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Recounting Blessings

Chapter 24

1950 – 1957


Cambusbarron / Bannockburn / Stirling


‘High’ Days and Holidays 1951-53

Part One - Monifieth


Just before the start of my ‘High’ days at the ‘School on the Rock’ in Stirling during August, 1951, my Dad, from a ‘Home Exchange for Holidays’ advertisement that appeared in the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) Journal, was persuaded by Mum to contact a Le Maistre family of Monifieth, near Broughty Ferry, Dundee. As a result, that summer found us vacationing a mere stone’s throw from the glorious sand-dunes and golf-courses of that town on the Firth of Tay, while Vic and Margaret Le Maistre with their two small girls, Louise and Judy, relaxed in the historic setting of Cambusbarron.


At that time Vic was the Principal Teacher of Art at Arbroath High School and an accomplished part-time landscape artist, caricaturist and designer of greetings’ cards. ‘Boo and Bam’ the Clowns were a pair of his favourite characters for this last activity, but the Stirling area soon provided new stimuli and opportunities for him to indulge his other two expressive skills. Indeed, his evocative water-colour of the derelict church on Cambusbarron Brae, adjacent to the birthplace at No. 23 of my fellow-grandad Jim MacCallum, today graces the lounge wall of the MacCallum’s Homesteads residence.


Our subsequent holidays in Monifieth were wonderful in many ways …. a comfy house within a pleasant garden - a five minute walk only to the beach and swimming in the sea …. (we didn’t seem to mind the cold water then!)  - a two minute stroll to the Ashludie Golf Course and its nearby undulating but immaculately manicured 18 hole putting greens - a twenty minute bus ride into Dundee to the home of Dundee FC at Dens Park - and last, but never least in my book, the relative ease of my getting to Forthill cricket ground, the home of Forfarshire CC in Broughty Ferry or, less easily, cycling with Dad to Forfar - where he had gone to the Academy in 1922/23 - to Lochside cricket ground, the home of Strathmore CC. 


Dad ‘JNK’, Elizabeth, John in Monifieth


The attraction of these two cricket venues for me was to watch, and, if possible, to talk with, the two clubs’ legendary Caribbean professionals – ‘Chopper’ Hazel at Lochside and ‘Dickie’ Fuller at Forthill. I was unable to get to talk with ‘Chopper’ in the early 1950s, but as co-incidence would have it, I succeeded some 40 years later, when he, long retired from the game, made a special effort to come to Lochside one warm Sunday to watch his great friend and mine, the nearly 70 year-old Irvin Iffla (erstwhile Stirling CCC’s most successful professional ever) star for my Gargunnock Village Cricket Club v A Strathmore XI.


I was luckier in my Broughty Ferry visits as a laddie, especially in one week when there was not only a match every day, Monday to Friday, but also a culminating local derby v Perthshire on the Saturday. I used to get to the ground very early each day (the gate was open so I never had to pay admission!) and park myself, my picnic hold-all and my wee score book high up in the grandstand’s shade overlooking the pavilion and the home-team dressing room. My vantage point at ‘square-leg’/’cover-point’ gave me a marvellous view of proceedings, but especially of the rip-roaring’ speed and bounce of Dickie Fuller’s pace bowling. It was not long before Mr Fuller noticed the avid wee daily spectator so engrossed in play from his ‘eerie’ nearby, and, being the kind of friendly man he was, by the third morning he had me helping him move the heavy roller off the pitch before play was due to start each day.


I learned, many years later that the placement of the roller just short of a good length on the pitch overnight was one of Dickie’s repertoire of tricks – no known law then against such enterprise, but, ahemm …..! – to cause even more discomfort to batsmen from steeper bounce than an evenly surfaced wicket might have provided. He was near retiring age when I met him then, so I never had the ‘pleasurable pain’ of playing against him for Stirling CCC later on in that decade. However his successor, Clairemonte de Pieiza, proved less hospitable when I batted against him   …. Two steps up to delivery stride …. Whizzz …. John LBW …. OUT - first ball  … having collected a bruised shin despite pads and rolled newspaper wrapped around his legs inside his stockings …. OUCH !


Our golfing education started that summer under the tuition of old Mr Hadden in the Starter’s Hut at the Ashludie Golf Course just 50 yards down the road from our holiday house in Dalhousie Street. The Course itself in 1951 was around 4900 yards in length and it provided a tricky test of golf for adults far less for fifteen and twelve year-old children like my sister Elizabeth and me. As we were not long hitters off the tee, nor from elsewhere distant from the greens, our scores tended to mount quickly. However, as partial compensation, we soon found out it was to our slight advantage that an accurate short game was especially needed on that particular course!


The Ashludie Golf Course by the Barry Burn


 The Ashludie Golf Course Score Card


[Images above with thanks to Network Scotland Productions]


Before all this, Elizabeth and I started on the putting greens under Mr Hadden’s watchful eye - no doubt in case we might misbehave – not an unlikely occurrence due to our habit of arguing about anything and everything in our sporting competitions  …. Sorry … confrontations! However we had been well warned by our parents that the least sign of such nonsense and unaccompanied putting, far less golf, would be a thing of the past. Thus, as we tried very hard to be angelic with each other, all went well. Then things got even better when Mr Hadden suggested that we should borrow a few of his spare clubs and try a few holes on the ‘real’ golf course. If any adults came along behind us we were to stop and let them ‘play-through’.


From then on, hail, rain, or shine we were on the course when not involved in other excursions. And both of us even managed to get an occasional par 3 on the short holes, especially at the 16th, ‘The Lighthouse’. However as I, as ever, became more ambitious for length, my natural cricket swing began to cause either vicious ‘hooks’ or life-threatening ‘shanks’. So, although I enjoyed playing AT the game of golf, I soon realised that that was probably going to be the extent of my interest in it  …. And so it transpired - golf never did become a passion like ‘the cricket’!


One spin-off that we received from our friendship with Mr Hadden, apart from cheap rounds of golf, was his occasionally persuading ‘real’ golfers that we would be excellent caddies for them because of our by then intimate knowledge of every twist and turn, nook and cranny of the course. We had also become expert lost-ball finders … and not only of our own wild mis-hits!


Thus, imagine our joy, mine especially, when we were engaged by two Dundee FC professional footballers to hump their bags of clubs around the Ashludie. Unfortunately the inimitable Scottish International inside-forward, and my hero, Billy Steel was not one of them. But the wonderfully talented skipper of Dundee Alf Boyd, later to also play for Scotland, was my ‘boss’ for the afternoon, while Elizabeth looked after the ‘evergreen’ Johnny Patullo. The footballers thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and, being natural ball-players, they also played a ‘mean’ game as they gambled with each other for ‘five-bob’ a hole. [We didn’t tell our parents about that aspect of things, though!].


Being well-trained children, we were not looking for any payment for our services. The thrill of being there seemed more than enough reward. However imagine our surprise when, after the flag had been dropped into the hole at the 18th green, a huge sum to us in these days – half-a-crown - was pressed into each of our hands. At one fell swoop we had fallen heir to almost enough pocket-money to pay for sweeties and ice-cream cones for the rest of the summer. Woweeee!

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