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Recounting Blessings

Chapter 18

1950 – 1956
Cambusbarron – Setting Some Patterns for My Life


There is little doubt in my mind that many of the more enduring patterns that became imprinted on my future working life’s day-in and day-out activity cycles within the many different environments through which I passed, developed during this early 1950s period. And this applied particularly to my relatively more concentrated emphases on some of these activities in due season.


Such later-life modelling of those early adolescent days was all about …. being cared for by loving and generous parents in a comfortable home, being encouraged …. to continue to accumulate academic knowledge, to be a spectator at, or even better, to try my hand at, any sport that I could access, to gather peer-group acquaintances, to join with others in what close proximity to the local Presbyterian Church offered in the way of fellowship – Morning Services, the Sunday School, the Choir, and the Boys’ Brigade (‘The Lifeboys’ initially) – to try to learn to play the piano, to explore further a-field either by ‘Shanks’ Pony’ or bicycle, to pick-up odd-jobs to augment my pocket-money, to go off on at least a fortnight’s holiday to the sea-side each summer,




and, whenever possible, to endeavour to make regular visits to members of our close-knit family elsewhere in Stirlingshire or beyond.



A major exception to all this habit-forming process at this juncture may have been my failure to read much of value from the rich sources of classical fictional literature etc. that were so readily available on our household bookcase shelves. However, although Arthur Mee’s Encyclopedia continued to be a constant reference companion, the devouring of the ‘Rover’, ‘Wizard’, Adventure’ and ‘Hotspur’ comics as I read myself to sleep at night, tended to be the only aspect of the printed media that I found time to indulge, and thus add some enjoyable sedentary respite into my ‘always on the go’ hectic little life.  


Of course the arrival of ‘The Televison’ only helped to distract me from the reading of ‘good’ books, and, here too, discriminative viewing was slow to establish itself, apart from in my accepting the impediment of having to complete necessary school-homework before sneaking into the lounge to  be enthralled by the wonderful invention of ‘wireless with moving pictures’. Thus TV served to make me become a later and later ‘bedder’ as I waited most nights for the last silvery dot of the fading close-down picture to disappear from the tiny screen after 11 p.m. and thus coax me to sneak upstairs late to my bed. Greater and greater doses of school-homework as the years went on gradually reduced my viewing schedule - drastically at times - so I suppose that prioritising my choices of programmes to watch, as well as rarely being an ‘early bedder’, became habits learned from puberty that I carried with me throughout my working life.


Each of the above activities may merit a separate chapter in these memoirs, and, as I happily recollect and write here just now, the details come flooding back of all of the aforementioned …., sport, acquaintances, church, music, exploring, odd-jobs, holidays, family visiting, reading, and TV …. and their associated names, faces, places, joys and disappointments.

The problem is that most of them tend to overlap. But, taking one or other as a stimulus, I will, as I write, just have to wait and see what comes to the forefront of my mind !


For no particular reason, apart from their current vividness in my mind’s eye, I will start here with two dairy related odd-job highlights and then the unique influences of two elderly neighbours, the unforgettably lovable Mr and Mrs David Hughes.


However, I will chat on firstly about my inventively interesting job as ‘assistant’ to Wingate the Milkman at twa bob a week:-


About six months after first hearing the clunking of milk-bottles on our doorstep, 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, to head for more distant doorsteps ........ Suffice to say it soon became worth two shillings a week to me from Taylor Robertson, his dairyman boss because Wingate then became available for other work around the dairy about an hour earlier than usual after every morning round.


With some 'shaggy' poetic licence, the following describes these eventful days - sorta! :-


Wingate an' his  Nag’s Story


Mulkman Wingate’s nag kent whaur tae stoap each stage the daily grind.

Fur years she’d trod the self-same paths an’ coudive gaen roon’ blind.

Sae fan John jined wi’ basket -bike tae cut hoor aff time taen,

She acted maist perturbid lik’ an’ jist ignored hir maister’s rein.


Wingate coaxed, cajoled and cursed and spat, tae nae avail,

Sae cracked his whip clais by hir lugs thit tirned nag bittie pale.

Where’pon fine beast she whinnied lood jist yince fore boltin’ aff,

Wi’ Wingate as int cooboy films, hingin’-oan  lik’ silly gnaff.


If ye believe this wee story ye didnae ken nag’ id nivver troat.

Faur less gallop wi’ heavy load o’ precious mulk, an’ syne git it a’ hoat.

Raither hoarse saw int the basket-bike thit John hid gledly broat,

Much langer tween times stoappies fur haulin thon darn’d mulk float.


Mulkman Wingate’s nag kent whaur tae stoap each stage the daily grind.

Fur years she’d trod the self-same paths an’ coudive gaen roon’ blind.

Sae fan John jined wi’ basket -bike tae cut hoor aff time taen,

She acted jist maist pleesur’d lik’ obeyin’ maister’s rein.


[Re-composed  - from his original song lyrics  - on 21st September, 2004 by 1950s’ ex-Mulkman’s  Helper John)


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 McEwan’s Hillhead Farm) down the Touch Road, up Murray Place and into the dairy - then later, amidst cascading shit, driving the beasts back up the road for the night.


Dodging cow pads (or as the locals joked, 'Mind yi' dinnae lose yir bunnet oan a dairk windy nicht ip the Touch Road oar ye're lik’ly tae fun’ a few ithers afore gettin' yir ane!' ) 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!).


We 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 to trade, 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 (with frequent punctures occurring due to the projecting rusty nails that supported a rampant rambling rose!).


More importantly he noticed that I wore a 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 in his house whilst enjoying Mrs Hughes' delicious home-baked cakes and cups of tea  ...  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 Grandad 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 at Annfield, Stirling in the coming season. But not only that - almost unbelievably - Mr Hughes arranged for me to be added to the 'ball-boy' staff at Annfield for the next season in 'A' Division! That became an unforgettable year's experience for me as a youngster, not just because I got to fetch and carry for all the illustrious names of the then current Scottish football scene, but for being allowed into 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 of my then heroes!  Wow! and Wow! .... again and again !

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