We would like to thank John Graham for allowing us to post the following account of his early life.
The next instalments of The Life of John Graham, including his years at Woodend Farm is now here.
After his move to Kepplehill Farm, Shotts, Lanarkshire, and then his move to Townhead of Gree Farm, Fenwick, Ayrshire, John Graham moved back to Woodend Farm in 1968. In 1981, he moved to Auchengray Farm.
If you would like to contact him about his account, please write to Anne Murray at the following address: grahamkirkhousedairy.fsnet.co.uk
If you have any information or memories about Woodend that you would like to share with the Armadale website, please e-mail Rosie
Updated 18 March 2012
The Life of John Graham
6th February 1932
- 29th March 2013
- 29th March 2013
My mother, Jane Taylor Reid, was born in 1909 at Hillview Cottages, Blackburn. She was born to a family of shale miners. Her mother and father were Joseph and Euphemia Reid. She attended Redhouse Primary School, Blackburn, along with her brothers and sister. Her father Joseph, my grandfather, died in the great ‘flu epidemic of 1918, at the age of 29, and he is buried in the cemetery in Whitburn.
Grandmother Euphemia MacKenzie went on to live with another man and the children did not go with her. Hence my mother and her siblings were brought up in Blackburn by someone else. Euphemia did not keep in contact with her family, but we are led to believe she was dead by 1930. Joseph and Euphemia had four children altogether. There was aunt Ella, uncle Jimmy, and then my mother, Jane, followed by uncle Joe, who was the youngest. My mother was 11 when her father died. Aunt Ella went off and married Jimmy Kelly. She had a big family, Margaret being one of the girls, and they lived in Penicuik. As a young man, uncle Jimmy joined the army and, later, the prison service, and uncle Joe worked on the railways.
My mother was brought up and lived in Blackburn with a lady, possibly her aunt, called Mary Anne, after her father died. I visited Mary Anne many times with my mother; she was a nice old lady and I remember her well. The boys went to stay with their uncle, a Mr MacKenzie. I believe this man and his family went on to live in Australia.
After leaving school, mother left her home with Mary Anne and went to live with Jake Russell and his wife. Also living there was Lily Russell, a granddaughter to Jake. Mother started work at Mosside Farm, Blackburn, for Dick Russell, (Jake Russell’s son). She worked there for a few years and this is where she met her future husband, John Graham*, who was working across the road at Whitehill Farm, Blackburn, also for Russell brother, Willie. (*My father, who was known as the Gaffer to everyone, and who I will refer to as the Gaffer from now on.)
The Gaffer was born at Easter Muirhead Farm, Harthill. His mother was Marion White and his father was John Graham, a shoemaker who lived and worked at Main Street, Blackridge. John and Marion never married. They had two children, 13 years apart, so they must have had a long relationship, although they never lived together as a couple. My father always said he should have been called White, because he was brought amongst the Whites, his uncles, aunts and cousins.
Marion White, my grandmother, lived and worked at Muirhead for her brother Tammy to pay for the Gaffer to attend Benhar School, until she moved to live with her daughter Jean (Jane) in 1928. Jean was married to Thomas Hodge and they farmed Woodend Farm and that is how we first were connected to Woodend. My grandmother died at Woodend on the 7th August 1936, when she was 60.
After leaving school at the age of 15, the Gaffer worked at a variety of things, including helping his uncle Tammy, working on a golf course, and as a gardener with Adam Forbes, Treesbank Big House. Then he moved on to work with his uncle Andrew White at Murreysfield Farm, Blackburn, until Andrew moved to Malcolmstone Farm, Currie. Then the Gaffer went to work for a Willie Arbuckle at Holehouseburn Farm, Fauldhouse, before ending up working for Willie Russell at Whitehill Farm Blackburn, where he and my mother met.
My mother and father were married on 5th December 1930 at Woodend Farm, witnessed by William White, one of the Gaffer's cousins, and his wife Mary. My grandfather Graham was dead by this time and as were both my grandparents on my mother’s side. My parents worked for a while at a pig farm in Cumbernauld where they were living and working in 1931 when the Baads Farm, Blackridge, came for let and Mr Forbes from Treesbank helped mother and father get it for a rent of £12 a year.
Willie Young put in the first cows at eight pounds each. They were milked by hand at that time and mother and father milked them. It was during a milking time that I made my appearance and mother had to lie down in a stable to have me, so I am told! I think that is why I’ve always liked milking cows! I was born on 6th Feb 1932.
I cannot remember much until I was about three years old. The Gaffer had two horses by then and my first memories are of taking three cans of milk out to the Toll road end for David Sibbald to collect. (I do recall that Sunday morning was special because we got a cup of tea and a biscuit from Sam Reid, who lived in the Toll House.) My brother George came along next and he was born at Baads. We were both christened at Shottsburn Church by John Dickson, who was Minister at that church for a long time; the witness was Alex Waddell of Dewshill Farm.
There was a large family of Whites, all born at Hassockrigg Farm, Shotts. William White was born 1841 and Jane Pettigrew was born 1840. They resided at Slag Row Shotts.
Many friends came to the Baads Farm, including Bob Roy who lived near the road end in a house called Entryfoot, and John Forsyth, William Forsyth and Alex Forsyth, along with their sister Jean, who all lived at Eastfield, Harthill. I remember them all as big, fat boys who all loved working at Baads. I can remember them playing tricks on me, hiding behind curtains and giving me a fight. I can remember playing in my favourite stream for hours while the Gaffer was ploughing. I used to build small dams with pebbles and John Forsyth made me a small wooden boat which I played with endlessly. At milking time I would sit in the cows’ troughs counting kindlers into bundles of ten. As boys when we lived at Baads, we used to go up to the water works at the top of the hill at Forrestburn Loch and we went out fishing with Mr Aitken, the Manager.
We grew oats and turnips and made hay, but we did not buy in any feeding in those days, just using what we grew. We worked with neighbours, sharing machinery. Our neighbours, Andrew Jack, Forest Farm, John Baillie, Benfoot Farm and Andrew Waddell, Dewshill Farm, were all very good neighbours. I remember the threshing mill going off the road into the farm late one night, the Gaffer and my mother and neighbours spent half the night jacking it up and getting it back on the road for threshing in the morning. One morning I remember the Gaffer went out to get the horses. He found Daisy was stuck in a bog up to her belly and it took most of the day to make a sledge with the neighbours, Jock Bailey and Andrew Jack, to get her back on to dry land. Also, we used to go to the sheep clippings at Andrew Jack's and Andrew Waddell's. The shearing was all done by hand clippers and by sitting on a shearing stool.
In later years, whilst living at the Baads, my memories of my grandmother White are of visiting her at Woodend Farm every week with my mother. She died there whilst living with her daughter, my aunt Jean Hodge. I can remember playing with my cousins’ toys on the sawdust floor in one of the rooms in the farmhouse whilst we were visiting grandmother. We got the bus to Stonehill Bridge at the end of the railway line, then I would run down the railway as fast as my legs would go, to keep up with my mother. I can still see my grandmother, lying in the small room upstairs; she was very tall and kind and she looked forward to us visiting her every week.
George was about two years old by then and I was made to look after him, so we used to wander off a few times and get lost. At that time, we had a young boy, Harry Crawford, working with us, and he lived with his parents in a big caravan up the back road. Later he became leader of the Farmers' Union of Scotland. He was very clever and we learned a lot from him. In later years George became Dux at Armadale School and he always said that Harry had taught him so much.
As we never had a car at Baads, the Gaffer used a bicycle to get about and he went to Muirhead a lot to help his uncle Tammie, as his uncles Tammie and Andrew helped the Gaffer with stock, giving him stock and letting him graze their cattle and sheep in return. We had built up quite a good few stock by this time and when Woodend came up for let, the Gaffer successfully put in an offer; it was a big step from the Baads!
The Hodges (the Gaffer’s sister and husband ), who had been in Woodend, had rented a big farm at Dalkeith, but were not best pleased when we entered Woodend. We were not on speaking terms for a few years. I always got on with them, but the Gaffer did not get on with his sister! George Hodge senior had taken on the tenancy of Woodend in 1900 and, according to records, the previous tenant was Mr Waddell in 1851.
George Hodge senior had three sons: Thomas who became my uncle; George Junior, who went to farm at Murraysgate, Whitburn; Jack, who went to farm at Carnwath; and the daughter of the family, Nan, who married Jimmy Roy who farmed at Ransfield, Ratho. When we came to Woodend in 1937, uncle Thomas and aunt Jeannie Hodge had two sons, George and Thomas.
Since we didn’t have a car at The Baads, when we moved in November 1937, Jake Russell came with his car. He was our only friend with a car in those days, and he moved our few possessions from Baads to Woodend Farm. During the war, cars were banned for pleasure use to conserve fuel for the army. Jimmy Prentice was the only man in the area with a small cattle float and he moved some of the stock and horses and turkeys. My mother reared lots of turkeys for Christmas and kept lots of hens. I always remember when the turkeys were just ready for Christmas and Jimmy let them get away and fly up on all the barn roofs at Woodend. It took us two days to catch them all!
We walked 52 cattle and 99 ewe hoggs to Woodend from the Baads and 127 ewe hoggs came from Malcolmstone Farm, Currie, from one of the Gaffer’s uncles. 17 pigs were moved from Muirhead to Woodend and five cows came from Bathgate Market to make up the numbers. I also walked nine cows from Baads Farm Blackridge to Wishaw Market with the Gaffer when I was five years old.
An aerial view of Woodend Farm and the Pit Manager's house and the two pit cottages for his underlings.
We took on 600 acres owned by Coltness Iron Co. when we moved to Woodend. The Gaffer also went on to rent Tannoch Farm, which consisted of a small field, and Craig Mill at the end of The Glen, (two more fields), and Canty, (one field and a steading) and, lastly, Craigmarie with 160 acres, a house and steading, bringing the total acreage farmed to 793 acres. The Gaffer hired his first ploughman, David Donaldson, who lived with his wife at Craigmarie farmhouse, which was a big house. He used three horses on the binder, which had to work fast. The hay mower needed two horses, but the oats were sown by hand, using a sowing sheet, and the Gaffer sowed the oats and I followed with the fertilizer. We kept six workhorses in the stables and a loose box was used for the breeding mare, which was served every year by the stallion. David was a good worker with the horses and made a tidy job of stacking the corn stacks. Later he was called up for the army when the war started and, by this time, the prisoners of war were starting to arrive in this country. There was a camp at Polkemmet which housed the Italian POWs, and Livingston where the German POWs were kept.
Woodend was not just a farm, as there was a pit there and a mining village, three shops, (Mrs Blair's sold sweets, Mrs Fullerton was more a newsagent and Mrs Tweedie sold groceries), and a school which I attended for a few years. Many people now living in Armadale will have either lived at Woodend or had parents and family who lived there at one time.
Canty house was up on Woodend Hill and Tannoch Cottage was on the old
road which had at one time been the main coach road from Glasgow to
Edinburgh. The old coach road from Edinburgh to Glasgow opened in 1678 and it took
days to make the journey passing through Woodend and stopping at Tannoch for
water as there was a good well there in the field.
Drumbowie also had a population who came over the fields to school at
Woodend. Drumbowie would have been a mineral quarry at one time, and there
was a row of cottages there as well as the farm. Robert Furness, another
local lad, who has written some memories of his childhood, lived at Canty and
started off at Woodend School. He came over the fields to school on a
track made by the people walking over to and from Woodend, as there was no
proper road. They drew water from a well fifty yards from the house and carried everything
over the fields. Robert's father had been a miner at Woodend Pit and he had placed
wooden planks over the muddy bit of the track and Robert's boots had to be dried
by the stove in school.
The Graham family with a friend, the small girl, with Woodend Pit in the background.
The pit had opened in 1870 and by 1900 there were 66 houses built for the miners. At its peak the pit employed over 600 men, and the Manager's house and two cottages for senior pit employees were beside the farm. I can remember the men coming to and from their work in droves when I was a boy, as there were no cars in those days.
Woodend Village never had any inside toilets installed,
and so the houses all
had shared toilets out the back and there were six stand pipes at the front to
supply water before the houses were improved and given electricity and water. Before electricity was installed, the village used paraffin lamps.
There was a Welfare Hall in the village with a billiard table, carpet bowling, table tennis etc, so the young people made their own entertainment. The hall was also used for an annual Harvest Dance, music by a band, usually Hunter's Dance Band, and the women would lay on a buffet. Dances were held in the hall, and some of them were held by the Red Cross. The Guides and Scouts also met there. The hall keeper was Rodney Kerr. Woodend Village itself was a friendly peaceful place and there was never any trouble. Woodend Village always had an Christmas party there as well as the Sunday School. From the day we moved to Woodend, we were made to go to Sunday School. We had to go up on stage and recite parts of the Bible; I always did the Twenty Nine Verses of Psalms. There were two Sunday School teachers who came every Sunday: Mr Robb took the oldest kids and Mr William Rodgers took the younger ones. Most of the children from Woodend came to Sunday School, and there was no need to dress up. Mrs Pow, who lived in the village, was a very nice old lady and very religious, and she took us to the East Church, 11 a.m. each week, then we would go to Sunday School until 1 p.m., and then we walked back to Woodend Hall and Sunday School until 3 p.m.. We did that for eight years. Marion Pow s daughter was 12 years old when I arrived at Woodend and she came to the farm every day for milk. She liked to help on the farm and my mother treated like one of her own. Marion Pow looked after George as he was still young and I can remember going to church with her and her brother Alex.
The Gaffer bought a motorbike whilst at Woodend, with a sidecar. I can remember sitting in it with my mother and George, and we used to visit uncle Tam at Muirhead, and Andrew Jack at the Forrest, and we used the bike to get to Shottsburn Church.
I started school at Woodend after our first Christmas there. There were two classrooms with three classes in each room. There was usually about seven or eight in each class, usually about 40 in the whole school. There were two teachers: Miss Stein, who taught five to eight year olds, and Mr Brodie, who taught up to 11 years old. Mr Brodie lived in the school and all the village had a great respect for him; he also ran the village library. In fact, he was responsible for lots of events and outings, organising Gala Days, functions, and he took an interest in all village affairs.
