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
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.