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Recounting Blessings

Chapter 7


1944-1949
Banknock Village – ‘Sabbath days’

Chapter 7 seems to be an appropriate juncture in this auto-biography to shift the focus of my recounting blessings in Banknock, at least temporarily, away from the happenings of week-in, week-out, work and play days, and on to some recollections concerning the activities, predominantly religious, in which we became involved as a family on the Sabbath. In retrospect these experiences were also blessings to me as a child, even if they were certainly not understood then as such by my slowly maturing five to ten year old mind.

Sundays were undoubtedly different from other days of the week. For one thing, I soon became aware of the institution called ‘having a long lie’. Our household, instead of stirring around 7.30 a.m., was seldom encouraged to look for breakfast until after nine. But then, in addition to the usual cereal, toast and marmalade, my mum normally made a cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs or the like.

From that point on, the so-called ‘day of rest’ became anything but that! However, as I now realise, all that was done as these days ‘raced’ on were clear illustrations of my parents’ firm belief in, among other spiritual things, Moses’ message from God, that the Lord had blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.  In due course, I also became aware that, of the Ten Commandments, they not only prioritised this ideal, but also the other positive statement among the so many negatives in the Ten, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” 

My sister Elizabeth and I, it must be said, often somewhat unwillingly, were absorbed into the Henderson-Telfer Sabbath routine - its expected ‘busy-ness’ in quietness and obedience; our dressing-up in our ‘Sunday best’; our readiness for the half-mile walk to the Haggs for 11.15 a.m. and the ‘enduring’ of, as most children saw it, the Rev. ‘daily cold bath before breakfast’ John Jackson’s long sermons at Longcroft Church of Scotland; our rushed walk back home for a cold lunch; then either, our being sent over in the early afternoon, much more willingly, to the school for the Mission Hour of gospel texts and rousing choruses provided there by the Band of Hope, or our setting out by double-decker bus to Grandma Telfer’s and Uncle John’s home in Falkirk for high-tea before attending evening service at the Church of Christ in the Pleasance; our after-church rush to catch the last Glasgow via Kilsyth bus home to Banknock in order to avoid, if possible,  the long walk from Longcroft Monument if we missed it, and had then to take the Glasgow via Cumbernauld instead.  

On these visits, firstly to 13 Watson Street, and then in later years to 13 Wolfe Road, to that marvellous home-baker, my much loved my Grandma Telfer, who had been widowed in 1931, it was Uncle John who gained most of my attention with his passion for photography and singing, as well as his willingness to talk about my particular sporting interest of the moment. In a real sense I suppose he became the Grandad Telfer whom I had never known. In his younger days he had played tennis with my mum at the Carron club,

and cricket at the Castings, so these were the sports he liked me to enthuse about. However, unlike other Uncles who occasionally visited us at Banknock on Saturdays, Uncle John would never accept my inevitable challenge to a ‘game o’ heiders’ between the clothes poles on our back ‘green’! He knew his strengths and was usually content only to photograph such encounters with others and thus avoid the stiff necks that adults often suffered next day from their unaccustomed indulgence in trying to flick the ‘cuv’ with their heads past an acrobatic ‘Bobby Brown type goalie’ like me!

As just mentioned, these family visits were usually on Saturdays as the likes of ‘heiders’ were just not allowed on the Sabbath! Long Sunday walks along the Forth and Clyde Canal were often taken, when, instead of our going to Falkirk or Stirling, our kin-folks would come to see us in the village schoolhouse. After tea, especially if it was Uncle Willie Telfer, Aunt Minnie and cousins Constance and Marion who were visiting, my mum would get out her carefully preserved piano and violin sheet music, and with little coaxing she and brother Willie would re-live their ‘dueting’ of their pre-marriage days in the 1920s in the family home in Watson Street.

Both of them were also accomplished artists in pencil, water-colour and oil, but, whereas my mum after marriage contented herself with producing wonderful visual aids for her Infant classes, Uncle Willie continued to gain nationwide recognition by exhibiting his paintings, mostly still-life, at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh and at other venues around the country. In addition he eventually became conductor of the Snowdon Orchestra in Stirling.

Two examples of their early sketching talents are ,

Our old wireless set also got a rest on Sundays as all entertainment had to be chosen as befitted the Lord’s day. Thus, such evenings progressed, when we were not actually in church, with hymn and psalm singing in the parlour accompanied on the piano by my mum. Again, to us under tens, all this may not have been very much to our liking, but obediently we conformed … until …. the adults became so engrossed in their music not to notice us making ourselves scarce by, either slipping out into the garden for a game of ‘hide and seek’ well away from the parlour windows, or tip-toeing upstairs to play other ‘forbidden fruit’ type card or board games. 

As I got a little older, there were at least two other highlights that I recall from our Sunday visiting to Falkirk, and indeed elsewhere to various Churches of Christ in Glasgow. These, apart from the excitement of going by bus to the big city and meeting other wee folks to play with out of sight of parents, were for me, primarily my listening intently to my father’s lay preaching of the gospel – he had a way with words, both in writing and speech that was spell-binding even to my young mind as well as to his congregations; and, the glorious singing that to this day I can still hear as it immersed one in what could be described as ‘dry-land’ baptism by music. In retrospect, I am certain that all this growing up in Sabbath contexts of ecumenism influenced my later tolerant attitudes to all forms of faithful public Christian witness, and all the people who trod these different paths to salvation.

Without becoming over-sentimental, the religious experiences of these days were indeed blessings, and thus I feel well worth the recounting.


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