I can remember Alex Nimmo, Alec Gibson, Phil Brand and Molly Boyd in my class. Annie Gibson, Alec Pow, Alec Kerr, Jessie Steel, George Lyle and Willie Baras were also people I remember. The girls had a playground as did the boys; the boys usually played marbles or bools and the girls skipped or played peevers or chuckies. George and I were taught very well. The girls were taught to knit and sew, and we had to learn to write on slates. I remember Mr Brodie having large maps on the wall and we followed the war campaigns every morning with these maps. I was always first in my class and George was always two classes behind me at school.
Hayden McIntyre came to school and he wouldnt play with the other kids and he thought he was a bit above us. He had a shed at his farm full of toys, and his mother was always asking George and me to go up and play with him as he had no friends. One time we were up there when he fired a slug gun and a pellet hit me on the side of my knee. George gave him a going over and Hayden went crying to his mother.
When I was in class at lambing time, sometimes the Gaffer would come down and get me out of class to help him lamb a sheep, as my hands were small enough to lamb the difficult ones, and Mr Brodie was always happy to know if the lambs were saved. Later, George became Dux at Armadale School. Woodend School had a good record and it was due to the good teachings of Mr Brodie and Miss Stein. When you were 12, you had to leave and go up to Armadale Primary to qualify.
We used to cycle to school and came home for lunch before cycling back to school. If the weather was bad we took a packed lunch and ate it in Mr Warnock's garage where the bikes were kept. Once a year we had a school trip; we would go to Burntisland or Kinghorn by train, getting on the train at Armadale Station, and everyone enjoyed it. Also Miss Stein would take us out along the Glen to study the flowers for a lesson.
It was a big change going from Woodend School to Armadale Primary School. There had only been about eight in my class at Woodend and at Armadale there were 40 odd. I won first prize in Woodwork and Art, but I couldnt wait to leave school at 14. George did very well at Armadale School. He was Dux and was presented with a gold watch. He was clever at most subjects, as he had been well taught at Woodend, and his teachers wanted him to stay on at school.
When I was about seven, I went to Edinburgh Hospital to get my tonsils out. I was in for one week and developed pneumonia, and ended up staying for another six weeks. I was very ill to begin with and can remember the nurses wheeling me out on to the verandah on warm sunny days. I could not walk for some time and when I finally came home, the Gaffer took me to Newhouse, where they kept a lot of Shetland ponies and he bought me my first pony. I named her Peggy. I kept her until she died of old age; many a happy time I had galloping up and down the fields; she was a great friendly pony.
Every year at Hallowe'en, we had a bonfire down the Glen on the bing; the farm workers collected all the rubbish around the farm and we would have fireworks and the village kids came along to watch. In later years, George and I would plug going, taking off along the Glen over the Hill to go bird nesting, and we would go right along the Glen to the Stonehill bridge. Then, we would cut back through Woodend Hill and head for Canty, looking for curlews' nests (these birds had huge eggs). We used to spot larks' and lapwing nests, usually with four eggs in them. Grouse also used to live on Woodend Hill. George had a good collection of eggs. Sometimes we headed for Lochend Loch to get duck eggs, or, some days, we set off early in the morning with a packed lunch to keep us going and headed for Drumbowie, then through Burnhead, always getting birds' nests. We would only take two eggs from each nest and we would carry on and make our way over several farms to the Black Loch at Slamannan. We would have our lunch and then start looking for ducks' nests around the edge of the loch, where we would see water hen nests and corncrakes, which were quite scarce in Scotland. Then we would start to get home and keep to the road in the hope of getting a lift! We had our special little boxes to keep the eggs in, and, when we got home, we would blow the eggs out, then dip them in clear glue and they kept for years. Later, we started looking for crows' nests in Drumbowie. George was good at climbing trees and we always carried a rope for climbing. We would clear out the ravens' nests as they were bad at pecking at the lambs. We got sparrows' eggs and blackbirds' eggs too as they made a mess in the byres. It was big trouble when we got back. The Gaffer was alright, but mother gave us hell!
Mr Brodie, the headmaster, liked to see our collections.
Marion Pow looked after Jimmy when he was born, and he spent most of his time in a pram at Mrs Pow's house. She also looked after Marion and Willie when they were young, and she was like one of the family to us. Mrs Pow died fairly young and Mr Pow remarried and started a new family, having a son the same age as my brother Willie, and, at that point, Marion Pow left home and came to stay at Woodend permanently. She stayed in the maid's room for years and was a good worker to the Gaffer, especially when my mother went into Drumshoreland Gardens Home, Edinburgh, to recuperate after Willie was born. She had a big operation and got an infection and clots of blood formed in her body and she was very ill for a long time; she was in that home for 10 weeks. Marion looked after us all and the house, washing, cooking, as mother was not able to do anything for a long time.
Here we are around 1950, outside the farmhouse at Woodend, from left to right:
Jimmy, father John (known as the Gaffer), Marion, me at the back, Willie in front of me, then mother Jean, and George.
When my mother came out of hospital, the Gaffer bought her a car, which was a Ford Anglia, and I learned her to drive as she had never driven before. I can remember my mother and Marion Pow taking us to Kelvin Hall to the circus at Christmas time. We went in a special coach and it was a good show. Another place we went to was Callander Park at Falkirk for a day out and Edinburgh Zoo.
Marion Pow became a conductress and later joined the Land Army when she was 17. She worked at City Farm, West Calder, for David Bertram, and then went on to be a milk recorder. When she married Billy Findlay, the Gaffer gave Marion away at her wedding, and she and Billy went on to farm Redhouse at Blackburn. Marion brought her family up there.
I liked to do a lot of walking and once walked from Woodend to East Whitburn to Swanabbey Farm to get a horse roller. I walked Tibby the horse and Danny my dog with me. I had a job keeping Tibby from trotting, as she did not like the noise the roller made on the road. Another time I went to Caldercruix to collect a Clydesdale Horse; I got a lift there but had to walk back. He was a fast horse and he was used to pulling trees out from the forest. He was a bit deformed and his back was damaged and all swollen and not very nice to look at, but he had the speed and pulled in some large loads of hay to be built into ricks in his time.
Woodend was a dairy farm with a fixed milk production all the year round to supply John Black, the milk retailer, with about 130 gallons of milk daily, and any surplus went to the Creamery in Bathgate. When I was young, we kept between 70 and 80 Ayrshire milk cows, milking all the year round, and we had a lot of young cattle, we kept all the heifer calves for breeding then and had a pedigree herd. When James left school, he went on to help the dairyman Alex Johnstone. This dairyman went on to marry the Gaffer's cousin Nan White, who came from Hassockrigg Farm and worked at Bertie Orr's farm across the burn.
There was no electric at Woodend when we went there, and the cows had to be milked by hand, using storm lamps for light. There was just one byre there, it was double sided and in two halves, the top half for milking cows and the bottom half for young cattle. In 1940, the electricity was put in at Woodend, running from Woodend Pit. By this time we had completed the second byre for 32 milk cows, and we got the great invention - the milking machine! The Alfa Laval engineer came and stayed for three weeks on the farm until he had put in all the pipes and showed us how to work it. We had 50 cows milking by then and we took the milk to Bathgate Creamery by horse and cart every morning.
The vet that we used at Woodend was called Andrew Stark and he came from Wishaw. He always wore a bowler hat at his work and wouldnt mind coming in the middle of the night and hed leave a note with any message for us to find in the morning. Most of the medicine then was by bottles taken over the throat, not a lot of injections, or a mustard poultice. He was a very good vet and he never sent a bill; he just came in now and then and asked for £100 towards the account. I remember when one of our mares foaled and had no milk for the foal, and Mr Stark arranged with a farmer at Newmains to rear the foal for us, as he had a mare who had lost a foal. So off we went in the car to Newmains, the Gaffer and I, and everyone had a good look at me sitting in the back of the car with the foal's nose sticking out of one window and its tail out of the other!
When the war started, I was about seven. At that time thousands of evacuees were brought from London to Scotland. As well as the evacuees, there were many POWs, and the first to arrive were the Polish. Every morning they would come out by lorry to be dropped off at the various farms and the lorry would come back at night for them after their days work. The Italians came next and they were housed at a camp at Livingston. Eventually we got a large hut from Jim MacIntyre and set it up in the farm yard and two POWs slept in it, Ernest, who worked for Harvey Marshall, and Tony, who worked with us. Tony had come from a farm in Sicily, and, later, Tony went on to marry a local girl, Margaret Cadbury, who lived at Tannoch Cottage on Woodend Hill. Her father had been shepherd to Thomas Hodge, our predecessor at Woodend, and I can remember moving her brother and father from this house to Armadale by horse and cart. She was very clever at school and had a good job in Edinburgh, and she always claimed she had a good education at Woodend Primary School. They came to visit me in later years and had a lovely family and Tony had never went back home to Italy.
Some evacuees went to stay locally, at Cappers Farm amongst others. They helped work on the farm; some went to stay and work at Craigmarie Farm and lived with Mr and Mrs Gentleman. We all had our ration books. All our vouchers for a week were put in a jar and we had to make it last a week. We also had a large kist full of oatmeal for the porridge and we had to queue for our butcher meat at the Co-operative .
Sometimes, the Home Guard used to practice marching up and down the road to the Tannoch and they would attack Woodend Army Camp to keep them on their toes and for practice. The army would hang around in the stack yard waiting to attack the Home Guard and the Gaffer used to warn the Home Guard and most of the army would be found and shut in a stable. It was good fun.
I remember going to Lanark Market, when I was just a boy, and washing Tammie White's cows, if he was selling that day. He used to go with horse and trap, and it was always David Michael, Sibbalds driver who collected the cows. He would get his breakfast at Muirhead before leaving for Lanark and I always got one shilling for washing the cows; that was a lot of money for me then. Another time I walked to Lanark Market with Harry Crawford and the Gaffer with some cattle. We had a horse and trap and we rested the cattle at Harelaw Farm overnight and set off early the next morning to reach the market.
George reared a lot of chickens and kept them in army huts in the stackyard for about six months, then they went into battery cages, about 300 hens and about 50 free range as well. As eggs were rationed at the time of the war, we always had customers for the eggs and we went on to sell them to an egg packing station run by Cumbernauld Farmers. They gave us a stamp to mark the eggs, and they came every week to lift them. We also kept a commercial pig herd of large white pigs. We used the pedigree boar of John Black of Birkenshaw and sold off the young pigs at eight weeks old to Jimmy Tate or Willie McNab; sometimes we took the pigs to Edinburgh Market.
During the war years we had to plough up the land and sow oats and wheat to feed the country as there was no food coming into the country. We ploughed the Manager's Field. The grass was so long that it was lying flat on the ground and three of us cut it with scythes and some women from the village bunched it into sheaves. The next year we ploughed the Pighouse field, a big field of about 10 acres, and we cut it with a mower with a tilting board which left the right amount for a sheaf and we had about 20 women from the village tying it all into sheaves.
We would sow the turnips and spread the dung and I can remember us singling the turnips after The Highland Show time. We grew a lot of turnips for feeding in winter and usually it was women from Woodend Village who came in to single them. Regulars were Ellen McNaulty, Marion Wark, also know, in short 'Mern', (her mother was known as 'Jealousy'), Chrissie Reekie and Cissy Nimmo.
We planted the potatoes around the second week of May. The horses opened up the drills with a drill plough and we put in the dung and spread it with a grape. The women would then plant the potatoes by hand, filling their aprons with seed potatoes and emptying as they went along. I would usually keep the aprons stocked. The horse and plough would follow on, splitting the drills to cover the potatoes, and we could plant about two acres a day.
Anyone who came to help at hay time or harvest time on the farm never took any money for the work they did. We just had to make sure there was enough beer and they were happy. No one went on holiday abroad as there were no aeroplanes or package holidays, so, at holiday time, the workers came to the farms to work and enjoyed the change. The miners especially loved the fresh air.
Here we see from left to right:
My uncle Jimmy, me, Alan Gracie (shepherd), Sandy Clark, and the Gaffer sitting at the front, and some happy faces in the background, busy stacking the hay.
We cut the hay using a change of horses mid-day as it was very hard work. Bob Roy, the Gaffer's cousin, came every year during the miners' holidays. He worked at Stonehill Mine, Blackridge. He was an expert on the tumbling tam and he usually got the fastest horse for the job; you needed a good man on the horse rake like our George. Two men would put in the three stobs to make the foundations for each rick. The men would then come along and build the ricks with sheaves of hay, and the women would come behind when the stacks were built, fixing the bottoms so that the rain would run off, and then securing the stacks with ropes .
The oats were cut and left for three weeks to dry in the field, and then we carted them into the stackyard. There were always plenty of helpers at harvest time. We would load the carts at night to empty the next day as the stooks could be damp in the mornings and would take all day to dry out.
One of the first shepherds was Johnny Nicolson, who came from The Isle of Mull and spoke Gaelic most of the time. He was a very big man who chose his own chair at the fire and he was always picking a fight with the ploughman over the best chair in the bothy. He slept in the bed nearest to the fire, and he always wore his bonnet, which was full of holes that the rats had been eating through the night. He seemed to like the rats nibbling at his hair.
Here we have from left to right:
William Gentleman, farmer at Craigmarie, the Gaffer, myself and John Nicolson (shepherd) with our lunch basket in front of us, probably working with sheep that day.
Right in the middle of the war, we had total blackout.
No street lights, no
car lights, - not that there were many cars about then, - all house windows had to be blacked out. I am reminded of one time we were going to a barn dance
at Muirhead Farm and, as it was blackout, we had to keep the car lights dim.
As this was a foggy night ,it was very dark and mother had to run along
all the way in front of the car shouting directions to the Gaffer who had to
drive along with the window down to hear her; I was lying in the back seat
freezing. I used to go to these dances to keep Robert White company .
.We had an air raid shelter in the stackyard where we all went when the sirens rang. There was an army camp down beside Woodend School with three search lights and three guns, and when the planes came over, heading for Clydebank, the place lit up. We never got any bombs, and the nearest was dropped over by Ellen Baird's, while a few landed the other side of Bathgate Hills.
