Stanley Mills (whose father was headmaster from 1889 – 1914)
AUCHENCAIRN 1900 -1904
Around 1900 - 1904 Auchencairn was and had to be self-contained. It had its own Bakery, Butchers, Coalman, Carrier, Library with reading room, Police Station, Shoemaker, Smithy, two Churches, School, two Public Houses, Bowling Green, Tennis Court and (on Mill Road) a Quoits Pitch.
Benefits Lacking: There was no piped water to the houses and no gas or electricity supply. Water was available from wells, the Jubilee Fountain in the Square, a spout from Spout Row, and an iron pump supplied the School, the pump being wrapped in straw in winter. Despite these wants, visitors found this quiet spot and came regularly in Summer. Church "Sales of Work" were held when the visitors were about.
Mr.S.R.Crockett (1860 - 1914), Author of "The Raiders" and other books, stayed at Castle Daffin. Many of the older villagers, however, had never travelled beyond the boundaries. Clay pipes were smoked by the elderly smokers.
Old Names of Streets: What is now Main street was called, "Front Road" and the present Church Road was called " Back Road." Roads were macadamised. A workman, stone breaker hammered down large boulders placed at intervals along the verges. Layers of small stones were than laid on the road, covered with till, and firmly embedded by a roller.
Sunday work on Farms: Farmers tended animals in and around byre and stable but no work was done in the fields, and farm hands went to Church.
Farm Work: Every field had its corner heap of stones, many of which had jolted the plough and the ploughman's arms. Turnips and oats were grown. School holidays began when the turnips were ready for hoeing. Older children hoed, and an adult received one shilling and sixpence a day. (7 1/2p) A full time farm worker was paid about £30 per year plus perquisites (milk, potatoes etc.) and he was allowed three days at The Moss (now a forest) to cut peat for fuel. In wooded parts the brown squirrel could be seen. Oats were cut by reaper, bound by hand into sheaves and carted to the stack yard. A traction engine towed a thresher from town to farm but time elapsed between reaping and threshing. Later when instant threshing took place on the field, turnips and oats gave way to silage and barley.
Nearest Towns: Each of the two hotels, MacEwen of the Commercial, and Hanks of Auchencairn Arms, ran at the same time two horse wagonettes to Castle Douglas, market and postal town, each Monday and to the railway town, Dalbeattie , every Wednesday and Saturday. Mr. Peter Thomson drove the Commercial and Mr.Cowan the Auchencairn Arms buses. In winter the wagonettes were covered but were so dimly lit that passengers had to be careful when speaking of persons, in case any of them or their friends should be present. The adult fare for each single journey was one shilling.
Post and Doctors from Castle Douglas: The weekday post came by dog cart (Mr. David Gass) and it followed the road via Potterland Mill instead of the road via Glenyerrick, A Doctor (Dr Lorraine) came Tuesdays and Fridays in a gig driven by his servant. If a medical emergency arose at other times a villager would cycle in haste to town to obtain the Doctor's help. Dentist's services involved a journey to town, although amateur work and much thole-ing were the rule.
Carrier: A horse and cart went at intervals to town and returned laden with goods to replenish stocks in the shops. Our carrier, Tom Kilpatrick, lived in Spout Row but was aged and Maxwell Clark, Front Road, took over the work.
Shops: It was usual to buy groceries in bulk, flour and sugar in 7lb or even 14lb bags. Rorrison, Brick Buildings, was the main Grocer. Sweet shops were run by Miss Shennan, Miss Isa Scott, and Miss Sarah Eley. Mr. William Alexander sold and repaired wooden clogs, boots and shoes. A Mr J.G. Boyes had a Drapers business in The Square, later taken over by Anton Clark, Tailor, and a Miss Henry ran a Drapers - haberdashery shop. The Bakery (hot baps for breakfast) was in Wellwood Terrace on Bakery Row which led to the house occupied by Bob Clark, Coalman, who travelled to town to maintain his stock. The Smithy and forge were at the end of Smithy Close, in charge of a great worthy, Joe Heughan and his son, Robert, both sturdy fellows. When slowing down on his leg movements, Joe once answered an enquiry, If The superstructure is a' richt, it's the foundations which are geiying wey"! The Miller, a Mr McKie, lived in the Mill House but his work at the Mill was drawing to a close. The Builder, a Mr. Brown lived next to the Police Station. Mr. John Simpson was the Policeman - playmates of his three boys got glimpses of the two cells. Mrs. Kirk and Mr. Brydson managed the two Butcher's shops and their slaughterhouses.
