NEWSLETTER No 29 October 1999
US AND WESTMINSTER ABBEY
There we were, in the Times of London. The story of our Evacuees' Reunion right beside the coverage of the big Evacuees' Reunion in Westminster Abbey on September 3. Indeed, the coverage of our event filled almost as much space as that at the Abbey. "Evacuees Go Back in Time" it was headed, and described the vintage bus chugging into the village of Dunning. "The group of Scottish former child evacuees watched--some with tears in their eyes--as the group of present-day Haghill pupils played out the billeting to homes and farms in the almost-unaltered school playground. One child, carrying an authentic suitcase with a tin mug, pyjamas, sweater and toothbrush, reminded them of how they had cried at the sudden upheaval in their lives." Our Evacuees' Reunion was evidently the only one being held on September 3 except for the big one at Westminster Abbey. A few other reunions are still being held in other parts of England, but no others inScotland, so far as we know. Our Dunning Reunion also received excellent coverage in seven Scottish dailies and on four television outlets, plus further stories in bi-weekly papers. Most of the articles also mentioned our other major and related accomplishment of the summer, the adventurous publication of a full-length and timely book "Here Come the Glasgow Keelies!" More details inside.
60 YEARS ON
Here's a report on the Evacuees' Reunion from our Society chair Elizabeth Fletcher
The great day dawned, fine and sunny, and two years' work and planning came to frution on Friday 3rd September, when the Dunning Parish Historical Society marked the 60th anniversary of the evacuation of the children from Haghill Primary School in Glasgow to live with families in Dunning.
The children arrived at Dunning Primary School in a vintage bus (a 1936 Leyland Tiger) courtesy of Jim Docherty of Midland Docherty Bus Lines, Auchterarder, to be met by ex-evacuees, villagers, Dunning school children--and lots of MEDIA!
The somewhat bemused children were led into the school playground where a mock re-enactment of billeting of the children took place. The day continued with a meeting in the old kirk of St. Serf's, when some of the evacuees told the children from both Haghill and Dunning schools what they had felt and remembered of that fateful day 60 years ago.
Haghill School presented the Society with a beautiful embroidered sampler to mark the occasion, and an evacuee, Malcolm Picken, presented a selection of coins and notes from the war years to the Society and a war year penny to each of the Haghill children.
After lunch various evacuees took the children through the village on a "stroll down memory lane" before the children left.
The day concluded with an evening reception in the village hall, followed by a dance led by Ron Spiers and the Tayside Big Band, when evacuees and villagers danced the night away to the music of the forties.
It was a day of emotion, a day of nostalgia, a day for renewing old friendships and the making of new ones and, perhaps, even in its own small way, an historical day for a Society dedicated to keeping alive and cherishing just such memories.
"HERE COME THE GLASGOW KEELIES!"
The striking cover photo on the Society's new book came to us from Malcolm Picken, a Dunning evacuee who was later to marry Aline Simpson, who is the wee girl seen at the bottom of the picture. The photo was taken at Forgandenny Station on September 2, 1939, by A.C. Cowper, whose photographic studio was on South Methven Street, Perth. It is the closest we could get to a representation of the scene next day, September 3/39, at nearby Dunning Station. We are grateful both to Malcolm for providing the only known copy of the picture and to the present copyright holders, Louis Flood, Photographers, Perth, for permission to use the image.
It has not been easy finding the right combination of pictures and words for the Society's ambitious new publication "Here Come the Glasgow Keelies!" If it took two years to plan the Evacuees' Reunion, it has taken some six years to collect the book material.
What's the book about? The back cover describes it accurately: "A Scottish Slant on World War II Evacuees" and goes on to say "On September 3, 1939, almost 300 evacuees descended on the Perthshire village of Dunning (population about 1,000).
"This book gathers firsthand recollections by over fifty participants in this great early drama of World War II, the mass evacuation of children to the countryside.
"It focuses largely on one isolated Scottish community, and includes the voices of evacuees, village residents, teachers, an evacuee mother and private evacuees as well as the stories of several evacuees sent elsewhere who eventually came to live in Dunning."
