Great Aunty Nan
I was born at Woodhead, near Guildtown, by Perth on 02.03.1913. Wood head was on Stobhall Estate, belonging to Lord Perth of Stobhall Castle. Stobhall Castle had an orchard and we used to be allowed to go and pick apples every year, and I recall we used to fill pillow slips with the fruit. I was the youngest of a family of seven – Willie, Robert, Charlie, Mary, Jim, John and myself Nan (Jessie Ann). Woodhead was a fairly large pendicle and had been in the Adam family for a long time. It consisted mainly of fruit, strawberries, rasps, blackcurrants, red currants and gooseberries, and my father used to have an Irish squad and go through to the Ayrshire tattie digging where he met my mother who worked on a dairy farm there. My grandparents lived in Prestwick and we used to go there on holidays.
My father William Adam used to take the bulk of his fruit to the jam factory at Scone. It was quite a sight to see the large vats bubbling with jam. My father had converted his old Ford car into a little lorry to transport the fruit, as at that time he had a shop in South Street, Perth, part of what is now Sharps the chemists. Some of the fruit went in baskets to the shop and my mother (Mary Thomson) used to bake scones and pancakes – quite a lot of her cake stands etc. went into the shop for displaying the baking. My father’s sister Annie looked after the shop and my brother Willie delivered messages and sold stuff from a horse and cart. Somehow the shop never used to be a paying project and father gave it over to his sister, who had it until she died in 19…
As a family we used to take it in turns to pump the organ in Wolfhill kirk and when one got older the next took over. At one time my father used to start the singing in the church as he had a turning fork. What a lovely red sandstone church Wolfhill was with lovely stained glass windows. A great pity that it was closed as now (1992) Wolfhill is a large village. A bus now takes the members to Burrelton church. I remember I used to go the ‘Band of Hope’ every weekend. One night coming home along the edge of the wood at Myreside Farm I heard a rustling behind me and started to run. I ran until I had a stitch in my side and had to stop, and a sheet of paper went flying past. That was the finish of the ‘Band of Hope’ – I never went back.
William Adam curling on the frozen pond at Cargill, William is in the centre with the flat cap on.
There is an old photo at the curling. My father was a keen curler and used to play at the pond at Cargill. When the ice was good they used to play at night with big lamps at each end. The lamps came off a bus my father used to run into Perth by Wolfhill and Guildtown on a Saturday long before Alexander’s started in the area. He had to give up the bus after a while because some of those getting on would just tell him that they would have to pay him next week. Before the motor bus he used to have a pony and trap. Mother used to take the horse and trap occasionally.
My father used to buy bulls, mostly Shorthorn bulls, to send out to South Africa to my mother’s brother Willie Thomson. He had a farm near Cape Town in the Transvaal. My brother Robert went out with a lot of bulls at one time to South Africa and he got a job on the farm with our uncle. He eventually went to work on road construction and was road surveyor. He learnt to speak Afrikaans and was good with his coloured workers and got on well with them.
My mother used to make toffee sometimes, and she made some one night and put it out to the front porch to cool. As the rest of us were all in the sitting room we did not know about this. My father went out to the porch and came back in with the tray of toffee stuck to his hairy sock. He was not popular.
I went to Newbigging School where Mr. Fletcher was headmaster. The boys used to do the vegetable garden and the girls did cookery. We had soup for lunch at the school, made by Maisie Fenwick from Wolfhill village. The farm opposite Newbigging School was occupied by a Mr. McGregor. The steading and neep shed had doors opening on to the road opposite the school. The neeps were always sliced ready to feed the cattle in the afternoon when the school was finished for the day, and we used to pinch a slice of neep to eat. What a trial we must have been to the farmer, what a torment to him. He was always reporting us to the headmaster. We were happy racing off down the road eating a slice of neep.
Sir Barnes Wallis was a scientist and engineer, working mostly for Vickers aircraft. He designed the geodetic structure of the R.100 airship (but not its ill-fated consort R.101) and the Vickers Wellesley and Wellington bombers (both using geodetic construction). He is most famous for developing the "bouncing" bomb which was used by 617 Squadron of the RAF, which was specially-formed to destroy the Möhne and Eder dams in Germany 60 years ago this year.
I remember seeing the airship R100 one afternoon coming home from school – it was like a gigantic sausage with a tapered end and the noise was deafening.
We used to keep goats and I am sure one used to lie in wait for me coming home from school. I had to bash it with my schoolbag and make a race for the door yelling for my mother to open the door.
My mother had a collie dog called “Help”. One day a tramp came to the door – mother gave him something to eat. He was quite cheeky and had wanted more, however he went off muttering abuse to my mother, and she said to the dog “get him Help”. The dog went racing off after him and tore his breeks. The abuse was worse than ever then.
