NEWSLETTER No 8 JULY 1994
THE EVACUEES' SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
The eyes of the media will be on Dunning next September 2 and 3 when the Society sponsors a first ever Evacuees' Reunion. It will be 55 years since World War II was declared and 300 city children were suddenly evacuated here and billeted in local homes. Probably only 20 to 30 of the surviving evacuees, plus spouses, will be attending and we're asking members and other villagers to consider opening their homes and their hearts to these visitors for a night or two, just as Dunning took in these evacuees 55 years ago.
The event will start on Friday when, for the cameras and the schoolchildren, the evacuees will be lined up in the school playground to meet their hosts. The visitors will then go to local schools to tell pupils of their wartime experiences and in the evening will meet at the School with Historical Society members. Saturday will be taken up with nostalgic tours of the village and an evening Big Band dance at the Hall to which all the village is invited. If you'd be prepared to provide a bed for an ex-evacuee, would you please contact Nancy Hurry at 684 385 or Rita Laing 684 484.
MUSEUM OF MEMORIES: YOU'RE INVITED TO LEND ITEMS AND TO ATTEND A JULY 1-12 MUSEUM OF WORKPLACE MEMORIES AT THE SCOUT HUT. DETAILS ON BACK PAGE. CONTACTS KEN LAING 684 598 DAVID DOIG 684 321, SHEENA PROFF 684 550.
LETTER FROM DUNOON
I read Newsletter No. 7 with great interest, particularly about my late grandfather James Hepburn's cows and the reminiscences of a former evacuee, coming under that category myself. I vaguely recollect my grandfather, an old gentleman with a white beard, a widower by that time who used to play me tunes on his violin. The byre in which he kept his cows after their repast in the cow park down the Perth Road, is still there in Upper Granco Street, although latterly my own father used it as a garage for his car when we were on holiday in the village. My Father used to keep hens and grow vegetables on ground at the side of the Burn at the bottom of Lower Granco Street opposite Angus Isdale's house. The hen house was built on stilts, with round metal discs to keep the rats from getting at the hens at night. My brother and I also had a spell as evacuees to the village; we had been born there but had moved away. My brother Donald (now resident in Toronto) was domiciled with our Uncle David Hepburn up the'Dragon' and I went to Boghall Farm on the road to Path of Condie and a considerable walk from the village school.
My brother complained that I had all the animals on the farm and he had only "an old blind dog" (my Aunt Rate's terrier was by this time blind) and my cousin Albert 'Paddy' Whyte rectified this matter somewhat by re-locating my pet hedgehog from the Farm to Burnside. It was many years later before I found out what had happened to this hedgehog.....
As Ron Freeland said, school lessons were somewhat irregular due to the influx of evacuees, which gave us more time of course to 'guddle' for trout at the quarry green, bathe in 'the Polly' or just play in the Den often as far up as the Tory Brig' passing 'Jenny's Gush' on the way. Of course the 'sandy hole' in the public park on the Dunnock was very popular with us and visitors too...
My uncle David Hepburn was a man of many talents, an accomplished 'booler', Sunday School Superintendent and local correspondent for the PA and SRWS. I will be eternally grateful to him for his regular letters of encouragement to me many years later during a year I spent in Switzerland with Tuberculosis from which I eventually recovered.
REMINISCENCES OF A DUNNING EVACUEE: PART THREE
(Last of 3 articles by Ron Freeland, Culloden, recalling when he, his mother and sisters were evacuees in Dunning)
There was great excitement in the village one Sunday as a troop of gunners of the Royal Artillery, complete with a battery of six 26-pounder anti-tank guns, limbers of ammunition and other vehicles rolled in and took up residence in the Glebe of the Rev. McKinnon's manse. The remaining evacuees (many had returned home to Glasgow by this time) and village children soon made friends with the soldiers. Over the next year or two these lads became part of the village scene and were invited into many homes, where friendships blossomed.