The idea for the book sprang, as did the idea for the Reunion of 1994, from a video programme which was produced by the Society and which featured ex-evacuees Lily King and Les McColl and their spouses re-tracing that fateful 1939 journey from Haghill School to Dunning
Starting with the interviews for that programme, Lorne Wallace started collecting recorded memories from other evacuees. The project really took off during the September 1994 Reunion, and much more material was added the following year when the evacuees arranged for a special event to thank the village for receiving them, and presented Dunning with a plaque which is now a feature of the kirkyard wall facing Tron Square.
Some of the memories collected were written by the evacuees, but most preferred to be interviewed on video or audio tape. Because film was unavailable for personal use during the war, it was extremely difficult to find the illustrations to go with the stories which people told.
Eventually a happy combination of artwork and black and white photos was found. Albie Sinclair, a leading member of the Society from its outset, donated precious time from his holidays--he's an art teacher at Denny High School--to create a set of seven lino-cuts. Ken Laing, another Society stalwart, created three maps to illustrate the text. And dozens of evacuees and villagers dug through their files to find appropriate photos.
A lino-cut from "Here Come the Glasgow Keelies!" by Albie Sincliair
The book was published on Tuesday, September 7. The publishers, (that's us, the Dunning Parish Historical Society) are grateful that the printers Nevisprint, of Fort William, were able to do the same fine and fast job on the book as they had earlier done with our millennium calendar. So this year the Society can provide two more great Dunning gifts, the book and the calendar. We think they're both good value for money, and something of which everyone in the Society should be proud to have helped produce.
DUNNING AND THE RAILWAY
Last February during our Members' Night, Andrew Taylor and his mother Betty gave us a dual presentation about Dunning's railway history. Here first is the result of Andrew's research into the early days of the railway and Dunning.
The railway opened to Dunning on the 22nd of May 1848. It was the Scottish Central Railway and it ran from Greenhill in Stirlingshire to Perth. Then in August it was joined onto the Caledonian railway at Castlecary near where the viaduct goes over the main Stirling to Glasgow road today and so provided a continuous rail link from Perth to London.
It was built as an offshoot of the great "Railway Mania" at this time. The first line to reach Perth was the Dundee to Barnhill line the year before but between May and September 1848 Perth became a major railway junction with five lines including three trunk lines, one of which was the Scottish Central.
Every line was a separate company. A group of promoters would put together a proposal for a line including surveys and costings. Shareholders and investors would come on board and each line then had to be passed by an Act of Parliament.
There was no shortage of investment money, for railways had proved a very good investment in England. They had grown from the Industrial Revolution and city to city passenger traffic had already been successful on lines like the Manchester to Liverpool. On the back of this a lot of English money came up here. Investments abroad were not all that good. There was political unrest in Europe, some American states had reneged on their debts and the banks themselves were in need of reform. Railways were paying large dividends and were seen as a sure thing. Scotland was now the frontier for development.
The papers, like the Perthshire Courier which at this time was a broadsheet rather like a cross between the Dundee Courier and the Telegraph of today, carried separate columns of railway news. Every week new extension plans and bills were going through Parliament. There was a separate stock market just for railway shares.
Perth became the headquarters of the Scottish Central Railway shareholders. As it developed, there were general meetings to work out the best deals from ticket pricing and potential links with other lines, especially those through to England. The railway shareholders at that time tended to take a very active hands-on role in the company.
There was no Dunning correspondent to give a real local flavour but there must have been intense local interest.
To build the line from Stirlingshire to Perth after Parliamentary approval took only two and a half years. It was very labour intensive and some averages suggest that a railway navvy shifted 20 tons of earth a day.
The first impact the railway made was the arrival of the navvies in the district. They were nostly Irish, English and Highlanders. The Highlanders were often people who had always come down to work on farms at harvest time and there were some holdups to the railway work when they went off to that again. Obviously they preferred that to the dirty and dangerous work on the railway.