My brother John taught me to ride a bike. There was a bit brae and I seemed to be getting on fine. He was running holding the seat of the bike, but I think the bike started to go too hard and he let go. When I realised I was no longer being steadied I went into the ditch. However, I soon managed to get going on my own. John and I used to cycle to Guildtown every week to a dancing class run by Jocky Reid or Dancy Reid as he was called. My grandmother (father’s mother) lived in the village. She was blind and she liked to get her hands over your face and see how long your hair was. She lived on her own but her daughter Jessie was married to Alex. Thomas – he had a joinery business and smiddy and lived near. I used to love watching the wood being cut and what a lovely smell it had.
Charlie went to the salmon fishing on the Tay and stayed in one of the bothies. He once brought me home a Pomeranian dog, a wee black one, it was a beauty. At one time too he used to work for Cairds clothes shop in Perth and used to go up north with a pack and get orders. He never liked that very much.
We came to Burmieston, Logiealmond in 1924. The farm was on Lord Mansfield’s Scone Palace estate. I remember it was a rainy day when we arrived at the farm and everyone was cold and miserable. The kitchen had a black range with a boiler for hot water at the side. The walls were dark ochre red paint and the bottom half was wood, dark brown, what a dismal looking place. The floor was of stone flags.
We went to look for the school, which seemed to be miles away. Kinglands School was on the Bankfoot road. I had to go across the moor towards the end of the Shenval Farm Road; there was a wooden footbridge over the Shochie Burn, then up the side of a hedge to the road. The school would be a mile down the road. We had to take a piece with us for dinnertime and we got cocoa made. There were over 30 pupils at Kinglands School at that time. The teacher was a Miss Robertson from Tulliebelton, her father was chauffer there. My pal at the school was Meg Cameron – her father had Kinglands Farm near the school. The school was closed in 19… My pal Meg Cameron and I cycled to Comrie one weekend to visit her brother Jock, who was a shepherd on a farm there.
My father and mother used to walk over to Shenval Farm every Friday night to visit Granny and Grandfather Shaw. Mother used to get tea and margarine for them from the Maypole Shop in the High Street, Perth (used to be near the Theatre). What a wonderful couple they were. They had two sons who lived at home with them – Will Shaw and Alex. Alex had polio and was in a wheelchair and had family, and Will had a wife and family. How Granny Shaw ever managed to cook for such a large family was a complete mystery to me. The kids all sat at one table and the grownups at another, and there always seemed to be plenty to eat. I remember the hams used to hang from the ceiling in the kitchen, on hooks, being cured.
When father and mother started for home after their visit on a Friday, Granny and Grandfather Shaw used to accompany them to the foot of the farm road and the gamekeeper, Neil Howe, from Shenval cottage was always there as well. They would stand for another hour or so chatting.
What wonderful concerts and Burns Suppers there used to be at Kinglands School (which is now a community hall). Neil Howe used to recite, my father used to sing – he had a good voice. It all seemed to be local talent and always most enjoyable and popular – a gathering of the community.
At our picnics in the summer from the school we used to be taken by horse and cart up to Glenshee Farm, then occupied by Mr. & Mrs. David Guild. He had Blackface Sheep and used to put the tups down to our farm at Burmieston over the summer for grazing. One of the tups was quite vicious and killed one of the wee calves by boxing it.
We had sheep, cattle and arable ground and grew enough oats, turnips and hay to feed the stock over winter. We had five horses working. My brother Charlie bought a mare called Lady; she was a lovely horse and we had several foals from her. It was very heartbreaking when she died giving birth, losing the foal as well.
We had a very big horse called Jock and at hay time I used to go on his back with a wee stick to keep him going as he was so slow. He used to be yoked into a tumbling tam. It was all wooden with prongs in front and two handles behind. The hay rake used to rake the hay into rows and the tumbling tam went along the rows getting the hay into heaps. The handles were then lifted up and went over leaving a heap of hay. Hence the name tumbling tam. Jock was so slow I had to give him a smack with the stick occasionally and once he objected and kicked up his heels and I went flying over his head, luckily to land on a heap of hay. The heaps of hay were pulled on a skype and built into coles in the field and eventually carted into the stack yard and built into huge hay stacks. Surely we must have had better summers in the late 1920s and 30s as it took very much longer then to harvest the hay and the corn.