A regular feature of village life was the Friday or Saturday evening concert often held in the town hall. These were very well attended by soldiers and villagers and there was rarely a lack of volunteers willing to 'do a turn' of singing, dancing, sketches or monologues. One performer always in great demand was my sister Margaret who, although only 11 or 12 years of age, was a 'seasoned trouper', having appeared with a concert party back home in Glasgow. At the end of these concerts the hall was cleared of benches and chairs and the grown-ups would then enjoy themselves dancing on into the wee hours, music being supplied by a small local band led by accordionist Bob Malcolm.
Our soldier friends' contribution to village life during the 18 or so months of their stay in Dunning was greatly appreciated and it was indeed a sad day when orders came for them to move out.
I believe the company went to join the Eighth Army under Montgomery in the desert campaigns of North Africa. These lads were however, by no means, the only military presence to be found in the village during the war. A large hutted camp up at Cask housed hundreds of Polish soldiers, many of whom found their way over to attend dances and concerts in our village hall. I should imagine that a number of the local girls were captivated by the many handsome Polish lads whose manners always seemed impeccable. Indeed my pal's sister, Maidie Scott, was one of those who took the plunge, marrying Lee, a handsome officer and a true gentleman. 1 trust they had a long happy life together. One incident I recall was the day the great Polish hero General Sikorski visited Gask on a tour of inspection. There was great excitement among the troops as his plane touched down (at that time there was an airstrip near the camp) and they were very proud to tell us all about it next day.
Like all small communities Dunning had her share of characters, without whom life in war-time would have been much bleaker. One of these was "Dam' dicht", the village's first air raid warden. This was old Charlie Laing who, on the approach of enemy raiders, was on his bicycle rattling around in the dark before the wail of the warning siren had died away. It was a case of "pity help anyone whose blackout was not 100%". Anyone showing a chink of light had Charlie knocking loudly on the door shouting (through an unfortunate speech impediment) "Pit oot dat dam' dicht!" He was certainly a most conscientious warden, as well as being a much respected figure in the village.
Another character, greatly loved, especially among the evacuees, was "Auntie Belie". Miss Flockhart owned the confectioner's shop and tea-room next to Lewis Angus the butcher. She was one of the hardy souls who had taken in six evacuees and also invited many of us to visit her as often as we liked. On reflection, I've no doubt we ah proved to be a welcome boost to her sales of sweets and lemonade but to us she was a larger than life figure who generated love and affection. She swept many a "puir wee mite" (her words) up to her ample bosom for a cuddle. Auntie Belie also took care of her bed-ridden sister, Maggie, and we often wondered how she managed to cope with such a houseful.
From time to time her two sons, twins John and Waiter, who were valets to the 'gentry' in London would return on holiday. On many occasions they would gather together as many evacuees as they could muster and take us all up to the Park for sports and games. The two of them were tireless in their efforts to keep us amused and we children always looked forward to their appearance in Dunning.
Wattie Crowe was also a well-kent figure as he cycled around the district delivering letters or telegrams, the contents of which I'm sure must often have dispensed great joy but sometimes abject sorrow. I'll always remember his reply to a pretty young miss who called as he cycled past "Any letters for me, Wattie?" "Sorry dear, nothing today, but had I known you were expecting one I would've written it myself!"
Many a fine day during the summer holidays found Wilfred James and me crawling through the undergrowth hunting rabbits up in the extensive grounds of Keltie Castle. Wilf and his mother came from England to live with his grandfather after the war broke out. The old man was the ghillie (or gamekeeper) on the estate, and had been for many years. He was a venerable old gentleman about six feet tall and sported a fairly long white beard and moustache. Complete with deerstalker hat, Norfolk tweeds and plus-fours, he could have passed as the brother of George Bernard Shaw! I remember well the day he showed me through the Armoury and seeing the rows of rifles, fowling-pieces, shotguns etc. He owned even a large elephant-gun! The old man regaled us with tales of bygone days when he would take parties of the 'gentry' out on the hills after deer, pheasants, grouse etc. He told us of a certain little girl who often came up from the South during the summer holidays with members of her family and who stayed in Keltie Castle. These were the Bowes-Lyons and the little girl of course was one day to become our Queen (now the Queen Mother).
