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Dunning's Evacuees


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--Sketch by Albie Sinclair

The first interview.

Bill Smith was born February 20, 1930:

I arrived at Alexander Park Station in Glasgow with my mother, my brother and my sister to take the train to Dunning, though I'm not sure we knew where we were headed. I was 9, my brother Eric was just a year younger than me, and my sister was only 4 at the time. That's the reason my mother came along, because if there was a child under school age then the mother could come with the family. My father was in the airforce. I remember arriving at Dunning station, but how we got to the school I can't remember. We were billeted in Thorntree Villa with Miss Mailer, the aunt of Mrs. Robertson the baker and the sister of Mr. Mailer the farmer up at Findony. We stayed there a year or maybe less. Then we moved into the famous Commercial Buildings (on Auchterarder Road opposite the Village Hall) in the lower west side.

In 1945 my father was demobbed. We returned to Glasgow because he had to go back to work. The war was over, we had our own house in Glasgow. But I can remember VJ Day in Dunning. VE Day too. We arrived September 3, 1939, the day war was declared and we remained here until August 1945.

Highlights? There are very very many highlights. The whole family lived here, we had visitors come up, father came up on leave for weekends. We had uncles come up, they were in the airforce as well. When the Blitz was on in Glasgow we had people come up. We could see the Blitz from here. We could hear the guns, see the searchlights, hear the planes.

Obviously the troops were all in the village. I can remember troops coming back from Dunkirk, with nothing, virtually. They stayed in the field behind the manse. There were all sorts of soldiers here during the war but the ones who stick in my mind were those from Dunkirk. There was a lot of poor souls there, I can tell you. They were coming out without rifles or anything and the story was that they had to pay for the equipment they'd left on the beaches. That was the story anyway.

I went to primary school here in Dunning, then to Auchterarder. After, my brother and I both went to Perth Academy for three years.

Being here was a tremendous experience. As a town lad I worked at harvest, at the potato and berry picking. We worked at the estates at grouse-shooting, pheasant-shooting, deer hunts. I worked at the Quilts farm every Saturday morning for two to two and a half years at the inside threshing mill making cattle-feed. Quilts Farm is a mile up the Yetts o' Muckhart Road. Half an hour going up, five minutes coming down. I think I used to get something like five shillings or half a crown, and half a dozen eggs, a bottle of milk, and every so often a chicken. And you had your dinner up there before you left.

We were really naturalised Dunningites, if you like, when we left, the whole family. I lived here from age 9 to 15. My aunt had a house here, her husband was in the R.A.F. too. My cousin was born here, that is in Perth in January, 1945, and my youngest brother was born here, in Perth, around about VE Day in May of 1945. My cousin in fact was christened in St. Serf's Parish Church. The family came back for the occasion from London where they'd moved by then. They were McKinnons, and they had lived in the Upper Granco.

My mother was an evacuee helper along with Mrs. Agnes Clark. She worked in Oswald Villa. She also went to work with Fentons' at potato dressing. She was also the Prudential insurance agent in the village.

All in all it was a good experience being here. I was digging for victory during the war. My brother and I both had plots behind what was then the police station. That started off my interest in horticulture. Then it was all veg. We grew potatoes, leeks, onions and lettuce. And we showed at the village show. I think 1945 was the first one, the horticultural society show. The main thing I can remember there was Wilson the roadman with these big leeks which stretched across two tables. He grew them in drainpipes, fantastic leeks.

That gardening started my interest in horticulture. Now I'm vice-chairman of the Scottish National Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society. I've been a committee member there since 1970 and I've shown all over Scotland and the north of England. I've won gold medal for best vase in the national show, and some of the cups there. And that interest in growing things started right here in Dunning when I was an evacuee.

The second interview.

Mrs. Sarah (McCabe) Murray came to Dunning with two older sisters, a younger brother and her mother. Later the three girls were moved to stay with dozens of other girls at Invermay House.

I was eight and a half. I was quite sad when we had to come away to Dunning. There was all that hustle bustle and here you were with tags tied around you and gas masks. I cried because I was frightened as well as it being a great wrench in life to me. I was quite unhappy even though my mother was with me. It would have been worse if I hadn't had my mother there. It was such a long day getting here and we were stood about waiting. My feeling was that everybody else was getting away to billets and homes and we were left standing about. I wasn't very happy about the situation.

In fact I wasn't very happy at all coming to Dunning. I felt a lot of the people didn't like us. I don't know why but I felt we were resented in lots of ways by some people. When we went to the first house we stayed in I felt she particularly didn't like us. I think she felt snobbish towards us. She must have volunteered to have us, but she didn't seem to like us at all. I felt she wasn't a very nice person.

When we went to the school up the hill we had Miss Haggart, and you see I didn't like Miss Haggart because previously my two sisters were taught by Miss Haggart and if I did anything wrong she would say 'Your sisters wouldn't do things like that'. Then my brother he was in an even worse position, he had three sisters ahead. No, I never liked Miss Haggart, but my two sisters, they liked her.

I did get very friendly with a girl here in Dunning, her father used to have the baker's shop Robertson's around the corner, and I was over there a lot and I was happy when I was there.