We had to do lots of jobs for the war. Twice a week, we emptied the ash buckets from the whole of Woodend Village, which consisted of rows of miners' cottages at that time. The rows of houses had no proper toilet or baths and the inhabitants used to down to the Glen Burn to wash. I can never remember the houses having a toilet or bath, and the houses at Drumbowie were the same, so they did their washing in the quarry pond and they got their drinking water from a well. The road to "the Boughs" sheep pens were made from this ash, as every house had a coal fire. We also emptied the dry closets at the top of the gardens with the horse and cart and spread it on the fields.
We supplied Armadale Co-operative with hay for the horses that pulled the vans, about 15 in all, as there were no motor driven vans at the time, and we carted coal by horse and cart to the miners in Woodend houses, as they were allowed so much coal if they worked in the pit.
Just after the war, the Italian prisoners of war from the camp situated between Woodend Farm and Woodend School were working on the farm. They helped us put out the dung. Using the horse and cart, the POWs would load up the cart and I would drive it to the field and dump the dung in piles every five yards and the POWs would spread it.
When the war was over, the Gaffer bought ten army huts and we kept cattle in two of them in the winter. We tied them to a rail and let them out to graze in the Glen field through the day. One of the huts we used as a bowling hut, and, with the help of Bob Roy, we built a bowling board and had a good team of players from the village. In later years we moved the boards up to the farm loft and we had lots of good nights there. We rented out one of the huts to Jim Tweedie, who was the pit joiner and he had his workshop at Woodend, and he also started keeping hens in the hut to sell in the shop.
When I was about twelve years old, I went to Ayr with the Gaffer's uncle Bob. Bob White stayed at Knowhead Farm and he was a good green bowler. Every year there was a tournament in Ayr and Prestwick playing over a week on several greens so I went to caddy for Bob, carrying his bowls, and we stayed with a cousin of the Gaffer, David Cook, who stayed on the Main Street in the middle of the town of Ayr and worked on the railways. His wife was called Minnie and they had one daughter, Margaret, who was my age. She died when she was fifteen. She went to hospital to get a mole removed from her neck, but she died from complications. She was a very nice clever girl. I used to visit David Cook for a holiday with George for a weekend, and I began to know Ayr very well.
We expanded very quickly. The Gaffer's uncle, Andrew White from Blackburn, summered 60 young cattle of different ages with us on Woodend Hill. The Gaffer was interested in sheep then and kept about 350 ewes, and we walked the lambs to Bathgate Market each year, cross lambs off blackface sheep. We were T.B.-tested in 1945. The David Hendrie brothers put in a complete herd of Pedigreed Ayrshires. A few milk recorders came and went and the last one I can remember was Anne Grant, who got on well with the Gaffer. She came from Blairgowrie and showed George and I how to register the cows and keep the records. She always stayed at our farm when she went to other farms as well, as she didnt like staying at Overhillhouse with the Polish dairyman.
We had started building the third byre for 46 cows. Andrew Easton from Armadale was doing the building with me and two others were carting all the bricks down from the railway wagons, parked up in the sidings. It took us a long time, using two horses and a cart. George and I have our names written in cement on the byre wall. When the third byre was complete, we milked on one side, 22 cows, and used the other side for dry cows. We always milked around 80 cows, and kept to the same amount all the time. We also had a small byre called the stable byre, where we kept eight dry cows, and round back we had a young stock byre where we kept 30 stirks. By the time we had three byres, we had five workers, plus George and I, who were working before we went to school in the morning. We had to plough up a lot of ground for war food. Everyone was made to plough up extra land so we had lots of crops, and didnt buy any feeding. We got coupons to buy feed, dry feeding and treacle, and the milk cows were fed this.
Woodend had a big pond and a mill lake at the back of the barn and the mill was in the loft driven by the wheel. We only used it a few times to thresh the oats for the horses. It was a wonderful sight to see the threshing machine coming up the road being pulled by a very big steam engine, which was before the tractors became popular. The machine we used belonged to Sandy Wilson, who did most of the threshing around in our area, and in the morning he had to get two barrows full of coal to keep the engine fired up to drive the threshing machine. There were two men in charge of the mill (threshing machine) and they stayed in their caravan, which was pulled along as well, going from one farm to the next. We used to send some of our workers to help neighbours and the favour was returned when it came to us. The rats lived in the stacks and you kept a wire mesh fence around the stackyard and one of our neighbour's Jack Russell dogs came to chase out the rats.
There would normally be two women sheaf cutters who would cut the strings and pass the sheaves to the mill man who would feed them into the mill. Two workers would fork the sheaves to the women off the stacks; another couple of men would be at the other end with the corn bags filling them and carrying to the barn. The chaff was the worst product to work with as it was dusty and dirty. Before a baler was introduced to the set up, you would take the bundles of straw and store them in the barn ready to feed in winter.
At the end of the war, you had to wait on a list for a new tractor. Our name came up and we had to travel to Kilmarnock from Woodend to get it put on the train, and it came into Armadale station. Jake Russell took us to get it, as he was the only man around with a car because all cars had been taken by the army. It was a green Fordson with metal wheels, (you did not get rubber tyres during the war). The ploughman at the time, Jimmy Mcmorrow, was a bit frightened at first to drive the tractor, but once he got the hang of it, you could not get him in at night! He had it fitted with hand flashlights. The second ploughman still used the horse to plough. The Gaffer mainly looked after the sheep; a byreman and maid milked the cows. George and I were still at school.
In those days, simple things in life made us happy. We could run up to Armadale to the cinema a couple of nights a week, and it was only tuppence to get in to the pictures . At night we played lots of games and cards in the bothy, George played football at school and was in the school team, and the boys would come down and have a game with the Gaffer as referee.
The Gaffer bought a dung spreader after the war and I passed my driving test when I was 16. George and I got the job of cleaning out Dennis Cadzow's pig sheds at Uphall every three months. He was the first person to introduce the Landrace Pig and he kept about 500 at Kilpunt Farm. He had a lot of pig sheds and we could get in and out with the tractor quite easily. We spread the dung onto his fields as well.
Wee Peggy came to work at Woodend from George Hodge, Murreysgate Farm, Whitburn, and she lived in an army hut in the stackyard next to the garden wall. She lived with her mother and sister, Teeny, who had learning difficulties; they also had a brother. They lived there for many years before moving to a new agricultural cottage in the Glen, Armadale. Peggy was a very good worker with cattle. She would brush the cows' tails and the cows were quiet and used to being handled. She was only four feet tall and you could never see her in the stalls beside the cows, where she spent her spare time. She was good at getting everyone in order, but not as good as the Gaffer!
Here we see me and Wee Peggy, then Marion with someone behind her, and Sandy Clark, in the farmyard busy with our pitchforks. Wee Peggy was only the size of my sister Marion and she was aged around 10 then!
There was a mill down below Woodend Village, which had a good supply of water from the Glen Burn and Joe McIndoe lived there, growing and selling strawberries, blackcurrants and raspberries. I used to take down well-rotted dung to him to cover the strawberries for the winter. Every year he would take in a new piece of ground and let a used piece rest, and I would take a horse and plough down and do the job with Joe. He used to come help at threshing time and he had a daughter, Madge, who was the same age as me. She died when she was 15 of diptheria, as they didnt get the doctor fast enough. Her brother Robert came to milk cows at Woodend amongst other things, and young Joe carried on his father's business and it is now a successful market garden.
When the middens were emptied for the winter, any stubble fields were left until springtime and we would begin ploughing some grass fields with the horse and plough. We would pleat up the horses' tails whilst they were having their breakfast, as the reins would catch them when you were ploughing and steering them at the end of the field. It was a great feeling, if there were two of us ploughing, to see all the seagulls following us all day long looking for the worms; it was not a bad job providing you didnt hit any stone. At night, when we came in from the ploughing, we took the horses to the dam in the burn at the back of the farm where we washed their legs and feet as the hair would get matted with the soil if it was left.
There were usually about six horses in the stables, all well fed and
groomed in winter and out to grass in the summer when they were not working.
Some horses I remember were: Jock, Tibby, Rosie, Lily, Sandy, Daisy and
Maggie. Lily was used for breeding and usually the stallion would come and
stay overnight at the farm. Allan Watts stallion was used often and he
would stay as well until the horse was served. We would break our two-year-olds
every year. For the first year the horse would be paired up with an older
horse, or broken in with the hay cutter or cultivator, and, after a year at this,
they would be ready for a cart. We had to take them to Torphichen to get shod at the blacksmith's, or
to Bathgate to Merlin Crichton the blacksmith. As there was so little traffic
on the road at that time, I could easily walk two horses at a time .
George and I used to deliver the coal to the miners at Woodend with two horses and a tipping cart. The coal came by rail to Woodend Pit and the wagons held about 14 tons and each house received one ton per year. The scales were by the track and we could empty one wagon per day, tipping the coal at their coal house doors. The Manager's house and the two houses beside it had to get coal delivered as well as the two cottages at the pit. Bobby Kelly lived in one and Jim Smeaton, gardener for the Pit Manager, lived in the other.
After the war, farms down in the south of England became available to rent fairly cheaply and a lot of farmers moved down there. It was good ground and one of the first to go was Andrew Davidson who farmed at Bangour Hospital Farm before moving down. I visited him in later years when I visited his brother Bob Davidson, who farmed at Brickhouse Farm in Essex. Andrew farmed in Suffolk and he had two daughters. I can remember hearing of him winning the best crop of barley two years running.
When we were lambing in those days, there was no such thing as dried milk and we kept a milk cow to feed the motherless lambs. We added sugar to cow's milk, and we sheared with hand shears until the Gaffer got clippers that were driven by the tractor. We always sheared the sheep ourselves so, when dipping time came, all the sheep came to Woodend steading. The dipper was outside the first byre and the pens went down towards the midden. The Gaffer and me would set off at daylight. He would start at Craig Hill and lift all sheep on the south side and I would start at Canty and lift all the sheep and we would try to meet at Tannoch; the dogs were always tired by this time. There could be about 1000 sheep and lambs and they were eventually herded into the farm yard, dipped and attended to and returned to their fields.
Before the end of September, all the lambs had to be sold all through the markets, usually for someone else to buy and keep and finish off fat. A regular customer for Woodend lambs was David Nisbet. We walked 100 lambs to Bathgate Market every week. I used to go to Bathgate Market and get two shillings from Johnny Marshall, the auctioneer, for bringing the sheep into the ring. There were no dealers in those days and most lambs were bought to fatten, and sold again in winter. There were markets at Linlithgow, Bathgate and Falkirk for small lambs, and the bigger markets at Lanark, Edinburgh and Wishaw for the finished lambs. There was usually a slaughter house in every town so it was the butchers who bought the lambs when they were ready.
We grew potatoes at Woodend and always had the women from Woodend Village to lift them before the children started to get tattie holidays. The potatoes were dug out with a lifter pulled behind two horses, much the same type of machine as used behind a tractor in recent years. We would put some in the field and bag some for the potato merchant, Mr Meikle from Bathgate, who would lift some bags every week to sell. The women from Woodend loved to come to lift the potatoes as it was a bit extra money for them and a laugh.
Then, we had quite a good workforce on the farm and we bought Drumbowie Farm in 1946; the Gaffer and I spent a whole night buying it from John Allardyce. Mr Allardyce had a son, Andrew, who was crippled and he was set onto the tractor in the morning and lifted off at night, so it was not easy for him to farm the ground properly. The tractor had no cab and Andrew got pneumonia and never recovered.
I kept wanting to buy it before we left and, finally, he sold it to us for two thousand pounds. It became a really good stock rearing and cropping farm. It had been farmed badly, had never been cropped properly and there was dead stock around.
Jock Shoes and his wife Susie lived in Drumbowie Farm House after I moved him from one of the Drumbowie cottages. He had been shell shocked from the First War and shook all the time. His wife Susan was a very small woman, and she used to help on the farm, lifting potatoes, and in the hay field. All the children at Woodend were frightened of Jock and you only had to say he was coming and they all raced for their homes. The police at one time were after him because had had scared the children and he jumped over the bridge at the Glen burn, but he survived the fall. Apparently he had been a prisoner of war and had had some bad times. I flitted Jock and Susie to Armadale to stay with their son Packie. Then I moved Pate Black into Drumbowie, where he stayed for the rest of his life. There was no electricity and you had to go to the quarry to get water, but that life suited Pate, and he hung rabbits and birds on the end of his bed and he kept his hens in the house and they roosted at the end of his bed. He was a great gamekeeper and in the first year he had caught over 70 foxes. In his young days he had been a butcher in Armadale.
We started to keep cattle in the byre in winter and the shepherd fed them and let them out for a drink of water. We reclaimed 90 acres which had lain derelict for a long period with rashes. We did this by using a two furrow plough, and corn was taken off the ground for two years, then it was sown with rape, and it received a good dressing of lime as you got a subsidy then for liming reclaimed land.
George and I worked flat out when we left school. New tractors were quickly coming on to the market and the Gaffer bought us a brand new tractor each; he always gave us what we wanted . We always sowed about 60 acres of oats, so, if the weather was good, we had them sown in a week's time, and we used the horses before we got our tractors. 1948 was a particularly bad year for the harvest so some fields were beyond harvesting and some of Harvey Marshall's fields were simply burned off to clear them. The Gaffer sowed the oats with a sowing sheet and mother carried the pails of oats to him, (in a similar way I sowed the fertiliser), and we sowed around 10 acres a day. It was quite hard work: after each field was sown we went over it with the horse and harrows, and, as the fields were ploughed with a very small furrow the oats were easily covered and grew in nice straight rows. We then went on to the lambing, which was a good job as the ewes were kept in good weight, not too fat, but healthy with plenty of milk. I have always said that if you keep good sheep and feed them well, they will lamb themselves.