With regards to the aristocracy, I wonder how many of the older villagers remember the amusing sight of the Honourable Cecily Polio on some occasions pulling along behind her through the village a little home-made, four-wheeled "bogey" on her way to the grocer or butcher to uplift the weekly rations.
On Monday evening, the 2nd March, 1942, 1744 (Auchterarder) Flight of the Air Training Corps gained two more recruits in the persons of Gordon (Bud) Sharpies and myself. Although the age of admission was 15 years, we were both accepted a few months short of that. One of the CO's greatest ambitions was to form a pipe-band and Gordon and I enrolled as drummers. Gordon chose the tenor drum while my choice was the side or snare drum. In time my other pals Jimmy Scott and Wilf James became proficient pipers in the ATC band. Many an evening I spent accompanying Jimmy with my drum down by the burnside (far enough away from habitation so no-one could complain!) We had built up quite a repertoire of tunes by the time Jimmy and I proudly played through the streets of Dunning a few years hence on VE-Day, 8th May, 1945 when Germany capitulated. My many happy memories of the ATC culminated in the honour of being chosen to represent 1744 Flight at the Victory March Past in Hyde Park, London, in June 1945. The salute was taken by HM King George VI.
My pipe-band tuition stood me in good stead when 1 was asked by Bob Malcolm to join his dance-band as its drummer. We played for dances in Dunning hall, also at Auchterarder, Gask, Forteviot and Forgandenny. For an evening's work, usually from 7.30pm till 2am we were paid the sum of fl each. This was really good money considering that as a 16-year-old, I was at that time earning 15/- for a full week's work as a grocer. This dance-band fee, however, was well-earned when one considers we had no motor transport and had to rely on cycling to reach the various venues. This with our instruments strapped to our backs!
Early in 1943 Gordon Sharpies and I were approached by Tom Reid, the Head Observer of the Royal Observer Corps unit based in Dunning, asking us if we would like to enrol. He had been finding some difficulty with recruitment as most of the eligible males in the village were already members of the Home Guard. Bud and I were soon full members of the ROC. We were still under 15, possibly the youngest members of the Corps in Scotland, if not the UK. Our'watch' involved the plotting of all aircraft both enemy and friendly which entered our sector tan area covering 10 miles radius from our post). This we did from our little listening-post situated on a hillock in a field up at Bob Mailer's Findony Farm. Enclosed in a small wooden stockade which housed a hut for resting when off-duty and an outside platform on which the sighting instrument was manned throughout 14 hours, each observer did 6-hour shifts working in pairs and sharing the duties equally among them. Gordon and I and the dozen or so other observers spent many a bitterly cold hour exposed to all weathers up at Post H2 ("How Two") during the next two years but of course we felt we were "doing our bit" in the war effort and besides we were keen on aeroplanes. Although we plotted a fair number of night raids I only once saw a "bandit" in daylight. This was on a clear summer evening when a twin-engined Junker Ju 188 flew right over us and across the village at a height of less than 100 feet. Obviously on a reconnaissance mission, he knew by flying so low he would be unable to be picked up by radar. I wonder if he made it home?
I should like to add a few glimpses of various 'happenings' which may trigger off memories for older Dunning friends. For instance, that Sunday which saw our attempts to repel The Invasion of Dunning'. This was around the summer of '42 when our local Home Guard were charged with preventing 'the enemy' taking over the village. The latter turned out to be a company of troops of the Highland Light Infantry representing the invaders. Gordon and I, being Observers, were naturally detailed to act as look-outs and were situated up in the St. Serfs belfry tower. After a long wait the 'enemy' duly appeared from the direction of Duncrub and we gave the warning. All I remember now are members of our own 'Dads' Army' rushing about throwing thunderflashes (a type of large firework simulating grenades which exploded with a very loud report) at the attackers. I'm sorry to say I don't know who eventually won that day!
