MY MEMORIES OF LONGFORMACUS & STOBSWOOD FARM
BY MARGARET KEAN
The following story is the result of notes that were taken by me while my friend Margaret (Peggy) Williamson related her memories of childhood on the farm of Stobswood, Longformacus, near Duns.
I was born on the 10th of February 1914, and was christened Margaret Kean by the Rev. Mr. Kerr of the Church of Scotland, Longformacus, and Berwickshire. The christening was performed in my father’s house on the farm of Stobswood, and my brother Adam Kean, was christened at the same time. I was better known as Peggy Kean in the area and our family was complete when my sister Mary was born. My father, John Kean, was a ploughman on Stobswood farm, and my mother, whose maiden name was Agnes Alexander, worked in Longformacus House before she was married. Our house had two bedrooms upstairs, with a kitchen and another bed downstairs. The house was situated beside the stables, and outside the stables there was a well which supplied the farm workers with all of their water, while a dry toilet stood at the back of the house. We used paraffin lamps and candles for light, and hot water was obtained from the boiler in the half-range, which had to be filled from pails. Saturday night was bath night, when the big zinc bath was brought out and put in front of the fire, and each child was bathed in turn. We had a cow for milk, some hens and a pig, all kept at the back of the house, and we were given a supply of potatoes by the farmer. Father worked in the winter from six in the morning till six at night, and in the summer from six in the morning until the days work was done, sometimes until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. Next door to our house lived the Elliot family. Mr Elliot who was called Sandy, was shepherd on Stobswood farm, and was a close friend of my father. I think that Mrs. Elliot had been married before her marriage to Sandy Elliot, because she had a son named Jimmy Ireland, and not Jimmy Elliot, while her other children were John, Alex, and Maggie Elliot. This family attended the “Free Church” at Longformacus, and on Sundays Maggie Elliot and I would walk down to the village, each attending our own Sunday School, meeting again after the services and walking along until I met my mother about half-way home, and going back the way I had come, attend morning service with my family. Sunday school began at 10-a.m. and was taken by Mr Kerr, and morning service would begin at 11-30 a.m. it was not uncommon for families to attend church at least twice on a Sunday. In the Church of Scotland there were two pews for the use of the Park family and the workers of Stobswood farm, and Mr. And Mrs. Park and their nephew who lived with them in the Big House, were regular attenders. I remember the Park family as very kind people, who were interested in the welfare of the folks around them, often giving a helping hand to any who were in need. As children we were sometimes given a penny, which we would spend in the Post Office, usually on our favourite Pan Drops. Our parents forbade us to crunch these sweets while we were in church, because the crunching noise would disturb the other worshipers. We obeyed the no crunching rule, but the peace of the Sabbath was often upset by our Teacher, Mr. Mc Grouther, earnestly crunching his Pan drops. At the age of five I began attending school at Longformacus, and came under the control of Mr. Mc Grouther. He lived in the School-house with his wife and family, and had two sons and a daughter. My recollections are that Mr. Mc Grouther was very strict with his pupils, and too free with the use of the tawse and the cane. Our desks accommodated two children, and I remember that Lizzie Linton, who started school at the same time as I did, sat beside me in the class-room. Other children whom I remember were Geofrey Campbell and his sister, who were the son and daughter of our local policeman, Jackie Tait and his brothers and sisters, then there were boys and girls named Paterson, one of whom I remember was named Tom, Jenny Young and her family, Maggie Elliot and some others whose names I cannot recall. The number of pupils attending school at that time would be about twenty-five, and we were aged from five to fourteen years. Our school day began at nine o’clock in the morning with prayers, and at eleven o’clock we had a short break for play. Lunch was from twelve to one and our after-noon session continued until three-thirty. During school hours we used a slate and slate pencil for writing, cleaning the slate after use with a damp cloth. The teacher would write tables on the black-board, and we would recite one and one are two, two and two are four or two times two are four three times three are nine, and so on. This method must have been good, because so many of my age group can still remember, off hand, that seven sevens are forty-nine, and that eight eights are sixty-four. During our break we would play in the grounds of the school, sometimes we would play at tig, rounders, hide and seek or skipping ropes. In these nine-teen twenties there was no transport to take us to school, so we had to walk the two miles each morning and night, to and from Stobswood farm, and it would require a very good excuse for a child to miss school. Even in winter, when at times the snow was as high as the dykes, we would watch the snow-plough pulled by a horse, clearing the road so that normal work could be done on the farm, and the children get to school. In the summer I remember running to school, guiding my gird with a cleek, and arriving puffing and panting in time to join the queue and start another day at school. Our girds, which were hoops of iron about eighteen inches to two feet in diameter, were made for us by David Luke, the village black-smith. All the children for miles around Longformacus knew David Luke, and as his smithy was near to the school we would visit him at every opportunity. He would often allow the children to work the bellows of his fire when he was shoeing a horse, and the smell of the burning hoof must be remembered by many others for bye myself, with a great deal of nostalgia. David was not only a favourite with the children, he was also much respected by the folks for miles around, and there are many homes today where some of David Lukes works are still in use, such as in my own home where I still use a shovel made by the black-smith of Longformacus for my father, these nearly eighty years ago. Today I look back and remember highlights which were common to the folks of Stobswood farm, and other farms in the neighbourhood of Longformacus. We were all given a piece of paper with a number on it, and as each number was called out we went up to the tree and chose a gift. Like birthday cake candles all lit up was erected, and we boys and girls were given buns and sweets. One of these highlights was the Christmas party held in the village hall, where a Christmas tree, with little candles This was a very