MEMORIES OF NOT SO LONG AGO
Margaret Stewart nee Andersen (Born 7.7.27)
I remember family gatherings at New Year and going to the Matinee
at the Picture House (the "Scratcher"). Even child was
given a new penny and an orange on the way in. In the evening
all the family, including aunties and uncles and cousins, gathered
to enjoy steak pie. homemade potted heid and a cloottie dumplin'
with thruppenny bits in it. There were lots of singing and renderings
of Burns' poetry'.
There was always plenty to do after school hours in the winter:
Brownies with Katie BelIany. Brown Owl. in the Church Hall. The
Band of Hope with Mrs L Hunter: The Junior Church Choir led by
Mr G Mitchell. the Church Organist and Choirmaster: Girl Guides
with Georgic and Mary Whitelaw and Lennie Clark: The Kinderspiels
at Cuthill Mission Hall run by Mrs Munro and her daughter. Mrs
Munro was the wife of one of the Munro brothers who had a Plumber's
business - their premises were down the opening before the present
The Town Hall was well used. I remember Concert Party groups playing
for a week. The men wore evening suits, the ladies in satins and
silk long dresses. I can recall having to sit on the window ledge
(this being the only place left). One night there was a "pie
eating" competition. The local young men tried hard to win.
it was hilarious. The Annual Burns Competition for school children
was also held in the Town Hall.
There were concerts on Friday nights at the Miners' Institute
at Bankfoot. I remember a Dr Bodie who did frightening things
with electricity to members of his staff.
On Prestongrange Gala Day we all marched behind the brass band
dressed in our Sunday best with tinnies on a length of white tape
slung over our shoulders. We got a bag with a pie and a bun and
piping hot tea from a big urn.
I remember the start of the "New Clubs" at the Store
Drapers. Miss Darg. Annie P Thomson and Agnes Saunders were run
off their feet as families replaced their worn out apparel. Dividend
week was a highlight. On the Saturday the buses were packed with
mothers and daughters going to spend the "Divi" in Edinburgh
on summer/winter outfits.
At Christmas the Gas Office window (now the Coffee Shop) was filled
with toys and boys and girls were invited to write their name
and address on a piece of paper and post it through the letter
box. When the draw was made the winners' names were listed and
displayed on the window. At Easter they had real live fluffy chickens
running around in the window and the Buttercup Dairy at Ayres
Wynd (East side) had their window filled with hard-boiled coloured
eggs cosling one penny each.
The local football team was called "The Bing Boys".
We used to sit on the empty coal wagons and cheer our side on.
The site was on the bing near Morison's Haven.
As a boy. my Grandfather worked at the Ropery owned by the Clark
family. It was in the area which now houses the Masonic Hall.
I remember watching, from a safe distance, the Co-op butchers
driving the cattle along the High Street to the Killing House
which was at the back of the "Gothenburg".
Mr Mathieson's horses and carts used to carry rock salt along
the High Street to the Salt Works. As children we used to search
for a bit to suck! My mother worked in the Salt Works alongside
wee Aggie Ritchic. They filled table salt into packets which they
later wrapped with fine paper which they pasted at both ends.
There was also a "whitening house" in a cellar where
a big coal fire kept them warm. The whitening was used on ceilings
and was in great demand. When the salt rock was delivered the
big iron pans were filled with the rock. The area covered by the
pans was roughly the sizc of a bowling green. Underneath the pans.
at ground level, a long row of coal fires burned night and day.
There was a lot of steam about and the men used utensils like
large paddles to turn the coarse salt. When all the vapour left
the pans, pure white coarse salt appeared. Lots of ashes were
left winch the men took away in barrows through Dod Anderson's
coalyard. right through to the bulwark. where they opened the
iron gate (east side of bulwark) which is still there today. This
is where they timmed the ashes into the sea.
I loved to hear the women who worked in the Brewery walking to
and from their work. the sound of their clogs made my day.
On my way to Church on 3rd September 1939 we stopped to listen
to the news coming from the wireless on the Territorial Army lorry.