Who remembers now the summer afternoon in 1943 when two Tiger Moth aircraft 'buzzed' the village? We had certainly never seen anything fly so low and in fact they actually flew around St. Serfs steeple fully ten feet below the clock faces! After about twenty minutes jinking about they disappeared, chasing one another up the Dragon. Many amazed villagers, having witnessed the performance, had congregated in the square when we heard that one had crashed up the Kippen Road. I took off in that direction and soon discovered that one of the pilots had apparently noticed our Observer Post at Findony and was in the process of showing off his skills when a wing-tip hit the hedge and the aircraft, after catapulting a few times, finished upside down in the field about ten yards from the Post. Amazingly he had escaped serious injury and had been able to climb out of the wreckage. What old Bob Mailer had to say about these proceedings was not recorded and I imagine the telephone lines from our Post to the Centre would be buzzing. An RAF vehicle arrived soon after and whisked off the culprit, whilst a Queen Mary (a 60 foot long articulated vehicle) came next day and removed one rather bent Tiger Moth. We never did hear what became of that pilot.
A couple of months earlier, on the night of Friday, 13th March, 1941, occurred an event which will remain forever etched in my memory. That evening seemed that the whole of the Luftwaffe was flying over our village. For over an hour and a half no fewer than ninety-six waves, each consisting of four or five planes, passed over, their ominous drone (which always seemed peculiar to German aircraft engines and whose sound was always instantly recognised by those of us who lived through the war) brought a cold chill of fear to the hearts of us far below. This huge armada flew in over the North Sea, crossing the coast below Aberdeen then turning south right down Strathearn on to their main targets of Glasgow and Clydebank. Damage and casualties caused there were considerable and the BBC announced next day that extensive fires were still burning. My older sister Jean travelled up to Dunning the next weekend and was able to recount to us the horrors of that terrible night. The blitz continued the very next night as the raiders returned to the same areas. I'm dad to report however that the 'Jerries' failed to prevent the locals and the soldiers from enjoying their usual Saturday night dance in the Dunning hall.
My mother, sisters and I had moved from the Hurrys' where we were first billeted to rented rooms in a terraced house on Perth Road. Then after 2 or 3 years we moved to the lower apartments in the Commercial Building on Auchterarder Road. After leaving school on turning fifteen I worked full-time with Mrs. Hurry in their family shop, doling out the weekly rations. If I remember correctly the coupons in one's ration-book allowed usually one egg per week and 1lb jam per month. These amounts, with 1/4lb meat in the butcher's (augmented by sausage, haggis etc.) varied only slightly throughout the war years.
In the autumn of 1943 I 'transferred' to James Milne, butcher, across the Square. I worked in that shop for only about six months durirlg that extremely cold winter of'43-'44 and soon began to realise that perhaps I wasn't quite cut out for the butchering trade. In fact, I was more than happy to accept an offer to join the office staff of a firm in Perth managed by our ATC commander officer. There I remained for eighteen months until my call-up to the Forces in 1945.
By then, of course, there were very few of the original evacuees left in Dunning and on my reporting for duty with the Air Force my mother and younger sister Lily left for home leaving my other sister Margaret in Dunning where she was in employment as housemaid at St Serfs manse.
I read in a magazine recently a rather sad account of a woman who as a girl had been evacuated to Arran and had been treated rather harshly by the billeting officer there. It made me think how fortunate we had been in having Mr Benzies to sort us out and find us homes with the good people of Dunning. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for the old village and its inhabitants and this recounting of my personal memories has brought to my mind again very clearly many personalities and events of half a century ago.
Ron Freeland, Culloden
OUR MUSEUM OF MEMORIES IS IMMINENT
A while ago 94 year old Dunning native, Henry Campbell wrote from Toronto:
There are very few people in Dunning who remember the days when there was no such thing as Radio or Television. So with no wireless I, with a great number of citizens read a lot. I devoured countless books, magazines etc. I read numerous articles about the Wireless and it dawned on me that it was going to have an enormous effect on the field of communication. I couldn't wait to get in on this so I got a Permit to operate an Experimental Station then bought a Crystal Set. My old friend Jim Crow put up an aerial for me. Sad to say all I ever was able to receive was in Morse Code. However, it was the first receiver of wireless messages in the village of Dunning.