I kept quite a few ponies and I also kept rabbits and guinea pigs. George kept racing pigeons; he had a pigeon loft up at the end of the stackyard by the burn. The Gaffer used to take me to Bathgate, where they held rabbit shows, and I won quite a few prizes. I kept a few different breeds including Angoras. I clipped the hair from them and got a good price for the hair. I also kept English rabbits, Belgian Blues, Dutch and others. I also took rabbits to Lanark Market at Christmas time when they had a sale for pet rabbits. When I kept the ponies, Willie Prentice and John Prentice started keeping ponies at Craigs Farm, which was at the bottom of Woodend Hill. John Prentice would come down often to Woodend. He was very good at breaking ponies; he got thrown off many times, but he was a big, tough boy.
In those days, the Falkirk bus came by three times a day and it was well used as no-one had a car and we used to put any male calves on the bus, sending them off to the market in Bathgate, tied up tight in a sack, and the yardsman would collect them off the bus. I remember the people from Drumbowie Cottages using the Falkirk bus, walking over the track road to the pit and getting on to go up to Armadale.
We had no telephone in those days, so, if we needed the vet or anyone important, I or George had to get on our bikes and cycle up to Jim McIntyre's, as he was about the only one with a phone. When brother Jimmy was born, I had to run down to the bottom of Woodend Village to get Mrs Blair, the local midwife, and it was the same when Marion was born.
The army came to Woodend around 1942 and they set up in a field we called Camp Field. They put barbed wire around six army huts and built a cook house and officers' mess. There were three searchlights, one large and two smaller ones, and when the German planes came over on their way to Glasgow to bomb the docks, the siren would go off. It was set on top of the police station in Armadale. The guns in the camp fired, but they never got any planes although the searchlights lit up all of the sky. There were barrage balloons along the Bathgate Hills and the planes had to go very high to avoid them. There was a plane that came down in Blackridge, and two planes came down on the other side of the Bathgate Hills. Ellen Baird at Easter Whin had two bombs dropped on her ground.
I can remember the day two hundred soldiers marched into Woodend from an army camp at Stirling and they were heading for Balerno where there was a big camp. They needed to spend a night at the farm to recover and lots of them had sore feet and were using sticks. We supplied them with hot water and some slept in the loft and the others slept in the shed. They had their own sleeping bags. Many of them were very tired and were training for their next posting, which was Burma where they would be walking in the jungle. When they left Woodend, they had another good long walk to Balerno.
During the war, there were lots of concerts held for the Red Cross in the Corn Exchange in Bathgate. One time Harry Lauder came; he was a great Scottish comedian and he lived in a large house in Strathhaven. One night when I was with the Gaffer and Bob Roy at one of these concerts, they were holding a heavy weight competition so the Gaffer entered. You had to lift a heavy woman; there were four large woman standing so the Gaffer tried to lift them all, but he didnt manage the last one. It was a great laugh.
We had two Land Girls who worked with us, Ella McKendrick was one and she married Jim Fullerton (whose mother had the shop in Woodend). The other Land Girl, Margaret Binny, got her leg broken by the horse when she was carting turnips, as she caught the gatepost with the cart wheel coming out of the field at Turn Road Field. Later she went to work for King Byres where she lived with him.
During the war, we had ration cards for food and we had to queue up at the shops for our ration. We were usually lucky and could go round to the back of the Co-op with hay for the horses and potatoes and turnips. David Cook was head man with Ruby Brown, and Harry Laing was in the butcher's shop at the back, and they were very good during rationing. The farmers were encouraged to grow more food at that time. We could get the odd orange at the back of Russell's fruit shop, (an orange was a very rare item), so we kept Russell's supplied with potatoes and turnips.
We had a vegetable garden kept by the farm workers, over the bridge in the 1/4 of an acre pig house field, where we used to grow many kinds of vegetable. George had his bird dookit, just past the vegetable garden, and we also kept ducks, which could swim down river to the dam behind the Welfare Hall. The villagers used to feed the ducks scraps of bread.
If you were of age during the war you would be called up but otherwise you went into agriculture or down the mines. My first winter after leaving school was spent ploughing the railway field, 18 acres approximately. Ritchie Bennet had a pair of horses and I had a pair as well, and it took us about three weeks to plough the field, starting at 7 in the morning until 5 in the evening.
When I left school I got a puppy called Danny. I trained him and he became very good with cattle, and he went everywhere with me all day long. At the same time the Gaffer had a collie called Meg, who was a great worker but was terrified of thunder and lightning and ran away and hid if it started. One time she was away for three days and we found her miles away in Bangour Hospital being looked after by Matron. When she was due to have puppies, we lost her again, and she had had her pups in a rabbit hole on the Glen bing. I seem to remember another good work dog being stolen from his kennel one night too.
The hours working on the farm were different then from nowadays as you had every second weekend off to go home and, in the working week, the dairyman started at 6 a.m. and the tractor man and other workers had breakfast at 7 a.m., but they had to get their horses and tractors ready to start work by 7.30 a.m.. They had their flask filled for their 10 a.m. and didnt stop until dinner and then 3 p.m. with tea from the flask. At 5 p.m. every day they stopped for their supper and there were usually about 12 people sitting at the table for supper. My mother and the maid were kept busy at mealtimes cooking and washing up, but it was not as a lonely life as it can be today. Four workers slept in the bothy and they had to be fed along with us.
Bobby Kelly lived in a cottage up at the pit and he worked on Pithead bing. He used to come down every night to the farm and carry the milk from the byres to the milk house before the pipeline was installed. Bobby never missed a show; he loved to lead the cattle round in the Parades with his white coat on. Mrs Kelly worked in Armadale Regal Cinema in the box office and could get dressed up like a queen. They had a daughter, Maureen, and a son, Bobby, who came to help on the farm at weekends, and he emigrated to Australia when he was 17 on the £10 passage from Clydebank, Glasgow.
The Williamson family, Betty's aunt and uncle, lived up at the top of the Mill Road, and father Duncan worked down the mine, as did one of his sons, Robin. The oldest son, Willie, emigrated to New Zealand before the war. Young Duncan worked on Harvey Marshall's farm; George was still at school; Jessie worked in Walker's shop in Armadale; Mary and Mima were also still at school when I remembered them. I can remember Robin taking accordion lessons at John Webster's in Broxburn. I also went to learn from him, and he went on to become a great player. After the war, in 1946, the whole family emigrated to New Zealand to join Willie, and Robin went on to form a Scottish Dance Band in New Zealand. The whole family got on well in New Zealand.
Around the end of the war, we slaughtered a pig twice a year for ourselves, and John Stein, who worked at the slaughter house with Jimmy Prentice, usually came at the weekend to do it. He quartered the carcase and put it into half barrels with salt and pepper and left it in the barrel for a week. Then he would come back and roll it into hams tied with twine and they would hang in the milk house where it was always cool. We also usually slaughtered a sheep or lamb. The animal feed was also rationed and you needed coupons to buy it; we used to buy our feed from Alex Waddell, in Glasgow. The rep. used to come to Bathgate Market every Monday on the bus and you gave him your order and it was duly delivered to the farm. It had a lovely taste.
We used to make butter. There was a wheel just outside the house and Rosie the horse used to drive the wheel churning the butter. Then the butter was stored in the milkhouse, which later became our kitchen, where there were cement shelves to keep the butter cool and we used to sell butter to the villagers.
A man called Tam Harris came to live at Craigmarie,
and he worked not only at the pit
at Woodend on the backshift, letting the men down in cages to the seams, but he
also worked part time at the farm. Tam was a very strong man and one of the best workers in the
hay field .
.Tam had four daughters and he kept a lot of rabbits. One of his girls would come to the farm to feed my rabbits if I was away and she took her rabbits to the show at Bathgate with me and we would win some prizes.
Here we have George driving the tractor and me perched behind him.
George and I ploughed a lot of land that had never been ploughed before and re-seeded it, like the field at Craighill next to the Heights. The Gaffer borrowed the biggest plough I had ever seen from Mr Orr, Boghall Farm, and we used our Fordson Major with the Spade Lug wheels. This was after the war, around 1948, and we bought a D2 crawler at Lanark Implement Sale to disc and level the land and also to sow lime on it and then grass seed. It turned into good grazing ground.
When the tractors started to replace the horses, we had to make sure our old horses went to good homes, Daisy, one of my favourites, went to Linlithgow Canal Company, to walk along by the canal pulling the barges, which took wood and coal to Grangemouth to be loaded on to ships. Between the end of the war and 1954, 60,000 horses were exported because every one had moved on to tractors and we tried to ensure our horses ended up in good homes like Tibby and Jock. They were the two horses I used to plough with most and Tibby came with me to Kepplehill for a while, Lily went for breeding as did Pearl, and Sandy went to a farm at Slamannan.
Our blacksmith was Jimmy Hastie, who did most of our repairs on the farm, and he was blacksmith for Stonehill Pit at Blackridge. The manager there did not mind me taking big jobs to the pit to be done at the weekends, and Jimmy also came to Woodend and kept all the farm machinery in good repair. Jimmy lived in Armadale and had two sons who were the leaders of the Boy Scouts and we used to let them camp out at Drumbowie, where it was a good place for putting up their tents and playing games.
Drumbowie was a small row of houses built as quarry workers' houses. The quarry was just over the field, and there was no electric or water, just a well. When they decided to move, I flitted them all with horse and cart: John Hughes moved to Drumbowie Farm, John Smith to Woodend, John Davis to Armadale, the MacAllisters to Armadale, the Furnesses to Woodend. This was long before we bought Drumbowie Farm later on.
We started to buy hydraulic implements to use with the tractors and, before long, the horses were gone, except for Tibby and Jock, whom we kept for sowing turnips or drilling potatoes. We always grew a lot of potatoes and turnips in those days. All the milk cows needed was some good hay turnips and a bit of cake. We did not buy in feeding other than cake. One of our best bulls was Gree Prosperity, and we also had Nethercraig Regalia, Pennyfadzeoch, Draffan Butterboy, Netherhall Whirlwind, to name a few.
We always had Ayreshires, no black and whites. We never bought from the market and we always bought cows from the same line to improve the breeding. The Gaffer always went to the Glasgow Corporation farms and bought their stock. George was a good judge of stock and he often judged at the Farmers' Club competitions. There were no tags in those days, and so a tattoo had to be stamped on them, (the office to register calves was in Ayr at Racecourse Road). George kept the records. We showed at various shows. Every Saturday in summertime there were shows so we bought a cattle float, with a Sneddon lorry, at Lanark Implement Sale. I drove it home as I had a driving licence by this time. We had the lorry for many years and we would go to all the shows, Bathgate, Linlithgow, Falkirk, Dalkeith, West Calder, Whitburn, Carnwath, and even Peebles and Moffat Shows.
We had a Clydesdale Mare called Pearl and we just kept her to show, and we also had a number of Ayrshire cows, purely for showing. Also, we showed ewes and lambs and won many cups and prizes. We had the same helpers every week, Bobby Kelly, Wee Tammy Hunter, Bob Roy, and Jock Harrigan, who would spend the night sorting out the cows' milk bags, sealing them with colodium and dressing them.
It was our job every month to register the pedigree calves into the herd; the calves were all given a pedigree name and number and the number was tattooed onto their ear, none of these big eartags of nowadays. The herd number for Woodend was 1093 and the individual cow's number was added on after that. We started milk recording and the recorder came once a month so it was easy to get milk records to send to Ayr for entry into herd book, and it was interesting to see how each of the family of cows performed .
Soon nearly all our cows were pedigreed, the calves automatically registered. We started to rear the odd bull for breeding, and we went to some big annual bull sales at Nethercraig and Bargower. Strangely enough we went to the Gree Farm to buy good heifers to breed with and became very friendly with William Dunlop, who was the farmer there. In later years I would go on to buy The Gree.
By 1945, all cattle had to be T.B.-tested so all markets had two rings, one for attested and one for non-attested cattle. They did not get mixed up in the market and the farms that were tested free did not mix with the untested ones and any reactors were killed off. This gave cattle dealers like David Hendrie trade as they went on to restock the farms that lost reactors, which went on to be destroyed. Woodend restocked from various places, including Glasgow Corporation farms like Gartcosh, Woodilee, and Brackenhirst. The Gaffer was friendly with the managers from these farms so, as you look back in the herd book, you can see that a few we introduced from these farms.
We bought a shearing machine that fitted on to the back of a tractor for clipping the sheep and we still have the machinery today. We all used it, but George and I would be shearing for three or four nights through the summer. We would shear Jimmy Tate's ewes, that he used to buy at Lanark Market on a Monday; we would shear on a Tuesday night and he took them to Edinburgh Market on a Wednesday. We also sheared the local farmers' sheep Tammy White, Muirhead Golfcourse, John Paton's, Gowanbank, Bertie Orr, Baurbauchlaw, Jim McIntyre, Willie Kirkwood, Drumnealy, and a few other small flocks. We were the first ones to have the tractor-driven clippers, long before Ellen Baird.
Woodend became one of the main farms in the area and we grew lots of oats, perhaps about 100 acres, The Gaffer and I built all the corn stacks and it was the tidiest stackyard in the district. At haytime I have seen about 20 workers from Woodend Village at the farm. At Fair holidays, everyone loved to come and work at the hay when we could put up around 60 ricks of hay in an afternoon. We had many good times; we always got the hay ready in the morning and started to rick it up in the afternoon. We also brought up the pit ponies every year and grazed them over the holidays. There were about 10 ponies that could not see at first, after being in the dark for a year. They were hard to catch when it was time to go back.
In the early years, the ploughman stayed at Craigmarie. There were a few outhouses, a barn and sheds and a very large garden that was always used by workers . At Woodend there was a bothy attached to the house and usually about four workers lived there. The maid stayed in the maid's room and one of her jobs was to light the fire and clean the bothy and make the beds. Often there were workers who travelled from the village to work, and I could name many who started off at Woodend before going off to every corner of the world.
One of our neighbours was Peter Baxter who lived at Rigghead. He was a ploughman at Woodend at the start of the war, and he used to get a loan of two horses to plough his field each year. He was called up and went into the Air Force, and, after the war, he got married and had one son. His sister, Mary Baxter, worked with us at Woodend. She was very hardy. They all moved to Drumbeg at Blackridge. Peter died quite young.
