Random memories

It would be convenient if memories popped up in the order they had happened but they don’t!  Yesterday I thought of Granny’s feather dusters. There were two, one with a long cane handle that could reach to the ceiling and one with a short handle. She would let me have the short one but I would have caused havoc with the long one. Granny made them herself – every time a hen went in the pot, the long feathers were kept for renewing dusters and the small feathers would end up in a pillow eventually. I kept the wooden chairs free of dust. She also had a carpet beater and that was great fun battering the rugs and seeing the dust fly.

Another memory which popped up today is the lovely shiny brass toasting fork which hung at the side of the range. Nowadays most folk put their slices of bread in a toaster. Then, we put the bread on the prongs of the fork and held it near the fire. I think it made better toast than the toasters.

Talking about dust flying reminded me that in the summer, especially if the cows were in the field, there were a lot of flies. To remedy this fly-stickers, bought at the Ironmonger’s, were hung from the ceiling. They must have smelled nice to the flies because they would land on it and stick. When it was covered it went in the bin or on to the occasional bonfire. Grandaddy had to get rid of rubbish.  In the garden was a bush called Southernwood. Granny would cut sprigs from it and lay them on the table and sills, because flies didn’t like the scent.  However, I remember bringing in some hawthorn twigs with lovely pink flowers from the hedge on the brae and Granny got quite upset, she said it was unlucky to bring it indoors.

Fleet Street offices. © Copyright Christopher Hilton and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

Fleet Street offices. © Copyright Christopher Hilton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Granny had two magazines every week. People’s Friend had a story for children at the back and the Will and Wag comic strip. Annie S. Swan was their main author, and once I was a good reader I read all the stories. There was never anything in it to bring a blush to a maiden’s cheek!  Red Letter was the other magazine. The name sounds a bit racy but it wasn’t. Every week my job for a spell was to cut out a coupon which Granny saved and, in time, she exchanged them all for tea sets, known then and now as the Pansy tea sets. There were two of them, and my sister Annabel and I still have what remains. We treasure them but it’s unlikely any of our descendants will! They also bought the Kilmacolm Advertiser which gave local news, announced future events and so on.

Grandaddy was fond of telling stories, and I wish I’d listened more carefully. The one I remember was about a farm he worked on before he came to the Green.  On his first breakfast in the farm kitchen with all the workers there, the porridge was served in bowls and in the middle of the table was a big bowl of milk. A spoonful of the porridge would be dipped in the milk and eaten. One of the workers was not very clever and had a dribbly mouth.  Grandaddy spoke to the farmer’s wife and asked to have a jug of milk for himself as he objected to sharing. It says much for his charm that he got it!  At the same farm he complained that the plate he was given wasn’t washed properly and was told it was as clean as water, pronounced watter, could make it.  He discovered that Wattie was the farm collie! He came from a good home and was used to better!

He shaved with a ‘cut throat razor’ which he sharpened with a leather strap just like the ones that opened and closed the train windows. It was latched on a door handle, held taut and the razor swept up and down on it.  So did my Dad until he got a new razor called a ‘Rolls’. It came in a silver coloured box and included a sharpener. Somehow the razor flipped back and forward making a slapping noise as Dad moved it and sharpened itself! He let me do it sometimes. Probably there are some in Museums now.  Grandad would give us ‘beardie’ which made us laugh. He wrote in my autograph book in early 1938, “My Grand Children push me here, they shove me there and then they say, Come on Grand Dad, play at hide and seek. John Sinclair”.

Kilmacolm Railway Station in 1979. Peter Whatley [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kilmacolm Railway Station in 1979. Peter Whatley [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons]

No matter how often we did it, travelling in the train was always an exciting event. The steam billowing and the choo-choo rhythm which changed with speed was exciting. The Station at Kilmacolm was filled with flower beds carefully tended.  They changed to vegetables in 1940. There were Porters who helped people with luggage or prams or anything at all and received a 6d or 1/- or more. They had a uniform as had the ticket sellers. The Stationmaster was impressive with a cap and jacket with gold braid. One year when I was about 8 or 9 the school was asked to provide some children to sell the Railway Charity flags, which were wee flowers, blue I think. Mum said I could go with an older girl called Cathie Webster. The Station Master ‘interviewed’ us and I called him Sir when I answered his questions.  I told Mum later that Cathie hadn’t called him sir expecting her to be horrified but she said it didn’t really matter! The station had Chocolate machines and a penny in the slot made a wee bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate drop into the drawer. I knew my Dad worked at machines, so I always imagined him in front of something like the station machines!

The Kilmacolm train came from St. Enoch Station in Glasgow and ended at Prince’s Pier Station in Greenock. It had begun around 1870 and operated until 1959 when Kilmacolm became the end of the line for passengers. However goods trains and boat trains for the Clyde Steamers and the Liners still came through.  That continued until 1965. Although Dr Beeching had the line on his list of closures it carried on until 1983. Now it is the Paisley and Clyde Railway Pathway and a lovely place for a country walk.  When it first began it was said that the main traffic was commuters from the affluent village of Kilmacolm to Paisley and Glasgow. The early train was for strivers, the second, which got to the City at 9a.m. was for thrivers and the 3rd was for the Company Directors, Senior Stockbrokers etc. who were the drivers!  There was reputed to be several millionaires in the village in the Forties which was a lot more sensational than it is in present days.  The car took over from the train for many, chauffeurs included.

Another change that took place was a rearranging of Council areas. Kilmacolm used to have a Parish Council and Clerk and was linked to Paisley, the County Town. Now it seems to be linked more to Greenock. In retirement in Paisley we found ,when we no longer had the car, that there is no bus from Paisley to Kilmacolm. So our visits are few now. And our days of walking for miles are over anyway, so we are philosophic about the limitations and take pleasure in the happy days gone by.

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