Churches: (1) The Established Church, Back Road. Rev. David Wark, followed in 1900 by the Rev. Waiter Henderson, and the United Free Church, Front Road. Rev. MacNeill, followed around 1900 by Rev. Paterson, Rev. Thomson and others. The MacNeills kept boarders at the Manse, imported from beyond the county, who attended the school, Some surnames remembered Tyson, Pole and Green. Unfortunately the Rev. Wark and MacNeill were hostile to each other, and this feeling pervaded the whole village, children included. When younger ministers came, better thoughts prevailed which led to the acceptance of the Union in 1932 and to the adoption of the Back Road Church as the Church of the United Congregations. Just prior to this, farmers had begun field work on Sundays so the workers no longer attended church in large numbers so the attendance had been markedly reduced.
School: Before the State School was built, each Church had its own school. D.F. Church used The Murray Hall, last teacher was a Mr. Gibson. Established Church used the Conservative Hall (later a carpet bowling hall), last teacher a Mr. Scott who was the maternal Grandfather of James H. Milligan who compiled “ A History of Auchencairn". Headmaster of the State School 1889 - 1914 Mr.George A. Mills was its second Headmaster. Other teachers:1900 Infant Mistress, Miss E.G.Jally; Standard 1 Pupil Teachers Miss Annie Haining of Drungans Farm and then Miss Jean Thomson of Torr Cottage: Standards 4, 5 and 6 were taken by the Headmaster sometimes called The Dominee"
When small farms were combined, many of the cot houses ceased and this reduced the school attendance so that, while there had been 90 pupils in the Infant Department alone around 1900 there were less than 90 attending the whole school in 1908. Children walked to school far 9.30a.m. and walked home again. Distances from farms were up to 3 miles, from Barlocco over 3 miles. In difficult snow conditions many farm children were brought by horse and cart. A soup kitchen
operated in the winter and provided hot soup for children at Midday. Charges were one halfpenny per child or one penny per family. Farmers contributed rabbits and vegetables and some meat was bought. A School Concert was given each year to clear soup kitchen costs. It was a popular event.
Dances: The chief dance of the season was known as The Social". Joe Heughan always gave an Address which was heartily enjoyed and regarded as indispensable. Dances were, of course, confined to the energetic style of Scottish Country Dancing. Even so the event finished as late as 3a.m. or later. Some farmers got home in time to start work, without any sleep.
Band of Hope: Mr. Robert Thomson, Joiner and Undertaker, did great work as the Leader of the Tuesday evening weekly Temperance Meeting for children, assisted by bath young Ministers .. Miss Margaret Patterson of Bunker Hill trained the children far an Annual B. of H. Concert which was another big event of the year.
Other Concerts: In addition to the Annual School Concert and the B. of H. Concert other entertainments were held. The Rev.W.R.Henderson figured in most programmes. He had a large repertoire of Scottish Readings (always spoken from memory). All songs or other contributions were performed on a bare stage with no. backcloth. When the Fortune family of Bengairn introduced backcloths, wings and curtains on the stages, and gave many excellent stage shows themselves, the villagers were treated to great improvements in the way items were presented.
Nearby Mansions: Auchencairn House (Mrs. Mackie who gifted the stained glass window in the Established Church.) Orchardton House ( Mr and Mrs. Robinson Douglas who entertained many interesting people, including C.T. Studd, one of the Cambridge Seven Missionaries) Collin House ( Mr and Mrs. Maitland Kirwan, related to the Orchardton occupants. They sometimes journeyed to the Annual Keswick Convention and once made arrangements for the Headmaster of the school and his wife to visit Keswick a kindness which was much appreciated) Bengairn House (The Fortune family mentioned above)
Conclusion: These remembered and recalled items of 80 years ago should give a glimpse of what happened and of what we .have inherited from the sturdy past A fuller treatment can be read in J.H. Milligan's compilation of “ A History of Auchencairn"
These pages were written by John Stanley Mills born 6th July 1893 twin son of the late Mr.George A Mills Headmaster of Auchencairn School.