We heard that war had been declared. We continued on to Church
and. about 15 minutes later, the Air Raid sirens went off. The
Minister told us to go straight to our homes. The men who were
in the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) hurried us along the street.
We sal quietly in our homes and soon the "All Clear"
It was my First year at Preston Lodge and there was an influx
of evacuees from Edinburgh who were billeted with families in
Prestonpans, Tranent and Port Selon. Preston Lodge was bursting
at the seams and we had to use the Mary' Murray Institute. We
carried our gas inasks with us at all times. On 16 October, at
4pm when we came out of school we saw a German aeropIane being
attacked and brought down over the Forth Bridge. Following this
there were several air raids mid day and we had to stay in school
until the "All Clear".
Later. German pIanes went over on their way to bomb Clydeside
and we heard the heavy drone of their engines. There were soldiers
in a Field belonging to Courtney's farm and they had anti-aircraft
guns. One night I saw a German pIane drop a bomb and we were sure
the bomb was going to come down and hit us!
One dinner time. walking back to school, I saw a soldier waiting
for a bus to Edinburgh. He was handsome and very smart and I kept
turning round to look at him.
When I left school I sat an exam for a job in the Co-op Store.
I was fortunate to get the job and was employed at the East Loan
branch where Benny Neilson was the manager. I was transferred
to the Central branch which was a very different kettle of fish.
It was a bigger shop and on Monday mornings there were crowds
waiting for their weekly rations. The Manager was my uncle. Dougall
Robertson. I was so tired that when I went to bed I was serving
customers all night! Willic Baillie was the "back shop Manager"
(he lost a leg in the 1914-18 war). Willic taught me to bone hams.
scrub cheeses and when the General Manager's "Char-Lady"
was ill. I was detailed to scrub Ins outside steps. My Grandfather
would ask where I was when he came home from the back shift (2pin-10pm)
at the pit and was told I had been in bed at 6.30pm.
I had to register at sixteen for the Girls Corps, but my chum
Sadie's father got me into the Auxiliary Fire Service as a "Telephonist".
I went Tuesdays and Fridays 7pm-9.3()pm to the Cleansing Department
(ScafTies) yard, to "man" the phone. The Fire Chief
was Willie Thomson. I can remember the following names - Men:
Bob Galloway. Pate Hunter. Mr Costello: Messenger Boys: Joe Aitchison,
John Taylor. Jack Hastic and Ian MeEwan (Dr Willic MeEwan's son).
Thankfully we never had a Fire. When the sirens went at night
I was out of my bed like a shot. with my tin hat and Fire Service
great-coat on. I would jump on my bike and pedal like mad to Ayres
Wynd. My Grandfather used to say "I never seen that lassie
jump out of bed so quickly in all my life". I am happy to
report again that we never had a Fire!
One day in June 1945 we heard on the wireless at the Store that
the invasion had begun. The wireless was kept on all day - it
was an historic occasion.
When the war ended there was a Service in the Church. I went straight
from work to the Service and it was very sad because my Auntie
Mirren's oldest boy. Jim Wood. had been killed a few days before
I was exhausted working in the Grocery and applied for a job in
Brunton's offices - which I was fortunate to gel. When I had been
at Brunton's for a few years, one night I was sitting in one of
the buses at the Mall waiting to go home when I noticed that soldier
I mentioned earlier.
At that time the men were returning to their jobs after being
demobilised. It was then that a Sports Section was started. We
played badminton in the Canteen twice a week. I remember we had
matches with St Gabriel's. A Golf Section started and it was suggested
that a mixed foursomes be arranged - this was my initiation to
Golf! I joined the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club in 1948. The Ladies
Section invited me to a Social and I was the only one not wearing
a fur cape - I didn't want one!
One evening going into the Clubhouse who opened the door for me?
None other than "that soldier". Well. I married him.
William Fraser Stewart. on 23 March 1951.
In 1999. Jim Forster and I were made Life Members of Royal Musselburgh
Golf Club - Fifty Glorious Golfing Years!