There were different contractors for each section and they took on local labour and suppliers as well. Dunning had the unfortunate case of the only local boy in the valley being killed. In May 1847, a year before the official opening, James Christie, who was 16, fell between a loaded wagon and the line while the embankment was being built on Westburn farm. He was taken to Broadslap farmhouse and medical assistance was called by horse from both Dunning and Auchterarder. His leg was amputated in what is now John Kirk's house at Broadslap but next day he died.
Apart from employment the big local effect was the sheer number of workers passing through. In Blackford this caused some fear and there was friction and violence in the streets between locals and navvies. There is no record of that here in Dunning, except maybe the one murder. Just before Christmas 1847 on the 22nd, an English railway labourer was found dead with head injuries and the newspaper said that "various rumours are afloat as to the manner in which the unfortunate man came by his death. Some asserting he had accidentally fallen down a stair while others were of the opinion there was foul play...The body was examined and an investigation made into the circumstances by the proper authorities but nothing was elicited to implicate anyone." In other words nothing was proved but there were some hints of frontier town social life. What was interesting was the notable size of the funeral attended not only by workmates but "a large concourse" of local people. That could have been bad consciences but I like to think that it shows the Dunning people took these strangers into the community better than was the case elsewhere.
You get a feel for what some of the guys and their families felt about the work from a poignant little inscription in the old church graveyard "Erected by Elizabeth White in memory of her husband Mr. George White, Railway Inspector". He must have been a track inspector engineer because he "departed this life in Dunning on 26th February 1847 in the 52nd year of his age" before the line was complete. "Hail passenger pray look on here and for a stranger drop a tear who was cut off by death's strong hand and buried here in a strange land".
The Dunning section of railway was quoted by the engineers as being the gateway to the Earn valley. It was where the gradient eased off and the engineering problems were less than they had been further west.
What the railway represented to the people was an almost superstitious belief in what it could do for a community. The best local illustration is maybe the mass meeting in Crieff in 1847 to protest to the SCR board about delays to the Crieff branch which had been part of the Parliamentary approval for the line to Perth.
Dunning was the enemy or rather what was called the Dunning line, a proposal to run the Crieff line east past Innerpeffray and along the foot of Gask Ridge to join the line near Chapelbank.
Landowner objections were to kill off this option in the end but the mass meeting--it was truly a mass meeting of ordinary townsfolk--and the passion of the long speeches which were reported in the papers show the depth of local feeling on railways. They needed it urgently. Everybody worthwhile would otherwise leave town and Crieff would miss the chance of becoming a world class economic centre. Even the fact of adding a few miles to go East instead of West to Gleneagles and on to the industrial centres around Glasgow would be a disaster which would damage freight and hold back all chance of development for Crieff.
It took until 1856 for the Crieff branch to actually function. By this time the main line was a great success and providing a lot of local employment directly, and indirectly for carriers and firms providing support services.
In another odd way, however, Dunning men featured in what were probably the first railway redundancies. Two station staff resigned and joined Greenloaning staff to go to Crieff, perhaps for better money or even for the better uniforms that the Crieff railway company had taken lengthy deliberations to specify. Whatever, when they got there the line was not ready to open after all. A lot of the delays were caused by the engineer Thomas Bouch and his prima donna ways. He was to fall later along with his creation, the Tay Bridge. But meanwhile the Crieff staff were paid off and were unable to get back their old jobs. (When it did open finally none of the local professional railway men would take further risks with employment on the Crieff line and the first staff were a motley crew including the chief warden of Perth Prison).
The indirect impact of the railway on the Dunning district was huge. In some ways it was not a very sophisticated society. There was a famous railway folk-song of the period based on the true story of a man who turned up at the Glencarse station and sat around expecting the platform and buildings to do the moving along the line. Well, ok, he was a Dundee tailor.
But in the month the railway opened, a family of four was wiped out by a fever within 48 hours at Blaeberry Toll. The adverts in the paper were all for horse coaches, shooting at Upper Coull was being advertised on the basis you could get back to Stirling in a day trip, and ploughmen would disappear to Fife leaving offspring and never be seen again. Suddenly London is only 15 hours away. Smithfield market was reachable and the early cattle trains from the Earn valley were a great success. Passenger travel was revolutionised in a way even greater than jumbo jets taking people round the world now.