One of the things that I can remember is one late spring/summer when I was gathering stones off the oat fields and tipping the stones over the banking down at the end of Woodend. I had two men from the village helping me. Well, Jock the horse was deaf and when he started going back you could not stop him very easily. Anyway, this time he went over the banking and ended up down in the Glen Burn with four legs up in the air, still attached to the cart. A lot of people came from Woodend Village and we managed to get him out of the cart and back on his feet and up top again; he was not badly hurt. The Gaffer did not come home until late that night; someone had told him what had happened and he was expecting to see a dead horse, and he was afraid to come home. One time, Jock the horse landed on his back whilst Jock Shoes and I were fencing between the pit and Woodend. Jock Shoes turned Jock the horse too quickly, horse and cart landed upside down with the horse's four feet in the air, but some pit workers came and helped us to get him back on his feet.
Another time, I was rolling a field with Maggie, a young horse, (you always broke them in with a roller). I had finished rolling the field and was on my way home, coming up to the back of Woodend Village, when old Mrs Bathgate came through the close with her shovel of fire ashes. It frightened Maggie and she took off full speed, with me holding on to the reins, up the village and up the road to the farm. We lost a wheel when she turned into the yard, and she went straight to the stable. One of the trams went through the middle door, stripping the harness off and she went straight into her stall; that hole remained there all the time I was at Woodend.
I remember one time I was grubbing the turnip drills in the field above the railway with Sandy, a young newly broken horse, and he was doing very well, when along came a railway engine and wagons. It blew its whistle as I was turning at the end of the field and Sandy took off trailing the grubber to the top of the field, me holding on to the reins, out the gate, then up the old road to the sheep pens where I managed to get him out of the grubber and walked him home.
This is Old Jock the horse who was deaf, but a hard worker.
Another job I used to get was taking the Sunday School for their annual trip to Bridgehouse to Dalmuir Farm, where they had games and races and picnics. I took them there with horse and hay wagon and it took about an hour there and back; I always took Jock the Horse.
I flitted the last resident of Tannoch, Mr and Mrs Wardrope, when they moved to Bathville, to their daughter's house as they were waiting to emigrate to Australia. Sadly Willie Wardrope dropped down dead on the ship just over the Equator, so he never got to Australia. After the people were all gone from Tannoch, we stripped the roof and left it a ruin so as not to pay rates for it. Allan Dow worked with us around 1948 and he was a bit of a boxer. He stayed in the bothy and he had a punchbag in the loft so he usually had a match once a week. When he left us he emigrated to New Zealand and got a job as a milk recorder and loved the life travelling around in his caravanette.
Jim and Marion were growing up, but they never biked to school, as they always got a taxi. I remember Jim always wanting a pony, so the Gaffer took me and George along to see a pony belonging to Ed Williamson who had a large fruit business in Broxburn. The pony was his daughter's. We went behind the shop to see the ponies he had and he had a couple of jumps set up. Bobby the pony was saddled up and and I had to take him over the jumps. The Gaffer bought him and Jim went to Alistair Dickson for riding lessons at the dog track in Armadale. George and I were good at riding and when we were taking the horses to the field, we sometimes had a race. Bobby was a good pony and the Gaffer bought a trap for him and we sometimes went for a drive over by Drumbowie or Bridgecastle.
I did not have my car licence then as I was still about 15, but to get round this Marion Pow used to come with us, and she pretended she was driving. There was a unpopular policeman called ’ Fly Dan ‘ who caught us and got his book out to fine me, but Marion said she had been driving so we got off that day.
After the war, farms down in the south of England became available to rent fairly cheaply and a lot of farmers moved down there. It was good ground and one of the first to go was Andrew Davidson who farmed at Bangour Hospital Farm before moving down. I visited him when I visited his brother Bob Davidson, who farmed at Brickhouse Farm in Essex. Andrew farmed in Suffolk and he had two daughters. He had a good farm; I can remember hearing of him winning the best crop of barley two years running.
When I was about 17, I had all my teeth extracted in Bangour Hospital. Two years later, I had to return to Bangour every week for six weeks to get radiotherapy on my jaws, as they were stiff and I could not eat properly. I could go in and start up the machine myself for 30 minutes; after that treatment I never had any bother with my jaws again.
George got an infection after getting a tooth out and his neck became swollen and he had to get the abscess lanced. He wore a large white stooky on his neck for six weeks and when he used to walk round Woodend Hill and Drumbowie, you could see the big white collar for miles! After he came back to work, I took ill. When I was about 18 year old, I was sowing turnips with Tibby the horse in the field above the railway line. I just managed to get the job finished and struggled home with the horse into the stable and I must have passed out as the Gaffer found me lying in the stall next to the horse. I was rushed away to Edinburgh Hospital in Joe Tennant's old ambulance. When I arrived at the hospital, they operated on my appendix. At that time my mother was in a private home in Edinburgh, so the Gaffer and George visited me. I was in hospital for two weeks and then I went to a convalescent home in Corstorphine Edinburgh for two weeks as there was no one at home to look after me.
I had played the accordion since I was about 12. The Gaffer was accordion music mad and bought me my first accordion and took me to Dan Polland in Armadale for lessons every week. Later, when Dan Polland stopped giving lessons, the Gaffer took me to Kelly in the Miners' Hall in Armadale every week, until I got my driving licence. Then I started going to John Webster in Broxburn; he was a very good teacher and player himself. I should have kept going and playing, but, as usual , I had a good car and got pestered with the girls and started going to dances!
I can remember that, during the war, they held a dance in the Hall at Woodend to get funds for the Red Cross, and one particular night the dance band did not turn up. The Gaffer was asked to play his wee accordion; he was sitting up on the stage, grinning away and playing like mad; it was a good laugh and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
I knew all the policemen in Armadale. They did not have cars then and walked the beat. David Bruce lived in The Laird's buildings at Bathville and I used to meet him at Bob Walker's, as he always ended up there every night after checking the shops. Willie Boyd, my future father-in-law, was a policeman too. There was Willie Rutherford who was a good policeman and most of the young boys were afraid of him. He always came down to the harvest at Woodend, and he liked forking the sheaves onto the stacker. Then there was Bob Watt, who was Sergeant down in Main Street. There were no such things as female officers in those days.
I was reported for driving a tractor several times by the manager of the pit, David Bruce, who would come and tell the Gaffer to keep his wee laddie off the road. Until he got rid of the Pit Manager, he wanted me to put L plates on my tractor and trailer. Another good friend of Woodend was policeman Tom Clelland, who was Sergeant at Blackridge, and he always went to the Ayrshire bull sales with us. The only bad policeman was 'Fly Dan' from Torphichen.
Here I am dressed up as we usually were with a suit and tie in my late teenager years.
George was a very keen football player and played in Armadale Junior Football School Team, so the Gaffer had a pitch in the field at the back of the stackyard and all the boys would come and practise. The Gaffer would referee them, running up and down the field with his whistle.
Around 1948, Thomas White, the Gaffer's uncle from Muirhead, died in Tippethill Hospital. Thomas and his wife had several children and son John and his wife Cathie moved to a farm at Fauldhouse for some time and their family continued farming. Later, John and Cathie moved to a motorway restaurant outside Harthill and it was a very busy place. Their other son, Robert, never worked on the farm and he started work at Tam's Loup Quarry and later went on to drive a steam roller for the rest of his life. He lived in Eastfield and parents John and Cathie retired to Carluke.
The Gaffer loved the wrestling and went every Tuesday night to The Eldorado in Edinburgh with Wull Wright and Mark Harris in a special bus from Armadale. He also ran the Armadale Farmers' Dance every year, which was very popular, usually attended by around 250 people. He was helped by John Forsyth and they always had a good Scottish dance band.
The Gaffer also worked a lot with the Young Farmers' Club as the leaders were mostly neighbours. Sometimes he sat in on the quiz nights as a judge along with several others, including Mr Farrell the vet, Sibbald the contractor and Liddell the butcher. Visiting clubs used to often come to Woodend to practice stock judging and cattle dressing. There were also turnip singling competitions. The Gaffer let the Lanark Agricultural College use an plot of land to plant crops to experiment with different types of potatoes.
In our young days the barber came to the house
every three weeks or so to cut everyones
hair. He was called Tanie Trainer and he lived in Woodend Village and worked at
the top of Woodend Coal bing. He also played carpet bowls with us. The cobbler lived in the
Top Row at Woodend Village. Willie Bathgate was
his name and he worked at Woodend Pit on the backshift, cutting coal.
When I was 17, I passed my driving test at Falkirk, which was the nearest
test centre then. I got lots of driving jobs as we had a Landrover. I had
to take my sister Marion and brother Jim to their piano lessons at Mrs Cunningham's every week
and, also, I had to take Marion to her highland dancing
lessons at Chrissie Smith's, picking up a couple of other girls on the way. The lessons were held in the
Welfare Hall in Armadale .
Around that time, I remember my mother being ill for four months. The Gaffer and I shared the driving and, when mother was well again, he bought her a Ford car for herself. I also drove to market with the Landrover and trailer , taking store lambs to Bathgate Market, while the smaller lambs were kept and finished off on turnips and sold by November. I can remember driving to Glasgow Market, which was three markets under one roof, and we bought a trailer load of black face gimmers, twenty of them, and they cost two shillings and sixpence each. One of those gimmers went on to live to a good old age of 12 and reared a pair of lambs every year in her lifetime.
Chrissie Nimmo lived in the village and she used to come and help my mother who always gave her clothes. She started going to church and Sunday School with Marion and Alex Pow, and George and myself. She became a very good worker and mother taught her to bake and they went on together to take baking to shows and to win prizes. After Willie was born, Chrissie looked after him like he was her own and she called him a wee topper ; she took him all around the village in his pram.
We reared up all heifer calves for dairy replacements and sold a number at Wishaw Market, at the Back Calving Sale, every April. Brother Jimmy did not like working with tractors so it suited us and we got on with the tractor work. We re-seeded a lot of the land, as we had to plough up a lot during the war, and we also drained 18 acres field above the railway line, which took a full winter to dry. We also drained The Windmill Field, Craigmarie, and we re-seeded it and the Big Meadow field at Blackridge. The work was all done by ourselves, with no outside contractors, except to lay the drains.
My mother had always worked hard on the farm, milking the cows by hand before the milking machine, feeding the calves, working with the sheep, singling turnips, stooking oats at harvest time. She fed all the workers, trained the maids and some of the young farm workers; she was a good baker and took her produce to shows and taught the young girls to cook and bake pancakes and scones, especially important to feed the workers at hay time in the fields (and everyone got a dumpling for their birthday as well).
A lot of improvements were made at Woodend. The main yard was tarmacked and Gaffer's cousin, Robert White, worked the roller and the tar came from Tam's Loup quarry. Thereafter the yard was swept every Saturday morning before the workers had time off for the weekend, so it was always kept tidy. We built a new garage for the cars and tractors and a boiler was put in with pipes running around the garage to keep frost away from the cars and tractors. It was a good sized garage. We built a corrugated shed down at the burn and George and I carted the railway sleepers from Woodend Pit to line the sides. It was used as a silage pit as we had just started to make silage and bale with a small Jones baler; the Gaffer had bought a hurricane silage cutter so we did all the work ourselves, storing the bales on top of the silage. When Peggy moved from her army hut to an agricultural house at Armadale, we built a shed in its place, to store implements and to erect lambing pens if the weather was bad. We used parts of Peggy's hut to make an extension to a shed in no. four field, so it was handy for the shepherd to keep feed in, and we built a shed to house our new bruiser and hammer mill. By then we were growing most of our grain and mixing feed, using flaked maize and beet pulp to mix, and it was good feed for the dairy cows.
Every year, in September, the Gaffer, George and myself would go to Castle Douglas
market where we would buy about a dozen calving heifers. It was a
very big market then and hundreds of dairy cattle was sold; John McCaskie was
the auctioneer. We would put them on the train at the station across from the
market in special cattle wagons and they would go to Armadale Station, where
we would meet them and walk them down to Woodend. We always kept a breeding
mare and reared a foal every year and took it to Lanark Horse Sale in
October, where you had to stand and hold the horse all day until it was sold
and the new owner took it off you; it was always a busy sale and usually
lasted two days. We bought a good tup every year at Kelso tup sales in September and the
shepherd that I recall, Gavin Kelly, always went to help chose the tup.
Kelso had 12
different rings, and so this was a big sale for the sheep farmers .
Here we have from left to right:
The Gaffer, Gavin Kelly (shepherd), Wee Peggy and Alan Gracie, taking a break from the hay work.
Woodend was the main farm in the area for Bathgate Young Farmers. Stock judging was a regular thing in the summer and winter when we had to dress and clip cows and sheep for them to judge. There was always a big turnout. The Gaffer also used to judge at a few shows.
As mentioned before, the Gaffer used to help run the Armadale Farmers' Dance each year, along with John Watts, who farmed up in the Bathgate Hills and had married Betty Campbell from Craigmarie. There was a big family of Campbells, and Robbie Campbell worked at Woodend Farm for a long time. John Watt died quite young and they sold off Bucknowe Farm and his widow and family came to Craigmarie to live. Betty Watt always wanted to go to Australia, and so the family of six went and got on very well. Young Robbie did not go and she used to write to him and I got her news from him.
These were good days, and everyone was happy and working on the farm was a great thing . Everyone finished early at night and could be sitting in the pictures by 8 p.m., back home by 10.30 p.m., eating a bag of chips coming down the road to home. There was leisure time at the weekend; socialising with the girls was fun, and we could go to a farmers' dance and still get up in the morning. There was not the drinking at dances like nowadays. I can remember you could up to Dirty Dick's bar and have a game of dominoes and cards and a good blether and be home by 9.30.
Another pastime was carpet bowling. We had a carpet table up in the loft in the barn at Woodend and we had a very good bowling team. Bob White, Rob Roy, the Gaffer and me. We played against a lot of good teams at home and away. I used to lead ( play first). We played at Harthill Miners' Hall and we also played against the Orrs of the Hill and The Weirs, Hillend, and The Flemings, Smellie, East Whitburn and Heggie the joiners in Bathgate. So it was a regular night every week. There was also a team from Woodend Village who practised with us along with some workers from the farm. In those days bowling was very popular with the farmers. Bob Roy lived at Entryfoot near Baads Farm and he worked at Stonehill Pit at Blackridge. He was a cage man, letting the workers up and down the pit, and he came to help the Gaffer every weekend all his life at the Baads and at Woodend. He was an expert at bringing in the hay with a Tumbling Tam, for which he had to get the best and fastest horse. He was a great carpet bowler and made the Gaffer a bowling board. I played in the team and we played at other farms and Welfare Halls most Saturday afternoons. The Gaffer and mother would go with Rob Roy to the cinema at Bathgate and then take Bob home.