Then we went to Invermay. It was absolutely wonderful. I was sorry to leave my friend behind and I never did see her again. At Invermay we were all divided into groups, each with its room, and each room had the name of a ship. I think we were disciplined quite a bit. I think I would feel it, because my two sisters always said I was spoiled. I felt we were kept quite disciplined, for good, because they weren't bad to us. We had a good life at Invermay. Christmases were wonderful. We had a huge big playroom, and when we were let into it on Christmas morning, the Christmas tree was from the bottom to the top, and the presents we got were out of this world. The Americans had sort of adopted us and we got lots of stuff sent from America. We had beautiful dresses, dungarees. Because Invermay was a big estate we were always outdoors and up trees so we got dungarees.

Invermay was really a happy time. It's a beautiful house, the grounds are gorgeous. We were quite hard workers and we helped picked potatoes. We went to a farm on Station Road to pick potatoes. We were paid for it, and the money was put into an account for us. We picked potatoes, shawed the turnips. I was always crying because I didn't like the cold. I didn't always cry but I did when the frost was on the ground and your hands were cold.

Every day we had to walk from Invermay to the village school in Forteviot. Soldiers were billeted in the grounds doing manoeuvers. We had beautiful packed lunches with us and we used to give the soldiers some of our lunches and we'd get cakes and chocolate in return. They always lined up when we were walking down that avenue, and Miss Kaye, our teacher cycled to school and they always said 'Good morning, Miss Kaye' as she went through us. It was good happy time. The Guiders who looked after us were very good.

My father every week sent three parcels for us, always done in black paper, with comics and packs of sweeties, and my parents came through to see us as often as they could. Lots of the other girls didn't get visitors, but our parents went to Stanley where my brother had been sent and they'd bring him down and we'd all be together.

As time went on, we settled. But there were people who didn't want us here, and lots of the evacuees weren't treated too nicely. There were lots of excellent people here, don't get me wrong..Auntie Belle at the shop, for example, she was just wonderful to everybody. Lots of nice people here, but there were always the ones that you felt didn't like to have you here. And really basically when you think about it we didn't want to be here, we were just sent here to get away from the raids. I don't think any of the evacuess could say you just came and it was normal. It was a big step out of your life When you're older you adapt to this, but when you're small it's a big thing.

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The third interview.

David Forbes was six years old when he came to Dunning with his mother, two older brothers and two older sisters.

I remember quite a lot, though I was just six. It was exciting, coming from tenements to a country place. We stayed at first in Baadhead Cottage on the farm up behind Keltie Castle. It probably took me a year to get used to it, to the big open spaces.

There were two cottages, I think they were servants' quarters for the Castle. Another evacuee family called the Macnabs stayed there too. We'd come from a big housing scheme in Glasgow, and there when you went out to play there were twenty or thirty kids to play with. At Baadhead you felt at first lost and lonesome, just your family.

One of the things about up there was we had candles for lighting, candles everywhere.. There used to be a wee shop in the village and the grocer used to say to my mother I think you must be eating the candles, not burning them.

It was a long way to go to school, I think probably three or four miles or more. It was cold in winter, but there was nothing you could do about it, you just accepted it.

We walked down to the Auchterarder road past the Castle, where the family then was the Queen Mother's relations, the Bowes-Lyons. I remember the first Christmas, my mother and all them were worried about noises outside and all of a sudden a big knock comes at the door. We're in this lonely cottage and suddenly this knock comes. What it was was the people from the Castle, they came up and gave us toys. And they gave my mother perfume. Probably my mother never knew what perfume was at that time. And they gave the other family the same things.

We loved the summer months. The summers were beautiful. In winter, it was dark at four, the candles were lit and that was you in the house for the night, you couldn't do anything outside. We were there for a year and a half, two years. Then we moved down to the village. The bakery was next door, and I used to look out the window and watch the rats playing about.

An exciting thing was we used to go to a nearby farm to watch the bats flying about at night under the light, hundreds of bats you could see floating about there. It was the entrance to the farm then, I think, now it's the entrance to the swing park.

I went to the school up the hill, a very small school, as I recollect. I think we went in the morning, the local children went in the afternoon.

When we moved down to the village, my mother said that people were very good to her. She was a widow, there were five of us children. My father had died in 1937.

Hindsight, when you look back on it, it was a good experience, being an evacuee. I think it educated you a lot regarding country life. Although I was only six or seven, you got in the way of working the country style. When you see something on television about the country, you think now that was the same in Dunning, and you remember the local folk and their ways.

I could never go anywhere unless I was with my two older brothers. Tommy had a milk run and I used to go with him in the morning, delivering milk. We used to go berry-picking with my mother on the farms.

In 1943, I think it was, we had to go back home to Glasgow because my mother's house there got flooded, and we never came back.

I've driven through here many a time with my car, just to show my kids. I feel very good about the experience, I feel the people of Dunning were very good to the evacuees.

And I like these reunions. There was a girl here, Alice, I met her here the year the evacuees held the church service here. I was in junior school with her, and I hadn't seen her since we were ten or so. It's a nice feeling, meeting people you haven't seen since schooldays.

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