The census studies the Society is undertaking might show the population changes with people coming in for railway work. Certainly at this time the weaving trade was declining due to the other side of the Industrial Revolution beinging automation to northern areas of England and there is some proof the railway compensated by boosting new markets for produce and jobs.
Although it was rural, it is wrong to overstate the simple nature of the lifestyle, however. In the month after the railway opened there was an advert for a Dunning schoolmaster who had to be able to teach Latin, Greek, French and book keeping: not bad for a village school but the advert spoiled it by giving a guarantee that the population would remain dense.
So the line was a success. It could hardly fail when it provided a main corridor and quickly became connected to the lines in the West and to England. Passengers liked it from the first. Each new line was given a kind of critique in the press rather like a new restaurant opening today. It was held to be exceptionally smooth "with no oscillations or jolting". What sold it was the Dunning stretch "west from the Demesne of Dupplin, the delightful grounds on either side of the course of the Earn and the vista of the principal features of the Ochil range on the left".
Many of the branch lines were economically fragile. The Almond Valley company which ran the line from Crieff to Methven and whose history has been well documented with stories of eccentricity was killed off by one bad potato crop hitting the freight trade in 1863. It sold out to the Scottish NorthEastern company to which it connected near Inveralmond on the line north from Perth. The Scottish Central took over the Crieff line and a month later in 1865 the big west coast company, the Caledonian, took over the SCR. The Caley dominated the centre of Scotland until it too was taken over by the London Midland Scottish in 1923.
It was the Caley that my grandfather Andrew Hutchison joined in the period just before World War I.
Andrew H.W. Taylor
And, as at Members' Night, the story is taken up by Andrew's mother Betty (Hutchison) Taylor.
My father was a butcher by trade, but prior to the first World War, about 1912 or 13, he joined the railway at Dunning station. During the war he served with the Royal Engineers, was wounded at Vimy Ridge and at the end of the war returned to Dunning, transferring later to Forteviot. He worked for 44 years on the railway and during that time his nickname was the Butcher.
The railway in those days was a network of lengths or sections. Each section employed five men. The Dunning length ran from Broadslap to Broomhill Bridge and the Forteviot length ran from Broomhill Bridge to Broombarns.
Maintenance of the line was the work. Inspection of the whole length was carried out once every day, seven days a week. Sunday inspections were carried out on a rota basis. During winter snowstorms, the men had to climb the signals to clear the arms and keep points clear. In foggy weather, when signals were obliterated, detonators had to be clamped on the line at the distant signals to warn drivers. I should mention at the other extreme in very warm weather, extra inspections were carried out in case there was an expansion of rails.
Traffic on the line was very busy in those days. Everything and everybody in this area travelled by rail, and so a good state of repair was essential. Another duty, like the ones mentioned, carried out in any 24 hours was when the Royal train passed. Every overhead bridge and crossing was manned.
Relays were done by the local men and a squad came from Perth to augment the workforce. Rails, sleepers, slag etc., everything had to be manhandled. Nowadays a huge machine lays in one operation the whole section to be relayed, rather like joining up a toy railway.
Dunning station had houses for railway staff on the left hand side of the brae and on the right was the Booking Office with the stationmaster's house attached and a waiting area for westbound passengers. A footbridge spanned the line and a waiting room for Perth passengers in a wooden building. Also at the end of the platform there was the signal box.
The station was always busy. Farmers sent potatoes, grain and turnips by train to the cities and livestock to market. Chapelbank sent huge churns of milk for distribution. Bull calves were also sent from Chapelbank, in canvas bindings, for veal.
To the west of the station was the loading bay for all goods going out and coming in. Coal for the village was also off loaded and transported to Dunning.
As mentioned already, everyone travelled by train, first to school and then to work. Peter Stevens, who had the garage in Dunning, purchased a bus which left from the corner of Station Road. She set off at 10 to 8 each morning, peched up Fairweather's Brae, coasted down through Mare Wood, round Masterfield corner, down McNaughton's brae and peched her way up the brae to the station. It was not unusual for Charlie Robertson to be standing on the bridge tearing his hair out. The train would be sitting in the station and of course as pupils we didn't break any records getting out of the bus, crossing the bridge and into the train. After all we were going to school. We called the bus Wheeziana and she was well named.
