The burn was just about a hundred yards past the Toll. In our time it was kept running freely (by Grandaddy and his helpers) and the bank and grassy area beside the road was well looked after. There was lots of interest there to keep us busy. There were shoals of minnows at times and some sticklebacks, water snails, water boatman – a sort of fly that skimmed along the surface of the water. We could find stick insects lying on the bottom on the gravel. They were the larvae of caddis-flies and could move about. Early on, my Dad showed me how to catch minnows. We had a jam-jar with string tied round the top. It was laid in the water with a piece of bread inside and quite often we caught one. Then we lifted the jar out by the string and could have a close up view of our wee fish swimming, then it went back home to the water. Later we bought a fish bowl and had a couple of minnows which we fed from a packet of ants eggs, until I tried for a third one and it was a stickleback, which was bigger and unfortunately it ate the others. I was glad I didn’t see it happen. Annabel was just as keen on the burn as I was and we spent a lot of time there. History was repeated and she also had fish in the bowl! We all liked watercress which we only knew then as a wild plant and the fast flowing burn had a lot. It was small-leaved unlike the kind the supermarkets have these days. We often took some home.
Some years later we stayed at Port Bannatyne in the Isle of Bute along with Auntie Annie. Dad and Uncle Bob came at the weekend, then had to go back home for work as they only had one week off. They came again the next weekend and we had a few more days. The weather was warm and sunny in my memory! The sandy beaches were lovely especially at Ettrick Bay. There was a special tram service from Port B. through a scenic country route and I don’t think there was any road. It was a very beautiful bay then and even when the tide was in the water was still shallow for a good distance out and was ideal for children. We all paddled and the water was clean and clear and all round our feet were very tiny fish. Annabel tried to catch them but they were too fast. They were either plaice or flounders and looked like small minnows. I was amazed to be told that they change as they get older and somehow their eyes move round their heads and they become flat and live on the bottom of the sea. Dad helped us to build castles and there were plenty cockle shells to decorate them. He also bought us a fishing rod and we sat on the slipway taking turns at dangling it in the water. We actually caught one about three inches long and were panic struck till Dad came and released it back to the water! One day we all went for a sail in a motor-cruiser which had come into Port B. and belonged to two of Dad’s workmates. It was very enjoyable but, as I said elsewhere health and safety hadn’t been invented, and there wasn’t a life jacket to be seen. I was perched on top of the cabin with the girl friends! We stayed in a flat on the main street which was very handy for the pier, shops etc. It was a good holiday but we were quite happy when we got on the steamer to sail home to Greenock and onwards to Kilmacolm.
It was exciting to go to new places, but as Granny always said: East, west, hame’s best. While Grandad had a Highland lilt, Granny spoke Lowland Scots and used words that puzzled me when I was wee. She would carry something in her oxter (under her arm), ask for just a wee tate (sic) of milk in her tea (small amount), someone ill or in trouble was a pare cratur (poor creature), or she might say: Aye, it’s a sair fecht. (Yes, life’s a sore fight.) Eyes were een, the big chest the linen was in was the kist. To ask a question was to speir and to knock something over was to cowp it. She would say dinnae fash yerself to someone getting worked up about something, and lots more lost in the depths of my memory!