Jimmy McCleary - Sixty Years in Auchencairn
I came to Auchencairn in 1938 with my parents when I was twenty. Before that I had been living in Dundrennan and most of the work I did was in Dundrennan.
I've worked at many farms including Higher Barend, Minton, and Castle Creavie.
This was when I became in charge of the cheese making side of dairying. In those days nearly all dairy farms used to make their own cheeses. It used to be Cheddar Farmhouse cheese that we made. First we would put the morning milking into the vat and then add the evening milking on the same day. In those days the milk was always unpasturised. It was churned and poured into chissocks which could be 10, 15 or 20 pound containers. The cheeses would be put in cloths and pressed until all the whey was squeezed out. These were then bandaged and stored in the loft where they would stay for 4 to 6 months. We had to turn these around every day so that they would mature evenly. When the farmer thought they were ready, the cheese tester came in from the creamery and would put in a testing tool and give a half turn and pull it out. First he would smell it and then taste it, looking to see if it had enough acid in it to keep it from going off. If it was too sweet it would be rejected. Then he would grade it either Grade 1 or Grade 2 and it would be taken to market where shopkeepers would buy it to sell in their shops. It the cheese was unfit to be sold it would be taken away and rendered ‘dowt’ to be used for other things.
Most dairy farms then would keep pigs and all the whey that was removed from the cheese making would be fed to them, as it was very good for fattening pigs. 80 cows would give about 200 gallons of milk which would make a lot of cheese. When we weren't making cheese the milk was poured into urns and ta'n away by lorry to the creameries. When the cheese is first made it is white. We kept jars of colouring so if yellow or red cheese was wanted we would add a set amount. It had to be done very carefully because if we added too much colour it would spoil the cheese.
In those days we didn't get paid but if we agreed to work for six months got our food and clothes given to us. It was very rarely we got a holiday, and had to work seven days a week! I used to sleep in the bothy on the farm and at the end of the day, sometimes, I cycled back to Auchencairn. Much later on I could afford a Reliant Robin, the three-wheeler kind.
After many years I left the farms and went to work at the Range. At that time there were many troops there and I worked in the kitchens. There were seven of us and the cooks from the Army Catering Corps. We worked on three. shifts a day. By this time the band had closed up as the different players had all gone their own way. After the kitchens I work on the range in maintenance until 1982 when I retired.
Life in Auchencairn now is very different from what it used to be like.