Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Friday, April 13, 2012



During the last few years I’ve often used the blog to record memories of my boyhood and I always marvel at how different the lives of today’s children are from what I experienced. I’m repeating a few examples.

I REMEMBER the lamplighter with his long pole. I thought he had a great job.

I REMEMBER that every so often buskers would appear in our back-court and sing one or two songs. Housewives would open their windows, throw down coppers and the singer would move on to the next tenement. Sometimes one of them would play a tin whistle or do a dance, and I’m told that before the First World War German bands toured the country entertaining in back-courts.

I REMEMBER the horse-driven vans which visited our street, and the occasion when the horse which pulled the baker’s van fell down. Someone sat on its head as it lay on the road, while the baker undid all the belts and straps. Only when that was done was the animal able to get up, unharmed.

I REMEMBER message boys on bicycles. They were usually employed by food shops, and they had the job of delivering what housewives had ordered.

I REMEMBER that in the wintertime we went to school wrapped up in layers of clothing. Boys always wore caps and short trousers; in those days we had to wait till we were 15 or 16 before we got long trousers.

Royal Terrace where we lived till 1936

I REMEMBER seeing American comics. They were the size of broadsheet newspapers and had lots of pages. And the content was so different from our “Tiger Tim” and “The Rainbow.”

I REMEMBER that cigarette packets each contained a picture card. Many subjects were covered including sports personalities, film stars, dance band leaders, comedians, cars, locomotives, birds, animals, fish and many more.

I REMEMBER that the best room or parlour was used only on special occasions. That’s where the piano would be and the instrument was generally kept locked. (Did they keep it locked to prevent a burglar stealing the keys?)

I REMEMBER that, when drivers parked their cars on a hill (even on a slight hill), they would place a brick or a large stone at a front wheel to prevent the vehicle moving off.

I REMEMBER that, at primary school, if there was torrential rain in the morning, the school would close at lunchtime and we got a half-holiday. In such weather the boys would cram into the playground shelter at the morning interval, stand up on the long wooden bench and stamp their feet in time to their repeated cry of “We want a hauf!” (a half-day)

Lairdsland School where I got my primary education

I REMEMBER that sometimes a pupil would have an epileptic fit in the classroom. The child was usually writhing on the floor, while the rest of us sat in awed silence. I don’t recall the teacher attending to the victim - the fit passed quite quickly and the lesson was resumed.

I REMEMBER that a good number of my class-mates came from much poorer homes than ours. The boys were all dressed alike, in trousers and jackets of a coarse brown material, these having been provided by the School Board.

I REMEMBER that “the basket class” met in the church hall across the road from the school. This was for children who were considered to be uneducable and included a whole range of cases from just a bit simple to mentally defective. They passed their time doing handwork and, although part of our school, there was no contact between them and us.

I REMEMBER that there were only two men on the staff, the Headmaster and Mr Maclennan who took the Qualifying Class (Primary 7). The latter had a soft Highland accent which I liked to hear when he read poetry to us. His strap, which he used frequently, was never out of his hands, and he would be continually playing with it, rolling and unrolling it.

I REMEMBER we learned the multiplication tables by repeating them endlessly until they became fixed in our minds. Spelling too was taught that way and the whole class in unison would chant “eye enn - in, eye enn - in, ay tee - at, ay tee - at,” and so on. There used to be a lot of suppressed giggles when we came to “up.”


Finally, Ashoken Farewell composed by Jay Ungar. This piece was No.40 (out of 300) in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame chart announced last week-end.
It’s played on this clip by Mairead Nesbitt of Celtic Woman.


The new blog
begins tomorrow


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