Do You Remember When?

Peggy MacEachern remembers Rhubarb Rock and Parma Violets from Tommy Shaw’s...

At a time when we all spend a fair bit of time reminiscing I thought it would be good to a personal version of ‘Do you Remember when…..? Many readers will have their own versions and some younger readers will read it and say, ‘You can’t be serious man?’ But I guarantee it is as I remember it.

Do you remember when....
You were in school and weren’t allowed to talk in class or you would be kept in after 4 o’clock or worse still get the ‘strap’? Nearly everyone walked to school and when your outer clothes got wet they were dried on the fireguard round the open fire – the only source of heating in the room. Lunch consisted of two slices of bread and margarine. One slice had jam, while the other had bananas or Spam. You were told to eat your crusts as it would make your hair curly! Playtimes were spent playing hide and seek or rounders, and no one was overweight.
When you went to Bowmore School there were so many rooms you got lost (even although there were probably only ten rooms at that time) and they had this strange rule where you moved to a different room at the end of every class. You didn’t do that in your Primary School. Lunch (called dinner) there was very grand as it was a two course knife and fork affair. After dinner you went down the street and bought rhubarb rock, Tobermory Tatties and Parma Violets from Tommy Shaw’s or the Paper Shop. To get to and from Bowmore School you sat four to a seat in the bus and changed places half way so it was then the other person’s turn to be squashed as you sat on their knee. Continue reading.....Do you remember when....
Christmas Day was pretty much like any other day and certainly wasn’t a holiday. Children got presents but parents got very few, perhaps a new check cap or cigarettes for your father and an apron or slippers for your mother. You didn’t have turkey or Christmas pudding, it was a farm reared cockerel, now universally referred to as chicken (though a chicken is a little ball of yellow down that emerged from under a hen after 21 days sitting on eggs, or arrived in cardboard boxes on the mail bus having travelled from goodness knows where at only a day old). Christmas pudding was something you saw in story books and not something you had ever seen in reality. Instead you had clootie dumpling or trifle with cream from one of the many galvanised basins in the dairy if you lived on a farm. When Christmas day was past it was an eternity until the next one – not the three months it feels like now.
At New Year you were given port wine in a tiny stemmed glass along with a piece of Madeira cake or shortbread. Men drank whisky from little ‘tot’ glasses with a picture of a man in a kilt. Vodka and Coke were unheard of.

Do you remember when....
Easter was when the good weather started and you were allowed to discard the long stockings held up by elastic garters and replace them with short fawn socks and new brown lacing shoes which had to be kept polished. It was the time to start looking for birds’ nests and woe betide you if you were caught returning to the nest too often as the parent birds would abandon the nest leaving the chicks to die. Modern conservationists, take heed.

Do you remember when....
Summer holidays were six months of unbroken sunshine (or so it seemed) and you got up with the sun and to bed when it went down. You were never bored. Did you know the meaning of the word? Had you ever heard of it? You didn’t go away on holiday, unless it was a visit to aunts and uncles. Certainly not abroad - Spain and Portugal were just places you learned about in geography lessons.
During the holidays was SHOW DAY, the best day out in the whole year - for some it was their only day out. You got dressed up in brand new clothes ordered from J D Williams catalogue and men wore a suit and a collar and tie with their khaki raincoat always over their arm. It was never worn. You could buy monkeys on sticks with elastic to make their limbs work from the little man just over the bridge (in Whinpark). There was a Big Wheel but your mother wouldn’t allow you on it ‘in case you fell off and hurt yourself!’ You could buy exotic fruit like peaches and melons and you looked at the ponies with envy and longing hoping this would be the year your father would cave in to your pleadings for a pony of your own. But the answer was always the same as it had been for all the previous years you had asked – ‘No, and that’s final’. You reluctantly went home when your bus or car came for you, wishing you could stay for another while as it was just such a magical day and it felt like five years before it came round again.

Do you remember when....
Bread from Beatties and Bilsland came once a week on the cargo boat and that had to last all week. But it didn’t matter as your mother was always making girdle scones and pancakes and they were better than bread.
Messages were not something you received on your phone (what phone?). They were the groceries your mother bought in the Co and brought home in a brown leather bag or wicker basket.
Dances were not licensed and tea, cakes and sometimes ice-cream were on sale.
‘Self sufficiency’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ are ideas that are now used as if they are something new and something we should all be striving for, yet back then most people were self sufficient and used environmentally friendly ways of living so they are not recent inventions – only a new name for a past way of life quite a few of us remember well and took for granted as being the norm when we were growing up.

John McDonald of Conespie is driving the tractor which is pulling a float on Show Day.
The piper is the late Donnie Ferguson of Gorton. Does anyone know who the folk sitting in the boat are?

This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.

Tag: remember history islay life

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Thursday, 22 January 2009
Thank you Peggy for the lovely nostalgic trip to a different time!!!! I just loved your article. Mags