difficult decision to make as there were so many lovely things to choose from, all donated by Colonel and Miss Brown, from the Big House. The hiring day at Duns was another to-be-remembered day, when we set off in the early morning, and after enjoying all the fun of the fair we would walk back home, very tired, but very happy. One day each year we were all very naughty. This day was the day before the school closed for the Christmas holiday, when we barred our teacher from entering the class-room after he had gone for his lunch, and we kept him out for the rest of that day. While he was very cross with us for our bad behaviour, no child was punished. On the next day we presented him with a goose, which was led in by the youngest pupil. The goose had long ribbons attached to its body, and I am sure that Mr. Mc Grouther and his family would enjoy this excellent Christmas dinner. Each year the school held a summer fair in the park, where we would run races and play many different games, tea would be served with buns, and there would be lucky dips, guess the weight of the cake, and lots and lots of home made sweets. The adults were also taken care of by taking part in the Tug o’ War and other adult amusements. Sunday afternoons were looked forward to, as that was when either we visited someone else’s home, or someone else visited our home. I well remember Mr. and Mrs. Alex Craik and Mr. and Mrs. Jim Craik visiting us on many occasions, and Miss Pru. Rankine was another of our many visitors. My mother also had paying guests who came from Edinburgh, usually for the fishing. One of the families we visited was the Gardeners, and their home was “OLD STOBSWOOD” which lay some three-quarters of a mile from our farm. Mr Gardener was a shepherd and Mrs. Gardener helped out on the farm at the sheep-shearing times, and the harvesting times. They had a family of two girls who worked away from home, and three boys, Bob, Lindsay and David. David was five or six years older than me and he was the only one of that family who went school at the same time I did. I recall that Lindsay Gardener at one time went to Canada. The Gardener’s house at Old Stobswood was much the same as our own, and had the same lack of amenities. Another house that I had the pleasure of visiting was Mrs. Anderson’s house at Kippetlaw. Maggie Elliot and I were collecting on a flag day for Edinburgh Infirmary and we came to Mrs. Anderson’s house. In spite of having to carry all of her water from a spring some ten minutes walk from her house, everything in Mrs. Anderson’s house was immaculately clean. The floor boards, the deal table and chairs, everything was scrubbed white, a credit to the character of this seventy-year-old Scotswoman. Her cottage was a thatched cottage and had two rooms, and living with her at that time was her son Tom, and her grand-daughter Frances. I will always remember with a great deal of pleasure the smell of Mrs. Anderson’s peat fire, and the sight of her big black kettle singing on the hob. Most of the men were down at the village hall on this winter’s night playing bowls, when someone rushed in shouting “Stobswoods on fire”. This incident which affected everyone on the farm occurred one night in the early nine-teen twenties. Everyone hurriedly made their way towards the farm, to give aid in dousing the fire by filling and passing buckets of water. Alas, in spite of all their efforts, five magnificent horses died that night, and the stables were destroyed. As our house was immediately next to the stables, we had been taken outside for safety, and I remember to this day, the sight of my father and some of the other men with tears running down their faces, these horses were very dear to these ploughmen. Our local policeman was Mr. Campbell, and being the only policeman in our area, which was without crime of any note, he was not so much a law enforcement officer, but rather acted the part of the friendly policeman. We all respected Mr. Campbell, and enjoyed his participation in the activities of our district. In the winter the two stretches of water, the mill pond and another pond down towards the road-end would ice over, allowing both adults and children to enjoy the thrills of skating and sliding. On entering Longformacus I remember a monkey puzzle tree, and behind that tree stood a cottage which had two rooms, and it was here that Miss Turner, who was our sewing teacher at school, lived. She was a very strict teacher, but very much liked by the girls, and very efficiently she taught the girls the art of knitting and sewing. In these early 1920s there were very few telephones in Longformacus, and Miss Hume, who was the Postmistress in the village, would receive calls for the Big House, or some other houses around the area. I well remember at lunch time, when Miss Hume would ask me or some other child if we would take a message to such-and-such a house, and we would cheerfully do this chore in anticipation of the cake, or the sweets, or even sometimes a penny which we would receive from the person the message was intended for. One of the houses I recall going to with a message, was Rothburn House, but I cannot remember the name of the resident. I do remember that it was Miss Brown who lived in Longformacus House, because she always gave you sweets or a piece of cake. Miss Hume’s Post Office was a wonderland, selling groceries, newspapers, sweets, haberdashery, it seemed to us children that Miss Hume sold everything, and the Post Office she presided over, could only be called “A jenny a’ things” When Miss Hume retired she went to live with her sister, Mrs. Kerr, who owned the boarding house, which had formerly been our local library. These then are some of the memories I have retained of the many happy years I spent on Stobswood farm about seventy years ago. Perhaps the children of today will scorn our primitive pleasures, but to me, I can remember with a great deal of joy, the happy hours spent gathering wild flowers from the fields, playing hide and seek and peever, skipping ropes and all those other wonderful childish games. I recall the many wet days we played in the barn at “Wee Shops”, using broken china and animal feed for stock At haymaking time the children were allowed to ride on the bogies, and I can feel a tear in my eyes when I remember the few times when I had the pleasure of sitting up front with my father, and holding the reins to guide the horse. History is made of memories, and if these memories of mine can add a little to the history of Longformacus and Stobswood farm then I am pleased, and I hope that the present inhabitants of both these places will be blest as I have been, to look back in future years with so many happy memories.
Margaret Kean lived in East Kilbride and her husband Tom Williamson worked with Nancy’s brother Peter Russell, in Rolls Royce East Kilbride. Margaret was Worthy Matron of Fairfield Chapter of The Order of the Eastern Star, following Nancy McArthur on to the Chair.