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Stories from John Henderson
Cambusbarron 1949-55


The autumn of the year 1949 brought us to Cambusbarron on my father's promotion to Head Teacher of its primary school and I experienced equally fulfilling rural days there throughout the rest of my village and town schooling years...

The transfer to Cambusbarron took some time in preparing as my mother Nancy refused to move there until the Schoolhouse was totally renovated to her satisfaction. For a home that had housed the great Dr John Grierson as a laddie it was sad that the 'Cooncil' had let it get into such a dreadful state by the Summer of 1949. When the redoubtable Mr Jimmy McKinlay the Education Committee Clerk of Works met us on site we found - the house and garden was stinking of cats because Mrs Webster the former heedie's wife and village Post Mistress had been well known for her love of these creatures and her collecting of every such 'waif and stray' in the village - no kitchen, just a wee scullery - no Raeburn to heat water and cook on - everywhere horribly antiquated oil wall papers - a definite need for complete electrical rewiring - dampness adding its distinctive smell to the existing pungent aromas etc. etc.

 

Suffice to say Mr McKinlay had such a regard for Nancy and JNK that within two months he had moved 'mountains' in his budgets to make the house habitable, including making a completely new very well equipped kitchen in what previously must have been a nursery for cats and kittens. It was a relief when we moved in during September that the pervading odour  was not male cat 'pee' but the stench of new paint emanating from every nook and cranny ...... This 'palace' proved to be a super house for Elizabeth and I to spend our teenage years and as we thought then and later, well worth the fuss Nancy had made to make it all possible.

 

To give you an idea of where we had landed and the exciting new village life that awaited us, I'll let you see some annotated sketches that I have made recently of the village at that time; a village so conveniently only a mile from the heart of historic Stirling itself - only a twenty minute walk away, only a five minute bike ride to the tennis at the Kings Park or Williamfield cricket ground ... plus a half hour bus service courtesy of Alexanders' then pretty delapidated rural buses running alternately to the Riverside and Woodside Road in the Raploch, Stirling.

 

 

As you can judge from this sketch and the next one, the house was big and roomy, the school was just a fa' oot o' bed distance away, the church (and its blessed or accursed chimes every quarter of an hour) inescapably nearby, but most importantly, the chip shop (and snooker hall behind it!) a mere leap over the wall at the foot of the massive garden.

 

 

The snooker hall and of course the Pub were no go areas for youngsters like us but otherwise we were just about free to roam anywhere we wished in the area, encouraged to get to know the village folks, and them us, but all of this certainly dependent on our doing our chores around the house and garden and, no matter how reluctantly, always coming in at once when called for meals or bed-time.

 

Thus we met many adult characters, among others, ..... Dougie Scott, (who referred to all children as their parents' wee chuckie stanes), the legendary village slater and thus renowned as the local high roof Houdini - his indispensable workman 'Rolly' and his beloved wife Bunty Ross; Wingate our milkman who delivered by horse and cart; his boss Taylor Robertson and his herd of cows; Davy Hughes, a fervent Stirling Albion fan who organised the supporters' bus out of the village every 'away' Saturday; Willie Thomson, the Polmaise Estate factor, whose fearsome demeanour belied a dry sense of humour and his great desire to serve the community with all the energy he possessed (as long as he was elected chairman and had JNK as his Hon. Secretary!), all the Johnses in the paper shop, the Fletchers running the grocer's, Davy the butcher, Hamish Fergusson the coalman, Johnny McEwen and his sons, and 'straicht bool' Peter McDonald, the champion boolers, Mrs Atterson of the WRI and Women's Guild, Mrs 'tingel a leerie' Bell the school cleaner and our 'baby-sitter', Margaret Muir in the Church Choir and Sunday School; Mrs Stocksley our piano tutor; the dependable village ploughman 'Wull' Ferguson; Jim McLeod (of great fame latterly) in his early days of playing with his Band at our local Scottish Country Dances;and last but not least the venerable John Donaldson, (the unofficial 'Provost') retired joiner and undertaker living just across the road from us.

 

Most of my unforgettable experiences, apart from with childhood pals, revolved round being with, or working with, some of these folks just mentioned and perhaps those dealings with Wingate and Davy Hughes are most worth relating, at least in part, here.

 

Wingate the Milkman and John Henderson his assistant at twa bob a week

 

The next picture shows what I looked like ( but less well dressed!) when (as an embryo future ideas man !) I volunteered (for nothing but curiosity initially) to shorten Wingate's early morning-round times by cycling way ahead of his horse and cart on my mother's bicycle, its basket laden with milk bottles, heading for more distant doorsteps ........ Suffice to say it soon became worth two bob a week to me from Taylor Robertson, his dairyman boss, when Wingate became available for other work about an hour earlier than usual after every morning round.