It was the LMS line through this way. Just this side of the tunnel at Perth, the line branches through Bridge of Earn. That was the LNER line to Edinburgh. The livery in those days for the LMS was maroon and gold, and the LNER was green and gold.
What happened on the "wee fourie" when the lights went out still remains under the Official Secrets Act.
The actual tunnel was hit by a bomb during World War II. It fell quite near to one of the air shafts, probably meant for the marshalling yards which were on the Perth side at Friarton (partly occupied by Tesco now). The air shafts can still be seen on the hill behind the cottages at Craigend. With no smoke from passing trains now, though, they are not so distinct.
During the war all kinds of rail traffic passed through this area. At Forteviot an ammunition train was set on fire: some problem with an axle on one of the wagons. The train was shunted into the now non-existent siding, and the men got the fire out quickly. A letter of commendation was received from the War Department.
It was said of one stationmaster at Forteviot, a keen entrant to all Flower shows, that his garden stretched from the tunnel to Gleneagles. He had a very wide scope for selection for his entries.
You can see the railway and station played a vital part in the life of the village, despite the two mile distance.
A little anecdote to finish. A young soldier from the Dragon was reluctant to go back after leave, so his mother walked with him to Dunning station. She put him on the train and returned to the Dragon, only to find him sitting in the house. He had got off the train in Forteviot and beat her back to the house.
Andrew and I hope we have given you some insight into the life of the village when the railway was an important part of all our lives.
Betty Taylor, Lower Granco, Dunning
TATTIE HOLIDAYS, NEW BRUNSWICK
See if this rings a bell with you. It's an article by Monique Dull of Fredericton, New Brunswick, in the Globe and Mail newspaper one year ago. It describes the disappearance of what we call "the tattie holidays" and what New Brunswickers have known as the "potato break:.
In western New Brunswick, the early mornings are already getting cold and dark, but Heather McIsaac, 15, and her younger siblings are up at 6. They have to be in the fields by 7 because, for the next two weeks and two days, they will be picking potatoes instead of going to school.
For 40 years, children in New Brunswick's so-called potato belt, the fertile strip along the Maine border that is home to the McCain frozen-food empire, have followed an idiosycratic schedule. School District 13 resumes in August so that students can be free to help bring in the harvest.
But the tradition is coming to a close. Next year (1999), the schools will follow the same schedule as the rest of the province. Students will be able to obtain a work permit and keep picking, but afterward, they will have to catch up on their own.
Depending on perspective, the end of "potato break" signals a victory for consistent education, the demise of rural tradition, or a threat to small farmers.
For Heather McIsaac, "potato break" is not a vacation but heavy work that has its rewards. "I make more than $300 over two weeks," she calculated. "We put some aside and we spend the rest on clothes and Christmas presents. I hate having to get money from my parents to supposedly buy 'gifts' for them."
Last year, the McIsaacs picked potatoes for their uncle who farms 400 acres. They were allotted a section of the field and kept pace with a digging machine that brought the mature crop to the surface. The 50 youngsters employed by their uncle were paid 95 cents for each bushel basket filled.
A potato-picking day starts at 7 a.m. except in cases of frost, when a farmer might postpone harvesting until the ground is soft enough for digging. "At midday, we have a lunch break, which means sandwiches in the fields, and we use the washroom, which is the woods. We're done by 5 at night," Heather said, "but it's really bad on your back. Then you go home and basically go to bed."
According to potato-belt surveys, the proportion of spud kids has dropped from a high of 70 per cent of the school population in the 1950s to around 30 per cent now. Such figures prompted non-spud parents to argue for an end to the practice of suspending classes during the harvest. Eventually, a petition pressured the school district into complying.
Farmers are not happy to see the potato break disappear. One argued that while larger farms can invest in $100,000 mechanical harvesters, small farmers will be stretched beyond their limit without a supply of small fry.
