Banknock Village – ‘Fun
and Games in 1948’
The severe weather during
the period covering Autumn 1947 to Spring 1948 may well have appeared to
adults as the cause of what could be called ‘their winter of discontent’. But,
through our eyes as children such a phrase could never have appeared anything
like the truth, and particularly so in relation to the emotions that were
stirred so excitingly by our unparalleled enjoyment of the abnormally ‘arctic’
conditions and from the games and sport that these had provided. Thus it seems
apt, as I recollect the months between November 1947 and September 1948, not
only to describe my experiences of that winter as ‘bliss’, but to refer to the
subsequent spring and summer as ‘magical’. Why the latter?
Well, amongst many other
happily eye-opening insights into what village life could offer me, the
nine-year-old son of a village dominie, like --- possibly surprisingly, being
allowed to buy and read a weekly short-story type comic like the ‘Rover’ so
full of sports or war-stories, or like --- perhaps more predictably, being
introduced to, and being able to talk with, the likes of Mr George Young of
Rangers F.C. and Scotland, Mr Alex Mercer, the Organiser of Stirlingshire
Schools’ Physical Education, and, Mr James P.R. Hunter, a visiting tutor for
student teachers of Jordanhill Training College, Glasgow --- I can also
clearly highlight four never-to-be-forgotten memories of people and
events – firstly, as a ‘cricket daft laddie’, my hero, Dennis Compton
of Middlesex, MCC and England accumulating one thousand runs in May,
secondly, the Annual Banknock Gala Day held in June, thirdly, our
Primary School Concert, also in June, and, fourthly, the staging of not
just one, but ‘two’ Olympic Games in August – the real thing at Wembley in
London, and the almost simultaneously occurring mini version that was
organised, and participated in, by ‘John Henderson and Robin Profit
Enterprises’, at Bumpy Ibrox, Banknock !
(See Chapter 12 for
Concert and Olympics)
It seems to me now all the
more amazing, that, without the benefit of TV, I should have become so
fascinated by English County Cricket and Test Matches, and in Middlesex and
D.C.S. Compton and W.J. Edrich in particular. Dad’s own interest in cricket
must have started it off. Listening to Tests on the wireless and reading the
detailed County score-cards and reports in the Glasgow Herald newspaper must
have added to my keenness. Imagining the run of play of such matches and
‘play-acting’ them with Robin on Bumpy Ibrox must have contributed too. A
further catalyst, I am sure, was my developing passion for Arithmetic, because
a present of a small cricket scoring book from Mum and Dad soon had me glued
even more than before to the wireless and my keeping of a ball-by-ball record
of what I was hearing and imagining, from commentaries by the likes of John
Arlott and Rex Alston for the BBC, at Lords, or the Oval, or Trent Bridge, or
the like. However, perhaps the most telling factor in the growth of my passion
for the game was early-on overhearing Dad saying to Mum that, from what he had
already noticed from his adjacent vegetable garden about my ability with a
cricket bat, I looked ‘a natural’! All this did not prevent Mum coining her
thereafter constantly recurring comment on our continual listening, “Always
‘Vanity, vanity, all is
vanity’ – and, even today, wee lads like me certainly like hearing their
praises sung! I was no different in 1948. Although fathers tend to be somewhat
infamous for extolling the virtues of their offspring, my dad never ever
openly praised my successes in any games to my face. Indeed, if any
sport-related plaudits may have been due to me throughout my whole sporting
life, he left that to others. However, that never meant that he was not
quietly proud of what I achieved. I learned later that he felt strongly that
encouragement from the wings by merely supporting my participation rather than
smothering me with criticism or praise was best route to take. Thus I never
ever lacked for money nor for needed equipment to indulge any of my sporting
whims, far less any of my more serious sporting addictions. Indeed, in his
last year of life, aged 81, he gave the Gargunnock Village Cricket Club that I
founded in 1983, the generous sum of £5 000 to buy second-hand tractor and
gang-mowers to support me in the realisation of a childhood dream of one day
cultivating, and then caring for, a new cricket ground.