 

 

As winter and spring rolled into the school summer holidays that year, I graduated to another job - bringing in the cows for milking from a small roadside field up at Gartur, (just opposite the entrance gate to McEwans' Hillhead Farm) down the Touch Road, up Murray Place and into the dairy - then later, amidst cascading sh--, driving the beasts back up the road for the night.

 

Dodging cow pads ( or as the locals joked, 'Mind yi' dinnae lose yir bunnet on a dark windy nicht up the Touch Road or ye're likely to find a few ithers before gettin' yir ane back!' )  on my bike whilst on other play-sorties up Touch Road lingers happily in my memory. But the need to clean malodorous spokes and chain thereafter before being allowed to put my bike away for the night in our garden hut was anything but a welcome job. The Brae was another bike route which gave us hours of 'chicken' type enjoyment (often short-lived if the 'boabby' appeared!). You either hurtled down, round the slight corner halfway, eyes skinned for emerging vehicles from Mill Road, or for the 'wee' bus stationary outside Dowell's house, before either freewheeling as far as possible into the North End, or doing 'speedway like' sliding round into Mill Road itself on the drying mud and stones that gathered from the ever over-flowing burn nearby.

 

Davy Hughes, who was a roadman as I recall, quickly noticed, (and heard!) that the wee lad who lived across the road from his house was 'fitba' daft'. There was no escape for him in this because of the hours I spent thumping balls of all shapes and sizes against the huge gable-end wall adjoining the schoolhouse lawn. More importantly he noticed that I wore an Stirling Albion strip in the traditional colours and design made famous by the mighty Arsenal of London. Of course I quickly discovered that he was an Albion supporter too and soon we were chatting and thus replaying past matches over the garden fence, not to mention similar conversations over his wife's delicious cakes and cups of tea in his house ...  and then accompanying him to Albion 'away' games every other Saturday in the bus that the Cambusbarron Albion Supporters' Club hired. Indeed Davy - a lovely man - almost became the Grandad I had never known (my Grandpa Telfer died eight years before I was born and my Grandad Henderson when I was barely five).

 

As the Albion chased promotion out of Division 'B' in to 'A' that season, we travelled far and wide together - to Arbroath in the east - to Dumbarton in the west, and at the end of it all we were able to wave our red and white scarves in glee at the prospect of entertaining the likes of the Rangers, the Celtic, the Hearts and the Hibs et al in Stirling in the coming season. But not only that, almost unbelievably, Davy arranged for me to be added to the 'ball-boy' staff at Annfield for the next season in 'A' Division! That became an unforgettable years experience for me as a tender twelve year old, not just for the fetching and carrying for all the illustrious names of the then current Scottish football scene, but being in the dressing room, baths and showers, with my local heroes, Geordie Dick, Tommy Martin, Geordie Henderson, Alec 'Smudge' Anderson, Bobby Wilson, Ian Bain, Jock Whiteford to mention just a few ....

 

The next photograph of me around this time is in the side garden of the schoolhouse and it gives a clue to my other sporting passion - cricket!

 

 

My Uncle John Telfer and Uncle Jimmy Mitchell of Falkirk had played for Castings C.C. and my father JNK Henderson had played for Bridge of Allan C.C. - and since I was about eight years old I had listened to endless hours of Test Matches carried by the BBC Light Programme on our crystal set wireless, marvelling in my imagination of the prowess of the likes of Don Bradman, Len Hutton, Denis Compton et al. .... I found two similarly endoctrinated fellow budding cricketers of my age-group in Cambusbarron - Jock Templeton and 'Bimbo' Kemp - and the flat strip down the east side fenced-hedge at the foot of the local public park became our 'Lords', or 'Oval' or 'Trent Bridge' and many a mini-test was played there by we three! I was luckier than them however, because my dad arranged for me to be coached by Willie Clark and Bill Dennis of Stirling County C.C. at the Williamfield ground in Torbrex just along the road from the village. This was the start of a 'love-affair' with the 'County' which has lasted all my life.

 

Primary schooling in P6 and P7 for me was dominated by a lovably eccentric teacher, Miss Anderson.

 

 

I indeed give her the doubtful honour of helping me to become a reasonable mathematician in my university days but perhaps more generally for her aiding and abetting my later addiction to problem-solving. Her secret 'empire' at the end of a dark corridor in the school - any view from outside her classroom door totally blocked by an enormous double wheeled blackboard - was hell on earth for the less able. But for her favourites who possessed some semblance of academic brain, Miss Anderson provided paradise! There must be many who remember her classroom cupboard full of walking shoes to transport her and her 'Pied Piper' followers four times a day via the Burnside and the North End to and from her Dowan Place home  .... and the high heeled ones she religiously changed into for classroom 'manoeuvres'. Then of course, there was seldom a minute of any school day when some erring child would not be in 'exile' behind the blackboard - 'Out of my sight you abomination', she would rage! 

 

 

Some of the classmates in this picture bring a few stories back to mind .....

 

 


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