Bob Roy had a son called Jimmy, who was the same age as George, and he had a daughter called Jean. Jimmy came for his holidays to Woodend and he was a great pal of George's so they went about a lot and played football. George cut a lot of the oats with the tractor and Jimmy was on the binder, which he did until he left school, and then he went into the Naval Cadets and went into the Merchant Navy, travelling all over the world. I took the Gaffer and Bob Roy down to Grangemouth to see his boat one time; it was great to see all the engines down below and all the Chinese sailors working and cleaning them. By then, Jimmy was an Officer and we were invited to the Captain's room. In later years Jimmy married a Japanese girl he met whilst in Japan.
We seemed to have more snow in those days; in the winter it was not unusual to be digging sheep out from snow drifts at the back of dykes. I remember back in 1946, the road to Armadale from Woodend was full to the top with six foot snow drifts, so we had to take the milk by horse and cart to Armadale through Marshall's fields. I would make the track with a tracing horse, sitting on her back, and the other horse would follow with the cart carrying milk cans. We would meet John Black the milkman from Armadale, and we would deliver the milk round the town. The people would come out with jugs and get them filled. We did this for about a week as there were no diggers then to clear the roads, just the roadmen with their shovels. We always finished up at Bob and Meg Walker's, Stonerigg Farm, where we got something to eat.
Bob and Meg were the Gaffer and my mother's best friends, and they managed Stonerigg Farm in Armadale for Willie Wylie the butcher. When the butcher retired and sold off the farm, Bob and Meg moved to Glenboig for a Mr Chapman, who kept lots of show horses and famous stallions for breeding, one being Pearl Stone. George and I would go and collect them to take them to dances and events as neither had a car licence and we would spend the night there.
Our neighbours included David and Peggy Nisbet at Nethermillhouse Farm, whose father, Gavin Nesbit, farmed in a very old fashioned way, not moving with the times; he used to plough with his horses, long after the tractor was popular. He used to go round selling eggs in his horse and cart and sold a lot to the army camp at Woodend. I can remember one day an army jeep reversed into his cart, scattering all the eggs!
Young David Nisbet was eventually bought a small Dexta tractor to do the work after the Gaffer managed to persuade his father to buy one. He kept shorthorn cattle and he kept the bullocks until they were five years old when showed them at Bathgate Christmas sale and he always got a good price for them. He used to buy one tup lamb every year around August, fed it well, took it to the Market Show and generally did well. David never had a car and never left the farm except to go to market, so I usually gave him a lift to market. His sister Peggy was hurt whilst working with cattle in a pen and was jammed so her back was badly damaged; I can remember going up to help her into the house, but she could never straighten her back again and walked with a stick for the rest of her life.
Some other neighbours were Jim MacIntyre and family. Jim had a very large poultry farm and he hatched thousands of chickens and he also had a dairy farm. He had a son, Hayden, who was not interested in farming, and all the huts, about 60, and the hens were sold off. The Gaffer rented one of these fields at the hen farm and grew oats in it, then I remember turnips too, and we bought some of the hen huts and put them up at Woodend. We made a house for one of the POWs and a garage with another and used some for the battery hens.
A man called Campbell Stockman used to come to Woodend to keep the wages book for the farm; he was also Head Cashier at the pit whose office was up the old road at the Railway Crossing. All 600 miners all got their pay on a Friday.
Mrs Gentleman and Mary Bell occupied Craigmarie where they kept a lot of hens. Mary Bell was courted for years by Joe McIndoe from Wheatockbrae. She had a son by him and he was the same age as my brother Willie. He was never allowed out of the garden amongst other children and when he came to school age, Willie had to take him to school and look after him as he was afraid of the girls and boys. The farm had been owned by the Gentlemans for two hundred years and Mrs Gentleman had been letting it out for a few years to Jimmy Drake before she sold it to Mr Toogood. Mr Toogood used the land and let out the house; one famous occupant in later years was Guy Mitchell singer of She Wears Red Feathers and a Huly Huly Skirt. He had a good laugh with the Gaffer, castrating lambs, a lot different from his singing and making records!
The Gaffer had a lot of cousins and amongst them was Minnie Cook whose mother had been a White (who went on to marry a Weir); she married David Cook and they lived in Ayr. They had a daughter about the same age as me called Margaret; I can remember her going into get an operation in hospital to remove a mole from her face and, sadly, she died just after the operation. I went with the Gaffer to Ayr to play in Green Bowls Tournaments, playing around seven greens every day for a week, and we stayed with Minnie and David Cook then.
One of the Gaffer's uncles, Andrew White, was married to Annie Roy
farmed at Murreysfield Farm, Blackburn. When the Gaffer left school and went
to work with Willie Russell, across the road, he stayed with his uncle Andrew
and travelled to work daily. Andrew had three sons, Alex, Andrew and Jim, and
daughters, Mary, Jean and Annie. Mary married Ian Borthwick who farmed at
Addison Mains; Jean married Jimmy Mackie, who had a shop in Blackburn, and
Annie married Jimmy Steel. After we moved to Woodend, Andrew and his family
moved to Malcolmstone Farm at Currie and George and I went our school holidays
there often. I can remember lots of Irish men and women going to the farms
there to lift the potatoes, the men
using grapes to loosen the potatoes and the women bagging them; they slept in
the loft at Malcomstone. Aunt Annie
White would boil the smallest potatoes for the hens; she kept lots of hens in
a small field by the farm.
When we stayed there on holiday, we were put to bed at eight after a bowl
of porridge, and the next morning we got the other half of the porridge from
out of the drawer. Andrew used to get up at 4 a.m. to start the milking and we
helped and then he took the milk, in churns ,on a trailer pulled behind his
car, into Edinburgh Co-operative, and then we got back to the farm and went
back to bed! Annie White used to come to Woodend for holidays as well.
have been a boy, working in the hay fields pulling the ricks onto the rick
lifter, and she loved to play football with the boys. Annie had her holidays
first,and then George and I would go to Malcolmstone and she would be back at
school, so we would go to meet her after school at Currie to walk her home .
Lots of people came to Woodend on holiday. My cousin Margaret Gilmour came (her mother was Mattie White from Hassockrigg); cousin Judy from Durham (uncle Jimmys daughter); Ann Lorimer (her mother was Meg Walker's sister); Margaret Henderson, from Fife, daughter of a former Manager at the Pit. She had attended Woodend School with George and spent most of her time helping on the farm. Also, Mary White came from Shettleston; she was the Gaffer's cousin.
I was 16 years old when I met up with Christine and Elizabeth Davidson at Annie White's 21st birthday party; they were daughters of Bob Davidson who farmed at Longridge Farm and they had moved down to Essex to Brickhouse farm in 1930 to farm when farms were cheap and their father bought his farm. Bob Davidson's other daughter Lily was married to Allen Gray who farmed at Slamannan and they moved on down to Essex. At the party it was decided that I should go down to Essex with them all as Lily Russell and Jean Smillie were going down and I would be good company for them, coming back home in a fortnight. I had a good time down there. Elizabeth and Christine's mother was bedridden and they had a pulley jack set up to hoist her up in bed and get washed and have her meals. They took me to lots of places including the Albert Hall and to Clacton on Sea, to a dance on the pier. She took me to the motor racing and I remember Stirling Moss was racing that day. We used to race up and down on horseback at Brickhouse Farm. Their brother Andrew Davidson who had Suffolk punch horses on the farm. Elizabeth loved her Father and used to take out his lunch to him and drive the tractor whilst he was eating; he was a big eater and a hard worker. Elizabeth was a lovely kind girl and we were very good friends.
George and I would go down on holiday to Essex when George got his driving licence and we would stop at uncle Jimmys for the night at Durham, and then travel on down to Essex; we often stayed in a farmer's barn as it took around 12 hours to get down as we had to go through every town, no motorways in those days! One year, on the way back, our cylinder head gasket of our large Triumph blew and the fan belt broke. We got towed to a garage in Newcastle and we went to the pictures for the afternoon (it was a Grace Kelly picture) until the car was repaired.
We went to visit Allan Gray when he was lifting potatoes and peas, (he grew about 100 acres of potatoes) and we would go with him into Colchester in his lorry to the Army barracks to collect the army wives and kids to come and lift the potatoes. They were very noisy and the lorry was usually full; they got paid by the bag getting a note in exchange for a full bag and they would trade in the notes for the cash at the end of the day, the same for the peas. George and I got the job of paying them before taking them back to camp. Allan Gray had a brother, Victor, who was in the army. When he left the army, he bought a farm in Essex. He wanted to start a suckler herd of cattle and he asked the Gaffer to buy the stock for him. I remember going to Linlithgow with the Gaffer and George to a Mr Aitken who kept a large herd and we bought 60 suckler cows for him. When they were ready to move, we loaded them onto two large cattle floats with trailers, ready to travel down to Essex. We visited them some time later and they had calved and were doing well.
I went down to Essex once on my own on the train, when Elizabeth Davidson was in hospital with burst appendix, and peritonitis. Her dad sat with her for weeks and she could not eat very much and, sadly, she died after I arrived home; she was only 21 years old and she was buried at Colchester Cemetery. Elizabeth's sister, Christine Davidson, married and had a son but she never got over the loss of her sister and she died quite young, in her forties. She farmed at Chelmsford and her married name was Gemmel. I went to spend a holiday with Allan Gray and did a week's combining for him, my first experience of combining, on a Massey Fergusson combine. At the time, he kept thousands of free range hens and I remember it taking us hours last thing at night to shut them in. The workers at that time were POWs and they fed and gathered the eggs through the day and, at night, I would go with Allan to Hyde Park to sell the eggs, on the black market, as eggs were rationed then and there were always plenty of takers. Allan and Lily Gray always came to Woodend every year. Lily had attended school with my mother at Blackburn and liked to visit often. Lily and Allen had a daughter, Janet, and a son, John, and they all used to come up on holiday and went to sales with the Gaffer.
After the war, the Highland Show was started up again, as it had not been run during the war, and it was held for the first time at Inverness; the Gaffer asked the Coal Board factor to book a farm bed and breakfast for three nights for us, near the show ground. Off we went, the Gaffer myself and Bob Walker. It was a long drive and when we arrived at the address, we were given our supper, then the owner said we were actually sleeping at another farm so he pointed to it about five miles away and told us to be back early for breakfast. We asked which road to take and he said there was no road and we would have to cross a ford over the river so we left our cases and just took what we needed. As we reached the house, it was starting to get dark and we discovered there was no electricity in the house; we had to get ourselves to bed in the dark and it was a good laugh, and we did this journey for the three nights we were there.
It was good when the Highland Show was held somewhere different as it let you see different parts of the country, Kelso one year and Paisley. George and I got on the special Highland show bus in later years. One year it was in Aberdeen and it was very wet, and one year, at Dundee, it was a heat wave. The worst journey to the Show we had was getting to Dumfries when it was held there; the traffic jams were bad. Finally the Show settled at Ingleston, Edinburgh with a permanent showground. I remember the Gaffer and Bob Walker and I went to Cambeltown show, which was a very popular show. We went in the car to Gourock and got the ferry over to Cambeltown, and a good little holiday, as you had to go on the boat and get your dinner etc.
I went to the Island of Mull with the Gaffer one year, with Dr Anderson, an Armadale doctor, who had a friend who had just bought a farm on Mull and wanted the Gaffer to value the sheep on the farm. Jim McIntyre, the shepherd, went with us as well. We drove to Oban and got on the ferry to Tobermory and we stayed the first night in a hotel and travelled up to the farm called Ardnacross next day. When we arrived at the farm, we discovered that four other farmers' sheep were mixed in amongst the sheep we were there to value, so we had to wait whilst the farmers picked out their own sheep and separated them, and we stayed in the farmhouse for another night to finish the job. It was quite usual for all the sheep to be mixed up and they were usually sorted out twice a year when they were gathered for other things.
Every year there was a Gala Day and there was a prize for the best dressed house. One year, when Marion was a Gala Queen, we dressed up Woodend House; we were helped by John Lindsay, his daughter Alice was Marion's pal. He made a good job decorating all the windows and putting up coloured lights and flags. I took the job of chauffeuring the Gala Day Queen at Armadale as we had a very good big car, a Triumph limousine, so I had to lead the parade behind the horse riders around the streets of Armadale and finished at Bathville Public Park, where the Queen was crowned. After the ceremony was past, I got the job of taking the Queen and Fairy Queens to Tippethill Hospital to visit the old folks who were unable to get to the Gala, and they were presented with bunches of flowers.
There was a race track in Armadale and the greyhounds used to race and I
remember taking Sandy Dow with his dog to race, and then, when my mother got
her first car, she took him and won often betting on his dogs, the most
memorable of which was called Mystery .
At around that time, our shepherd was Jimmy McIntyre, who had worked with Frasers Market in Perth, and was one of the best at breaking collie dogs and working with sheep. I learned a lot about sheep from him; I used to drive him to sheep dog trials around the country, Perth being one place I remember. He knew all the trial men and their dogs by name, and he broke in a lot of good dogs at Woodend. He sold a dog and it went to Canada, and he received £100 pounds which was a lot of money then. He always reckoned you would know in the first week if a dog was any good. Unfortunately he had to go home to his family farm as his brother had fallen over a cliff and drowned in the river.
We always grazed the sheep and cattle together, (the cattle dung is the best manure,) and we grazed the young cattle on Woodend Hill. We had to move the cattle in August as the bracken is dangerous to cattle at this time of year; we moved the cattle to Drumbowie. Another poisonous plant is the rhododendron and the avenue at Drumbowie was lined with them and the leaves were dangerous to the sheep; I can remember losing a lot of lambs one year. We had a stock of about 450 blackface sheep, which produced cross lambs, and we always fed about 100 cast ewes on rape and replaced them with 100 blackfaced gimmers bought from Lanark Market. We kept a small flock of cross bred sheep.
