank of the Cleish Hills. It was boiling hot and lain was trying unsuccessfully to shoot rabbits with his air pistol.

Met Frank [Yeaman] and Duncan [McDonald] in Peebles. Tom [Maxwell] arrived later and we staggered down to Langhaugh where we had to sleep on the floor.

Sunday was hot. Breakfast in the open much plagued by the tame sheep there. Went along the burn by St. Gordian’s Chapel and dammed it to bathe in; lain taking charge.

In the evening, Tom, lain and I walked into Peebles. A motorist took our packs and promised to leave them near Cademuir but we could not find them and wandered a good distance looking for them. lain got a blister and we were all tired.

Got the bus from Peebles to Edinburgh singing the Bonnie Wells o’ Weary in imitation maudlin style to pass the time. The Peebles police found the knapsacks later in the week."

28 June 1940 Diardaoin
"Tom, lain and myself put our names down for the LDV ( forerunner of Home Guard] more for the ploy than anything else. At our post they have 150 people and 10 Ross rifles to go round them.. lain rang up and said the Fintry Youth Hostel weekend was off."

"On Tuesday a plane opened up with its guns at Craigmillar and let go a cluster of bombs. One fell 20 yards from Douglas Craigie who sprang in among some bushes and nettles.

Sunday 30 June 1940
Bright sun north of west. Met Iain at Colinton and went up Bonaly and along the seven peaks. We lit a peat fire in a hag and did other nonsensical things. Down by the big eas [Loganlee Waterfall] and through a wind gap to Colinton again."

13 (July ?) Saturday
"Met Iain and Frank at Hillend and went up Allermuir, down Boghall Glen and round the shoulder again".

By the way, after our dip in the Kirkhope Burn, an irate shepherd arrived to inform us that we were "contaminating the main Peebles water supply".

Trouble with another shepherd, a Home Guard, occurred one evening on descending from the Black Hill in the Pentlands. His demand to see our identity cards was declined, whereupon he commanded us to march with him to the Police Station at Milton Bridge. As this was on our way home, we, good naturedly agreed. He let us go, but threatened violence if he ever met us again. Dens Cleugh was from then on re-christened the "Glen of the Twa Black Een"

Combining missionary work with a holiday in 1940, one of our number took a bundle of pamphlets, written in Gaelic, for distribution in Glencoe and Fort William. The journey got off to a bad start with the consumption of a tin of doubtful meat at Creagdhu Hostel in the Trossachs, shared with another Y.N.A. man starting a cycling tour. A long walk over the hills in the heat of summer, and a glass of milk at Inverlochlarig Farm did not help, and the remaining seven miles to Crianlarich in deteriorating weather by the pass west of Ben More, was, at very least, unpleasant. A good night’s sleep in the hostel did wonders, and the pamphlets, whether understood or not, were eventually distributed.

Craigdhu Hostel was later the scene of a happy reunion with George Hay, who had walked over from Loch Fyneside where he was in hiding as a conscientious objector. It was perhaps an unwise meeting, for it was by then known that the Police were taking an interest in the affairs of the Y.N.A., and they may have had someone present there. Certainly, they and MI5, knew in advance of another meeting planned for May 1941 in Arrochar. More about that later.

There were other forms of social outlets for the Y.N.A. R.E. Muirhead on one occasion lent us part of his estate, so that we could have a type of Highland Games - Glasgow and Edinburgh style. The Y.N.A. was the Edinburgh contingent, and Glasgow’s was the collection of Wheeler Millar, a man of many parts. Everything went well, putting the weight, throwing the hammer, tossing the caber, but someone had brought two 9 mm Schmidt rifles, and that’s when the fun started. The targets at first were tin cans on the field fences, about 600 yards away. Having got bored with this, the targets became the Edinburgh and Glasgow contingents, depending on who you belonged to - the idea was how much you missed by.

By the by, in case it is thought that we were male chauvinists at most of our outdoor efforts, the girls came along too, and we had some real good campfire singsongs. Frank Yeaman knew every song in the Students Song Book.

At Bannockburn and Wallace Days, the Y.N.A. joined with other youth Groups from various parts of Scotland, and formed a reasonable body of young people who enjoyed themselves together. Many a good friendship was made.

The Melville Lounge, our pub, was a friendly place for us, although when we entered the place latterly, you could hear "that’s the Nationalists". There was no animosity towards us however, but it was obvious that the police, or was it MI5, were always in attendance, surreptitiously, so they thought, hiding behind a newspaper.

 

Camp at Meikle Clock, 1938
Camp at Meikle Clock, 1938
From right: Bill Bryce, Stewart Govan, Tom Maxwell and Frank Yeaman
Far left: Duncan Macdonald

Bannockburn Day Stirling 1938
Bannockburn Day Stirling 1938
Party includes Arthur Donaldson and Miller Wheeler in front row
and several members of the Edinburgh Y.N.A. behind

On Pentland Hills, c.1938
On Pentland Hills, c.1938
From right: Tom Maxwell, Frank Yeaman, George Campbell Hay and Iain Haig


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