It was a very busy day when the threshing mill used to come and would be in the district for some days going to the different farms. All the neighbours used to help one another and we would have as many as twenty helpers. The mill we used to get belonged to the Chalmers brothers from Methven. One of them had to stay overnight to get the engine started and the mill fired up for morning. It was run on coals. It used to be women who cut the bunches on top of the mill. At 10 o’clock we used to take out pieces, usually bread with cheese or jam and scones and plenty of tea in the white milk pail. Dinner was usually soup, mince, tatties and neeps mashed, and a milk pudding. The afternoon tea at 3 o’clock was like morning with maybe more scones and rock buns. Tea at night at 5 o’clock was cold meat and plenty of home baking. A day I think enjoyed by everyone although it was hard work, especially carrying the bags of corn, and our granary was up a stair. Forking the sheaves of corn on to the top of the mill had to be done very steadily to keep the cutters going. A rare day of comradeship and talk, all in the past as there are no longer threshing mills, stacks of corn, or in fact stack yards on the farms today, or horses either.
There are no longer the workers either (we had two men working at Burmieston along with my brother and father). Most of the farms are now one-man operations with wives helping and all machinery-operated. Inside lambing sheds seem to be a must now for results, with calving inside too.
My mother used to do the milking and butter making – my sister used to do the hens and used to take the eggs into Perth to sell at the Post Office in Crieff Road ‘Heron’s Stores’. We used to get all our messages there. We used to garage the car in the Reliance Garage in the South Street, Perth – now Tesco’s.
When I left Kinglands School I went into Perth to the Academy, which was then in Rose Terrace opposite the North Inch. I had to stay in digs in Perth all week and come home at the weekend and back into Perth on Sunday night. Remembering, I don’t think I enjoyed staying in Perth very much. I had digs in Craigie my first year and developed rheumatic fever about 1926/27, put down I believe to a damp bed. My brother Jim was a gamekeeper at Logiealmond Lodge with John Gow the head keeper for Lord Mansfield. Jim came into Perth for me with the Land Rover as it was roomier than our car. What a journey home that was – the pain going over all the bumps. I was off school for nearly six months. The doctor ordered new blankets for me to be wrapped in. Mother bought them from Granny Shaw as they always had blankets made from the fleeces of their Blackface tups. My nightgowns too had to be flannel, and the Stratton sisters from Meadowmore, Mary and Bella, made them for me. I think I was very ill for a long time. The doctor came from Stanley – Dr. Burgess. (We still have the Stanley doctors. When we were at Woodhead they used to have to come across the ferry at Walkmill.)
When I was able to sit up my sister Mary used to put a stand on my knees and I would have a book on it to read. She used to have to turn the pages to start with. I was eventually well enough to get up and my brother Charlie carried me downstairs, in fact had to carry me up and down stairs for some time. He declared I grew a foot when I was in bed. We were sitting round the room fire one night when there was a knock at the door. Mother went and when she came back in said “That was two women selling studs and laces – do you know I think it was Beanie and Kate Stobie.” My brothers Jim and John made off after them and sure enough it was the Stobie girls. They all went off to visit the Myreton Farm, occupied by the Scrimgeours. The girls went to the door and John and Jim hid round the corner in fits of laughter at the banter going on over the selling of laces, studs and buttons. The girls wanted pieces as they said they were starving, but were chased. Mrs. Stobie was afraid in the dark and one night her son hid in the ditch with a sheet over him and gave her the fright of her life when he jumped up. Never again did she go out by herself at night.
I loved to get to the dances with Chas and Mary (by then my brother John had joined the police). Part of the fun was getting all dressed in the long frocks. We all used to enjoy the Masonic dances held in Methven Hall. The master of ceremonies starting off the dance with the Grand March – he stood at the top of the hall and kept the couples going to each side. The lesser hall was laid out for the meal. Wonderful memories and how we enjoyed it. The girls sat at one side, the men at the other, with a mad dash to get your favourite partner. The dance I have always enjoyed was the Duke of Perth. One did not have to take a partner to dances in those days, everyone mixed, lovely memories. The menfolk wore white gloves and had dancing shoes.
My brother Willie and his wife Mary used to come to Burmieston for their holidays. He was a chauffeur with a Mr. Dan Bruminel at “Purple Beeches”, Cobham in Surrey. (Purple Beeches because all the trees were copper beeches). Willie was sent to the Rolls Royce and Daimler schools to gain certificates, which he did, for driving Mr Bruminel’s Rolls Royce and Daimler cars. He was also a Special constable during the war. Bruminel also had a yacht and it was used in the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk.
I went back with them one year and got a job as under nanny at Berkhamstead Place near Berkhamstead, Aylesbury. It was a boy and girl in the family and when the boy went off to boarding school I got another job in a house with a Mrs. McDonald. There was a son James and I took him home with me one year for a holiday – how he loved it. I was getting a bit homesick so decided to leave.
