Anne Younger takes a trip down memory lane 80 years into the past to recollect her memories of growing up in Blackburn in the 1920’s/1930’s.
The River Almond doesn’t look as it did when I was a wee girl in Blackburn. We called it “The Bum” and it seemed wide – so wide we never crossed te the other bank.’ The water ran clear, offering shallow pools where we played at “houses” and scrubbed the stones – our make believe tables and chairs.
The banks of the Almond along to the Auld Mill marked the seasons with celandine, violets, pussy willows, broom, gorse and wood anemones nestling beneath the bursting hawthorns in the spring. Summer brought the buttercups and marguerites, the dog roses and the honey suckle, autumn the hips and haws while winter gave us a frozen lake to slide on and snowy slopes for the sledge.
I’d fling my school bag in the back door and run through the garden gate to catch up with my Dad who’d be shouting – “Come on – I’ve found a nest in three – or often in four.” We’d stand and look down at the peewit’s nest and wonder at the colour of makings of the eggs. “Now mind,” he’d say. “Don’t tell anyone. The eggs have to be left in peace till they hatch, then you’ll watch them fly and hear them cry and you’ll know where they began.”
Summer for us children meant hours of playing in the fields of the bum. Does Paddy’s Well still exist? We would walk along by the burn to the Auld Mill, cross the road and there it was with its wild cress, mimulus and cuckoo spit for our jelly jar of wild flowers. There we looked for fairy rings and knew that summer had come when our foot could cover nine daisies.
The Mill Road too looks narrower as it runs past the Redhouse School, once alive with children in classrooms and now with people in apartments. And there’s the hornbeam tree still standing at the bottom of the playground.
Am I so very old that I can remember the soor milk cairt, horse drawn down the Mill Road, and Sanny Melrose’s chip cairt, also horse drawn came from Seafield to put joy in our mouth with a penny poke finished off with a shake of salt and a spray of brown sauce?
I loved Paddy Downs, the leerie man. He’d prop his bicycle against the lamp post, thrust the long stick through the flap in the globe triggering the switch and setting the gas mantle alight to make a world of spookey shadows and shapes. “You can play till Paddy’s been” my Mum would say – an order obeyed reluctantly but always obeyed! And what about the ice-cream man? The joy of a pokey-hat, a slider, a sponge or a black man from Toni Boni or Mr Ezzi. If you were lucky you’d get raspberry sauce (which we called Toni Boni’s blood) on our pokey hat.
Could there still be someone else who went to “The Wee School” before going to Redhouse? As a four and a half year old I remember the open fire in each classroom, which the teacher had to stoke, and the many metal flasks of sweet, milky tea which some ) children had with their “piece”. The children ran barefoot in the summer and were pinned into crossed – over scarves in the winter. And oh-The Smiddy on the way to school with the smell of burning hoof and showering sparks. And the patient horse standing on three legs while the fourth lay in the Smith’s leather apron having the new shoe fitted. The bellows and their magic in making the embers glow to take the iron then the sizzle of the shoe as it was plunged into the water and the smell of the singed hoof.
I was lucky, I had achildhood that was full of happy memories. Nostalgia? But ofcourse! What will the present day children of that area recall as their nostalgic memories eighty years on?
By Anne D Younger