We built new sheep pens and dipper at the Boughs, which saved bringing all the sheep down to Woodend to be worked with. We made a tailing pen where the sheep was handled by a single man, and four men could work at once, and we made a turntable for doing their feet; we took a snip out the sheeps ear depending on the year, no tags then. There were also shearing pens. George and I always sheared every year. It was a good modern setup for its time and we could bring in lots of sheep in one day as there was a large holding pen for overnight stays.
The sheep were dipped twice a year, in July after clipping, and again in October before the rams went out. We would gather all the sheep and take up tanks of water by tractor to "the Boughs", and, againa there were always plenty of helpers to do this job. We used to take the wool bags to Galashiels ourselves from Woodend to the British Wool Growers where you could see your bags being weighed and graded.
We also used to lift waste wafer biscuits from the McVitie factory, and, although they were all broken rejects, the pigs liked them along with the bruised oats. It was a cheap food.
We had around 300 hens in battery cages and 50 free range hens, we reared chicks for replacement, and we had a commercial pig herd. We borrowed John Black's boar; he had good pedigree pigs.
The Gaffer broke his leg when he was starting the bruiser one day; the handle did not come off and got him in the front of the leg causing a bad break, so he had a stookie on for six weeks. It was a hard job living with him; George and I had to drive him to market, him going about with his crutches, and he went to Bangour Outpatients for physiotherapy, at the same time as Helen Prentice, so they shared an ambulance home, (that was before she married Willie Prentice).
Jean Forsythe was the Gaffer's aunty. Jean
Forsythe was married to Jim McKinnon and they stayed at Eastfield
with Jean's mother Jean Forsythe.
The three cousins John, Willie and Alex came to Woodend often, but they had no car so I got the job of driving them. Often I took Willie to Thornhill for a weekend, to Aggie Forsythes sister; her sister's husband managed a big sheep farm for Earl Weir, and it was away up in the hills. They had a son my age and we used to go fishing when I was there; his name was John Courson and in later years he started a large market garden in Thornhill. One time I was there we had a very heavy fall of rain and when we were coming through the Dalveen Pass on the way home, we nearly got stuck with our Hillman car; Willie and Aggie had to sit in the boot to add weight and we laughed about that for a long time. John joined the army and had a good job driving a Colonel around, and he got six weeks' exemption from the army each year to help the Gaffer with the hay and the harvest and that was how he met Bella, and they got married .
Mother and the Gaffer would go to lots of whist drives and Farmers' dances; good ones were held at Bathgate Cooperative and Whitburn. I would sometimes have to go and make up a table. One of the best barn dances was at Muirhead, held by the Gaffer's uncle Tammy, and it was always Jim Walker who played and he had a very good band. We used to go to Westfield Whists, and lots of farms, including the Neils, Torbanehill, the Smellies, East Whitburn, Jimmy Tate's, and they all came to Woodend Whists. Bob and Meg Walker and Joe Byres also used to come, and it was a regular thing through the winter, before television came in. By this time George was driving and we had a Landrover and a car so we would drive the Gaffer and mother and Meg and Bob Walker to wherever they were going. The Gaffer had started curling and went with Willie Ralston and, by then, they had a good team.
Lots of nice people came to Woodend Farm, like Willie Conerton, who worked on the railway line between Stonehill Pit and Woodend, keeping it in good repair. He used to come to Woodend to get his tea made on the Rayburn stove, and he lived n Blackridge with his brother Tom and a sister, none of whom were married, and they made up one of the best dance bands around. They used to go playing around the country and I can remember going with them to Jedburgh. At one point they went off to New Zealand to tour and play their sister sang along with them William Begbie was a well known singer from the radio and he lived in Blackridge too.
So many different people worked at Woodend and many emigrated to Australia and New Zealand, (in those days it was the cheap fare on the boat). A condition of getting the cheap fare was that you had to stay for two years. Not many people went abroad on holiday; there were no air flights and travel agencies until after the war; they just began building passenger planes after the war, then people started to use them for going on holiday.
Peter Walls worked as ploughman at Woodend and he lived in Bathgate and
went on to work at Gordons in Bathgate in the Agricultural Department. Willie Spittal, from Avonbridge, worked as second ploughman and Jimmy
also from Avonbridge, worked as ploughman; Sandy Clark worked as a dairyman
for a long time, (I can remember him getting his ankle broken on his weekend
off when he was helping another farmer,) and he went on to get a farm of his own.
Alex Cochrane and Bobby Bennet were among others who were dairymen,
brother Ian was drowned on a school trip when he was only 12).
Marion Pow had a lot of brothers: the oldest, Willie, worked at Jim McIntyre's hen and dairy farm; James Pow worked at the Pit at Woodend; sister Margaret died aged 20 in an accident at home, when her nightdress caught fire and she was too badly burned; Alex, the youngest boy, was two years older than me and we used to go everywhere together, church every Sunday and two Sunday schools and we used to go bird nesting, fishing in Lochend Loch. Alex went on to marry and became a bricklayer until one day when he was down a manhole and the heavy concrete lid dropped on his head and he was killed,at a young age. Not a very lucky family.
One of my friends was Allan Gracie, who came to Woodend to learn about farming. Allan's father was Headmaster at Stirling, at Fallin School. I started Allan off ploughing with a pair of horses in a three acre field at the front of the Woodend Farmhouse, and he enjoyed ploughing with the horses. Allan's father came and took photos of him and put them up at the school. We also got the "Farming News" to come and take photos of the good job he made of the ploughing; it was a feature about ploughing by horse and the new innovation, the tractor.
Allan came to Woodend after he had been in hospital following an accident; he was hurt by a hay rick and damaged his bladder. He loved to play cards and dominoes. There was another four workers in the bothy and we became good friends and went dancing in Falkirk at Doak's Dance Hall; we always had a good laugh. Allan went on to work in a fish farm in Oban, where he married and lived, having two daughters, and later became manager at the fish factory.
We were all church goers and John Dickson was the minister at Shottsburn church for a very long time and the Gaffer and most of the White family were elders there. The Gaffer never missed a communion. John Dickson the minister and his wife and son came to Woodend many times, the minister liked a good meal and a smoke on his pipe. Jim, Marion and Willie were all christened by him at home in Woodend house, and he always brought an elder as a witness who was usually Alex Waddell from Dewshill Farm.
My old pony Wee Peggy had died by then, at the age of 25. I had been given
her when she was 10 and she had had a good life. She died in the rough field
and George and I buried her at the back of the dyke where she always slept,
and we wrote her name on the dyke. The best dog the Gaffer ever had was killed by accident by Pate Black the
gamekeeper at Drumbowie, when, one day, the Gaffer was walking through the
plantation and Pate thought the dog was a fox and tragically shot it .
Jimmy was then using a big white horse we bought at Broxburn and he was
going for riding lessons to Alister Dickson who kept a lot of jumping horses;
they used the dog Track at Armadale to practise .
The Gaffer liked to go to Lanark Market and Wishaw Market every week to meet up with his old show pals. George was starting to take charge now I was teaching Tom Moffat to do my tractor work; he was very good and got on well with George, he worked at Woodend for a number of years.
I had not much time for going out at nights, although I had plenty of girlfriends, (but we were just friends,) as I drove a big car, by kind permission of the Gaffer. The Farmers' Dances were the 'in' thing those days and Bathgate District was our club; Cathy Smellie, Jim Kirkwood and David Steel were the club leaders at that time.
In 1953, the year of the Queen's Coronation,
we got our first television, which was black and white and a great novelty. T.V was just coming to Scotland
and it was always a rush then at night to see the Television Toppers. We had a good few parties at Woodend, Dick Walker would come and play the
piano, he came from Croftmalloch, Whitburn .
I left Woodend in 1955 to get married to Betty and I left four workers in the bothy and one maid in the maid's room. That was the normal number of workers who lived in around then. Willie was still at school when I got married and Marion had just left school and was helping mother, Jimmy had just got his car licence and George had a girlfriend.
Jimmy liked the dairy cows and spent a lot of time washing and trimming their tails and until he married he would usually be found in the byre. By then we were showing quite a lot winning a lot of prizes for cows; the tickets were all pinned to the rafters in the first byre.
I met Betty, my future wife, at the Norbury Dance Hall. We used to go out quite often, to the pictures. Betty lived at Glenlark, and you had to go in at the big gates. We had to ring the bell and wait for the security man to come out of his house and open the gate for us to drive through. Bettys mother and father had to meet me, so I went in for a cup of tea and to be introduced. Betty started working as a nurse at Tippethill, where her mother, Mary Boyd, worked. Betty had met the Gaffer and mother and everyone seemed to get on alright.
John Graham and future wife Betty Boyd, probably dressed for a farmers' dance.
We decided to get married on October 12, 1955. It was a big wedding. Betty was looking very pretty; George was my best man, and he did it very well; my sister Marion was a bridesmaid along with Janet . Willie Boyd gave Betty away, and he was pleased to do this, as he and I got on well. It was a good dance band at the reception, Jock Robertson, and the band made it a good night . Jimmy was an usher and Willie was still at school, (he would be just over 12 years old then). All my uncles and aunts were there and cousins, The Hodges, and every one met . We went on our honeymoon to North Berwick for two days, then travelled back from the east coast and, funnily enough, we ended up at The Galloway Arms at Crocketford.
We had bought Kepplehill Farm at Shotts, so we arrived back from our honeymoon to Kepplehill. Willie Boyd had been staying there and getting things ready for us, ready to start our married life together.
Tragically, in April 1956, my brother George was killed in an accident at Woodend Village, when they were demolishing the old houses and a slab fell and fatally hit him on the head. He was only 20.
I can remember the Gaffer's two favourite uncles dying. His uncle Andrew White from Malcolmstone was in Bangour Hospital for a short time and I can remember going with the Gaffer to see him just before he died. His other uncle Tammy White from Muirhead was in Shotts Sanatorium for some time and the Gaffer and I went to visit him a few times before he died, (the Gaffer had spend his younger years with him at Muirhead). It was sad to see them go, as they had helped the Gaffer a lot, by giving him stock and he grazed cattle and sheep for them, to give him an income.
On my mother's side, my aunt Ella married Jimmy Kelly, who dressed horses for Shows and he then went to work at a sand quarry where, unfortunately, he was smothered in a sand pit. They had a son called Willie, who was four years older than me; then a daughter whose name escapes me, but she used to come on holiday with George and I; then there were twins, Jim and Ella . The oldest girl was a year older than me and she used to come on holiday with me and George to Malcolmstone Farm, to the Gaffer's uncle Tammy White.
Uncle Jimmy and uncle Joe lived with and were brought up by a Mr Lumsden. They lived in the middle of Blackburn in a house above the shop Mr Lumsden had. As I said before, my mother was brought up in another house nearby. I used to go and visit them with my mother. Blackburn was a small place then, only the main street, the school, Red House School, was at the end of the village, where my mother and her brothers and sister went.
Uncle Jimmy Reid joined the Army Cadets when he left the school and later got in to the Royal Scots Guard and became a Sergeant Major. He was a guard at Buckingham Palace with the changing of the guard before the war. He was stationed in Ireland during most of the war, but when he married aunt Anne, he went into the prison service. Judy was born by this time. Uncle Jimmy spent a good number of years at Durham Prison as head officer. When Judy was about 12 she came for holidays at Woodend and played with Marion, George and I. We used to drive down to collect her and one of her friends. Uncle Jimmy was at Durham for maybe about 15 years and then he went to Brixton and Wormwood Scrubs and finished off at Dartmoor Prison. Judy married and had three of a family , two sons and one daughter. Uncle Jimmy and aunt Anne lived in Tavistock, then they went to live with Judy and her family in Wadebridge.
Uncle Joe started off in the railway office, learning the signals, before being called up to the navy when the war started. He was on a oil tanker most of the time. In 1942 his ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean and he was in the water for nine hours before he was rescued, and the oil saved his life as it acted as a waterproof against the cold water. There were only three survivors that day, (the rest went down with the ship,) and they had held on to a big plank of wood until they were rescued. He was confined to British waters for the rest of the war. He married aunt Bell in 1943, and finished his time until the war was over, then he went back to the railway and was signal officer, going round the different signal boxes in the country. He used to visit Woodend regularly, getting a lift on the train to Woodend Pit and he would come down to the house for his tea. They had a son George who used to come to us for holidays.
My Years at Kepplehill Farm, Shotts, Lanarkshire (1955 - 1961)
I bought Kepplehill Farm when I was 23 years old in the year 1955 for the price of £5000. It consisted of 166 acres of arable land. I borrowed £3500 from The Royal Bank of Scotland in Armadale, West Lothian, and I cashed in my Norwich Union Policy for £2000 to purchase the farm.
This is an example of the costs at the time:
Feed costs were £32 per ton for best cake. Fertiliser cost £22 per ton.
Oats sold for £16 per ton.
Wages were usually two boys and one maid at £3 per week with meals included.
The fee for our accountant Mr. Salmond was £200.
Car petrol was two shillings and sixpence per gallon, tractor diesel was one shilling per gallon.
Average milk price was two shillings per gallon, and an average milk cheque was £1350 per month in the summer and three shillings in the winter.
Annual total milk cheque amounted to £13500 approx.
Annual cake costs amounted to £3936 approx.
Workers wages and housekeeping were paid out of egg sales.
Income from sheep grazing, young pig sales, potato sales and excess hay and egg sales amounted to £3000.
Photo of John, Betty, Elizabeth and Anne.
The dairy herd consisted of flying stock of 70 Ayrshire cows. We moved 30 cows and heifers from Woodend Farm, Armadale to Shotts by road one Sunday morning with the help of the Gaffer, my brother George, sister Marion, Willie Boyd (Betty’s father) and a worker called wee Peggy amongst others. The remaining cows were bought at Wishaw Market at an average price of £60. I replaced dry cows, receiving approximately £30, and bought new calved cows as required. We produced on average 300 gallons of milk per day, milking was done by my wife Betty and I in a long single byre next to the silage shed. The cows came in to be milked from the shed and went out to another shed. These were built by us for self feed and the cows lay in an area bedded with bunches of home-grown straw. I had made up my mind to go in for self feeding silage for the milk cows and went to Drumbowie to cut down enough trees to make a large high shed for silage and an area for self feeding.