Village Gala Day:
As in most Scottish
villages, Gala Day in June was so special as it was of course a festival
for children and a celebration of children. Little did we children
realise then what a power of work the grown-ups put into making each annual
Gala Day so unforgettable in many ways.
The Banknock Gala Committee,
like most other organisers of like occasions, concentrated on a number of
traditional events and competitions:
Most importantly (in some
eyes!) there was the pageantry, the processions to the Gala Field on the road
out to the Haggs, and the culminating ceremony on an elaborately decorated
stage in the Gala Field of the Crowning of the Gala Queen who had been
chosen by popular vote of the top class in the school from amongst the girls
of that class. Behind the scenes this not only involved the hiring of costumes
and all the other trappings of ‘royal’ pomp and ceremony, but also the
training of the whole ‘royal party’ for the big day.
Secondly, all the rest of us
youngsters, as ‘Her Majesty’s Loyal Subjects’, were supposed to attire
ourselves in Fancy Dress and parade and be judged for money prizes in various
age-groups and sub-categories according to chosen themes and/or family
sub-groupings. …. More work for over-worked mothers creating costumes for
invented ideas like, ‘Twin Liquorice All-Sorts’ or ‘A Loaf of Bread’ etc.
Personally I hated all this palaver of dressing-up … I saw it all as ‘cissie’
stuff … but I had to conform … although for the life of me, I cannot remember
what I dressed-up as in the four Gala Days I attended in Banknock.
Next, as soon as the
seemingly interminable judging of the Fancy Dress at the Gala Field had been
completed, the Food Bags and Lemonade were distributed … a provision that
always ensured that being sick was a common occurrence in the immediately
thereafter starts of The Races …. Flat, Obstacle, Sack, Three-legged etc.
again for money prizes.
Costumes were discarded with
abandon for The Races and soon the whole Gala Field had more the look of a
second-hand junk yard within a garbage dump from the growing dispersal of
wind-blown paper bags, half-drunk bottles of ‘scoosh’, empty ‘tattie’ crisp
packets and rejected half-eaten sticky buns … and of course pails of sawdust
ready to deal with ejaculated sicknesses! ….. Great fun !!
Of course The Races were
vitally important to competitive me …. Not so much for the money but for the
joy of winning … although I suppose I must admit it was good to jingle a few
more pennies than usual in my pocket now and then… until often, to great
chagrin, such contents of one’s pockets, if not deposited safely with adoring
spectating parents or grannies, got lost in the long grass of the often uncut
race-track area (though trampled down) during the more adventurous races.
I am fairly certain that
1948 was my vintage year for taking the spoils in the age-group races because
that year’s Gala Day was before my birthday on the 16th of June
Thus, due to this accident of birth, I cleaned up for once in the 8 year-old
races, rather than being an unfortunate also-ran in the 9 year-old group.
Nobody really bothered much
about the mountains of litter cluttering the Gala Field …. But things got even
more congested, if not downright dangerous, as soon as the ‘big-money’ Open
Slow Cycles Races were announced. As if by magic, all sorts of contraptions
posing as two-wheeler bicycles flooded on to the field from hiding-places in
bushes or from other sides of dykes or where-ever! Thereafter, I vividly
remember one couthy character likening The Gala Field to a ‘Knacker’s Yard’!
But how could I forget it ?
…. the freely dispensed ice-creams and cones during the afternoon adding their
wonderful stickiness to children’s already messed-up clothes, not to mention
all the earlier melted discards providing slithery booby-traps for the unwary
when choosing to sprawl in the grass somewhere to have a wee rest!
While out of sight of all
the mayhem abroad, wise folks had retired to the Tea-Marquee to escape the
rituals that many of them had survived either as participants or helpers for
countless years before.
I smile as I remember the
last act in these ‘wonderful’ afternoons. Nothing cleared the field faster of
hyper-active children than the re-appearance of the potato sacks … not for
more races as a finale … but for scavenger volunteers to clear up the mess all
around. Despite the offers of more prize money for filled sacks, children as
workers were but few. But then “the skil maister’ wisnae in cherge,” said one
elderly sage in my hearing. “They wid hae jimped tae it fur heem oar suffer’d
the conse’queen’cies cam Monday mornin.”
‘Queen’ indeed ..eneugh sed.