"This effort at homogenizing the area to match the more urbanized areas of the province wipes out the last traces of local culture," he said. "I'd like kids to grow up in an area where people see how important farmers are. We keep trying to homogenize everything, make everything antiseptic and sanitized, as if potatoes grow from the potato tree. We do ourselves a disservice as a society by eliminating traces of our own farming economy."
GIFTS FROM THE SOCIETY
Our beautiful DUNNING OLD & NEW millenium calendars, £4.95 with mailing folder.
Please phone the Dunning post office 01764 684 213 or send cheque to D.P.H.S., Old Schoolhouse, Newton of Pitcairns, Dunning PH2 0SL
The Ruins and the Nave, Dunkeld Cathedral - Pencil sketch by Ken Laing
LET'S NOT FORGET
The Society and its members are so enthusiastically involved in planning the next event coming up that often there doesn't seem time to stop and savour some of the experiences which we have enjoyed together recently.
So, inspired by the Ken Laing sketch opposite, let's recall for a moment the stimulating visit this spring to our sister society in Dunkeld.. Then there was the great combination coach trip to the new Museum of Scotland and to Rosslyn Chapel.. And everyone who was there at Ian Philip's place will remember with pleasure what may have been our last Leadketty barn dance, with many young and old Dunningites taking part. Savour away!
We've had an avalanche of highly appreciate letters about the Evacuees Reunion, and all of them we'll have to save for a later newsletter. Let's just leave it to Liz to sum up:
"No man is an island unto himself" and this was never more true than the events of 3rd September. So many people in so many ways did so very much to make the day such a huge success.
The vintage bus from Jim Docherty, the Tayside Big Band, flowers for the church, the food prepared for everyone who took part, implements for the bar, stage flats for the band, the list goes on and on.
May it suffice to say a heartfelt huge thank you to everyone, and you all know yourselves who you are, who contributed in any way to make the day so memorable.
George Boardman has asked me to express the thanks of the evacuees to the Society for making the day so successful, but I think all of us who were there knew we were taking part in something special, which will become a cherished memory to us all.
---D.P.H.S. chair, Elizabeth Fletcher
THE DPHS 1999/00 AUTUMN/WINTER PROGRAMME
Thursday, October 7, 7:30 pm. Village Hall. "Do you Remember...?" Joan Macintosh of Auchterarder, the author of two photographic books about the Lang Toon, tells us of her latest project, an oral history. It promises to be a lively and witty evening.
Saturday, November 6, 10 am-3 pm. Village Hall. Our now traditional and popular combination of a coffee morning and an historic exhibit with items loaned by members. This year's appetising theme: Kitchens and Cooking. We need items for the exhibition--please call Liz Fletcher at the post office, 01764 684 213.
Thursday, November 25, 7:30 pm, Village Hall. "Boags, Bats and the Flatworm Menace" Member Brian Boag is a Scottish Crop Research scientist with an unusual perspective on Dunning: as holiday visitor, as local bat conservationist, and as expert on the spreading New Zealand flatworm (yes, it's in Dunning!)
Thursday, January 20, 2000! Village Hall, 7.00 pm What could be more fitting for our first meeting of the millenium than a celebration of Scotland's great bard! This will be a traditional Burns dinner, with haggis, neeps, tatties, and glorious music and words from some of our stage-talented members.
Wednesday, February 16, Village Hall, 7:30 pm. Whisky! Iain Stothard is a Society member associated with a couple of historically notable names: his home of Garvock, and his job with Highland Distillers, makers of Famous Grouse. Iain talks about whisky. Please note this is the one Wednesday meeting we have each season to accommodate people who can't make Thursdays.
Thursday, March 16, Village Hall, 7:30 pm. "History and Natural History" Another large-screen video night, featuring locally made programmes, including the David Doig/Lorne Wallace collaboration Wildlife in a Village Garden.
Coming up: an April coach trip (still at the magical mystery tour stage), our agm with Ian Philip telling us about the history of his home patch, Leadketty, "More than just a place to barndance!" and lots more events to come.:
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