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Recounting Blessings

Chapter 1

From Causewayhead in 1939
Emba in 2004

‘Veelage Born, Veelage Raised,
City Skilled ……….. Veelages be Praised!’

Each veelage whaur ah’ve whilies stied,
Ower them odd sixty years,
Ca’ up thir ane fon’ memories,
O’ muckle joys and tears.
Folks’ hames, folks’ sports, folks’ kirks, folks’ skils,
Folks’ gairdens veg’d an’ floo ’ r’d,
Syne maistly harbour’d couthy chiels,
Wi’ neeborness assured.
Bit aye furbye sae handy like
Tae spile sicht pastures pure,
Thur men wid hiv tae ging an’ toil
 ‘Midst kilns or quarries’ stoor.
Bit fur us bairns sae unawares,
Oor rural life wis bliss,
Fur nae expectin’ much furbye
Jist naithin’ seemed amiss.

Dad and John in 1941
John in the countryside with his dad JNK Henderson in 1942

 1948 John fitba’
John in the garden of Schoolhouse, Banknock Village.
Ready for ‘Kick-off’ in 1948

Blessed with a rural up-bringing in Scotland

Not long after his appointment to the High School of Stirling as its Primary Five teacher in the early 1930s, my father, James Nicoll Kerr Henderson met and wooed the Infants One teacher there - one Nancy Telfer of Falkirk – and married her in 1934. Nancy gave birth to my big sister in Causewayhead, Stirling in 1936, and then, despite strong medical advice not to risk her life again, she bore me there too, without undue mishap, in 1939. I was told in later years that Jim and Nancy first set up home in a newly-built £300 Headridge bungalow in Easter Cornton Road, Causewayhead and that it had been named 'Revoan' after a particularly memorable week in my dad’s life in 1932 trekking in the Cairngorms.

Then, on his promotion to a First Assistantship at Carmuirs School around 1942, we flitted to Alma Street, Falkirk. My memories of this period in my life are a bit hazy of course but I do remember that the Alma Street house was a 'two-down, three-up kind, with coomb-seil walls in the bedrooms upstairs. I also recall being taken to Carmuirs School by my father when I was a precocious four year old and not lasting long because of my bad behaviour in the playground and my learning being well beyond what I was being asked to do in the First Intake Class by an already over-stretched teacher.

My father obtained his first Primary School Headship in Banknock, Kilsyth in 1944, and it was there that I joined Infants I on a more permanent basis. The schoolhouse there was a lovely villa surrounded by wonderful farmland for playing in, plus of course, convenient burns for guddlin' in. The village schooling was great, and, as a mad-keen footballer, and the school 'goalie' eventually in Primary 3, I had the delight of meeting my hero, 'Geordie' Young of Rangers and Scotland, at a match against a Rangers XI on the village blaes football pitch atop the local 'bing' that was held to celebrate Banknock United winning of the Scottish Juvenile Cup.

Fetchin’ the Mulk frae Murchie’s Ferm
Banknock Veelage

Banknock int 1940s,
Whan we wur styin’ there’,
Brocht us mony guid times’,
Lik’ this yin thit I’ll share.

Ivery day whan skil goat oot,
Tae smellie ferm we skelpt at pace.
Jaikets oan an’ scerfs roond lugs,
Claithes-pegs handy jist in case,
The coos hid shat a’ ower the place.
Tae get there feerst ‘lang road we flew
Sae’s nae tae land ahint the queue,
Midst byre’s stink thit garr’d ye grue.
Cans aye jist goat three-quarters filled,
Sae nane wid e’er git couped or spill’d.
But nane the less we wur nae aloof,
Fae swingin cans tae git some proof,
Thit centr’fugal force is honest truth.
Till ain can sail’d oant passin’ roof,
Gien slates chance there tae slaik thur drooth,
Whiles dreeps splesh’d mony’s a passin’ mooth.
Fit wid we say when we goat hame?
A’ yoan fine mulk way doon the drain.
Breakfast wid nivver be the same.
Stiff mulkless purridge fur oor pain.
Grin an’ bear it twis ainly way,
Tae learn richt quick thit we must pay,
Fur stuipit games we’d daur tae play,
Syne hopin’ they’d nivver ging aglay.

