Cambusbarron – First Impressions – Sights and Sounds
Although my sketch map does scant justice to the novel sights and sounds I first experienced in Cambusbarron in the autumn of 1949, it does suggest the amazing variety of stimuli that became available to my eyes and ears a mere stone’s throw from the front door of our refurbished schoolhouse. This hamlet became my home for the next seven action-packed years … a ‘town’ village that from the word go undoubtedly stood in noisy yet thrilling contrast to the peacefully isolated nature of my previously beloved, but truly rural, Banknock.
The removal day, courtesy of Graham & Morton of Stirling, went well - even our very heavily framed Bleuthner piano came through unscathed from all transit bumps and its straps-aided lifting-and-laying. In the gloaming that day, after things had calmed down a wee bit, though I was tired from the usual flitting stresses and strains and from short-tempered parents, I remember exploring in utter amazement, the nooks and crannies of the old house, the potential of the over-grown garden, and the facilities that the school playground would undoubtedly offer me as compensation for the loss of ‘Bumpy Ibrox’.
However, as dusk fell, it was not over-excitement that kept me from falling asleep quickly after being bundled off (to my own old bed) in my new still freshly paint-smelling bedroom. But it was not the paint that bothered me. It was the series of unaccustomed sounds that reverberated through my open window every quarter of an hour - as, (with great regularity of course!) the mechanism of the church steeple clock about twenty yards away wound itself up like a ‘hurdy-curdy’ before donging with such great resonating passion, that even ‘Big Ben’ in London would have been proud of its aesthetic functionality! The up-side of all this ‘ding-donging’ was that one never needed to wear a watch when in and around the village of Cambusbarron itself!
My first early morning drifting in semi-wakeful state was rudely interrupted by clip-clopping and rattling [of what I later discovered had been Milkman Wingate’s horse and cart], not to mention the clonking down of three pint bottles on the front doorstep beneath my bedroom window. ‘Milk delivery, wonderful’, thought I in way of consolation. ‘No more evening journeys to the farm to fetch the morrow’s refreshment’. Little did I know in that first morning that I was later fated, not only to join Wingate in many of his early morning rounds, but also to be a holiday ‘cowboy’ for Taylor Robertson’s milking ‘parlour’.
As I look again at my sketch map, I can almost hear the old Bluebird bus double-declutching to low gear to round the short but steeply sloping church corner into St Ninian’s Road from Birkhill Road …. and I recall the countless occasions when, in due course, I watched for the bus leaving its terminus in Underwood outside the Police Station as my signal to nip out the back door of the schoolhouse, run down across the playground, jump the school wall with the aid of the stout wire of the conveniently placed strut of an electricity pole, and finally cross Birkhill Road to the bus-stop … arriving there just as the bus rounded the aforementioned church corner at the start of its journey into Stirling town, and unforgettably to all its (later discovered) wonderful attractions. However if I cut it too fine, the bus-driver would see me coming and wait … anyway, often the driver would be one of the fathers of my class-mates and pals, Alex Ferguson or Joey Macrae! Alex became my closest chum for the next two years before we went to different High Schools and his mum was also employed by Alexander’s Buses, she as a conductress, or ‘clippie’ as some folks called such inimitable ticket-giving, leather-pouched money collectors. (Later in my teens I always did fancy being a ‘clippie’ on the old open-door double-deckers during student vacation … it was well paid … but the hours were no good for fitting in with my eventual non-stop time-table of participation in so many different sporting activities.)
Later that first morning I heard explosions in the distance and briefly thought that war had broken out again …. But, when I asked a passing villager about what on earth was going on, he was able to put me in the picture …it was only routine blasting from the Quarry about quarter of a mile away up the Touch Road.
In 1949 we had no car. Neither dad nor mum had ever been behind the wheel, far less possess a driver’s licence. In these days we just could not possibly afford a car, and particularly so when dad was not in the least interested in the intricacies of the internal combustion engine. But we had two ancient bicycles. However, being too short in the leg to ride dad’s with its horizontal bar just below saddle height, I was only too pleased to borrow my Mum’s with its ladies sloping bar, and thereafter start to explore further around the village.
I already knew of the swing park just along the road to the east, so I set off west along Main street and, with fingers crossed that my brakes were working well enough, I free-wheeled down The Brae, round into Mill Road, and found, just opposite the former Hayford Mill (Armanents’ Depot during the war) …. wonder of wonders, a full-sized football park … fantastic … the ‘cuv’ would soon be in use, again!
Having discovered that, apart from Main Street, the whole of the village was built on the steep side of Gillies Hill (ref. King Robert the Bruce in 1314 and the Battle of Bannockburn’s famous decisive intervening camp-followers’), I decided to explore on foot during my next safaris. Thus I found the streets of the village all steeped in historical associations - with William Wallace, with King Robert the Bruce, and, originating more locally, with the richest landowners for generations in the St Ninians area – the Murray family of Touchadam and Polmaise. Indeed the Dux medal in the local primary school, which I just failed to win in 1951, was the Murray Medal.
The only other sign of sport that I found in these first few days (until later discovering the ‘out-of-bounds’ snooker hall behind the Ice-Cream and Fish and Chip shop over the wall at the foot of our garden) also brought a new type of sporting arena and game into my ken. It was a beautifully manicured fine grass bowling green and it was just across the road from our front door, sheltered from the elements (and weeds especially) by a high privet hedge. As I nosed in the gate that first day I was ‘shoo..ed away’ by a man trimming the grass with a motor-mower. But, later that afternoon, when lots of ladies in white dresses started to gather in the square arena, I ventured forth again, slipped in at the gate, and quietly watched them playing one of the first ‘boolin’ matches that I had ever seen. It was indeed the tidiest ‘garden’ that I had ever been in – a fine grass squaresurrounded by a tarmac path and bordered with bonny shrubs and flowers,! And the click-clicks of ‘woods’ on ‘woods’ and ‘woods’ on ‘jack’ were sounds I heard, not only from then on from our garden most evenings, but also restless in my old bed during any enforced early twilight retirals during those autumnal days of novelty in 1949.
I will finish this little 1949 episode with two photographs taken a short time after these fascinating times of novelty and rich blessings ..
Firstly, one taken in June 1950 after the christening lunch of my cousin Alison Janet Buchanan at Grandma Henderson’s House at 11 Abbotsford Place, Stirling. It gives a good idea of how we all looked as a small family of four, then …. and in our ‘Sunday best’ too!
And secondly, with my soon to be guid ‘fitba’ daft pals at Cambusbarron Primary School – [Left to Right] Alex Ferguson, Josie Hamilton and John McLachlan.