Charlotte (Cha) Stewart (Nee Alexander) – Childhood memories.
Having lived away from Auchencairn for almost forty six years I'm indulging in memories of my childhood there.
I was born Charlotte Herries Alexander, daughter of John and Charlotte (Lottie) Alexander and sister of Eileen in January 1930, in Rathan in the village square. I believe the water was turned on that day and the doctor died the next day.
I have happy memories of playing in various gardens, by the burn, on the shore, in the bluebell wood at Torr and visiting several farms, especially with the Cannon family at Collin Mill and Mains.
I attended Sunday School while Revd. W Henderson was minister and thoroughly enjoyed the picnics and Christmas parties. I remember him at the Band of Hope in the village hall where also I enjoyed Miss Patterson’s dancing classes and fancy dress parties. The Miss's Patterson always made my fancy dress costume and two I especially remember were a golliwog and a balloon girl outfit. Would a golliwog be allowed today? Of course the Brownies with Miss Ovens as Brown Owl played an important part in my young life and led to me being a Girl Guide in Kirkcudbright.
Halloween scrambles at the shops were fun too when we ran around gathering up nuts, sweets and coins thrown by the various shopkeepers. There were seven shops then as I recall including my father’s shoe shop which was in The Square and is now a house. He had a front shop with a ’magic’ mirror in which he could see customers entering while sitting in his workshop in the rear where there was always a roaring fire. Many people were glad to sit by it and enjoy ‘the crack’ while waiting for the Kirkcudbright bus. There were also the post office, a garage, two joiners, two blacksmiths, a public house and to begin with two churches, but now only one in which I sometimes played the organ, rather badly I’m afraid and where I was married in 1952.
I enjoyed going to school at the top of the village and all the games we played in the playqround, such as tig, beds (hop scotch), rounders, skipping and hide and seek, although there were not many places to hide, apart from the big tree, the water tank and behind the toilets. It was very interesting when I returned there as a teacher for a term before I married and also as a visitor last year to see all the changes that had taken place. The greatest was the removal of the outside toilets. The education I received there gave me a good start and I'm glad to see the school is prospering. I follow its progress in your newsletter and in the Galloway News.
A challenging time at school and in the village was when the Glasgow evacuees and their teachers arrived; challenging not only for us but for them, being separated from their parents and living in such a quiet place with fields all around - no chip-shop and no picture-houses' However, we all learned from each other almost every household had its quota
of evacuees. We had two little girls, Ruth and Mary, and we did our best to make them feel at home.
Then there was a Belgian refugee family, who came to live in my grandmother's house, Fernlea. I'm happy to say I'm still in touch with one of the daughters, Elise, who lives in Bruges. Her brother, Francois, was born in Auchencairn and now his daughter is engaged to an Auchencairn boy - like a story from the People's Friend, isn't it?
I remember coming out of school and finding the top of the village sealed off by the Home Guard, as it was thought parachutists had landed. It turned out to be a flock of swans flying over, but no matter, they were ready. I also remember lying in bed at night, listening to the planes flying over on their way to Clydebank and knowing that my father and Mr John Mitchell were outside on their ARP duties. There were ‘make do and mend’ classes held in the village. I remember proundly wearing a brown skirt which my mother had made from a coat. Some people made warm coats from dyed blankets – proof of the saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.
Then came the troops to Orchardton and hospitality was given to them in many homes. A canteen and reading room were opened in the village and manned by the ladies. I remember Pat from Glasgow, a good pianist and singer, Paddy a keen gardener who dug for victory in our garden and Derek, a congregational minister who seemed much too gentle to be a soldier. Then there were the land army girls who worked on the farms and this leads me to happy memories of taking teas out to the fields at Collin Mill and the Mains. Never did food taste so good and the repartee was wonderful.
I also enjoyed great holidays on Hestan Island (Rathan in S.R. Crocketts novel ‘The Raiders’) with my school friend Kay McWilliam and her parents. We helped with the lamp in the lighthouse, took jellyfish from the fishing nets and went out in boats to empty the lobster pots, although I didn’t like the lobsters crawling about in the bottom of the boat – too near my toes for comfort. One very sombre happening occurred when May and I found the body of a young airman that had been washed ashore. It certainly brought the meaning of war closer to us.
There were no school buses in those days so when I went to Kirkcudbright Academy I had to stay in digs, leaving Auchencairn on Sunday evenings and returning on Fridays. In my last year a school bus started and I travelled each day. After my teacher training in Edinburgh I returned to live in Auchencairn, while teaching in the Johnston School, Kirkcudbright. Then I was able to take part fully in village life. The Community Council had been formed by then and I was privileged to serve on it.
Later when I married and lived in Edinburgh people would ask ‘what on earth did you do in a wee place like that?’
My reply was:“ Monday –Choral practice under Mrs Thomson, Tuesday – Country Dancing with Mr Aitkcn, Wednesday - dramatic club, Thursday - Scottish Women’s Rural Institute, Friday - perhaps a concert, dance or whist drive; Saturday picture bus to Castle Douglas and Sunday - church and a walk down the shore road, or round the Mains or Rascarrel or to the cemetery etc. There were also carpet bowling, snooker, a reading room and library and of course the Women's Guild. I also remember sliding on Bengairn Loch while the adults curled.
In the summer there was bowling and tennis, which I really enjoyed and I am sad to see the tennis courts have gone, but glad the bowling is still going strong. Cycling was another pastime and bathing at the breakwater, Balcary and the Red Haven.
I do enjoy reading the Auchencairn News and learning of all the present day activities, while looking forward to my annual visit in the spring.