We also kept
two hundred laying hens bought from Galloway McLeod’s, converting a large shed
that had been used by the army during the war for search lights into a deep
litter shed. We put electricity in by putting up six poles from the farm and
William Forsythe (the Gaffer's cousin) led electric wires to the shed and
fitted a time switch so the lights would go on at two o'clock in the morning; we
got more eggs with the longer laying day. The hens were fed laying pellets and
home grown oats and Betty sold the eggs around the houses in Shotts. The rest
went to Cumberland Farmers' Packing Station. They lifted them every
week, and we put a stamp on them in those days.
Betty and Robert carting hay.
When we moved to Kepplehill, I decided to reseed the entire farm in the first three years and concentrate on making good silage. I was working with Lanark Farmers' Advisory College. On moving into the farm I took over the stacks of oats and hay in the shed and the potatoes in the field to feed the stock the first winter.
The next thing
was to employ two workers. My first was wee Robert who came from Bonkle,
Newmains, and had just left the school; he became a great worker. My second
one was Dick from Newmains, who learned very quickly, and they both could do
every kind of work on the farm; they were very good with the tractors and in
no time I could go and leave them to get on with the work.
After we moved
to Kepplehill the Gaffer gave us his Jawed Javeline van as he had just bought
a new Austin pick up for himself. Betty had not yet got her driving licence so
we borrowed his Austin for her to take driving lessons and sit her driving
Photo of John, Betty and Elizabeth.
Photo of Betty with Elizabeth.
Photo of George Graham.
Photo of Willie Boyd and workers.
Photo of Betty with Elizabeth.
Photo of Betty, Jeanette and Elizabeth.
Jeanette Boyd, Betty's sister, helped us at
Kepplehill a lot. She stayed at the farm and their father Willie Boyd
also helped on the farm when Elizabeth was growing up. In these days
there were milk dishes to wash, milking to do and lots of work for the women
going round Shotts selling eggs and feeding the workers.
Photo of Granny Boyd and Willie Boyd.
Photo of Granny Graham with Elizabeth and Anne.
The milk lorry always lifted my milk first at
six in the morning. Alan Watt was the driver. I wanted to improve the milk
cooling system so I went down to Dumfries with my brother Willie in the
Gaffer's Austin pick-up to buy a large milk cooler to cool forty gallons at a
time, that was four ten gallon cans. Willie was just learning to drive so it
was a long drive to New Abbey in Dumfries-shire and round the coast to Colonel
Blackwood's Farms where he was putting bulk tanks into his eight dairy farms
and we got the pick of coolers. It was a very good one. It was a very
good day away and our first time at Southerness Coast, where we had a good
walk along the beach while we were there.
Photo of John, Willie, and worker Jackie with Elizabeth.
Photo of Best Kept Stackyard in the Area.
I was always
improving Kepplehill. I got a brand new calf shed built by Jack Gold, a good
friend did it for me as he was a bricklayer and builder. At the time there was
a grant available and I got the design from Lanark Agricultural College for
modern up to date calf pens, when it was finished with all the fancy pens and
feeding dishes it was the best in the district and the college brought a lot
of farmers to see it. We also grazed 200 hundred cheviot hoggs each winter for
Mr. Bell of Plenderleith, Kelso, and they were charged at the rate of £2 per
I also started
keeping pigs, converting an army hut and making it into farrowing pens. I used
to get a lorry load of broken McVities biscuits in Edinburgh and Mrs. Lennon
who owned a grocer's shop in Shotts kept out of date bread for me for my pigs
to eat. Her son Tom liked to come to the farm and feed the pigs so I let him
keep two for himself to rear until they were fat and I sold them for him as I
always got a good price for them. I used to borrow a boar from Johnny Clarkson
(my brother- in- law) to serve my sows. One night, when he was bringing
the boar up to me in his pick-up, it burst the back door and got out when he
was driving through Harthill. I had to go and help him to catch it in the back
of a shop. It had been running about the street scaring everybody! I fed the
sows with oats grown on the farm, I spained the small pigs at eight weeks old
and, from two weeks old, I was feeding them on weaner meal I lifted from
Galloway McLeod’s along the road. We kept eight sows which averaged eight piglets each
giving five litters each in two years. We sold them at twelve weeks old to
Jimmy Tate or Willie McNabb and had the sows back to the boar when the young
pigs were eight weeks. I had them back on to feeding with oats grown on the
farm. Everything I kept had to make money.
We were the
first farm in the district to self feed silage so a lot of visitors, sent by
Lanark College, came to the farm to see the cows feeding. The next year we
decided to build a second large silage pit. We got two brick layers from
Armadale, who Willie Boyd brought up every weekend, and we carted thousands of
bricks from Shotts Brickworks as the walls had to be very thick and strong.
Stewart Brothers Blacksmiths from Allanton made all the framework for the new
shed and built the roof. By this time the stock had built up and we
milked in the big byre and the stable byre, when the new shed was filled for
the first time we used it along with the other self feed shed feeding them in
shifts. The cows were always very fat on self feed and had very good skins on
them. I got a very good price forany that went to the market.
I bought my first van, a Ford Thames, new from Count Garage. We had a lot of good neighbours, Tom Forsythe at Stane Hill Farm in Shotts and George Forest at Blackhall Farm who was just over the field from me. Tom Forsythe always came to help finish my harvest and George Forest always sent his two workers to help me as well. I grew too many oats the first two years because I wanted to reseed the entire farm as quickly as possible so I could get plenty good grass to make silage. We grew 40 acres in all and they were cut by the binder and stacked in the stack yard which was very tidy with all the stacks thatched and clipped. I had taught Robert and Dick how to thatch and rope stacks and they made a great tidy job!
There used to
be and old tramp called old Bob who came to the farm, he slept in one of the
calf pens, later we let him sleep upstairs in the house as we did not use it.
He was a handy man and kept the farm all brushed up and clean and he cleaned
out the new calf pen daily, but he stayed about six months before the
wanderlust came over him and he moved on.
When I was at Kepplehill I had the Gaffer’s grass barrow so I sowed the grass seed at Woodend every year for all the time I was there. I also reseeded all Kepplehill for the first three years, we grew a lot of great crops with the good grass.
Townhead of Gree Farm, Fenwick, Ayrshire
View of farmhouse and sheds.
We decided to look for a bigger farm in a better district. I had been to Gree Farm with the Gaffer many times as he was friendly with the owner, Mr. Dunlop, who was one of the top showmen and judged at many cattle shows. Our stock bull at Woodend came from Gree Farm and the Gaffer had also bought a few show heifers from there so I knew the farm quite well. I put Kepplehill up for sale and sold it to John Gemmel from West Kilbride for £11,000 and, in a way, I was sorry to leave there. The Gree came up for sale at that time and I offered £16,000 to the Ayr Market, which was the vendor, and I got it. The Gree consisted of three farms, Townhead of Gree, where we lived, and Townend of Gree where the dairy was. We moved all the cattle by Brown Haulage Contractors of Allanton, Shotts, who also moved quite a lot of hay from Kepplehill Farm and I moved the furniture and lots of machinery with the Gaffer's lorry.
View of farmhouse.
There was an Italian guy working for Mr. Dunlop who lived at Greenlaw with his wife so we gave him the job of dairyman at Townend of Gree. We renovated the third byre to milk seventy cows and put in a bulk tank for three hundred gallons and later decided to put on a dairy at Townhead of Gree as there were lots of byres there. Mr. Dunlop had kept a lot of stock and show cattle there. We spent a lot of money putting in the milking machines and building the new milk house and putting in a three hundred gallon bulk tank. We had been there two years by this time.
Photo of The Gaffer with Anne and cousin
Photo of Me, Elizabeth, Anne and Whisky the corgi.
Elizabeth and Anne’s move from Kepplehill to the Gree saw Liz starting at Fenwick Primary School. She also used to go with our friend Miss Murchland for piano lessons to Mrs. McGarvie in Fenwick every week. She was not very fond of going and Anne went later on as well when she was older.
Photo of Betty with Elizabeth and Anne.
Photo of Elizabeth, Anne and Whisky the
Photo of The Gaffer and me shearing ewes.
Photo of The Gaffer, Alan Stewart and me bagging wool.
The Gree was not a cropping farm so I made
lots of hay and silage for the dairy cows. I bought a lorry at this time and
used to go to Girvan, Ayrshire to Grants Distillery once a week for draught
for the cows. I fed the cows with cake, draught, silage and hay and reared up
all heifer calves and kept the ones from the best milk cows.
Photo of Elizabeth, Anne, Johnny and Willie.
Photo of Johnny.
Betty had to be rushed to Irvine Hospital
and had a caesarean section. Johnny was a difficult child to bring up as he
would not sleep at nights and kept us awake as he was bothered a lot with
wind. We tried lots of cures from the doctor. Johnny was also very small when
he was young and I used to take him in the lorry in his small chair and he was
never any trouble as he would sit for hours as long as he had his dummy.
Johnny went everywhere in the lorry with me. We went to Grant’s at Girvan to
lift draught every week and would stop at the sands at Maiden’s beach as he
liked to play in the sand on the way back when I had something to eat and a
smoke of the pipe.
Photo of neighbour Mrs Stevenson and daughters, Mary, Jean and Anne.
By this time I was wintering lambs on the two neighbouring farms. I would buy them at Lanark in October and keep them until the end of February. It would cost about £3 each when I bought them and cost £2 to feed them and would sell them for £10, which doesn’t sound much these days but it was a lot then. I sold most of my fat lambs at Paisley Market on a Monday. They were graded and you got the weekly average made up by subsidy cheque the following week. There were always plenty of butchers from Glasgow who came to Paisley and they sold lots of sheep and fat cattle there.
By this time, farming had changed completely, as fat cattle prices were going up all the time, hundreds of cast cows were going abroad and making a lot more in price than a dairy cow. It may seem that things are bad at the moment in 2004, with quotas and low milk prices but it’s nothing to what it was back then in the 1960s, but dairying has always been the same, with its good spells and the bad spells. It gets really bad before it gets good again and you can reap the benefits if you stick it out. In later years dairy farms have really modernised with all the new milking parlours and big sheds, a difference from milking in the byres in earlier years.
Photo of Granny and Grandad Graham,
Marion and Johnny Clarkson, Granny Boyd, Betty, me, Elizabeth,
Greenlaw House was always rented out and we
always seemed to get bad tenants and always seemed to have a job getting rent
from them and getting rid of them was a problem too. When Neil and Martha got
married, they left us and stayed in Stewarton. Martha went to look after her
old uncle and Neil went to work for David French, a cattle dealer at Srathaven,
for whom he drove his lorry and washed the cattle at the market where he sold
them. I had another boy from East Kilbride, a college boy and mummy’s
boy. She would visit him often and bring him sweets, he did not stay
with me for long. I got another boy from Stewarton, he worked for Ross the
calf dealer who had a farm next to Jimmy Kerr. Brian was a good worker but
Ross sold his farm and went to New Zealand and Brian went with him. The next
boy I got was called Alex, he was quite old fashioned, he learned to drive
with me and later left to work with Willie Angus the cattle dealer to drive
his float and take his cattle to the market. Why was it I taught them
everything and then they all went to good jobs or went abroad! Another boy,
Erin, came to work for us, from a farm at Slamanan not far from Drumbow.
He was a good worker, but the problem was we could not feed him enough, as he
would eat a whole loaf of bread at meal times! He went on to a farm at Lugton,
which was a very good Friesian dairy farm and in no time he became the manager
Photo of Another family dinner with visitors, Mr and Miss Murchland, and Neil and Martha.
Photo of Liz’s 8th Birthday party.
Betty got her first corgi dog pup, named Whiskey, bought from a woman over by Dunlop. He was a real corgi in every way and knew when the butcher, postman or anyone was coming up the road and he would come and guard the boy’s prams or anyone touching Betty. My collie dog was called Glen.
Photo of Willie in the snow.
I sold lots of cattle to Hugh Watson of
High Tarbeg Farm, Ochiltree, and also bought cattle from him. I sold a lot of
cattle to Biggar market and delivered cattle to Ayr market from Oban market. I
also bought a lot of hay because I had about five hundred cattle on the three
Gree Farms. I bought the hay from Mr. Wilson of Blayberrie Hill Farm and
wintered lambs on his farm. I also bought hay from Raithhill Farm,a neighbour
to the bottom Gree, and bought all Harold Lamont’s milk cows at Balcraymill
farm for the top Gree when I put on the dairy there. A lot of dairy farms used
sawdust so I supplied a lot of them, as I had two lorries. I used to lift
sawdust from Sutherlands in Edinburgh and go to Grangemouth to lift sawdust
from the boats. I had a cattle container on the smaller lorry and Neil my
worker was kept busy moving cattle and moved a lot of cattle for Jimmy Kerr to
his grazing at Barrhead.
The farm between the two Gree Farms was owned by Old Bella who milked cows by hand. Archie Reid and his wife lived with her. When she died, Mrs Watchman came and lived there, she had twin girls born while she was there, and her husband was a park warden in Kilmarnock.
Photo of Johnny and Willie having fun in the snow.
Around this time Jimmy had been married for some time and was farming Woodend with the Gaffer. They had done away with the dairy and had lots of sucklers but got brucellosis and the herd was killed off. Later he bought Midlandbank Farm at Strathaven. The Gaffer pleaded with me to come back to Woodend as he knew I was looking for a farm down south. It was the biggest mistake I ever made, as the saying goes, you shouldn’t do it, and you should look forward. I decided to move back to Woodend and sold Townend of Gree to Jimmy Kerr for £9,000 and I took the milk cows to start there. David Shaw the dairyman came back to work with Kyle Fleming when we moved. I also sold him my machinery, sold the two lorries and so the only thing I took to Woodend was the milk cows and that was the end of my time at The Gree.
Photo of Elizabeth, Anne, Johnny and Willie.