Dunning's first wireless receiver and Mr Campbell's Permit will be among many nostalgic items on display when the DPHS holds a ten day Museum of Village Memories. Admission will be free, and there'll be mystery objects and a special contest and draw open to all visitors. Most of the exhibits will be on loan from generous members and villagers. The Museum of Village Memories will be held in the Scout Hut on the Kirk Wynd, Dunning, and will be open from 2.00 to 4.00 each week day, 11.00 to 4.00 Saturdays and Sundays and 6.30 to 8.00 Tuesday and Thursday evenings from Friday, July 1, 1994 to Sunday, July 10.
HOME SWEET HOME
The following was sent by a Canadian member, Mrs Helen (Robertson) Laidlaw. It was written by her sister, the late Mrs Betty Grant.
In a wee village, doon in the glen,
(Betty and Helen Robertson lived on Circus Sheet and at Durnbrac, and in a coming newsletter the now Helen Robertson Laidlaw, who resides in New Lowell, Ontario, will relate her personal recollections of a happy childhood spent in Dunning Mayl924-April 1937.)
Elected at the May 27 AGM as new Secretary of the DPHS 1994-95 executive committee was Shona Sinclair. Continuing in office are chair Lorne Wallace, vice-chair Colin Young, treasurer Jane Young and members Finella Wilson, Albie Sinclair, Judi Slater, Sheena Proff, Kirsty Macnab and Louise and Catherine Crowe. New committee members are Kirsty and David Doig and Grace McFarlane. Heartfelt thanks for their fine efforts in establishing the Society were voted to outgoing founding DPHS committee members Jill Tanner, Ken Laing, Janet Crowe and Patricia Wallace.
Special guest at the AGM was Scottish graveyard authority Betty Willshcr, who led us on a brief tour of St Serfs and then at nearby but seldom visited Aberdalgie and Dupplin kirkyard divided us into five teams to record a quick survey of the gravestones. She writes: " I must say I had a moment of real happiness when I saw everyone working away in that beautiful graveyard. Their findings showed how much can be accomplished in a short time by people working together". The notes of the survey have been handed over to the Rev. Colin Williamson of Aberdalgie.
Other pleasant recent happenings were a well-attended trip to the Dunning Den with David Doig, and a trip to Alloa as guests of the Clackmannan Field Society where the Earl of Mar was one of several excellent guides to this fascinating town. And then in early June, Colin Young led a sunlit trip to several of the historic crofts located in the Ochils above Dunning.
THE SUMMER-AUTUMN PROGRAMME
1-12 July A ten day Museum of Village Memories starting Friday July 1 at the Scout Hut on Kirk Wynd, with historic items loaned by villager, Open on weekday afternoons 2 to 4pm, on Saturdays and Sundays 11am to 4pm, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings 6.30-8pm. Admission free with special contests and draw.
2-3 Sept Evacuees' Reunion. Friday, an assembly and media event followed by talks to local schools. Friday at 7.30pm a meeting with DPHS members at the Primary School. Saturday the evacuees tour the village and starting at 7.30pm the whole village is invited to a 'Sentimental Journey' Big Band dance at the Village Hall.
Sept TBA An Archaeological Fieldwalk, a follow-up to last year's highly successful fieldwalk which unearthed evidence of a 4,000 year old settlement here. To be led by Perth Museum's Mike King on a weekend date to be announced. Likely location: lain Philip's farm, Leadketty. If you want to participate, please contact Shona Sinclair 684 566.
Sept 29 Thursday, 7.30pm. A visit to the new Perth Library's archives and local history department. If you're interested, please call Grace McFarland 684 376.
Oct 20 Thursday, Village Hall, 7.30pm. Writer/broadcaster Rennie McOwan will discuss witches among other matters in a slide talk titled The Ochils - Are They Worth Protecting?
Nov 5 Saturday, Village Hall, a Coffee Morning, 10am to 12 noon. Featured: a special photographic exhibit loaned by John Crow.
Dec 1 Thursday, Dunning School, 7.30 pm. The Rev. Colin Williamson of Forteviot and Aberdalgie will update us on his community's attempt to keep the famous Dupplin Cross within the Parish.
(Other events like a new presentation by local historian Ken Laing, a Farm Film Night, and another video-making session are coming up in 1995. Details of the winter-spring programme in our new newsletter.)
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