Friends

Looking at the class photo of our third year in school, I recall all the names except for one boy and one girl. We are all dressed in our best and looking cheerful. We had separate playgrounds, and the boys had their own pastimes just as the girls had. We were all friendly together and I don’t remember many fallings-out. Some of the time Marion Galbraith and I were pals. I remember going to her house one day down by the Big Park. Her mother wasn’t around. Marion said she knew how to make toffee and assembled sugar and butter and whatever else. We stirred it and stirred it and it just wouldn’t set! I had to go home so I didn’t find out what her Mum thought about it. Gwennie Munro had a wee wheaten Cairn Terrier called Sandy when we had Mac, a black Cairn, so we walked our dogs together. Rena Young was the comic distributor and we were friends who kept in touch for years after she went off to the US.

Sheila Campbell lived near us and we walked home together sometimes. I admired her because she had had an operation! When the class heard that she was poorly I ran home to find out what appendicitis was!. I was glad when she came back to school all better. She was a ‘chesty’ child like me. Sheila and her sister’s Great-aunt left her house to them when she died, so her parents renamed the house Marsheil and they all moved into it. It was a ‘nine days wonder’ and then forgotten.

Once Annabel got settled in school she and Marjorie (Dodo), Sheila’s wee sister, became friends right up till we left the village in 1944. Once in a while, I took them to see Shirley Temple’s latest film in Greenock. I kept them in order like a stern Nanny and we shared a double seat. However, I said we all had to give our seats to grownups when the bus was busy. I enjoyed the film as much as they did and they were right wee chatterboxes on the way home. Just recently Annabel told me that she and Dodo told their Mummies that Granny Sinclair had said they could come and stay on Friday night, so they set off with their pyjamas and toothbrushes etc. and told Granny that their Mums had said they could stay the night! This would have been when I was about 14/15  so maybe I was in Auchterarder with Elma or Aberfeldy with Mary, I have no recollection of it anyway. In the morning they opened the room window and climbed out to play in the garden at some early hour. Devious wee rascals, weren’t they?

Anna Whiteford and I were baby-minders together. Marion Laird and Nancy Lyle were farmer’s daughters. Marion lived at Faulds Farm, about 2 miles past the Toll, and Nancy was from Scart Farm in Bridge-of-Weir, so they were off home as soon as the school day was over.  We socialised at playtimes. It was Nancy who helped me to hobble into school to get my knee attended to after I fell on a sharp stone in the playground. It bled a lot but it got washed and bandaged and I was left with a bluish scar to remind me of it.

Mattie Bullen gave us one of Dinah’s puppies, and she also was the one I went with to the bathing place we called the Sawney in the Gryffe River half a mile from home.  There was a huge lorry tyre inner tube to float on. We had great fun until the day one of the boys, who thought he was being clever, swam under Matty and pulled her under the water. She was in an awful state and we got dressed and walked home and never went back.

One year I had measles and chicken pox and Mrs Gillan, who lived across from the park gates, suggested to Mum that as we were in quarantine and couldn’t mix with other children I could come and play in their garden with her Peggy who was in the class below me. She had the same ailments at the same time. We were still at the dolly and pram age so had a great time for a week or two in good weather. Also it was good that I was separated from Annabel each day. She didn’t catch either disease, although she did so later on. Afterwards, Peggy and I reverted to our own friends but we had a really happy time during our infectious period.

Mary and Margaret were sisters, Mary older and Margaret younger than me, close enough to be in the same class. I wasn’t interested in boys at this time, but coming home from Greenock one winter Saturday evening (Mum Dad and the bairns) Mary and a boy walked along past our carriage and then came in. Obviously they were looking for a respectable group to travel with. I thought it was so romantic, because he kissed her sedately and said “see you next Saturday” before leaving her with suitable companions. However, in spite of the tender moment, I still wasn’t interested in boys. Patsy was another playground-only friend as she lived out of the village a bit.

I will mention one boy. When we retired in 1994, our daughters gave us a very generous and unexpected gift – they funded a trip to Australia to stay with John’s middle sister Elspeth and her husband, Ian. We went in March/April 1995 and had a wonderful time. Before this, my sister Annabel asked if we could go to visit the brother of her mother-in-law’s friend who had emigrated to Brisbane after the War. He was suffering from terminal cancer. Elspeth found their phone number and arranged to take us there and leave us for an hour or two. We enjoyed talking with the couple and, when they heard from where we came, he said another Scot had come out with him called Carson. He phoned and asked Carson and his wife to come over and meet someone from the Old Country. It was quite amazing really. It was David Carson from my class and we recognised each other instantly! It truly is a small world. We were also able to speak on the phone to Annabel’s bridesmaid who lived in Ferntree Gully in Victoria. But best of all was being with Elspeth and Ian and enjoying their company on the journeys we made. It was the holiday of a lifetime.

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