I used to go to Chris Donaldson’s, a friend at Coupar Angus. I was there once at a cricket dance. Peter Donaldson was the President and was approached by two men who wanted tall girls to dance with. He pointed out Chris and I and we had partners for the evening. One was Sandy Burnett and the other Eric Reid, my partner. They were both in the police in Forfar. They had a car each and were to take us home. We were a wee bit scared but thought we would just go, and I was more scared when I saw Chris and Sandy go away past the house, but however it was just to get turned. We were invited for a picnic on the Sunday with them as after that we were all quite friendly for a wee while. Eric used to write to me when I went back to Berkhamstead.
My sister Mary used to keep a lot of hens and hatched chickens. We sold our eggs to Heron’s Stores in the Crieff Road (it’s still there) and used to get our messages there.
My brother John was in the police in Stirlingshire and he used to come home sometimes on the back of a motor bike belonging to Tom Baird. That is how I met my husband. We were married in 1936 and were given a furnished house down the riverside. We had been offered a police house in Stirling, the basement of a big house, with barred windows, and so dark, you went down a stair to it. The fireplace in the house, a big range, heated the water for upstairs. No way could I stay there with the light on all day, no outlook – I would not have been able to breathe. My brother was at Denny at the time and had been for his pay when he overheard the other bobbies speaking about Tom Baird’s wife refusing the house. Maybe that was a good thing because that house was given up as a police house. We were eventually given a house at Camelon near Falkirk beside the police station. The bedroom window of the house overlooked Orchard Street and I was thoroughly entertained one day watching a fight going on between two women on the washing green. The hair was getting pulled and the language was strong. Those folk in Orchard Street maybe did not have much money but when my husband left the police to come home they presented him with a barometer. He was very well liked by all the folks.
My elder son Bill was born in Falkirk Infirmary in June 1939. When he was able to walk we were at Burmieston on holiday and Bill got lost; everybody looking for him, to discover he was in the field with Lady the horse clapping her legs. We were all petrified watching but all was well, Lady never moved. Bill got a job in the Royal Scottish Museum when he left school and was one of the last to have to go and do National Service for two years in the Army when he was 18. He then continued with his job at the Museum until he retired. He lived in Edinburgh and had two sons, Mark and Gary and a daughter Laura. Mark went into the Army for a while and then was in the police at Livingston but he and Gary now live in Melbourne, Australia.
My brother John came home at the beginning of the war to help my father on the farm and my husband and I did the same in 1943. I don’t think I liked living in the town all that much and was quite glad to get back. We had Myreton Farm as well, so we lived there. I was able to help my mother with some of the work.
My other son Tommy was born on 16 February 1945. He went to Logiealmond school, then down to Methven Junior Secondary, then to Perth High School which was the big school at Muirton at that time. After working at the farm for a while he went into the police force at Forfar, Angus in 1964. He retired in 2000, finishing as an Inspector. He has a house in Arbroath, and a son Alan who is also in the police in the Angus area.
When my father died in 1950 and my brother John got married, we changed houses so that I was able to help my mother, as by then she was not so able to do much and latterly was bedridden. She died on February 15, 1963.
Billy and Tommy had a great fight when they were young. I had bought a Battenberg cake which they were both very fond of. Bill cut his in squares and Tommy took off the marzipan, rolled it up for a last bite. Bill stole the marzipan. Well, skin and hair was flying, even the dog got stuck in. Tommy had bought a puppy from Jock Cameron, at Saddlebank for a sixpence when he was 5 yrs old. It was terrier cross. What fun the laddies had with that dog catching rabbits – a very sad day when Joey had to be put down. Tommy took her to the vet, but brought her home to be buried in the garden. It took him all day to make a cross of wood and burn the dog’s name on it. A very sad day for us all.
My husband died in November 1984. I kept the farm going for another three years with the help of Dave McGregor who came to help with the sheep when my husband was not so able as he had arthritis. I have been able to rent the farmhouse from Mansfield Estates and the land has gone in with Meadowmore Farm, making a bigger unit. I like very much living here, having my garden and my dog, and am quite content.
The author of this story, Aunty Nan (Jessie Ann Baird), passed away peacefully on Saturday 24 December 2011 , at Glenhelenbank care home, Luncarty, near Perth aged 98 years.She had remained at Burmieston Farm until a fall in 2007 which resulted in her breaking her hip and requiring to be cared for. Glenhelenbank care home was a lovely place for Nan to spend her last four years being well looked after by the friendly staff at the home.Her funeral service took place at Perth Crematorium on Thursday 5 January 2012 and the minister read out parts of her story during her eulogy which was a very fitting send off indeed.There were many well kent faces in the congregation, relatives or neighbours and friends of Nans from the rural farming community of Little Glenshee, Perthshire.
Jessie Ann Baird- 2 March 1913- 24 December 2011.