The year 1949 saw us relocated in Cambusbarron where I experienced equally happy rural days throughout the rest of my village and town schooling years. My time free from schooling centred on being a ball-boy for Stirling Albion when they were the 'yo-yo' team of Division A and B, playing tennis at the Kings Park, eventually becoming Boy Champion, and taking great pride in playing County cricket as a wicket-keeper/batsman from 1954 onwards. As to more serious things, mention must be made of my six demanding years of ultimately successful study at the School on the Rock based on a lot of real hard slog, becoming a School Prefect, learning to be a leader in school rugby, cricket, athletics and tennis, helping with the business side of producing the school magazine, and willingly participating in choir concerts and operas.

Our removal to Bannockburn schoolhouse in 1956 took in my sixth year at the High School, where, on Saturday mornings, I captained an un-beaten first rugby XV, and then, on Saturday afternoons, played outside-left for Bannockburn Amateurs F.C. This latter short-lived period of trying to achieve an ambition of becoming a professional soccer player, brought me a brief trial game for Stirling Albion from which Tam Fergusson, the renowned manager, dismissed me at half-time with a ten shilling note and advice to 'take the first bus back to Bannockburn, son'.

John in Braid
John in Cambusbarron Schoolhouse Garden in 1955

Then,attending Glasgow University and the Scottish School of Physical Education at Jordanhill College followed from 1957-62. At the College, I not only took distinctions in Physical Education, Primary Education and Secondary School Mathematics, but also made a bit of a name for myself as an able goal kicker with the very successful College rugby team, averaging over 150 points per season for seven years, and eventually playing representative rugby for Glasgow.

1960 S2 Group
1960 Class Group at the SSPE, Jordanhill

However, much more importantly, I met my future wife Olive at Jordanhill early on in our teacher training there, and eventually, during our third year, persuaded her to marry me as soon as we had built a 'nest-egg' from our respective starting years in teaching. The 'nest-egg' was small, but none the less we were married in 1963 in North Kelvinside Church, Glasgow.

A newly built semi-detached 'chalet' in Torbrex, Stirling was our starter house in 1963 - 'capitalists' with a mortgage of £26 a month on a salary of £770 per annum! It was tight, particularly with Evan John’s arrival in June 1964, but we managed somehow. The nearness of our house to my job over the fence as Maths/PE teacher in the new High School of Stirling was very handy, not only for the extra night classes I did to supplement my pittance salary, but also for my commitment to voluntary after-school work with the rugby teams, the Boys' Brigade at St. Ninians, playing cricket for Stirling County and travelling to continue my rugby playing career with Jordanhill College.

In August 1965 I was promoted to the post of Assistant in P.E. at Glasgow University and then two years later to a Special Assistantship in Mathematics and Games at Belmont House School in Newton Mearns. We moved again in 1968 to allow me to take up an appointment as village dominie at St. Cyrus Primary School, Montrose and it was here that both Robert Kerr and Lindsay Margaret were born in 1968 and 1970 respectively.

The children's upbringing continued thereafter in Schoolhouse, Gargunnock from 1971 when I was appointed head of the village primary school there. In 1974 I gained a post as Lecturer in Primary Education at Moray House College of Education, Edinburgh, but, rather than go to the city, we bought and renovated a big flat in the Riverside, Stirling before cashing in just over two years later to purchase a modern bungalow back in Gargunnock.

Gargunnock Bridge
Gargunnock Village in 1970

Most of my leisure time away from students and children, apart from taking an Upper  Second Class Honours Degree with the Open University (1971-74),  was devoted to sport and being a local church elder - rugby committee man during Stirling County RFC's rise to the top from 1970 to 1984 - creating and developing the 'nomadic' Gargunnock Village Cricket Club from 1984 - learning to link cricket playing and groundsmanship at Meiklewood Cricket Ground (The MCG) - a ground sown, and its pavilion built, by our members in 1989/90 and funded by my father, JNK Henderson, and the land-owner, William Scott. After retiral from Moray House College in 1994, I combined unpaid service as SCCC Vice-Chairman (Playing) with groundsman's duties at both Williamfield and the MCG in the village. The one nick-name that has stuck during my life came from the County players in 1995 - 'VCP' - and I even bought a personalised number plate for our Toyota Corolla to celebrate - J  15  VCP  !!

After a round-the-world trip to New Zealand and Australia from early November 1995 to late January 1996 in order to visit relatives and see the sights, Olive and I decided in 1997 to make our most popular holiday destination from 1984 onwards - Paphos District, Cyprus - our second home. Thus, from then on we gradually increased the time spent there in our villa at the edge of the village of Emba.

Jake at Play
John in his garden pool in Emba in 2004

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